July is the month we as a nation celebrate our independence. The value of independence is important to parents too. Parents recognize that raising independent children who are able to make good decisions, even when no one is watching, is a solid investment in their children’s future. Children who learn independence are more self-sufficient and less susceptible to peer pressure and temptations. It’s no secret that our complex world with overwhelming influences from advanced technology and social media is making this goal a challenge, to say the least.
What’s a parent to do? What should you consider? Here are a couple of steps you can take.
1. Take a look at how you were parented.
Think about how you were parented as a child. Reflect and acknowledge both the strengths and weaknesses of your parent’s approach. Knowing there were times when your parents fell short and/or excelled. Without being a bit introspective you will continue to parent just like you were parented. In order to do things differently, you need to understand where you came from. Then you are ready to add new parenting tools to your tool kit to encourage and build your child’s independence.
2. Take a look at your parenting style.
How do you parent? Consider three general methods of parenting. Understanding these different approaches helps you focus on what would like to modify or change.
Parents can be categorized as “Helicopter,” “Drill Sergeant,” or “Consultant.” Most likely, you were raised by parents who predominately used one of these styles. There could have been a mix, but one was dominant. Which one sounds familiar?
The best way to describe a “helicopter” parent is to think of what a helicopter does: It hovers and rescues. The helicopter parent always carries their child’s things into class: the backpack, lunch box, sports equipment, band instrument and can be counted on to drive home immediately if the child forgets anything.
Helicopter parents don’t want their child to be uncomfortable so they take over and make sure their child is never disappointed or distressed. They are always “fixing” situations so the child doesn’t feel unhappy. Unfortunately, the world is filled with disappointments. Helicopter parents rob their child of learning how to deal with disappointment and the consequences of their decisions. The message a Helicopter Parent sends is: “You aren’t capable of doing this, so I will.”
Drill Sergeant Parent
What do drill sergeants do and how do they sound? They give orders and shout a lot. It’s “My way or the highway.” “Sit up straight.” “If it takes all day, you are going to finish that.” “Do it now.” “Because I said so.”
A Drill Sergeant parent thinks their way is best so they tell a child what to do and expect compliance without questions. The world has many authority figures like this. Consider how you would feel with a boss like that and how willing you would be to cooperate. The message a Drill Sergeant parent sends is: “You can’t think for yourself, so I will think for you.”
Are you a consultant or have you hired a consultant? Think about the nature of a consultant. They listen, then offer choices and suggestions, and help you explore alternatives and solutions. You respect them and for that reason have asked for their help.
Consultant parents, with warmth and empathy, model doing a good job, cleaning up and feeling good about it. They demonstrate self-care, time management and being responsible. The message a consultant parent sends is: “You’d best do your own thinking because the quality of your life has a lot to do with your own decisions.”
When the child has a problem they help the child consider options by asking if they would like suggestions: “I can see you’ve got a problem. Would you like some ideas?” A consultant parent is comfortable with allowing a child to make their own decisions (age-appropriate and as long as it doesn’t have to do with a safety issue) even if it means they will be making a mistake. Experiencing the natural consequences from their decisions is how a child learns how to better handle a situation in the future, thus building the basic skills of independence.
The consultant style of parenting helps to raise an independent child!
- The more you show empathy and listen, the more children believe you are on their side and gain the confidence to try new things.
- The more you share control by offering choices and options, the more your child has opportunities to feel empowered to step out autonomously.
- The more you hand the problem back to them, the more children can practice making decisions and gain confidence from figuring it out on their own.
Janada Clark teaches Love and Logic at Stanford and public and private schools. Her parent education classes are a well respected resource for parents. Class information is listed on her website www.janadaclark.com If you would like to receive a free monthly parent newsletter with lots of parenting tips and ideas email her at email@example.com or visit her Facebook community where parents post success stories and questions at facebook.com/clearpatheducation
Image provided by Melissa Miller & Vinnie Fernandez, PAMP’s Lead Photographers and co-owners of C’est Jolie Photography