The Gift of Independence

My little guy is into the "I'll do it" phase of life. You know how that is. Sometimes you're not sure if you want to take them out in public because they dressed themselves. Right now, we are helping Jonathan learn how to set the table. He has taken to his job so much that I have found him perched precariously up by the water purifier, getting water for all of us (a job I would much prefer that I did, but oh well!). One of the things I have learned between having my first child and having my last child is that my job as a mom is to work myself out of a job. With Janna, I just got used to doing everything for her. It dawned on me one day that I was doing stuff for her that she could probably very well do for herself.

And that is one of the things about doing everything for our kids. Not only do we give ourselves extra work, we end up depriving our kids of the opportunity to cultivate the joy of saying, "I can do it!" You know what I mean, right? Whether they are zipping a zipper, tying a shoe or shooting a basket, there is a light in their little eyes that makes it worth the trouble.

When it comes to learning new things, I usually follow a sequence. First of all, I have my children watch what I do. With little ones, that means talking through what I'm doing. "Now I'm going to wash your hair. Let's put some shampoo in my hands and make some bubbles! Then we'll rub my hands through your hair and get it all soapy..." You get the idea. With some time, your kids will probably be able to run through the litany with you!

When they get old enough, I start supervising them as they do it. That is, I put the shampoo in their hands. I let them make the bubbles. I help them rinse out their hair. When they are ready, I stand back and let them do it themselves while I watch. I check to make sure they don't miss a spot. And then when I have seen them do it up to par, then I check in on them. Quality control, you might say.

A lot of parenting involves taking our children through these various stages of learning. It's unfair to dump it all on our kids at once. But when we help them take it one at a time, little by little, they will build their abilities to take care of themselves.

With the development of independence, especially in the teen years, comes the opportunity to earn freedoms in exchange for responsibility. There is nothing more "grown up" for a child than to know that their parents trust them to take care of things. Somehow they rise to the challenge when we give them that opportunity. When we reward them with freedoms, they are well on their way to becoming the independent adults that we want them to be.

Not only do I want my children to be able to do certain tasks, I want them to learn how to think and solve problems independently as well. Not all of life is going to be easy as 1, 2, 3. Some things are going to be challenging. Some things are going to take a bit of extra time to puzzle through. If we do everything for them, we seriously cripple our children. There is no possible way as parents that I am going to be able to foresee everything and fix every problem they have. I want them to be able to be armed with the skills to try out mutliple solutions and persevere. When they are able to do that, they are given tools for really living.

What are some things that you have been teaching your kids? How are you training them in independence?