Children are becoming more and more independent from figures of authority; however, most of the independence I see is leading to self-destruction in their future as students' inability to follow directions and guidelines translate into adult workplace nightmares, job loss, and safety hazards. As a parent, I have strived to raise my girls to be independent, self-motivated, decisive, respectful Women of God who are not swayed by common opinions but can create and formulate opinions of their own based upon God's Word. This is no easy task by any standards; however, a few of my ideas may help those who wish to do the same with their children. Here are a few- six to be exact- tips I have practiced as a parent:
Allow Your Child to Choose an Action while explaining their Future Consequences: I have allowed my children to make decisions starting at a young age after explaining the consequences of these actions. Mind you, these were done with trivial non-life-threatening decisions. I have done this for choices that will have positive outcomes but also for negative outcomes. For example: I woke up to find the girls' room in complete hurricane mode. After making a pile of the items which needed to be cleaned up, I asked my two daughters to clean the pile. After 15 minutes, I walked downstairs to see one girlie particularly defiant and unwilling to comply with the task I requested. "Girlie," I explained in a calm voice. "I understand you don't want to clean the room; however, there are a lot of things Mommy doesn't want to do and, as a responsible person, I have to do them. I have asked you to clean up your pile. I'm fine if you don't clean up the pile; however, you are not allowed to leave the room until this room is clean. You cannot play. You cannot go outside. You cannot draw. It is up to you how long this will take." My daughter looked at me with the stubborn face of a set decision. "I don't want to clean the room." She calmly said. "Ok," I answered, "I guess you will be in here as long as you feel that way." It took my daughter 3 hours to clean up a small pile of items that day; however, I chose a parent and she chose a child. Her choice lost her three hours of playtime and the next time I asked her to clean her room, she complied. This will not work with everything we ask our children; however, it helps children to have a voice and a chance to see what positive and negative consequences will happen when they are openly allowed to make a choice. Allow your child to Help You Make Decisions (when appropriate): When we have a fun family outing day in which we did not have anything in particular to do, we allow our girls to have the choice of two different fun activities and then we all vote. It is fun to make a pro and con list with them, explore options and allow them to voice their opinions in family matters. You will show your child that you value their opinion and want to hear what they have to say. Additionally, you will be surprised at what kids find important or interesting to do. This simple act will, additionally, foster your child's deduction skills when making decisions for themselves later.
Allow your kids to problem solve on their own This is tough in a world in which most parents want to make their children's lives easy nor will allow them to fail. Because I have allowed my children to problem solve from such an early age, they have become quite independent. I loved to watch when they were especially young and would attempt to accomplish something without help. For example, I watched from the table as my daughter pushed a stool to the counter to get a cup from the cabinet. When the stool was too short, she tried to climb. When climbing resulted in nothing, she pushed the bar stool up to the counter. She finally made it up to the counter to get a cup, set it down, slowly came down the barstool, grabbed the cup from the counter, and made herself a glass of water. The look on her face as she announced to me that she got a cup was priceless. I was so proud of her problem-solving skills and she was proud of her accomplishment. It boosted girlie's confidence and self-esteem which made a trivial task turn into a major milestone and motivation to find other things she could master. Just imagine if I had gotten the cup for her, it would have been faster but had no consequence to girlie's development. Allow Your Kid to Get Angry Anger is a normal emotion; however, it is how we address this emotion in which can lead to trouble. Allow your child to be angry but teach them how to voice their frustrations with respect both in action, tone, and demeanor. Not only will you be teaching your child how to respond to this normal human emotion, but your lesson also allows them to think rationally while doing so. This instruction has a lifelong benefit which will affect their ability to work with peers, employees, employers, and with their future spouse and children. Allow Your Child to Work out Social Problems For as long as I can remember, I have allowed my girls to work through social issues with coaching and as little intervention as I could. This began when my oldest was two years old and she had to share toys with her close friend "Why don't you take turns?" I would ask. My best friend and I would set a timer for children to learn to take turns with particular toys. It is a sweet memory to reminisce of. As my children went to school we would have conversations, to the side, about behaviors of other peers and how to respond when friends would say/do something. As the girls continued to grow it turned into "how to respond to text messages, how to respond to this boy, and how to stay out of girl drama." I have watched my children grow, learn, and develop over their years and have cherished how much they involve me in their social lives and ask for advice not because I am perfect; however, it is because they trust me. I have never bulldozed them by approaching one of their friends, and I have listened when my kid has said, "Mom, I can do this." I have always told them I would step in only if the situation warranted it due to safety. I don't remember a situation I ever had to do this with.
Listen- God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason-Listen:
Sometimes the things your kids will tell you are important. Sometimes the things your kids don't tell you are even more important. A mom's intuition is not to be tampered with. Truly, if you notice something is off with your kid, go with your gut. One example of this was the year my daughter was in first grade. She had always been happy with school; however, suddenly, she was more emotional, angry, short-tempered, weepy, and exhausted when she came home. I was listening and I was listening hard. She wasn't saying much about school or friends, but her emotions and actions weren't right. After a lot of probing, I finally figured out what was going on. Her regular teacher was on maternity leave and the substitute was less than loving. In fact, the substitute was making my normally happy child miserable. After contact with the school, a visit from the principal, and observations in the room, the situation was corrected. My daughter came home bubbly and full of stories about her day. Success! Listening to words and body language is more important than lectures on behaviors.
In the end, we are not perfect parents. Only Jesus is the perfect Father to all. We are simply His servants raising His children under His guidance. I wish I had everything figured out, but then why would I need God? My every move is based on my reliance and guidance from Him. As a mom, God is truly my life preserver. So, whatever tips you read from up above, know that each one is bathed in prayer just as each moment with my children is bathed in prayer. My children are awesome, but it is all God.
What tips can you share that you have helped you guide your child to more independence and self-motivation? What have you leaned on in your Cobblestone Life parenting?
*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor a behavioral therapist. I am a licensed teacher and mother of four children. The information given below is strictly my own opinions and life experiences. If you have questions and concerns about your child, you should address these with your child's pediatric doctor.