July is for Independence!

June 24, 2016 7:21 pm

July 4th

Children are naturally independent.  They desire to do things on their own.  My daughter initially reminded me of this by saying, “My can do it!” and my son spontaneously tried things on his own.  My heart wanted them to always depend on me, but my brain told me to “cut the apron strings”.  It was hard and still is.  What about you?

Here are 3 rules you might want to consider when you are having trouble “giving in to letting go”.

Rule #1:  Learn Patience.  My daughter would have never learned how to dress herself until she did it.  Could I wait 15 minutes for my preschooler to button her sweater?   Honestly, no.  I could get her dressed in under 3 minutes.  However, giving her this time was the gateway towards independence.  She did not always button the buttons correctly, but her success came from my patience.  Each opportunity eventually led her to try and learn other tasks.  Are you a “button controller”?

Rule#2:    Pick Your Battles.  I wanted my son to use a fork by age 2, but he had different plans.  He enjoyed eating with his fingers…which for a 2 year old is absolutely normal.  I continually offered the almighty fork and he usually refused with a sweet, “no thank you”.  When I insisted he use a fork at an outing, the end result was a complete “meltdown”.  There is a time and place to encourage your child’s independence and a time to refrain.  Going forward, my strategy changed.  He was not going to learn when he was upset and I could not teach him when I was frustrated.  He eventually discovered the fork was a great invention and now knows how to even use chopsticks.  Take a deep breath and remember to pick your battles.   Learning independence can be an unpleasant and scary experience for your child.

Rule#3:  Be Flexible.  Forget perfection and embrace flexibility.  Milk will spill, your teenage daughter’s clothing choice will scare you and your son’s idea of a clean bathroom will raise an eyebrow.  But we praise them for trying; we applaud good decisions and discuss the bad ones.  We remind them they will do better next time…and there has to be a next time so they can try again.  As long as their health, safety and well-being are not in jeopardy, allow your children to learn from their own mistakes.

And remember…just because you are no longer combing their hair, tying their shoes and cutting up their carrots, your children still need you, but just in different ways.  This can be an exciting time for you as a parent.  Think of ways you can help your child become more independent and ask them what they would like to do.  You might just be surprised how short those apron strings are becoming.