Encourage Independence to Toddlers

Giving Independence to your child and making them responsible for their lives is a vital part of the baby development. This also brings in confidence, self-esteem, and gives motivation to your baby. With self-reliance children tend to feel they have control over their lives, and they will have the freedom to achieve what they want with the self-motivation they cultivate.

It’s a good opportunity for us to take an honest look at how we can give our children the gift of independence.

Asked parents, if that would they knowingly choose to instill insecurity, anxiety and self – doubt traits in their children. The answer, as you would expect, is always No. None of them would choose to instill these traits in children. But the unintended consequence of some of these best intentions lead to older kids who live with these three traits. There are a few specific things you can do and some ideas you can mull over to help them internalize the feelings of security, confidence, and independence within themselves.

Feeling safe comes from two places: trusting their parents & trusting themselves

It’s easy to fall for the false notion that 100% of your babies’ sense of security comes from being tended to every moment of every day. It is important that we teach your children that they are just as safe and secure when they are down on the floor as they feel in your arms. When you spend a significantly higher portion of your time holding and immediately tending to your children’s every fussy moment, you are accidentally reinforcing this feeling that they are only safe and secure if they are in the arms of parents. Yes, you want them to know you will always keep them safe, but you also want them to feel safe independent of you.

Give babies safety & security from a distance

If you know your baby’s needs are all met, you can let them have some independent playtime. This can be tummy time, sitting time, or crawling time. If the place you put them down is baby-proofed, you can walk away for a few minutes and let them play. Walk out of the room for a minute or two then come back in and smile and talk to them enthusiastically. When you come back smiling, your facial expressions and tone are telling them, “You’re okay, and I always come back!”

Give toddlers safety & security from a distance

In toddlerhood, teaching independence takes the form of accepting that they will climb, run, fall over, bonk, and explore. This makes some parents want to hover over them, protect them, and do things for them. Instead of hovering, within reason, let them fall. Respond calmly and with a comforting smile. When you rush over and wear a look on your faces that shows panic, you are showing them that they are in danger. When you respond calmly and with a comforting smile, you are showing them that you know they are okay and Let’s try again!

Let them do it on their own

Regardless of your child’s age, if they are capable of doing something on their own, but it takes them a little longer, be patient and encourage them instead of doing it for them. There isn’t always time for this of course. Obviously, sometimes you just need to get out the door. When you aren’t running out the door, though, be sure to incorporate modeling and practicing new skills as part of playtime.

Give the illusion of power and control

Giving a child the actual power to make decisions about the day that will always backfire. That isn’t teaching independence; that’s called letting your child run the house. Instead, give the illusion of control by letting them make what feels like important choices. Always give opportunities for them to decide between two choices you know you’re okay with. For example, “Would you like bubbles in your bath or no bubbles?” They don’t get to decide if bath-time will happen, but they feel like they have some independence about what happens during bath-time.

Child-proof and create opportunities for independent choices

If you are constantly worried that your child will get hurt at home because you haven’t gotten around to childproofing, this will limit your child’s ability to think and behave independently. Once you know their environment is safe, it frees you up to let them safely explore because you are no longer nervously following them around. Within that safe environment, you can leave some of your child’s favorite activities down where they can easily reach them. Puzzles, books, blocks, and soft toys are all good things to keep down low. In the kitchen, you can make a cupboard that isn’t locked that has some of their dishes. When it is time for snack or a meal, they can choose which dish to use and get it out without help.

Look at it from your child’s perspective

Your children will learn to trust their body’s physical capabilities and limits by exploring, not by being hovered over. They learn about gravity by you letting them fall. They learn falling isn't so bad by getting a smile instead of an overreaction from you. They learn that they are safe to try something new by you encouraging them to do so instead of fearfully saying no or doing it for them. They learn they are safe when they are alone by you allowing them to entertain themself. In these ways, they learn that they are safe/loved/secure both with and without you.

If they don’t feel safe and secure without you, teaching independence is difficult at best

The bottom line is that the feeling of personal safety does not come from parents directly providing safety. The feeling of personal safety and security comes from parents teaching their children to trust themselves. Once they feel safe with you and without you, you will see the spirit of exploration, curiosity, and confidence from your little one.

Who are you parenting for

Take some time to examine your parenting motives. When you hover and over-protect your kids, are you are doing it because you are genuinely afraid for their safety? Or are you doing it because you fear what other parents will think or say? Often, you have a false belief that sounds like you are not overly cautious and always worried about your child then you will be perceived as a bad parent. Letting go of this false belief helps parents feel empowered to loosen the reins and instill independence instead of anxiousness.