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Key Takeaways:

  • Self-reliance allows children to confidently explore the world around them and helps them develop resiliency.
  • Independence and autonomy are important factors in developing self-sufficiency. Parents can help kids develop these traits with age-appropriate chores and responsibilities.
  • Don’t rush to solve problems. Let children experience challenging situations and work their way through them.

Raising self-reliant kids is one of the biggest parenting flexes you can have. Our job as parents is to give our kids the skills they need to confidently navigate the world. As much as we want to be there for them, they must learn to rely on themselves and trust their abilities.

Self-reliance starts at home and isn’t as complicated as you might think to encourage. It takes intention, patience, and a bit of modeling as you teach your child how to be confident in themselves.

What Does It Mean for Your Child To Be Self-Reliant?

A self-reliant child is independent and autonomous. They understand their effort is valuable and can help them achieve their goals. Self-reliance lets your child trust their abilities to take on challenges and explore the world around them.

You’ve probably noticed your child striving for independence already. Kids crave autonomy, whether it’s putting on their own pair of shoes or dying their hair. It’s our job to give them the skills they need to build resilience and perseverance.

Benefits of Self-Reliance for Kids

Encouraging independence and self-reliance gives kids a good foundation for success. Self-reliant kids:

  • Make decisions more easily and usually make better choices
  • Have the ability to problem-solve and think creatively about situations
  • Feel more self-confident and have higher self-esteem
  • Have better emotional regulation

8 Steps To Foster Independence

Without self-reliance, kids depend on parents, teachers, siblings, and friends. Dependent kids rely heavily on others for guidance, problem-solving, and decision-making. On the other hand, self-reliant kids display independence but feel comfortable asking for help when they need it.

1. Speak mindfully

Your words have power. What you say to your child and how you say it becomes their inner voice. You can help them feel empowered and confident or ashamed and inadequate.

Instead of getting frustrated and impatient as your child is busy with a task, praise their progress and effort. It’s easy to be annoyed by how long it takes to tie shoelaces when you’re trying to get out of the door. But when you reframe their behavior and recognize their effort, it makes them feel good and helps you keep your cool.

Some kids struggle to do challenging things. You can use positive reinforcement to encourage them to keep trying. The more you praise their specific efforts, the more of that behavior you’ll see. Positive reinforcement helps your child feel confident as they learn to do things independently.

2. Give age-appropriate responsibilities

Age-appropriate responsibilities empower kids to do things for themselves and contribute to the family and home. You can help your child take ownership of responsibilities by setting them collaboratively. Let them work out how to complete chores before jumping in to tell them how best to do it, and don’t remove obstacles they may face.

They can take ownership of their responsibilities by keeping a chore chart. Keeping track of their progress helps kids take responsibility for the consequences of failing to follow through with tasks.

3. Let them make decisions

How can you expect your child to trust themselves if you always make decisions for them?

If the idea of letting your child call the shots gives you a cold sweat, start with something small. For example, lay out two outfits and let your child choose which one to wear. For older kids, let them decide on a family activity for the weekend.

When you make decisions a normal part of the day, your child won’t find them stressful. They will also learn to assess risk because they make decisions, both good and bad, within the safe parameters you set. Letting kids make decisions, especially in the early years, helps them take risks, accept the outcome of their decisions, and become more independent and self-reliant [*].

4. Help them set goals

Kids learn to trust themselves when they set goals and take action to achieve them. Goals can range from small, like saving enough pocket money to buy a Lego set, to significant, like achieving high enough grades to get into a prestigious college. Goals should be:

  • S - Specific
  • M - Measurable
  • A - Achievable
  • R - Relevant
  • T - Time-Bound

Encourage your child to set long-term and short-term goals. Reaching short-term goals will give them a sense of achievement, helping them persevere as they work toward the long-term ones. Each time they successfully overcome frustration or tick a task off their list, they learn to trust themselves and their commitment more.

5. Teach Problem-Solving

A big part of self-reliance is learning to think critically and creatively when solving problems. According to some research, kids who can problem-solve have higher levels of self-esteem and confidence and display less challenging behavior [*].

You can model problem-solving by ‘thinking out loud.’ When you are trying to solve a problem, talk about it out loud so your child can see the process in action. You can also ask your child for their advice. Start with something simple like dinner. For example, “I was going to make quiche for dinner, but I don’t have enough eggs. What could we make instead?”

If your child has a problem, ask open-ended questions and guide them through the process of finding an answer. Brainstorm together and discuss different solutions. Give your child the opportunity to figure it out for themselves.

6. Encourage a growth mindset

Helping your child develop a growth mindset is invaluable. Kids with a growth mindset see failure as a learning opportunity and aren’t afraid to make mistakes. A growth mindset means your child will be more willing to take on challenging tasks.

For your child to tackle life independently, they must make mistakes, learn from them, and try new things. However, how you view your child’s success or failure can affect their mindset. Some research shows that parents who see failure as a negative focus on outcomes over progress and are more likely to have kids with a fixed mindset [*].

7. Foster self-confidence

Self-reliance happens when your child has the confidence to explore and is brave enough to learn new skills. The easiest way for you to foster self-confidence is to teach them practical skills. These may include:

  • Grocery shopping and budgeting
  • Prepping and cooking a meal
  • Laundry
  • Caring for pets

Praise your child’s perseverance as they try new things. Be specific by praising their actions. For example, you can tell them. “Wow, the table looks beautiful. I love the flowers you added!”

8. Emotional regulation

Emotional regulation is managing your emotions and responding rather than reacting to situations. To feel confident, independent, and empowered, your child must understand and deal with their feelings.

By embracing difficult situations, you can help your child develop self-reliance and emotional regulation. Scaffolding is an effective way to give your child just enough support to help them get through a challenging situation or task.

For example, if your child struggles with their English homework, help them with one or two questions to give them the confidence to tackle the rest independently.

Be sure to validate your child’s emotions. For example, “I see that you’re struggling. Homework can be hard.” This lets your child feel seen and creates a sense of safety and connection.

The Bottom Line

Self-reliance helps kids and teens become independent, confident people who can deal with challenges healthily and recover from setbacks.

Watching your kids grow up, make mistakes, and learn can be challenging. However, creating a safe space for them to explore and fail is exactly what they need as they learn how to trust themselves and their blossoming independence.

Sources:

  1. Awopetu, A. V. (2023, December 22). FOSTERING SELF-RELIANCE AND INDEPENDENCE IN EARLY CHILDHOOD: HOW EXPOSURE TO RISKY ACTIVITIES HELPS THERE. Awopetu | European Journal of Education Studies. https://oapub.org/edu/index.php/ejes/article/view/5141/7773
  2. Fettig, A., Schultz, T. R., & Ostrosky, M. M. (2016, August 1). Storybooks and Beyond. Young Exceptional Children. https://doi.org/10.1177/1096250615576803
  3. Haimovitz, K., & Dweck, C. S. (2016). Parents’ Views of Failure Predict Children’s Fixed and Growth Intelligence Mind-Sets. Psychological Science, 27(6), 859-869. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797616639727

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