Initiative is the ability to be resourceful and work without being told what to do.
Taking initiative helps propel life forward in purposeful directions. Initiative directs our attention toward a challenging goal and helps us overcome obstacles. Learning to take initiative is an important aspect of positive youth development.
It requires resilience and determination. People who show initiative demonstrate they can think for themselves and take action when necessary. It means using your head, and having the drive to achieve.
Very good, but how we do it?
It should be easy – because all infants and toddlers intuitively take initiative as they tackle the tasks of comforting themselves, learning to feed themselves, practicing crawling, walking, climbing, and talking. Unfortunately, however, many of our parenting approaches actually discourage our children from developing and enhancing their abilities to take responsibility and demonstrate initiative. For example, “hovering” and protecting children too much can stifle these innate traits.
The overriding concept is this:
- allow your children to do tasks for themselves,
- provide a supportive environment that allows for failure, and
- role model this trait yourself.
1. MODEL IT
Explain why you do what you do. “Look our garden doesn’t look as beautiful anymore, I will go to water the flowers. This also could be applied to any other activity. Usually we don’t make a big deal from what we do, but for children it is necessary to assist a process from the beginning to the end and connect the causalities.
2. LET THEM DO IT
. Empower your kids to know they have what it takes to get the job done. Kids can do more than we expect. If they come to you with a problem, ask them how they see it, what is their opinion about a possible solution. Assist them to think it through, then let them do it. It might not be perfect, but at least they’re learning what it means to see something and do something about it. If they feel like they’re able to show initiative, they will use it in the future.
3. PRAISE THE EFFORT NOT THE RESULT
Just because they’re doing the job doesn’t mean they’re always going to get it perfect. Celebrate them for taking a moment to try and do something they saw needed to be done. When it comes to initiative, starting and finishing the job is what matters; their skills to accomplish the job with excellence will develop over as they continue to practice.
For infants 6 – 12 months of age learning initiative means
- Allow your infant the opportunity and time to play alone for short periods of time.
- Encourage this behavior by smiling and talking to your infant when he is playing independently.
- Encourage your infant when she is trying something new. “Try to reach the toy. Keep going. You can do it.”
- Allow your toddler to fall down and calmly encourage him to get up and try again.
Teaching Toddlers and Preschoolers to Take Initiative
- Praise your child’s efforts – not the result. “I know you worked hard to wash the dishes. Thank you.”
- When your child asks a question, if appropriate, respond with a question. “What do you think?”
- When your child says, “I can’t do it,” instead of immediately helping, suggest other options depending upon the task. “Can you try doing it a different way?” “Tell me what you need to make it work.”
- Allow your child to make decisions so he becomes comfortable doing so. Even a toddler can choose which clothes to wear when given options or between a cheese or turkey sandwich. (This helps decrease frustration, too.)
- Allow a little extra time in your schedule so your child can do things herself – like putting on her shoes, picking out a book to read in the car before you leave the house.
- Provide opportunities for your child to have creative play – playing outdoors, playing with groups of other children in structured time, using crayons,
- Avoid screen time! Time spent watching movies, playing video games decreases the need to be creative and take initiative.