Fostering Independence in Kids: Encouraging Responsibility and Decision-Making

If you’re like most parents, one of your greatest desires is to see your child become independent and accountable. Unfortunately, many of us go about this the wrong way.

Coercing your kids to do tasks, punishing them for their wrongdoing, and pushing them beyond their limits does the exact opposite. To be more specific, it makes them feel insecure and become more reliant on others. 

Conversely, supporting your kids, hearing them out, and giving them room to express themselves enables them to become independent. If you still aren’t sure of how to foster independence in your little ones, this article will guide you. Read on to learn more:

How to Foster Independence in Toddlers 

Give Your Child Freedom

One of the best ways to foster independence in your little ones is to give them freedom. This particularly applies to decision-making

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you offer them free rein. Instead, allow them to pick what they prefer by providing two or more choices. This helps them feel like they’re in control of the situation, albeit to a small extent. 

Let’s say that your child insists on crossing the road by themselves. If it’s too risky for them, offer them a choice of being carried or holding their hands. 

Create Predictable Routines

This might seem far-fetched, but creating routines is another way to encourage independence. If your child knows what to expect, they’re better positioned to adopt some of the responsibilities gradually. 

Remember that a routine differs from a schedule - despite the two terms being used interchangeably. A routine refers to any activity that involves a series of steps. 

To put things into perspective, let’s consider the action of brushing one’s teeth. This typically involves turning on the water, putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, brushing, and rinsing. Similarly, if you plan to take your kids to the park, you’d bathe and dress them, pack a few snacks or toys, and have them put their shoes on. 

Repeatedly taking a child through the same routine helps them know what to expect. As a result, they’ll start learning and taking on some of the steps. For instance, they might be able to turn on the water and put toothpaste in the case of brushing their teeth.

Don’t Overcorrect

As tempting as it can be, you shouldn’t overcorrect your little one when they attempt to take on specific roles. For instance, let’s say that your child has begun trying to make their bed. Obviously, it won’t be perfect the first couple of times. 

However, don’t fall into the temptation of fixing the bed each time they make it. The end goal is not to achieve perfect results but to learn a new responsibility. Correcting them constantly makes them feel like they’re falling short of your expectations. And they might stop trying altogether. 

Engage Them in Household Chores

Engaging your child in minor chores is another way of fostering independence in early childhood. Something as simple as picking up toys after playing or putting away groceries helps to nurture their independence. 

When assigning chores to your toddlers, ensure you’re choosing age-appropriate ones. They’ll be more eager to help if they feel they’re contributing authentically. If they’re too young to take on any roles, look for creative ways to engage them in tasks. 

Let’s say that you’re planning to do laundry. Now, your little one might not be capable of sorting clothes or measuring the detergent. But they can gather and place their dirty clothes in a laundry basket. They can also push the start button on the washing machine. 

Although these actions seem so trivial, they go a long way in making your child feel empowered. Eventually, they’ll take on bigger tasks without being asked.

Customize Your Space to Foster Independence

Did you know that the layout of your space impacts your toddler’s independence? That’s right. It determines the ease of doing certain things. 

For instance, is your child able to reach his cutlery? Can they fill a pitcher with water to quench their thirst? How high is the sink they use to wash their hands?

Take a keen look at how your space is organized. If it doesn’t encourage your child to do certain things on their own, you might want to make a few adjustments. 

For younger kids, buying a step stool really comes in handy. They can use it to access snacks from the pantry or the sink in case they need to wash fruits or vegetables. Similarly, consider adding a wall hook that is the same level as their height. They can use it to hang their coat or backpack once they get home from school. 

Leave Room for Mistakes

This is probably the hardest lesson for parents - it’s okay for your child to make mistakes at times. It’s the only way they’ll learn. 

So once they make a mistake, help them brainstorm ideas on how to handle the situation better the next time. And if it’s a mistake that can be rectified, guide them on how to do it. 

I know it’s challenging to sit back and watch your kid struggle to do something. However, if you intervene each time, you’re robbing them of the opportunity to try. This will only cause them to become more dependent on you. Instead, allow them to make mistakes. You can then use these errors as learning opportunities. 

Encourage Them to Explore New Things

Another excellent way of fostering independence is to encourage them to try new things. This could be anything, from signing up for the debate club, learning a new instrument, or attending music lessons.

The goal is to have your child explore something completely new. This will go a long way in boosting their confidence and independence. And while you’re at it, let them know it’s okay to fail in their new interest. With more practice, they’ll eventually master their new instrument or be eloquent in that foreign language they’ve been learning. 


As a parent, you constantly teach and remind your kids to uphold important values, such as gratitude and honesty. 

One more life lesson that you should teach your little ones is independence. Training them to be self-reliant boosts their confidence and prepares them for the challenges they’ll face later in life.  

Not sure of how to foster independence in kids? Start by creating predictable routines. Next, engage them in house chores and allow them reasonable freedom. You’ll also want to adjust your space to foster independence, embrace mistakes and avoid overcorrecting. 

Leave Reply