One way to keep your child safe from sexual abuse is raising them to be confident and independent. That’s easier said than done. You don’t want to smother them, but you also don’t want to leave them alone to tackle everything on their own. So where is that balance? We asked people online and in-person what their best piece of advice is for raising an independent child:

Give them choices when asking them to do things. Instead of saying, “You have to do X,” say, “You can do X or Y – which do you want to do?” –Jen
Asking questions that allow them to come to a solution is a good way to help them think through the process. –Karen
Let kids learn to use public transportation without fear and efficiently. –@santillan0352
Don’t do everything for them, even if that means it isn’t done “right.” For example, my kids all had chores around our home. Sometimes that meant I cringed when I opened the linen closet to find towels that weren’t folded “right,” but I never refolded or scolded the kids. They got better at it over time, and I’m proud to say that the other day I was chatting with my 25-year-old daughter as she folded her towels . . . perfectly. –Kimberly
Make sure they know how to share!! –Casey
I let my 2-year-old and 4-year-old dress themselves. It takes forever, and sometimes their shirts are on backwards and pants are inside out, but I let it be (unless we go somewhere). They’re usually so proud of themselves after they do it themselves that I don’t want to crush their spirit by telling them they did it wrong. They’ll get it eventually. –@krystalerin
When my kids have conflicts with adults (teachers, coaches, church leaders), we practice a conversation they should have with them to get the information or result they need. Then I let my kids go have the conversation. It’s important they learn how to express themselves and learn to ask for what they need to be successful. It also stops me from swooping in and rescuing them. –Nichole
Allow them to do it. Whatever it is. Far too often, we get in the habit of doing things for our kids. –Shelly
Get them to ask for or buy things in shops. Builds confidence in speaking to adults they don't know. –@fiona_lowe_askew
Create a safe place for them to come home to so they have a place to turn to feel nurtured and loved. It feels safer to be independent when, if you fall flat on your face, you know you’re not alone and are encouraged to dust yourself off and try again. –Starr
Allow them to have an opinion as long as they express it respectfully. This helps with enhancing communication skills, creating and expressing boundaries, and the development of critical thinking skills. It also helps them to develop emotional intelligence. –@comfortinthestorm
When problems arise, focus more on the solution than the problem. When I feel upset about something they’ve done (hit another sibling, etc.), I ask them, “Do you know what you did wrong?” Once we are both on the same page about the problem, we implement the consequences of their choice and what needs to happen in the future in the same situation. When apologizing to someone for something they’ve done, I ask them to specify what they are sorry for, acknowledge why it was wrong, and commit to not doing it again. –Shelaine
Let your littles learn by doing. Yes, you may learn patience like you’ve never known in this process, but that’s a lesson learned for you too. Let them, pour the milk, brush their teeth, dress themselves, and much more! Yes, the milk will spill, there might be toothpaste all over the counter, and you may even laugh at underwear that somehow gets put on both backwards and inside out. True story. But eventually you will see that confidence grow to the point you’re both beaming with pride! –Lindsey
Part of being independent is learning that there are consequences for our actions. –@bltstewart
Know when to fight your battles. There are many a day when my three-year-old is wearing what he wore the day before because that is what he wants to wear. –Kaitlan
My son is autistic and teaching him SAFE independence has been a challenge. He tends to either cling far too closely to adults or be too independent for his safety due to communication challenges. We have worked hard to push him to do things on his own but still put boundaries in place for him. In order to make sure he not only understands the boundaries but is actually listening to us, we make him repeat the boundaries twice before he can leave. It has really opened him up socially and given him independence that he may not have otherwise, but we are able to help keep him safe at the same time! –Alysse

No matter what you do, keep in mind that it’s your attitude toward your child more than anything that will show them that they can be independent. Let them know you trust them, will be there to help them, and want them to succeed, and you can’t go wrong!

Most importantly, letting a child build independence allows for them to create their own boundaries and feel empowered to say no. It can build their confidence and make them more emotionally aware of themselves and others. It’s also a great way to make them more resilient. There is no surefire way to prevent a child from being sexually abused, but if you raise an independent child then they’ll be more equipped to handle the situations that may arise.

What’s your advice for raising an independent child? Let us know in the comments below.

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