"As children grow older, parents must give them greater freedom, including greater freedom to make mistakes. "

Growing an Independent Three Year Old



Our daughter is three and a half years old, and we have noticed that she plays very little independently. When I start cooking, she wants to sit on the counter and help; when I do laundry, she wants to help with the laundry; when I work in our garden, she wants to help out. I let her in on all these things because I loved that she wanted to help out. But my husband recently said that after being home a full day with our daughters, our oldest is very clingy and cannot do "anything" by herself. And he is right. How can I best start the process of correcting this? I created this problem, and I need to say that we have come to the point where I also need some time just by myself, even they are around.

Thank you so much!


It is excellent that you and your husband recognize your daughters need to become more independent. It is reasonable and even desirable for you to have some time by yourself-even to sort the laundry or cook dinner. I would recommend that you begin the process by assigning your daughter her own set of chores. The things she has been learning as she worked alongside you can now be her responsibility. While you are cooking she can set the table, she can match up the clean socks or deliver folded laundry to it’s place all by herself. Training her in this way to complete chores will be very beneficial as she gets older and is able to take on more responsibility around the home. I would also carve out some specific times during the day that are for her to play alone and not interrupt you. If she is resistant to the idea you may want to set a timer for 20 minutes to begin establishing this routine and she is expected to stay in a certain area to play on her own. Remember to establish this with an attitude of firm leadership. Growing more independent is for her good and you are the one to lead her towards future emancipation. If she no longer naps in the afternoon, I would have her go to her room during the time your 13 month old naps to have a rest and “read” quiet time. She can play with certain quiet toys and look at books (I wouldn’t allow screens). Learning to enjoy quiet time is almost a lost habit. You can help instill this valuable life practice at an early age.

You are in a season of parenting that requires a lot of service to your younger child and transitioning your 3 year old into a season of leadership under your authority. You will have more energy for the task when you enjoy some time to yourself. I hope my suggestions are helpful.

Debbie Bolch, Parent Leadership Coach

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