Monday, February 11, 2008
Making Independent Children
Our natural tendency is to make our children totally dependent on us. After all, they are totally dependent on somebody when they're infants because human babies are more helpless when they come into this world than the babies of any other animal. They require so much of only what someone older than themselves can give. While that is a fact, where is the transition from total dependence to gradual independence? At what stage in their development does this or should this begin? There is no concrete answer for all, because obviously, that will depend on the maturity and abilities of each individual child. But, gradual independence, to whatever degree it can happen with the child, should happen.
Now don't get defensive moms. There is nothing wrong with providing for your child and there is nothing wrong with loving to do that. But, are we raising dependent future adults or independent ones? How that turns out, is dependent on what we do and when, and, what we don't do.
There is no book that tells us when to start "transitioning," but there doesn't need to be because of children's individuality. God gives us great discernment though, if we pay attention, and if we let go of our own need to keep our children as our babies for as long as we can. There is a reason I know what I'm talking about. I'm sure all of us have been guilty of this at one point or another in our quest to raise our children and "love them to death."
I can't tell you how this should be done for you and yours, but I do know that we should start paying attention, once our children are out of the infant stage, to what we're intentionally deciding to teach them, so that they become more and more independent of us as they grow. After all, most of them won't be with us long and we don't want to look at them as adults and wonder why they don't know how to spend God's money (or save it for that matter), why they don't know how to shop (for everything from groceries to a house), why they can't fill out an application for themselves, why they can't work through a decision -making process, and the list can go on and on. I know of children, even at 15, 16, & 17, who cannot separate laundry, let alone wash it, cook for themselves (have even burned water!:)), or answer a telephone properly. Now granted, some may simply not WANT to do these things, but I'm talking about children who CAN'T, that are physically and mentally capable.
There may be good reasons, such as the fact that we weren't taught these things ourselves, why we don't teach these independent living and thinking skills to our children. Some parents or caregivers though, DO know how but have decided that because they love their children so much, they will do it for them, sparing the child the harsh task of learning things and growing up; as if the child really won't ever grow up!! For those of you that don't have the skills, there is always someone out there who does. We all just have to start with the decision that what needs to be done will be done, some kind of way. Pray and ask God to help you look for mentors in the church or schools that you trust, who can come alongside you. You could all grow together. A perfect example that I have for this is I wanted to learn more about managing our finances better, so I took a Crown Financial Ministries class at church. I had not been taught very much about proper money management, investments, savings, etc. growing up and I really wanted to do this better. I learned a tremendous amount in this class and I wanted to make sure my children had good financial management too. I knew I would start to model this for them in the home, but I took it a step further for my growing teenagers. They introduced a Crown Financial Class for teens and I asked one of my teenage boys to sign up and explained why he should take it. He took the class and also learned a great deal. This will go a long way with him when he finally leaves our home to take care of himself.
I have to say that I've become more and more conscious of the need to transition my children from dependence to independence, as they can handle the different tasks and thinking skills. I have learned some lessons to get there, but the commitment to doing it pays off. There are no greater payments of teaching these very necessary things than pleasing God, whom these children really belong to (he entrusted His children to us to do more with than just call our own and spoil to death:)), and seeing them in situations where, because of God's grace and your efforts, they make a good decision and take care of themselves when you're around, but more importantly, when you're not. We don't recognize that we rob our children of learning and growing opportunities. God expects for us to teach the right and good things that we know to the next generation. They will reap the benefits later. We will see God use what they've learned to ultimately glorify Him, that is, if we TEACH them to do all things learned to or for the glory of God.
Teaching kids to be independent in a healthy way is what's important. Being independent in an unhealthy manner leaves God and His sufficiency out, and teaches pride and selfishness (the sense of growing up and not needing anybody and doing everything in our own power and strength). That is not the type of independence we're talking about in this post. That is a whole other subject.
I am happy to say that with much prayer, thought, and intentionality, I'm co-raising 4 children, who in 2008, can cook (2, quite well), do their own laundry, help clean house, iron their own clothes, and sometimes some of them can even "think" for themselves and make good decisions independent of me:)! These children aren't all girls either. We have 2 boys and 2 girls (ages 9, 12 1/2, 15, and 17 1/2) and they can all do everything listed above. This isn't bragging by the way. This is to show you what can happen with any of our kids as a result of prayer, thought, and intentionality. My kids aren't super kids or know-it-alls. I'm just grateful to God that they've received instruction to the above things well. We'll keep praying for them, and I hope you do too. We've got a ways to go still, but with the right thoughts in mind, we may be able to present to society and the world 4 God-fearing, healthy-independent children or adults.