Ways to Foster Responsibility, Initiative, Independence and Resilience
Tips For Fostering Responsibility, Initiative, Independence and Resilience
At St Mary’s we are trying to encourage children to take responsibility for their learning and actions and to have respect for others. We are also trying to encourage them to be problem solvers and to have the initiative to solve problems for themselves. In the first few years we do this through play. Children are taught by their peers about friendship, far more effectively than by us.
Over the past few years we have noticed a worrying trend of children across all year levels who blame others, wait for help rather than attempting to problem solve, deny their actions or let others take the blame. In general they seem to lack empathy for others.
Below are some tips to help you develop your child's initiative and independence.
Let your child face some problems...and deal with them. Helicopter parents* often intervene in their children's lives to prevent them from experiencing painful or negative situations. Stop. Just as we put math problems in front of our kids to solve, we need to allow them to experience life problems so that they can become strong and capable. Children need to solve problems now, so that they will be able to solve bigger problems later in life. Children do this effectively through play. Peers teach each other what is accepted in friendships and what is not. Children need to learn this socially and learn nothing from being rescued. If a child is trying to engage with others, but is doing this in a mean way, it is much more effective for the other children to articulate how they are feeling and ask for the mean behaviour to stop if the child wants to play. In doing this they help themselves and the other child. Too often we apply adult feelings to situations. We have to remember that children are just learning about being social and if they do not get the opportunity to be told by their peers that their behaviour is unwanted, they miss out on a valuable learning opportunity. Teach your child to speak up for themselves when they do not like something and you are giving them a valuable gift.
Knowing when your child needs you to speak on their behalf, and when they may just be venting to you about situations is really important.
Please, please, please, do not use social media as a way of dealing with issues, this only ever ends badly. Be prepared to talk about issues face to face, seeing a person’s body language and hearing their tone plays an important part in understanding.
(*The term helicopter parent has become popular on the internet, it is the term for parents that hover around their children, solve every problem and take the risk out of all situations. These parents rush in to defend and save their child even if they are in the wrong. They may even believe their child over an adult or teacher, even when faced with evidence to the contrary. Helicopter parents do their children no favours.)
Don’t ‘SAVE’ your children. When you feel the impulse to intervene and rectify a situation you see, just don’t. Falls will happen. Someone will lose the game. Your child may not always win. Life lessons must be learned by your child. In over protecting your child you are doing them more harm.
Embrace responsible risk taking. You won’t always be there to stop your child doing something risky. Let them face risk head on. Where the potential risk is acceptable let them experience it for themselves without intervening, they can handle more than you think…and then be ready to be protective when the potential harm exceeds the lesson to be learned. Children will not take risks they do not think they are capable of.
Don’t cotton wool your children, if they have never climbed a tree, how do they know if they can or not? If they have never faced risk, how do they learn to measure a responsible risk? If the first time they face risk is at the wheel of a car, it may be too late.
Encourage your child to be a problem solver. Talk them through problems (but don’t over-talk, especially if they are boys.) Instead of fixing the problem for them, teach kids to address problems for themselves. Coach your children through peer relationships and other minor problems instead of swooping in and solving it for them. Prompt them to think of solutions to their problem and then allow them to follow this through for themselves. Allow children to experience a full range of emotions – this is a healthy process and allows them to become resilient individuals. There are many books that can be purchased now that are written for children specifically about their emotions, these are worth hunting out to help children understand how their brain works. Silly Limbic is well recommended as is Hey Sigmund.
Encourage your child to try. If people backed down whenever they were faced with something that makes them anxious or fearful then no one would have amazing adventures in life. Instead of allowing your child to back off when they face something scary, encourage them to try it. When your child comes to you with that anxious look of fear on their face about some new experience, don’t furrow your brow and empathise. Smile and give them your most confident look and say “give it a try, it might be fun.” Having a growth mindset is important for all areas of learning. It is not that I can't do this, it is just that I can't do this YET! This journal is great for those that struggle with having a go. There are also many picture books now that focus in on this. A quick google of growth mindset picture books will bring up a list of ideas.
Encourage responsibility by giving children responsibilities at home. Children need to see that they have a role to play in the family. Ensure they are responsible for their homework, let them take the initiative in remembering to do it and only remind them if you have to. If they are unsure of what their homework involves, get them to solve that with the teacher, don’t step in and solve that problem for them. Have a list of chores that they need to do and expect them to be done.
Children learn from what they see. If you say you will do something, do it. If you make a mistake admit it, don’t blame someone else. If you are going somewhere, get there on time unless there are extenuating circumstances. If you are interacting with another adult, show respect, even if you are angry or upset, don't put your child's teacher or another adult they respect down in front of your child, they hear everything you say. Try not to talk about your problems in front of children. It causes them worry and stress that they do not need to have.
Remember children will be in the workplace one day. So don’t let them have a day off school unless they are sick or it cannot be avoided. We have noticed a trend of some children having a Monday or Friday off each week. Please model responsibility by not allowing them to get into this bad habit.
Parents need to support their children in their natural quest for independence. A great way to do this is with chores. Most kids are in a hurry to grow up; helping out around the house teaches them responsibilities and shows them they can make a difference through their actions.
But be careful. Your child can sense if you’re concerned about their abilities. Let them know that it’s a big help to have them involved and give them jobs they can accomplish. If you’re apprehensive about their safety or performance give them another job.
Allow children to do things on their own. Give them opportunities to cope in different situations, this helps to build self-reliance and confidence. Ensure you set strong and consistent and reasonable consequences for any unacceptable behaviour, don’t make idle threats. This helps them to develop self-discipline, a big key in developing independence. Set a reasonable consequence for behaviour and stick to it. If the school has set a consequence for a certain behaviour please show that you support this consequence, this will show your child that home and school are on the same page.
Bring back manners! Manners are a dying habit but are so important. Please and thank you go a long way. Role model good manners yourself and let your child see how consideration and courtesy for others is important!