Raising Independent Children

Only one in five children can tie a reef knot, according to a survey carried out on behalf of the Scout Association. My first thought on reading this was, “How on earth will they manage to tie a neat knot in a silk scarf when they are older”, which may not be quite what the Scout Association was worried about.


I bet she knew how to tie a reef knot


While being able to tie an reef knot, or mend a puncture may be a handy skill to have, there are other items on the list that we really should be teaching our pre-teen children.

How to cook a meal – my daughter is 9 years old and recently asked if she could cook the evening meal. I was out for the evening, so she cooked Spaghetti Carbonara which was pronounced “almost as good as Mama’s spaghetti”.

Basic First Aid – and what to do in an emergency situation. Teach them the numbers of the emergency services, or write them down and make sure the children know where to access that information.

Laundry – from about 5 or 6 years old the children can be given their folded washing and asked to put the washing into their wardrobes or chest of drawers. They are also capable of putting their clothes in the laundry basket.

Housework – I am not suggesting that you make them do all the housework, but they can help to tidy up their toys. If they are home when you are cleaning, hand them a duster and let them “clean”. You may have to go back and re-do that bit that they did when they are not looking.

Table Duties – setting the table and clearing the table. Make sure they know how to load the dishwasher and when they are about 7 or 8, you can ask them to help empty the dishwasher.

Caring for Pets – obviously this is only suitable for doing under supervision. You cannot expect a 9 year old to remember to feed the dog every day, but there is no reason that your child cannot help to feed the dog, or clean out the hamster cage.


These are just suggestions, there are plenty of other things that you can ask your pre-teens to do, both in the house and out of it.


When we encourage our children to do things for themselves, they realise that they are capable of a whole lot more than they thought they were. It boosts their self-confidence and prepares them for life outside of the home. Encourage their  independence, make them to do chores themselves. They may moan about it it, but they will be proud that you trust them to do these things.

If you do everything for your child, then don’t be surprised when your teenager does not lift a finger to help you and you turn into the Martyred Mummy. You know the type. She spends all day running after her teenagers, taking them to and from activities, remembering to give them their homework, cleaning their rooms, walking the dog that they absolutely HAD to have but now cannot be bothered with.

So if you haven’t started yet, do so now. You can combine it with pocket money if you want; I prefer not to as I think that these “chores” should not be financially compensated.

They are lessons for life.





  • Kate

    It’s funny you post this today. I’ve just agreed with the children that they will “earn” pocket money by doing jobs. Jobs they have done willingly so far are dusting, hoovering, cleaning the patio doors, and keeping their bedrooms and playroom tidy. They are too young to cook independently but they have peeled things for me before now and like to help with baking. Monkey wants to make his own sandwiches if he’s hungry but he’s only allowed to make ham ones so he doesn’t have to chop anything. I have expected them to put laundry away and put it in the basket for sometime. I expect tidiness too, not that I get it but they know it is expected of them.

    Mine are quite independent children anyway. During the school holidays, we were in a Tesco and Monkey saw some sunglasses that he liked but they had no price on. I said we’d have to find out how much they were and without prompting, he took the sunglasses, marched up to a member of staff and said “Excuse me, how much are these please?”. I was so proud of him. I am also pretty sure they both would know what to do in an emergency – they got separated from me in the Sea Life Centre in February and Monkey took Missy Woo up to a member of staff and said “We’ve lost our mummy.” Plus they know about 999.

    I think I have allowed them a bit of independence and they like it so they will be happy to learn new things to become even more so.

    • mmelindor

      That sounds like a good happy medium.

      When my daughter started Kindergarten in Germany, I was amazed that they let the children chop vegetables and fruit. I am still hesitant to let her do it at home, and they let 3 year olds use a knife.

      It is great when they do something like speaking to a staff member – our two have been forced encouraged to order their own meals for quite some time now. Particularly handy here, if I am unable to pronounce whatever they want to order.

  • A Modern Military Mother

    J’agree! My 8 year old son is a professional shirker – his commitment to work avoidance is more tenacious than mine to being his taskmaster. Boarding school has helped – they are less maleable than me. I was thinking of pinning a note of apology ‘I am sorry I did my best but he was very good’ – it’s a different sort of independence. He told me that he would like a butler for Christmas. I said, I would too – maybe we could share!

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