If you want kids to become independent, you need to teach them skills that help them to become self-sufficient. Dressing yourself, making a snack, looking up a bus timetable and making a CV are examples of self-sufficiency skills that are relevant for different ages.
Awareness, teaching and opportunity are the main requirements for kids to pick up these skills. They need to be aware of what can be done. They need to acquire the skills – some take more teaching than others. They also need the opportunity to put things into practice. Choose any skill you want your son to learn and see how each of these applies.
There is however, a deeper level you can go to develop independence. You can help your kids develop processes necessary to become independent. If they don’t have these, they will always be dependent on others regardless of their ability and skills.
Here are three processes of independence you can develop:
- Planning ahead: Thinking ahead is needed for real independence. What are the three things you need to get ready for school? What do you need to do to complete your homework in time for the weekend? Help kids to develop processes for planning their time and thinking ahead so they can become pro-active and accountable. Otherwise kids become reliant on others.
- Procedural thinking: The trouble with everything being instant and off-the-shelf is that kids don’t see steps and procedures required to make, bake or do anything. It also means kids don’t develop procedural self-talk (‘that comes first, when I’ve done that now I need to do this’) because they haven’t been exposed to sorting, sequencing and other steps that are required to make stuff happen.
- Self-organisation: The ability to organise yourself is paramount to real independence from others. Forgetful kids usually don’t have a process for remembering. My adult son came to stay recently and put his car keys in the refrigerator on the top of his 6 pack of beer that he wanted to take with him. He has a process for remembering! You guessed it.
Think process as well as skill if you want your kids to become truly independent. Kids will most likely copy a great deal of good organisational processes from you. But you may also need to do some direct teaching, particularly with boys who by nature can be organisationally-challenged!