Last week I placed a post on Facebook about the importance of developing independence in kids. Specifically, I asked people to finish this sentence:
“I make myself redundant with my kids by getting them to_____________.”
The responses were fabulous, showing the diversity of approaches and ideas that parents have, as well showing a determination for children experience the feeling of confidence that comes with real self-reliance. (They are well worth a read!)
One person issued a 'Take Care' warning about developing independence in kids. This particular mother has found that her daughter has become so independent that she has become almost irrelevant in her eyes. This post struck a chord with me.
It shows that how controversial/challenging redundancy for parents can be.
As many readers would know I believe that a basic tenet of parenting is to teach kids the skills of independent living from the earliest possible age. Growing up means gaining the capability to look after yourself and others.
Parents, among other things, are teachers giving kids the skills as well as opportunities to look after themselves and others. It sounds simple, but it can be complex to put into practice. For starters lack of time means it can be easier ‘to do for kids’, than allow them ‘to do for themselves’. (For ‘do’ insert any self-help skill such as dress, do up shoelaces, get oneself out of bed, prepare breakfast….)
Also in a practical sense if you have more than one child then independence-building is uneven. That is, one child will generally relish the idea of independence often at the expense of others. But individual differences are a challenge that parents always need to overcome regardless of the context.
A mum may want her child to be independent, but no parent wants to be irrelevant. We all want to be connected to our kids and to be a part of their lives. Irrelevance though shouldn’t be confused with redundancy. They are very different.
In the quest for a feeling of relevance and connection we can do far too much for our children. I have been guilty of this in the past. As my children moved into the later teen years I would often do simple routine things for them such as making lunches, getting them up in the morning and driving them to the bus stop (even though it was only a five minute walk) as I desperately wanted to feel like a dad. I wanted to avoid feelings of irrelevance at all costs to the detriment of their independence.
Independence building becomes a balancing act between preparing our kids to (eventually) leave the nest while enjoying a close, loving relationship with them. Sometimes the desire for the latter prevents us from doing the former. This is natural, but as the old notion goes: “The job of parents is to give kids roots to grow, and wings to fly.” In an emotional sense for parents, giving kids wings is by far the hardest job of all.
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