Kids are born completely dependent on their caregivers for absolutely everything. This can push different buttons, depending on your own individual journey with dependency and independence. We share our journey of nurturing little independents which has been filled with challenges and surprises.
Two sisters, two extremes
For Camille, she loved those early years when her kids turned to her for everything and only mommy knows how to make ouchies better, chase away fears and make a meal that will be eaten. But for Claire, the complete dependency on her for the first year of her kid’s life was probably the toughest adjustment. While Camille experienced a sense of purpose in taking care of her little dependents, Claire felt that the dependency challenged her own sense of freedom and independence. We are the two extremes! This is why we are good for each other – we help each other find the balance between dependency and independence.
The challenge as kids grow
Claire eagerly awaited toddlerhood. She could not wait for mobility and for Rach to do her own thing. Camille, on the other hand, felt a little bit of dread as she questioned her purpose as a mother as her kids needed her less and less. Claire’s biggest challenge was pushing Rach into independence before she was ready, while Camille’s was not giving Miiks and Wren enough opportunities to experiment with their independence. Both of us have the potential to not adequately nurture dependency and independence if we keep our kids where we selfishly find it easiest for us.
Our job as sisters was to identify when our balance was off. Camille needed more help in trying not to do everything for the kids. Claire needed more help in not criticising when failures and accidents in independence occurred. Our collective parenting goal was for our kids to gain self-control without losing self-esteem!
Balancing independence and dependency
New skills need to be encouraged and supported. As we do this for our kids, we support their growing independence and help them feel secure in their new abilities. Saying NO, walking away from you, choosing a toy, and make a choice about who I play with, what I want to wear and what to eat are all signs of our kids’ growing independence. While our kids asserting independence challenges our authority, we need to create a safe, encouraging environment, allow them to explore the limits of their abilities, and be tolerant of their failures.
Food as the gateway into independence
One of the easiest places to start with experimenting with independence is food. As growing kids are naturally hungry and learning how to eat and how to clean up after themselves, use food to your advantage. So here are some ideas:
- Get a kiddie water dispenser with cups – place in somewhere in your kitchen and be prepared for mess as they learn to pour their own water
- Have step-up stool just for the kitchen – encourage your kids to use it to put their dishes in the sink and help prepare food
- Have a kids food station – place plates and snacks in their own special snack place so they can grab food when they are hungry
- Practice cleanup – as kids experiment with food, know there will be mess! Teach your little ones how to help with cleanup and in time they will do so independently
Just as parents may battle with the balance, know that our kids will also sometimes find it hard to be independent of you OR be dependent on you. Sometimes they will master something and be super proud of it and then regress back to old behaviour. That’s okay. Rather than scolding or criticising the return to baby-behaviour, be patient and understanding until your kids are ready to take on big-kid jobs again.