Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Importance of Encouraging Independence in Children

It certainly is much easier and quicker if we do things for our children, instead of taking the time to watch them muddle through simple tasks by themselves. Yet, the only way that kids will ever master skills on their own is through trial and error. Whether it’s tackling cutting skills, learning to put on a jacket by himself, potty training, or understanding that blue and yellow make green each and every time, that ‘ah-ha’ moment is priceless.

Certainly, it takes lots of practice for most kids to master something new, and there are usually missteps along the way. Many times, the child gets frustrated when a new task is difficult, and for a parent, watching that frustration can be difficult. Yet, learning perseverance is also an important skill, and we must let our kids figure things out by themselves.

Jean Thomas, MD, MSW, is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at both The Children’s National Medical Center and The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, DC, who is internationally known for early childhood diagnosis and treatment strategies. She urges parents to allow their little ones to figure things out through trial and error.

“Self-confidence grows from feeling your successes, and this is true in young children, older children, and adults,” she says. “If we’ve done a good job at work, we’ve had a good day and feel proud of ourselves, and we know a little bit more about we’re going to do the next day. We’ve honed our skill. It’s the same thing for the child who has so many things new to learn. Pride motivates all of us to try harder and succeed again.”

Remember that, and give your child the time and patience he needs when figuring something out for the first time. When he gets it right, you will both be proud of his independence. While you had to wait a little longer for him to figure it out for himself at first, once he masters a new skill, he will be able to save you time in the future when he completes that task all by himself.

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