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PARENTING: Dependency Curbs a Child’s Growth

A laissez faire approach goes a long way in a child’s development

Dr. Shayama Chona, President, Tamana

-Dr Shayama Chona

One of the important goals as parents is to help children become independent. We are urged not to think of our children as little carbon copies of us or extensions of ourselves, but as unique human beings with different temperaments, tastes, feelings desires and different dreams.

Yet how are we to help them become independent people? It’s a bittersweet road we parents travel. Over the years, we worry, plan, comfort, and try to understand. We give our love, our labour, our knowledge, and our experience – so that one day he or she will have the inner strength and confidence to face the world.

We can achieve this by allowing them to do things for themselves, to wrestle with their own problems, by letting them learn from their own mistakes.

I can still remember my child struggling to tie her shoe laces and me watching patiently for about ten seconds and then bending down to do it for her.

And all my son had to do was just mention that he was having a quarrel with a friend, and I’d jump in with instant advice for him.

And how could I let my children make mistakes and suffer failure when all they had to do was listen to me in the first place.

You may be thinking “What is so terrible about helping children tie their shoe laces, or telling them how to resolve an argument with a friend, or seeing to it that they don’t make mistakes? After all children are younger and less experienced. They really are dependent on the adults around them”.

You, as a parent, are constantly placing the young ones in dependent positions

Here is the problem. When one person is continually dependent upon another, certain feelings arise. When your child is four years old – you tell him “Here, let me zip that zipper for you”.

“I don’t want you playing with that boy. He uses foul language”.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go to the bathroom”.

When he is nine years old you tell him “Give the jar to me, I will screw the cap for you”.

“I laid your clothes for you”.

“Don’t you need help with your home work?”

“Don’t wear that jacket, it does not suit you.”

When he is eighteen year old, you tell him “It is not necessary for you to learn to drive, I am much too nervous about accidents; I would rather drive you wherever you want to go. All you have to do is ask.”

You as a parent are constantly placing the young ones in dependent positions. They are growing up, experiencing feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, frustration, resentment and anger. This unhappy truth can present a dilemma for us as parents.

On one hand we think our children have no minds of their own, because of their youth and inexperience. There is so much we have to do for them, tell them, and show them. On the other hand, this attitude of yours can lead to hostility.

I can still remember my child struggling to tie her shoe laces and me watching patiently for about ten seconds and then bending down to do it for her.

Are there ways to minimize our children’s feelings of dependency? Are there ways to help them become responsible human beings who can function on their own?

Here are some specific skills that can help children to rely on themselves rather than upon us

  • To encourage autonomy
  • Let children make choices
  • Show respect for a child’s struggle
  • Don’t ask too many questions
  • Don’t rush to answer questions
  • Encourage children to use sources outside the home
  • Above all don’t take away HOPE

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