Teaching preschoolers the art of self-sufficiency
Children are born with no identity, no personality,
and goals of their own whatsoever. However, they are
adaptable. They adopt an identity based on their
circumstances and environment and with time they form
a belief system and a worldview.
One of the things children learn and the project is the level of independence expected of them. But this is not as simple as it sounds. If children are not catered to and their needs are not met by a parent figure, they will learn to either suppress their needs or become efficient enough to meet all their needs on their own. But this is not a sign of healthy mental growth in children.
This kind of independence is often a defense mechanism and arises due to insecurities. This will result in the child being compulsively independent and sufficient out of the fear of their needs going unmet.
On the other hand, when children are met with all their needs they become codependent and never learn to meet their own needs. Parents often have a way of expressing their love by enabling a child’s every need but this is detrimental to the child as they will never learn the skills required to meet their needs and survive on their own.
This means that none of these extremes is the answer. The art of self-sufficiency is a game of balance. You might not be very surprised to know that even within animals, making your younger ones self- sufficient is crucial. Like a Lion pretentiously groans in pain when the Lion cub bites the Lion. This is done to give the cub the confidence needed to go out and hunt for itself when the time comes. This is a great balance.
Teach rational decision-making
It is neither helpful to take all the decisions for them, nor is it possible to let them take all the decisions. But as a parent, you must create situations when they can take decisions under your guidance and protection. A parent must interact with the child and ask them why they took a certain decision. The parent can then recommend an alternative approach and give them perspective. The child can use this to make amends or change their decision.
For example, if a child decides to not participate in a competition at school because their friends are not participating, maybe this reason makes a lot of sense to that child. In such a case, a parent may try to force the child into the competition because it is ultimately good for the child. But a parent can try to tell a child why this competition would be good for them. A parent can also tell the child to tell their friends that they could all have fun together in the competition and then let them consider and take a new decision.
This is how you teach a child to think in the direction of self-sufficiency. For them to be aware from a very young age that there can be multiple ways of looking at a certain problem is a crucial tool for self-sufficiency. Remember that we don't teach them to make decisions, but good decisions.
Give the child responsibilities and the help needed to achieve them
Responsibility is a huge part of self-sufficiency. But responsibilities can also seem very overwhelming if the individual has a negative relationship with the idea of responsibilities. Many parents often either make it too easy for the child or make it too difficult for them. A parent must assign a child responsibility, and encourage them to do it, and reward them for getting it done. These responsibilities need not have anything to do with academics or learning. It can be something as simple as asking them to clean their utensils, explaining to them why this is important, teach them how to do it and then finally reward them with gratitude or appreciation when they get it done.
This way a child not only learns a skill with a positive mindset but will also develop a very healthy relationship with and carrying responsibilities out.
A parent must remember that if a child does not deliver the duty assigned to them, try and investigate why the child is not complying. This helps them to not be afraid of failure and remain optimistic.
Be careful to not resort to blaming them for being lazy or disinterested because this can affect a child’s self-image.
Much like there is a difference between solitude and loneliness, there is also a difference between a child who is independent as a defense mechanism or because they think they will not be loved otherwise and a child who is independent because they were taught to be independent while they were accepted and appreciated unconditionally.