It’s morning time to head out for preschool or another activity that has a specific time. My kids are playing and ignoring the fact that I am trying to make sure everyone goes to the bathroom, has clothes on, and has eaten breakfast. Meanwhile, I am running around the house getting things together so that we can leave and hopefully be there on time. I personally don’t like to be late. I was raised to be early or the very least on time. So this morning routine was making me a bit crazy. Then it dawned on me, they are capable of doing somethings themselves.
So on the heals of Independence Day, I thought it appropriate to discuss how to foster independence in preschoolers. This is one of my important goals for my children and it creates confident, self-sufficent adults.
Children love routine. They like to know what is expected of them and it helps to prevent meltdowns and other behavior problems. I am naturally not a creature of habit so sometimes this can be challenging for me but after almost five years I have learned to embrace this as the best thing for my children.
Routine will also help children know what to do themselves and give them the self assurance that they are doing it correctly. My four year old will wake up in the morning, go to the bathroom and brush her teeth without me even saying a word because this has been our routine since she can remember. My son just turned three and he is starting to be able to complete these tasks on his own.
LET THEM FEEL LIKE THEY ARE IN CONTROL
This is a big one. Children are trying to find their place and test there limits. I have found letting them feel that they have some control makes them want to make decisions and do things for themselves. The key is to be sure that you are ok with either option they choose and usually two options is best. Use phrase such as “do you want to wear the blue shirt or green?” This simple phrase helped my son to get dressed in the morning. He would refuse anything I gave him to wear and would sit in the closet just staring and not making any decisions. Once I gave him a choice but narrowed it down to two he felt he had control and would make his choice quickly.
Just remember that it takes time and maturity to completely be independent. So decided what is most important in your family and start with those. For us it started with morning bathroom and teeth. This buys me five minutes to go from a dead sleep to awake. Then we moved on to putting their plates and cups away after they ate. Slowly introducing new expectations into our routine made for a more successful transition.
Being tuned in to your child helps identify opportunities to help them become more independent. If they want to put their shoes on or do anything for themselves that you would normally do for them, let them. Don’t squash their chance to learn. Which brings me to my next point.
Everything is going to take longer. Period. So adjust your time accordingly. This will take longer at first but eventually they will be able to preform these tasks faster if you give them the chance.
Also resetting the idea of how things should be done. Your child is their own person and needs to find their way to accomplish tasks. Definitely show them how the first time but if they go about doing it their way, let them. As long as the fish result mostly resembles what your expectation is then they have done what you have asked and you are creating a child that learns how to solve their own challenges.
Lastly don’t forget to tell them what a great job they are doing. Be sure to use specifics, “you did great at putting your shirt on” or “I loved how solved the of bustling the rook on your blocks. Very creative solution.” Praising them will help to build confident children.
Written by Jamie Jackson