How to teach your primary school child to be more independent

May 18, 2018
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    When your child was younger and dependent on you, you might have longed for the freedom his independence would bring. You no longer need to nag him to do his homework, or rush to his school to deliver the water bottle he’d forgotten.

    Now that the moment has arrived, you realise that letting go is much harder than expected. Suddenly, he seems so vulnerable and at risk.

    But understand that your over-protectiveness can undermine his self-confidence and reduce his ability to cope in situations where you are not present.

    Letting go is a gradual process. It takes years, and perhaps is never fully completed. It’s not a matter of your child acquiring independence in one fell swoop, totally dependent on you one minute, then totally free to make all his own choices the next.

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    The best way to help him increase self-sufficiency is by extending the limits, a little at a time. This enables you pull in the reins if necessary.

    For instance, he asks to visit his friend’s house after school. Ask him to consider a few questions:

    Who are the adults in the house when two of them arrive? Will it be mum and dad, the grandparents, or a domestic helper?

    How will he and his friend get to the house? Will they walk there, or will an adult fetch them from school?

    How long does he intend to stay at his friend’s house? Is he having dinner there, or does he expect to leave after an hour?

    What will they do in his friend’s house? Are they watching a video or playing a game, or are they going to leave it to chance?

    Related: Mum quits job to teach special needs daughter to be independent

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  • Independence within limits
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    Having such a discussion encourages your growing child to consider the implications of his freedom, and not to take it for granted. Explain that part of doing things by himself involves taking a responsible attitude.

    Independence means planning ahead carefully, to anticipate difficulties that might arise. The more you ask him questions about his activities, the more he will develop a mature attitude towards increased freedom.

    Bear in mind, though, you may sometimes have to say no to his request for you to let go of the reins, even though that may result in an upsetting confrontation with him.

    Related: Should you have fewer rules if you want an independent child?

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  • Independence within limits
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    And don’t be swayed by the argument that his friends’ parents allow them much more freedom than you – every child is convinced his parents are too restrictive.

    Although your first response might be to resist letting go – understandably, you prefer to have your child safe beside you – listen to what he has to say. Sometimes, a compromise is the best solution.

    If, say, he wants to go to a movie with his close friends, one tactic is to agree but add the proviso that you take him to the cinema and pick him up after that.

    This way, his desire for freedom and your reluctance to let go are both satisfied. And each time he copes well with his independence, your confidence in him will steadily increase.

    (Photos: 123RF.com)

    Related: 10 critical life skills every parent needs to teach their kids

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