I saw a wonderful TVC by Amul the other day. It shows young parents taking turns to wake up early in the morning to get their son ready for school. It’s a sweet little story that begins by showing enthusiastic parents, nudging each other to wake up saying “It’s your turn today to pack him off to school.” They are rather innovative in their ways to get the child to brush his teeth, shower, eat, tidy up and leave.
And there comes a day when the alarm clock does not go off and both the parents are happily snoring, while the kid wakes up on his own. After days of routine morning habits after waking up, the kid gets ready for school on his own, even fixes himself some toast and milk and waves bye to his parents when they wake up frantically, while the kid is just stepping out for school, smiling.
The child is rather contented and may be proud that he managed to get ready on his own. Blossoming independent attitude. Our kids need to develop that. They need this attitude to manage on their own if and when they need to and not necessarily all the time.
It’s beautiful when kids have the ability to think independently and make their own decisions. It is rare and fine quality.
If you want your kids to not succumb to peer pressure and get carried away with detrimental habits, helping them become independent thinkers is what you need to do. Here’s how you can do that:
1. Understand how your kids think:
It is important to know how they approach decisions. What do they feel about certain habits, societal acceptance, their friends, values? It is necessary to know how your kids think. Are they scared about being different and hence singled out? Do they worry about acceptance among friends?
2. Ensure that you are setting the right example:
If you worry too much about societal acceptance, your kids will emulate you and do that as well. “Log kya kahenge (what will the society say)” should not be the defining factor for your decisions. When that happens, “Would my friends like me?” will not be the defining factor for their decisions.
3. Encourage your kids to be courageous and independent:
In order to think on their own, they need both. Respect their unique individuality.
4. Teach them values:
Your kids need to be rooted in good values in order to make correct decisions. Honesty over acceptance. Morality over acceptance from friends. Humility over pride. Love over the competition. The list is endless. How you live as a family, sets the stage for the values your kids imbibe. You can learn more about this in our Soil and seed video series.
5. Teach them that failure is not taboo:
As long as they have the right intent and are learning from their mistakes, failure is good. Hammer this into their little minds. It helps foster independent thinking.
6. There is no need to fit-in:
Give them examples of your teenage years to share how fitting in not important but having a clean conscience is. And once they lose the fear of failure, they wouldn’t care too much about fitting in with peers anyway.
7. Help them choose the right set of friends:
Tell them what you look for in your friends and close ones. Gradually, eventually, they will learn who helps them and whose approval should matter at all.
8. Explain what independence means:
Even use corny movie dialogues like “With power comes responsibility.” These superhero movies have done a good job of exploring responsible independent thinking! NO harm bonding over some of them.
9. Be flexible when they do things on their own:
Be it serving themselves food and spilling some in the wake, bringing back wrong change from the shopkeeper or investing emotions in a friend who isn’t a good influence, let them learn. Be gentle, be kind, show tough love and always have their back. Lecturing simply doesn’t work with kids!
10. Trust your kids:
Only when you trust them, will they learn to trust themselves and their choices. So learn to trust your kids.
Hope these tips shed some light on how to bring up kids who are independent thinkers.
You can learn more about this topic by subscribing to our online parenting program and going through the videos on 8 Critical Abilities (Independent thinking is one), and other such crucial parenting topics.