When my kids were really little, they required more hands-on assistance. I would stand at their side while they used scissors. I anxiously held out my arms as they tried the monkey bars or learned to ride a bike. As they’ve gotten older, I’ve come to learn my kids need a chance to be independent. Space to make mistakes, room to grow, and the ability to see for themselves they really can do this.
I am an organizational freak. I organize everything from my sock drawer, to the knives in the kitchen, to the cleaning supplies in the garage. Everything has a spot, a plan, and a purpose. Thus, allowing my children freedom of such areas can often kill my nerves. What if they don’t put things back properly? What if they bungle the whole lot and it takes me ages to put it back together again?
I also tend to be a worrier. Can you tell? What if my kids get skinned knees; scraped up elbows; cut themselves; or worse? I obviously need be right by their side to ensure they aren’t going to kill themselves or burn down our house in the process of their experimentation.
How are these things at all related? If I am not willing to set aside my worry and my desire to have everything just so, my children will never learn to do things for themselves. In order for our children to learn independence, I must relinquish some control. I must be willing for things to become messy so my children will learn to clean and organize better. I must be willing for them to have the occasional bump or bruise so they can learn to ride that skateboard.
One of the hardest challenges of parenting is understanding when it’s okay to let go and when you still need to hold on. My children must learn to do things for themselves, by themselves, without mommy standing over their shoulder. And, they want to. It isn’t they which are holding back, but I!
It starts with baby steps, giving them smaller projects. When they prove faithful in the little, we give them more. At some point, they are able to clean without my having to check their work. I can depend on them to organize as well as I do. Sometimes even better. Through trial and error, our children cook without my worrying about them being burned or cutting themselves needlessly. They are able to work on artistic endeavors without ruining the flooring or leaving messes for me to clean up.
In order for them to be ready for adulthood, their responsibilities and their independence must increase and my hand-holding must decrease. Does this mean we are never around? Of course not! We will always be here for our children. But, instead of doing things for them, we offer guidance and counsel. We wait for them to seek out wisdom, instead of interjecting at the earliest possible moment. We grow out of our initial jobs and gain new ones.
Am I there yet? Truthfully, no. I still hover, peeking around corners so my kids don’t see me, waiting to rush in and save them from disaster. But I am getting better. I am learning to let them try new things, gain new experiences, and branch out. I am also learning God has this under control. He loves my children more than I ever could; He will protect them, provide for them, and help them. My job is temporary, His is forever.
“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.”
We’d love to know… What is one thing your child has done, on their own, which at first caused fear, but brought about independence and growth?