Watching our children grow up entirely too fast is an inevitable part of parenthood. Instead of reluctantly entering this phase of their lives teary-eyed and weepy, thinking about the day you brought them home, it's best to just accept that your baby won't always be a baby. There are ways to help your child learn to be independent and, while doing so might be a hard pill to swallow, it's a necessary step in helping them learn to thrive on their own.
No parent is immune to the innate, inner plead for time to slow down as they watch their children grow, but helping them become independent can be just as exciting as it is surreal. Seeing your child learn and grow and thrive; witnessing them making connections and seeing the light bulbs turn on in their heads; watching them experience another "first" with complete happiness and awe; it's all magical. A child's curiosity is contagious, and their need to make discoveries is something that we, as parents, should encourage.
Watching them grow up so fast is hard, but it's exciting too. It's going to happen whether you like it or not, so you might as well get used to the thought of giving your child more space. It hurts, sure, but it's going to be a good change for everyone. Just think about all the free time you'll have once your kids learn how to put on their own pants and wipe their own butts! Ah, yes, there's the silver lining of this scenario; their freedom directly affects your freedom (like your ability to have and actually enjoy more of it).
So, now that we've come to terms with all that is ahead, let's talk about the ways you can help your child learn to be more independent so that you can start binge-watching Netflix with reckless abandon.
Let Them Pick Out Their Own Clothes
This may result in some eclectic (read: awesome) outfits, but allowing your kids the chance to pick out their own clothes is actually a really good way to help them become independent. By letting them decide what to wear, you're encouraging their creativity and thought process and facilitating their ability to gain autonomy over their own body. So what if they end up dressed like a dinosaur/ballerina combo? They'll be so happy that they got to pick out their outfit all on their own, that you won't even notice the strangers staring at you in the grocery store.
Teach Them How To Do Basic Routines
Getting dressed seems like such an easy thing to do, but it's a little tricky for toddlers at first. Help teach your child how to put on his or her own pants, shoes, and shirts every day, and build up to letting your child dress themselves. Once they've mastered sleeves and socks, you will have that much more free time to do all of the other things that occupy your day. Also, teaching good hygiene, like brushing teeth and washing hands, is a good way to both instill good habits and encourage independence. You can narrate what you're doing when you're cooking; when you're cleaning; when you're working, even (if you work from home) and teach them as you do.
Give Them Options And Let Them Decide
There are multiple times throughout the day when you can give your child options to choose from. Whether it's allowing them to choose between a few selected snacks; allowing them to choose between two potential decisions; allowing them to choose what they want to do or play with; all those choices are teaching them how to think rationally, weigh their options and make informed decisions. You know, all the things you have to do as an adult.
Let Them Help You With Age Appropriate Tasks
Ask your child for help if you're cooking, cleaning, gardening, working, etc. If your child is involved in a process, like cooking supper or doing yard work, they will be more likely to show interest in specific things. Asking for their help (though it could lead to bigger messes) will make them feel like they're needed and important, while they simultaneously learn a new task or skill. This encourages kids to learn in a way that makes them feel like a big kid, and it might actually come in handy around supper time. Win, win!
Allow Them To Explore On Their Own
Giving a child more room to roam can be scary, sure, but it's a great way to help them become more independent. When we allow give them space to explore, their curious minds take over and they learn about their own limits, about what they are and are not comfortable with, and about what they do and don't like. It helps them become more confident in themselves and learn how to overcome fears. Instead of constantly hovering over them, a little freedom provides them the opportunity to make their own choices, rather than just go with whatever we've decided for them.
Ask Them Questions, And Actually Listen To Their Answers
Having a conversation with a toddler can sometimes feel like trying to understand a foreign language. It's adorable and hilarious and, yes, even a little frustrating but it's also a great way to help build their social skills, which will help them become more independent. Asking your child questions urges them to think critically; and the better their critical thinking skills are, the more confident they might become in their abilities to adapt and learn on their own. So, if you're able to interpret the vague babbling of your child, ask them questions! Their answers might not make that much sense just yet, but you're fueling their desire to think for themselves.
Praise Their Accomplishments
As your child learns how to be more independent, it's important to let them know how proud you are of them. Getting dressed, putting away toys, and brushing their own teeth may not seem like a huge deal, but it really is. Each new skill they learn deserves gold stars and high fives, because with each one they become more and more self-sufficient. It's a little sad, but it's even more amazing to see them grow up right before your eyes. Did you ever think there would come a time in your life when you would sing and dance because someone learned how to use a toilet? Yeah, me neither, but it's happened. Oh yes, it has happened.
Learning new skills can be frustrating for both you and your child. They've got a lot of exploring to do, so if something gets in their way or holds them back (even momentarily) they might get a little frazzled. They've yet to learn the act of patience, but you have, so it's important that you let them learn new things at their own pace. It's going to take time for them to learn to think for themselves and do things on their own, but allowing them the time they need to become confident in their abilities is worth every moment you're going to have to count to ten.