The Independence Issue

Written by: Lianne Castelino

Published: May 25, 2011

by Lianne Castelino

It's such a simple example but boy does it ever illustrate a ton.  I've shared it with a few people over the years (after discovering it myself) and several parents recently and without fail, they all react with “that's so true, I'm going to try it.”

It speaks to parents who are interested in fostering independence in their kids.  This, of course, goes counter to a general trend in parenting in this generation — and that is over-protecting kids to the point that they are unable to make a decision on their own and find the real world a confusing and nasty place.  It's no accident that increasingly a myriad of studies has found that many kids heading to college and university either end up suffering from depression or 'go wild' when they enter this arena because prior to that many of them have never really had to think for themselves by themselves.  Parents beware.  Most of this is your doing.

Here 'it' is.  When you child is ready to learn how to cross the street, usually between 10-12, depending on a lot of factors, cross with them.  Then once you are confident they understand the concept of cars, buses, driver distractions, noise, etc., then let them cross by themselves.  Do not cross that street with them.  Why?  As long as you are with them, chances are they are NOT THINKING.  Your mere presence, allbeit innocent, denotes parental brain power, not kid initiative.  It is an amazing thing to witness.

Anyone who knows me knows, I am outspoken about trying to raise independent thinkers.  Whether it's something as simple as teaching kids what to do when they are hungry or how to handle peer pressure or how to organize their study time for exams, it is never a bad thing to foster independence.   

It's wonderful to watch a child go and make a sandwich when they're hungry or say “I don't understand kids in my class who all do the same thing, I want to be different” or observe them create a strategy, schedule, plan, whatever to study for tests or exams.

The independence lesson, I've discovered over the years, is cultivated in different ways, through various examples over time.  You never know when it is resonating, you just know that staying the course is critical.  Even when you may want to give up.

So, stand back and watch, the next time they cross the street.  It's a lesson in independence for parents too.

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