How parents make kids independent

Magic moment: A mother accompanying her daughters at library. Children's first step towards independence begins almost at the beginning of their lives. Picture: BT file

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A CHILD'S first step towards independence begins almost at the beginning of his or her life. Their lives are filled with so many "firsts" — their first steps, first bites of solid food, the first time they sleep through the night on their own. To many parents, these are the magic moments.

A father of four children, Hj Sabtu Alias, 34, said that children should be taught about independence at an early age. "This will benefit them when they enter school for the first time."

By teaching them how to make informed decisions, such as allowing them to choose what colour of shirt to wear or which flavour of cake to eat, is already pushing them towards being independent, said the research officer.

He said that with a sense of independence, children would be more willing to try new things, such as interact with other children and teachers, introducing themselves to new classmates, tackling new skills and working independently.

Being independent also makes them less emotional and difficult when dealing with change, such as attending longer hours in school and being away from their parents for the first time.

Razali Hj Jasmin, 52, and wife Rustinah Hj Ujan, 48, also believes in teaching independence to young children. "If you know your child's potential, it is best to encourage them to make their own decisions by allowing them some independence."

As a teacher at a secondary school in Kuala Belait, the father of five daughters noticed that students who are independent "are very extrovert, expressive with their views... they can come up with various ideas and are more receptive to criticism". "They are always ready to meet challenges," he added.

He said that children first experience independence upon entering kindergarten. "It will be up to the child to find new friends, new sources of comfort and confidence."

Their 11-year-old daughter, Doria, has a curfew at 9 pm. "If she has a birthday party to attend, I would allow her to go," said Rustinah. "And it's important that we know the people she's meeting, be sure where she is, expect the time when she should be back and 9 pm is the limit."

Preparing simple meals, washing clothes and tidying the bed are some of the responsibilities that Rosida Jelinggai, 42, of Kampung Sengkarai, Tutong, believes could instil a sense of independence in her children. By performing their tasks, children will gain self-confidence and a sense of responsibility, she said.

There are also other advantages to giving chores to children. "These include getting them away from video games, computers and television."

However, Rosida is still sceptical about giving them the freedom to go out. "I think that only when they get their driving licence should they be allowed to go out with their friends."

An abundant flow of news about crime may also be making parents more protective, she said. "It's not that we don't trust them — it's the other people," said the mother of five.

Selanjat Jamau, a Brunei Shell Petroleum employee in his 40s, said that parents in the olden days were less protective of their children compared to parents nowadays. "Our parents seldom stopped us from doing anything even when it seems dangerous."

Zulkefli Abdullah of Kampung Sungai Liang, 36, agreed that parents today are more protective of their children, if not over-protective. "I guess parents are now more worried about their children's future.

"There are those who are overly paranoid that something bad will always happen to their children if they are out on their own without their parents' guidance," he said.

As a father of five children, all of whom are below the age of nine, Zulkefli feels that there are many things a parent should do for their children and that includes making the decisions for them.

"I do teach them how to be independent when they are still young to give them the experience and exposure. For example, when they first learned to use the computer, I guided them. Once they got the hang of it, I leave them to handle it on their own. That is independence as well."

The Brunei Times