Help your child become more independent

Help your child become more independent

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The older your child gets, the more she realizes she's an individual separate from you. With her growing identity comes a need to do things on her own. Here's how to make the most of her zeal for independence:

  • Make your home safe for your little explorer. To really develop her independence, your child must constantly test limits by exploring her surroundings. That's why it's important to make sure your home is toddler-safe. Instead of running around saying "no" every time she touches something that could harm her, put dangerous objects out of her reach and lots of safe fun stuff within it. This will give her a little more autonomy, and you some added peace of mind.
  • Allow your child to take the lead. Every parent needs to set limits, but sometimes it's okay to let your toddler take the reins — even if her decisions seem outlandish. If, for example, your 2-year-old insists on wearing her ski parka in June, let her — at some point she'll get overheated and figure out for herself that a windbreaker makes more sense. By allowing her to come to that conclusion on her own, you give her the chance to learn and grow.
  • Show her the ropes. Being able to do a job well is key to a sense of independence and accomplishment in your toddler. But to foster her abilities, you'll have to demonstrate tasks slowly and clearly, breaking them down into separate actions. Walk her through each step of clearing her place at the table, for instance (first carry the plate to the sink, then the cup, then the silverware). Then watch how she does it on her own, and give her lots of pats on the back for trying.
  • Let her pitch in. When your toddler sees you doing anything vaguely interesting — cooking, cleaning, putting together furniture — she wants to get in there with you and help. When this happens, try to find a way for your child to assist you. She may not be able to stir a pot of spaghetti sauce, for example, but you can ask her to fetch you the ladle, then let her put the place mats on the table.
  • Resist the urge to jump in. If you've assigned a job to your toddler, let her see it through, even if it takes her twice as long as it would you. Unless you're in a real hurry, let her take five minutes to fold her nightgown in the morning — she'll feel more accomplished afterward than if you finished her work for her.

If your child has separation anxiety, she probably has trouble being away from you. Here's how you can help her become more comfortable being on her own:

  • Be confident about goodbyes. Your departure is hard on your toddler, but if you act as if it's no big deal and you know you'll be back soon, you'll help calm her fears. Phrase your goodbye in a sympathetic but matter-of-fact manner, and then make a beeline for the door. If your child does dissolve into tears, try not to let her see that her feelings are upsetting you.
  • Practice being absent. You can help your child get used to your leaving and coming back by using a kitchen timer. Set it for five minutes, and tell her "Mommy's going away in the other room for five minutes, and I'll be back." Once she understands that you'll return, set the timer for longer intervals until she's ready for a longer separation such as preschool.
  • Avoid sneaking out. Although you may think it'll help your child not to see you leave, sneaking out will actually upset her more. Once she realizes you've left without saying goodbye, she may cry and worry about your coming back.
  • Show her you love her. Consistently give your child love and support and she'll build the confidence she needs to strike out on her own. Encourage her anytime she tries something on her own, but don't push her away when she runs back to you for reassurance. She'll want and need this for a long time to come.

Watch the video: How to raise successful kids -- without over-parenting. Julie Lythcott-Haims (July 2022).


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