Encouraging Kids to be Independent – What Child Psychology Has to Say About It?

The whole thing triggered about a couple of months back when we took my daughter for shopping. We finalized a nice yoga pants for her, the only thing was to try it on her. So I took her hand and accompanied her to a changing room. Right outside the changing room, she stopped me and demanded to go in the changing room alone and try the pants herself. She just didn’t want me in. She said, “I know I can do it myself.”

So I waited outside the changing room puzzled, partly by the fact that a my kid was demanding space from her mother, and partly by her stubbornness on the issue.

Then she came out wearing the pants and showed us how they fit. She went back in again and changed her clothes and came out saying, “I think they fit me just fine.” My daughter had realized that she is capable enough to take of herself and make decisions independently.

I couldn’t be more proud but at the same time something was pulling the strings of my heart telling me that I should not let her make her own choices. What if she doesn’t consult me on anything at all? Shouldn’t I get to control her for many more years making sure she remains on “the right track?”

encouraging kids to be independentFreedom is always a value that I have inculcated in my daughter. I have always asked her to make her own decisions. Whenever, she has asked me, “Ma, how does my block tower look?;” I have always replied, “don’t ask me, ask yourself.” And now when it was finally happening, my daughter making her own decisions and finding her own freedom, I am worried, anxious, and not at all ready to let go.

Isn’t freedom such a tricky subject for parents? We want to give freedom to our kids but we want to give it with dozens of restrictions on it. Yeah you can play as much as you want, but first finish your homework, revise the classwork, clean up your toys and help me with some household chores. Yeah you can eat cookies, but first finish the broccoli and the carrot in the plate.

With the issue of “can I let it go?” submerging my mind, I went back to my basics. I have studied child psychology in my graduation and so Erik Erikson crossed my mind.

freedom for kids

Erik Erikson was a psychoanalyst who is best known for his eight stages of development from his theory of identity and psychosocial development. According to the first three stages of this theory, from birth to 6 years of age, the child goes through three dilemmas –  whether to trust or mistrust, whether to feel proud of one’s ability or doubt it, and whether to take initiative or stay inhibitive.

From birth to 18 months, the child keeps learning about trust and goes through new experiences. Depending on the support and nurturance the child gets from her environment and the bonding moments she gets with her family, she will either learn to trust people and environment or else develop mistrust, insecurity and pessimism.

From 18 months to 3 years, the child starts exploring her surroundings and learns new skills. The reinforcement that the child gets from her environment decides whether the child develops autonomy and pride in herself or whether she develops shame and low self-esteem.

From 3 years to 5 years, is the time when the exploration of the child reaches its peak. She would want to make sense of everything around her and enjoy learning without anyone forcing her to. That is empowering for her. In this stage, the opportunity that the child gets for taking initiatives and making her own mistakes decides whether the child learns leadership and initiative or whether she feels guilty and drawn back.

Upon revising what I learnt in my late-teens and applying them when I am in my early thirties, I realized that right now it was time for me to step back and let my daughter go ahead and choose her life. Right now I should give her the maximum opportunities to try, to test, to learn, to fail, to tear, to shake, to fix and to break – doing everything she can all by herself independently. The more she does things on her own, the more optimistic she will become, the more autonomous she will become and the more proud of herself she would be.

And that is exactly I want her to be.

encouraging kids to be independent

The blog was first published at MyCity4Kids as She’s so little, Should I Hold Her Hand Tight or Should I Let Her Go? Special thanks to Kelloggs’s for their special initiative of #KhulJayeBachpan!

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