Ida Fischer: Letting Your Child Be Independent is Tough but Worth It

december 081I’ve been biting my tongue a lot lately. Twice now I’ve had to refrain from rushing outside and yelling. I’m practicing saying less, and it is very, very difficult. As moms of preschoolers we are familiar with choosing our battles. We’ve let our toddlers go to the grocery store in their pajamas. Or in their bathing suits and cowboy boots. We’ve left the pacifier (overdue for weaning) in so that we could get some much-needed rest and maybe not be a complete mess in the morning. We avert our eyes from the hurricane that hit the living room because the kids are playing nicely and the extra half hour it will buy us is worth the clean-up later.

As moms we are constantly observing actions, weighing consequences, and choosing the path that will work best for our child, ourselves, and our families. We adjust the length of the leash, so to speak–letting our children have more freedom, then reeling them back in when their actions threaten to cross certain established boundaries. This balance between borders/guidance and independence/empowerment makes parenting both challenging and rewarding.

My nine-year-old has been driving me nuts lately with his disregard for proper footwear in the snow. I recently sent him down to the post office to get the mail, and he put on his low-top shoes. I watched as he proceeded to walk through the deepest snow in our yard and our neighbors’ yard to get there. And back. And again at church, he consistently chooses the route through the deepest snow between the car and the front door. These are the moments I’ve been practicing biting my tongue.

Because really, the boy knows full well the consequences: wet shoes and pants. Duh. I mean, he’s nine. But he chooses to do it anyway because, well, he wants to and wet pants don’t seem to bother him like they do me. Plus, let’s face it, he knows it annoys me. So this is where I have to pause: either I let it go…or I have to nag, he gets mad, scowls, and jerks his shoulder away from me when I reach out to touch him, my annoyance flares up, and we sit there fuming. It’s actually a really obvious choice, isn’t it? But stopping the urge to intervene is hard sometimes.

Stopping the urge to intervene is hard sometimes.

Each phase of childhood presents a new set of skills–physical, social and mental–that must be mastered. This requires boundaries and guidance on our part, but each new phase allows more opportunities for your child to exert independence and control over their lives. Let’s be sure we are stepping back, when possible, and taking a seat to allow our kids to figure things out for themselves, to do it their own way–even if we might not agree–and learn from the consequences.

Let your child dress themselves–even if their back pockets are in the front and their outfit might offend every ounce of fashion sense you possess (my seven-year-old still manages to put together some atrocious combinations). Let your willful three-year-old go out without their gloves; they’ll figure out soon enough gloves can be–ahem–handy. Let them pour their own water, get them a rag to clean it up when they spill, then let them try again. Let them stomp in the puddles, walk through the snow, and play in the mud; wet shoes and pants don’t bother them anyway.

IdaIda Fischer has been involved in MOPS for 2 years and now serves as a Discussion Group Leader. She is married to Maarten and mother to Sam (9), Noa (7), and Mylo (4). She enjoys everything outdoors, reading, and spending time alone to paint. You can find her blog and artwork at Ida Fischer Art and Illustration.

Header photo source: Ida Fischer

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