7 tips for raising independent kids as early as their 1st birthday!
As parents, our aim is not to raise slobs in our homes. We all are united in the front that we rather not have clingy and overly dependent children. The only solution to make sure this doesn’t happen is by raising independent kids from as soon as they cross the first-year mark.
I enjoy picking up after my kids. Those million tiny pieces of Lego strewn across the floor jabbing my toe is such a delightful experience. Finding a soft toy tucked in among the pillows on the couch feels like a treasure hunt. Being involved in every tiny detail of daily life from folding their blankets, brushing teeth, choosing their clothes feels like the ultimate calling of my existence.
Why are you rolling your eyes?
Of course I am bluffing!
Raising a child means trading your life with a chore list the size of a giraffe’s neck. While parents voluntarily dedicate all their body parts to meet this chore list, it’s not necessary that they love it.
Yes, it is not as incredulous as it sounds.
Your one year old is now a toddler who has the capacity to take the first baby steps to independent tasks. You as a parent have all the skills needed to train them in learning to be responsible from an early age.
This is how I am training my toddlers to be independent in many of the daily tasks we do in our home.
I have two kids, 4 and 2 year old who clean up their toys, who can feed themselves with few catastrophes taking place, and they participate in small tasks around the house.
But before delving into how they are doing all that, first, we need to be on the same page as to why should you put efforts into raising independent kids as early as their first birthday?
Here are some benefits for parents raising independent kids
- You can free up time from the daily grinds
As busy parents who are juggling work, home, kids, and other social commitments, you know how every minute of the day counts. When your kids are tackling some of the tasks on their own, this lightens your schedules. That means you now have some time and energy you can invest in other priorities, even just for much-needed self-care.
- You can cross off tasks from your mind space
Eventually, your kids will know the chores they are supposed to do around the house, which means your mental real estate is now less occupied. This reduces the invisible mental load that we carry as parents. For instance, my 4-year-old knows she is supposed to leave a room clean and switch off all the lights and fans. On most days, she doesn’t even need a verbal reminder to do it. Because the behavior is so ingrained in her, she even corrects me in case I forget.
- You are getting a headstart before the rebellion kicks in
Children pick up habits from an early age intentionally as well as unintentionally. Soon the terrible twos will set in and they will know that they can have a stand-off with you. It is better to be intentional and get a head start on setting good habits. These habits will be automated by the time they are ready for even bigger responsibility and milestones. You won’t have to sweat the small things then.
It is not just for you, but early independence also benefits your kids.
- Kids love learning and exploring new skills
Children are usually curious by nature. They want to discover new skills and push their limits. When they are learning to be independent, they start to value the belongings they are responsible for. The more they do a task, the sharper their physical and cognitive abilities become. Picking up their toys and putting them in designated spaces helps grasp the bigger idea of cleanliness, organization, and civilized living.
- Children want to feel “big” like they matter too
Most toddlers start asserting their independence by the time the first year rolls around. They have opinions on things that concern them right? Like what they want to eat, who they want to be picked up by etc. They also want to imitate all that their parents do, so letting them do tasks around the house, helps them feel like they matter like the grownups. It also helps foster trust in their abilities while channelizing their desire to do things.
- They feel ‘part’ of the home environment
My kids know that all members of our home contribute to the upkeep of the house. Participating in chores helps them understand that the home is the sum of its parts. Thus, even they have responsibilities towards the home environment. Also if you have rituals and special things you do as a family like eating dinner together, so this is a good way to orient the kids early on.
Are you now convinced you need to start pronto with raising independent kids?
If you haven’t already started, here are 7 of my tried and tested tips that are helping me in raising independent kids
- Start early
It’s never too late to begin installing good, lifelong habits in your kids that sets them on the path to independence. If you haven’t begun, start today. Commit to the process and see your decisions through. That DOES NOT mean you become a hard taskmaster but through love, guide your kids to make good choices and respect the work of their hands. Also, make a promise to yourself that no matter how bad a day is, you will intentionally invest in your kids to provide consistency and structure.
- Decide on age-appropriate tasks
Look at your child’s daily routine and see what tasks they can manage on their own are. Once you have an idea, let them know that now on they are responsible for it. In my opinion, picking up toys is an effective starting point. I did that with my daughter, and from there we proceeded to straighten the pillows on the couch, folding her blanket, keeping shoes inside the cupboards, etc. If a child is older, they can lay out their clothes before baths, dress themselves, put clothes into laundry bins, put plates and glasses into sinks, and throw the wrappers in the dustbins.
- Lead by example
Isn’t it so irritating when kids give no dime to what you say but exactly copy what you do? Well, that’s karma! So clean up your act first, because little eyes are watching. Get into a family routine that is sustainable for a long time and make it easier for the kids to follow. I organized myself first before asking my daughter to follow instructions. If you want them to keep the toilet clean, show them how by leaving a clean toilet for the next person. If you want them to not litter the roads, start at home by using dustbins around the house.
- Make it easy
The book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear has impacted my thoughts about habits, a must-read for everyone. In the book, he stresses the importance of making habits easy to perform by creating systems that support good habits. I have applied this wisdom with my kids too. They have designated spaces and organization systems that make their tasks easier. The diapers are in easy access to them. There are dustbins in all common areas around the house. We store their clothes and shoes on lower shelves. They know that devices go to ‘charging stations’ after use.
- Set consequences
Now, this is a tough nut to bite, especially if you are someone who hates the disciplining part of parenting. But every choice will have consequences, and sooner or later life will teach them so. Won’t you prefer that as a parent that teaching comes from you with love, instead of life’s harshness later? So tell them the consequence of missing chores or ignoring instructions. For my kids, if their devices aren’t in the charging station, that means they lose the time with it. There are no alternatives. If they don’t put away toys, they don’t get to leave that room.
- Rewards go a long way
Similarly, rewards can help enforce good behavior. You can give occasional treats (full disclosure: we are guilty of too many treats!), extra screen time, hugs, and praises on good habits, all work favorably. Acknowledging their efforts and appreciating work wonders in building independent behavior.
- Don’t give in to temptation
Yes, like everything with kids, this quest of independent behavior is going to test your patience. It is going to tempt you into giving up too soon. But stick to your resolve and the fruit of patience is going to be sweet aka more free time, less worry. It might be tempting to hurry up the process by giving a helping hand. All you would end up with is picking all the toys yourself, AGAIN! You may think you are saving time but you are merely harming your child’s independent behavior.
Let them take their time in finishing the chore at hand. Bite your tongue, tie your hands behind your back but resist pushing. Let them choose their clothes even if it’s a rainbow walking around the house. Their sartorial choices will evolve but in the meantime learn to ignore the chaotic process. Give them enough time beforehand, reminding the time they have to get things done. I give my kids reminders every ten minutes, so they know how much time is left to get their shoes on, or their bags packed before we have to leave the house (and yet we still manage to run late).
Having said all this, you are the best judge of your child’s capability. Never ever compare them with other kids. Even my two kids are different from each other and have their own pace of doing things. Persist, but don’t get bogged down with progress. Give yourself the grace to make mistakes too. You won’t’ have it together on all days either.
Parenting is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
But starting early really helps. It makes way for more important and harder habits later on. If you have the basics down while they are still toddlers, school going tasks won’t have to clash with brushing teeth and cleaning rooms.
Hope I could inspire you to commit to raising independent kids and start as early as possible.
Share in the comments below if you have been doing some of the tips.
Share it with your parent friends too!