I am constantly trying to evaluate what level of independence my two children are capable of. One of my philosophies on parenting is to not do anything for your child that your kid can do. This is not realistic, of coarse, I pick up toys and pack backpacks, and I spoon feed kids that are more interested in toys then dinner. However, I acknowledge that my children are capable of many things that my patience is not, and it is so important to find the time and the discipline to raise independent kids.
New milestones don’t happen all at once, but there are many things that you can do child for far too long. As a parent, it can be frustrating to wait for the 5 minutes it takes my preschool-age son to put on his socks and shoes by himself, but its worth the wait in the long run. Once your child achieves this feat it does not mean that he is now self sufficient in dressing himself, but he should be encouraged to put on his own shoes at any opportunity.
Present your child with mental as well as physical challenges. Sing your child the ABC’s until she can sing them herself. Ask your child what letter comes after “g” without the song. Create games for memorizing geography, history, or counting. Practice writing whatever your child wants to write about. Learning new things can always be a game if presented as such. Encourage your child to struggle a bit when she is learning new tasks. Not so much that she becomes very frustrated, but enough for her to reap great rewards if she is successful.
Remove scaffolding. When learning new tasks children often need support to achieve success. When my preschooler was taking ice skating lessons, the teacher introduced new students to the concept of skating by allowing them to push an orange cone on the ice. As the kids became more proficient skaters she took the cone away and distracted them with other activities, kick a bucket and skate after it, throw a beanbag and skate to pick it up. The kids did not miss the support of the cone because they were focused on other tasks. The kids moved more slowly when the cone was removed, and they fell more often. However, they learned more quickly than they would have if they kept hanging on to the cone for support.