Does anybody else have an extremely stubborn & headstrong toddler?! This pretty much is the definition of our little girl. Our sassy little wild-child.
I guess my husband and I can take partial blame for that. Seriously. I have never known anyone as independent as she is. But let me let you in on a little secret….THAT’S OKAY! It is so important to allow your children to “fend for themselves”, if you will. It is okay for your children not to need you every second of every day.
One of the HUGE issues with younger generations nowadays is helicopter parenting. This is basically parents who are constantly hovering over their children to help them complete, or totally complete, a task-…like a helicopter. Some parents won’t even let their kiddos talk for themselves. I’m sorry, but if there is one thing I advocate for the most as a parent, it’s to let your kiddos practice independence. One day, they are going to grow up and be on their own. Let’s prepare them now so they can be successful later!
I have learned so much having such an independent girl. My experience working with children with autism has really helped me too! Independence is one of the most important lessons incorporated into all of my therapy sessions. Children need to feel like they can do things on their own so they can feel confident in their own skin.
Let them try new things
Always present opportunities for them to try new things. In my line of work, I have to contrive numerous types of situations and opportunities for children to simply ask for things or complete a certain task. the types of situations depend on their age of course, but you can do it with literally anything.
For example, my daughter is obsessed with taking her dolls clothes off and then subsequently putting them back on. It’s pretty much a constant thing we do all day. When I see her struggling with putting her dolls clothes back on I don’t run over and do it for her. I usually just sit there and watch her. If I see her really starting to get frustrated, I remind her that I’m here if she needs help. Of course, she’s so stubborn & always answers with, “I wanna do it.” Always redirecting that frustrated behavior can save you tons of tantrums. It’s also a good reminder for them that they are completely capable of doing it themselves, but you are always there if they need you.
This is such a huge one, especially for toddlers. My daughter is always wanting to dress herself, usually in princess dresses.
Other times, she can really pick out a quirky outfit.
I mean, that lipstick right?
And you know what…we let her. So what if your kiddo is wearing a dress-up princess gown to the grocery store [literally did this the other day]? Or clothes that don’t match whatsoever. Who cares? They’re happy. You know why? Because they feel pride. They may not know what pride is, but you can just see it on their innocent little faces.
And just the basic task of putting their clothes on is such a big accomplishment for them. This is another one of those contrived opportunities you can create. Maybe they put on their socks & shoes, and you help tie them. Or just let them try and figure it out on their own. Trust me, it won’t hurt them one bit. Never forget to always be there for support if they ask for it, but let them at least try. It’s so worth it when you hear them shout, “I did it!” True pride.
Let them explore
When you take them to the park, the beach, or even in your backyard, let them explore it. Let them dig their fingers into the sand. It may even end up in their mouth. That won’t hurt them either. Nine times out of ten they just learn to never do that again!
It’s important to let them “fail” in a sense. By letting them be independent, they will learn how to do things & how NOT to do things. Both are helpful in the upbringing of life.
Let them touch everything [that sounds a little weird, but you know what I mean]. Give them that sensory input. Let them test out the slide on their own if they are coordinated enough for it, and it’s completely safe of course. Instead of just putting them at the top of the stairs on the playground, let them climb. Be there for support, but give them a chance. They may just surprise you.
Don’t overload them with questions
When your child is trying something new, try not to ask them a bunch of questions about it. This is really important if you have an older child. Completing a new & novel task can be stressful enough without you asking them a ton of questions. Simple encouragement would suffice, if needed.
Just like with my daughter trying to put her doll’s clothes on. I tell her, “Try not to get frustrated baby, you’re doing a great job. If you need help, I will always be here to help you.” That reassurance is comforting to them. I’m sure you can relate to that in some way, too. If you’re working on a math problem & someone is breathing down your neck asking, “Why did you do that?” “Are you sure that’s right?” “How did you get that answer?”
Asking questions can give off the vibe that you don’t have faith in them. If you want to ask them something, try to rephrase it into something that sounds more encouraging. Instead of asking, “Are you sure that’s right?” You could say, “Oh nice you completed the problem! Let’s check it!” Adding in some enthusiasm & praise [which we will get to in a moment] will really lift their spirits more than questioning them and making them doubt themselves.
Always provide choices
There is ALWAYS an opportunity to provide a choice. Even if there is a specific thing you are wanting your child to do. When you provide choices, you’re allowing your child to feel like they have some control over what is about to happen. Starting this while they are young is a great way to prepare them for making more complex choices when they are older.
If you are wanting…no, needing your child to put their shoes on so you can go to the grocery store, but you are having so much trouble getting them to comply with you- give them a FUN choice. “Do you want to put your shoes on while we sing the ABCs or Itsy Bitsy Spider?” It’s simple, gives them a choice, some independence, & completes the task you need done. EVERYBODY WINS.
Big one here. The biggest, as you can tell from my larger font size and positioning :). You can let children be independent all day long, but unless you affirm it, their self-confidence will not increase. Some kiddos are independent because they have to be. Because their parents do not pay attention to them or encourage them. But what you can do is contrive opportunities or take advantage of naturally occurring situations where your child shows their independence and praise them for it! Even if it sounds silly to you, it probably means the world to them. I am constantly working on this as a momma. My daily goal is to make sure my kiddos feel heard by me. Appreciated by me. And loved by me.
The little victories are the sweetest! I know this post is pretty much all about our daughter, because she is the independent one. But, the other day our son pointed to something for the first time. He’s was a preemie & has been consistently behind developmentally on a few things. He’s about 19 months old now & just started pointing to things he wants. May sound little to some, but it’s a huge deal in this house. I can’t even remember now what he was pointing at…I think it was his cup. But he looked at me, then looked at the cup, pointed & said, “Ca”.
Big moment here y’all! I smiled so big & told him, “Good job pointing bubba! You’re such a big boy!” And he giggled and hugged me, and it was just a sweet moment. All of the practicing and modeling you do. Then to finally see your kiddo independently do it on their own…it’s an amazing feeling. Now he does it all the time. Because he knows that he will usually get whatever he points to [haha], but he learned from my positive reaction, that what he did was the right thing to do. Positive reinforcement doesn’t always have positive outcomes [confusing, I know], but in these cases it produces the best outcomes! Praising your child will encourage them to be more independent with everything that they do.
I know as parents it can be hard to “let go” of our little babies who constantly need us to feed them, change them, bathe them, & entertain them. As they get older, they need to learn to do all of these things on their own. Otherwise, how will they ever be on their own? It’s difficult, sometimes, having such an independently independent child. Most of the time we don’t have to contrive situations for our daughter to do things on her own, because she just does them. It’s hard not to feel “needed” sometimes by your babies. But, trust me, they always come back. For support, for encouragement, or just some lovins…something to think about 🙂
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As always, God bless †
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