The keys to independence

The keys to independence
Independence is closely related to attachment, self-esteem and self-confidence.

Independence is closely related to attachment, self-esteem and self-confidence. Attachment starts at birth. All positive interaction you have with your baby, such as talking to him, kissing him, playing and laughing with him, fosters your mutual attachment. Meeting your baby’s needs is another way to build a strong attachment between the two of you.

When he cries and you comfort and reassure him, he learns that he can trust you. And since he trusts you, he becomes attached to you. “Affection, physical safety, a consistent routine and clear rules all contribute to developing a feeling of trust,” writes Sylvie Provencher in her book for family daycare educators, De l’estime de soi, vers l’autonomie (From self-esteem to independence). “When a child feels that he’s entitled to his emotions and also to express them, that he’s allowed to experiment, to succeed or to make a mistake and try again, he develops self-confidence.”

This self-confidence is a feeling that can be explained in one sentence: “I can try things.” “By guiding your child with care towards this important step in his development, by giving him the right to try new things and sometimes make mistakes and be clumsy, by supporting him in his learning, you strengthen your bond with him,” says Nadia Gagnier. “Your child’s attachment to significant adults in his life gives him a foundation of security,” adds Nicole Malenfant. “This security gives him more confidence in himself, which in turn encourages him to explore his environment and become more independent.”

For Sylvie Provencher, self-esteem, another key to independence, can be summarized in the sentence: “I am someone important.” “This is about your child’s perception of his strengths, his potential and his weaknesses,” says the author. Self-esteem is built from birth, through your baby’s experiences. Here again, your role is pivotal. With the right attitudes, such as guiding your child and congratulating him on his efforts, you can help your child develop a positive self-image.

The period from 18 to 36 months is crucial in the development of your child’s independence and self-esteem. This is the age when he really starts to do things on his own. However, he still doubts his own abilities. For example, the child you feed now wants to hold his little spoon by himself, but he’s not sure if he can. He needs your encouragement, to feel like you believe he can eat on his own, get dressed by himself, or put his toys on the shelf. “When you give your child the chance to accomplish tasks that are suited to his capabilities, you boost his self-esteem,” says Nicole Malenfant.

Even if your child has a hard time accomplishing certain tasks at first, he’ll still believe in his abilities if you support and encourage his efforts. Conversely, if he has a hard time and you criticize him, lose your patience or punish him, he may feel ashamed and not believe in himself. This may slow down the development of his independence.

And even if at the start, your role in encouraging your child to become independent is essential, he’ll gradually learn to find his own motivation to make certain choices and to decide what he wants to do. Bit by bit, he’ll realize that he’s able to make his own decisions and control his actions, which, in turn, will make him proud. This will develop his sense of competence and effectiveness.