One of the hardest parts of having kids is letting go. Giving them freedom and encouragement to make decisions and mistakes. This is a scary world with abductions, bullying and teen suicide, but hovering over them is not the answer. We must empower, encourage and teach them how to be independent and the earlier they learn this the better the outcome.
The opposite of teaching independence is helicopter parenting, which is prevalent in today’s society. Basically, the parents micro-manage their kids in all aspects of life, leaving them void and with low self-esteem. I witnessed it the other day and it broke my heart. I had a 28-year-old “man”, come into the ER after his dog bit his face. No big deal, not life threatening, just needed sutures. So his parents, who he lives with, are there with him. His mommy, asked me for juice and crackers for him, them proceeded to open the crackers and feed it to him. He is 28-years-old! She still treated him like he was 2! The young man, barely spoke and looked defeated. Yeah, because he had not been allowed to grow-up. How is he ever going to be independent, when his mom is still opening his crackers for him at 28? True story!
Another downfall of helicpoter parenting is it leaves the parents exhausted and worn down, because all you do all day is take care kids, who are whiny and demanding? Do your kids treat you like their personal assistant? You are in control and can stop this behavior. Teaching children independence will make parenting more enjoyable.
Here are 3 easy phrased to teach independence
- “Well I know you can figure that out”. This is the empowerment key. Moms and dads get hundreds of questions a day. Where are my socks? How do I do this puzzle? My first response when ever possible is “well I know you can figure that out”. Kids are used to doing everything for them, dressing, bathing, homework, projects, making food, that literally we need to teach them to think for themselves. You do not have to do everything for your child when they are capable of doing it themselves. We must give them opportunity to problem solve, fail and press on. We are their biggest obstacle when it comes to independence because we feel like we need to do everything for them.
- “Make good choices”. This is the encouragement key. Kids need to be thinking about options, choices and outcomes. Kids naturally are reactive and don’t think before acting or speaking (adults too have this problem). If they are about to hit a sibling, if you interject with “make a good choice”, instead of “NO or STOP”, it puts the decision-making process on them. If they make the right decision, praise them. If they wack the sibling, pull them aside, talk to them, ask them what decision would have been better. Tell them that this bad decision effected the sibling and yourself, and encourage them that next time, they can make a better choice. Then squeeze in a hug to let them know you are still supportive. Some kids are have problems with impulse control, so this is not easy but persistence is key. When they are away at school, ask them when they come home, “what good choices and what not so good choices did you make today and how is tomorrow going to be better? Kids have to start owning their reactions before the can alter them.
- “I know you will do a good job at…” This is the teaching key. This is more teaching them what you expect, but giving them the option to do it. Say you tween wants to bake cookies. You can say “I know you will do a good at being safe around the stove and cleaning up everything when it’s done.” For little kids, say they want to play with leggos. You say “I know you will do a good job at playing with them, sharing with your sister, and then cleaning them up afterwards.” The kids think they made this brilliant choice and pleased you, (and they did), but you were the one that set the expectations in the beginning. How are kids supposed to know what is expected if we don’t teach them? Say your kid wants to play outside. You say “Ok, I know you will do a good job at sharing, playing nice and not talking to strangers”. And if they don’t meet your expectations, (which is going to happen a lot), then you resort back to statement two and ask them “what better choice could you have made?” Let them figure out what mistakes they made.
Children are a gift from God and a command from God is to raise them right. Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6.
Repeating the steps of empowering, encouraging and teaching are ways to let your child learn independence and as a result make parenting more enjoyable.
Hope this is helpful. Questions or comments?