I remember clearly the moment I gave birth to my daughter and it occurred to me that parenting was going to be about letting go. It was going to be a journey that my daughter and I would take together but inevitably, like on any other trip in life, there would be junctions when she would need to go one way and I another. That moment was so clear, it has stayed with me a lifetime yet in essence the reality of understanding what it was to let go, why it was so important and how to do so was the beginning of nurturing a young life towards an independent and self reliant state by the time she reached adulthood.
Possibly this process of raising children to be independent and self reliant is one of the most important focuses of parenting. It is vital to any child’s welfare to bring them up to be secure and have a stable base but also confident to explore the world around them, make their own decisions, take responsibility and be accountable for their actions in life so they go out into the big wide world with the skills, mindset and emotional capacity to cope, contribute to society and handle their own welfare happily and healthily. By not only giving a child love and respect but also believing in them and having confidence in their abilities nurtures this over time as well as teaching them that they are in control of themselves. But the process is a slow one and begins early on.
During the early years children need to be kept on a close reign. They need care, love, protection, safety, security, boundaries, discipline – you name it they need it in abundance to build up a firm intrinsic understanding that they have a secure base that they can come back to. However and critically, as they get older they need to be allowed to explore the world around them more away from this secure base. To confine exploration leads to dependence but to encourage it within sensible parameters that are age appropriate and progressive, encourages them to become confident, capable and independent.
Taking such steps also goes hand in hand with taking responsibility for their actions. They may like to protect themselves by subscribing to the blame game that it is everyone/thing else’s fault but essentially responsibility and accountability are both intrinsic factors in becoming independent. Helping children assume responsibility can be encouraged by helping them understand expectations – what is is expected of them, why such expectations are important and the consequences of not reaching such expectations. So for instance, a parent could sit down with their child and discuss what responsibilities their child could assume to provide clarity and transparency and prevent misunderstandings. In doing so they are encouraging a sense of independence by teaching responsibility.
Guiding and teaching is a lifelong commitment of parenting – it starts at birth and it possibly never ends but the key is to give children the freedom to make their own decisions. Helping them discover themselves, develop a sense of self awareness and to be comfortable in their own skin whilst taking responsibility with accountability are all part of the essential toolkit that children need to walk a pathway through childhood and adolescence towards an independent adulthood.