5 ways to help your child become more independent

By Dr Richard C. Woolfson   — July 10, 2019
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    Your child has started preschool, so you expect her to be able to do more for herself. 

    Even though she does not yet have all the physical and organisational skills necessary to cope without your help, she tries to put on her clothes in the morning and cut up the food on her plate, for instance. You are delighted with her natural drive towards independence.

     

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  • Facts about independence
    2 / 11 Facts about independence

    Children who are independent at the age of three or four (compared to others of the same age) are likely to maintain that level of independence throughout childhood and into adulthood.

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  • Facts about independence
    3 / 11 Facts about independence

    Although girls are typically more independent than boys in many areas because they take less time, say, when learning to speak and walk, it is more socially acceptable for girls to be dependent.

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  • Facts about independence
    4 / 11 Facts about independence

    Many “milestones” of independence cannot be hurried. For example, potty-training older children is quicker compared to training younger kids – starting earlier takes longer.

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  • Facts about independence
    5 / 11 Facts about independence

    The most common reason parents give for not encouraging their child’s independence is fear of injury – they frequently equate independence with risk.

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  • Facts about independence
    6 / 11 Facts about independence

    Independence varies from country to country. French parents begin toilet training approximately five months earlier than Finnish parents, but three months later than British parents.

    Here are five ways to help your toddler or preschooler to become more independent.

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  • Have realistic expectations
    7 / 11 Have realistic expectations

    Make sure you don’t push too hard too soon. Look around to see what most of her peers are achieving by themselves, and use that as a guide for your child. If you expect too much, she’ll end up feeling like a failure.

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  • Make your goals clear
    8 / 11 Make your goals clear

    For instance, it’s better to tell your preschooler “I want you to put on this sock by yourself” than to simply tell her “I want you to get dressed”.

    Explain to your child exactly what you expect her to achieve; the more specific the target, the easier it is for her to succeed.

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  • Make changes gradually
    9 / 11 Make changes gradually

    Most children prefer small, steady steps towards independence rather than huge jumps. 

    Whatever you want her to achieve in terms of improving her level of self-help, break each task down into small steps, then help her to tackle them.

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  • Give praise for success
    10 / 11 Give praise for success

    The more success your child achieves in her efforts to be independent, the more enthusiasm she has for further progress.

    Success breeds success, especially when you give her lots of approval. Remember to reassure her on those occasions when success eludes her.

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  • Keep it fun
    11 / 11 Keep it fun

    Your child will enjoy your encouragement and support to become more independent, as long as you keep it fun. Take a relaxed approach to boosting her self-care skills so she doesn’t become anxious or feel too much pressure.

    Related: Why your child won’t do things by herself

    (Photos: 123RF.com)

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