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Lay foundation for your preschooler’s independence

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Woman and child vacuuming

In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:

1. How to build confidence?
2. How to foster independence?
3. How to encourage friendships?

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 help, experts say.


Give your child "the opportunity to explore and make educated decisions as they grow and mature," says Deborah Newell, director of Positive Parenting Program, known as Triple P, for Community Partners of South Florida, which is 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," she says. "When they experience failures, the parent is still a support system for the child, and this process also builds independence."


Healthychildren.org offers these tips:

  • Set a daily routine they can follow.
  • Be clear about rules, such as wearing a helmet when bike riding.
  • 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 playdates rather than having their child go to another home,” Newell says. "And that's fine too. Whatever the situation, try to allow your child a chance to negotiate friendships and social situations without your constant intervention."


• Deborah Newell, program director of Triple P, Community Partners of South Florida

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

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