Raising Self-Sufficient Children in a “Needy” World
Thinking back on my childhood, I don’t ever remember playing with my parents. Their hectic work schedules demanded most of their time during the week, and on the weekends, we didn’t sit down to family board games, crafts, or cooking because my mother had a plethora of cleaning and errands to run (and my Father was still working).
There were three of us, and during the week we were latchkey kids. My older sister, who was 11 at the time, was the one who made and served us dinner, and we washed the dishes ourselves while taking care of the dogs and making our own lunches for the next day.
We also entertained ourselves. **(GASP)**
That’s right. We had no one to complain to about boredom nor did we expect our parents to keep us entertained. We had a basement full of toys, a TV, and Nintendo. We played with and entertained each other, or sometimes we just played alone. Furthermore, there were no referees available to stop our fights, so we were left to resolve our own arguments- however it panned out that day. (There is a chocolate milk in the face incident I remember quite vividly…)
How This Affected Us
Fast forward to today. My eldest is in no way ready, nor will she be ready anytime soon, to take on the responsibilities that my eldest sister did. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a SAHM (turned WAHM) during my kid’s childhood, something I had always wished our Mother could be to us growing up, but I’m having second thoughts about it now.
Is it hindering their ability to grow into self-sufficient and responsible individuals?
Now don’t get me wrong, my parents in no way neglected us, they just didn’t coddle us much like parents do with their children today- and we turned out just fine. In fact, I’d venture to say that learning to be self-sufficient early on has helped me to grow into a responsible and ambitious adult. If I need or want something, I know that I need to get up and get it myself.
My parents weren’t neglectful, unloving, or selfish. In fact, it was quite the opposite. They worked really hard to provide a safe and comfortable lifestyle for us. Neither my mother or my father has ever worked a normal, 8-hour day or 40-hour work week. My father has worked night and double shifts my whole life, and my mother has never put in just 40 hours worth of work- she’s always done more and/or worked from home in addition to office hours. My parents always worked hard for everything they had, and they worked hard for us.
In exchange, my sisters and I had to learn to be self-sufficient early on and figure out things on OUR OWN.
We did our homework, fed ourselves, and made our own lunches without anyone there to remind or nag us to do so. If I left my lunch or violin at home, there was no one to retrieve it for me. I had to face the wrath of the orchestra teacher on more than one occasion, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that if I wanted to spare myself the embarrassment, I needed to make sure to bring my violin on orchestra days. Would I have been as responsible if I had my Mother to remedy my forgetfulness every time?
How This Affects My Kids
So now I look at my kids. They are constantly bored and looking to me to entertain them or give them something to do. Responsibility and mindfulness seems a few years off, and the only way I can get my daughter to do her homework is if I remind her, nag her, and threaten her from the time she gets home until it’s done. No one makes their own lunches. When my daughter has attempted to do so in the past, it’s been tossed out and replaced with a hot lunch that she conveniently charges to her school account- that I will get the bill for later.
There’s always someone picking up the slack, being responsible, and doing things for them. It’s causing them to be needy, hindering their ability to be self-sufficient, and makes them seek happiness from others.
This is first-hand knowledge.
I’ve been their ages and remember what I was capable of doing without guidance or supervision. I know what they are capable of, too- and it is a far cry from where I was at that age. As parents, we need to ask ourselves:
- Is helicopter parenting and/or coddling causing us to raise a generation of kids who cannot do anything for themselves?
- What will these children be like as adults?
- Are the basic lessons of survival, self-sufficiency, and responsibility being lost in kids whose parents are TOO available?
What Parents are Doing Wrong
We all want to keep our kids safe and on the right path, but overstepping our boundaries is not helping our kids to learn and grow. Here’s what we’re doing wrong:
- Not allowing them to experience the consequences of their own actions. Ex. Blaming teachers for their grades.
- Doing their work for them. You’re there to GUIDE them, not do it FOR them. Ex. Homework projects, making lunch, etc…
- Not letting them experience disappointment. Life won’t always be perfect and you won’t always be there to soothe things over for them. It’s best they learn to deal with disappointment now.
- If your child hasn’t earned something, you shouldn’t be fighting for them to have it. How will they ever experience true accomplishment when they’re rewarded either way?
What Parents Should Want for Their Kids
In a sea of coddled and entitled children, I want my kids to be the self-sufficient, responsible, and ambitious. I want my kids to know that nothing worth having comes easy and that if they want something they’ll need to work hard for it.
I want them to be able to take care of themselves, well enough, and without my constant reminding or threats. I want them to find happiness from within and use their imagination to learn about their world. Most of all, I want them to learn from their mistakes and form their lives based on their own thoughts, opinions, and experiences.
We’re not here to entertain them, solve all their problems, or meddle in situations that may cause them temporary pain, but grant them long-term knowledge, experience, and training for the real world.
We’re here to GUIDE them.
To teach them how to take care of themselves through hygiene, nourishment, food, and health. To show them how to be compassionate, contributing members of society who know right from wrong. We’re here to show them how to be responsible adults …ON THEIR OWN.
Responsible adults aren’t made overnight and they aren’t handed these traits. These traits are learned through trial and error, with guidance, and involve learning through mistakes, pain, and heartbreak.
We need to stop coddling our kids.
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Don’t get me wrong, I definitely think it’s important to spend time with your children, to have experiences together and play together. However, when it comes to the point that your children need you to keep them entertained always, or need you to do things for them (that they should be capable of doing themselves), this is when a line needs to be drawn. Children need to be able to grow, and smothering them doesn’t allow for this to happen.
Our kids need to be taught to take care of themselves and today’s parenting styles are hindering our ability to do that. We need to stop doing so much for them and let them grow on their own because we won’t always be there. It’s better they find out how to deal with the world while in our care and not alone in the real world. The next post, Why You Need to “Neglect” Your Children, goes into further detail on how I plan to raise my kids to be self-sufficient.
Are you a Helicopter Parent or are you more laid back? What do you feel works best? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.