As parents we are very good at juggling many things (getting ourselves ready, packing school bags, making lunches, getting the kids dressed and ready, feeding the animals, cleaning, all while thinking about dinner and all of the other things that we have to do that day). Often we can find ourselves doing more for our children than is actually needed. Why is this?
- We have developed a habit. Our children have depended on us for so many years it can be hard for us to break this habit.
- We are often in a rush and it is often easier to do it ourselves, with less of a battle and we know that the job will get done properly.
Why is it so important to encourage children to be more independent?
- Teaching children to be more independent develops foundational skills which are necessary for academic and social learning.
- There are many skills that develop through a child attempting and practising daily living tasks. For example getting dressed (buttons, zips, shoelaces), tidying their rooms, packing and unpacking their school bags, using a knife and fork all require the following skills:
- Fine motor skills (finger and hand strength, fine motor coordination)
- Gross motor skills (balance, coordination, hand eye coordination, spatial awareness)
- Executive function skills (initiation, planning, organisation, problem solving, emotional control)
- Visual skills (i.e visual spatial, visual perceptual skills)
- In the long run we are setting our children up to be confident, and independent children who understand responsibility and have a belief that they are competent and capable of taking care of themselves.
To make it easier on yourself as your encourage your child’s independence:
- Choose one activity to focus on at a time.
- Break it down into steps.
- It is important for your child to experience success to keep them motivated. Therefore when teaching your child to do an activity (e.g. putting on pants or making toast and vegemite for afternoon tea) do the start of the task for them and then teach your child to do the last step in the sequence so that they experience doing the completion of the task. Once they have mastered this step, get them to do the 2nd last and last step, when they have mastered this keep working back until they can complete the whole task. This approach is called ‘backward chaining’.
- Start with providing full support and teaching, then gradually reduce the amount of assistance you are providing at each step. Do not progress to teaching the next step until your child is independent at the first step.
- Using pictures or a checklist to remind your child of the steps can be helpful to support independence during the learning phase.
If your child is having difficulty becoming more independent and learning daily living skills and you need some help feel free to book in for a Startup Session: