I recently saw a meme making it’s way through Facebook recently that basically illustrated how children are constantly asking for things to be done for them. Children who are capable, physically and mentally, to know where and how to dispose of their own garbage, and perform other simple tasks on their own.
I totally relate to the idea that our small children are very dependent on us, but it got me thinking – Are we raising a generation of dependence? Little people who, even now, have their own thoughts and emotions, and their own drive and will. People who will one day, sooner than I’d like to imagine, be on their own. Will they know what to do? Will they be responsible and independent adults?
Certainly, in early development, your children count on you. As infants, they rely on you for nourishment, cleaning, and mobility. As your children grow, they become more independent in these basic areas of living, but still depend on you for love, protection, guidance, and support. As your children reach adolescence and move toward adulthood, they become less reliant on you and gain greater independence in all aspects of their lives. This process of separation prepares your children for the demands of adulthood. But this progression toward adulthood is not inevitable.
We live in a time when so much is being handed to our children. We do everything for them, much to their detriment. Heck, we even try to think for our children and make their decisions for them. As we teach and train our children, I believe it is very important to teach them practical skills they are able to perform on their own – how to solve a problem and formulate opinions, how to create and expand on an idea, how to combat “boredom”, and how to get along with and serve others.
These precious little ones are only in our care for a short time before they must spread their wings and fly. It’s our job to teach them how to spread their wings, so they can fly on their own.
Here are ten ways to encourage independence and responsibility in your children, from the simple to the more complex ::
- Allow your children pick out their clothes and dress themselves at an early age. For us this meant that we sometimes went out in public with mismatched and backward clothes, and shoes on the wrong feet. You know what? They don’t care and neither should you.
- Middle school age children are old enough to set their alarm and get out of bed on their own on school days. They should also make their own breakfast AND pack their own lunch. Oh, and do their homework without any reminders.
- Have a list of daily chores for each of your children, with clear guidelines. Ours receive an allowance for completing chores ,only if they are not reminded constantly to do said chores. Not only does this show the value of hard work, but it also is a good lesson in self government.
- Limit media time. Often do our kiddos tell us they are bored, but then they must find something to do to occupy their time, otherwise they are given extra chores to complete with no additional pay.
- Follow through on your word. We show by example that when one makes a promise one assumes the responsibilty to follow through on that promise. We make no promise we can not keep.
- Encourage questions. While none of children are allowed to argue with us, or ask why, when given a task, they are encouraged to come to us and discuss their thoughts on any situation after they display obedience. We feel this encourages open communication and an environment that allows for them to feel safe even when they disagree.
- Give opportunity for open discussion. We talk about an assortment of topics with our children. We share our thoughts and opinions and allow for our children’s opinions to be expressed, without shaming or the pressure to conform to our opinions. In our house there is a clear line between fact and opinion.
- Stress the importance of thinking through any ideas or decisions before action is taken. Are my thoughts and intentions pure? Will this be acceptable speech or behavior? There are certainly consequences for all of our decisions, whether good or bad.
- No punishment or discipline takes place without discussing the offense in question. Why did you make the decision to call your brother names? Why were you disobedient?
- Give your children age-appropriate freedom so they can make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes. I am no helicopter mom. I don’t hold my toddler’s hand as he climbs the steps to the slide. I let my older children ride their bikes to the basketball court, and my little guys play out back without me.
How do you encourage independence and responsibilty in your children as they grow and mature?