Freedom can mean different things to different people. And often giving freedom to children is something all parents hold back from doing. Be it with regard to going out alone, or letting them handle money or even simple things like letting them choose clothes. But at the end of the day, all parents want independent adults. Now if as children they have never tasted freedom and learnt to make choices, how would they turn into independent adults?
Freedom and independence are crucial topics when it comes to parenting and we need to question ourselves – what kind of parent am I? A lighthouse or a helicopter? One is a beacon of light from afar that ensures guidance when required. And the latter, is something hovering over your child day in and day out, offering guidance for sure, but also dragging along a sense of annoyance.
US pediatrician Dr Kenneth Ginsburg, author of Raising Kids to Thrive: Balancing Love with Expectations and Protection with Trust has coined the term ‘lighthouse parenting’ to describe the tricky balance between protectiveness and permissiveness. We must make certain they don’t crash against the rocks, but trust they have the capacity to learn to ride the waves on their own.
As parents we feel it’s our job to do things for them. Pick clothes for them, serve food to them, clean up, follow up with their school work, keep an eye on their friends and the list continues. While it is natural and necessary to be protective of them, we need to understand that if we do everything for them, we are only making them weaker and more dependent.
They need to take responsibility for their own actions and if that begins at a young age, the more independent they become.
Independent children feel competent and capable of taking care of themselves. Under their parent’s watchful eye, children are able to grow, flourish at their various stages of growth and development, and are more confident in being who they are.
Here are a few simple tips on how to encourage independence in our children –
- Stop doing everything for them
From picking clothes for them or deciding what they will eat; stop doing it for them. Instead of deciding on their behalf, start giving them choices to pick from. Instead of doing things for them, teach them to do it. Instead of speaking on their behalf, encourage them to have and voice their own opinions, even on little matters. Let them pick what they want to do in their free time or pick books they want to read. It’s time we stop putting the books in front of them and asking them to read them.
- Give them responsibilities
Since everybody is living under the same roof and are making messes, everyone should be responsible for keeping the home clean. Chores will undoubtedly help teach your child valuable life skills, the value of hard work, responsibility, and respect for themselves and others. One day, your children will grow into healthy adults. And, when they do, they need to have basic life skills which include things such as cooking skills, laundry skills, money managing skills, banking skills, and the ability to follow through. Having this type of knowledge will help them grow into independent adults as well.
- Show confidence
Acknowledge when they make their own decisions or fulfill tasks. And this starts right from when a toddler learns to wash their hands on their own. A thumbs-up can go a long way in building independent adults. Because when they have confidence in their own actions and decisions, they wouldn’t mind doing things alone.
- Let them make mistakes
A parent’s biggest fear is that their child will make mistakes, experience failure and get hurt in the process. But in the long run, it’s inevitable and at some level, it’s essential that they make mistakes, fall and learn to get up. A typical helicopter parent is flying over kids to ensure they pick them up before they even fall. But it’s important they learn to have conflicts and resolve them too. Because they always learn better if they experience it rather than have it preached to them by their parents.
But the thing is, children need to be on their own—when it’s safe and the time is right. To figure things out for themselves. To find solutions to challenges. To make decisions about the kind of human being they’re going to be. To establish their own friendships- Without us. We are doing our children a great service by giving them a taste of freedom. Letting them run errands. Letting them be independent.
So, go ahead and let go. In the end, your kids will pleasantly surprise you. They will flourish and grow as people. You’ll see.