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THE QUEST FOR INDPENDENCE

From the cradle to the grave, we are continually trying to obtain and protect our autonomy. The innate yearning for independence is the reason we fought the Revolutionary War and why our founding fathers wrote America’s most sacred document, the Declaration of Independence. This Fourth of July, we will celebrate America’s 235th year of independence.

As a teacher I try to develop children’s independence and social competence. I’m not the only one. Many have written about techniques and methods for building children’s financial know-how, self-confidence and a host of other beneficial life skills. Here are five that can help raise self-reliance in your family.

Communication

Every time you do something for your child, whether it be tying their shoe or writing them a check, explain part or all of the process. When they are practicing a new skill, furnish lots of praise. Try to be specific when possible. “Great job” is nice, but “You have been trying so hard to learn those new words and now you are able to read the whole story!” is more effective. Don’t forget the small services and tasks that are routine. “Every morning, you’re ready for school on time.”

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Also, create plenty of opportunities for children to share their opinions and views whether about the playground or politics and whether you agree with their opinion or not.

Practice

The old adage “practice makes perfect” is still very relevant today. Practicing various skills leads to good habits. For instance, have your kids practice conversing with adults, starting with you. First model, then have them order food at a restaurant and ask for help from other adults (ex, their teacher or a coach). Together, offer to help an older neighbor or younger child and reiterate the importance of good manners with every endeavor.

Making Lists

Share your shopping list and other ‘to-do’ lists. Get kids into the habit of making their own by creating homework, chore, and wish lists. Have the whole family make lists of future goals and post them on the fridge.

Doing Chores

A chore chart is useful and you can make your own. First, list things that need to be done to keep your home running smoothly (ex, make beds, clear or set the table, fold the laundry, etc). Then, assign the chores to each family member with a proper allowance attached. If children are old enough to ask for money, they are old enough to earn it. More importantly, children who make and manage their own money learn to make better future monetary decisions.

Making Choices

Always give the kids a choice. You can keep it simple by only allowing two options – the blue or red shirt, or the chocolate or strawberry ice cream. Allow kids to make mistakes. Lessons are learned when errors are made and corrected. Unless the consequences are dire, accept the blunder and demonstrate how to gracefully accept mishaps. Then, brainstorm solutions.

The pay off? The more independent your children become, the more freedom you have. I wish you and your family a happy Independence Day with a house full of self-sufficient, self-reliant, confident, and well-adjusted individuals.

Contact Margaret Lavin at elementarydays@gmail.com.

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Kaiser Permanente

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