i‑Learner Education Centre

Steps to Success » Encouraging Children

How can we encourage independence and self-reliance in children?

As an experienced educator who has worked with children of various ages, I have encountered students who, to varying degrees, require attention and assistance for even the simplest tasks. These students often exhibit a lack of belief in their own abilities, which can stem from a lack of experience or a fear of failure. While the desire to dote on our children is understandable, overprotecting them will only serve to deprive them of valuable opportunities to learn from their mistakes. Therefore, the first step to raising independent children into adulthood is to assign them basic chores such as washing dishes or sweeping floors. Engaging in these seemingly mundane tasks teaches responsibility and gives them a chance to take ownership of their own actions by cleaning up after themselves instead of relying on others. By successfully completing such tasks, children develop a sense of confidence.

Naturally, the level of the tasks should be age appropriate. For preschool children, simply asking them to put away their toys after a play session or asking them to play as an assistant in simple household tasks like dusting should suffice. Elementary school age children can start to assist with laundry or packing their own school bags. They can also be asked to take care of a potted plant. By the time a child reaches adolescence, they should be responsible for their own hygiene. While they can be given some freedom to decorate their own spaces, they must also be responsible for its cleanliness. Older teens can start to be given a small allowance and tasked with budgeting their own spending. During summer, they can look for volunteering opportunities or take on a part time job to gain experience in broader society.

Aside from assigning them tasks in the home, interactions in the classroom also matter. As an educator, I encourage my older students to create their own timetables and make task lists. For my younger students when they pack their own pencils/folders, I acknowledge their efforts and when they achieve these goals I provide positive reinforcement. Another example of promoting independence in the classroom pertains to instances where students seek help with spelling or grammar. Unless the words are beyond their current level, I encourage students to attempt it on their own initially. Through a process of praising correct elements and gently guiding them towards discovering the correct answers, they experience a sense of accomplishment and are more likely to independently attempt subsequent tasks. Whether it involves cleaning up a spill or understanding the correct usage of grammar, learning through hands-on experience sets them on a path of personal growth and self-reliance.

By fostering an environment that encourages students to take responsibility for their own work and actions, they can gradually develop a mindset of self-reliance, leading to increased independence and a reduced reliance on external assistance into adulthood.