As parents, we want to raise healthy, happy, and well-adjusted children. No matter how old they get, parents will still look at their children with the same tenderness and affection they did when the kids were little. As such, we want to ensure that as they grow up they will be confident in their own abilities. This quality is referred to as self-reliance. 

Here are 10 ways to raise a self-reliant and responsible child: 

  1. Be the parent

Remember: You are the parent, you don’t have to be their friend. Children need to know boundaries, and when you act like a friend, there’s a tendency that you will let them get away with unpleasant behavior just because you’re afraid they’ll get angry with you. Parents are there to provide structure in the lives of their children, which involves boundaries, expectations, and consequences. This structure can be adjusted as the child gets older and is equipped with the skills and experiences to do things on their own. 

  1. Focus on effort 

Complimenting children for their hard work makes them feel that they have control over their own abilities, as well as their surroundings. On the other hand, praising them for their inherent intelligence, for instance, can make them think in terms of things that are outside of their influence, and hence, would be less motivated to push themselves. So instead of complimenting your child for being smart, try saying things like, “You must have worked hard on these problems” or “I loved how you didn’t give up on that challenging assignment.”  

  1. Give children the ability to decide 

Motivation stems from having a choice. The more people feel that they are part of the decision, the more likely they are to stick with it. Even if they are still young, make children feel they have control over their lives. Giving them the ability to make decisions fosters independence and creative thinking. Begin by involving them in key decisions, like, for instance, the tuition centre they prefer. Ask them what they like about the teacher or their classes to make them feel that their opinion matters. 

  1. Show confidence in their abilities 

How can kids believe in themselves if their own parents don’t show confidence in their abilities? As a parent, think about the immense impact you have on your child—from the words you utter to your body language towards them. They look to you for guidance, even in how they view themselves. Showing that you believe in your child can come in the form of listening intently when they are proud or excited about something or not dismissing their accomplishments, no matter how big or small. This will enable children to develop their own sense of competence. 

  1. Give them responsibility 

Cultivating a sense of responsibility in a child starts at home. When you feel that your child is already capable of doing certain tasks, begin to delegate chores. Ask them what they would like to do instead of imposing the job on them. Make it a fun, collaborative process. It will help your child follow through on their chores because they were part of the decision-making.  

  1. Hold them accountable 

Once you have given them responsibilities, whether these involve doing household chores or taking care of a pet, hold them accountable. For instance, if you both agree that a chore must be done and yet it remains unaccomplished, ask your child to explain why he or she wasn’t able to do it. It does not mean that the child should get scolded for not doing chores, but make them feel responsible for their tasks. Also, give them the opportunity to do the task they missed out on or to correct their mistakes.   

  1. Allow them to get bored 

Children don’t need to be constantly entertained. Sometimes a little boredom is good, especially for one’s creativity, imagination, and, of course, self-reliance. Having the ability to be alone without getting antsy or feeling the need to distract oneself is actually a useful skill as an adult. As parents, don’t feel the need to fill your child’s day with activities. Trust that your child will be able to pull through days when there’s nothing to do. 

  1. Teach them to process their emotions 

We are taught to savor positive emotions, such as joy, excitement, or a sense of calm. However, when it comes to difficult ones—sadness, anger, or grief—we tend to push them aside and look for distractions to help ease the pain we feel. Most people tend to turn to external distractions, like playing video games or shopping, as a default instead of confronting their own emotions. But by learning how to process emotions, especially the difficult ones, we begin to feel that we have the tools we need inside us and this will help us feel more self-reliant. 

It is important to note that how parents react to their child’s emotions can impact the development of their emotional intelligence. When a child is made fun of for being afraid, they might feel ashamed the next time they get scared. Guide your child in processing their emotions by asking them to identify how they feel and acknowledging those feelings. Provide an environment where children feel safe to express, and eventually, manage their emotions in a healthy way.  

  1. Use words of affirmation 

Gary Chapman, Ph.D. developed the concept of love languages in his 1992 book, “The 5 Love Languages,” with the assumption that people communicate love in different ways. Understanding a person’s love language or how one communicates and receives love can help nourish relationships. One of the five love language is words of affirmation, which involve verbal acknowledgements of affection. This can be in the form of compliments, words of appreciation,  and verbal encouragement. 

Praise the child when you feel it is deserved. Encourage them when they begin to doubt their abilities. As their parent, your words mean a lot to them and it can spell the difference in building up their confidence. 

  1. Encourage them to get out of their comfort zones 

Children will feel a sense of accomplishment by having done something they never expected they could do. It could be speaking in front of the class, talking to a person they admire, or taking up piano lessons and performing in front of an audience. Even as adults, when we overcome a challenging task, we feel good about ourselves. The same goes with children. Allow them to explore different activities that will test their abilities and encourage them to try new things. 

In short…

Children cannot acquire self-reliance and a sense of responsibility at a snap of a finger. They don’t have the tools and knowledge yet to hone these qualities by themselves. That’s why a parent’s role is critical in giving the child the right environment to nurture their development from childhood all the way to adulthood.