This blog post has been originally written for ParentEdge, a leading Parenting magazine in India. It has been re-produced on the Author’s blog with permission.
One thing that constantly nagged me over the last couple months was a takeaway from one of the parenting workshops that I did with a dear friend and highly experienced Coach and colleague Dr. Supreet Oberoi. She highlighted, within the context of Indian parenting, the difference between creating an unhealthy habit of dependence on parents, and love. Simply put, we as parents, raise our children in a manner where we expect that dependence on us. We ensure that through out our parenting tenure our children keep coming back to us not because they love us, but because they are dependent on us.
The modern thought around parenting is that “We want our children to be independent.” Or “I would rather have my child gain independence at an early stage rather than depend on me for every little thing.” Now isn’t this in stark contradiction to what we actually do? Here is my perception of the situation.
We as adults in 2015 are certainly in highly valued positions and exert control over our working environment pretty much all the time. This pours into our personal life as well. We expect to be heard, listened to and taken at face value even in our homes. We leave little room for reverse communication or for outside perspectives to come into the self. We have a clear set of instructions ready for all walks of life – breakfast, lunch, dinner, playtime and such. We do not like any deviation from either our maids, our other helpers or children. Where is the room for the child to grow his thinking? Imagine, if a child were to be raised taking instructions, wouldn’t he grow up to keep waiting for instructions in all situations of his life? Would he not look around for someone (when you are not there) to lay down the next few steps for him in life? How does this help him take a step towards being independent?
Fostering independence is a constant process, not a moment here or there. Parents need to constantly allow children to take small and confident decisions, with a positive feedback for closure. This will build inner strength in the child and he will be eager to take the next decision by himself. This is not to say parents should completely let go and let the child do whatever he wants. He does not know the difference between “right” and “wrong”. And you will need to constantly be the mentor and guide (as opposed to the authoritarian). Age appropriate decision making, risk taking, decision implementation and bearing the consequences are a part of the process of fostering independence.
There is a thin line between fostering dependence and love. Each child is different and hence each child’s need will be different. One has to understand where to draw the line in helping out and gently nudging the child to take his own step forward. I am sure you agree with me when I say that we want our children to turn to us when they want us, not just need us. One important thought associated with this takes me back to when the child is born. As soon as the child is born there are three things that the child does unaided. Hold his neck up and roll over, begin crawling and thereafter, take the first step. Each child does this without any assistance from us because it comes from within him to do it. He feels the need, he realizes his area of movement, measures the risk and does it. And remember, we are there for him through all of it. As a guiding light. This is what we need to preserve throughout life. Somewhere this role gets lost. We forget to allow room to grow and foster love, not dependence.