From the day a child is born, the separation process begins. A child craves independence and grows strong because of it. You do your children a disservice if you think it is nice and kind to do everything for them. We all need a helping hand at times, but we the children need a hand that shows us how to take care of themselves.
Perhaps it is your heritage, but people in this country have never been satisfied with dependence. The colonists started a revolution in order to gain independence. Cultural or human nature we your children expect independence as well. When parents teach a child to be independent and self-reliant they gain the child’s appreciation respect and love. When parents try to do everything for a child in hopes of gaining the child’s love and gratitude they produce a dependent child filled with resentment, anger, and hostility.
I know this is a difficult concept for some parents to accept. They enjoy doing for their young children. A child who is dependent stays close and even learns to let the parent do everything. Besides doing for these parents also try to absorb the consequences of real life for their child. They would rather help than see the child suffer the consequences of the child’s own behavior.”I’ll do it for you. I’ll make it better this time.” Of course there will always be another time. The we will either choose to be dependent and will remain so forever or the we will struggle and fight for power over our own life, often excluding the parents. By elementary school years, you the parents will begin to see this disaster of their own making. The problems become intense by teenage years. Parents can be faced with irresponsible teen, an emotionally detached teen, or a teen in rebellion.
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The solution: Avoid the problem of dependency by training for independence.
•Step One: Let us make choices and hold us accountable for our choice.
When we are allowed to make choices, we must also be allowed to experience the consequences of our choice. If we choose a hamburger and wish we had the chicken nuggets instead we can then choose to eat the hamburger or go hungry. It’s a valid choice. If we choose not to wear a sweater, let us be cold. It won’t hurt us and next time, will make a better choice.
•Step Two: Show respect for are struggle.
Don’t rush to do something for us when we are having difficulty. Encourage first. Encouragement is difficult to do well. If we say, “You can do it. That’s easy!” , you are setting the us up to feel bad. If we don’t manage it, we feel incompetent because it’s supposed to be easy. If we accomplish something “easy”, it’s no a big deal. There is no reason to be proud.
To encourage us, express faith that we will accomplish what you sets out to do. “I know you are frustrated now. That is a difficult thing to learn. You’ll get it.” “It took me forever to learn to tie my shoes. My knots always came undone.”
•Step Three: Take time for training.
We can learn many things if parents take time to teach in small steps and allow time for learning. Training time should never be in a pressure situation such a time limits. We can learn to dress themselves at two years of age if parents provide tube socks, pull on pants, pull on shirts, and velcro sneakers. A two year old will dress and undress ten times a day but by the age of three, the child can do it “by myself”.
•Step Four: Offer assistance without criticism.
Ask us, “Do you need help?” If so, explain how to again without more than it’s necessary. Patience is a wonderful teacher.
•Step Five: Expect us to do it for our themselves.
Always ask, could yourself could my child do this for himself? If the answer is “yes”, then let us do it. Put this note on the refrigerator. “Don’t do for your children what they can do for themselves.” Children fulfill our expectations. Refuse to feel guilty when you allow a child to carry his dishes to the sink, do his own ironing, pack her own lunch. The child ate off the dishes, wore the clothes, and needs the lunch. Mothers already know how to do those chores and plenty more. We need to learn.
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If necessary, declare independence day in our house today. We your children probably won’t thank you for it now. In fact, you will hear complaints daily, but they will appreciate and respect you for the rest of their lives. Independent children are happier children.