How to Encourage Independence

New Chapters in parenting

This weekend we hit a new chapter of parenting: Independence! Our kids are now 4 and 6, and this weekend was the first time they independently played outside with our neighbors for about 2 hours. It was incredible.

As a disclaimer – we live in Montana, where the Covid-19 restrictions in our county are allowing for outside interactions of groups up to 10.  So, we are definitely still obeying all the health laws and guidance.  But you guys.  This was an incredible milestone for us.  We just moved into a new home in March, and we are starting to feel like the wonderful family next door, and the neighborhood park in our backyard are the two best parts of this home.  Here’s how we got there:

1.  We make the outdoor play materials accessible to the children, so they don’t need our help.  The basketballs are in a box that is on the bottom shelf near the garage entrance, and sidewalk chalk is stored right beside it.  Also, our daughter just learned to ride her bike in April, so bikes are THE primary necessity right now.  We invested in this bike rack, so the kids can easily get their bikes on their own.  Also, they can park their bikes and put their helmets easily on the handle bars, so there is less, “Where is my helmet?”, when they want to go play. This preparation of the environment has proved worth it’s weight in gold!

2.  We have discussed clearly the expectations for independent play. To prevent the need to constantly intervene, with corrections on their behavior, we discuss rules beforehand.  Our expectations include:

  • Use kind words and gentle hands
  • Be respectful to all people and things
  • Stay within the sidewalk, yard and neighboring yards/sidewalks.  No going in the street/across streets.
  • If another child isn’t respecting when you ask them to stop – come get help from an adult.

3.  We are working REALLY hard to allow them the chance to be independent.  Sometimes I uncomfortable with the fact that I don’t know exactly what they are doing.  But I try to remind myself that children build self-esteem through feeling capable and competent.  I want them to grow the internal confidence that they CAN function without mom and dad.  I want them to grow in their ability to solve a problem without me.  These types of things really require a bit of independence to really develop.  So, I peek my head out the door every now and then, to be sure there isn’t an emergency. But I do my best to keep my nose out of their business.

With these 3 tools in place, we are reaping huge benefits! This morning I was able to drink an entire cup of coffee, before it got cold.  Who knew we would ever get there?!





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