Teaching Our Kids to be Independent In a Scary World
Raising Independent Kids in a Scary World
It’s a scary world out there. Kidnapping. Sex Traffickers, Social Media. We all want to keep our kids safe. We all want them to be independent adults. But first things first. The truth is there has never been a safer time to live in the US. Access to instant news and the onslaught of media 24/7 makes it feel more dangerous, but it really isn’t. In my post, Protecting the Gift of Fear I detail my thoughts and methods on keeping kids safe.
I am not claiming to be an expert on child rearing or parenting. Believe me, I fail enough on a regular basis, to remind me I am neither. What I am, though, is a mom who has raised kids from birth to adulthood. I have kids who have transitioned from a “sheltered” homeschool environment to the real world. Here are my thoughts on teaching our kids to be independent in a scary world.
Teach them to be Independent From a Young Age
I am not ashamed to admit that my parenting and homeschooling has been heavily influenced by Maria Montessori and her philosophy. I took several child development classes in high school and college. As soon as I read about Montessori schools I knew that method was for me. Chuck and I have worked hard to set up a prepared environment in our home, to teach our children self-help skills at an early age and to foster independence. Whether it is slicing olives for the family at age three or watching them climb way too high for my comfort level on a jungle gym, we have let our children gain confidence through exploring and making mistakes.
Teach Your Kids to Make Their Own Appointments
Starting at age 15 or 16, I have my kids making their own appointments. Part of this is because our teens begin community college at age 16 so instead of having regular high school hours their daily schedules change frequently and are at different hours than a typical school. I set my children up for success. I give them the phone number, we talk about what the appointment is for, and I have them schedule the appointments themselves.
Our kids have made their own appointments with doctors, dentists, and to get passports. We have our kids fill out as much paperwork as they can on their own when it comes to health histories, job applications, and official paperwork. What better time to learn than when you are at home with guidance from your parent? Even our elementary age kids know they are to fill out as much info as they can on a field trip form from school before bringing it to me to sign.
Teach Your Kids to Do Their Own Banking
After the initial setup, I have my children take care of their own banking. Our kids use a different bank then Chuck and I do (simply because it is in a more convenient location). When my children have a check our cash they need to deposit, I literally drop them off at the door and park the van and wait. I am there if they run into trouble, or need help, but having them walk into the bank alone and take care of their needs is one more step toward teaching our kids to be independent.
Teach Your Kids the Basics of Home Management (cooking, laundry, budgeting)
Cooking- All of my kids (with the exception of my son with autism) know their way around the kitchen. Apollo, at age 7, can scramble eggs, cook an omelet, and prepare his own ramen noodles. All of my kids twelve and up (with the exception of my kids with special needs) could cook dinner for the family if necessary.
Laundry- A ten-year-old should easily be able to manage their own laundry, if not pitch in with the family’s. I do all washing of clothes because in a family our size that is most efficient, but my kids can operate a washer and dryer and will have no problem taking over their laundry when they leave home.
Budgeting- I am a firm believer in transparency here. We are open about finances and the cost of things. Because we don’t have the excess money to give our kids an allowance (or even have them “earn” money on a regular basis) they understand the value or hard work and the value of a dollar. Our kids love playing the game Cashflow. I was told recently that while the boys and Chuck were out driving Apollo said something about why you should buy a doodad (a frivolous purchase in the game) and Chuck responded with, “You realize every time I buy you a LEGO set that’s a doodad, right?”
There’s real life for you.
Let Your Kids Fail
This is hard, friends. Arguably one of the hardest parts of parenting. Our theory is this, we want our kids to fail, in our home, and hopefully, learn lessons from it. Yes, I want my kids to have a 4.0 and be the Best Smartest Nicest Kids Ever but the reality is they are going to fail. We all fail. We had a son not get his Eagle Scout because we chose to delay and projects and works…we faced the choice to “force” him or have him take responsibility. We put it on him, and he never finished. That is one him, not us. We have had kids miss assignment deadlines and fail. It’s not that we ignore them, we remind and offer to help, but ultimately it is on the child.
Show Compassion and Empathy
Teaching our kids about independence isn’t just about the school of hard knocks. It’s not that we always tow the hard line or refuse to help. It is about grace, and compassion, and empathy. It’s about helping them learn to cope with disappointment in a healthy way. It’s about being there to offer a hug, a smile, and a word of encouragement.
Recommended Books about Raising Independent Children:
Protecting the Gift by Gavin De Becker <——- Kindle version on sale for $0.99 right now!