Empower Back-to-School Independence

(Family Features) While traditional academics are an important component of a child’s education and development, not all lessons can be taught in the classroom. Teaching children skills for life often starts at home. With school back in session, it’s important to take advantage of learning opportunities for your children and encourage their independence.

Responsibility, confidence and independence are traits many parents strive to teach their children that can guide them through obstacles even after they are grown. You can create an environment for your children that encourages independent thinking with these ideas:

Encourage effort. Not every pursuit ends in success and children need to know that it’s OK to fail sometimes. Celebrating the journey and reinforcing the benefits of an experience are important ways to encourage effort that doesn’t reach the desired outcome. For example, a T-ball game that ends in a loss might be followed with a conversation about what your little player learned and what play he or she was most proud of. This is an opportunity to promote the value of practicing to develop skills and learn new things.

Acknowledge accomplishments. When your child achieves a goal, it brings numerous teachable opportunities. One, of course, is the joy of victory and the sense of pride and accomplishment it brings. Rewarding milestones gives added meaning and incentive for children to strive toward their goals.

Create fun learning opportunities. Some of the most unexpected learning opportunities turn out to be the most memorable. For example, you can make oral hygiene fun and educational for your kids by allowing them to become the coach of family brush time. One way to make brush time fun is with the Colgate Kids Interactive Powered Toothbrush, which encourages children to gain independence every time they brush with the help of their favorite characters’ voices. Available in Minions and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this toothbrush teaches children when and where to brush, and congratulates them when they finish brushing for the dentist-recommended two minutes. Find more information at Colgate.com/kids

Set high expectations. Children are generally eager to please and strive toward the level of expectations that are set for them. Every child is different, but always set the bar high. Setting expectations slightly over a child’s comfort zone is one way to encourage children to challenge themselves and try new things.

Give more responsibilities. Parents often strive to instill independence in their children so that they are eager to do things on their own. Giving responsibilities, such as household chores, is a practical way to show kids how to develop the skills they need to get a job done. For example, a young child may be able to help his or her parents fold clean clothes, but not yet be old enough to operate the washing machine or dryer. Fast-forward and soon the same child is able to do that chore “all by himself.”

Although parenting brings plenty of opportunities to nurture and protect, it also offers the chance to guide children in developing the traits they need to become independent, successful adults.