It can be exasperating for parents when children are able to do something independently—such as get dressed, take a shower, or do chores without reminders—yet they don’t. There is a reason for this.

As children take steps toward independence, they need to balance independence and their new accomplishments that go along with it with dependence and closeness. They will need more contact with you rather than less as they take steps toward becoming autonomous because children refuel their level of confidence by connecting with parents through a feeling of safety and closeness. After they “touch base,” they are ready to move on to the next step toward autonomy.

Parents can also feel annoyed and frustrated when children want to be too independent. Sometimes children are determined to undertake an activity on their own, when in fact they need some adult supervision and guidance. For parents, it is always tricky to find the balance between keeping children safe and letting them spread their wings to fly a little bit. Sometimes parents can provide protection and guidance from a distance, as when kids are in the backyard playing while the adults are “supervising” with a watchful eye from inside. At other times, parents can find safe ways to include children in the activities that they would rather be trying themselves. For example, maybe the kids are too young to run the electric mixer, but they can stir in the ingredients with a spoon before or after the mixer is needed.

Understanding your child’s need for dependence and independence in conjunction with their continued need to feel close to you will make life easier on both you and your child.