“I can do it, Mum!” Raising an independent child 101

Struggle to get your kids out the door this morning? Spent most of your time shouting a direction here or chasing a shoe there? Perhaps you’re wondering if there’s an easier way …

Kids are naturally independent

According to parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson, the secret is simple: fostering independence. And he reckons it can all start much earlier than you think.

“Kids are naturally independent, it’s part of their biology and they want to do things on their own,” says Justin.

“They’ll say, ‘I can do it. I can do it!’ and we often shrug them off because we think they’ll do it slower or make a big mess while they’ll doing it! Or even worse, pretend to do something but not actually do it.”


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The struggle is real (but don’t let that put you off)

Regardless of the ample truth in these beliefs, Justin says we should encourage them all the same.

“It’s about patience – ours,” says Justin. “You have to remind yourself the more patient I am and the more I guide them while letting them do it themselves, the sooner they’ll become independent.”

Here are 3 simple steps to kick things off!

  1. Encourage them to do as much as they can: “Even if your habit has been to get everything done for them, make the decision to change that now,” says Justin. 
  2. Work hard to not tell them what to do: “Instead say: ‘You’ve got your uniform on, what’s next?’ or You’ve got the cornflakes out of the pantry. What’s next?” The what’s next works like a prompt as it gets the child to do the thinking and not the action.” 
  3. Be patient and understanding: Our job is not to do things for them but support them as they do things for themselves, they need patience and understanding while they do that,” says Justin. 

What about older kids who are stuck in their dependent ways?

“Start slowly,” says Justin. “The next time they ask you to do something for them, ask them to do it themselves. Pause and say, ‘I am really happy to help you but why don’t you try and do it yourself. If we just ask what’s next and then support them, they will naturally respond to that.”

When our kids feel like we believe in them and encourage them, then they will use their own initiative to get things done.

We also need to remind ourselves that this is a long game.

“Independence is related to competence and resilience. Our most important role as parents is to make ourselves redundant so they don’t have to rely on us when they are 18 and off to uni,” says Justin.

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