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Fostering Indenpendence

Approaches to developing the habits of initiative taking, problem solving, and shouldering responsibility that will ensure your child becomes a competent adult

Expert: Julie Lythcott-Haims

Positive Parenting Conference by: A Fine Parent


How to raise independent capable adults​: If a child has succeeded according to grades and trophies etc, all THAT has come, at the expense of things that actually matter.


What the childhood checklist should look like:

  1. Free Play every day

  2. Enough sleep - if you are waking your child up every morning, they are not getting enough sleep

  3. Your child must be able to talk to strangers in an acceptable manner - people are going to be interacting with you in your community, yet we are teaching kids not to talk to strangers.

  4. Children must be able to find their way around town without needing to text parents for help

  5. Children must be able to manage assignments, deadlines and work flow. Yet whilst raising children we are constantly there, doing things for them and we manage everything for them.

  6. Children must be able to contribute to a household. Eg: Fix things in the home, handle the utility bill etc.

  7. Children must be able to handle inter-personal problems - yet we’ve hovered over every play date and not allow them the opportunity to problem solve with their peers.

  8. Children must be able to cope with the ups and downs of life - such competition, tough teachers or people we deal with on a daily basis, tough bosses etc, yet we protect our children from anything we feel may harm them.

  9. Children must be able to cope with money - yet we keep handing money over without teaching them the value of money.

  10. Children must be ale to take risks - yet we lay out their pathway and handle the bumps - So childhood has been challenging to accomplish everything in the “checklist” but parents have been there every step of the way to drive them, handle everything, rescue them, so children become risk averse.


The answer is that us parents need to deal with whatever psyche within us that is so needy to do everything for our children.  


Our children's successes do not validate us as being good or successful parents, and that is something very important to remember.


“The minute your child starts to walk, they are learning to walk away from you.” As scary as that may sound, you need to give them the space to do that, are are obligated as a parent to distance yourself from your child gradually with each passing year in order to give them the security and confidence of feeling safe enough to explore the world away from us.



4 steps to moving away from a dependent child: 

  1. Do it for them

  2. Do it with them

  3. Watch them do it

  4. Let them do it on their own



2-3: Pack toys away, dress themselves with some help, put clothes in the laundry, clear their plates from the table, assistance setting the table, brush teeth, wash face, dusting, sort laundry into colours.

4-5: Know full name, address, phone numbers, emergency call numbers, feed pets, monetary skills, comb hair, choose their own clothes.

6-7: Mix, stir and cut with a dull knife

8-9: Simple sewing, use a dust pan and brush, read a recipe and cook, take care of personal hygiene on their own, create a grocery list, watering plants and weeding, taking out trash.

10-13: Stay home alone, buy at the grocery store, use the washing machine, make a meal with several ingredients, change their own bed sheets, use the oven, read labels, iron clothes, use hand tools, mow the lawn, look after younger siblings

14-18: Perform more sophisticated cleaning chores such as cleaning the vacuum bag, cleaning stove, unclog drain, fill a car with gas, add air to and change a tyre, read and understand medicine labels, interview for and get a job, prepare and cook meals.

After 18: How to make doctors appointments, manage medications, understand basic contracts, schedule car maintenance etc.


Research says:

Professional success came from children doing chores at home and having a part time job during their studies.


Children are far more capable than we ever were whilst growing up, of doing the things we did at certain ages, so why are we questioning whether they are ready? Something to think about..


What happens when you do things for your child?

  • They fail to take initiative

  • They end up missing the signals for offering to help as an adult and wait for people to ask them for help


Why is raising an independent critical thinker important?

  • We are living in an age where artificial intelligence is a big thing, so what are humans going to do if the machines become so capable and replace the jobs we once had? So as humans we need to be very good at the skills only humans are capable of, critical thinking being one of them. Soft skills like thinking outside the box, and coming up with interesting innovative solutions, are some of the critical thinking skills only humans are capable of, so we have to prepare our kids to thrive in this wild and unpredictable 21st century.


Critical Thinking: Make your child do the work of "thinking through" something:

When a child says: "Oh look there's a butterfly."

You can respond with: "Yes, that's right, there is a butterfly. What do you think that butterfly is doing? Why is it on that bush?"

Ask good questions that teach your child and open their brain to critical thinking.


Ask your child why they love something that is their “favorite”. This teaches them critical reasoning.

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Julie Lythcott-Haims'



As a kid, you're kept safe, you're given direction, and you might get a better grade because the parent is arguing with the teacher. But, ultimately, parents end up getting in the child’s way.

Lythcott-Haims explains how helicopter parenting strips children of agency and the ability to cultivate their own tools to navigate the world.


HOW TO RAISE SUCCESSFUL KIDS — without over-parenting

By loading kids with high expectations and micromanaging their lives at every turn, parents aren't actually helping. At least, that's how Julie Lythcott-Haims sees it. With passion and wry humor, the former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford makes the case for parents to stop defining their children's success via grades and test scores. Instead, she says, they should focus on providing the oldest idea of all: unconditional love.


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