E - Encouraging Independence
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” ~ Denis Waitley
Jess had struggled with reading since first grade. Not only was it hard for her to read the textbooks and novels assigned, but because she read so slowly, the meaning was completely lost along the way. As the amount of physical materials became greater, Jess also had a very hard time managing them. It seemed that she never had what she needed when she needed it. She would often sit in class, looking around at the other girls, wondering why she couldn't read like them or be organized like they were. Her parents seemed to be endlessly nagging her with suggestions for making better grades.
At the beginning of 6th grade, the Intervention Specialist she worked with taught her how to use a text-to-speech program on the computer that read to her, and allowed her to make notes outlining the details of what she read. Once she felt comfortable using the technology, it freed up the mental energy it was taking to sound out the words, and allowed her to actually comprehend the text on grade level. At the same time, the IS sat down with Jess and showed her three different methods other children had found useful for organizing materials and being prepared for class. They talked about which one might fit Jess’ learning style. They agreed to test-drive a couple of them before making a final decision.
For the first time ever, Jess felt like she was prepared for class and was able to participate at a higher level. After awhile, she was advocating for materials she needed in the audio format, and was starting to plan ahead for long-term assignments. She and her parents couldn’t believe how much of a difference a few changes in her learning plan could make in how and what she was able to learn. This was a huge shift for her parents as well. It used to take hours to complete homework, and then sometimes it wasn’t completely finished or correct. The family went from experiencing tears and anger, to confidence and peace. While learning was still challenging in some areas, school and home life became a bit easier, and Jess was showing signs of independence she had never been able to realize in the past.
It is true that providing children with the tools they need to be successful often brings about independence. Conversely, if a child is constantly waiting for help, feeling helpless and unprepared, self-esteem suffers, and a fixed or negative mindset regarding ability begins to emerge.
The adults in Jess’ life empowered her with the tools to take control of areas of her academic life that felt very out of her control. As a result, she was able to gain independence, and experience success. Embedded in the plan were four critical actions we can consider to encourage independence in our children:
- Identify strategies that target and support areas of challenge.
- Model behaviors and strategies you want your child to exhibit.
- Encourage risk-taking in learning situations.
- Invite your child into the decision-making conversation.
How do you support growth and independence in your child? There is much to be learned from listening to each other and unearthing gems of wisdom. Let’s talk on the road to growing independent, resilient children!
Blogger Barbara Hunter, MEd, shares her expertise in the use of technology to support learning.