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Let’s be real guys, parenting is HARD. It’s exhausting and frustrating and even a little bit confusing. How do we balance our desire to give them everything with the need to let them figure things out for themselves?
But the thing is, our job as parents is to raise our kids to be good people. And if we hand everything to our children, and hover and meditate every single one of their interactions with others, how are they ever going to grow up as self-sufficient humans?
Our kids need us to teach them to be self-sufficient and to stand on their own two feet.
Even so, in an age of helicopter parenting, that’s an idea that’s becoming more and more controversial.
So how do you actually give them that independence without feeling like you are neglecting your parental responsibilities?
And I’ll be honest–this one is a topic that I am SO passionate about!
You see, my childhood didn’t involve a lot of parental supervision.
My youngest brother Joel and I were free to roam around the neighborhood, and roam we did. We pretty much came and went as we pleased. We were never bored. And our parents never worried.
After spending this summer back in my hometown, my girls got a taste of that freedom too. They were free to go off and play with the neighbors, to go visit my mom or my sister down the street, or to wander around the shops downtown. They could go to the park or the library, and they could spend their own money however they saw fit.
And can I just tell you?
They had the BEST summer!
The whole experiment was a pretty powerful lesson in learning to let go. We realized how much we were doing for them, instead of just letting them figure it out for themselves.
And yet, our kids need exactly that! The freedom to learn and do things on their own.
So how do we start letting go and give our kids the gift of self-sufficiency?
I believe it comes down to adopting three fundamental core beliefs. Read a brief recap of them below:
Freedom comes responsibility
Here’s the thing—we all want freedom. We want to be free to say what want and do what we want and watch what we like on TV, to wear the clothes that we want to wear, to have religious freedom and the freedom to make our own decisions about life.
And that’s why it is important for all of us, but ESPECIALLY for our kids, to understand that with freedom comes responsibility. You can’t have one without the other.
Before we tied in this responsibility piece the girls would run wild, the freedom just went straight to their heads. We knew freedom without some sense of responsibility was doing no one any good. So we decided that they had to prove to us that they could be responsible, or their freedom would be taken away. Thankfully, we weren’t too late to turn things around, and we had a MUCH better summer after that!
Because with freedom comes responsibility—that’s core belief number 1.
Money comes from work
This one is a core belief I’ve been driving into my kids for a very long time, and while I wish that I could take credit for it, I can’t—it comes from a guy named Dave Ramsey. You’ve maybe heard of him.
Dave truly believes that it is so important for kids to understand this one thing from an early age- that money does not grow on trees or come from the tooth fairy, or from some magic plastic card that you stick into the wall. Money comes from work.
And that can be a hard concept for kids!
I make sure my kids understand that even if Mommy and Daddy are doing well, that has nothing to do with THEIR finances. They need to work really hard to make their own money to afford the type of lifestyle they want to have. There is no safety net to fall back on and it is not always going to be someone else’s job to take care of them. Their money should come solely from their own work.
Sometimes you have to let your kids fail
This one is the hardest one of all to follow through on. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about toddlers learning how to walk or feed themselves for the first time, or teenagers learning how to land their first jobs…
We have to let our kids figure out these challenges all on their own. We need to let them struggle a little bit, to have to push past obstacles and to overcome frustration and to realize that they might be capable of a more than they even knew.
We’ve got to let our kids fail, sometimes spectacularly so, so that they can also learn to rise again. To get up, to dust themselves off, and to start over, as many times as it takes.