How to Encourage Your Child’s Independence
Although each stage of life looks different and children’s behaviors and motivations may shift, there is an abundance of ways parents can support and encourage a healthy independence in their children’s lives. This kind of support is vital in both their growth as an individual and also in their mental health. Small steps that encourage independence can go very far in a child’s development of self-esteem and confidence.
Just as we strive to be ambitious during our autism therapy at home, we encourage you to grasp that same sense of determination and set goals to help your children be more independent.
In addition to asking your son or daughter what tasks he or she would feel comfortable taking on, seek out additional responsibilities for your child. For kids with ASD, this could be as simple as giving them more opportunities to make their own choices. Rather than focusing at a timeline of age, look at the developmental stage your child is in and find new skills you can help them learn and take responsibility for. Anything from cleaning up toys or watering plants to setting the table or helping you make dinner are excellent ideas.
Start Small & Build
Rather than assigning an entirely new task, start with one aspect and build off of that step by step. Let them try something new out and gain confidence in their abilities as you help them and add new instructions. For toddlers, this may mean you putting on their shirt and pants, but encouraging them to pull on their socks.
Focus on Priorities
Many tasks take a child much longer to do, especially in the beginning stages. If there is one particular job you’d like your child to learn, understand that it may not come quickly. Encourage them to feed themselves during snack time and carry this across to mealtimes, then encouraging the use of utensils. Show them how to brush their hair and allow them practice doing so.
Ask, Adapt & Adjust
While one child may pick up a new skill quickly, that does not mean this will be the case across the board. If a child is very timid towards a new task, don’t be afraid to modify it and make it a little easier for them to grasp and learn. Turn their uncertainty into encouragement and confidence by reworking your plan for them. If they are still discouraged, talk to them and ask them to describe why they don’t want to perform the task instead of just bribing them into doing it. And don’t be afraid to have a little fun.
Also, it’s important to note your child’s health and mental state—if they are sick, stressed or tired, this is not a good time to try and introduce new responsibilities.
Let Them Learn from Accidents
From home-based autism services to elementary classrooms, the process of learning is largely a positive one, but there are still instances when it is not so fun. While independence does largely mean the development of new skills and confidence to do them, it also means that sometimes we have accidents. As a parent, it can be hard to let your child make mistakes, but it’s an important part of learning. Assess the risk and allow your children to understand and experience consequences of their decisions.
Celebrate All Successes
Milestones are wonderful, but the smallest of accomplishments also should be celebrated. Even just teaching your children to make their own choices is a great step towards independence. They may put on their shoes (but not tie them) or squirt toothpaste on their toothbrush (but not yet brush them). Even then, encourage the little things. Remember that it is one step at a time.
“It’s important to recognize and acknowledge any good behaviors, not just the negatives. Remember to give your children verbal praise throughout the day for all the good they are doing,” says Nina Koehler, Program Manager for Applied Behavioral Consulting.
Small skills build to bigger ones and when children practice these things, they are working on small motor skills and developing a new sense of confidence. These are two aspects we focus on at ABC with every child we work with. We provide therapy to children with developmental delays, as well as autism. If you are looking for “Autism therapy near me,” we’d love to chat and see how we can help your child.