To a small child, “all by myself” means achievement for independently brushing hair, tying shoes, or pouring milk into a cereal bowl. The little ponytailed-girl proclaims independence by announcing, “I did it all by myself!” A few years later, the teen says, “I knew I could drive to the mall by myself – without mom in the passenger seat.” These life moments signal their independence from us. And we, as parents, really do want this sense of independent achievement for our children – but it’s easier said than done.
We encourage our children and teens to seek independence and to move forward in confidence with what we have taught them. If the student continues to be overly dependent upon the teacher, then autonomy will never be achieved, and an unhealthy codependency will result. Think about it: do we really want to be tying our teenager’s shoes? Or checking the accuracy of our high schooler’s homework assignments? Do we really want our 30-year-old living on our couch? No. No. And no!
A crucial part of our children gaining independence requires us – as parents – to let go.
So why is this so difficult to do? I think we can all agree that we want them to be self-reliant, strong, and resilient. But we often delay their independence with our actions. I’m guilty of this! I admit that sometimes, out of fear, I smothered my children and did not let them try things apart from me. Can you relate?
Each time I struggled with this concept of letting them go, a quote from an old mentor would flow back into my heart. It went something like this, “Rod, you have to help your children to be less and less dependent on you, and more and more dependent on God Himself.”
Ultimately, this is what I want for my children – independence from me, and dependence on God. Would you agree? As this year unfolds, let’s allow our children to become more independent, while we pray to our Father for His provision and protection over them in the process.