“From the moment the cord is cut, their complete dependence on you is over,” adds Carol Kuykendall, author of Five-Star Families: Moving Yours from Good to Great (Revell, 2005). “The goal is not to control children, but to empower them — building them up to have power and control over themselves. One way to do this is to find ways to celebrate your preschooler’s courage and confidence. Whether it’s making a new friend or attempting a new chore, rejoice that they’ve done it on their own.”
Read part one of this series here.
Striving for independence looks different during the various ages and stages of children’s lives. And when they start their striving, children do so with gusto. The hard thing about parenting is that as soon as we get one stage figured out, our kids want to grow and change!
Three to Five Years
“Parents can especially note a child’s drive to be their own person during the toddler years,” says Barbara Curtis, author of The Mommy Manual: Planting Roots That Give Your Children Wings (Revell, 2005).
Struggles may arise when parents confuse a child’s natural tendency for independence with rebellion. While it might be better, easier, and faster to dress your children or set the table, giving your children those tasks is important. Those tasks allow them to be a capable and important part of the family unit.
“Put your preschooler’s clothes in the lowest drawers and hang a new rod in his closet so he can pick out his own clothes,” says Curtis. “Allow him the time to dress himself. The first few times things may be backwards, or don’t match, but let it go. Then gently begin fine-tuning with simple suggestions: ‘See this tag? Did you know it goes in the back?’ Any parent can help their child become more independent and confident by giving them simple tasks.”
Six to Nine Years
Each child is born with a unique personality, but a child’s personality and unique interests begin to flourish during the elementary school years. Yet conflict can arise during these years if a child has different interests than those his or her parents planned on.
“We often see our parenting as an extension of who we are as people,” says Thomas. “We want to create a certain type of child to affirm our parenting, rather than releasing that child to affirm God’s creation.”
We need to remember to encourage our children according to their gifts—not what we, as parents, enjoy. Give them opportunities to try new things, yet also don’t feel like a bad parent if they don’t try organized sports or take music lessons.
And just as each child’s interests are unique, his or her rate of maturity also varies.
“Letting go is an individual thing for each child,” says Dr. Ken Hemphill, co-author of Parenting With Kingdom Purpose (Broadman and Holman, 2005). “Some children mature earlier, so you have to let go in stages. My wife and I have three daughters, and we tried to explain that freedom and privilege are always accompanied by responsibility. So as they, individually, demonstrated their ability to handle the more responsibility, mom and dad rewarded them with greater freedom.”
Having a Blueprint
“When we build bridges and buildings, we have a blueprint. To lead your children into manhood and womanhood, it’s good to have a vision. What kind of person do you want them to be?” asks Barbara Curtis, author of The Mommy Manual. “Knowing the answers gives parents a target.”
As a mother of twelve children and having toddlers in her life for thirty-five years, Curtis has had plenty of time to reflect on what’s really important. And just what values does she focus on?
Gratitude—to God and those who serve us
Respect for others—not based on appearance or worldly values, but as God’s special creations
Accountability—submission to authority
Humility—the ability to see ourselves the way God sees us with strengths and weaknesses
Contrition—the ability to admit and learn from mistakes
Compassion/Service—hearts directed outward, toward helping others
How about you? What changes are you seeing in your preschool and school-aged child? What are you doing to encourage positive growth? Please share what’s worked and what hasn’t!
Have you entered your photo into my photo assignment yet? I’d love for you to participate! Find out more information here!