Inside: The surprising fact about kids’ independence
“I by myself!” My daughter said confidently when I offered to put on her shoes for her. This was her new favorite phrase, and one of very few phrases she mastered at almost-two.
I stepped away and let her keep trying. When the shoe simply wouldn’t get on her foot, she growled a little as she continued to persevere.
She wanted to do everything by herself. To get dressed, brush her teeth, wash her hands, everything.
She may have been what some call an overly independent child.
Some kids show independence tendencies early on, while others will gladly let you do all the things for them for as long as possible.
But independence alone isn’t what our kids need to learn.
What they need is guidance to make good decisions for themselves, to learn good problem-solving skills, and become self-reliant. And this has a lot to do with responsibility.
Let’s take a look at the definition of independent:
- not subject to control by others
- not requiring or relying on others
- not looking to others for one’s opinions or for guidance in conduct
Now, are our kids really ready to be independent at age two? Or even ten?
Based on the definition above, probably not.
Teaching our kids to be responsible and self-reliant is all part of helping them grow into independent adults
Now, let’s take a look at the definition of responsible:
- liable to be called on to answer
- able to answer for one’s conduct and obligations
- able to choose for oneself between right and wrong
We want our kids to be able to make good choices and answer for their own actions. Teaching them responsibility lays the groundwork for a child that will grow into an independent adult.
When we say we want to see our kids independent, we want them to learn to do things by themselves. But guiding them and teaching them to make good choices, to have good ethics, and answer for their choices is what kids need to become truly independent.
Kids may instinctively know how to be independent, but they do not instinctively know how to be responsible.
If I let my 2-year-old child, who’s favorite phrase is “I by myself!” do everything she can by herself, would you consider her an independent child? Probably. But is she responsible? Probably not. Not until I as a mom teach her the skills she needs to make good decisions for herself and to be accountable for her actions.
And that takes time. It takes one-on-one time, it takes showing by example, and it takes letting kids make their own mistakes and guiding them to learn from their mistakes.
Without responsibility, independence is simply defiance
In part two, we talk about raising responsible children.