How Do I Teach Independence?

Updated on September 16, 2008
A.G. asks from Taylors, SC
11 answers

Hi ladies! I need to know how to teach my almost 4 year old to be independent when doing class work. For example, when we try to get him to write his name he says "I need your help" or "I don't know how". Basically, the only way to get him to write his name is to sit with him and praise every single stroke. UGH! Now he is in preschool and he wants the teachers to "help" him with EVERYTHING. I do not understand how we got here.

**I suppose I need to give a little more information. My son started potty training at 27 months (very unusual for a boy). He was almost there when his baby sister came along. We had a little set back but by summer (he started in Jan - on his own - no pushing on our part). He would play independently and do things on his own - as much as a 2 1/2 year old could do. Then SHE came along and I suppose he needed more "me" time and maybe I smothered his independence. Also - one mom mentioned using both hands - my son does just that - to write, draw, eat, etc. - whichever hand the crayon or fork is nearest to - he will use that hand. Please understand that I am looking for advice to help my son be more independent but more importantly to have the confidence to do things on his own. Oh - and I have not spoken to the teacher just yet - it was her assistant that mentioned it to me - when I asked how he was doing. :-)

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

Wow - what great advice you all have. You all made me think how I may have over reacted to the teacher's comment. Heck - he is only 3 and well - I have decided to just go with the flow. He will get there with at his own pace. Thank you all for your great ideas. We are having fun - painting and playing with playdoh!! Take care - A.

Featured Answers



answers from Atlanta on

I know the Montessori approach is very much about ushering independence. There is much material available even if you are not in the program.
He may just be needing extra focused love, patience, and attention from you and the teacher (or any close adult) because of whatever new awareness he is having and processing.
I hope this helps!

More Answers



answers from Athens on

Instead of praising him for "each stroke", pull back and praise him for each letter. Then, graduate to praising him for every 2 letters. Etc. Make a game of it. "I'm going to close my eyes and see if you can write your name". Don't worry ~ he'll gain more and more confidence as the year goes on. But, the most important thing is to remember he is "just 4"! Maybe the "I need your help" translates to "I like having you close to me working with JUST ME". Hang in there and good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Well, the potty training is not that unusual for a boy they sometimes take longer then girls actually. My boy were 3 yrs old as well. I ditto everything Susana said he needs a bit more help and actually writing comes and gets better in kindergarten and 1st grade. In fact each grade level will show progress and surprise many Kindergarten teachers will tell you them as well as their para pros stand over each child many days and talk them through writing, so at 4 yrs old he really does need your help. Also try not to judge him by any other children in his class if in prek and his teachers should not be judging either each child is different and the school year has just started. If they are lucky enough to have kinds writing in their prek class not needing any help I would be shocked and honestly I sub at a school in a prek class not all of our kids can write without help...that's the truth...he seems to sounds as if he's developing on some of the things mentioned below and practice well makes it wishes.



answers from Savannah on

Just encourage him to try to do it on his own. Tell him something like I want to see how well you can do it by yourself first. Don't go to him unless he has finished the task (say writing his name), if you give a negative comment like your a's look more like u's, give him a positive as well and it can be about how he did the work by himself or how his other letter look good. Or take baby steps-sit with him while he does his work, but don't say a word or help him till he is done. Then give him the P-N-P (positive, negative, positive) comment again. After a few days to a week, distance yourself from him but still no help.

As far as his teacher goes, she should be skilled enough (after all, she is a teacher!!) to handle the situation on her own as well as give you any suggestions for home to try. But you are both a team as well so make sure he is having progress at school as well as home.

Good luck!!



answers from Atlanta on

Oh! New baby? Ahh, that changes everything, doesn't it? All bets are off. Just be thankful that you haven't had to throw out every piece of furniture in the house or wrap it in plastic because of "frequent accidents".

When my son turned 3, the baby brother showed up, and the VERY NEXT WEEK, he was starting a new school. What a disaster THAT was! The potty training nose-dived, the super well-behaved kid morphed into a walking time-bomb, and (after several months of misery) we ended up having to take him out of school completely that year. Angry, angry young man! But he was always sweet and protective of the baby sibling, so I figured it was still an overall win.

For my kid, the whole first YEAR or more was all about adjusting to the new baby, and he LOVED his brother, so I know can be even worse for some families. We didn't realize all the... issues were due to the baby until much, much later. We thought he was just turning into an angry, spoiled kid, and we thought we had to "fix" that. If we had been more patient and just chilled out, it probably would've passed sooner. My advice is to step back, chill out, and relax. And let him know you think he's a great kid and that you love him.
I think you may need to step back and consider that maybe he really *does* need help. Writing is quite difficult for most small children to do, more difficult than many adults realize. Try this excercise: try writing SMALL, neat letters with your left hand (if you are righthanded). This is just to remind yourself how difficult it is, and it's even harder than that for him, because you have a lot more general manual dexterity that you've built up over decades.

It takes a long time to develop the muscles in the hand that control the fine motor skills, which is why kindergarten is when children are generally taught to start learning to read and write. Preschool handwriting is definitely pushing the envelope a bit. However, there are lots of fun ways to develop those fine motor skills - PLAYDOUGH being at the top of the list! Also try using safety scissors, using salad tongs (the kind you see at salad bars) to pick up cotton balls and move them form one bowl to another. When he gets good, move to smaller things, like using tweezers to move rice one grain at a time. (Kinda like the Operation Game). (The tongs and tweezers are a Montessori trick - someone else mentioned Montessori. You'd get lots more ideas from a Montessori book, too.)

My son's preschool teachers were a little concerned, too,
that his writing skills were not quite up to speed as some of the other kids. However, he was by FAR the youngest in the class AND he was still using both hands to draw and write (ambidexterous), which slows them down in the beginning, but is REALLY useful when they get a little older. But we talked about it at a teacher conference and came up with some FUN ways to practice fine-motor skills that didn't involve writing letters, which for him was frustrating and boring. (They were also really pushing him to do more handwriting practice on his own, and he was starting to hate the Handwriting Without Tears workbook.)

One idea was to give him safety scissors and have him cut little pieces of construction paper into confetti-sized pieces and glue them onto a paper plate, like a little mosaic. He enjoyed it so much, that we did it a lot. (Although he was all about the cutting, not so much the gluing, so it left bits of paper all over the floor.)

Paper folding is good, too, although most origami books are too difficult for that age - I think Kumon makes one for little kids, but I want to stick mostly with things that are inexpensive. You could try folding paper fans.

And of course, coloring, painting, dot-to-dots, hidden pictures, tic-tac-toe. There's a lot of things you can do with paper and pencils that are more fun than drilling letters, but they still build that "muscular memory."

KEEP IT FUN! When you get right down to it, there's no need to push writing if he's not getting into it. Obviously some parents do push and get mixed results, but don't compare him to other kids. The skills a preschooler REALLY needs are more self-care, like being able to take on and off thier own jacket and shoes, and be able to sit (relatively) still and quiet for circle time, be able to share and take turns. Things that they can do at home would be put away dishes and clean up messes, get out their own cereal and bowl and pour the milk, and brush their own teeth. And all of those things are learning independence, too!



answers from Charleston on

I suggest reading "The Parenting Breakthrough" by Marilee Boyack. It is all about how to teach your children to be responsible and independent- which is one of our main duties as parents. Totally helped me with my four children.



answers from Atlanta on

Man, kids can be frustrating, can't they? Mine did this same thing. This is what I did. I wrote her name in the dotted line way so she had to trace it a few times and left some blank space too. I set her up in the kitchen at the table while I made dinner every day so I was nearby and we just worked independently together. When she got stuck, I was right there. There was whining from her and there were some annoyed words from me. ("Samantha, you can do this. You are a big girl! I know it's not easy and I know you're frustrated. If you just write your name one time tonight, I'll hang it up for Daddy to see when he gets home AND you can have a cookie for dessert!"

It just takes a while. You say, "I do not understand how we got here" and I'll tell you why: it's because those sneaky little boogers are tricky! It's incremental -- and we don't notice it until it's big enough. The good news is that we are the ones in charge so we can reprogram the whole system!!!

Good luck!



answers from Atlanta on

HE is 4! It is about having fun. Give him a tray of shaving cream and have him write his name iwth his finger and then "erase" it and do it again. Woo hoo, that is fun. Next, get a dry erase board, get him to draw a picture of himself and ask if anyone will know who it is without his name.

These little guys were built for motor right now. Take him in the yard and see if he will dig his name in the dirt

Get creative and fun. He is not going to love worksheets at 3-4 or even 5-6....boring. Trust me, you want him to love to learn, not dread it. Most boys fine motor are not their strong point, don't beat it into him and lose the battle of loving to learn - which is lifetime. WRiting their name will be mastered by 5, the attitude will last a lifetime.



answers from Atlanta on

Try rewarding him w/ small things when he does something on his own... like writing his name. Or not being dependent on the teacher for a week. If children know that their is a reward, they are more likely to follow through.

My niece was having a hard time in school, and my mom when to the dollar store and bought little "rewards" and made a treasure chest. There was a treasure chest for small accomplishments (like writing his name or passing a test), and bigger "treasures" for great grades on a report card.

Also, your son needs time with just you and your husband. Try taking him to the park... just the 3 of you as a reward for a job well done.



answers from Atlanta on

Hey A., I think that if you give him the opportunity to show independence with little things all day, then all of the pieces (like writing) will fall into place. For example, at meal time, give him the choice of what he wants to drink, milk/water/juice. Let him help you set the table. Let him choose between 2 shirts to wear for the day. When ever possible give him a choice, it will let him feel more empowered. Also, do you or did you before baby have a bedtime routine? Try to do that every night, have you or your husband take 5-10 minutes to let him pick a book and read him a story. Take him out on "dates" to the park, playground or just to get ice cream. Find a sitter and spend some alone time with him. First borns are used to having mom and dad to themselves and even as children and adolescents it is important to keep some alone time with mom and dad and the oldest.
I hope this helps. It just sounds like he is wanting you to be there with him and writing is a way to get your attention only on him. If you spread out the attention and give him some choices I think it will all balance out.
best wishes



answers from Atlanta on

I have a daughter tht will be 4 September 17th. She always says she can't. So I usually respond by saying," Yes you can." Then I ask her the question that she's trying to figure out. And if she says she doesn't know I say, "Yes you do. You are super smart." And after a while if she really doesn't know I tell her. And then we go on to the next question. And I reward her when she tries to do it by herself.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions

Related Searches