Raising Independent Children – Can You Make Them Too Independent?

We talked about helicopter parents in this article here, and now I want to talk to you about raising independent children and whether there is a chance that you can make them too independent.

You see, in my experience with raising my children (which I am still raising) it can be very hard to find a middle ground with them. It is hard to find that perfect spot in raising them where they are dependent, but not too dependent and independent, but not too independent.

What I mean by being too independent is that they end up growing up and not relying on you at all; and even possibly alienating you and others because they can do it all by themselves and don’t need anyone’s help.

Raising Them To Be Too Independent Or Too Dependent

Raising them to be too independent can be a good thing, but it can also be a very bad thing. You don’t want your children to be completely dependent on you because then they will not be able to do anything at all on their own, but you don’t want them to be completely independent either because then they won’t ask for help when they really need it.

It is a difficult decision to make; and a difficult medium ground to find. Depending on what you do you can end up making them too independent, or you can make them too dependent; and these are neither things you want for your child.

Either one of these could hurt not only the relationship with you, but also their relationship with others.

You want them to be able to do things on their own because, well, you aren’t going to live forever and they need to know how to survive without you.

However, if they are too independent and don’t rely on anyone, this can cause them to alienate you and other people who care about them because they feel they don’t need anyone, they can do it all by themselves; and making them too dependent can chase people away, because nothing is more unattractive than someone who is clingy and can’t do anything on their own.

The worst and hardest part about trying to find that middle ground is, that when they are little they seem like they are headed in the direction you want them to go, but when they get older they go the complete opposite direction then you thought.

For instance, my oldest child is 22 years old and when she was little she wanted to do everything on her own; and I was ecstatic and thought that I was doing the right thing; and she was going to be very independent and not rely on me for everything. Boy was I wrong in that assumption because she depends on me for everything; and has a hard time doing anything without calling me first and asking me to do it for her.

Somewhere along the road I ended up raising her to be extremely dependent and this is definitely not what you want, because what happens when you are no longer around. How is your child going to survive when they can’t come to you; and what about their relationships outside of  the family?

This dependency has also caused her to be easily manipulated and abused by others. She can’t handle difficult situations and has no idea how to get out of them on her own.

Where I Think I Went Wrong

I have sat here for many years trying to figure out where I may have gone wrong with her and changed how I raised my other 3 children based on things I thought I may have done wrong.

Part of the problem with my daughter actually had nothing to do with me, but had to do with outside influences, you know those people that think they can do a better job at raising your child than you (I hope you read my article here about not being one of those people). This is where some of the difficulties of finding that middle ground comes from; and how even though you raise your child one way they end up another way because someone else butted in when they shouldn’t have.

The other issue I believe was, that when I was teaching my child to handle something on her own instead of giving her that time to figure it out by herself, I would get impatient and just take care of it myself and, that, you should never do until you know for sure that they can’t figure it out.

What I should have done was wait and let her figure it out on her own; and when I knew for sure that she couldn’t figure it out, let her know how she can do it and allow her to do it herself instead of me doing it for her. Does that make sense?

Don’t Give Them Too Much Freedom

You also don’t want to give them too much freedom to figure everything out on their own because you want them to know they can ask for help; that they are not weak just because they asked for help.

You have to teach them when to ask for help and when to do it on their own. See, I told you that this wasn’t going to be easy.

When my children were little I didn’t pick up after them, I made them clean up their messes, thinking this was a way for them to not grow up thinking that if they just left it there mamma would take care of it for them, because well, I wouldn’t be there to take care of it for them when they were no longer in my home.

It didn’t matter how long it took for them to clean it up, I still would not pick the mess up and made sure that everyone knew it was their mess, so that I wouldn’t be embarrassed when they came over for a visit. They eventually got tired of me nagging them to clean it up and being embarrassed their house was a mess; and figured out that mom wasn’t ever going to clean it up; and cleaned it up themselves.

I teach my children to cook and I don’t always make dinner for them, we have what we call, fend for yourselves night, where they have to search in the kitchen for what they want to eat and make it themselves. I only get up and help when they pick something I have not shown them how to make. However, I only show them what to do or tell them what to do; and then make them do it themselves.

Here is another example:

My 13 year old daughter has a hard time cutting her food, but I tell her all the time that she has to cut it herself because one day I won’t be there to cut it for her and then what is she going to do. Now don’t get me wrong, I do help her eventually, but she has to attempt to cut it first; and really try, not just fake that she tried (I am sure you know what I mean by that)

You have to teach your child that it is okay to be afraid to do something on their own, but they have to at least try to do it on their own before asking for help. This gives me the independent quality without losing the ability to ask for help.

Sometimes You Have To Also Contend With Anxiety

Now here is another issue with trying to raise your children to be independent, ANXIETY! I am sure you know several people that suffer from this. If you didn’t know anyone before, well, you do now, because I am one that suffers from it.

This is the hardest part of trying to raise your children to be independent and not depend on you or anyone else for everything, because you have to try to teach them how to overcome their anxiety at the same time and get them to see that there is nothing to fear. Give them the confidence they need to do it without your help.

A lot of children who have anxiety when they are younger have a hard time doing anything on their own because that fear they have inside over-powers them and they refuse to do it themselves; and you end up doing everything for them which causes them to grow up and be dependent on you for everything.

You need to stop yourself from doing it for them, while at the same time, being understanding of their fear; and not ridicule them and make them feel as if they are just using an excuse or that they are stupid and crazy.

Give them some coping mechanisms to get through their anxiety and make them do it for themselves despite their anxiety.

Here are some coping mechanisms that I use for my anxiety. You may have to figure out some of your own for your child because my methods may not work for them, but it never hurts to let them try these methods.

  • I stop and calm myself by counting down from 10 and breath slowly. You can see more of an explanation of that here.
  • I tell myself that there is no reason to be afraid, that I can do this. I push my fear down.
  • I ground myself by using my senses to recount my surroundings (5 things I see, 4 things I can touch, 3 things I can hear, 2 things I can smell, 1 thing I taste) Doesn’t have to be exactly like that but you get the idea.

That last one is more of something they can do if they are having an anxiety attack. It will calm their heartbeat and allow them to relax.

It is more of forcing them to fight through their fear and do it themselves so they can see they have absolutely nothing to fear and that they can do it. The beauty of this, is that they will also feel an accomplishment and be proud of themselves which will give them more confidence and independence.

You Have To Teach Yourself To Let Go Of The Control

The biggest lesson I learned from trying to teach my children to be independent with a little dependency was, that I had to teach myself how to let go of the control and allow my children to learn on their own.

I had to let go of my own fears and make sure that I was there to help only after they could not do it on their own, but not before then.

Too many children these days are dependent on their parents to do everything for them and it is because most parents these days are helicopter parenting, because they don’t know how to let go of the control; and of course society doesn’t help them with this fear because of all the horrible things that are going on these days.

Don’t be the helicopter parent, but also don’t go as far as recent parents have and not do anything at all for your kids and cause them to be too independent. Be that parent in the middle.

You have to find the middle ground and know when to let go and when to take over. You have to learn how to let your children make mistakes and fix them on their own.

Raising independent children doesn’t mean you have to stop doing things for them, it just means that you have to allow them to do things on their own without your interference until you are needed. This allows them to learn how to do things on their own and at the same time know they can ask for help if, or when they need it.

I hope that you find my article informative and maybe even an eye-opener, but don’t hesitate to comment below if you have any questions or have your own story or idea on how to raise an independent child.

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6 Comments

  • Lynn

    It is indeed rather tough to find a balance when it comes to guiding kids. Like what you mentioned, as parents, we should not raise them to be too independent or dependent. I agree with you that we should learn to let go. When my son was a toddler and a primary school kid, I used to really guide him almost everything step-by-step. I did realised that he grew up to be rather reliant. He was also very disorganised, because I have been doing the organizing of schoolwork and other miscellaneous stuff for him! Now that he is already in his teens, I am trying hard to let go of my control so that he can learn to be independent. Most of the time, I told him to do his own stuff himself. I assured him that he can always approach me whenever he needs advice or help. He did feel anxious and uneasy when I told him that. I think I will try out youur tips to help him to alleviate his anxiety. Thank you very much for the informative post.

    • Kristena

      Lynn,

      Finding the balance is especially tough in today’s world with all the technology and outside influences. When a child is in their teens, that is going to be the most important and hardest time to let go of the control. I say the hardest because that is when you need to find that balance of giving them freedom but not too much freedom. They need that freedom to learn, but you have to have boundaries on how far that freedom is so that you can keep them protected as well. I hope my tips help you and help him as well.

  • TJ

    This was really interesting. You know, the whole time I was reading this, I couldn’t help but think about the way I was raised by my mother growing up. I’m still in my early 20s and haven’t had any kids yet, but I do hope to have one some day, so it’s always good to get as much advise as possible before that fateful day arrives. Thank you so much for sharing this information, it really helps!

    • Kristena

      TJ,

      Your mom must have done a very good job in raising you to be independent and the fact that in this day and age you are in your early 20’s and still don’t have any children is incredible. I do not recommend having any until you know for sure that you are ready for that big responsibility. You can actually take a look at my other article about this topic here. I am so very glad that you found my article helpful and I hope that you find my other ones just as helpful and you think of my blog when you do have children.

  • Kendra

    It takes true vulnerability to admit that we may have not been perfect as parents. I salute you for that. Hindsight is 20-20, and with my daughter who is now 16, I am proud of my decisions & we are super close, but my choices weren’t perfect. When I was pregnant, I asked a family that I was a nanny to at the time “How did you raise your boys to be so good?” They told me to read Barbara Coloroso, in Kids are worth it! If you haven’t read that book – I 100% recommend it as the best parenting book I have ever read, and it straddles this topic perfectly. Sincerely, Kendra

    • Kristena

      Kendra,

      That is what is wrong with a lot of parents these days, they try too hard to be perfect and being human means that you aren’t perfect. I have never been afraid to admit my faults and when I am wrong. Thank you for the recommendation and I will definitely have to take a look at that and maybe even after reading this book I will make a product review of it so my readers can also see if it is something they could use. I have already raised one to adulthood and still have 3 left with one of the three almost into adulthood himself. I have made many mistakes over the years and still do which is why I write the articles I do and talk about the tough topics that I do. I want parents to see that they are not alone and maybe give them a little help with the situations they are in.

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