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If Your Kids Can Do It Themselves, Let Them: 4 Ways to Foster Independence

by | Mar 9, 2017 | Children, Education, Family, Parenting, Students | 0 comments

If Your Kids Can Do It Themselves, Let Them: 4 Ways to Foster Independence

I walked over to the coffee pot to put in the filter and spoon the tiny black granules into the basin. Above the soothing drip drip drip of coffee entering the pot, I suddenly hear my oldest daughter’s voice. It is getting louder and faster with each word, in a shrill crescendo.  “But Jason’s mom writes his,” she fired back. “I don’t care what Jason’s mom does. You will write you own books down, in your own reading log, because it is your homework assignment, and you can,” my husband retorts.

kids, independence, coffee, foster

My daughter then begins listing the names of every kid in her class whose parents write down the books they read in their reading log for them, one by one. “I already write all day long. We do so much writing. Why can’t you just write it down?” she asks.  I can see that this is headed for full meltdown town. Brew faster, Brew faster, I think. Can I just get my coffee in my cup?

“Ms. Southern doesn’t expect us to write it down anyway”, she insists, her little fists clenched by her sides, tears just behind her eyes. “But you can write it, so you will,” my husband says again. “Just copy the book title in your reading log,” I interject. “I know what to do! It’s just that everyone else’s parent does it for them,” my daughter snaps back. She adds, “Also, I can’t write small.  What if I write small, and I can’t write big again? Then I will get in trouble.”

On and on it went, for what seemed like an hour but was probably more like two minutes, before my husband said, “It’s your homework and we are not going to do your homework,” in a voice that indicated finality. She knew the conversation was over. Then my daughter, who writes pages of neat sentences in her journal for fun, took her reading log in her hand and in less than a minute copied the title of the book in neat print.

I tell you this story because I understand that sometimes it takes our children forever to do things. We are all so busy and tired that it just seems easier and less time consuming to write the assignment for your kid or help them along than to let them slug through it themselves. We also do not like to see our children struggle. It is out of this good intention to protect our children and save time that I think we can make the mistake of not adequately preparing our children for the future. Here are four ways to foster independence instead of dependence in your children the next time you encounter a similar struggle:

If Your Kids Can Do It, Let Them (Make Them)

If your kid has a task to do, and you have seen them do similar tasks before or know that they have the required background knowledge, let them do the task on their own. Being able to do things for themselves will  increase their confidence, self-esteem, and independence. Remember that the decisions you make when your child is young lay the foundation for who they will become as a teenager and young adult.

I often hear people complain that today’s generation of kids has not developed the life skills that kids had 30 years ago.  As a teacher I have noticed that many times this is because parents swoop in and save them from problems or take care of things that kids could and should be doing themselves. It gives kids the message that someone will always be there to save them if they fall short or jump in and do it for them if life gets too difficult. This damages their capacity to develop the combination of perseverance and passion that expert Angela Duckworth calls grit– the ability to stick with it even when the task or life in general becomes difficult.

Take a Step Back

Many times as parents we jump in before observing to see what our kids are able to do on their own. Parenting expert, Judy Lythcott-Haims suggests in her book, How to Raise an Adult, that doing kids work for them or taking over sends the message “I don’t think you can do this without me.” This is damaging to developing independence.

Remember, just because a task is not in your child’s comfort zone does not mean that they are incapable of doing it. Instead of jumping in, try acknowledging the challenge and also your confidence in your child’s ability to accomplish the task on their own. Then let them try. They may succeed beyond your expectations. They may fail (and there is a lesson in dealing with that too). They may complain, as in the example above, which often intensifies parental anxiety. This brings me to my next point.

Don’t Let Guilt Get in the Way

It is okay for your child to be angry with you when you make them do something they don’t want to do. They will get over it. What they will not get over are the effects of having everything done for them. Even though we may feel a pang of guilt, telling our kids “no”, “not now”, or “do it yourself” is not bad parenting. Conversely, it teaches them that if they want something they will have to work for it because success or failure is dependent on our own effort.

Let Go of Perfection

Allowing your kids to do things themselves means that at first they may not be done exactly how you would have done them. So, their ponytail is lopsided or their book title in the reading log slants downward. That’s okay. They picked up a wet towel and put it directly in the dirty clothes making it smelly even after washing or they balled up their clothes in their drawers making them a wrinkled mess. There is a lesson in that. Offer them feedback and support, but don’t do it for them. Let them learn from their mistakes so they can improve. Eventually they will be able to do these tasks on their own and do them well.

From the story above, you know that I understand that the struggle to get kids to do things they should do on their own is real. It will sometimes make you want to curl up in a little ball under your covers, hide from the world, and quit adulting for the day. But it is a struggle worth having — one that will challenge you to step back allowing your kid to step up. What if they don’t, you may ask? Well, there are consequences for that too. Ones you should let them face. Because really it is their work and their life anyway. One you can not live for them.

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Owner | Parrish Learning Zone, LLC

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                                       ~Nina

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Co-Owner and Director of Education

Proud mom of two adorable girls. Teacher who has developed an education business that started at a kitchen table and has grown into a thriving small business... Click here to Learn more about Nina.

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Pam Cantrell Burton
Pam Cantrell Burton
2020-10-14T16:15:51+0000
Parrish Learning Zone helped my daughter with on-line SAT and college essay preparation. She not only scored in the top 90 percentile on the SAT after working with Lauren Cannavo, she especially benefited from the tutoring she received for her admission essays. My daughter was accepted at Notre Dame, UVA, William and Mary, and received scholarships to George Washington University and the University of Alabama. She was initially deferred at the University of Chicago and waitlisted at University of Michigan and Emory University. She eventually chose not to remain on the waitlists and committed to UVA.Lauren also advised our daughter regarding her submission of a 20 page essay on community service for DECA, a high school business club. Our daughter, along with her partner, won second place in her category at the DECA state competitions in 2019 and 2020, and received second place at the DECA international competition in 2019.Lauren was not only a top-notch professional, she really cared about our daughter and was so pleased about her accomplishments. We are so very grateful to her and Parrish Learning Zone.
Marijayne Kruus
Marijayne Kruus
2020-05-11T21:51:37+0000
My daughter has a math learning disability and hated math. We started working with Nina Parrish and stuck with it for several months. Her grades have improved, but more importantly, so has her self confidence. She now loves going to work on math and will even work on it at home by herself. We are grateful for Parrish Learning Zone!
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Laura Ellis
2018-12-14T14:36:43+0000
Mr. Chaves is an extremely gifted chemistry teacher. It's such a difficult subject--my son was drowning by the time we found PLZ. This was truly a last ditch effort on our part. Mr. Chaves was able to turn that ship around after only 4 lessons and my son passed the SOL! He was able to distill difficult concepts in a way that made them comprehensible and he was patient and kind and gave my son the confidence to succeed. His actual eacher expressed surprise and made a point of telling him he didn't know how he did it but he was impressed. It takes a gifted teacher to get results like that.I only wish we'd found PLZ and Mr. Chaves in the beginning of the school year.
Wendy Zelazny
Wendy Zelazny
2018-06-08T02:05:15+0000
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Anne Kater Reeves
2018-06-07T22:46:05+0000
I highly recommend Parrish Learning Zone. My daughter was able to achieve the SAT score she was aiming for with the help of her Math (Mr. James Slane) and English (Mrs. Lauren Cannavo) tutors. Not only did they help her with practice tests but they also boosted her confidence in taking the SAT. The owners (Nina and Jay) were always prompt in answering my emails. They are very accommodating and worked around my daughter’s schedule (thank you Shiela for all your help in finding available dates for my daughter to meet with her tutors). Thank you Parrish Learning Zone for helping my daughter achieve her goal!
Beth Yankovich
Beth Yankovich
2018-03-23T20:29:18+0000
I can't say enough good things about Parrish Learning Zone. My son has historically suffered from low reading comprehension. I felt he needed a little extra help so I contacted Parrish Learning Zone. The owners at Parrish matched my son with the perfect tutor for him, they developed a rapport almost immediately. He is now in 8th grade and doing well in all his classes. My son is very active in school sports and the staff at Parrish are always very accommodating. They always reschedule with no problems. My son even likes to go early to chat with Sheila.
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Beth Kent
2017-11-08T18:59:11+0000
Awesome! Very structured and student focused - they identified the areas of weakness and turned those into areas of strength in a very short amount of time. I loved the communication from the tutor and the company. I received a specific report of my child's tutoring session including improvements and areas that needed continued work. I received reminders of upcoming tutor sessions - which I needed!! I felt the individual attention and service was worth every penny AND found the prices to be much more reasonable that other tutors in the area. I would HIGHLY recommend Parrish Learning Zone to any parent that needs to find highly competent tutoring help for their child. Parrish is simply the best!
Michele Hiltbrunner Freemyers
Michele Hiltbrunner Freemyers
2017-03-14T15:53:50+0000
An excellent place to take your kids for any tutoring needs! PLZ is a very personalized and hands on service! Both of my teenage boys have been through here for various reasons and I know we will continue to make use of them!
Tammy Elms Mosco
Tammy Elms Mosco
2016-06-02T12:20:59+0000
SAT Prep Course with Parish Learning is definitely a worthwhile invest !!...My son's scores improved over 200 plus points!!
Janice Boles
Janice Boles
2014-12-02T22:34:32+0000
I am extremely thankful to Parrish Learning Zone. I have a son that is a freshman in college majoring in mechanical engineering. I am so glad that we found out about the Parrish Learning Zone because they were very caring and really worked hard around my sons high school football schedule to ensure that he received all of the needed instruction in order to do well on the SAT testing. It was a great investment for his future. I believe this experience prepared my son for the transition to college life. He was able to attend a top engineering college and to play football there. My daughter is a senior in high school now and was admitted into two of the top ranked public schools in Virginia. She will be a freshman at one of these schools next year. She also was enrolled in the Parrish Learning Zone for preparation for the SAT. I am again thankful to the Parrish Learning Zone and feel that this was a great long term investment into their futures. I would strongly recommend the Parrish Learning Zone to anyone looking for an environment that offers a caring and knowledgeable approach to educating students. They are the best.
Angela Jackson
Angela Jackson
2014-05-15T00:39:39+0000
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Andrew Powers
2014-02-09T12:32:29+0000

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