Raising Independent and Confident Children

I have often wondered what other parents think when they see me interacting with my children.  Point #1 – I don’t use a stroller if possible, my kids walk on their own two feet, Point #2 – My older kids pack their own backpacks, and carry their own backpacks to school, Point #3 – I make my kids do chores and I don’t pay them for it, Point #4 – I don’t entertain my kids for all hours of the day, its okay to let them play by themselves, and finally Point #5 – I let my kids cry.

I will admit that I come across as a lazy mom, but here’s the thing, my kids are much better off because of it!  Now don’t get me wrong, I love my children, I make birthday treats for school, I put little notes in lunch boxes, I volunteer in the classroom, I read to my children every night, we laugh and play together, etc.  Now here’s the kicker – I don’t help my kids when they don’t need my help.  From my baby learning to drink out of a cup, to my preschooler learning to tie his shoes, to my 3rd grader remembering to study for his test.  I let them do it without constant help from me.  Baby won’t learn to drink if I keep holding the cup for him or giving him a spill proof top, and toddler will not learn to tie his shoes if I am always putting his shoes on for him (although I have been known to buy velcro shoes).  My point is this, as parents we need to learn to let go in order to let our kids learn, grow and strengthen.

At my daughters Kindergarten Open House this past Fall, her wonderful teacher told the most amazing story comparing caterpillars and children.  If you watch a caterpillar trying to break free of the cocoon, it looks like it is struggling, it looks like it needs help, and it is our instinct to want to help.  However, the process of struggling to break free of the cocoon strengthens the butterfly’s wings so that when it finally breaks through, it is strong enough to fly.

We went through a rough few weeks where my daughter did not want to go to school because she said she would miss me.  As much as I loved hearing her say that, I still had to send her to school.  We would pull up to the school and she would refuse to get out of the car until I climbed into the back and pulled her out.  She would cry and resist, but I kept telling her she could do it.  I walked her to the line, gave her a kiss, and walked back to the car.  I didn’t linger to make sure she was okay, I didn’t make it harder for her, by walking her into the class and then playing with her in the classroom, only dragging out the good-bye process.  I knew she could do it and she did it.  When it was time to pick her up, she gave me a hug and was completely fine.  I didn’t dwell on the issues of the morning, because she had proved to herself that she could do it, deep down, she knew she did it.  Of course this doesn’t mean it didn’t happen again, or that it will not happen in the future, but each time she struggles with something and overcomes, she is empowering herself.

There is only so much cheerleading we can do for our kids before they stop believing our cheers, making it more important for them to become their own cheerleaders sometimes.  Our children struggle with things everyday, and if we jump in to the rescue we are hindering them from growing.  I am not saying that we have to turn into heartless beings, but its okay for a child to get frustrated sometimes and then use that as fuel to persevere and triumph.  We have all seen the proud looks on our babies faces when they sit up for the first time or take those first steps.  We need to continue to let our children experience those feelings as they grow and are faced with more difficult challenges such as school, friends, sports, etc.  Not only will this boost their self-esteem, but in my opinion helps to create a stronger bond between Mother and Child.  Mom’s refusal to step in and solve a child’s problem shows the child that they have a loving parent who trusts them and has confidence in their abilities.

There are many ways we can help to teach our children independence, and each age and stage offers different opportunities.  We have all been there – the dreaded “Tummy Time”, we are told of the importance of putting our babies on their tummies to strengthen their heads and necks, but most babies hate it and cry.  As moms we don’t like to see our precious baby cry, but here is a first major struggle.  They cry because they don’t like lying on their face, and don’t have the strength to push up, but with practice they develop the muscles and learn to enjoy tummy time.  Same goes for sitting, crawling, standing, and walking.  Given the opportunity, a baby will learn all of these things by practicing, falling, and trying again.  Another big struggle for babies (and moms) is sleep.  It does not matter what article you read about what new sleep method or study, all babies need to sleep, and all babies can learn to fall asleep on their own if parents provide them with the opportunity to do so.  Each child is different and unique in their sleep habits, but all babies and children (and moms) will benefit greatly when they become an independent sleeper.

Toddlers and preschoolers offer up even more opportunities for overcoming obstacles.  Toddlers are learning to move through their environment physically and socially.  For some toddlers, communication might be a struggle, and let me tell you, a toddler who can not express his needs and wants verbally is a very frustrated toddler.  However, the one thing that frustrates them more, is when mom tries to guess what they are saying (learned from experience).  I would try to put words in his mouth rather than taking a step back and listening to him and watching him for his nonverbal cues.  It took a few months, but once we really started understanding each other, his whole demeanor changed for the better.  Other toddlers are exploring their world through large motor skills.  Running, helping to get themselves dressed, playing on the playground and mastering the concept of going UP the stairs and DOWN the slide, toddlers are bundles of endless energy.  Letting them practice all of these newfound skills with mom on the sideline (a few feet away) helps them to become self-sufficient in their own little way.  For preschoolers, getting dressed by themselves, helping with chores around the house, and playing on their own all help foster independence.  Since I work from home, we have an hour long quiet time rule in our house (even for the older kids), so that I can get some work done.  The kids are in their room playing quietly by themselves.  They are not allowed to play with each other, as they would end up getting too loud and the baby is sleeping, so they need to fill an hours time by themselves.  I was actually very impressed by how well they did.  Kids are very creative when you allow them to be.  Without video games and TV they opened books, they did puzzles, they did art, and usually when I go up to get them, they want to continue whatever they were doing.

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Finally, for older kids, and by older I mean school age since that is all my experience goes up to thus far, I believe the biggest struggles are social and academic.  We try to protect our children from getting hurt all the time, whether it be from falling down and scraping a knee or from a friend saying something hurtful.  No mom wants to see their child cry, or be embarrassed.  I was picking my son up from school one day and he was playing basketball with his friends.  One child was not playing fair and was being pretty mean to my son.  Just as I was contemplating going over and saying something, my son amazed me and did something I never expected.  No, he didn’t slug the kid, he walked away.  He simply said “See you guys tomorrow” picked up his backpack and walked over to me.  The basketball game fizzled out as the other boys decided they would rather leave too.  Then something even more more dumbfounding happened.  The kid who had been picking on my son, came over and said “good-bye, see you tomorrow” and they shook hands or did a fist bump or whatever 3rd grade boys do.  And that was that.  Next day they were all playing together as a team.  At some point every child is picked on, but if we as moms don’t allow our children to try to handle it on their own, they will never learn those important social life lessons.

Of course, there will be times when parental intervention is necessary for the safety of the child, but whenever possible try to hold off on swooping in and saving the day, your children will be much better because of it.  And if it helps to think of yourself as a lazy parent, to get into the lazy frame of mind, go for it!  Your children will one day thank you for being so lazy, and helping them to become such wonderfully independent and confident adults.

 

 

14 Responses to Raising Independent and Confident Children

  1. Krisa U May 19, 2015 at 8:16 am #

    Are you my mommy twin? I seriously could have written this exact same piece (but definitely would not have sounded as eloquent as yours!) Thank you for writing this and I could not agree more. I often feel pressure to step in in situations I don’t feel need parent interference because so many other parents do and I feel like it makes me look lazy or unattentive when that is furthest from the truth. If you want to raise an independent child, you have to GIVE them age appropriate independence. Now we just need a fancy new name for it instead of the perceived “lazy” lol!

  2. Tiffany May 19, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    Welp, it sounds like you are the perfect parent and have 4 perfect children. Good for you! I’m glad that you have children who work according to the book. However, some of us have kids with special needs, or have particularly sensitive children, etc. and our world doesnt work so peacefully. I hope that you have grace and mercy on parents who seem to be raising dependent, self-conscious kids.

    • Ohmymombie May 19, 2015 at 10:52 pm #

      Tiffany, don’t be so dramatic and sensitive. Of course she isn’t denigrating parents who have to do things differently, or holding her offspring up as beacons of perfect child-rearing. She’s simply talking about what works for her and her kids. Why don’t you share your story about the unique experience you have as a parent? I’m sure there are others that would welcome your point of view, just like the author shared hers.

  3. tiffany May 20, 2015 at 4:44 pm #

    Rereading it again, I think the way the language used in the article comes across as superior and “this is how you should parent your children”. I was surprised because normally that’s not the kind of language used on the blog. Here are a couple examples-

    ” your children will be much better because of it. ”

    “Your children will one day thank you for being so lazy, and helping them to become such wonderfully independent and confident adults.”

    “Another big struggle for babies (and moms) is sleep. It does not matter what article you read about what new sleep method or study, all babies need to sleep, and all babies can learn to fall asleep on their own if parents provide them with the opportunity to do so. Each child is different and unique in their sleep habits, but all babies and children (and moms) will benefit greatly when they become an independent sleeper.” (implying that kids who are not “independent sleepers” are somehow lacking from these “promised benefits”– many cultures around the world think the idea of independent sleepers is absurd and it’s hurtful to me when I read articles who imply that because my kids aren’t x, y, or z, they are not as good as kids who are.

    If the purpose of the author wasn’t to tell parents what they need to do to have independent, self-confident kids like hers, the I apologize.

    • A Madison Mom May 21, 2015 at 9:27 am #

      Hi Tiffany,
      I don’t think that is the message the author was trying to convey here. While I don’t know her personally, she seems to be sharing about her journey and what has worked well for her. And with that in mind, every child is different and has different needs. I am guilty of being a helicopter mom and that’s okay – I am not doing anything wrong… it’s how I parent. But I enjoyed the points she made in her post about allowing our children to become more independent and there is always a balance that can be found.
      I am sure that she does not judge moms who parent differently than she does. And no matter how you are choosing to parent your own children, I am sure that you are doing a great job! 🙂

  4. Me May 20, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

    Tiffany, if it helps to have another perspective. I did not read it that way initially. After you explained it, I understand why you may think that. Still, sometimes it is hard to read “tone” online, and I think that may be what happened here? If I don’t know for sure, I like to give the benefit of the doubt.
    I have three children with special needs (blind). However, special needs vary greatly. While I may be able to give my boys appropriate chores, or tell them to go play outside while I cook/study, not all parents have that option. It is a struggle that many face, that should be without shame…. but that doesn’t always keep the pain at bay 100% of the time. Ask your EI or teacher if there are other ways you can tailor things to help your special needs kid(s) have the same opportunity to develop those executive functioning skills to which the author alludes, or even a modified time of independent learning to foster creativity. 🙂

  5. Ryanne May 24, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

    I think the important takeaway here is that ALL children benefit from struggling and being asked to do things for themselves within their scope of abilities. Children with different needs or who are differently abled are not “dependent” they are just independent in a different way. Of course there are some children who may not be able to do much for themselves but whatever shred of independence can be given SHOULD be.

  6. Whitney May 25, 2015 at 7:49 pm #

    there were some great points in here but I had to stop reading when the author started making blanket statements about how all kids will do this or that. With each new child I have, I am more and more humbled because I realize more and more how you can’t make blanket statements like that. There isn’t a one size fits all kid. And if this author thinks she has the answer for every kid, that’s too bad. That’s not how life nor kids work.

  7. Brooke May 26, 2015 at 11:12 am #

    I loved this article, and as a first time expecting Mom, I hope I can use these tactics on my children! Thank you for the article and the information!!

  8. Cindy May 26, 2015 at 10:53 pm #

    I’m a ‘hands-off’ mom and I love this article! Strangly… Our kids almost match In age, too (Trey 8, Meredith 6, Paige 4 & Timothy 17 months)

    Anyway, my children are very independent and self-sufficient, they pour their own water, jump on the counter to get apples or bananas..etc.
    My only warning is that sometimes – too much confidence can be dangerous. I found my 8 year old cutting his own apple w a paring knife (which I let him continue to do with my supervision) but then just the other day he put something in the microwave … And I had to remind him that sometimes he could and SHOULD ask for my help and anything ‘Hot’ and most things ‘sharp’ are my department.
    Oh! You know what else you might want to try. I let my 8 yr old and my 6 yr go up to the counter at ChikFilA and order a milk shake and pay for it – while I’m at the table. They love buying stuff on their own!

  9. Gaby October 5, 2015 at 9:28 am #

    There is not need to attack a fellow mama who is writing about her own experience. We, as mothers, read about every possible way to do something and end up doing what works and feels best for us and our kiddos.
    I really like the article and hope to use some advice from it but every kid is different. You just go with the flow and enjoy the journey.

  10. Hillary November 28, 2015 at 9:51 am #

    I’ve seen first hand what happens when you hinder a child’s independence. My stepdaughter moved in at age 4 and couldn’t even put her own clothes on or feed herself – and she’s not special needs. She was scared to go down a slide by herself. Now, she’s almost 8, and after many years and battles, she’s slowly able to take on new challenges without fear. But for years she suffered a huge lack of confidence and fear of failure. She still relapses occasionally, and her school work and activities she loves – like horseriding – suffer for it. Let your kids learn age appropriate ways to be independent or it could affect them for the rest of their lives.

  11. Liz December 27, 2015 at 11:43 pm #

    I’d just like to say that I have 4 grown children and they all used sippy cups when they were very, very little, and it did not impede them in learning to use a regular cup. Not really sure why people (and I know of some others) that have this idea that it is anything other than an interim step between a bottle and a regular cup. My kids were very close in age, and I just needed them to be able to hold their own drinks and actually get the drinks out, because I couldn’t hover over all of them at the same time!

  12. SRN February 21, 2017 at 5:08 pm #

    I thought this was a great article. What works for one family might not work for others and that is OK. We need to stop judging others and being so sensitive when people share their thoughts on parenting. I needed to read this as I feel I need to step back at times and let my kids figure out a solution. She shared her views and that’s all she did. There is no perfect parent. Take everything you read with a grain of salt. We are all trying to raise good little humans!

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