Fostering Independence in Children: A Workshop with Dr. Heather Tedesco

Dr. Heather Tedesco, a Northern Virginia-based Applied Psychologist, shared some research-based words of wisdom and guidance with our parents this Winter about fostering independence in children. Parenting, as we all know, is our most important — and at times challenging — calling and privilege in life, and the workshop was a wonderful opportunity to listen to, reflect on, and incorporate Dr. Tedesco’s helpful tips and strategies to help nurture confidence and independence in children.

The top takeaways from Dr. Tedesco’s workshop were:

  1. Allowing children to make mistakes. This may mean that you know the mistake ahead of time and you, as a parent, have to let it just play out and see what happens. Ultimately, what may happen is that you and your child will feel the joy of seeing what happens when the child, independently, learns from his or her mistake.
  2. Related to this is the importance of allowing failure and understanding that it is inevitable and something from which children should not be shielded.
  3. Being bored is okay! Unplugged downtime or free time is valuable. There is sometimes a need to overschedule our children’s time and take care of everything for them so they aren’t “bored.” Allow children to have truly free time and provide them the freedom to do something of their choice with that time.
  4. As a parent interested in encouraging independence, ask yourself these two questions: “Am I overinvolved?” and “What am I doing for my child that he or she can do for him/herself?”
  5. Recognizing the framework for teaching new skills:
  • Step 1 is doing something for your child.
  • Step 2 is doing something with your child.
  • Step 3 is watching them do it.
  • Step 4 is allowing them to do it.

Through the workshop, parents also learned the different types of independence: academic, in the home, learning life skills, emotional, and identity. With each, Dr. Tedesco provided valuable tips and suggestions on how to engage children, no matter what the age, in learning to be more independent. Her tips are provided in the presentation below.

Fostering independence is certainly a skill that can be learned and practiced by both parents and children. Dr. Tedesco concluded with this insightful quote, “Prepare your child for the road, not the road for your child.”

Dr. Tedesco’s Presentation