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With the year coming to an end and kindergarten orientations beginning, what better time to focus on fostering our little loved one’s sense of independence and responsibility to boost their resilience.
Continuing with the theme of resilience, increasing autonomy and responsibility are great ways to boost self-esteem and resilience.
Whilst our intentions of wrapping our children in cotton wool are to be loving, and to protect them from being hurt both physically and emotionally, we are depriving them of opportunities to develop and be aware of their own capabilities, to learn what they can manage independently and to notice they are able to effect changes in their environment and are not entirely at the mercy of others or the bumps in the road that they encounter.
We are born with an innate drive to make progress and to become increasingly independent, however as parents we step-in and hijack many of these attempts. Sometimes appropriately – a toddler’s desire to jump in a pool and swim away, when they cannot. However, if they are putting a t-shirt on back to front and shoes on to the wrong feet, assist or instruct from a distance to enable them to continue doing for themselves.
Before we explore ways to increase autonomy, think of any attempts your child makes to do things for themselves and where you typically step-in, rather than allowing them the experience of independence? Is it safe to let them try to do any of these things for themselves?
Try making a note of at least 3 things that you believe your child to be capable of, where you step in because it feels easier or quicker if you do this for them.
- Small household chores, like helping to prepare food, setting the table, putting a plate in the dishwasher, washing up or watering plants.
- Try using Tippy’s Helping at Home Chart
- Walking to places instead of being carried
- Feeding themselves, and encouraging them to cut their own food up
- Answering their questions as honestly as possible, with an age-appropriate answer
- Making small decisions, like choice of 2 potential dinner options or which veggies in the lunch box
- Encouraging them to think about the effect of their behaviour on others by explaining how others might feel, and asking them to say sorry
- Inviting them to choose their bedtime story or which game to play
- Let them make mistakes when doing puzzles and step back so they can problem-solve different options, or guide from a distance letting them follow your instructions
- Not doing their thinking for them, by asking ‘Is it safe for us to cross the road now?’ or ‘Which way to do we go now to get to Grandad’s house?’
- Supporting with problem solving, exploring possible solutions together
- Unpacking their own bags and belongings at pre-school
- Carrying their own bag or lunchbox
- Helping choose how their bedroom is arranged
- Providing everyday opportunities for problem-solving, such as leaving them to work out how to get the dolls pram through the doorway despite their frustrations!
- Encouraging your child to ask for help if they need it; this requires them acknowledging that something is difficult and being pro-active in getting assistance. You may decide that your child just needs a bit of encouragement to persevere, or you may scaffold your help depending on the situation and their age.
- Practicing seeking help will stand your child in good stead for getting help at school if they need it.
- Household chores, like helping with gardening, helping to prepare packed lunch, wash-up, pack school bag, run the bath or put away clean laundry
- Use Tippy’s Helping At Home Chart
- Making small decisions, like what to wear today or how they would like to celebrate their birthday
- Continue to let them make small mistakes where appropriate and encourage them to help you fix the mistake, for example when they spill their drink on the kitchen floor because they weren’t looking, ask them to help you wipe it up
- Support your child with problem-solving everyday obstacles. This may require great self-restraint from the parent as they have to tolerate the frustrations of their child and invitations to help. If you are able to show empathy for their frustrations and hold firm, as they settle down they then have more space for coming up with ways around these obstacles and strategies to manage
- Click on this link for Tippy’s Problem-Solving Plan
- With independence comes responsibility - if your child makes a poor choice with the increased independence you have allowed them, some logical consequences can be used to attempt to guide them to make better choices in future. For example, if they take money for the school canteen and spend your change on lollies without permission, they may have to make and take their own lunch the following day. On the flip side, positive feedback is much more motivating, so praise good choices and clearly explain your reasoning eg. ‘You are being really responsible with brining home my change when I give you money for the canteen. As you are doing such a good job, I am happy to keep allowing you to take money into school.’
- Allow your child the space to be creative – holding back on some of their usual stimuli, such as TV, gaming, ipad, organised sport and let them tinker around at home finding things to make and create.
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More information and the Science behind the blog
Dweck, Carol S, (2008). Mindset: the new psychology of success. New York: Ballantine Books
Garmezy, N., & Devine, V. T. (1984). Project Competence: The Minnesota studies of children vulnerable to psychopathology. In N. Watt, J. Rolf, & E. J. Anthony (Eds.), Children at risk for schizophrenia (pp. 287–303). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Seligman, M.E.P. (2002). Authentic happiness. New York: Free Press.
Masten, A & Tellegen, A (2012). Resilience in developmental psychopathology: Contributions of the Project Competence Longitudinal Study. Development and Psychopathology 24 (2012), 345–361
Beyond Blue Ltd. (2017). Building resilience in children aged 0–12: A practice guide.