In my opinion, the key to raising independent kids is to teach them responsibility and accountability. Obviously, you can’t go up to a two-year-old and say, “Listen, Alex, today you will be responsible for cleaning your room and if it is not clean, I will hold you personally accountable for it!” So instead, I am taking small daily actions that teach him these values. I came up with the following little nifty trick.

Step 1:  Every time you are ready to go with your little one to the great outdoors, show him how and what you are packing. Go with him over each item and place it in your backpack while naming it. Ask your toddler to help you by putting or taking out a needed item into or from the backpack. Stand by him while he places food, snacks and drink. Compliment him on a job well done! You’ll see that he is supercharged with excitement because he is “helping” you. Do it is often as you can for about 4-7 times.

Step 2: At the end of this period, start showing your little one that big kids and friends or relatives carry their own backpacks. Wouldn’t he like to have one, too? If you’ve done your job exciting him in the build-up about the backpack, he’ll probably jump at the chance to be like the older kids! “Now let’s go to the store and let YOU choose your very own, because you are a big boy too!”

Step 3:  Take him to the closest store with suitcases and backpacks. Have your child go over ALL the available backpacks and choose his favorite. You want your child to be as involved as possible, leading the process. Don’t choose for him. Resist the impulse to say, “Now, dear, wouldn’t you rather have this one instead?” You’d be teaching him not to have confidence in his own decisions. After choosing a bag that he wants, let your little one be in charge of actively paying for it and taking it out of the store. Let him
show it off and tell everyone about it!

Step 4:  At home, ask him to bring his favorite items for the next outdoor activity and place them on the kitchen table or countertop (or any other place he can easily reach). Now ask him, “Would you like to put these items in your new bag? Go get it!” He’ll run to get it as fast as his little legs will carry him. Let him open the backpack and place his items inside. Once the items are there, walk around with him and let him proudly carry or wheel his bag around.

Step 5:  Leave the bag close to the door so that every time you leave the house for a new and exciting outdoor adventure, it will be there, reminding him to take it. You and your little one may be forgetful at first, but within a week or so, it will become second nature for him to take the bag with him. Now he is a part of the planning and helping when it comes to playing outdoors.  Just think how this one simple habit will make life so much easier for your child and for you throughout the year. ! I’d be so happy if the rest of you parents shared your stories and advice about helping our children become happily independent kids. You may send your stories and comments to me via my site: www.baracklevin.com

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Barack Levin was born in 1970 in Tel Aviv, Israel and moved to Pittsburgh in 1996 to pursue his Master’s degree. Shortly after his arrival he met a beautiful French woman, Michelle, and fell in love. A year later, during a routine physical, he learned he had an irreversible and life-threatening kidney disease. He was 26 years old – the doctor doubted that he would see 30. But, despite this news, he refused to give up his dream of marrying Michelle and raising a multi-national family in the U.S.

Knowing he was living on borrowed time, and despite everyone he knew telling him he was crazy, he decided to become a stay/work-at-home dad and shoulder most of the responsibility of caring for his son for his first year of life (and, potentially, the last twelve months of his). “I wanted to offer him proper guidance, using some very unconventional methods, through the first steps of his journey to becoming a fantastic kid and a great man, a journey I feared I might not be around to witness much of,” says Levin.

Thirteen years later, Barack is alive and living in Atlanta, with Michelle and their two children. He is the author of the book The Diaper Chronicles- A stay at home dad’s quest for raising great kids, based on his experience’s, available through his website at http://www.baracklevin.com.