Have you ever considered putting your kids in charge? Sounds crazy, right?! Let’s face it, as a group, a lot of parents aren’t known for a relaxed and laissez-faire approach to raising our kids. And while there are many upsides to the careful attention we pay to our offspring, it’s possible that our kids’ aren’t given the chance to develop a sense of autonomy.
Learning to do for yourself is important. Especially when we pause and remind ourselves that one of our biggest goals as parents is to help our kids turn into independent adults! In fact, research shows that kids who are given opportunities to be in charge and make decisions grow to be more capable and grounded adults.
In a Psychology Today article, Raise Independent Children, Dr. Jim Taylor points out that independence isn’t something that kids get on their own, since “[t]hey have neither the perspective, experience, nor skills to develop independence…”. It’s up to parents to give their kids the tools they need to gain independence; this can be done by allowing kids to make choices for themselves, helping them build independence through responsibility, and allowing them to make mistakes.
Making choices and doing chores is empowering!
Regardless of age, everyone wants to feel like they’re in control of their own life. We can help our kids become independent by allowing them to make choices for themselves and by giving them responsibilities.
In fact, making choices teaches problem-solving, since it allows children to develop reasoning tools they will need later in life. Sue Grossman, a professor of early childhood education at Eastern Michigan University writes that making decisions will help kids feel more in-control of their own lives; kids who feel in control of their lives also have better self-esteem, since part of developing self-esteem is learning how to confidently take care of oneself. Decision-making abilities are also a very important part of developing morality – since it’s hard to ask kids to make good choices if they never learned how to make choices in the first place.
Offering kids choices doesn’t have to be that hard, or even that ambitious - it can be as simple as discussing what after-school activity they’d like to participate in, or how they’d like to decorate their room. Asking kids for their input shows that we value their opinions, which helps reinforce that their say matters.
Another way to help kids develop a sense of independence is trusting them with chores. While it’s true that not all kids are thrilled at the prospect of cleaning the cat litter, or clearing the table, and it can feel simpler for us parents to just do it ourselves, family therapist Dr. Fred Provenzano points out that this sends the message that parents don’t trust kids to finish a task properly – plus it means they miss out on learning how to take care of themselves. Learning how to properly do something, like laundry, leaves a kid feeling empowered. This sense of empowerment then follows them into other areas of their life.
Mistakes as a tool for empowerment
Allowing kids to be independent and make their own choices mean that (just like grownups) they will make mistakes. But mistakes are a very important chance for kids to develop independence!
Child psychologist, Dr. Michele Borba says that mistakes are an opportunity to help raise self-reliant, independent and resourceful children. Instead of trying immediately to “fix” the problem, disappointments are an opportunity to teach kids how to rebound, avoid making the same mistake and how to ultimately succeed where they initially failed Dr. Borba also points out the importance of sharing your own mistakes as a way of helping teach kids, “Doing so will help your child recognize not only that everyone makes mistakes (including you!), but that they can also be learning opportunities in disguise. And that’s a big plus to your kid’s independence because she’ll be less likely to fear the mistake and more likely to rebound.”
So, we’re wondering, would you consider putting your kids in charge? Tell us in the comments!