Tips to Help Children Become Independent
Published: June 1, 2023
By: Sarah Lyons
Parents want the best for their kids and have a strong desire for them to be successful in every endeavor. While this tendency comes with positive intentions, it can occasionally backfire and leave kids unprepared for the natural consequences and realities that come with everyday life as an adult. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, overparenting is defined as “too much involvement by parents in the lives of their children, so that they try to help with or control everything that happens to the child.” Kids who are raised in this environment struggle in college and beyond with basic tasks, common disappointments, and self-sufficiency. How do you know if you are overparenting? Here are some common pitfalls parents can easily find themselves falling into and some tips to turn these tendencies around.
Common pitfall: Power struggles
Do you often find yourself having a heated debate with your child about something that isn’t important in the grand scheme of things? For example, you may be tempted to argue about your child’s clothing choices, if their room isn’t clean enough, if they are not playing with toys the “right way”, or if they are simply approaching a task differently than you would tackle it yourself. This is a sign you may be overparenting.
Turn it around: When you find yourself in the middle of another power struggle, pause and reflect if it is worth debating. Your child will learn problem-solving skills and gain independence from doing things their own way. If it doesn’t work as smoothly as the way you would have done it, that’s to be expected. They will learn the lesson and adjust naturally on their own. The best part will be less arguing and stress in the home.
Common pitfall: Lack of natural consequences
One of the hardest things about parenting is watching your child fail. If they don’t make the team, get a bad grade, break a toy, or have a disagreement with a friend, parents are often tempted to step in and “fix” the situation so their child is not hurt or disappointed. While this seems like a good thing now, it can cause long-lasting challenges for your child.
Turn it around: Let them try, make mistakes and deal with the aftermath — positive or negative — that comes from their actions. Facing natural consequences is hard but kids who do so are better prepared for making decisions as an adult when the stakes are much higher and the choices can be life-altering.
Common pitfall: Lack of responsibilities
A common sign of overparenting is a lack of age-appropriate expectations and responsibilities.
It is tempting to do all of the chores around the house, help your child with homework assignments, allow them to give up when things get tough, clean up for them and assist them with daily tasks they can do on their own. Kids often surprise us with how much they can do by themselves when given the chance to try.
Turn it around: Start by choosing one task and let your child know they will be responsible for it from now on. Teach them how to do it, and let them know you are there to answer questions and help but they will need to do the task on their own. It might be a struggle at first, but over time they will be able to do it independently, will gain a sense of pride, and will be prepared for harder tasks, including those outside the home. If they have a special interest, encourage them to sign up to volunteer. HandsOn Broward and HandsOn Miami both offer a range of volunteer opportunities for all ages and clubs such as the Junior Service League, Kids Who Care and the Teen Service Squad.
Common pitfall: No time for traditional play
Traditional play and downtime are important for kids’ development because it promotes creativity and allows your child to rest from the structure and pressures that school and extracurricular activities bring. If your child has so many scheduled activities that they have very little free time, it may be due to overparenting. It’s best to find a good balance of your time that promotes both traditional play and activities such as sports or artistic interests equally.
Turn it around: Ask your child what they are truly interested in and reduce the rest of the activities to allow more free time. Keep in mind this may or may not be the activity they excel at. Allowing your child to choose the activities they want to engage in outside the home is important as they gain independence and allows time for them to develop their interests rather than spreading them too thin. Summer break should allow extra time at home too, for free time. Set out a puzzle, board games, a ball, or construction paper and markers and allow your child to play alone, with a sibling or a friend, at their leisure.
Parenting is challenging and changing behavior is even more so. Give yourself grace and make small changes at a time. Talk to your partner or a friend and ask for support and a fresh perspective on the situation. Try to be receptive to their suggestions rather than defending your actions. Talk openly with your child about some changes you would like to make and why. The hard work will be worth it when your child develops into a healthy, self-sufficient adult that is ready to face the challenges and successes that life brings.