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Is my child benefitting from age appropriate independence?

Updated: Oct 10, 2018

They're excited to go to preschool, can count to ten without any help, and sometimes, acts more like a ten year old than a toddler. But as a parent, are you doing your best to foster age appropriate independence?

You’ve probably been asked this question before. It’s a common question heard throughout preschools across the country, discussed in parenting books, and applicable for parents with children of all ages. Age appropriate independence is critical to lifelong success of your child, particularly when they are at the preschool age. But what does this phrase really mean and why is it important?

Age appropriate independence is important in order to raise self-reliant, independent, confident children. These children will grow into self-reliant, independent, confident adults. It is natural for parents to nurture their children and to help them when they struggle. Sometimes it’s easier to do the task for the child either because they are struggling or maybe you can help to get the task done much quicker. It is important to give your child the experience of attempting a difficult task and to practice until they achieve success. You can think of it as a teachable moment. A moment in time to teach them, not only the skill of putting on their jacket or washing their hands by themselves, but the skill of not giving up. Teach them the skill of perseverance. Teach them how wonderful it feels to finally succeed after trying for so long. And once they do succeed, you’re able to praise them for their hard work.

Age appropriate independence benefits children in six primary ways:

  • It builds self-esteem. Children with high self-esteem feel loved by others and good about themselves. They aren’t afraid to try new things because they have the confidence to believe they will succeed. If they do not succeed the first time, they can handle their mistakes and will try again. This quality will serve them well throughout their entire lifetime. While a high self-esteem is important, parents should be aware that there should be a balance. We live in a society where ‘everyone gets a trophy’ and we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. We want to raise a child to be confident but we do not want to raise a child who is egocentric.

  • Your child will become an independent, self-reliant adult. One of the most important jobs we have as parent is to raise our children to be independent and strong. In my opinion, children leave the nest too soon, but we want them to able to succeed on their own. Teaching them age-appropriate independence at a young age is key. There is an old saying regarding raising children, “First you give them roots. Then you give them wings.” Giving my children roots was easy, but giving them wings was the hardest thing I’ve done as a parent. But they are strong independent individuals. And I am proud of them.

  • Your child will learn to become a decision maker. As parents, we make decisions for our children every day. It is our job to do that as they are not mature enough or capable of making certain decisions. However, giving them choices in small every day activities helps them to learn how to make decisions on their own. Sometimes certain decisions will help them to learn about the consequences of their decisions.

  • It teaches your child responsibility. Giving your child a chore that is age-appropriate can be very rewarding to them. You may have to gently remind them to feed the dog or put their shoes away but they will feel very proud knowing that you trust them with this task. It gives them a sense of self-worth and of belonging to the family unit. It gives them a sense of being valued.

  • It fosters confidence in one’s own abilities. When a child accomplishes an activity that they have never before been able to do independently, it lets them know that they are capable. That will help them to realize that they can try new things. And if those new things are difficult in the beginning, they know that with some practice they will be able to master the new challenge that is before them.

  • It conveys to your child that you believe in them and that they are capable. Just as it is important for your child to know they are capable, it is important for them to know that you believe in them and their capabilities. Knowing that someone you love and admire believes in you is the biggest confidence and self-esteem builder in the world.

All parents have seen their child struggle, but recognizing your natural reaction is key to fostering independence. When your preschooler is facing a problem, do you jump in and handle the task yourself? Or do you ask if they have tried to accomplish the task before asking for help? Fostering independence can occur with simple tasks and results in life-long success. And the most critical step in the process? Remembering to take the opportunity to praise your child for their efforts, their hard work, and perseverance. Start monitoring your reaction when you see your child struggle, and actively work to restrain from jumping in to immediately assist. Before long, your preschooler will be a confident decision maker who is capable of anything they set their mind to.

For more questions regarding age appropriate independence or child development, reach out at

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