"Independent; Raising Your Kids to Be"
“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3
Tim and I have tried to encourage Cody (he’s in his sophomore year of college) and Morgan’s independence appropriate to their age since our kids were young, always having in mind our ultimate goal of them being independent from us (for the most part anyway!).
Here are a few principles of independence we’ve used:
- Prayer. When we encourage our kids to be more independent, whether it’s a tiny step when they’re very young or a much bigger step as they’re older, we pray for God to protect, watch over, and guide them. We also pray that we will encourage the independence they need—it’s a step of faith for parents too!
- When Cody and Morgan were young, “independent” meant small steps like asking an adult in a store a question about where to find something. Sometimes they were reluctant to take these steps to independence, but we were encouraging and pushed them to do so when we knew they were ready. As they became older, we thought about the skills and abilities they’d need as adults (or almost adults) when they were on their own (or almost on their own).
- Encourage age-appropriate steps to independence. I knew it was time for Cody and Morgan to learn to do their own laundry when they complained about how I did it (I put their jeans in the dryer!). They were about 12 and 14 years old and have been doing their own laundry ever since! J
- Be alert for situations that can increase your kids’ independence. When Cody and Morgan were about 8 years old or so Tim started asking them to get supplies at cattle shows. He watched them (without their knowing) at first, until he and they were more confident; gradually they did errands that took them further away from Tim.
- Gradually give more financial independence. Depending on your kids’ opportunity for income, gradually increase what they pay for, or at least partially pay for. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to do this (unless you don’t do it at all!); some parents give an allowance with the expectation that the kids pay for certain things, and some kids get part time jobs to pay for specified items. Tim gave our kids several cows as soon as they were old enough to help with chores. They got the proceeds from the calves and after the cows were sold, after feed and vet expenses. With their potential for income they’ve been expected to pay for insurance, make care payments, etc. Now their cattle herds are financing their college educations. Figure out what works for your family.
- Talk through “what if” situations with your kids. Before you leave them alone at home, ask “what if” someone came to the door? They smelled smoke? Before you allow them to look at the toys by themselves while you grocery shop, ask “what if” someone you don’t know talks to you? They can’t find you at the designated time?
- Ask your kids what they want to, or need to learn. When I asked Morgan what I needed to teach her before she left for college, her reply was, “More about cooking.” We settled on a few basic recipes which we’ve been making together since then.
- We had to keep in mind the fact that our kids would probably make some mistakes in their quest toward independence. However, we’d rather have them make those mistakes while they were home and we could help them deal with the mistakes (NOT “solve” them, but help them work through the mistakes) and figure out what they could do to prevent making the same mistake again.
- Teach your kids how to get/find the answers. When Morgan’s noticed weird charges on her debit card, we looked over the charges together, figured out when it had been compromised, and she went to the bank to fill out the paperwork and get a new one. When Cody wanted to buy his first vehicle, he made an appointment with the banker to figure out how much money he could borrow (he’s making the payments after selling cattle).
- Reassure your kids that you’ll always be there to help them when needed. Resist the temptation to solve the problem, but instead, help them work through the steps they need to take.
There are many things you can do to encourage independence in all areas of your kids’ lives: encourage them to…
- Pick out cereal while you’re in the next aisle.
- Go back for something you’ve forgotten when you’re in the check-out line.
- Go into your hometown store and purchase something all by themselves.
- Go to the bathroom by themselves in church.
- Have their own checkbook and learn to use it and check their bank statement online.
- Have them call to make their own dentist, haircut, and oil-change appointments.
- Be responsible for homework; in our family our kids knew they could always ask us for help, or to quiz them for a test or proofread a paper, but we weren’t going to continually ask them if their homework was done, or offer to check over it unless they specifically asked. There was a flip side to this; if they didn’t maintain good grades, they couldn’t go to cattle show or out with friends.
Start with small steps toward independence, and the transition to more independence will be much smoother!
I’m also blogging at Nebraska Family Times
See my post today about the “Whiney Israelites.”