Helping Your Daughter Develop Independence

It is the aim of every parent to grow and develop our children into well adjusted adults that are capable of looking after themselves. Being parents is the journey we start from the day they are born and, along the way, we celebrate wonderful milestones: the first time they walk, talk, are toilet trained and can get into and out of the car themselves, just to note a few.

The first years of this journey are about watching for these developmental milestones, watching for the things they can do and delighting in them trying over and over again to do them. They are born with a natural desire to do things for themselves. The terrible twos (those tantrum years) are all about children’s minds wanting to do things that often their fine or gross motor skills are unable to accommodate. Our role as parents during this time is to make sure they are safe, clean, well fed and loved.

As they get older, our role changes. We still need to make sure they are safe, well fed, clean and loved, but we need to harness that natural desire and start teaching them how to do things for themselves.

According to Carrie Shrier, an academic from Michigan State University Extension, there are many things we can be doing to help our children develop independence. Shrier says that we should be stepping back regularly to ‘assess what we are still doing for our children that they could be doing for themselves’.

One of the easiest things we can teach our children is to pack their own school bags. It takes a little bit of effort to begin with, but the benefits to both parents and children is great. To teach them, I would first advise developing a packing list. Sit with your child and work out what they need to take each day of the week using their class timetable. On a sheet of paper, beginning with Sunday list the days of the week across the top of the page. The idea is to pack the bag the night before (all except lunch of course). Under each day, include the usual things like lunch, but then look at their timetable and start adding Physical Education clothing, violins etc. This can then be made into a poster on a wall for easy reference.

Once developed, pack the bag with them using the list each night, making sure they are the ones to gather everything on the list. The bag should then be left at the front door ready for lunch to be added before leaving. Like learning any skill, it will take time and you will have to do this with them many times. The benefits are that your child will have developed a skill, they know they have a well packed bag and they know what is in it and where in the bag it is. For parents, you will have less work in the long run and a child who is more independent. There will be fewer trips to school with forgotten sports gear and lunches!

I would love to hear from any parents trying this at home. I encourage you to send me an email detailing your progress. It worked for me with my two children and I think it will work for you. Good luck!


Ms Karen McArdle

Head of Junior School

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