Do It Yourself: Teaching Self Reliance to Your Child

Mercedes Samudio, LCSW by Mercedes Samudio, LCSW

teaching self reliance

Working with families brings its set of challenges.

Many parents want me to teach their children skills that they have already tried to teach themselves or that they feel uncomfortable with.

However, when a parent asks me to help their child develop a sense of self reliance, I draw the line.

Why, you ask? Does it even make sense to help a child develop coping skills but not teach them self reliance?

Yes, it does. Let me explain why.

The idea of teaching self reliance can only be taught by the parent, because children learn how to rely on themselves from who cares for them.

Self reliance is being able to take charge of your life, have internal motivation, and performing other tasks that we all have to learn to take care of ourselves.

A parent inadvertently takes on the role of being a model of self reliance for their child because the child watches and learns from the parent daily.

Outside sources—friends, family members, teachers, or community leaders—only interact with your child for short periods of time.

Let’s really look at what a parent can do to teach self reliance skills to his / her child:

1. Be A Guardian

Self reliance is a skill that has to be developed over time.

As a parent, becoming a guardian of your child’s feelings, development, and interests is one of the first steps to teaching your child how to rely on themselves to be a more independent person.

A parent who performs a guardian role over their child will:

  • Respond to their child with empathy to help develop their child’s feelings
  • Set healthy limits through consistent rules setting and positive reinforcement
  • Practice choice making by introducing your child to healthy experiences and guiding them through acceptance of consequences

2. Help With Choices

Self reliant children are able to make choices, discuss those choices, and learn to accept the consequences of those choices.

But, of course, this doesn’t happen without a little help. Parents can introduce The Choice Principle [Source]:

  • When a child resists your request or does something unacceptable, give him a choice
  • Give the child two choices, both of which are positive and acceptable to you
  • Provide pros and cons for both choices and let your child know that he can only make one choice
  • Once the choice is made, praise your child

3. Be A Good Communicator

Another trait of self reliant children is that they know how to communicate their needs without inviting a power struggle from their parents.

To help your child develop this skill, you have to be a good communicator of what you need from your child.

Most parents do one of two things [or both] when communicating: ask questions and make commands. Unfortunately, all that does is put the child on the defense and you get a struggle.

Here are some tips on modeling good communication skills to help your child towards self reliance:

  • Make specific statements about what you need from your child
  • Bring your child into the conversation about their chores, homework, etc. [for example; tell them you’d like to hear there plan for cleaning their room this week]
  • State your feelings when you make requests, like explaining that you feel frustrated when your child does not do what is asked
  • Use “I statement” when expressing feelings or concerns [i.e., I feel sad when you tell me you don’t like me.”]

4. Model Relaxation Skills

Lastly, when your child becomes self reliant you definitely want them to be able to relax and think about the choices they’ve made and how they feel about themselves and those choices.

Relaxation techniques don’t have to take a lot of time out of you or your child’s schedules.

But, making relaxation a part of your daily life will not only reinforce self reliance, but you’ll be setting your child on the path to really knowing what it means to fully take care of themselves.

You can try these things to help develop your child’s relaxation skills:

  • Wake them up 30 minutes before its time to get ready so your child can ease into their day
  • Look up simple yoga techniques for children and suggest your child do them either before bed or before they get ready in the morning [Yoga For Kids]
  • Give your child 10-15 minutes after school to eat a snack, relax outside, or listen to music

Teaching self reliance can come from external sources, as the tips listed above can definitely be used by others. However, part of developing a strong, trusting relationship with your child rests on you being able to effectively model for and teach your child the skills they’ll need to be autonomous as they grow older.

Still, while teaching self reliance starts at home, I would encourage parents to explain what you’re teaching your child to external support systems so that they can reinforce your skills building techniques.

Conscious parenting >>


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