Raising independent, autonomous and confident children is a big challenge for every parent. But independence is not something we can gift to our child on his special day; rather, we must make serious and continual efforts to inculcate these qualities in our growing kids. But, for many parents, it’s a tricky job. A mom writes,
“My Ankur is 5 years now, but still dependent on me for many things that he can do but expects me to do. Initially, I used to do everything for him. But now, since he is growing, I expect him to do his tasks himself, like eating food, wearing clothes etc. I have to spend most of my time with him—-which irritates me a lot. So, I end up scolding him but later feel guilty of doing so—–.”

The above problem is common to most of the young parents who want their kids to grow by themselves but can’t draw a line between making them independent or dependent. We all know that human child remains more dependent on its parents or care givers for the fulfillment of his basic needs of nourishment, security and other related needs. Well, we should know how long an infant needs our help. We should not cross that boundary. Like, 2-3 years old kid can start eating herself properly without any help but her mom does not even let her try to eat.

If you want to raise a confident child, competent of doing her own petty jobs, you need to give her the opportunity, freedom and guidance to do her work independently. The key for raising autonomous children is in your hands and very much lies in striking an appropriate chord between the kid’s tasks and your own responsibilities. You need to have some patience. You should neither interrupt and put too much pressure, nor give more relaxation. Always bear in mind that, autonomy and freedom generate confidence. The more your kids become independent, the more confident would they become. Remember that leaving apart some very weak kids, all the kids between the age group of one and half year to three years can do their tit-bits or petty jobs like eating food; wearing clothes, shoes & socks; keeping her belongings intact and taking her small decisions herself. But, the problem is that many grand-parents and parents either don’t trust their capability to do their work or they are afraid that they would spoil their clothes or carpet or bed-sheet etc. So they do not let their kids do anything on their own. But, when they grow older and become used to get everything done by parents; suddenly, the mom starts getting irritated, lose patience and ends-up in scolding or beating the child.

According to famous child psychologist Eric Erikson, the kids, who are deprived of the liberty to do their work independently and develop a feeling of autonomy by their over strict, protective or too much interruptive, criticizing or nagging parents, begin to distrust and doubt their own capability and hence feel ashamed of themselves in front of others. Though, some amount of faltering and hesitation is essential to fix the limits of their liberty in doing difficult tasks, which, in turn, helps in developing the feeling of trust and autonomy/independence. That is why parents, very carefully and shrewdly, should try to create a balance and coordination between these two feelings.

After having developed the feeling of trust and autonomy, every child in the age group of 3-6 years, begins to assume responsibility of doing her own petty jobs and even enquire about the ‘what and how’ of so many things. In Ericson’s view, this is the stage of developing ‘Initiative vs. guilt’; because, this is the stage when she initiates planning and working on small but different projects at both – physical and intellectual level. The more the parents and the people around appreciate and encourage those small initiatives; the more they would develop the feeling of doing and initiating new ventures in their lives. This, in turn, would develop in them more self confidence and vigor. The reverse would be true, if we discourage their initiative by criticizing, scolding, interrupting, interfering or making fun of them; and they would develop a feeling of ‘Inferiority & Self Guilt instead of Initiative’. Further, this would kill their zeal of taking their own small decisions or initiatives in their lives. Therefore, parents should always encourage and guide the kids in taking their own decisions and initiatives.

Further, 6-12 years period is exceedingly significant for the kids when they start going to school and teachers begin to press them for learning new things and doing novel activities. As they grow older, parent’s expectations also increase. Rather, some low status parents make them do some domestic chores even. In addition to it, they are also now compared with their peers. The kids, who work hard, get support from their parents & teachers as well as the community, which, in turn, enhances their self-confidence. They feel joy and happiness in doing hard work and being industrious. They develop a habit to put-up hard work. But, contrary to this, they develop a feeling of inferiority complex, if they are criticized over small mistakes or interfered, interrupted or even compared with their peers.

Some tips to make the kids self-dependent and self-confident:

• Encourage the kids to do their small & petty jobs themselves, but don’t criticize them over their mistakes or failures;
• Start with giving them very easy work to do and praise them on their successful performance;
• Do appreciate and encourage them in front of significant elders so that they feel encouraged;
• Never criticize, interrupt, interfere, scold or beat the child for her failure because failing or even committing mistakes is not a crime. Instead, encourage her to do her work carefully in future. If a child splits milk while drinking it, instead of scolding, you need to tell her, ‘how to clean it’; and be careful in future;
• If a child can’t do anything in the first attempt, encourage her to try again; and do appreciate her in every better attempt;
• Be empathic and sympathetic: Your kids should have the feeling that despite your love and care for them, you want them to solve their petty problems themselves and become independent. So, they must be assured that you are always with them. Let them do their assignments and projects independently and give your guidance only when it is really desirable. But yeah, you be always around them so that they may not harm themselves in any way;
• Teach your child to communicate assertively: Let her express herself clearly and assertively; and also exercise her own choices. Give her the liberty to do her home-task, select her dress or even choose the snacks for breakfast etc. However, guide her lovingly, If something is inappropriate according to you;
• Yeah, give her only limited or alternative choices like whether she would have toast or pudding; wear maroon skirt or blue dress; do her home-work after coming from school or after taking some rest. But give her only those alternatives, which you can provide or allow her to have.
• Teach her to take her responsibility: Make her keep her things at appropriate place, like her dress, shoes, socks, toys, school bag and even utensils she uses for eating and drinking. If you are planning some visit or a family trip, you can tell your child to pack her own things (you can later mend them). Take care, whenever she does her own work appropriately; don’t forget to appreciate her in front of others.
• If you have two or more kids, let them deal with sibling rivalry (very common thing) themselves. Ps don’t try to side with any child in front of the other. If you genuinely consider one of them to be at fault, make her realize her mistake in private;
• If your kid entraps herself in some problem or even gets some hurt, don’t jump to save her in the very first attempt. Let her try again and again. Have faith and patience, she would surely be able to come out of that problem herself.

Remember that the whole process of making your kid independent should be very slow, steady and gradual, as your impatience would not let you succeed in your goal of making your kid independent.

The problem with us parents is, we either try to control or over-protect our children at every step. This is not desirable, since by doing so, we kill their initiative of independent thinking, taking decisions and making their own judgment. Hardly do we realize that by making them dependent on us, we only help them grow into either resentful or despondent youth.