When children are young, they depend on you for everything. That also includes teaching them to become confident, thriving adults. To do this effectively, start when they are two. Sometimes it isn’t easy to guide them, but if you instill fundamentals when they are young, teaching them as teenagers become infinitely more manageable.
The best thing you can do is find a balance because you don’t want to allow your child too much independence too early. (A hands-off approach often ends in disaster.)
Consider these tips to prepare them for an independent life:
1. Teach them how to make choices. Start with the little things that, for a two-year-old, are not life-threatening.
- Allow them to pick what PJs they want to wear to bed. (Never ask them if they want to go to bed – it’s not a choice. Suggestion: Do you want to go to bed now with your green PJs or your blue ones?
- Let them pick out some of the family board games. Suggestion: Pull three different games and let them choose one.
- Let them choose toys and pursue activities they enjoy.
- Allow them to dress themselves or at least pick out their own clothes the night before. (Remember: Wearing stripes and polka dots is not life-threatening. You may have fashion sense but let them be.)
2. Work on social skills. A large part of functioning independently is learning to communicate their wants, ideas, and desires effectively. Unfortunately, poor communication skills can hold your child back. However, children of all ages can develop better social skills, especially now in the age of electronic distractions.
- Reinforce the idea of sharing and caring with young children.
- Teach your children appropriate ways to make friends.
- Teach them how to be polite and to use good manners.
- Teaching them the art of conversation will serve them for a lifetime.
3. Life lessons. Always work on life lessons, and it is never too early to start. Assign age-appropriate chores to your children.
- When my children were young, this is what we did. When you turned two years of age,
you were gifted a quilt and were now allowed to make your bed; when you turned four,
you got to help load the dishwasher; when you were six, you got to use the vacuum
cleaner. By the time they reached age eight, they thought they had been had, but it
was too late; it had already become a habit.
- Provide them with rewards for a job well done. Rewards do not have to be monetary.
(No one paid me to clean the bathroom. It is part of an effective family unit.)
- Teach your children time management, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.
Follow these tips, and you’ll be rewarded with an easier transition as your children move on to their teens. With guidance and trust on both sides of the fence, children grow into capable, confident adults.