With four kids of their own, Holly and Rodney wonder: When is it too early to start teaching your children independence? Just how much freedom do you give your children? "As much as we love our children, the ultimate goal of parenthood is to get them launched," Holly says. "We all want to raise these independent, self-sufficient human beings. We don't want them living in the house at 25!" The Peetes talk with psychologist and parenting specialist Dr. Jeff Gardere about when and how to make your children more independent.
"The earlier you start giving them good habits and showing them you can trust them, and seeing their competency skills, the better," Dr. Gardere says. He says to start with little tasks, such as leaving them in the living room for five to 10 minutes to do something else and see how they behave. Also, having siblings help their other siblings gain independence is important, Dr. Gardere says, because sometimes the kids listen to one and other instead of listening to their parents.
In terms of how much coddling is too much, each child is different. "Some kids do a little better with independence, some need a little extra time," Dr. Gardere says. "It depends on the strength of each child and the relationship that we have with those children."
A general rule parents can follow in giving their children independence includes building a support system, says Dr. Gardere. For example, if you're going to leave a 9 year old home alone for a short period of time, be sure that a neighbor is available to check on the child every 20 minutes or so.
Also, when children are about 12 years old, Dr. Gardere says it's crucial that parents start teaching them how to travel on their own and how to learn about the dangers of the world, and not to become so fearful that they cannot begin living their lives. "You cannot coddle a 12 year old all of the time," he says. "You have to give them independence."
Published on July 03, 2008