Embracing our Children’s Independence

Studio 5 contributor Candace Peterson has some great advice on how we can not only embrace our children’s independence but foster it as well.



At this age, your child is fighting for a new-found independence. This is exactly where you want them to be – this is a huge part of his or her development at this stage. That’s why they say “No” to you all the time. Here are some practical toddler tips:
Provide CHOICES: ex: Allow your child to choose some meals and snacks. Let her choose what pj’s she wants to wear. Give him the choice of what activity he would like to do first: brush teeth or take a bath. These choices give the child a sense of control over his or her environment
Provide age-appropriate toys so that your child can learn to play by herself for short periods of time.
Provide a step-stool so your toddler can reach the bathroom sink, bookshelf, or kitchen sink.


This is a great time to capitalize on your child’s budding independence. To do this, you can:

Allow your child to pick out her own outfits and dress herself.

Follow your child’s lead as to when you should begin potty-training. Learning to do it all on his own is a big step! This is something you definitely cannot force.
Be patient as she makes decisions on her own.
Structure and routines go a long way! Ex: Use the same clean-up routines that your child’s preschool uses so that your child learns to be responsible for his toys.

At this stage, children are actually craving more responsibility and independence. You can use this to your advantage by:

Having your child participate in household chores, such as vacuuming, dusting, and washing dishes.

Teaching your child to make at least part of her own breakfast and lunch.

Teaching your child to use a watch and incorporate time in some directions you give.
(Such as, “You can go next door, but I want you to be home by 4:30.”)

Attach an allowance to the chores your child does and provide a chart they can use to check off when they finish.

Start talking about money and the responsibility that goes along with it.

Discuss television advertisements as well as programs that have adult issues. If you watch the news with your child make sure you take some time to discuss what you see. Let them express opinions without judgment and allow open discussions.

Allow your child to make some minor mistakes and learn from them.

Intentionally teach your child how to work through conflicts with her peers. Simply preparing your child with some practical conflict-resolution skills will help foster independence and confidence.
Teach your child to use an alarm clock, if he does not have one already.

Keep your computer in a central location so that you can easily supervise your child’s use of the Internet.


Teenagers may seem too independent already. But, keep in mind they need you almost as much and sometimes more than a toddler. This is where all the work you’ve done up until now will show up. Please note: It is NEVER too late to foster independence in your teen. take some time to think about what type of independence they already have. How are they prepared for life ahead? To develop skills they’ll need later, you can:

Teach them how to do their own laundry and care for their clothes.
Have them sit down with you as you pay the household bills (especially the internet, cable and cell phone bills)
Teach your teens about money, savings, checking accounts, credit cards and debt – and what it all means to them in the future.

Have them participate in making meals regularly.
Follow through with consequences consistently so that your teenager learns to accept responsibility for his own actions.

Teach your teens about Internet safety.

Talk openly and honestly about sex.

Model how to effectively resolve interpersonal conflicts.


At any age, from toddlers to teenagers, our kids need structure, monitoring, and some anonymity. Let them think they are going solo and all the while you are there to catch them when they fall. This gives them the confidence to make it on their own and also feel safe to explore their world.

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