You Can Do It! 5 Tips to Help Make Your Child Self-Sufficient

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by: Lindsay Hutton
You know that teaching your child age-appropriate life skills is important for self-care and independence, but how, exactly, do you go about doing this? Follow these tips to help your child become more self-sufficient, and help him learn the skills he'll need to take care of himself.
Young girl making her bed with her mom
Give Your Child Responsibilities
Chores are perhaps the easiest and most important way to teach your child to be responsible and self-sufficient, but it's just as important to set her up for success when completing these tasks. A simple chore, such as making your bed, might seem easy and straightforward to you, but a child might find it confusing or overwhelming.

As you give your child age-appropriate responsibilities around the house, break them down into small, easy-to-understand steps. For example, instead of telling your child to pick up her room, a non-specific task that might frustrate her, give her exact instructions, such as putting all of her dirty clothes in the hamper and putting all of her toys in the toy bin. If the amount of time a task will take is overwhelming, try using a kitchen timer to complete it in smaller increments. Finding ways to make a task easier or more enjoyable will encourage your child to get it done. This "Clean Your Room" visual checklist can help give her some direction.

Young girl putting on shoes in hallway
Take a Step Back
No matter what age your child is, letting her do things herself is an important step in helping her learn self-sufficiency. For young children, simply letting her choose her own outfit can help encourage independence. Even if what she chooses to wear may not be what you had in mind (a raincoat on a sunny day? Her favorite cowgirl costume to go to the grocery store?), resist the urge to suggest a different outfit. Instead, offer some quick words of praise, and let her wear what she has chosen. This will give her the confidence to continue dressing herself. (And don't worry — her fashion choices will get better over time.)

As your child takes on more advanced tasks and chores as she gets older, offer verbal guidance and encouragement, while giving her the space to figure things out on her own. This will help build her confidence, and allow her to learn from doing.

Young Asian boy doing homework
Let Him Make Mistakes
Letting your child make mistakes will teach him the invaluable lesson of rewards and consequences. For example, whether it's a big science project or simply nightly homework, getting his schoolwork done should be up to him, not you. If he works hard and turns in a completed assignment, he'll be rewarded with a good grade and the confidence in knowing he tried his best. On the other hand, not turning in a homework assignment and receiving a bad grade will teach him about consequences.

The same applies for chores. If your child expects an allowance, he needs to get his chores done, right? If he doesn't do his chores, consider withholding his allowance. It might be hard for you to see your child mad or upset, but it's important to teach your child about rewards and consequences. Remain as consistent as possible to help drive this point home.

Two young girls pouring milk on cereal in kitchen
Do Some Prep Work
If your child needs a little help with a task, or is too young to complete the whole thing by herself, a little behind-the-scenes prep work can help. For example, if she wants to prepare breakfast on her own but can't reach the cereal or pour the milk herself, put a bowl and the box of cereal somewhere she can reach, and pre-measure a small bowl of milk. When she wakes up in the morning, she can whip up her own breakfast — she'll feel proud and accomplished and you'll be rewarded with a little more time in your busy morning! (Find more breakfasts kids can "cook" themselves.)

This can help with older kids, too. For example, if your teen is going to be responsible for preparing her own dinner, have the ingredients on hand for a simple, healthy meal that she can cook herself. This will help hone her kitchen skills, encourage healthy eating, and keep her from hitting up the drive-thru.

Young boy kissing mother on cheek
Teach Problem-Solving
When your child comes to you with a problem you know he is capable of solving on his own, offer clues instead of solutions. Be available to help your child brainstorm, but avoid giving him an answer outright. For example, if your young child can't find his coat (again), guide him in backtracking to where he last had it instead of just going to find it for him. It might take a little extra time, but it will help teach your child how to solve problems on his own instead of expecting you to solve it for him.

Problem-solving skills become more and more important as your child gets older and begins to navigate the ups and downs of life. Although you want him to be independent and confident enough to know how to work out any issues he might have on his own, make sure he also knows he can always come to you for help.