Parenting Tips: Raise Kids So Strong They Will Not Get Stuck When You Are Gone

I am a parent and I know that parents have this belief that they will always be in their kids’ lives. We never imagine a time we will no longer be around. This is a mentality that we need to deliberately break away from otherwise we will incapacitate our children and make them dependent on us, which will block them from living successful lives.

I know that it is not easy to watch as your children make choices in life that you do not approve of, but remember that when you plant a seed in the ground and it germinates, your work is to nurture and protect it so that it realizes its full potential. It is not your work to control and stop it from growing to what it was meant to be.

Begin With The End In Mind: Independence

Nothing frustrates parents as having adult children who are not able to live independent lives. What makes some children remain dependent on their parents way into their 20s, 30s, 40s? Why do some individuals lack the self-confidence to take charge of their lives? Howo you want your children to grow up to become independent or to forever remain dependent on you? 

Do you want your children to grow up into strong individuals who handle their own issues whether in their jobs or relationships or to come running to you about every challenge they encounter?

It is very tempting to adopt an authoritarian style of parenting because it saves us the hard work of molding the character of our kids. You demand that your children must do 1,2,3 because you said so; zero dialogue, zero listening to them. 

Let us compare bringing up children to nurturing a plant to maturity. You get a seed and plant it.

You want to ground your child to become like a tree that grows big and provides shade and fruits season after season, for generations. 

You don’t want your child to be like a crop that gives fruit once then it withers and dies. That sort of crop is taken care of and nurtured until the time of harvest; it never becomes independent.

When the seedling of a tree is young, it is totally dependent on you. You water it every day, add fertilizer, protect it from the hot sun and harsh weather conditions. So is it with a baby; totally helpless and dependent on the parent for everything.

As a tree grows and matures, it no longer needs someone to water it or protect it from the elements. Its roots run deep and so it can access water from deep down in the ground during dry spells. 

The mature tree is capable of shedding its leaves during harsh weather and to grow fresh leaves when the weather conditions change. You can leave that tree there for decades and find it still thriving when you come back.

In the same way, nurture your baby and provide everything he needs when he is little and helpless. But adapt to the growth of your baby. 

As your child grows and begins to explore, don’t clip his wings. His needs at the age of 5 or 7 are not in line with your needs at age 30 or 40 so don’t try to make him reason like you. Don’t try to make your child a copy of you.

Set boundaries in order to keep your child safe but don’t take over his life. Do not try to make him like yourself. 

Don’t be so afraid that he will make mistakes till you cannot give him any room to explore and learn anything. If you find your little girl playing with mud or dolls and you punish her because she is creating a mess, what exactly are you doing to her development?

Try as much as possible to give your kids space to grow and develop without forcing them to act a different age or development stage from what they really are. 

Guide them such that they start learning responsibility early. For example, work with your little one to put away the toys in their rightful place after play; don’t do everything for your kids otherwise they will never learn life skills. 
Let her play all she wants with toys, mud or whatever but involve her in cleaning up after the play until it becomes routine for her to clean up whether you are there or not.

We parents love our children so much we want to shield them from any painful experiences. But life is never smooth for anyone and we all face challenges and disappointments in life. Life comes to us without a syllabus and we have to learn to navigate through it. 

Give your child the gift of self-reliance by allowing him to find solutions to the minor challenges he encounters in life, without rushing to solve everything for him and protect him from minor struggles and frustrations.

We learn by doing so don’t deny him valuable life experiences by solving everything for him. Should you do that, you will be a very frustrated parent in your later years as your adult child will bring each and every challenge to you at a time when he should be living an independent life and you no longer have the energy to parent him.

Loving your children means training them to survive in this world whether you are there or not. 

If you do not train your children and enforce rules allowing them to get away with anything, they will get a rude shock when they will get out into the world and discover a world that does not revolve around them. 
It will be difficult for them to learn to obey rules and fit into structures if they never learned that from a young age.

Enforce discipline from a young age. Have reward and punishment aspects in your discipline. 

One thing I totally disagree with is punishing children unnecessarily and especially when punishment is damaging to a child such as caning, quarreling or shouting at the child. 
A child breaks a glass or a plate by mistake (which each and everyone of us does anyway) and you punish. A child does something they even had no idea that it is wrong and they are punished. Instilling fear in a child will come back to haunt you when he will fear to take risks as an adult.

What exactly does that sort of parenting do to the growing child? He learns that making mistakes in life is wrong (yet everyone makes them and learns from them). 

His curious nature is killed by fear. I come across adults who are incapacitated by fear, they lack the self-confidence to try anything new, for fear of making mistakes or failing.

Parents really get frustrated when their children turn out that way yet in most cases that character was shaped from a very young age. 

An authoritarian parent controls the kids through fear but gets frustrated when they grow up to become dysfunctional because they are paralyzed by fear.

Your Child is Not An Extension Of You

I see many unfortunate cases where parents force their own beliefs and value systems on their children. I do not like certain colours or fashions so I force my children to live by my value systems. I adhere to certain religious beliefs so my children must adhere to the same.

In many cases the parent acquired those values from someone else; parents, teachers, religious leaders, peers, etc.

Yes, as a parent you have your tastes and preferences but your children are not an extension of you. They too have their tastes and preferences. 

When you impose your own tastes and preferences on your children, you become a dictator in their lives and you achieve one or two things; you raise bitter, angry, children or they rebel against you. When your children reject your leadership and rebel against you, you can no longer be in a position to guide them.

Listen to your children. Give them direction without taking over their lives. explain things. Ask questions and encourage dialogue. 

You are not a sort of god that knows everything. 
‘You will pursue such and such a career…. You will choose such and such subjects…. You will not pursue such and such a hobby or sport….’
By killing the dreams of your children, you destroy them and condemn your family to many years of pain and frustrations. 
You kill the dreams of your children while they are young and helpless then when you will want them to have dreams and goals to pursue, they will have none and will be a burden to you.

How many parents are forever crying because their children have grown up to become dysfunctional yet they were feeling like some sort of gods when those children were young because the children feared them and trembled whenever they (the parents) spoke?

Train your children and nurture them to maturity. Don’t control them. Teach them and instill the right values in them, not by being dictatorial and ruling them by fear but by nurturing them, permitting them to question things and taking time to explain. Don’t threaten and silence children when they question things.

We are living in dangerous times where there is all manner of wrong influences all over the place ranging from the Internet, TV, peer pressure, drug traffickers, criminals and everything else. 

How will your children choose what is right whether you are with them or not? Win them over to choose what is right even when they are exposed to what is wrong. If there ever was a time when parents need to love their children and be close to them, it is today. 
Spend quality time with your children. Play with them. Read books together. Watch movies, programs, sports and other entertainment together. Schedule special time together such as family time, outings, etc. Attend their school events.

Appreciate Individuality

Each one of us has what matters to us most. There are people who value excelling in academics while others value sports. It all depends on our own value systems. 

What do you do if you value academic excellence above all else yet your child is weak in academics but is very good in sports? Do you harass your child, trying to make him excel in academics? 
Do you criticize/belittle sports as a way of making your child change his focus? Do you compare him unfairly with the sibling who is excelling in academics and make him feel useless because he is not as good as his brother when it comes to academics?

Will it be worth it to live with a destroyed child all your life simply because what is important to him is not what is important to you? 

What if your child goes into drugs, goes down with depression or commits suicide because of your endless criticisms? Will that give you any kind of victory? 
Yes, you might be happy about one child who happens to be just the way you like but don’t destroy another child by favouring or preferring one over the other.

Appreciate diversity and learn to give room to whatever different gifts your children bring into your home. At the end of the day, both will remain your children and one damaged child can take away your peace, even lead you to an early grave. Learn to appreciate and encourage diversity.

Your child is looking for a hero; be your child’s hero. Model appropriate behavior rather than training your children to become hypocrites by preaching water while drinking wine. 

Be human, after all you are not superhuman so don’t give the impression that you are. Apologize when you are wrong. Make amends. Admit that you don’t know everything and be open to learning new things. Apprentice that your children too have things to teach you.

Be very careful how you treat your spouse. Respect him/her and apologize when you are wrong. Do not control and destroy your spouse but respect and appreciate differences, unless it is completely wrong and unacceptable such as a parent who introduces a young child to unacceptable behavior such as smoking or drinking alcoholic drinks. 

Always appreciate that you and your spouse are two distinct individuals and your children will grow up knowing that they need to appreciate and respect standards and opinions that are different from their own.

Build the self-confidence of your children. Praise and reinforce good behavior rather than putting too much emphasis on what they get wrong. 

Train yourself to speak positive things about your children whether they are hearing or not. Remember that they are likely to hear from someone else what you said. 
Imagine the pride in your child’s heart when he overhears uncle telling aunt that you said that he is such as talented artist. Refrain from complaining about your children to people because sooner or later they will get to hear about it and it will crush their spirits.

Don’t overlook or ignore bad behavior from your children. If your child treats his sibling or a neighbor’s child with disrespect, handle it promptly. 

Remember that you have very few years to shape the character of your child before you release him into the world where you will not be with him to guide and protect him.

We are living in a day when parents are busy and they cannot always be with their children. Parents often leave their children with someone else as they go to work or travel away from home. What do you do about this situation? 

Prepare your children’s minders adequately and spend time together with them and the children so that you can pass on your requirements to them.

Don’t hesitate to change a minder who is not good for your child. For example, you get a nanny who shouts at your young child, calls him names, wounds his young spirit; have no apologies to make for replacing that nanny. Your child is far too important to you to be destroyed in the name of keeping a nanny.

What if you have to leave your children under the care of someone else for any period of time, be it a family friend, your parents, siblings or someone else? 

How do you ensure that the right values are passed on to your child? At the end of the day, it is you who will live with the consequences of what your child grows up to become; not the nanny, grandma, neighbour, teacher or anyone else so make the right choices when it comes to the bringing up of your child.

This article is written by Susan Catherine Keter; life coach, personal development mentor, motivational speaker, freelancer and blogger.

Financial Independence Africa