Helping children learn new skills and gain independence

Many parents stand by in frustration wondering how they can help a challenged child develop new skills. First and foremost, we need to rid our minds of the word disabled. Perceive your child instead as challenged with the capability to be enabled versus disabled. The biggest gift we give our children is to step back and allow them to struggle a bit. Through struggles a child learns perseverance. Perseverance will fuel a child with the energy to work hard at developing skills and build self esteem. Our natural inclination as a parent is to swoop in and rescue a child when they struggle, cry, or attempt to give up because a learning experience has challenged them. As the parent of a young adult with learning disabilities I have experienced this feeling many times.

Unfortunately by rescuing our children we unconsciously condition them to be dependent on us. The ultimate goal must be to develop as much independence and skills as realistically possible. I cannot state how many times I have struggled with my own son and a child in the classroom as well who had a meltdown when I wanted them to do things on their own. I say pour your own glass of water, they say but I will spill it Miss Mari. I stand my ground with gentle acceptance. I let the child know that if he spills that it is only water and can be cleaned. Always resist the urge to “assist” the child when they have not done a task how we perceive it should be done. The end result is the child that holds up that cup of water with a grin on his face stating, “look I did it, and all by myself”! Priceless. If a child struggles to put on their own shoes, they are giving you the sign that they wish to do so independently. Buy them Velcro shoes to make their struggle towards independence easier. If their motor skill issues keep them from independently making their bed, by a comforter that can easily be thrown over the bed without having to tuck it in.If their efforts appear shoddy, remember, the child believes they did a great job. Acknowledge their efforts by not correcting them.

Parents need to trust their own instincts in encouraging children to thrive. Believe in yourself. Please know I understand and would love to answer questions. I leave you with this thought. The baby bird doesn’t know it can fly until the mother bird pushes it out of the nest. The mother bird instinctively knows it is time to help the baby grow. The baby bird will flutter when airborne for the first time. It than instinctively flaps it’s wings and flies off. What more could a parent – animal or otherwise – wish for their child?

Remember, you have what it takes and don’t ever give up.

– Mari


My Flesh and Blood
God sent you here to teach me
Some things I did not know
Through different eyes I now see
Individual paths that we all go
You’re not what I had dreamed of
The young man I thought you’d be
But you no question I love
God chose you just for me
The struggles they are worth it
We climb mountains every day
Together a fire we have lit
We’re a team in every way
On the mountain we slip and slide
Sometimes I get morose
Although it is a rocky ride
A life I never chose
I couldn’t imagine my life
With out you by my side
We do experience much strife
It floats in and out like the tide
In the end it’s worth the work
A special young man you are
Special awe of you does lurk
You have come so far
I know that you will continue to grow
I never have a doubt
Whatever paths you eventually go
May be a different route
I’ll love you for whoever you’ll be
Though different than my view
For you a great life I foresee
It will be up to you
As you go through life and become a man
And challenges confront your life
Please always remember the words I CAN
They’ll help with your strife
Remember that I love you
I always will be there
If you ever feel blue
Remember that I care
The struggles they’ll continue
Of this I’m very sure
I know I cannot change you
I know there is no cure
God sent you here to teach me
Some things I need to learn
Through your eyes I see differently
The world that I discern
All though it pains me greatly
To see you struggle as you learn
The world you venture into
Must be achieved in your own way
I can not do it for you
Your own path you’ll have to lay
You’ll fall and falter make mistakes
In God you’ll have to trust
For you my heart does sometimes ache
But let you go I must
I’ll always be behind you to help you when you fall
But you must venture out now
Your talents you must use all
You will make it on your own
I’ll be your cheering crew
Through your life much strength you’ve shown
Remember I believe in you

About the author

has written 7 articles for Enabled Kids.

2 thoughts on “Helping children learn new skills and gain independence

  1. Thanks Cathy,

    You are so correct. If we teach children how to be independent through coaching – versus stifling their development by rescuing them when they struggle with tasks that are actually within the childs reach – they will thrive above all personal and parental expectations. They need a trusting environment where they know it is acceptable to make mistakes. Look at it from this perspeective. When we learned how to ride a two wheel bike we fell off a few times. Only through trial, error, and repetition do we acheive our goals.

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