Independence day around the corner
WHILE raising independent children might sound great in theory, the reality is that it involves a lot of letting-go – something that can sound scary to even the most robust of parents.
But doing some groundwork now can pay off big-time when your little ones reach adulthood.
Clinical psychologist and director of The Parenting Centre Maleny, Dr Bob Jacobs (affectionately known as Dr Bob), said there are a few qualities we want to encourage when it comes to raising independent children.
“It’s an adaptive behaviour we’re nurturing for their adult life, but the onus is on us as parents to be walking the walk,” Dr Bob said.
He explains first we must come to terms with our own reservations: are we happy to accept that independence means they’ll be less under our control and, as a result, making their own decisions?
While the “punishment and reward” parenting model makes for a more compliant child, it doesn’t help to create independent adults.
“The goal is getting rid of any dependency on us – that’s there from day dot. From the time they’re 16 or 17 they shouldn’t be dependent on us at all,” he said.
“That’s where the ship is ultimately heading and it’s destined to set sail.”
Dr Bob suggests the more independence we can give our children the better, within the confines of appropriate safety measures, of course, both physically and emotionally.
But allow children to make mistakes and look for every opportunity to allow autonomy.
Here’s Dr Bob’s top tips:
Let children make their own decisions
Ask “what can they take over that I don’t really need to control?”.
Look to encourage autonomy in their choices – for example, does it really matter what time the kids brush their teeth if they’re wanting to do it at another time?
Respectful collaboration as a family
As adults we have equal power so we discuss things appropriately to find solutions.
A family is its own little community, even though as adults we’re taller.
Talk to your kids rather than getting into power struggles with them which don’t need to happen.
Instead, set aside the power and the rules: discuss what’s going on for you and get them to assist with finding a better solution.
Kids’ mental decisionmaking skills are enhanced by having a collaborative approach.
Try giving them a few days to come up with a solution on their own – they may even surprise you with solutions you hadn’t even thought of.
Err on the side of independence (as long as it’s consistent with safety)
If it’s a grey area for you, then go with the independent option.
Kids need both the ability to be able to make decisions for themselves and also to be comfortable in what they’re doing without adult supervision.
Permission to feel
Give your children the freedom to experience feelings without having to explain them.
When someone’s upset (especially children), we usually want to know why and to try and fix it for them.
But sometimes they don’t know actually what’s wrong and just need to sit with their feelings and work it through.
“Even babies cry sometimes for no reason,” Dr Bob said.
“It’s a beautiful thing to see a parent holding the baby and loving it while it’s crying.
“The baby still knows it’s secure and loved but it’s a great lesson to learn: you don’t have to change the way you feel to make someone else feel better.”
Give these little tips and tricks a go. As a result, you’ll have capable and confident adults functioning in the real world in no time.
TRY IT: Create a sense of independence for kids and they may just surprise you.