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Lay foundation for your preschooler’s future independence

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Even little children yearn for independence. That's why it's OK to offer your child a little space to grow - just be available to provide guidance if they need a little help, experts say.

Give your child "the opportunity to explore and make educated decisions as they grow and mature," says Deborah Newell, Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) director for Parent-Child Center, a program funded by Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County. "As the child experiences small accomplishments, they build to bigger accomplishments, and this builds confidence.

When they experience failures, the parent is still a support system for the child, and this process also builds independence."

Here are some simple ways to build that independence, from healthychildren.org:

  • Set a daily routine they can follow.
  • Be clear about rules (wearing a helmet when bike riding, for example).
  • Assign jobs (like setting the table, putting away toys or feeding a pet).
  • Offer praise when they try something new or complete an independent task.
Making, and keeping new friends is important for development as well, and it can be fairly easy for parents to monitor.

“Many involved parents prefer to have children at their home for play dates rather than having their child go to another home,” Newell says. And that's fine, too. Whatever the situation, try to allow your child as a chance to negotiate friendships and social situations without your constant intervention.


• Deborah Newell, Triple P program director, Parent-Child Center

• Amy Simpson, former executive director, Boys Town South Florida

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