Helping My Children Become Self-reliant.

Updated on October 27, 2011
L.P. asks from San Francisco, CA
11 answers

I want to raise my children to be good decision makers and be a bit more structured than I was as a child, but I don’t want to be a micro mom manager. I want them to gain the skills they need to begin to take more responsibility for their activities. Dressing themselves, making sure they have all of their homework etc. Does anyone have any techniques or tools I can use with young children?

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So What Happened?

Well, great advice. Thanks. My kids are a bit young for much of the advised techniques, but the big take away for me is 1. Model the behavior and them put systems in place when they are ready. The transition from a child being managed by a parent to self managing is so gradual that sometimes it is hard to know when and how to move from one level of development to the next.

What prompted me to ask this question was that I recently observed my son's preschool class and I was astounded by how much the children were able to do for themselves and began to think that I was starting down the road of becoming a micro manager. I did not expect that such young children could start to self manage so early.

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answers from Austin on

My daughter is very independent (she's 17) but I think that's her personality. I let her make lots of choices early on.

I second the Montessori method (I tried some of the things in books I read) and would've liked her to have gone to a M school.

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answers from Austin on

Be sure when they have a task to "allow them to do it their way".
You can make some suggestions, but as long as they get it done be pleased.

Also notice when they do something without you asking and tell them, "Thank you for picking up your clothes, without me telling you."

"I like the way you put your dishes in the sink without me having to ask."

When our daughter started school, we spoke about her responsibilities.
I explained it was her school. Her homework, her back pack. I would help when she asked, but she was responsible for doing the work and remembering to pack it into her backpack.

As she got into higher grades, we discussed projects. Again I told her If she needed help to let me know, but the teachers really wanted to see her work.

I really tried not to be a helicopter parent. The first time she called because she forgot something, I took it to her, but told her in the futre, I was not going to be able to do that any more.

I allowed her to be given her REAL grade.. If she did not study, oh well.. If she did not turn in homework.. Hmmm, what are you going to do about this? Tomorrow you were supposed to have those items, So sorry, I am going to bed, you knew thie a week ago..

Yes, some people will say their children are too young, but I learned that our daughter only took once or twice to realize, I was serious..

I promise by the time she was in 5th grade, hardly any of the parents at her elementary school were still asking, "do you have homework?
The kids knew they did and so did we.. It continued all the way through high school.

Allow them to succeed with your acknowledgement, and allow them to fail if they do not do the work. Grades do not matter till High School.. By that time these children will know what is expected.

We also had discussions about making choices. Good and bad. Trying her best and that sometimes, it was not going ot be perfect, but that is ok. That as long as she did her best, we were going to be fine with that..

It was the taking chances she had and still has problems with.. She likes to be able to control everything and we are trying to allow her to just try it.. It is not a failure it is a chance to try something new. No one is always perfect..

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answers from San Francisco on

I second the "Love and Logic" parenting methods.

Start by getting on their mailing list for little tips, or Like their facebook page. Your email box won't get bombarded, I think I get a note once every week or two.

The concept is to allow them to be responsible for their own choices, actions and responsibilities. And let them learn from their consequences in ways that are safe and controlled, all the while being supportive and empathetic. Not all their materials are good quality, but the book recommended below is good.

Good question!

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answers from Portland on

I like the book, Parenting with Love Logic. It really shows how to give your children choices and allow them to learn from their mistakes.

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answers from Omaha on

The best thing you can do is model this behavior. Kids will emulate what they see people in their lives do. Develop a good routine. Have them decide between two outfits, so they can feel ownership in their decision-making, but not overwhelmed by too many choices. Montessori teaches practical life skills such as folding napkins, buttoning or lacing items and sorting materials to promote dexterity and independence. You might look into some books by Marie Montessori. For homework, I would set a schedule for what the afternoon and evening will look like. Do the kids come home directly after school? Will they have a snack and play for awhile to unwind from the school day? Will they do homework before supper or after?Maybe have a checklist of things to get done before bedtime that the kids can look at. Set a timer to keep them on task. Have them get backpacks ready the night before and set them by the door, so everything is ready to go in the morning. Jim Fay's Love and Logic books are great resources too for helping kids learn to be confident and responsible all their lives. Good luck! It is all in the modeling and follow through.

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answers from Portland on

It's an awfully good question you're asking, and you'll get many different kinds of answers. All of them will probably have merit.

So my suggestion is that you really study your children, learn and support their unique individual interests. Give them room to try and fail, try and succeed, try and learn. Respect their efforts more than their successes.

Here's a great article that will give you some helpful perspective:

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I love seeing questions like this. My neighbor did EVERYTHING for her kids. Now they are teenagers and she wonders why they won't do anything. It was so bad that when the oldest went off to college he couldn't make any decisions for himself, had severe anxiety and dropped out and moved home. You think you are just loving them and treating them really good but you are so enabling them and setting them up for failure in my opinion.
I let my kids do anything they want by themselves. I watch over them and help where needed. Many times they went to school not matching but it's ok. We're working on it. :)
I gave my oldest 2 chores. We sat down and made a list of what they wanted to be responsible for over the summer and I paid them if it was done. One picked laundry and one picked dishes. So at 6 and 8 they both know how to do laundry, dishes and stuff like that. They get their own breakfast in the morning.
It's good to be independent

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answers from Phoenix on

not sure if this helps, but I always had a small sheet of paper in the bathroom mirror that wrote the " expectations " of them each day.
Make bed, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth etc.... for school or summer days.
They followed a list, got into a routine and then became more independent. I then added them to make their lunch and other issues we grew into as they got older. They now are very self- sufficient.

You can do this with pictures or writing.

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answers from Boston on

How old are your children?

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answers from San Francisco on

Dont know how old your kids are, have to start as early as possible.
Lots of patience, letting them make small decisions from a young age, allowing them to make mistakes often and see how they do, lots of praise for them even for small things. Please make it fun, so they are motivated to do it.
If your children like different ways, give them 2 different options/ and allow them to chose one. Enjoy the journey =)

Dressing themselves:

Ensure their clothes/closet is organized so they can help themselves, helping them prepare ahead of time ie let them take clothes out the night before the school day. If they choose mis-matched socks, it is OK. Lable drawers with pictures, so they can help themselves.


Help them make a list of tasks that need to be done.
Please use timer so they can focus on one task at a time, give extra time as needed.
Make checklists, so they can ensure they have all their work/papers put away where they belong.
Lots of praise for every small task they do well, and keep practicing what they are still learning.

Have fun.



answers from Sacramento on

I like the suggestion of having a list of tasks. However, what I'd do with that list is laminate it, and hang it where the children can reach. Then provide them with a dry erase marker or a crayon and let them check off each item as they complete it. Before you go to bed, erase that day's marks so the chart is ready for them to use the next day. Kid's seem to respond well to being able to check off what they've accomplished.

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