Raising Independent Adults

Feb 22, 2016 by



Our youngest child is now 21 years old. She’s just graduating from college this spring, and Jim and I are asking ourselves this question:

Did we raise her to be self-sufficient?

I think we as parents can in many ways enable our children to depend upon us – especially the youngest one. I know I certainly didn’t with my oldest. I was putting her to work helping me with the younger ones at an early age. I think she learned everything about life before she was 12.

It’s so easy to baby the baby. Maybe they seem more vulnerable than the others. Or maybe we just need to keep being needed. And then there are some kids who are ready to break away no matter what we as parents are doing.

So when and how do we prepare our children to face the details of life?

The answer to the when depends on the child. Some children/teenagers are able to take on more than others at an earlier age. The real answer is probably as early as possible. And for some parents, that may be earlier than we feel comfortable. But the point is not to wait for our comfort to be sure our children are prepared.

The how is simple – model, train, watch, release.

First, we must be modeling the behaviors and skills we need to pass on to our children. Now they don’t need to watch me pay the bills when they are 9 or 10. But they can watch me cook or mow the lawn to learn those skills. Each skill we model needs to be made known to our children at an appropriate age for them to grasp the concept if not the actual practice of the skill.

Secondly, we train. There comes a point where we need to have them start to take some of the responsibility. But for them to do that, we need to instruct them on how to do it – verbally. Having simply watched us perform a skill does not always translate into the step-by-step process. Now is the time for that instruction.

Next, let them take the reigns. You can still watch them move through the skill. But this is your time for hands off. They need to hear your encouragement and sometimes your critique. But the key in this step is to let them act independently. They will not do it perfectly or maybe not up to your standards in the beginning. But with time, they will build proficiency and competency.

Lastly, release them. We always say parents should raise their kids to release them. After all, that is the definition of independent. Let them go knowing that they will do some things the way you taught them and some to their own rhythm. But ultimately, they can now move through life on their own two feet.

We often say, we raised our children to release them. Did we? Are you?

~Jim and Jerolyn Bogear


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