I strongly believe in instilling independence in children, although I haven’t always held this perspective. Admittedly, I used to be a bit of a control freak when my kids were younger. I hesitated to delegate responsibilities because I thought I could do everything better and dreaded the mess that often accompanied their attempts to do things on their own.
However, I’ve come a long way since then, and I can empathize with a reader who recently reached out with a similar struggle:
“I know in my head that I need to have my kids doing this stuff (getting themselves ready for school), but I struggle to let go of control. Any advice?”
I certainly have some tricks up my sleeve, and I’m happy to share them to help others facing the same challenge. Here’s how you can navigate this journey:
- Reframe the Mess Understand that mess is part of the learning process. While disorder may cause stress, it leads to newfound knowledge, understanding, and confidence in children.
- Remove Yourself from the Room If the mess becomes overwhelming, step away. Take a break and let them finish the task. Alternatively, teach them to clean up after themselves, promoting responsibility.
- Trade Micromanaging for Leadership Instead of micromanaging, adopt a leadership approach. Teach the skill, guide them through it, and then let them take charge. Check their work afterward but avoid constant interference.
- Fill Your Bucket in Other Ways If a spotless house is crucial for your well-being, find other ways to fill your bucket. Focus on self-care activities that bring you joy while your children learn to handle chores independently.
Developing self reliance in children
Self-reliance is the ability to do things for oneself, without depending on others. It is a valuable skill that can help children grow up to be confident, independent, and resilient adults. There are many ways to foster self-reliance in your child, depending on their age, interests, and abilities. Some of the activities that can help you raise self-reliant kids are:
- Teach them how to cook simple meals from scratch, using healthy ingredients and following recipes. Cooking is a life skill that can also boost their creativity, math, and science skills1.
- Encourage them to do their own laundry, from sorting, washing, drying, folding, and putting away their clothes. Doing laundry can teach them responsibility, organization, and hygiene2.
- Show them how to mend clothes and sew on buttons, using a needle, thread, and scissors. Mending clothes can save money, reduce waste, and improve their fine motor skills2.
- Teach them basic first aid, such as how to treat cuts, burns, bruises, and insect bites. First aid can help them deal with minor injuries and emergencies, and also increase their awareness of health and safety3.
- Introduce them to herbal remedies, such as teas, tinctures, salves, and oils. Herbal remedies can help them heal naturally, and also teach them about plants, chemistry, and biology4.
- Expose them to wilderness survival skills, such as how to build a shelter, start a fire, find water, and identify edible plants. Wilderness survival skills can help them cope with challenging situations, and also connect them with nature and their environment.
- Challenge them to solve problems on their own, such as fixing a broken toy, finding a lost item, or completing a puzzle. Problem-solving skills can help them develop their logic, creativity, and resilience.
- Help them learn navigation skills, such as how to read a map, use a compass, or follow directions. Navigation skills can help them find their way, and also enhance their spatial awareness and memory.
- Encourage them to pack their own go-bag, which is a backpack with essential items for an emergency or a trip. Packing a go-bag can help them prepare for the unexpected, and also teach them about prioritizing and organizing.