Habit #5 – Independent Children

February 11, 2015

Wise Familiesexpect & supportThe wise family expects and supports independence in the children in the family.

Sometimes don’t you just wish your little ones could make their own breakfast for a change or that your tween would do her laundry without reminding?  I know you are wondering if your kids will even remember to brush their teeth when they leave home for college and beyond.  And truthfully, some will, and some won’t.  But our job as parents is to teach children, tweens and teens how to become independent from us – not to hold their hands crossing the street into young adulthood!

As parents, you allow your kids to take on as much responsibility as they can handle well.   You teach them to make strong choices, based on what is right and wrong.   Wise families instill a strong belief in right and wrong choices and practice using language that supports the growth of these values.   An understanding that every choice has a consequence comes with this.   You come to realize also that you can teach your children right from wrong, but you can’t make them choose right.   Thus, the reality of consequences comes into play.  The key here is to allow them to make choices and experience the consequences, both positive and negative.

When our daughter began high school, we lived within a mile of the school and so she walked home each day.  One day, mid-winter, she came home, but had neglected to remember her house key.  None of us were even remotely nearby, and it was starting to snow.  I would like to say our brilliant, critical-thinking daughter went to a neighbor’s house to stay warm but, alas, she did not.  She sat on the front steps and cried – for 2 hours – and nearly froze.  I know you are worried!!!  She survived – and she has never forgotten her keys again!   

If they show you they aren’t ready to make such decisions, then you narrow the amount of freedom to make choices and make them for them again.   Once the negative consequence for making a poor choice is over, give them another chance to make a smaller choice.   As he/she makes better and better choices, you allow them to make more and more.

How long will it take for your children to learn to make good choices? Hard to say!   It may be different for different children.   Some will make the connection quickly between poor choices and consequences they don’t like.   Others will take longer.   You have to be the judge of when your children can begin making more choices.

Start this process early.   Let young children choose an outfit to wear to school.   It may be that you have to set out two or three choices for them, then let them choose from those.   If your child won’t choose, you may have to choose for them.   The important thing is you let them have the opportunity to learn.

And if your 23-year-old is living in your basement, please call us – no judgment – but I would bet that you could use some support of your own!

Do you have a comment to share with us?  Want to give us more insight into the stuff you see on your parenting journey?  Send us a comment below – we read and respond to everything you share!  And we LOVE a good (or way the opposite of good) family story!

Until next week, Be Wise!