I love Being Independent. Schoolboy writing on a chalkboard.

Over the next two weeks we are strongly promoting “Independence” in our school.

We spoke in assembly about being independent and the children came up with lots of examples of how they can be more independent in school.

Next week we are encouraging pupils to start their day in school independently. 

In the morning children will be encouraged to line up in the yard, independently. Children will get a sticker for lining up without assistance. Parents are encouraged not to come into the yard. (Parents can stay at the fence if they wish.)

Class teachers are going to be giving pupils class dojo points for independence during the school day.

We will have a special “Independence” certificate at next week’s assembly

Here are some of the suggestions children had in Junior Assembly for being independent in school:

  1. Line up in the yard by myself
  2. Put on my own coat
  3. Zip up my coat
  4. Open my lunch box
  5. Peel a banana/orange
  6. Try my best to do my work.
  7. If I get stuck to ask for help.

At senior assembly, we spoke in more detail about being in control of your own learning.

We asked the questions:

  1. Are you an independent learner?
  2. Is your Learning effective?

We asked the pupils what does independent learning mean. We then discussed 11 questions whereby children had to rate themselves between 1(strongly disagree) and 4 (strongly agree).

  1. I am very self motivated – I don’t need parents or teachers to  motivate me to work
  2. I feel comfortable seeking support when I need it – I can ask a teacher for help
  3. I chose my area to emphasise when doing projects. – I feel totally in control of my choice
  4. I put a lot of effort into listening in lessons – to the teacher and to peers
  5. My attendance is excellent – it is rare for me to miss a lesson
  6. I get to my classes on time – it is rare for me to be late
  7. I study hard outside lessons – I complete homework, and spend time researching topics we are learning about
  8. I always catch up on work if I miss a lesson
  9. I am highly organised – notes are in the right copies and folders, I meet deadlines, and bring equipment & notes to my stations
  10. I feel comfortable asking questions – I can admit I don’t understand
  11. I am more concerned about making progress than constantly seeking praise and scoring easy marks

By adding up their scores over the 11 questions, the total score implies:

44 – 34 = Highly independent

34- 25 = Getting there. Well done.

24 – 16 = Some positives but improvement can be made

15 – 10 = Primary focus for term should be Independence.


 Some Parental Tips on developing Independence.

1. Teach self-help skills

Although it seems silly to point out, every day your child grows a little older and a little more capable of doing things on their own. As parents, we should be stepping back regularly to assess what we are still doing for our children that they could be doing for themselves. Are you still putting on your three-year-old’s socks and shoes? What about dressing your four-year-old, or zipping your five-year-old’s coat? Are those skills things they could be doing on their own?

Supporting the development of children’s self-help skills is not only important for children’s growing desire to be independent, but they also are critical in preschool and kindergarten classrooms. If you have a child heading off to preschool or kindergarten in the fall, now is the time to start working on supporting their self-help skills, including independent toileting and dressing.

2. Require chores and family responsibilities

Help support your child’s growing sense of self and desire to do things by themselves by assigning them household chores. Even very young children can do small chores, like throwing away their trash or putting their dirty clothes in the hamper. When teaching these skills, it’s important parents are encouraging and patient. Break the routine down into simple steps. Provide gentle reminders. Resist the urge to redo what they have done independently. The Center for Social and Emotional Foundations on Early Learning at Vanderbilt University offers a fantastic resource for parents with tips for teaching routines and lists of what skills are age appropriate.

3. Don’t fight their battles

Teaching children how to solve their own problems is a skill that begins in early childhood. When they are little, the problems might be over who gets the blue truck or who has more play dough, but those problems grow into bigger issues as the children get bigger. Teaching them steps to solve problems is a critical lifelong skill.

Teach your children basic problem solving steps such as learning to identify exactly what the problem is, thinking of solutions to the problem, analyzing those solutions for fairness and then trying it out to see if it worked. Help your children work through the steps, but resist the urge to give them the answer. As they get older, encourage them to talk directly with their teacher about forgotten homework or the dentist about the broken retainer. The ability to confront problems head on and deal with the consequences truly is a life skill!

4. Impose natural consequences

As adults, we know a lot about consequences. If we forget to pay a bill, we will have to pay a late fee. If we speed – and get caught – we might get a speeding ticket. But for children, it’s more complicated. If they don’t want to wear their coat, their parents or teachers might make them, and the child doesn’t learn that it’s cold out, which is why they needed the coat! Or, if the older child forgets their lunch, homework or gym shoes, and Mom runs them up to school every time, they aren’t learning the lesson that bringing their belongings to school is their responsibility.

Children learn best through natural consequences. Whenever possible, allow your child to experience the natural, or logical if natural is not safe or appropriate, consequences of their actions. Let them lose recess because they don’t have their snow boots or lose points on their homework because it is late. Don’t replace the toy that is left out in the rain and ruined. Help children learn about what happens when they do not follow rules or aren’t responsible for their belongings.

One of your most important tasks as a parent is to raise independent, resilient children who can venture into the world and solve their own problems. With some forethought and planning, you can help nurture your child’s growing independence!

Learn more about MSU Extension’s parenting and child development classes, programs in your area and more articles about positive discipline at the MSU Extension website.



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