So many parents worry about their child being to attached, or too independent. Well I would like to talk to you about life lessons in being more self reliant and aware. Now with older children it is a different story, but they are never too young to start with independent ventures. It will help them later in life more than you know. I am not saying cast you 3 year old into the outdoors on their own, but maybe let them dish their own plate at dinner, or pour their own milk. Let you 6 year old walk into the school on their own.
School was a scary one for me I worried about them getting lost or having a bad day because I didn't take them into the school. Well my children were so independent that they would not let me take them in and I just had to realize that they were big girls and were exercising their independence! They go to school everyday and know where everything is way better than I do so what good was I!
I stand by keeping your baby close as long as you can because one day they will drift away, but there is a line that needs to be put into place when it comes to 'babying them'. Some people look at independence as something that we teach our teenagers so they grow more independent well did you know from the baby age up to five is the most crucial learning time for a child? So why wait, start early on with little things and stand by so you can praise their progress.
When it comes to a small child independence isn't them not needing you anymore it is about you teaching them to do the little things on their own. For example, brushing their teeth, you start them off and brush them thoroughly then give them the brush and let them have a try! You do not need to leave the room or anything, just stand by and let them show you how big they are!
I would like to share a few steps that I have taken with my children at different milestones in their life. Now this is just from my own experience and I have had to do them all at different ages with my four children, because like I always say no child is the same. Use what works at whatever stage you feel it fits into and start slow. Patience will be needed to allow your child to feel comfortable. If they see you getting frustrated then guess what?? They stop trying, because they know they are not doing it right and they do not want to upset you!
Step 1 (start here!)
I suggest begining when baby is around 4-6 months with tummy time, down on the floor. Do not run over at the first little noise and pick them up! Let them get flustered a bit. That sounds horrible but that is how they will build their strength to begin moving around and rolling over. If you are picking them up right away then they are not getting the exercise they need to get stronger, and now they know that with a little fuss they get their way...lol Babies are much smarter than most people realize.
Now after they get that strength and start moving guess what? It is time for you to sit back and see that independence in action. Even as a baby they will suprise you. This is the stage of mischief and eating crap of the floor. Seriously lay on your belly and look around, now every spec of anything you see on that floor is going in your babies mouth. So take a little independence away and make them lunch while you vacuum! Now put up those baby gates and watch them play!! (Be sure to baby proof)
So now that you have been run raged keeping up with a mobile baby are you ready to move onto the next milestone? Here comes standing up on the furniture and scooting along the front of the couch. Now this is an important stage as well, because out of instinct we want to catch them, and hold their hands while they walk. Guess what mom? You have to let go! If you hold on they will want you to keep holding on!! I suggest a push toy so they grow independent from you and do it on their own! Now like I said this doesn't mean baby is ready to be alone and doesn't need you it is just preparing them for life. So stand in front of them a few steps and have them follow you!
Also are you still feeding baby? This would be a great time to hand over the utensils and let them have a try at it! I know they can grab a handful of food and shovel it in, but they will still need to learn all about those utensils so go ahead and let them make a mess!
So now that baby is getting around and turning you into a mom zombie lets talk about independence in the toddler years. These are the most important years so if you do not start until now it will be fine. In reality some are fine not even taking this advice, but I will still share it! During this stage in life Children are so inquisitive so take advantage of that. Do not dodge their why's, even though they drive you crazy. Instead come down to their level and play with them and let them show you what they can do. Play house and let them be the mom, or get them a kitchen set and let them make you fake lunch. Kids love feeling like your happy little helper so let them.
Do not treat them like a baby, because they will not like it, also do not talk to them in baby talk. I have found talking to them and with them like a person and not a pet or baby will give you much better results. It also makes them feel like a big kid and that in-turn leads to that independence I was talking about, because they feel like they can do more being a big kid.
Now this is the final step of teaching independence I will give for the first five years of a Childs life, because I am still working on the next few years with my 6 and 8 year old. Lets begin with preschool and Kindergarten talk. Now here is where it gets super hard. I know it is hard to let go when they go to school. I mean they are your babies and you are putting them in the hands of people you don't really know as well as you think. So how do you give your child a lesson in independence when school starts?
Let that little on dress themselves, now not everyday, but give them a turn to give it a try no matter how silly they may look. Also velcro will be your friend, but only until they learn to tie. If they cannot tie do not get them tie shoes, I mean seriously it is just frustrating for everyone around!! Next do not take them to their desk and baby them as you leave. Mom as hard as it is you take them to the door and then give them the morning good bye. I know that this is a hard task for some which is why I always encourage starting the independence teachings at a younger age.
They are going to attach to you and not want to let go so of course for the first few days take them in set them down, come down to their level and let them know it is okay and you will be back. Make sure they know you are leaving and you walk out! Do not sneak away or make a crazy dash for the door, because this action can be very traumatizing for a child. Then work on leaving when they are at their locker or their door. It will not happen overnight, so keep working at it!
Now that you have my Steps and you have skimmed through them do not worry about following them to the T, like I said it is different with every child. These are more of a guide and not a rule book. The most important thing to remember is that if you are flustered or not happy neither are they! They look to you for everything so teach them something that will benefit them and you for a life time. Independence is needed at all stages of life and does not mean letting your baby go off on their own, but lessons for both you and your child! As a mom you never want to let go, but since on day we all have to make sure they know everything about independence before that day sneaks up on you!