Every parent has his or her own method of child rearing. While most parents have a strong impulse to provide for and protect children from upset or harm, teaching a child to be self-reliant is imperative for their long-term success. As with most other aspects of parenting, teaching self-reliance is challenging in that you must strike a fine balance in order to get the desired results.

Why Is Self-Reliance So Important?

The term self-reliance is described as the "reliance on one's own capabilities, judgment or resources". In other words, teaching self-reliance is teaching your child to be independent. At some point your offspring will strike out on their own (hopefully) and lead a productive and active life as an adult.

The skills you teach and values you instill in a child from an early age give him the resources to fulfill his own goals in life. This is one of the most important lessons a child can learn which shapes how they will live out the remainder of their years.

Finding the Right Balance

Obviously, the amount of independence given to a child must be appropriate to their age and level of maturity. Each kid is different; what might be appropriate for your child at a certain age may not be the same for another child. Learning how much independence to give and at what time is tricky for most parents, yet it can be accomplished.

First, understand that when given too much freedom and independence a child may actually become less confident in their ability to make the right decision, effectively reversing the benefits of being self-reliant. Conversely, if not given enough opportunities to think for themselves, to make choices and deal with the consequences, a child will become overly dependent on their parents and lack the knowledge or desire to think (and do) for themselves.

How to Get Started

As with any other lifetime habits and behaviors, self-reliance should begin when your child is young. Obviously, the amount of freedom granted to smaller children is limited; however, it is possible to lay the groundwork at a young age.

Young children can certainly help out around the house. If a child is old enough to get toys out, they are definitely capable of putting them away. At the end of the day, dirty clothing can be carried to a hamper or your little one can help put clean clothes in a dresser. Within reason, they can pick what clothes they would like to wear and what they would like to eat.

By giving your child both choices and responsibilities, they begin to learn about consequences. A child who has everything done for them and decisions made for them will lack the ability to do so for themselves as they get older. Parents expect to care for the basic needs of small children, but without self-reliance, these children will require the same care as they get older and sometimes even as adults.

Set a Good Example

It is easier to teach someone a desired behavior when you emulate that behavior yourself. For example, if you are not independent and do not display habits which support self-reliance, it will be very difficult to expect your child to. The old adage, "do as I say, not as I do" never works when trying to teach children how to act at home or in public.

This means that while you dole out certain responsibilities, you must be responsible yourself. You must be conscientious of your choices and what your children will learn from your example. When your children are old enough, share with them not only your successes but also your failures. In doing so you set the pace for life in the real world.

It is also important to allow your child to make mistakes, even if you know in advance that they will. As long as their health or safety is not compromised, making mistakes can be the best way to learn how to correct behavior in the future. Being independent doesn't equal being perfect.

Also discuss with your children the importance of setting goals and taking the necessary steps to achieve these goals. This provides motivation and helps keep both young and old working toward a better future.

Most of all, it is important to support your child through this learning process and remind them that you are there for help and support regardless of how self-reliant they become. As a child, especially in the younger years, building self confidence and self-worth requires having that safety net.

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