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How Can I Get My Child to Work Independently at Home?

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

In this time of great change and upheaval, we are all trying to figure out the best ways to make everyone happy. Most parents are working from home now, even if your child does not see it that way. It can be difficult to navigate your work life and your home life when you have a child at your side, asking for snacks or to play. How can you get your child to work independently so you can get work done as well?

  1. Work Alongside at First: The hardest part is going to be working with your child and being her teacher for a little while. Teach your child what to do and how to do it. Write out a list of what needs to be accomplished before a certain time. Model how to stay focused for the time that it takes the task to be completed. This is also the time to establish a routine so your child will know what to do once they take over.

  2. Clear Expectations: As with all work, we need a clear set of expectations that we must reach to complete a task. This can be shown in to-do list or you can tell your child what you expect. This can also be done daily or weekly. These expectations will help you both in understand what needs to be done, and your child might delight in crossing out a task from the to-do list. During working time, if your child interrupts you, gently but firmly remind them that it is independent work time and they need to wait their turn, like in their classroom.

  3. Track Behavior: You child’s teacher might implement a behavior system in the classroom, and that is an important reason to apply it at home. This will help your child see what they need to work on and what they have done well while working independently. You can use stickers as motivation or develop intrinsic motivation by emphasizing your feeling of pride in what they have accomplished.

  4. Be Organized: By preparing for the week ahead, it will give you more time to work and less time setting up your child’s work time. If you keep your child’s work in a binder or folder, then your child will be able to quickly and easily find their work without your help. Keeping toys and materials in a certain area and organized by subject will ensure that your child picks work that is appropriate for them.

  5. Quiet Time: If your child is still hesitant to work independently, make quiet time a part of your routine. Set aside 15 to 30 minutes for your child to work on something you know they can do by themselves, like looking through a book, color, doing a puzzle, or pretend play. This gives you time to finish up any work that you need to do while your child learns that working independently is not as hard as they think it is.

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