Independent kids – When can you let go?

It’s tough to know when to give your children their independence, as well as how much to give. Here are some tips for parents.

When can you start leaving your child home alone, letting them go out alone, or play out on the street without supervision? It’s a tough question, and one that doesn’t have a “one size fits all” answer.

When do children become independent?

The truth is that every child becomes independent at a different age. First and second born children often are forced into independence, as their parents can become busy with the younger children. They are forced to find their own entertainment, and thus they become much more independent.

The younger children, on the other hand, usually take longer to want that independence, as they’re accustomed to Mum and Dad being with them all the time.

You’ll find that children will express their desire for independence in different ways:

  • Doing activities that isolate them from the rest of the family

  • Wanting to spend more time outside and away from the house

  • Not wanting to join in on family activities.

Most of the time, your children will test their limits. For example, if you say they can play outside your house, they’ll go to the very end of the street. It’s their way of expressing their desire for independence, and if your kids are doing things like this, it’s time to consider letting go.

Should you let your children exercise independence?

Absolutely! Your child will one day leave home, and he/she will need to be prepared to face REAL life. If they start exercising independence from a young age, they will be ready when it comes time for them to leave.

Independence is a key quality is successful people, and giving your kids their independence will increase their chances of being successful in their lives.

How to coach your child to be more independent

Start slow. Your child is no doubt used to being closely monitored and cared for. Don’t throw them in at the deep end, but start with small things, i.e. walking through the mall alone, cycling around your neighborhood without supervision, choosing their own clothes, etc.

Give freedom with responsibility. You want to promote responsible independence in your kids, so make sure that every freedom you give them comes with an equal responsibility. For example, allow internet time AFTER homework is done, hanging out with friends AFTER the room is clean, etc.

Teach safety. Teach safety when at the park, at school, at the mall, on the street, etc.

Set limits. They need to know what they can and can’t do, both according to your rules and the laws of the land. Set limits for your children, and don’t hesitate to take away their freedoms if they break the rules.

Find age-appropriate activities. Your 8-year old isn’t going to go to a junior high school party, and you can’t expect your teenager to be stuck at home. Find age-appropriate activities to encourage independence in your children.

Do this, and you can start promoting independence among your children at a very young age.