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How can I link independence with responsibility in my kids?

Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

Children with healthy self esteem grow up to be independent and responsible adults. But children don't naturally gravitate towards independence - they need their parents' guidance. Use these tips to help put your kids on a responsible and healthy path. Parents have a job to teach responsibility and independence. It is a lifelong commitment that is not always so easy, but here are some tips to keep you on track:

Encourage Independence by Refusing to Step In

When your kids reaches an age to take on an age-appropriate activity, show them how to do it, then let go and let your kids struggle. It can be hard to watch children fight with their shoelaces, or stumble over their words in a new friendship, but it is in these moments that children are learning. The joy they feel when they gain a little more independence can be very rewarding, and a strong motivator to try new tasks in the future.

Build in Life Skills through Routines

Routines give your kids practice and repetition. If, for instance, the after school routine includes putting away the lunch box and coat, having a snack, and doing homework, your kids learn responsibility as a way of life. If you want your kids to have good personal grooming skills, build brushing hair and teeth, and washing face into a morning and bedtime routine. When a child does the same thing over and over, he learns independence without even thinking about it.

Let Children Fall Down and Experience the Consequences

Resist the urge to be a helicopter parent and hover over your kids. Life is full of opportunities to succeed and make mistakes. The lesson is reinforced and learning takes place when children are allowed to make mistakes. If your kids make a bad choice, let them experience the natural or imposed consequences.

Coach your Kids towards Independence and Responsibility

When your kids are faced with a future or past decision, ask open ended questions that encourage your kids to think for themselves. "What do you think you should say to your friend?" "What could you have done differently in this situation?" Giving advice teaches your children what you want and what you think is best. Coaching your kids supports them in developing good decision-making skills, and honoring what is best for them. Live and learn.

The goal in raising children is not to protect them from pain or undesirable circumstances, but to equip them with what they need to be responsible, independent and resilient adults.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.