Preschool-age children develop a sense of independence by practicing skills and doing things for themselves, such as getting dressed or brushing their teeth.
Children who are not allowed to perform tasks on their own get the message that they are not capable. Children may then learn to always expect help and remain dependent. Although it is often easier and faster to do things for children, take time to allow them the satisfaction of taking care of their own needs as appropriate. For example, allow your child to work on getting dressed with elastic pants and pull-on shirts. Or encourage your child to brush his or her teeth. Since it takes practice to become good at these and other daily tasks, a good compromise is to let a child start the project, then finish the job together. Praise efforts rather than outcomes. Avoid criticism and keep your expectations realistic.
Independence sometimes can be frightening for children. Be understanding if they have a sudden need for your help or presence.
Current as of: August 22, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics
Thomas M. Bailey, MD, CCFP - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics