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Teaching Independence, Competence, and Resilience

If you're like most parents, you want to raise independent competent children. But how? Our parenting expert and author, Dr. Donna Volpitta, is sharing an excerpt from her book, The Resilience Formula. Today she'll teach the concept of Scaffolding.


How Scaffolding Helps Kids Become Independent and Competent

A building is being constructed. When the building is being built, the workers set up a scaffold in order to support its safe construction. Gradually, though, as the construction is finished and the building is more secure, the scaffold is removed.

In much the same way, the job of the teacher or parent-when teaching ANYTHING-is to provide temporary support while simultaneously teaching strategies for learning. So when a child is first learning a skill, the teacher or parent will provide lots of support, but as the child learns, the teacher or parent gradually provides less and less until none is needed and the child is able to do the task independently.

The Scaffolding Process

Through the scaffolding process, parents and teachers give children greater and greater freedom and the latitude to be on their own as they learn the skills needed to function independently.

Riding a Bike-How Parents Teach Through Scaffolding

Probably the clearest example of providing scaffolding is shown through teaching someone how to ride a bike.

1. First, the instructor gives a lot of support-holding the bike steady while running along-side it with hands on both bike and the child to help the child experience the feeling of riding along without training wheels.

2. Gradually, though, the instructor removes some of that support-perhaps the hand from the front is slowly removed while the hand on back of the bike is still held on firmly.

3. Next, though, he loosens his grip on the back. As the rider gains confidence, the instructor completely lets go, but stays close, ready to quickly grab onto and hold the bike and rider if necessary.

4. Gradually, though, he moves further and further away until the rider finally goes off on his or her own. (From pages 40-41)


The scaffolding metaphor is a clever way to explain how parents guide children to learn new things until they can do them on their own. Then, for the child's sense of independence and competence, the parent steps away.

When counseling with families, I advised parents to stop doing for children what they can do for themselves. I believe the concept of scaffolding helps children learn to take care of themselves and feel good about themselves too.


Pick up Dr. Donna Volpitta's and Dr. Joel Haber's book, The Resilience Formula: A Guide to Proactive Not Reactive Parenting. You'll find excellent ways to raise resilient, independent, and competent children.

  Cover Donna

Available at Amazon.com

Let's THANK Dr. Donna Volpitta for her part in creating this important book for parents. When we raise resilient children they become independent competent adults. How wonderful is that?

Dr. Donna Volpitta

    Donna Volpitta, PhD


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With warm wishes,

Jean Tracy, MSS

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