Independence training for children between the ages of three and five is vital to their future growth and development. This is particularly true if their developmental needs for bonding and emotional separation were met during codependent and counterdependent stages of development. Children who are the most ready for independence training are those who aren’t hampered by unmet needs and incomplete developmental processes from codependent and counterdependent stages.

independent kidThere’s a significant correlation between the bonding needs of the co-dependent stage and the separation needs of the counter-dependent stage. The more completely a child’s bonding needs have been met, the more effectively he or she will complete the separation stage. If the child’s bonding was weak in any way, it usually means that he or she will not be ready for independence training during the independent stage of development.

Children who haven’t completed the important developmental processes from the first will have difficulty with independence training. These children may cling, act out with anger and defiance. Or they may pretend to be independent. In this case, children learn to erect walls around themselves to prevent the development of socialization skills.

Independence Training For Children

This period is a crucial time of development. Three-year olds are now ready to run on internal power. They  are more able to trust their own feelings and instincts. And they are more in touch with their internal rhythms, preferences and needs. Here’s a chart showing the developmental tasks that must be completed during this stage, and the activities to help children complete them.

Developmental TasksDevelopmental Activities to Complete These Tasks
• Master self-care
• Master the process of becoming a functionally autonomous individual separate from parents
• Master object constancy
• Develop & trust your core values and beliefs
• Achieve secure bonding experiences with nature
• Learn effective social engagement skills
• Develop secure internal working model of self/other
• Achieve secure bonding with peers
• Parents rearrange home environment to support mastery of self-care (eating, dressing and toilet training)
• Parents support development of effective internal limits and consequences
• Parents support learning appropriate deferred gratification of your wants and needs
• Parents support you in learning effective emotional self-regulation & control
• Immediate & extended family members offer nurturing, supportive and consistent contact
• Parental support to allow you to trust your inner sense of wisdom and guidance
• Parents provide you with experiences for safe exploration of nature
• Parental support for developing sensory relationships with nature
• Parents providing for reciprocal social interactions with other children
• Parents teach cross-relational thinking including empathy & respect for others
• Parental support in developing cause/effect problem-solving skills
• Adults model win-win solutions to conflicts

Parents Must Take Off the Training Wheels

training wheelsThis stage is also a time of coming back together for the child and the parents. The power struggles typical in the counterdependent stage finally end! Peace and cooperation slowly return, and children experience a renewed sense of excitement about becoming self-sufficient.

During the independent stage, children  area ready for more mature forms of intimacy. They yearn for independence training that helps them master self-sufficiency skills, and to master parallel play with other children. They love being able to “do it myself!”

Three-to-five-year-olds watch adult caregivers carefully. They imitate everything adults do and say whatever they hear adults say. Children in this stage love testing their capability limits–seeing just how far they can stretch themselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Children in this age group are also deeply imaginative and creative~~ even magical! It is as though their soul-force has fully dropped into their personality. Their eyes sparkle, they are animated and excited about life! It is an amazing experience to be around three-year-olds, as their exuberance is contagious, expansive and uplifting!

The Interdependent Stage of Development

This stage begins around age five or six and ends at about age twenty-nine. During this stage, children gradually develop compassion, empathy, and cooperation. This very long stage is really a time of “humanizing” children so that they will fit into their family, their community, their culture and their world. It involves much trial-and-error learning, as children discover their unique gifts and the paths where they are able to apply them.

Relationally, interdependence is a highly complex stage of development. It requires that children learn how to move fluidly and consciously among the three previous stages of development. This fluidity is possible only when children are able to clearly communicate their needs and successfully negotiate with others to get them met.

During the interdependent stage, children develop the skills necessary for effective adult living. Culturally, most people regard children as self-sufficient once they leave home. As our own children navigate this stage, we recognize this as a fallacy. Between the ages of eighteen and twenty-eight, children must establish themselves professionally, learn to manage their own money, find jobs, buy cars, rent apartments, secure mortgages, buy houses, and, sometimes, have children. These young adult children still need a lot of support from their parents during this complicated and challenging phase, usually completed by the time they enter their thirties.

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