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Self Sufficient or Independent Child?

By Connie K. Grier, M.Ed.


"The animal kingdom keeps it simple. Once you are on solid foods, you're on your own...."

Ah, the "bobo," aka a baby's pacifier. Developmentally speaking, they are not needed. For household sanity purposes however, they are used by many children up until around the age of one. Some folks allow their children to use a pacifier long beyond that age, because it is easier to let the child have it then endure the whining or screaming associated with weaning the child away from it. Unfortunately, the mouth shape and dental work of some of these children tell the story without words...

In the long run, is it better to let the child cry a bit and eventually find a non- invasive way to soothe themselves, or let the child remain with the pacifier until they are holding conversations and have to remove it to enunciate?

As parents and educators, one of the greatest gifts that we can help our charges to develop is self sufficiency. This does not mean that children will do everything perfect or " right" the first time. It does mean, however that we must give children an opportunity to do things on their own.

Age appropriate self sufficiency does wonders for child's psychological and emotional development. The sense of empowerment a two year old gets from properly putting his toy away and being recognized through positive reinforcement for his actions is akin to receiving recognition on the job for us. We can't count on receiving it, we have our job to do with or without it, but dang, doesn't feel good when it happens?

In the school setting, self sufficiency becomes even more important. When a child is in first grade, homework assignments are sent home with the expectation that the parent is sitting with the child, utilizing a very hands-on approach in helping the child to complete the assignment.  As the child moves up the hierarchical grade ladder in school however, the contribution expected from parents in regards to homework completion is that the parent monitor and support; taking a less hands -on approach.  This "space" created by the parent allows the child to become comfortable in their student "skin"; tackling obstacles in their own way first, only asking for assistance when they feel it is necessary.  This is often a very difficult expectation for parents to live up to (trust me, I know!).

Because we juggle so many balls in the course of a day, oftentimes it is faster, neater, and less stressful if we "help" them with their homework with the same "bobo" mentality: provide our children with a tool to stop their crying (short run focus) as opposed to allowing them to go through the discomfort associated with developing self sufficiency (long term focus). This truly does a disservice to our children, as self sufficient students often are academically successful and capable of building healthy peer relationships.

Let's help our children learn how to help themselves. Yes, there will be tears and doubts, but as rational individuals we know we cannot shield our children from all the bumps in the road. We can equip them with the right footwear to successfully navigate the terrain.

Posted on February 11, 2012 by Connie K. Grier, M.Ed.

Connie Grier is an educator,a parent, and a parent advocate. She has over twenty years experience in the Philadelphia school district and is the founder of a non-profit, The RESPECT Alliance, an organization devoted to respectfully empowering parents so that positive, effective and collaborative relationships are maintained between the home and school settings. Follow her on Twitter 

c 2012 Connie Grier. All rights reserved.   Please contact for permission to reprint.

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Tags: *Parent Engagement at Home , Character Development, Parents as teachers


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