The Goal is Independence   1 comment

image from Coaching with Horses

 

I have always listened carefully to those who are a little farther down the road than I when it comes to parenting and homeschooling.  I have tried to learn from their successes and mistakes.  Many years ago, when my kids were small, a friend who had adult and teen children told me about her experience in raising teens.  She wanted her teens to be independent and be making their own choices about their lives with her being there for guidance if they needed her.  I liked what I saw in her kids – the way they interacted with her on an adult level, they informed her about where they were going – but not asking like a little kid.  They always looked me in the eye and spoke to me like a fellow adult – not with mumbling and downcast eyes like I see so often with teens.  I wanted teens like that, so I followed her advice.

This was very different from my experience as a teen.  I was still very much a little kid – having to ask my parents permission to do anything or go anywhere, I didn’t have a job because my parents believed I had the rest of my life to worry about work (that’s a subject for a future post).  My life at 16 was not much different than when I was 10 – I went to school, my parents took care of everything and I wasn’t being well prepared for life outside of my childhood home.

I began putting my friend’s advice into practice.  My goal was/is to have my kids, by their mid teens, be prepared for life on their own.  They basically decide how to spend their time, how to manage money, how to hold a job and deal with people at that job.  This sounds pretty obvious, but in reality I think many teens aren’t given enough responsibilities and their parents are still running the show – and doing their laundry – when they hit 18.  

Without that push for independence, my boys would have never been able to experience their road trips to South Dakota on their own when they were 16 and 12 and then to Gettysburg and D.C. when they were 18 and 14.  For the last year, my 15 year old often stays alone for days at his grandparents’ cabin enjoying solitude and an environment he loves – the woods.  Last summer, when the boys were 18 and 14, I entrusted our then 3 and 6 year old girls to them for five days while I went on a church trip with my 11 year old (my husband is a truck driver and is gone most of the time).  They took them Geocaching, to the fair to see the animals, and let them stay up late watching Little House on the Prairie DVD’s.  I look at the level of independence my boys have and think I never could have done those things at their age – I was not prepared to. These experiences have enriched their lives and have helped make them capable and strong.

When my oldest was 17, he started college – after getting himself there.  He knew I was available for questions if he needed help filling out applications and financial aid, but I figured he was the one going to college – not me, so he needed to be the one to do the work.  After getting our tax information and asking my husband a few questions about it, he completed everything and got himself to college.

We are a culture of performance.  We want our children to get A’s, do sports, do dance, do theater or whatever.  Those things are great, but in the quest for performance we may forget that they need to learn how to be independent.  It’s wonderful if a kid is the swimming champion in his state while keeping up a 4.0 average – but has so much energy gone into those things that he can’t make a meal (without using the microwave), balance a checkbook, be trusted with the family home and siblings, do home repairs or change a flat tire?  When those life skills are not taught they are not getting a well rounded education so it should not come as a surprise that when they near their late teens  mama is still holding their hand and washing their socks – and believe me – you don’t want to anywhere near socks after they have been worn by a teenager.

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One response to “The Goal is Independence

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  1. Brava!!! Adults willing to engage their young-adult children in that competence zone of proximal development are even *more* rare. You have lucky kids!!!

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