How to encourage your child to be independent and self-sufficient

A girl in a denim vest throwing a red balloon.

“I’ll do it for you.” – it’s just easier. As modern-day parents, we simply can’t afford the luxury of giving our children the necessary autonomy. Tick-tock; life is afoot. We’re running late. Work, school. – Tie your shoes. Let’s go. – The ever-present undertone of immediate existential pressure (do good, be effective, don’t waste a minute of your day kind of narrative) leaves little to no room for patience. “You are the center of my universe, the love of my life – but I’m about to lose my job. Ready in 5? – Ok, I’ll do it for you. – And that’s where we slip as parents. We overprotect them – and skimp on trust – here and there. As the morning rush overtakes our entire being, we say: They’ll forgive me. – And they will. Kids always do. But are we teaching them independence or overreliance? Key differences. This is how you encourage your child to be independent.

Wait for the cue

Self-sufficiency and independence are 100% organic fabric – the rules are simple: there will be no imposing. Only listening. And waiting. Indeed, some kids are born old, reliable souls – and independence comes naturally to them. It’s inherent; it’s in their DNA. And, if our child lacks that premature maturity, we’re bound to feel a healthy dose of disappointment. What am I doing wrong? – First rule: no comparison. All children are unique and have their idiosyncratic flaws and virtues – very much like their parents. Instead of parental lament, let’s try to focus on identifying the window of opportunities; what are they good at? Can they make their own breakfast? Comb their hair? Brush their teeth? Do their homework? Furthermore, spending quality time together gives parents all the necessary data regarding the anticipated evolution. If they can do it – refrain from taking on the role of Santa’s little helper.


Family around Christmas tree during night time.

The best way to encourage your child to be independent: follow their lead.

Patience, above all things

Yes, the infamous Achilles’ heel of modern-day living: time. We’re lacking time. And, hand on heart, the amount of time they need to complete the simplest of tasks can be excruciatingly painful to bear. All the same, and all patience-induced ticks aside, if we resist the urge to barge in and offer a helping hand, the child will (most likely) be presented with an invaluable lesson in self-efficiency. – Not getting involved is a daunting task for all – for any parent, it’s an involuntary reflex. My child is in distress – (i.e., they’re not brushing their hair correctly) – they need my help. I need to do it for them. Okay. Let’s just discern urgent and necessary action from being too accommodating as a parent.

If you allow your child to reach a sense of autonomy from an early age, their competency ultimately means healthy self-esteem for them and more self-care space for you.

No such thing as perfection

Trial and error – that’s how we all learn. Ease their hurdles instead of imposing strict rules and unattainable expectations. Create a safe space where they can “control” the situation and feel the power by “holding the reins.” The solution might not be perfect, and the execution might not be flawless – but the ultimate result will be. Inviting our kids to the grown-ups’ table introduces responsibility and self-accountability. – all through a nurturing, caring narrative. Let them make a mistake. Let them make their bed or dinner for the entire family – so what if it’s inedible? If they want to try – don’t stop them. Encourage them. Let them explore. Support their curiosity, no matter how “flawed” the outcome. It matters to them – and that’s all that counts. – It’s good enough for us.


A boy in an orange shirt playing in the living room area depicts how to encourage your child to be independent.

Let them explore.

Hush the critic

If you want to encourage your child to be independent, pause and think back: what were you lacking as a child? Critiquing how our child performs a specific task can only impair their self-confidence. The message reads loud and clear: You’re incapable. And unworthy of my love. – As silly and insignificant as it may sound, even the most subtle (and constructive – from our perspective) critique can scar our children for life, as the potency of the negative subliminal message can take on a form of unstoppable momentum. Instead, use praise and positive affirmation. They’re putting in the effort. Ask if they would like constructive feedback – make your suggestions soft around the edges. Transform critique into advice. And they’ll bite right into it.

If you’re looking for tips for moving with kids, try asking for their opinion on how to pack – or which color to use for your future living room. The best part is that moving with your kids is easy if it’s teamwork.

Open dialogue

We can’t stress this enough: open communication channels are crucial for healthy personality development. However, it is vital to initiate and encourage conversation. (especially after divorce) If we make open communication our everyday model, the child will adopt the habit and identify sharing as something absolutely necessary and natural. It will teach them to come to you (even when you don’t feel like it, especially then). Therefore, teach them how to open up. Teach them honesty. Be it positive or negative experiences, discussions are highly beneficial for children’s development. This healthy habit invites resilience, independence, critical thinking, and self-sufficiency to their growing existence. It will help form a healthy and assertive adult individual.


woman and girl walking down a country road on a sunny afternoon.

Let them in – and they will do the same.


Go easy on the fairytales. It’s a harsh world out there. Therefore, children need reality checks as much as they need innocence and fantasy. This much we do know as parents (and, yes, it’s painful): we can’t keep them safe from harm forever. Have them know reality; don’t fool them into thinking it’s all rainbows, unicorns, and glitter. It’s detrimental to their development. Strive for balance. Give them both; the beautiful and the ugly. Let them indulge in fantasy land, but be sure to teach them moral code. There is white, there’s black, and there’s gray. Finally, if you want to encourage your child to be independent, treat them as equals.

Danny Huff is a full-time blogger, currently working on getting his Ph.D. in psychology. He enjoys acapella groups and carpentry.