They were watching television one Saturday morning when Marvin Kiiza’s seven-year-old daughter surprised him with a cup of coffee. She left quietly and the next thing he knew, his little girl was standing beside him with a hot cup of coffee in her hands.
Kiiza recalls feeling so proud of his daughter at that moment. “I looked at her in amazement. It was the first time she’d ever done something like that that for me. It was a simple gesture but for a girl her age, it meant that she was thoughtful and caring, and I was very proud of her,” he says.
Kiiza says he has always ensured to raise his daughter to be a responsible and independent woman.
“We always let her do simple chores like tiding up her room and organising her school uniform for the following day. We believe if we give her this sense of independence at an early age, it will help her grow into a responsible woman.”
Because parents dedicate their lives, raising, nurturing, and caring for children, and then letting go can be challenging. However, professionals counsel that imparting children with skills at an early age is very important for their independence and having a sense of responsibility as adults.
The early years
Family counsellor, Jolly Musime, says children need to be trained to be independent right from a tender age because then they are able to turn into self-sufficient adults.
The counsellor says when children are still young, parents should ensure that they gain simple skills such as placing their dirty laundry in a hamper, clearing the table after meals or even serving dessert.
Parents can even go an extra mile by teaching their kids simple basics around cooking, such as how to peel or wash veggies, she says.
“Some parents bathe their kids till they are like 10 years old. But this is not good; a kid around the age of five or six years should be able to take a proper shower on their own. You can start by supervising them while they bathe, but after a few times, they can do it on their own,” Musime says.
At the age of 11, Maria Mwiseneza says her daughter had mastered some cooking skills, tidying up the house, doing laundry and other simple chores.
“I would leave my daughter at home and be sure to find everything in place. When she was little, I always tried to engage her in simple chores, like cleaning up her room or we would even make the beds together,” she says.
Mwiseneza believes it is never too early to equip children with basic skills.
“There is nothing as disappointing as having a child who is incapable of doing anything on their own. As a parent, it makes you feel like a failure. To avoid all this, it is wise to train children when they are still young,” she says.
Musime says for a soon-to-be teen, they should at least be in the position to take the lead in whatever they do. At this time in their lives, the counsellor believes that children are mature enough to make independent decisions.
She says kids around this age should be able to, for instance, pack their own lunch, while preparing for school they should be in the position to make their own breakfast.
They should be trained to take on extra activities such as washing windows, mirrors or even help with grocery shopping.
Jerome Kayitare, a father of two, says if a child is given proper upbringing, they are able to accomplish a lot of grown-up tasks even in their teen stage.
For example, boys at this stage should be able to wash their parents’ car, mow the lawn, and do some gardening for the compound and lots of other stuff, he says.
“In case there are young siblings around, a teen should be in the position to delegate responsibility,” says Musime.
“The older sibling should be able to guide the little ones on what to do and how they should do it.”
Kayitare also says that a teen should be able to do things such as bake, prepare proper meals, manage their finances, and engage in community service, among other activities.
Why children need independence
Counsellor Jessica Kayitesi says today’s society puts parents in a position where they tend to ask very little of their children in terms of responsibilities at home.
Society has groomed children today to be self-entitled that at times parents fear to allocate responsibility to them for fear of coming off as commanding. However, the counsellor warns that this is not proper parenting.
Allocating responsibility to children comes with stress because you at times have to beg and follow them around to ensure they do it, but this happens for only a short while. After some time when the kids get used to this, they can perform on their own, Kayitesi says.
The counsellor says giving children responsibilities helps them to be productive.
“When we allow our children to be useful around the house, it gives them the sense that we trust their abilities, which gives them confidence. Kids also grow with a sense of self-worth for with every chance they get to accomplish things on their own, they become more confident, and this is important in preparing them for real life challenges,” she says.
Author Jim Taylor notes that one of the most important goals as a parent is to raise children who become independent and self-reliant people.
Certainly, in early development, your children count on you. As infants, they rely on you for nourishment, cleaning, and mobility. As your children grow, they become more independent in these basic areas of living, but still depend on you for love, protection, guidance, and support, he says.
Independence is not something that your children can gain on their own, Taylor says. They have neither the perspective, experience nor skills to develop independence separately from you, he adds.
You can provide your child with several essential ingredients for gaining independence, such as love and respect, show confidence in your children’s capabilities, and teach them that they have control over their lives, provide guidance and then give them the freedom to make their own decisions, the author highlights.