Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Road to Independence, Part 2

It's been awhile since I posted part 1 of The Road to Independence. If you are a follower of WordSmithery, you know that I have issues with so-called regular features. I'm pretty much not Type A.

In my first post, I talked about the general relaxed approach we've taken in our lives. One of the reasons that we began homeschooling was because we didn't like the rigid emphasis on testing in the elementary grades that we saw in our area public schools. In first grade, our oldest and his classmates had to practice filling out bubbles so that they would be prepared for the TCAPS (standardized test) in second grade. Really? What a colossal waste of childhood. They also had to practice note-taking so "they'd be ready for college." Oh, come on. That's just silliness. (I know it's not like that everywhere. I understand—and have experienced—the existence of excellent public schools, like the one in Iowa where we started out. But that's not our reality. And so.)

As I was saying, we have deliberately cultivated a relaxed approach to our lives, and in homeschooling and parenting, this translates at one level to relinquishing control little by little. This, my friends, is a key part of the road to independence. Your kid cannot become independent if you do everything for him/her because it's the way you want things done (AKA, the right way). In simplest terms, it's OK for your kids to color outside the lines, metaphorically. To raise an independent kid, you will have to give up a lot of preconceived notions you had about parenting and how your kid would be.

In practical terms:
• you must let your kid fail sometimes
• you must let your kid wear clothes that you did not pick out (yes, I know people who pick out their high schoolers' clothes each day)
• you must let go of some of the requirements you may have asked of your child when s/he was younger (e.g., cleaning her plate, getting up at ___ a.m., going to bed at ___ p.m., etc.)
• you may need to reconsider whether you will require your teen to attend various events with you. For example, I've seen 16-year-olds attending functions that are clearly meant for K-5th graders. The look on their faces: angry and embarrassed.
• you must pick your battles, just like you did when s/he was a toddler
• you must not allow what other people think to dictate what you know is right for your family. You must watch the hypocrisy level in your own life.

I'm not talking about just packing it all in and saying, "It's your life; do what you want." Obviously, there are plenty of places where our guidance is essential. But our kids need room to breathe and figure things out on their own, and they can't do that if we are constantly grilling them, questioning their decisions, and planning their every move. I think we parents do this mostly out of fear—fear that they'll be harmed in some way, fear of what others will think, fear that they'll fail, fear that they won't know what to do, fear that they won't turn out like we wanted them to.

That's all I have to say this time about helping your high schooler become independent. It's scary; I know—but you really can relinquish some control. Holding on too tightly might make you feel better and might even make your kid feel better because it's all s/he's ever known, but you might very well be doing him a disservice.

Do you have a high school-aged kid or older? In what ways did you relinquish control?


  1. Thank you for this. I went back and found part 1!

  2. I'm too tired to add much, but this is an excellent post. My kids haven't had a lot of reasons to rebel because I'm just so darn cooperative as a parent. My kids have a lot of input in what happens around here, more than my peers are usually comfortable with, but it has created confident, thinking young adults in our family.

  3. That is very true. In the co-op class I taught last year, the mom of 2 middle schoolers was complaining about my assignments because she had to read them for her kids and explain it! Might be time to let go of them a little, huh? Good post.

    BTW I loved your love story post too! Great picture of the hubster.

  4. uh...excellent public school is an oxymoron! You should know this by now!

  5. i kept this up on my reader so i could go back and comment on it, and now i see that it's been two weeks. so yeah, i'm pretty much not a type a either.

    and whatever comments i was going to make would probably have been too long anyway, so it's all good. :-)

    i was probably going to say something (oh, here i go) about how i'm not sure we did the whole independence thing too well with our olders (who are now on their own, so i suppose we did something right) and then i was probably going to add that i am (we are) much more aware of that need to gradually let go with our 3rd, who is now 14. it's been interesting with him. given his difficulty with focus and self-management, as well as the fact that he's one of the "littles" (a 5-year gap between #2 & #3 definitely lends itself to that sort of classification), i've tended to hover a little overmuch. but since we've embarked on this deliberate path of releasing him toward manhood, i think we're doing well. not that it's always easy.


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