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  • Olivia Sanders
    Olivia Sanders

    Escaping a Childhood Rut: How Parents Can Help Their Youngest Child Become Independent

    It's a common belief that the life of the youngest in a family is never easy. Whether they're the oldest, middle or youngest, all siblings come with unique qualities and traits. But in the case of younger children—in particular only children—the tendency to remain trapped in a childhood rut can become difficult for them and their parents alike.

    When it comes to parenting, the youngest child often gets overlooked or forgotten about as their older siblings may hog up most of the attention. This can lead to a strong sense of insecurity and, in consequence, their behavior may often mimic that of a child, depending on the level of attentiveness from their parents. Due to a lack of reprimand or clear boundaries, youngest children tend to resist positive changes, feeling overwhelmed by uncertainties and a sense of powerlessness.

    This happens both consciously and subconsciously, as they may be so used to relying on their parents and having them take control over decisions that it becomes a default setting whenever faced with something new and unknown. As a result, parents are faced with an especial challenge when trying to help their youngest break out of this rut and learn how to properly deal with life's situations.

    Some parents go so far as to "baby" their youngest out of love, unintentionally aiding the pattern of dysfunctional behavior in their attempt to remove all obstacles and make everything feel safe. Others may be so exhausted from parenting that maintaining discipline is no longer at the top of their list. In either case, it is still possible for the child to reclaim their autonomy without parental intervention.

    The first step towards independence is for the child to recognize how their present behaviors impact their future self and learn how to adjust accordingly. For example, learning how to accept rejection without becoming discouraged or figuring out how to work smarter instead of harder may help shape the child's mentality in a way that encourages growth.

    Parents can likewise help boost their children's confidence and foster a sense of autonomy by showing increased trust in their decisions, providing plenty of praise when deserved, and making clear what the family norms are—all while being available as a support system when needed. Adults should also aim to offer younger children at least some level of responsibility when they are ready, such as assigning chores or helping with daily activities around the house.

    Breaking out of a childhood rut involves effort from both the child and parent. Through continual perseverance, even the youngest children can learn to become more independent and recognize that being an adult can be both exciting and satisfying. With enough guidance and support, anyone can start to find their way out of childhood's limitations and take charge of their future.

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