4 Steps to Increased Independent Behavior
Independence is something we all want our kids to have, but for some even the smallest things become a drama filled battle of wills. Does this scenario sound familiar.... Parent: "Can you please go clean your room?" Child: (using a whining or pouting voice)
"I just can't do it by myself, can you help me?" If you've had this happen with your kids, then you're in the right place! I'm so excited to share these 4 steps to help you change this dynamic while encouraging positive behavior and building your child's confidence.
1. The Request
Yes, I know, "Clean your room" seems like a pretty clear request but from a child's perspective it may be open to interpretation! Ask yourself...
Is the size of the job overwhelming? For young children, being told to clean a room may seem daunting and they may not even know where to start.
Is this a skill that my child has or a job he has done before? If so, then have him go at it. If your child has not yet mastered a particular chore, then he may need some guidance on how to accomplish the task at hand. At this point, you could consider this a training session and do the chore with him, talking him through the steps as he learns how to do the job.
2. The Expectation
Being very clear and specific in your request will set your child up for success. Instead of a broad statement ("Clean your room") you could narrow it down to specific tasks. Request your child to neatly stack his books on the bookshelf and put his socks in the sock drawer. This allows him to know exactly what you mean and be successful in his attempts.
3. The Exit
This is a critical step for instilling independence in your child! Let's say you make a request and your child goes into what I used to call spaghetti legs mode. You've seen it, they melt on the floor and suddenly life is a Greek tragedy! My advice to you is two parts, both are easy and both are important:
Clearly state your confidence in his ability to do this. "We have practiced this together and you did a great job last time. I KNOW you'll be able to get this done on your own."
Walk away! DO NOT ENGAGE in conversation past this point or you're telling him you're willing to continue this negotiation (so he's now thinking he can wear you down and get you to help).
Please know, I'm not saying you should rudely walk out if your child is in the middle of a sentence! The point is to let your child know you have nothing but confidence in him. If you stay and start helping you're teaching him that he can wiggle his way out of his responsibility. Remember, you've already done the training part of this (See Step 1, bullet point 2). You may also be leading him down the path of learned helplessness, which is counterproductive to his growth into an independent adult.
4. The Reward If you have followed me for any length of time, you know I do not encourage bribing a child. When I talk about rewards here, I'm thinking of positive affirmations after a job completed. "You did a great job getting that done!" or "Thank you for putting your clothes away, I really like that you're helping to keep your room clean." Verbal praise is a great incentive for kids. All kids want their parents to be proud of them, you taking the time to share kind acknowledgment for their hard work really does pay off for both your child's self esteem and the parent-child relationship. Additional tips:
Be patient when your child is learning steps to a new skill. You are their first teacher and they want to make you proud.
If your child asks, "Can I help?" let them! If it's at all possible, engage them in your process right then and there. This will be your chance to teach them something new and then encourage them to try their new skill out! I know, there are situations when you are crunched for time, if that's the case promise them you'll do this activity with them next time.
Let your kids fail. I know, it breaks your heart to see him struggle, but it's through those struggles that he learns success. The more we practice a new skill, the more proficient we become!
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