Raising Independent Children in a Helpless Society
We live in a society where teenagers, young adults, and even plenty of people in the middle and later years of life expect everything to be done for them. Collectively, we’re a helpless bunch and we don’t embrace responsibility. But is this really the future you want for your kids?
As challenging as it can be, it is possible to raise independent children in today’s society. However, it takes a concerted effort, lots of focus, and a willingness to create friction. Here are some helpful suggestions:
Adopt a Free Range Parenting Style
There are dozens of parenting styles, but some prioritize independence more than others. Free range parenting would certainly fall into this category.
“The free range message is children do better in the long run of life, if early on they are given sufficient opportunities to manage challenges and solve problems on their own – in accordance with their age of development and abilities,” Dr. Regina Pally writes for InMyArea.com
Free range parenting isn’t about letting your kids do whatever they want, but about giving them the freedom to assume responsibility, embrace challenges, and experience consequences.
Far too many children are given free passes and only pushed when they’re (a) good at something, and (b) enjoy doing it. Ironically, these are the areas in life where it’s easy to give effort. Thus, our children are growing up with a belief that effort is optional.
Children should be encouraged to put forth effort – even when they fail at something or dislike the task they’re facing. Encourage your kids to try new things and to work hard – even when they’re out of their comfort zone. Don’t accept quitting or a lack of energy.
Encourage Problem Solving
As a parent with years of life experience, it’s tempting to jump in and help a child out – particularly when they’re failing, frustrated, or facing potential consequences. However, playing the role of hero robs your child of the opportunity to figure out how to solve problems on their own. Encourage children to work through issues and challenges on their own (while providing age-appropriate assistance, of course).
Assign Chores and Responsibilities
Children should be taught about the responsibilities of life from an early age. Whether your child is 2, 12, or 18, there are age-appropriate chores that will instill discipline, work ethic, and a healthy sense of responsibility. Give your kids assignments and don’t be afraid to occasionally give them more than they can handle. There’s something powerful about coming to grips with limitations and capacities at a young age.
Give Fewer Toys
“Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School and the University of Illinois have proven that scarcity, rather than abundance, spurs creativity in children,” Sanya Pelini writes for Motherly. “A previous study came to the same conclusions: too many toys stifle children’s creativity. By giving your child fewer toys, you’re helping him develop creativity.”
Your child doesn’t need 100 toys – half of which are packed away in a closet never to be used. Pelini advocates for the 20-toy rule. By simplifying your child’s belongings, you give them more freedom to explore, create, and embrace the independence that comes from unstructured play.
Stop Doing Everything For Them
You have to stop doing everything for your children. As they age, obsessive parenting tendencies actually encroach on their ability to embrace responsibility and learn how to do things on their own.
In previous generations, 5-year-olds would wash clothes, 7-year-olds would be tasked with farming chores, 10-year-olds would be expected to get up early and perform manual labor. It’s not that today’s children are incapable of doing the same – it’s that we do everything for them. Step back and force them to step up.
Set Your Children Up for Success
Parenting doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Each situation is unique and no two children are the same. So while every parent must ultimately decide which parenting style is best, independence is something that has to be cultivated and prioritized in all children of all ages. Using the aforementioned tips, look for practical ways to improve your approach to parenting in the coming weeks and months. It won’t be easy, but the long-term benefits will prove rewarding.