The Importance of Independent Development

do we love our kids too muchWe live in a day and age where professional parents are everywhere. These people are so concerned with their child’s development that they are constantly breathing down his or her neck. It is important that parents spend time with their children – studies show that sound parental influence is vital to development. However, it is equally important that children are given sufficient independence to develop their own thoughts, interests, and sense of identity. The world is a scary place, and in order to adequately prepare our children we must avoid over-parenting. Every parent wants to raise their child with good morals and integrity, yet some fail to see the realistic limitations of their influence. That is to say, sometimes parents simply become too involved in their children’s lives. Children should be exposed to the real world and learn to make their own decisions from a young age. Here are some reasons why striking a fine balance between care and restraint is important for your child’s development.

Building Confidence

Some parents hardly ever see their children – and we aren’t advocating for that. Nevertheless, it is true that children build confidence when they are forced to make decisions on their own, independent of parental influence. These early learning experiences can prove immensely beneficial down the road, especially in situations where you, the parent, are not around to help. And let’s be clear – in life, such situations will inevitably occur. No matter how much coddling a parent engages in, eventually their child will be forced to make their own decisions. By instilling your child with confidence to do so from an early age, you can help ensure they will be able to handle whatever life throws at them up to a reasonable degree.

The Beauty of Advice

Some parents try to control every aspect of their children’s lives – dictating what sports they participate in, which instruments they learn to play, even what hobbies they engage in. However, this subjects your child to doing things they may have no real interest in. Instead of dictating every aspect of their lives, try engaging with your child. You might discover interests they have that you did not know about. You may even learn about strengths or talents your child has that you were not aware of. When you offer advice and guidance to your children instead of seeking to control their lives, it can help you relate more to them. This promotes positive communication, which further strengthens your relationship. You might also find out about things your child is struggling with. Perhaps your child is dealing with a bully at school, but hasn’t had the courage to tell anyone about it. Maybe he or she is struggling with math or another school subject. When you are able to communicate about these issues, you can offer substantial assistance.

Avoiding “Child Worship”

do we love our kids too muchThere is another, related phenomenon in our society today known as “child worship”, or the excessive devotion to children. It involves giving relentless praise, reinforcement, and encouragement to children. When taken to an extreme, treating children with constant praise can have distinctly negative effects. Children need encouragement, but they also need the benefits from real-world lessons early in life. An oft-cited example is the practice of handing out trophies to the losing team in a sporting event simply for their participation. This may seem like positive reinforcement, but in reality all it does is reinforce the notion that participating on the losing side of something makes you deserving of a reward. Instead of presenting children with a trophy when they lose, we should instead take time to congratulate them on their effort while explaining that oftentimes success requires hard work – and even then it’s never guaranteed. Do we love our kids too much?

Striking a Balance

Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect blueprint for raising a child, and every child will present distinct challenges for their parents. However, striking a balance between advising and controlling a child’s life will do wonders for their ongoing development. Parents who seek total control over their child’s life are often squandering the opportunity to act as a helpful guide as their child develops a unique identity of their own. Along the same lines, parents who shower their children with praise and positive reinforcement only delay the arrival of life’s hard lessons. It is up to you to take advantage of these opportunities so you can be a consistent, measured, and positive influence on your child’s development.

3 comments

  1. Steve Wehrenberg says:

    The question “Do we love our kids too much?” raises others: “What is just enough?” or “What is the minimum acceptable?”

    I tried to answer some of those years ago in a book chapter titled “The Tasks of Parenting” in “Thinking on the Edge : Essays by members of the International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (1993).” I posited that the bare minimum was represented in imparting four concepts:

    – There will be a tomorrow
    – You are not the center of the universe
    – Conflict happens, and you can manage it
    – You are responsible for your own actions

    I don’t know if this list is sufficient to demonstrate “just enough love” but I do believe it to be necessary. I certainly agree that children need to learn how to make decisions, and that when those don’t work out, how to learn from the result. Children need to make mistakes — just not injurious or fatal ones!

    Happy to email it along as a pdf — can’t see how I could upload it here. It’s only 6-7 pages.

    Steve

  2. Lauren Sherwood says:

    Brings to mind the Book “The Prophet”: On Children by Kahlil Gibran

    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
    which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
    and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
    so He loves also the bow that is stable.

    I have tried to use this as my guide as i have done the best I can as a single Mom! My kids turned out to be pretty great young adults, I’m proud to see! Nice article! Thank you!

  3. william says:

    New comment on Death and Mindfulness

    Sammasati: Dying – with a radical difference! What if death stopped being scary? (being able to cope)
    If there were a way to get ready for it, just as for any journey? If you and those you love could die not only peacefully

    The good news is that a more recently a lot of us are re-thinking the way we view death. We’re questioning the notion that wanting to know about death is a) morbid, b) anti-life and c) will bring it closer.

    Sammasati view is that (in the words of Dame Cecily Saunders, the founder of the Hospice Movement in the UK): Dying is as natural as being born. (to many)

    If you know that death is inevitable, and that brings up some fears and insecurities, why not accept that they’re there and see what they’re about now?
    Delaying that preparation until you’re breathing your last is like weaving your parachute when you’re already airborne.

    Sammasati – An Exposition of Right Mindfulness
    In the Noble Eightfold Path, the practice leading to the complete cessation of Unsatisfactoriness, Sammasati is counted as the second factor of the Samadhi Section, the ‘Higher Mental Training’. The usual definition of sammasati given in the Discourses is as follows:
    “Bhikkhus. What is sammasati? This is call sammasati, namely, that a bhikkhu in this Dhamma Vinaya:

    Contemplates the body in the body with effort, sampajañña and sati, eradicating covetousness and
    Another definition, which appears in the Abhidhamma texts, is as follows:
    “What is sammasati? Sati means to bear in mind or bring to mind. Sati is the state of recollecting, the state of remembering, the state of non-fading, the state of non-forgetting.

    Sati means the sati that is a Spiritual Faculty, the sati that is a Spiritual Power, Sammasati, the Sati that is an Enlightenment Factor, that which is a Path Factor and that which is related to the Path. This is what is calledsammasati.”
    Sammasati, as defined in the Discourses, is a synonym for the principles of Dhamma known as the Four Satipatthana. The four elements of this group have the abbreviated names of:
    1. Kayanupassana (contemplation or mindfulness of the body);
    2. Vedananupassana (contemplation or mindfulness of feelings);
    3. Cittanupassana (contemplation or mindfulness of mind);
    4. Dhammanupassana (contemplation or mindfulness of dhammas).

    Before investigating the meaning of sammasati in terms of the Four Satipatthana, it would seem appropriate to make a few general points on the subject of sati to serve as a basic foundation for our study.
    Sati as Appamada
    Sati is simply rendered as ‘recollection’, a translation may convey the idea that it is simply an aspect of memory.
    While memory is certainly a valid element of sati’sfunction, it does not do full justice to the essential meaning of the term.
    For to speak in the negative vein, apart from its meaning of ‘non-forgetting’ (the direct counterpart of the positive term ‘recollection’), sati also refers to ‘non-carelessness’, ‘non-distraction’, ‘non-fuzziness and confusion’.

    These negatively expressed meanings of sati point to the positive qualities of care, circumspection, alertness to one’s duties and the condition of being constantly present in the awareness of the various things which come into contact with one and responding to them appropriately.

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