Parents need to stretch their vision and stop parenting for the short term. Parenting is a long game yet we seem to be more worried about raising happy children than competent or autonomous ones. Do you want your children to be living at home forever tied to the apron strings and your bank account, or do you want them to go out and make their mark on the world with confidence and in their own signature way?
These are really important questions to consider. What skills are you passing on to your children that will make them resourceful and resilient, able to cope with ups and downs of real life and the twists and turns that will definitely come their way?
Frustration and adversity are important
Teaching them to cope with adversity in their school years and to take ownership of their actions wires them for independence. Letting kids figure things out on their own teaches them to think and problem solve, skills they don’t have ti develop if parents hover and do things for their children all the time.
Yes, it’s hard to watch your child get frustrated with a task that might be slightly challenging, but frustration is a very necessary part of learning something new whether it is a toddler learning to walk who keeps falling down, or a child at school learning how to master a maths problem or negotiating a social issue with friends.
There is an epidemic of children who give up too soon
A successful and empowered childhood is characterised by children learning by doing – for themselves. Of course, we need to be there in a supportive and encouraging role, but we also need to believe in our children enough that they start believing that they are capable. We are seeing an epidemic of children giving up on things too soon or not even trying at all in case it is too difficult and they feel aren’t quite up to the task. They then get stuck in a cycle of learned helplessness.
This generation is also characterised by needing to be directed by someone or a device in order to take the next step in whatever they are doing. We need kids to outgrow their dependence on guidance, to become self-directed in order to focus, study and organise their own lives.
Advice for developing independent children
- Stop rescuing your children
- Let them solve their own problems
- Let them experience the consequences of their actions
- Allow them to fail at things
- Encourage experimentation
- See challenges as learning opportunities
- Praise effort more than outcomes (learning to work hard, to persevere, etc are skills that can be put into practise again and again)
- With sport and cultural activities give the game back to your kids – stop directing and advising them and let them own their own game with your support
- Stop nagging and negotiating
Kids are actually far more capable that we think. If you do too much for them they wise up to the fact that they can manipulate you and create a cushy life for themselves. Why not?
Stop being your child’s crutch
Your goal is to gradually extract yourself from your child’s life so that they become independent doers, thinkers and masters of their own universe. This doesn’t mean that you cut yourself off from them emotionally at all. Rather think about childhood as an apprenticeship for adult life.
Children need to acquire the skills and confidence to eventually fly the nest just like birds. You cannot remain there as a crutch forever popping worms and tasty morsels into their mouths without teaching them to how to fly and go and find their own food. Imagine a baby bird was never forced out of the nest. Eventually they would get so big that the nest itself would break and they would plummet to the ground and with no skills to save themselves whatsoever.
You need to let your child go in order for them to grow. Parent for the long game aiming to work yourself out of a job. It’s the best gift you can give your children and one they will thank you for one day.