The following is a guest post from Susan of The Confident Mom.
“The most beautiful sight in the world is a child going confidently down the road of life after you have shown him the way.” — Confucius
Confucius had it right—isn’t that what our job as a mom is…getting our kids ready to leave the nest? At what point do you start intentionally putting forth that extra effort to develop independence and self-reliance in your kids? How do you prepare them for a life out on their own?
It can start a lot sooner than you think.
You are in the position to leave an indelible mark on the life of your child, and you are doing it often without even being aware of it. That can be a somewhat scary thought — unless you are giving your child realistic expectations and encouragement along the way.
Preparing your child to launch into adulthood is a step-by-step process and takes years! The sooner you start, the more beneficial it will be for your child.
I would love to share with you what I have experienced personally on my own journey of “raising adults” as well as tips I share with moms I support on the journey of motherhood.
Take a step back
Allowing your children to do more for themselves is one way to allow them to become independent and self-reliant—both characteristics needed for adulthood. Often times we make the mistake of continuing to “do” for our children what they, in fact, can do for themselves because we want to be nice or feel it might be too challenging for them.
You might be surprised what your children can actually accomplish on their own if you just get out of the way!
Can four-year-olds make the bed? I bet they can. It may not look as nice as if you made it, but ultimately you are allowing your child to grow and take pride in a job. How about making their own lunch, doing laundry, or cleaning up after themselves in the kitchen?
Everything will depend on your child’s age, maturity, and current abilities, but when moms allow their children to begin developing life skills, they are often AMAZED by what their children can accomplish.
Never do for your children what they can and should do for themselves. I cannot stress enough the pride and independence that develops when we just give our kids a chance.
Remember, the goal is not to overwhelm your children by demanding too much—start by giving them new tasks gradually over time, increasing their role in their own care.
Photo by Whitney Sherwood
Most parenting books and resources offer different forms of manipulation in order to get children to do what you want them to do, when you want them to do it. Ultimately, this type of approach will backfire, as children will be less accustomed to making choices on their own. They’ll tend to wait for someone to tell them what to do or have trouble making basic decisions.
One mom I am currently working with shared with me what she discovered when she began looking at her parenting weakness with regard to her six-year-old: “She tends to have trouble making decisions, and I wonder if I have fostered this by doing so much for her.”
This certainly can happen if children are not allowed to make even the simplest choices on a daily basis. Giving choices allows growth and develops decision-making “muscles” that children so desperately need to develop.
By giving children age-appropriate choices, they will feel empowered and begin to practice how to make choices; they’ll discover what it feels like to make positive choices—as well as what it means when they makes poor choices.
Allow the wrong choice
Learning to let go of rescuing your children every time they encounter difficulty will allow them to experience how their choices affect them in real life.
Do you look out for your childrens’ welfare, yet still allow them to experience the consequences of their choices? It’s hard to see our children make mistakes or make choices that would not be the best for them. We love our children; we want the best for them and watching them struggle is very difficult. But it is really the most loving thing we can do.
When children are given the opportunity to make a wrong choice and then work through the results of that choice with a parent alongside them, they are learning more than a speech would ever cover.
Unfortunately, the lessons that stick with us are the ones when we actually have to walk through a bad choice and deal with the consequences. How many of us can remember childhood lessons to this day that impact our choices or past decisions? It is the exact same opportunity for your children.
I know I would much prefer my children make “wrong choices” early in life when the stakes aren’t as high rather than waiting until they are older when the stakes can be life-altering.
Every day you have opportunities where you can allow growth for your children. Are you allowing it to happen? You cannot expect your children to become self-reliant and resourceful unless you are nurturing those traits and allowing growth.
Nurture problem solving
Photo by Sarah
Do you jump in when your children find themselves in a pickle? When your children have a problem and come to you asking you to “fix it” for them, do you?
It may be time to start nurturing problem-solving skills. The next time one of your children approaches you with a dilemma, try stepping back and walking through the process of problem solving with them. This can be as simple as you asking a short question such as, “What are you going to do about that?” Allow them to brainstorm and come up with other ideas, instead of you jumping in and fixing it for them.
You want your children to learn to deal with situations they get themselves into without having to always call Mom, right?
It seems the earlier and more often I asked these questions with my children, the less they came asking me to solve something or think for them. They soon started figuring things out on their own without my help.
Isn’t that what we want our kids to do…figure out solutions to their own problems?
I am a firm believer that every child lives up to the expectations you have for them. Our job as parents is to create an environment where our children can learn life skills and develop characters that will carry them into adulthood. If you take the time to intentionally “step back” in some areas, you will see your children blossom in areas they would otherwise not have been given a chance to develop.
What can you do today to foster growth in one of these areas?