Over this past weekend, my husband and I did something that we have never done. While our youngest was at a birthday party, we let our two older kids take the bus to a restaurant, eat there on their own, and then bus it home. Alone. No parents. Wow.
While they kept in touch with us every step of the way via their cell phone, we felt such a sense of pride and fear all wrapped into one. When did they get so grown up?
What possessed us to allow such behaviour? True….the weather was beautiful and seemingly the whole neighbourhood was outside. The sun was shining. People were generally happy and smiling and relieved that the winter might actually have come to an end….Or maybe it was because we have seen such tremendous growth and maturity in our kids over the last several months that we were just ready to let go of those apron strings and give them more independence.
Now just to be clear, my older two children are two years apart. And for many years they fought like cats and dogs. They still do bicker all the time. But when they approached us requesting to go on this adventure, there was a calm and sense of unity about them. They listened to our instructions intently and seriously. They knew this was a big deal, for us as well as for them. And my husband and I intuitively knew that they would be just fine.
So instead of getting the tantrum like demand such as “We can do this on our own!” or “Stop treating us like a little kids,” we got a well thought out, polite request from our children to consider allowing them to leave and share this adventure with each other. Some true sister-bonding time.
So how can parents assess whether their children are ready to take on more adult responsibilities? And to move them more from dependence to independence? Is it intuitive, as suggested, or does it need to be more planned out?
Probably a combination of both…
How to Give Your Child More Independence:
#1 – For the most part, most kids step up really well when given responsibility. By gradually increasing the level of responsibility that we give them, even before we think that they are ready, we are embedding in them feelings of confidence and trust that they are up for the task.
#2 – Our kids need the space to decide some things on their own, even if it means parents need to take a step back and allow their children to arrive at these decisions in their own time. This includes watching as our children do some things wrong and make some poor choices along the way. Our children will fare a lot better if they feel they are in control of their decisions. Parents can suggest ideas over and over to their children, but if our children feel the ideas are their own, they are more likely to follow through on them.
#3 – As hard as it is, and from experience, it can be brutal, we as parents need to ensure that we do not continually force our opinions on our children. As much as we would love for others, particularly our children, to respond and react in any given situation the way we would in the same situation, we cannot force it. We need to teach our children values and encourage them to stick to their value system when they make decisions.
#4 – Parents need to pick and choose their battles with their children. Particularly in the tween/teen years, there will be many battles. We need to learn how to zoom in and focus on the real important ones. And we must recognize that sometimes the important battles are those that are important to our children and not necessarily to us. Our children need the freedom to express themselves in their own way. So do I make a big deal if my daughters go to school with two different socks or a streak in their hair? Not at all. As long as they are dressed for the weather and are not showing too much skin, I frankly do not care how they dress. If they have dressed themselves independently and without incident, I consider that morning a success.
So I suppose from a parenting perspective, this weekend was a success. As we are confident that there will be many more weekends like the one that just past, we are just as sure that there will be as many parenting moments which will flop.
One of the primary responsibilities that we have as parents is to teach and train our children to be successful adults, as the motto goes….one day at a time.
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