American Dependency: I thought we were Raising Independent Kids!
My sister’s barely two-year-old used a stool to climb onto the counter, and rolled a watermelon onto the floor – where it busted open. Then he climbed down and ate it. This is actually a repeat incident; my nephew (C4) has learned to feed himself when his mom has her back turned. As she tells us about this mess, I smugly think, “Ha! My kid’s don’t even know where they put our stool…” Wait a minute. I may not have my sister’s problems, but am I raising independent kids?
Being Independent is a learned Skill
I may be a little too good at this whole mother thing… at least, that’s the self-confidence-saving-lie I choose to tell myself. We strove to give our newborns the comfort of having their needs immediately (if not preemptively) met. I thought I was teaching my babies that they were safe; they could depend on me. Now, years later, my sons are as competent at opening doors as… well, as they were when they were newborns.
Last week I read an article, published by Forbes magazine (and you should too), about counter-productive parenting behaviors. Re-armed with this knowledge and prepared to mold my independent children into the next generation of leaders, I allowed my 10-year-old to open a door for me. It went like this:
Number 5:*Notices that the door doesn’t open itself*
Number 5:*Smoothly pivots to the side, to allow me to open the door for him*
Number 5:*Looks around for a while, patiently waiting for me to open the door*
Number 5:*Eventually realizes I am waiting for him to open the door*
Number 5:*Pushes door*
Number 5: *Pushes door harder*
Number 5: *Takes a quick break (to see if I will rescue him), then continues to push*
Number 5:*Still pushing the door* I think it’s locked.
Number 7: Let me try!
Number 7:*Pushes door*
Number 7:*Pushes door harder* Yeah, it’s locked.
Me: *Points to the sign that clearly instructs to PULL*
Oh yeah… true story.
We don’t want to be those parents who had to legally evict their 30 year old son from their home. When things get hectic, it’s easy to lower our standards for the sake of sanity. Once school ends, we’ll have the time and energy to encourage independence and let the kids struggle. Our summer goal is to challenge the kids to do better in their everyday tasks, as well as some new tasks.
This summer, we’re taking the dependence out of independence.
Have at least one child in the kitchen working with us when we cook.
Verbally highlight traffic directions and situations when our driving students are in the car.
Challenge the kids to improve on their performance when they claim to be “done” with their tasks.
Focus on team spirit as it applies to working together to earn rewards (such as earning frozen yogurt at Arctic Ape Wild Desserts).
The Struggle is Real-ly Important
No one can grow stronger without resistance. Sometimes the struggle opens a font of creativity and determination you didn’t even know was there. The problem is, I can save so much time, energy, and stress SHORT TERM by doing things myself. It’s a dangerous pattern to get stuck in, because it adds to my mental load in the long-run.
The good news is that we had the best frozen yogurt of our lives, and everybody there was real nice to my “special” boys. And the next time we celebrate at Arctic Ape, we’ll get that door open in no time!
What “lessons” do you have planned for your kids this summer?