Raising an independent girl is not as easy as I thought it would be! Not long after Olivia was born I realized how different she was from the boys. She tended to to want to be closer and not as independent as the boys were at an early age and needed more from me. as she grew in to being a toddler of course me being a doting dad I did everything for her. Not long after turning 4 I realized that I had to start separating myself a bit from her and guide her gently in to becoming more independent. So here are some of the things I have done over the last year.
- She needs water – I have her get it on her own. for this she just needed a step stool so she could reach the tap. (although sometimes this just ends up with playing in the water so I chalk it up to sensory play).
- She wants to eat – I have her take a look and find what she wants to eat and then I will make it with her. If it’s a simple sandwich I put everything out that she will need and have her make it at the table beside me. Besides learning how to make her own lunch I have found that she will eat the food she has made guaranteed so it’s a bonus with no wasted food.
- Cleaning her own room – Since I have started with her cleaning her own room I have found that it takes a long time because she tends to play a lot while doing it, but the bonus in that is she no longer asks for help and really to me as long as the end result is a clean floor, how long it takes her does not matter. Oh and most recently she has been making her own bed on top of it
- making friends – I used to stay close to her in the park and be with her if she wanted to ask a girl to play, but I started quite a while ago taking a step back encouraging her to learn to introduce herself to new possible friends. At first i would stand a step behind her and then two and so on. Now I sit or stand on the perimeter of the play ground and let her make her own decisions, but when she looks at me for reassurance I smile and nod my head so she knows I am watching and she feels that boost of confidence she needs.
- Kids don’t want to play with her – It doesn’t happen often, but what do you do if she is shunned? You tell her they aren’t very good people to know if they are not willing to get to know you or play with you! You do not need people like that in your life. She has grasped this concept well and when it happens she no longer comes crying, she comes to me and will say “I don’t need friends like that daddy” with a smile. She will however never forget and if they do come up to her at a future outing she will tell them and I have heard her “I don’t need friends like you! I asked you to play before and you wouldn’t”! I am not sure completely on that part yet?
- To ask directly – I had noticed Olivia was getting in to the habit of hinting rather than asking for things she wanted. So I started to ignore her hints and would simply start telling her that I do not understand hinting and I needed a direct question and I would answer appropriately whether it was the answer she wanted or not. I had to rework this a bit though as I had to teach her to not ask for other peoples stuff. So be careful there.
- Playing on her own – For months Olivia would melt down if no one would play with her when she wanted. and it took me a good while to get her to a point where she would. She has now found the joy and imagination that comes with playing on her own as she can make the story whatever she wishes.
So these are the things I am concentrating on right now! I want teach her if you want something you get it yourself. I want her to be independent and strong and to know who’s welcome in her life and who isn’t. I want her to know what she wants and make it happen and I think little by little each day I see her becoming that person I so want her to be, but still want and need me to be there for her. I think I am achieving that. She’s happy, loves to joke and have fun kind of girl with a zest for life and she won’t let anyone drag her down. That’s how I want her to be.
I have come to realize that I cannot make her how I imagine her. I have to let her become who she is to become. I can only guide her and give her the strengths that will help her to become that person. If she doesn’t accept the guidance I give I now realize that that’s who she will become as she will only take from me what she needs.