Developing Independence

It's not too soon to be thinking about cutting the emotional umbilical cord which connects baby to parents. Although your baby is a separate person, she is still in a sense linked to you with emotional ties. She will travel the road from total dependence to total independence in a series of stages. It is important that you, her parents, help her through each stage.

Decide right now that you want her to become independent, and that you will start doing those things which make for independence. You can develop independence by letting your child do things for herself. Even now, you can help by letting her struggle a little. Whatever she's trying to do, if she has a reasonable chance of doing it herself, let her try. You may see her try to get to a ball while she's on the floor. You can tell she wants it, but as she struggles to get it her efforts are not too efficient. So you, trying to be helpful, may get the ball. Please don't! She needs to work for that ball because as she does, she inches forward in her developmental independence. If you do it for her, she won't have to struggle. If she doesn't struggle a little, she won't learn to do it for herself. If she doesn't learn to do it for herself, she won't develop independence. It's as simple as that.

There will be many times - now and later when your child will try to do something for herself. It may be reaching for something just beyond her grasp. Or getting from where she is now to some other place she wants to be. Other times, she will fix her attention on some object and try to either bring it to her, or get herself to it. In all these situations she will have a chance to interact, to struggle a little with the world.

As she works, she learns and develops. If you step in too soon, you take away the effort and the learning and development. The older your child becomes, the more she will be able to do for herself. Always praise your child for trying - it makes the struggle worth the effort. You will encourage dependence if you do too much for her. One of the most important gifts you can offer your baby is the opportunity to become a person in her own right. Of course, you will do for her all the things she cannot do for herself now. At the same time, let her do for herself whenever possible. It's not too soon to start helping her to develop independence.
© Growing Child, Inc.