May 202013
 
teaching children independence

A mother selling her crafts with her child, in Peru.

At what age can you start teaching your children independence? Find out here – these parenting tips are from Angela England, founder of Untrained Housewife and author of Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less).

“Our children are tough, resilient, and creative because we encourage them to try new things,” says Angela. “My husband and I support small efforts early on. Having your kids working alongside you may not be the most efficient thing to do at the beginning, but it reaps huge dividends later.”

One of the most difficult things to do as a parent is to let your kids go – which is what independence is all about! But the sooner you teach them to work alongside you (I love that phrase from Angela), the easier it’ll be for them to succeed as they grow up.

This article is based on an interview I did with Angela, for a parenting article for alive magazine. Everything here is Angela’s – it’s basically a guest post. At the end of the article are links to her book and website.

I realize that this topic – teaching your children how to be independent – too huge to cover in an article! Whole books have been written, such as Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World: Seven Building Blocks for Developing Capable Young People by Stephen Glenn. This is just a brief introduction, and an opportunity for you to ask questions and share your experiences.

Tips for Teaching Your Kids Independence

I see so many parents who pour themselves into their kids in ways that can be unhealthy, doing everything for them beyond the time when a child is capable of doing it themselves.

Teaching children independence is important. My kids at 4, 6, and 7 1/2 can make their own breakfasts of eggs, sausage and toast, fold and put away their clean clothes, or collect eggs from our chickens each day.

We shouldn’t lower our expectations of our children, but rather give them skills to meet them. We may well have high expectations for our kids, but we can help them at every step of the way.

Take it one step at a time

First we mirror the behavior we expect, then we break it down and do it alongside them. Then, we monitor and fine-tune our children performing the task until finally our children are independent and accomplished at the task.

Whether it’s learning a home skill, building something exciting outdoors, or memorizing “difficult” Bible verses, this technique seems to have worked well for us. It does, however, require some commitment on our part to help them out with new skills. Teaching independence takes time, especially at the beginning.

Are you wondering what age you can start teaching your children independence? Feel free to ask in the comments section below! There are no black-and-white answers, but you may find a few parenting tips.

If your kids aren’t the easiest to get along with, read When Your Daughter Says She Hates You – 8 Ways to Reconnect.

Be aware of different ways kids can be independent

There are dozens of ways children can start taking steps toward independence from a young age. For instance, growing your own food as a family is a great way for children to learn how to be independent.

For our family, we are careful to minimize the hormones and artificial chemicals by growing more of our food ourselves. We’ve especially noticed a big difference in the meat and eggs we raise. Research has shown that pasture raised eggs and free-ranged meats have higher levels of Omega-3, for example, which helps developing brains function at their peak. So you can see how these nutrient-rich, whole foods can be an important part of keeping your kids 100%. 

We need children who can think outside the box and become innovators, and we need parents who are becoming more intentional in making those opportunities happen for their children – instead of sticking with the status quo.

Do your kids get anxious in new situations? Read How to Help Your Kids Cope With Stress.

Angela England, author of Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less), is a freelance writer who, along with her husband and four children, cultivates a 1/2-acre farm in their backyard. They raise dairy and meat goats, keep free-range chickens, and maintain a productive garden of fruits and vegetables. Angela founded Untrained Housewife, which guides others in the arts of rural living. 

If you have any comments about teaching your kids independence, please share below.

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