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Why You Should Stop Pushing Your Kids to be Independent

Why You Should Stop Pushing Your Kids to be Independent

Watch out moms and dads; we have been duped.  

And as a culture we have savored and swallowed it. Together we have collectively digested the lie regarding the virtue of independence. We have bought into the philosophy that our kids must learn to be, strive to be… independent. 

Independence surges through our American veins. It speaks to our collective red, white, and blue blood. Independence is a freedom Americans fight for and a value they die for.

As a nation, freedom from tyranny and oppression is an inalienable human right; a pursuit worth the sacrifice our forefathers made. But we have taken that cherished belief and manipulated the ideology to fit the family system. Many parenting philosophies support this idea. They are easy to spot. Their focus is only on logical and natural consequences. When this practice is applied, we address the individual’s external behavior rather than shaping and molding the heart. Raising our kids to be independent misses the boat when it comes to grace and mercy, empathy and compassion. 

Independence pushes relational intimacy aside. 

Is raising your child to be independent a paradigm you really want to practice? I think not. Most of us want a relationship with our kids that lasts a lifetime, one in which we are woven together throughout our lives and not just for the 18 years of sharing the same living space. 

I’m not talking about raising entitled, needy, codependent kids.

As a society, perhaps we have confused responsibility and independence. 

Like you, I want my children to become responsible adults, to be people who can make a living and support themselves. But I don’t want them to be the Lone Ranger, and tackle the world independent of the family. I pray my children know they can come to me and their dad when they need a shoulder, an ear, or a hand (some really great advice).  

No matter if they are in the littles stage or the adulting phase, I want them to know our family sticks together.  

Two main lies fan the flames of the independent deception:  

“God helps those who help themselves” and“God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.”

 These two principles are based on and fuel the independence lie. Neither of these two commonly uttered and sincerely believed statements are biblical. 

With certainty, I can tell you I have had more than I can handle. Eighteen straight months of more than I can manage reverberates in my mind.

Here’s my list: January—my dad died; February—I was in a ski accident and blew out my ACL, a few days later my middle daughter, Samantha, separated the bones in her foot while going over the hurdles in track; March—the two of us had surgery; June—Murphy, the family labradoodle was bitten by a rattlesnake; August—Samantha and I both needed a second surgery; November, same kid, was in a snowboard accident and experienced a concussion; December—our little Shih Tzu, Bailey, died and in the same month, my son Jake and his college roommate were in a rollover car accident; January —Kendra, the youngest, ruptured her spleen in a near fatal snowboard accident; and  in January we visited Urgent Care only hours after arriving home from the ICU because Samantha cut her hand and needed to be stitched up; March—Jake was diagnosed with irregular heartbeat. Three of our four kids went to the hospital in an ambulance in three consecutive months. 

This was definitely more than my husband, Tom, and I could handle. We needed our family and friends. We depended on God. 

We are not meant to be solo-souls.

God wants us to rely on him and encourage and support one another.  We are beings created for relationship with one another and with our Heavenly Father.

“It’s your problem, you fix it,” may encourage personal responsibility but it reinforces the Lone Ranger mentality. Perhaps we don’t use those exact harsh words but I bet most of us have said, “You spilled. You clean it up.”

But… what if a response to a spill sounded more like this, “That’s okay. Everybody spills. I’ll help you clean it up.” The idea communicated is, “I’m here with you. Spills are no big deal. I spill too. I don’t go crazy when you spill.” The heart qualities of humility, empathy, self-control, and compassion are grown without obliterating the characteristic of responsibility. The underlying message is, “Our family is a grace-filled group of people who help each other out when life gets messy.” 

When kiddos are older, the life spills are bigger. It may look like a forgotten homework assignment or, like in my home, a car accident. “The car can be fixed. I’m glad you are okay. Let’s figure this out together.”  

It’s magic when a parent hears one sibling say to another, “That’s okay everybody spills. I’ll help you clean it up.” If we focus on independence, our family ties become frayed. By working through life spills and car wrecks together with an interdependent approach we knit our families closer. 

I’m done falling for the independence lie. My goal isn’t to raise independent children. 

My measure of success is to have responsible and caring kids who are able to rely on one another, ask for help and offer help when needed, and trust the Lord throughout their lives. I don’t want my young adults to become the Lone Ranger. I’m hoping they will be more like the all for one and one for all Musketeers. 

Oh and by the way, all of us survived those 18 months because God was with us and so were his people. 

"Be devoted to one another in love." (>Romans 12:10a)

Lori Wildenberg is passionate about encouraging and supporting moms and dads in their God-blessed role as parents. She is co-founder of ministry, co-author of three parenting books including, Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love and a national speaker. Find Lori over at her Eternal Moments blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Connect with Lori on her website by clicking on the contact tab.  

Publication date: July 18, 2016