A Guest Post by Jennifer Bryant
“Look, Daddy! I can do this all by myself!”
I remember the first time Dad let go of my bicycle and I peddled without a wobbling crash to the floor. I sailed down our street so smooth.
So fast. So free!
As a young girl, you could often find me wandering in the back yard, lost in my imagination.
I’d climb to the top of the slide on the playground, feeling accomplished, elevated, and empowered.
At 15, I was old enough to leave school early with a work permit. I was the youngest news assistant at the local county newspaper.
I couldn’t wait to grow up.
My parents laugh now to recall how independent and determined I was.
They didn’t always know what to do with that. Sometimes my determination scared my parents as I broke away from their grasp and took bigger risks.
But God was with me.As parents, we have the opportunity to give our children a solid foundation and the tools they need to become independent from us, while still dependent on God.
He protected me and whispered to me the reminders of my parents, youth leaders and pastors—even when I found myself in moral dilemmas where my character was tested.
My parents gave me a solid foundation and the tools I needed to become independent from them, while still dependent on God.
Well, this slide-climbing girl grew up and gave birth to two fiercely independent kids.
Over the years, my husband and I giggled as we watched the gleam in their eyes as they stood up on their own for the first time, successfully bounced a ball back to us, or said their first words.
Each child has their own unique personality. Our daughter, Chloe, will do exactly what is expected, all by herself, and takes pride in her work.
Our son Asher, on the other hand, likes to think he has it all under control. He will take risks first and ask questions later. I tend to worry about him more (wouldn’t you?).
The Value of Fostering Healthy Independence
To foster healthy independence in our children means effectively working ourselves out of a job.
As parents, it can be scary to feel like we are no longer needed.
However, independence is a valuable ingredient of maturity in childhood.
It’s perfectly natural for kids to grow up and be independent from their parents—but we can get in the way of their growth at times.
We can tell our kids all day long they can be whatever they want when they grow up—but our own fear can block the pathway of real independence in their lives.Independence is a valuable ingredient of maturity in childhood.
We can get lost in the what if’s—overwhelmed by the vast amount of information at our fingertips.
Our fear of the unknown can handicap our ability to instill courage in our kids.
When they are babies, it is our job to respond to their cries and needs.
So sometimes it can be difficult to dial down the nurturing caregiver to discern what they need to work through themselves as they grow up.
Our Heavenly Father’s Model of Fostering Healthy Independence
God is referred to as our Father fifteen times in the Old Testament, and over 165 times in the Gospels—mostly by Jesus.
As we look to God as a model of parenthood, we know that He has given us a free will to choose sin or obedience, life or death, blessings or cursings. (Deuteronomy 30:19)
Having that choice is actually an act of love—the ability to learn from our parent, and then using that knowledge to choose for ourselves.
God instructed the Israelites through Moses to pass on God’s laws of protection so the people knew what to expect:
“You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” Deuteronomy 6:7 NASBYou can help foster healthy independence in your children by giving them permission to trust themselves.
King David knew that the laws of the Lord were a good guide for him to live righteously and lead the people well:
“Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105 NASB
In the same way, we can lead our children into a life independent from us when they know they can fully trust and follow God as their loving Father:
“He is compassionate, and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love, and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15 NASB
God, as our loving Father, models the warning, provides the guidance, and grants us freedom.
We can feel free to allow our children to live free under the One who makes us free.
Considering Your Children’s Unique Personalities & Temperaments When Fostering Healthy Independence
Some children will be natural risk-takers, some will be more cautious. As parents, we need to become students of their individual personalities—because their temperaments will require different measures of encouragement!
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 ESV
Knowing the way of the Lord by being close to Him and sensitive to His Spirit can also mean we can press into the individual path that God has for each child.
While this scripture is not necessarily a promise (because of our free will), these proverbs were given as pieces of wisdom for how the world generally works.The most loving thing we can do for our kids is to instruct them in the ways of the Lord, show them His faithfulness through His character, and trust Him to speak to their hearts individually.
We can help our kids to be independent, under the Spirit of God, and set them on a trajectory (a direction) in the way of the Lord.
The most loving thing we can do for our kids is to instruct them in God’s ways, show them God’s faithfulness through His character, and trust God to speak to their hearts individually.
Trusting God’s model of parenthood is where our responsibility, perseverance, and faith intersect with His plan.
It is a divine recipe for independence without fear—because we trust His character.
3 Tools for Fostering Healthy Independence in Your Children
So, how do we, as parents foster healthy independence in our children? Here are 3 key tools to help you find success along the way.
As parents, we need to allow our kids to take appropriate risks, try things on their own, and be out of our immediate control!
We let our nine and ten-year-old walk to the corner store or the neighborhood park with walkie-talkies.
Although my fear of what could happen to them is even stronger than my fear of any choice they’d make, I’m learning to let go as they grow, trusting God is with them always.
If you have kids who tend to be more clingy and afraid to take risks, give them permission to trust themselves and help them build confidence in their journey to independence.
Assure them they can do great things without your rescuing hand, but then take a step back physically, or even verbally (ie: be careful, don’t do that, watch out), knowing you will be relatively close.As parents we need to allow our kids to take appropriate risks, try things on their own, and be out of our immediate control.
The confidence-building opportunities you give your children will cultivate the trust they need to be successful separate from your care.
It also allows you to trust yourself as a parent.
Trust communicates respect.
When we hover over our kids’ every move, it can actually make them more insecure and anxious.
But fostering healthy independence in your children means trust. Trusting them as they grow, trusting the parenting skills God has equipped you with, and trusting they are in God’s hands.
Practice not over-controlling their every move. Sit back and observe for a while. Allow them to make mistakes or missteps.
If they do make a mistake, give it time to settle in their own hearts and have a conversation about it later. Not every issue needs to be addressed immediately.
God has given us the tools we need to raise amazing human beings.
But some days can be discouraging and we can feel like it’s not enough.
However, when we choose the good and the holy over the convenient and quick, our Father promises to be there in the midst of this necessary growing process.Raise up this generation with the confidence and joy only our Father can give.
Read this passage as a reminder to pray through your own process of letting go, and trusting your kids to the Lord:
“Be anxious for nothing,
but in everything by prayer and supplication,
let your requests be made known to God;
and the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds
through Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7 NASB
The days of our journey are numbered, and our time with our babies is just a fraction of that journey.
Choose to give them good opportunities that will last long after they’re out of your home.
Raise up this generation with the confidence and joy only our Father can give.
Jennifer Bryant is the wife of a good man and mother of two precious kids. Her favorite things include reading, organizing, blogging, singing with her kids, laughing out loud with her husband, and making food for people. She lives in Honolulu, Hawaii and dreams of taking her family on marvelous adventures across the globe.
In the meantime, she blogs about life and family at PracticalFamily.org, and encourages others to build practical skills for healthy communication, simple living, and discover their awesomeness. Read more of her posts on Instagram | Pinterest | Facebook | Twitter.