The Gift Of Independence
All too often we think that we need to level out, pave, and guardrail the paths our children take through life. It’s so tempting to snowplow over any obstacles they face and mommy-bully anyone who might make life tough for our little ones. And our big ones.
We want our kids to be happy… and their pain truly can be our pain.
But what are we teaching our kids when we circumvent hard stuff in their behalf? What do they learn when we do their school projects? What messages are sent when we cut their French toast until they’re 16 and buy them all the latest, greatest, expensive gadgets?
We’re telling them that they can’t do it…
That failure is unacceptable.
That too much will destroy them.
That comfort is happiness.
I don’t think those are the messages we are intending to communicate, but that’s what our kids are learning. We see it manifesting through anxiety and perfectionism, aggression and fear. Even rising suicide rates.
Our kids need to learn to solve problems. To do hard things and know they will survive. To do hard things and know they will thrive.
Anyone successful at life will tell you that it’s not comfortable. Doing hard things is the essence of growth! If we want our children to step out of our homes when they’re 18 years old full of confidence, knowledge, and resilience, we have got to let them practice being confident, growing knowledge, and being resilient!
It’s rough to watch our kids fail.
But our job isn’t to steer their ships away from the storms, it’s to teach them how to succeed in the wind and rain. We can teach them about waterproof gear and tacking and all the other great tid bits we so wisely have acquired, but then it’s their turn to sail!! We get to pep talk their minds and love their hearts and oooh over their muscles and feed their bellies, all in raging support of their growing experiences.
Maybe you’ve had someone support you like this, where you know you can do anything because they believe in you. I hope you have! The feeling of being supported is sheer power. Then the feeling of success is so sweet! When you’ve earned the grade, the friendship, the position, the triumph is unparalleled.
Robbing our children of this isn’t helpful. It’s not kind or saving or inspiring.
How interesting, that we act like a snowplow to make our kids’ lives happier, yet by doing so, we make it impossible for them to realize true happiness.
True happiness is living.
It is learning, it is owning your own agency. It is flubbing it up and seeking forgiveness.
It is accessing deep recesses of gumption and resolve.
It is learning to be charitable because you’ve been low too.
It’s learning empathy and vision, clarity and inspiration.
Parents NEED to guide their children, but the children need to have the experiences. If you booked an African safari and upon arrival, your host boxed you up in a bus and took you to the edge of the cool habitats to peek through slivers of windows to “experience the savannah” you’d be mad. You want a jeep! And open air! And a couple of close calls! And you want to be 100% safe the whole time. You’re the tour guide. You’re the one. Let them see those animals and feel the air! And keep them safe. It sure is tricky.
But it sure is worth it to have an adult child who knows who they are, why they care about the things they pursue, and which tools to utilize to capture any dream they might fancy.
That is happiness.
We can teach these things right in OUR VERY HOMES!!!! Wahooo!!
- Don’t be afraid to be messy, but clean up after yourself. Expect the same from your kids… and help them to learn this principle little by little.
- Let those kiddos make their beds the way THEY want to!
- Give them the chance to do their own laundry.
- Decide on a family saying that encourages independence and allows for help when needed, like “We do three tries and ask for help!” or “1, 2, 3 times to try a task… if we still need help, then we ask!” This is helpful if you have a child like mine who likes to lay prostrate on the floor and insist he can’t put on his shoes. Unless there’s a garbage truck outside… because then his shoe donning talents are lightening quick!
- Teach them a system for organizing paperwork, then let them try it out and make the tweaks they need to in order to be successful at school.
- Give those children something to look after… a plant… a pet… a special shirt. Maybe even dinner for a night! Kids rise to the occasion, let the world around them inspire, support, and challenge their abilities.
Do you have any ideas to add to this list?