I vividly remember the conversation. My friend and I were standing in my kitchen, joking about how tempted we were make our six-year-old daughters drink of out sippy cups. Not because they didn’t know how to drink from a regular cup, but because it ensured no mess to clean up. This conversation ensued just after my three-year-old poured milk from the carton into his cereal bowl, managing to get 80% of it in the bowl, and the rest on the counter. I’ve come to realize that in an attempt to control the mess and the chaos, my parenting strategies were focused on the small failures instead of celebrating numerous successes. I decided that it was time to release my grip of control and begin fostering independence in my kids.
It is Not About Me
It is uncomfortable for me to admit, but at times my parenting strategies shift based on who is watching. Truth be told, I am a recovering people-pleaser, and I am working hard not to hold such an elevated view of what others think of me. This journey to more wholeness has had a positive effect on my parenting. The narrative surrounding the mess in the kitchen and how that reflects on my worth as a mother, shifts from beating myself up for not keeping things clean and tidy, to celebrating the fact that my kids had a blast making an afternoon batch of jello. And they did it all on their own. Although their version of cleaning up has room for improvement, I am seeing how these opportunities to execute a task from beginning to end, aids in fostering independence.
Creativity Needs Space to Grow
I’m the mom who takes the bin of paint and hides it in the cupboard nobody can reach. I executed that strategy for years until my kids were old enough and tall enough to catch on. And you know what? It wasn’t as painful as I had imagined. The hours of creativity and storytelling that resulted from this inexpensive bin of paint yielded a great reward. Homemade play dough is another activity that my kids enjoy. I maintain tight control on the food coloring disbursement because of stains. Until one day I chose to let them mix and match to their hearts content and we survived! My kids develop responsibility by being given responsibility. Novel, right? Fostering independence can start with the simplest of tasks. When a child successfully accomplishes a goal, it builds confidence and responsibility grows.
My mantra as a mom is to raise children who extend love and acceptance to others, teach them to be capable and kind, tender and strong, empathetic, and full of gratitude. This list is lofty, but I believe it is attainable. The days are long but the years are short, so I aim to maximize my time as a mother to instill these character traits into my children. Just like me, my children learn best by doing, not only by hearing. Reports of conflict resolution on the playground, and inviting the new kid in school to join in the basketball game at recess reveal that they are beginning to put these values into practice. The more hands-on opportunities provided to children, the more it fosters independence. In turn, I am learning from their examples as I see my children embody these characteristics.
Sit Back and Enjoy
Life is busy and even chaotic at times. With a house full of people, someone is always on the move. But, when I take a moment to sit back and observe all that is happening and how my little people are learning and growing, often in spite of me, I am in awe. So mama, this is my challenge to you. Put down control and pick up your coffee. Sit back and take a long, hard look at the beautiful life that surrounds you. You are doing a great job! The hard work you have invested in fostering independence in your kids will not return void.