Raising independent children

Today’s contributing article is by Keren’s Nursery. The nursery is based in Holland Park and is one of three Ofsted OUTSTANDING nurseries, owned and directed with passion by husband and wife team, Keren & Assaf Ben-Ezra. They share with us some interesting facts on raising independent children. You can read more about the nursery here.

Developing and encouraging independence in the early year’s stage is vital for integration into school and of course, for life. The concept of independence and its importance are included in the national Early Years Foundation Stage document where it is stated that “every child should learn to be resilient, confident and self-assured”.

Our role as parents and educators in supporting the development of independence is truly a vital one and can include the following:

  • Show confidence in children’s abilities, allow them to do things independently;
  • Provide guidance and then give them the freedom to make their own decisions;
  • Encourage children to be aware of risks and be confident to “have a go”;
  • Needless to say, give children love and respect.

As parents, we naturally tend to over-protect our children. Too often we intervene when our children come across challenging situations, ready to provide them with instant solutions. When our children fall, we immediately lift them up, rather than letting them cope and understand the situation, perhaps getting up by themselves, learning about their physical abilities and about taking risks. When children argue over a toy, we tend to intervene, as peace keepers, thereby robbing them of an opportunity to learn to negotiate, stand up for themselves and develop social skills. We end up doing things for our children which they are often capable in doing themselves.

Pause for a moment and ask yourself, what are your children able to do without your support, which currently you are doing for them?

You will be surprised how capable children are, even at a very young age. For example, a 15 months old child is usually capable of taking off his own trousers and put them in the laundry basket. A 2 year old child can walk to nursery without being carried in your hands, including walking up the stairs. A 3 year old child can dress and undress themselves, with a bit of support. Children will take their own risks, if we let them. They will climb a tree with a great sense of achievement. With love and support, we can encourage our children to find their way down safely, by being there for them and guiding them. If, however, we choose to lift them off the tree to safety we will have missed an opportunity for them to develop independence and learn about risk taking.

Children are born explorers, they are curious by nature. A 1964 study found that babies as young as two months old when presented with different patterns will show a marked preference for the unfamiliar ones. It is an instinct that we wish to maintain in order to empower the thirst for knowledge and making one’s own choices. With clear boundaries, we should allow children to make choices, express their needs and views.

In conclusion, Independence is not something that young children can gain on their own. We, as parents and educators, have a vital role in helping them gain this skill. Our children do not possess sufficient life experience to develop independence without our support. Hence they need our encouragement, time and love.

Independence is the greatest gift we can give our children, one that they will cherish and benefit from their entire life.