When our kids are first born the level of dependence they have on us is incredible. A newborn flat out cannot survive without their parents. Yet so many other species on this little blue marble do not operate like this.
A giraffe can begin to walk nearly 60 minutes after birth! My last child didn’t walk until after his 1st birthday… A number of reptiles will lay their eggs and never return to the nest. My kids can’t watch a Halloween movie and not sleep in my bed for the next three nights. Sea turtles somehow always manage to find their way back to the ocean. My kids get lost in clothing aisle at Target…
There’s plenty of reasons things are this way though. Our species has the luxury of being able to raise our children with minimal threat to their well-being. There’s also a plenty of mental development that occurs in those early years, as opposed to the physical development we see in nature for other species.
And from that first day, we are required to give that high level of care and attention to our children. There’s no other way to go about it. Our children simply require that we are there caring from them 24/7. However, the mistake we make as we raise our kids is transitioning from this dependent care to independence.
Our kids get older and we still get them a glass of water, cut up their food, help them get dressed, do their chores, clean up after them… and before we realize it, we’ve gone from parenting to nannying. Instead of doing things because our children can’t, we start doing them out of convenience.
We tie their shoes for them because it’s just faster. We keep changing their diapers because potty training is so difficult. We bail them out of situations when they get in trouble. We let them sleep in our beds because we’re just tired too. We continue to baby them and baby them as they grow older, creating more and more dependence on us.
And then what do we do? We send them out into the world and expect them to be functional adults. We expect them to be able to organize their lives, build relationships, start a career, be home owners, know how to balance a budget… the list goes on and on because as parents we’ve failed to smoothly transition them from dependence to independence.
We’ve let our children grow up in a world that doesn’t really reflect what life is really like. Now don’t get me wrong, every child deserves a childhood free of worries BUT if we’re raising our children to think that life is care-free and someone else will always be there to do it for them, we’re setting them up for a difficult adult life.
Our childhood is just a small fraction of what our lives are and what good is it to have a great childhood and then grow up and spend the other 75% of your life miserable because you don’t have the tools and training you need to make a better life for yourself?
So… the best way I’ve found to allow your kids to still have a childhood and also give them what they need to be successful adults is to start teaching them independence. Start small and look for opportunities.
When they’re old enough, let them pay for their own snacks at the store with their own money. Give them an allowance so they can learn the value of a dollar and give them chores to earn that allowance. If they’re thirsty, teach them to get their own glass of water. If they’re hungry, teach them to make their own PB&J.
They won’t be perfect at it, they’ll fail, and they’ll screw it up BUT that’s all a part of the learning processes. We learn by failing, let them fail now, early on in life, when you can still be there to guide them. Don’t wait until they’re 25 to teach them how to manage their money. Start teaching independence now. You’d be surprised at what your kids can actually do at a young age, on their own.