From the end of the Second World War to the mid-1960s, numerous countries around the world experienced a baby boom. After years of depression and war, many believed that the future would be one of abundance and contentment. Fast-forward to the present and this vision of the future is now a thing of the past. Amidst a bleak economic outlook, being a parent has become harder than ever before.
One of the not-so-cool things about being a parent is the uncertainty. You never know whether you’re doing the right thing, and even when you are, there are no guarantees. There are no guarantees that your kids will find good jobs, be self-reliant, and basically move out of home before they’re 35! What you can do, though, is stack the odds in their favour.
When it comes to effective parenting techniques, advice from experts abounds, but this advice is often conflicting. One of the things researchers and education philosophers agree on, however, is that if you want to raise successful children, you must “give them wings and let them fly.” You must inspire independence. But how do you go about it?
Ten ways to raise independent kids
- Let go. It’s natural to want to help your kids but raising independent kids requires you to fight the urge to help at all times. Kids need to take risks. Providing unnecessary help means you’re taking away important opportunities to build independence. The golden rule is: if they can do it, don’t insist on doing it for them.
- Build it. Kids are curious by nature and crave independence quite early. Raising self-reliant kids requires structures that help develop their independence. They also require you to structure their play environments. From as young as the age of three, children can perform tasks such as putting away their laundry once they are shown how to. Many renowned education philosophers such as Maria Montessori stress the importance of setting up structures that enable kids to do things by themselves. Kids learn by doing. Research has shown that environments that facilitate competence and a sense of personal efficacy lead to success later in life.
- Open up their world. Many education philosophers including Montessori, Steiner (Waldorf) and Reggio Emilia place great emphasis on the importance of connecting with the outside world. Making kids observant teaches them to become creative. The value of letting kids play and explore at their own pace cannot be overestimated.
4. Stimulate their desire to learn. Stimulating kids’ desire to learn begins by providing opportunities to learn and creating habits that foster learning.
5. Unconditional love. The research is clear: the more secure kids feel, the more likely they are to develop a strong sense of self and belonging. If your objective is to raise independent kids, be consistent, dependable and sensitive to their needs and let them know they can count on you.
6. Stimulate their creativity. Einstein once said that imagination is more important than knowledge. Creative kids become problem-solvers. Stimulate your kids’ creativity by exposing them to different activities. Show them how they can make things and display the things they make. Buy them fewer toys.
7. Be their model. Your kids watch and imitate you more than you think. You’d like them to be creative? Be more creative. You’d like them to be optimistic? Show them how by adopting an optimistic mindset. You’d like them to be readers? Let them see you read.
8. Focus on their strengths. Many parenting styles today are based on competitiveness and the fear that (your) kids will get left behind. Your kid is unique. It’s important to find out what he or she likes and to focus on developing his or her personal strengths. Research has shown that tailoring activities to reflect children’s unique abilities helps steer them towards a meaningful life and helps them develop confidence in their abilities.
9. Cultivate optimism. There is a common misconception that optimism is an innate rather than an acquired characteristic. Optimism can be developed. Children can be taught to create a more positive mindset and deal better with negative life events. Being optimistic yourself also helps foster optimism in kids.
10. Be present. Raising independent kids is a tricky process. It requires you to find the right balance between being present and letting go. Your intervention is necessary to help your kids become independent. You need to create the structures that allow them to feel confident enough to go out on their own.
Find out more about raising independent kids in my EBook Fifteen Days to Independent Kids.