Most parents want to raise their children to be independent but often don’t have the tools to do that. What is the best way to go about it?

Self-reliance means being confident in your own abilities and able to do things for yourself. Self-reliance in children involves developing an essential set of life tools.

According to Raising Independent Kids, here are ten evidence-based strategies to utilize as you parent your own children.

1. Focus on your child’s effort — Using appropriate words to respond to your child’s performance can help sharpen her growth mindset skills. It can teach her to see setbacks as temporary problems that can be overcome through effort. Focusing on her effort helps her understand that performance requires effort and strategic thinking

2. Foster gratitude to reinforce your child’s autonomy – Science suggests that practicing gratitude can make your child more helpful, generous, outgoing, pleasant to be around, trustworthy, and more likely to cooperate. Emmons and Stern, two well-known gratitude researchers, suggest that gratitude helps solidify, affirm, and strengthen relationships.

3. Taming your child’s toys teaches him to be self-reliant — A German study found that kids primarily use toys to escape other situations. Their study focused on the impact taking away these toys would have on the development of social and life skills such as problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills and creativity. They found that the children without toys were more creative, balanced and more confident in their abilities.

4. Doing chores helps build self-reliance in kids — Doing things your kids can do for themselves teaches them to be dependent and prevents them from developing the confidence that comes with achievement. Encouraging your children to participate in age-appropriate household chores can have a positive impact on later outcomes.

5. Letting your kids get bored makes them more self-reliant and responsible — Parental intervention is not always beneficial when kids claim to be bored. According to one study reported on BBC, “children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them.”

6. Giving your child a sense of control makes her feel independent — Encouraging your child to participate in decision-making fosters independence and creative thinking skills. Her ability to make sound decisions increases between the ages of eight or nine and thirteen, and she gains decision autonomy (i.e., the ability to make decisions without parental involvement) between the ages of 12 and 17.

7. Use words that build your kid’s self-esteem — We all tend to act in line with what we believe is expected of us, and the same is true for your kid. Your words not only shape his personality, but they also shape the relationship you develop with him, well beyond the childhood years. Positive labels will build up your child and help him learn to see himself as a successful person; negative labels may destroy him.

8. Focusing on your child’s strengths can increase her self-reliance — Dwelling on your child’s weaknesses and your desire to fix what you believe is wrong prevents her from developing her innate talents. Pushing kids to perfection in areas where they are less inclined means striving to live according to others’ standards.

9. Be available to hang out — Building healthy relationships right from childhood is one of the most effective ways of strengthening your family’s bonds. It also gives your child a sense of belonging which is fundamental to his happiness and well-being.

10. Reinforcing your child’s emotional intelligence improves her sense of autonomy and self-reliance — Your child’s ability to recognize her emotions is linked to her self-regulation skills. The most effective way to strengthen her emotion regulation skills is to teach her to identify her emotions and those of others.

Self-reliance is not something that your children can gain on their own. They have neither the perspective nor the experience to develop self-reliance separately from you. Rather, it is a gift you give your children that they will cherish and benefit from for their entire lives.

Mary Migliaro is an educator, parenting mentor and consultant who lives in Cherokee County.


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