Fiona on subwayMy goal has always been raising kids who can take care of themselves (and, eventually, me). Kids don’t start learning to be independent when they’re teenagers; they start long before they actually have to get along on their own.

There are simple things that you can do to help your kids be more independent. And hey, anything your kids can do for themselves, that’s one less thing you have to do!

Make them ask for things themselves. It can be so tempting in a restaurant or store to speak for your child, especially if she’s shy. But making your children ask for things themselves is a great way to build their confidence. If they want more napkins, they can ask for more napkins.

Don’t ever sneak out on them. I know how tempting it can be to quietly open the door and take off while your child is happily playing with the babysitter. So much easier than saying goodbye and risking them crying and begging you to stay, right? But don’t do it! You’ll teach your child not to trust you, and the next time the sitter comes over, your little darling will be wailing and clinging to your leg. Instead, teach him that when you leave, you come back.

Let them struggle. It doesn’t matter whether it’s tying a shoe, doing a math problem, or climbing up to the monkey bars. The sense of accomplishment your child will get when she finally does a thing on her own will give her more self-confidence than anything you could ever say. Step back and let her struggle.

Listen to their cues. When your child indicates that he wants more responsibility or freedom, listen to him! If your reaction is always “He’s not ready,” maybe it’s you who isn’t ready, and that’s not really fair. If he’s asking for more responsibility, he’s probably ready for some. That doesn’t mean you have to hand over the car keys when he’s 10, but there’s probably something you can let him do that will build up his confidence (and yours).

Let them screw up. Messing up doesn’t mean that your child wasn’t ready to do something. How many times have you nailed something new on the first try? Let him learn from his mistakes and try again. That’s the only way he’ll learn to adapt.

Are you trying to raise an independent child? What are your tricks?