Encouraging Independence in Children: Strategies for Parents

by | Insights, Parent Guides

As parents, we often find ourselves repeatedly asking our children to complete simple tasks, leading to frustration and a lack of cooperation. Encouraging children to be more independent is not only beneficial for them but also for us as parents. Here are some principles and strategies to help foster independence in children, from renowned psychologist, podcaster and speaker, Dr Maryhan.

Recognising Common Scenarios

A typical scenario many parents face is asking their children to tidy up their rooms. This often ends with children reluctantly complying, feeling like they’re doing it for us rather than for themselves. Similarly, tasks like putting on shoes or tidying up toys can become a repetitive and frustrating cycle.

Understanding the Pattern

Children often become conditioned to respond only when parents reach a certain level of frustration or raise their voices. If a child learns that they only need to act after the fourth or fifth request, they will filter out the initial requests. It’s important to break this pattern and encourage immediate responsiveness.

Strategies for Long-term Independence

  1. Get Their Attention: Ensure you have your child’s undivided attention before making a request. Lightly touch their shoulder or hand to make sure they are fully focused on you. This step is crucial for effective communication.
  2. Be Clear and Concise: Use as few words as possible to convey your request. Instead of lengthy explanations, try direct statements like, “Toys go in the basket,” or “Shoes on now, please.”
  3. Adopt a Matter-of-fact Tone: Use a calm, straightforward tone when speaking to your child. Avoid sounding exasperated or dictatorial. The goal is to communicate that the task will be done without conveying frustration.
  4. Confirm Understanding: Ask your child to repeat back what you’ve asked them to do. This ensures they have understood the request and helps to avoid misunderstandings.
  5. Incorporate Timeframes: When necessary, add a specific timeframe to your request. For example, “Please put your shoes on now. We need to leave in five minutes.”

Family Meetings

Regular family meetings are a great way to discuss ongoing issues and find solutions together. These meetings should be a dedicated time each week where the family comes together to reflect on the past week and plan for the next. This practice helps ensure everyone is on the same page and can contribute to problem-solving.

Managing Expectations

Set realistic expectations for your child’s contributions to household tasks. Understand that their “making good” might not meet your standards, but it’s a step towards independence. Gradually increase expectations as they become more capable.

Empowering Through Contributions

Encourage your child to view household tasks as contributions rather than chores. Explain that everyone in the family has a role in maintaining the home. Even young children can help with simple tasks like setting the table or putting away their toys.

Building Confidence and Resilience

Allowing children to take responsibility for tasks builds their confidence and resilience. Simple tasks like tidying their room, making their bed, or helping with meal preparation teach them valuable life skills and boost their self-esteem.

Encouraging Responsibility

As children grow, increase their responsibilities. Encourage them to take on tasks that might seem challenging but are within their capability. This not only builds their skill set but also their confidence in handling new situations.


Fostering independence in children requires patience and consistent effort. By using clear communication, setting realistic expectations, and involving them in family discussions, we can help our children become more responsible and confident. Remember, the goal is to equip them with the skills they need to become resilient, independent adults. If you found this useful, check out more from Dr Maryhan.