How to Teach Your Kids to Be Independent

 

Training-wheels

My wife and I enjoy sitcoms about family life. One of our favorites is Boy Meets World. Aired from 1993-2000, it follows Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) and his friends from middle school through college.

During the final season, Cory marries his lifetime sweetheart. After their honeymoon, he realizes they have nowhere to live! So he asks if they can move in with his parents. His father surprises them by saying “no.” Although it strains their relationship, he remains firm. He forces Cory to find his own place and support himself.

Another of our favorites is more recent – Last Man Standing. Aired from 2011-2017, it follows “Outdoor Man” Mike Baxter (Tim Allen) as he raises his three daughters through their final years of adolescence.

During the final season, Mike’s daughter Mandy also gets married. But there is an interesting difference. Mandy and her husband continue to live with her parents. There isn’t any real discussion or disagreement about it either. They just assume they can keep living there, and they do.

A New Stage of Life
The contrast is obvious, isn’t it? What happened in our culture over the past 17 years to produce such a drastic change between sitcoms?

Adolescence is no longer followed by adulthood. The age span of 18-30 is now called “extended adolescence” or “emerging adulthood.” This is an educated way of saying kids don’t know how to grow up anymore!

Major life events are now delayed. The average age of marriage has steadily risen from early to late twenties. And the majority of 18-30 year-olds still live with their parents. Researchers have simply created a new stage of life to accommodate these delays.

What Are You Raising?
This challenges us as parents. We must ask ourselves, “What am I raising? Am I raising children – or adults?” In other words, are you raising children who will depend on you their entire lives? Or are you raising children who will become independent, self-sufficient adults?

If you want to raise adults, you must treat your children like adults – while they’re still children. How do you do this? By entrusting them with responsibility. Teach them to do things for themselves; then stop doing it for them. Your children will surprise you by how much they can learn. But they need you to teach them.

Our oldest daughter (Sophie) is nearly eight. When she was in first grade, we did everything to get her ready for school – cook her breakfast, pack her lunch, pick out her clothes, etc. Before she started second grade, we realized she could do all these things on her own. So we taught her how and put them in a checklist. Then instead of reminding her to do each thing, we just told her to follow the list. Here it is:

Sophie's Checklist

We’ve also taught her to do several chores such as laundry, dishes, and vacuuming. We recently bought a chore chart to remind our kids to help around the house. And because we pay them, we are even teaching them to manage their own money!

The older our kids get, the more responsibility we plan on entrusting to them. Because we aren’t raising children; we’re raising adults.

How about you?

Take off the Training Wheels
Sophie learned to ride her bike without training wheels this summer. She was wobbly at first, so I held her seat until she balanced on her own. The better she got, the more I let go. She fell a lot! But each time she made it a little further. Eventually, she was riding around the entire park!

Parenting is like training wheels. We stabilize our kids while they’re young, but as they grow older, the training wheels have to come off! Will our kids “fall off their bike”? Will they fail? Will they get hurt? Yes. But between each fall, they’ll make it a little further on their own until they reach independence.

How are you teaching your kids to be independent?

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