School Health and HappinessSimple ways to foster independence for school success
Children learn more at school than just reading, writing, and arithmetic. School is a place for children to practise interpersonal skills - like interdependence and sharing. And school is a safe place for kids to "have a go" at independence.
An independent student may be more comfortable tackling a tough math problem or making sense of a new word. An independent student may maintain optimism and try hard despite fear of failure. You can foster your child's independence in simple ways every day:
Hand over all "homework housework." Depending on your child's age, homework may be but a few minutes of shared reading and some colouring or a full-on essay or science project. While you should assuredly be aware and involved in your child's home studies, you should also stand back and let your child lead the way. Homework is an opportunity for children to hone their skills as planners, organizers, time managers, decision makers, and problem solvers. Likewise, children can be given the responsibility of keeping their workspace tidy and loading their backpack with their supplies and books.
Give your child (gradually widening) space. Children don't have control over too much in their lives. You can give your child space at home - a special homework space, safe and unsupervised playtime, their own room. And you can give your child space at school, too. One example is the morning drop-off process. Some parents only feel comfortable letting go of their young child's hand when they can pass their child's hand directly over to their teacher. But once you and your child understand the drop-off process and the route to the classroom or playground, let your child do it themselves. Those few moments on their own may be met with tears and fears at first. Stick to it: It gets easier!
Give your child (gradually expanding) responsibility at home. Being held accountable to regular chores may pay off in your child's classroom accountability. Chores can seem like more work than they're worth. Is it really worth fighting over an unmade bed or a messy room? Yes, especially when you consider that teachers often assign students to classroom jobs and responsibilities, including watering plants, fetching snack bins, or tidying up the corner book nook.
Let your child choose. Your child will need to make decisions all throughout the school day. If parents dictate every tiny decision at home, children may be unable to sort through their many options in the cafeteria, on the playground, or in the school library. One way to practise choice at home is with food and clothing. Offer up 3 snack options and let your child decide which they'd prefer. Pick out 3 school-appropriate outfits and your child can choose their favourite.
Let your child lose. If all a kid knows is A+ and "Perfect!", how will she react when she misses the mark? Will she fold or will she fight? Yes, it hurts to watch your child hurt. But instead of swooping in to save the day whenever your child faces a challenge, encourage critical thinking and creative problem-solving. Rather than giving an answer to a homework question, brainstorm with your child ways to solve it. Of course, you want to keep your child out of harm's way and prevent injury or distress, but small moments of struggle are where a child gains strength as an individual.
Be a model of independence. Your children learn from their teachers, but they learn from you, too. Show them the hard work that goes into making decisions and facing challenges. Let your child in on short-term goals you set and talk about how you hope to achieve them. Talk about times you've struggled with new learning or about how you realized the cause-and-effect connection in your successes and failures.