Concordia Chronicle Nov 5 2020

Promoting Independence in the Early Years

Promoting independence children in the early years need plenty of parental help, the early childhood experts agree that kids are typically able to do more than many of us think.

Here's how you can encourage them:

Concordia-ec-play-promoting independenceExpect more from your kids.

Most people have a way of living up (or down) to expectations—young children included.

"At school we expect the kids to manage their own snack, to throw away their trash, to put away their jackets—and they do," says, a teacher at the 92nd Street Y Nursery School, in New York City. "But then they'll walk out of the classroom and the thumb goes in the mouth and they climb into strollers."

Raise the bar and your child will probably stretch to meet it.

Resist doing for her/him what she/he can do her/himself. While it may be quicker and easier to do it yourself, it won't help to make your child more self-sufficient.

Quick hint: Appeal to her sense of pride, suggests Donna Jones, a early childhood teacher at Southern Oregon University's Schneider Children's Center in Ashland, Oregon. "Whenever I'm trying to get kids to put their jackets on, sit on chairs during meals and complete a task, I'll ask them: 'Do you want me to help you or can you do it yourself?' Those words are like magic," promises Jones. "The kids always want to do it for themselves."

Don't redo what they've done.

If your child cleans up their toys, resist the urge to straighten them or organize them in a different way. If she dresses herself in stripes and polka dots, compliment her "eclectic" style.

Unless absolutely necessary, don't fix what your child accomplishes, says Kathy Buss, director of the Weekday Nursery School, in Morrisville, Pennsylvania. She will notice and it may discourage her.

Let your child solve simple problems.

If you see your child trying to assemble a toy or get a book from a shelf that she can reach if she stands on her stepstool, pause before racing over to help. "Provided that they are safe, those moments when you don't rush in, when you give children a moment to solve things for themselves, those are the character-building moments," says Zebooker. "It's natural to want to make everything perfect, but if we do, we cheat kids of the chance to experience success."

Assign a simple chore.

Putting your 3, 4 or 5 year-old in charge of a regular, simple task will build their confidence and sense of competency, says Buss. A child who is entrusted to water the plants or empty the clothes dryer is likely to believe they can also get dressed themselves or pour their own cereal.

Just be sure the chore you assign is manageable and that it's real work, not busywork, since even young children know the difference. The goal is to make your child feel like a capable, contributing member of the family.

Information retrieved from