Thursday, August 18, 2011

Teaching independence

I've made good friends with a couple of women here in Calgary. One of them is my upstairs neighbor who also has a baby boy who's about 2 months older than Hyrum. We got chatting yesterday about independence while we were on our walk. She also has her son in her room. She recently moved him from their bed to a mattress on the floor and has been having a lot of success with that. But a few friends were really pushing her to not give up on the crib. She decided it wasn't worth it for her. But then there's all that talk about independence. So, we got to thinking, how do you teach it and how do you gain it?

Lots of people talk about instilling independence in your children--leaving them to play by themselves or having a separate sleeping space. But, here are my personal thoughts on independence---it can't be pushed. I personally don't think it's independence if there wasn't any choice involved in it. It's just the way life is. So, how do you encourage without forcing?

I thought of ways that my parents taught me independence. Since my memory doesn't serve me very well in infanthood, I think mostly about my teenage years. Partially from tight finances and partially from wanting to teach me responsibility, my parents told me that if I wanted things--new school clothes, a driver's license, insurance, etc.--then I needed to have a job. Thus began a great career at Little Caesar's Pizza (har har). My parents also had me pay for my own college education. There were a few times when they would spot me $20 here or there, but for the most part, I payed for it (or at least mortgaged my future...)

But since I don't have a teenager, I have an infant, I wonder what sorts of ways I can help encourage independence and responsibility at a young age. One of the ways we've come up with is letting him feed himself. If he doesn't want to eat, he doesn't have to. If he wants to, we provide the food but he does the feeding. My plan for separate sleeping spaces is that when he wants it, we'll provide the means and some gentle encouragement to stay in his own bed.

What are some ways you've found to encourage independence in your youngsters?

1 comment:

  1. It starts pretty small. I put my youngest in a swing while I make dinner. He can see me, but he's on his own with playing. When he wants me, I pick him back up, but for a few minutes here and there he was independently playing. He will eventually start playing longer stretches, and with the other kids without me being right in there all the time.
    You let them have choices, working up from self-feeding to eventually letting them choose what to eat for lunch (or whatever), then picking what they wear...
    You let them run and play, and even fall and scrape a knee sometimes. You will be right there if/when they need you, but will learn to do things on their own. You give them chores/responsibilities starting at a young age (even my 2 yr old has 'chores' of setting out the forks for dinner, making her bed and putting away her toys).