Giving Kids the Chance to Do Things Themselves

October 9, 2013

Self-reliance Kleiner Junge beim AnziehenWhat are your goals as a parent and how do you know you’re progressing toward them? Have you and your partner identified a clear idea that is based on shared definitions? Or are you operating on assumptions that you both want the same results? Successful family building grows from clear intentions.

Most parents wish to raise independent, self-confident children who contribute to their family and community and who feel loved, happy, and accepted. As you dreamed of a family, how did you picture it? What goals did you frame and what values did you establish to guide you? While the busy-ness of raising active children commands center stage, and you are fully committed to your kids, at some point our children leave the security of the family nest and venture into the world at large.

As parents, we must balance being fully vested in our children with an equal commitment to their eventual independence. It is tempting to grow accustomed to being the compass that guides our kids. As they become independent, it is easy to interpret their rejection of our input as a rejection of us personally. But the lessons they learn are invaluable. Encourage this when they're little. Their mistakes will be small but the experiences build an essential skill set of life. This prepares them for the increasingly difficult choices of the teenage years when the cost of life lessons are significantly higher. By approaching life as a learning conversation to be mastered instead of feared, we encourage kids to expand their skills and grow.

Some parents feel that it's unsafe to allow kids to be self-determining and feel overburdened by an unending and exhausting weight of responsibility for their choices.

In a recent conversation with Lorrie Kuss, she asserted an interesting idea, that

One of our responsibilities as parents is to become independent of our children. Andrew Schneider notes that many of us feel inadequate as parents because we assume we are totally responsible for them, but we are not. Schneider says, "Their soul is in charge of their lives, and nothing that you do can greatly interfere nor greatly help. Who you are as a being and what you model is the important reality." How specifically can we support our children? We want them to feel nurtured and valued. We want to support them in learning how to provide for themselves. And we want to help them build good relationships.

 

When parenting kids with “Tough Starts” what adjustments must we make? How can we balance the fostering of independence and continue to be a safe harbor to which kids can return from the stormy seas to which their choices might lead them? When they fall or struggle with the outcomes they have created, it is important to affirm their initiative, to help them distill any insights. Without any I-told-you-sos!

Growing their confidence and skills is more important than reinforcing their need for our guidance, and our need to be needed. It is essential that kids have the courage to try and in the face of failure, to try again. Help kids develop their own problem solving skills and abilities to analyze problems and create solutions. Maintain a clear distinction between supporting them and solving problems for them. Champion their initiative, persistence, and inventiveness. Enjoy the slow shift from protecting them from the dangers of the world, to cheering their passage to the paths of their lives.

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