“The greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of Responsibility and the wings of Independence.” – Denis Waitley
We all want our children to feel confident and responsible. How do we support their natural desire to be independent while reminding them about their responsibility in the world? Here are some thoughts to consider.
The Kinderpillar program encourages your child to develop a sense of self-confidence and identity. This is an important time for your child to begin to truly see herself as an individual being, separate from parents and other adults as she starts to define her own personality with broad strokes. Children at this stage often develop a particular interest and style in dressing, playing with particular things and friends, and expressively speaking their mind (even emoting!). The Kinderpillar teachers over time begin to see a very defined and wonderful collection of individuals –all with their own learning and playing styles.
In the early years there is a strong desire in children to begin to explore world independently. At this stage your child is learning so many new linguistic, cognitive and motor skills that she is almost emboldened to take the world by storm! This is a wonderful stage with an interesting blend of both positive and challenging (but natural and healthy) aspects of emerging independence. Your young child needs to be given enough freedom to test independence, yet support to ease frustration and to answer questions. She needs lots of stimulus, including new experiences, books, activities, friends, and opportunities. She also needs positive guidance from parents and other adults in their lives. Negative responses, such as nagging, yelling, or threatening, only serve to stifle a young child’s creativity, self-awareness and learning.
Developing Responsibility and Self-Regulation
As your child is developing emerging independence skillsshe is also building the important ability to accept and manage challenges. This skill will stand your child in good stead for the rest of their lives. Self-regulation or impulse control is needed for children to be able to follow the rules and meet the expectations of teachers and society. As children experience successes in Kinderpillar they begin to feel the pleasure of tackling a new task and learning it. It is a beautifully linear equation. The more success they have (even with small things like skipping or shoe tying) and the more acknowledgement they get for these small (and big) achievements the more they will be willing to accept more challenges in school and home.
An important part of this equation is self-control. In this stage of development, children are learning how to self-monitor and control their impulses. In a sense they are learning to think before they react. They learn now that it is not wise to run out across traffic to get the ball that got away, or to hit another child who just took a toy. By adding this emerging skill of self-control to the equation of managing challenges, children become able to recognize appropriate and inappropriate challenges and begin to act consciously in any number of situations. This is not to say that children always use self-control at this stage of development. In fact, it is quite natural for children to flow in an out of impulse control as they explore the skill in a variety of situations. Your role is to support them as they safely explore challenges.
As children become more independent, they are asked to make more decisions. Kinderpillar asks your child to make more and more decisions to make- everything from “who to what” to play with to deciding whether to participate in a new outdoor game. When children learn that they can make their own decisions and voice opinions, they may explore how far they can push adults and the rules and will test the limits. Children at this stage of emerging independence normally like to test limits and sometimes experiment with contrary behavior. This is a natural part of the process of creating the individuated self. It is best to keep the perspective that this is normal and even positive while being clear about your class expectations for behavior and participation. Invite your child to make decisions and express opinions about things such as a book to read, a snack to eat or when to play outside. But explain that safety issues such as crossing the street alone or climbing high in the playground tree are not appropriate for independent decision making. Your child is old enough to begin to know the difference between safe and dangerous decisions and can quickly comply with expectations when the distinction is made clear.
On Beyond Kinderpillar
Of course after Kinderpillar your child will move into more and more formal schooling. This is when independence skills will be very important. Teachers will expect your child to be able to take care of most of her personal needs, to follow directions without close guidance and to self motivate to work and learn.
You can help children prepare for future schooling by giving them increased responsibility at home too. You can encourage independence at home by focusing on such things as dressing, setting the table, helping with cooking, and calling friends on the phone.
Becoming a Person
“ A person’s a person, no matter how small.”- Dr. Seuss (children’s book author)
The process of becoming independent is filled with the pleasure of accomplishment and the pressure of responsibility. We can best support children during this phase by celebrating their deeds while carefully monitoring the amount and type of responsibility they take on. Independence in small doses is the most palatable for a young child’s delicate system.