Today’s podcast talks about something in a way that you might find cuts across what you’ve have always thought as the way to go.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.  The idea is that expecting out children to grow in independence may bring us and them more grief than we imagine – It’s not that I want my kids to be dependent – far from it – but independence and dependence aren’t necessarily the only options. The key to raising kids well is to aim for self-governance and that is different than independence.  Lets learn how it is different. 

I have often heard parents say that their goal in raising their children is independence. I have to disagree. I did not want independent kids.  When I hear parents say this I have to ask – independent from what? Independent from others? God made us for fellowship, we need people and we need God. Independent from rules? I don’t think that’s what we want! We want our kids to obey the law of the land. 

We need to be careful with the words we use, as our words define ideas and those ideas will shape our kids.  So if I didn’t want independence what did I want?  I certainly didn’t want my kids to be dependent on me for the rest of their life.  But independence and dependence aren’t the only two options.

Instead of independence, I wanted my kids to be self-governed. 

Self-governance is an idea that is bigger than independence.  It is about having the desire and ability to rule oneself wisely, guided by inner principles and values. Rather than being a rule unto oneself, self-governance is grounded in what is right.  Society has seen a big shift in understanding where we get our values – our understanding of what is right – from.  But as a Christian it is the word of God.  Being self-governed involves understanding your own limitations and imperfections, recognizing the need for guidance and support from others – and certainly in our family, from God as well. 

In contrast, independence often implies a state of self-sufficiency, where an individual wants autonomy and detachment from others. While independence seems to be valuable in certain contexts, self-governance is the bigger goal, focusing on responsible decision-making, thoughtful choices, and the well-being of not only yourself but also the community at large. It’s about embracing your individuality and uniqueness while recognizing the significance of fellowship, collaboration, and connection with others. 

So with that in mind I wanted my kids to know and follow God, to have the desire and the skills to be able to rule their passions and direct their choices.  And to be involved with community.  Yes on their own two feet, but not on their own.

To raise kids to be self-governing parents need to not only have the right understanding of their goal, but also have a clear idea of the key things to address as you raise your kids.

  • Help them see that they are sinners, and need Christ. They cannot govern themselves well while sin rages in their heart.
  • Teach them to walk in the Spirit – that is to walk in ways that are empowered by God’s spirit – dependent on the Spirit teaching, guiding, and strengthening them
  • Teach them God’s word so that they know how to listen to the Spirit, and they know and understand God’s ways in responding to people and circumstances.  (Thy Word have I hid in my heart – that I may not sin against Thee. Ps 119:11)
  • Give them the opportunity to practice making choices – and then walking them through the consequences of their choices (good or bad!) so that they can grow in understanding what is right and how to choose what is right.

Self-governance isn’t being a rule unto yourself – doing whatever you want. Self-governance only works when it is based on what is right.

Secondly – I also want my kids to have the confidence to be themselves, to stand alone if they have to, to be the person God made them be and to live a life that is pleasing to God. This isn’t independence – it is being an individual.

God made individuals – each one of us is unique – but He also made us to need other people, He made us for fellowship, for family. We can be a part of a group and yet still be an individual. The Bible uses the analogy of the body – many different parts but one body. The toe, the elbow, the nose – all have a uniqueness from each other and yet work together for a common goal. Individuals living in a family are like this. We are all unique, all have our own purpose and abilities, and yet there is a common purpose as well. In our family this common purpose is to love God and love people – and each of us do it differently, but there is a connection with each other, a support for each other, and at times we do it all together.

So we need to be careful not to confuse Individuality with Independence. (and that may be a whole other conversation!)

The third thing I want for my kids is to have the skills so they can help others. People often see their kids doing chores as setting them up for independence – so that they can leave home.  Once again, I don’t see it this way – I see the skills that the kids learn by doing chores around the house as skills they have to help others. 

For sure, these same skills will enable them to live away from home, either with others or by themselves, but that was not my motivation – independence from other people was never my objective. 

My kids were quite young teens and they had the skills to help others.  They helped cook meals for people in need, they helped clean or do yard work for a family,  they ironed, or babysat.  As they grew older they housesat.  From around 10 Jess started planning birthday parties – by the time they reached mid-teens they could set up a venue for a party or a meeting.  Cleaning, childcare, yard work, and so forth – these skills weren’t for their own benefit but for the blessing of others.

I don’t want independent kids – kids who think they don’t need anyone – instead I want kids who are self governed from the good things in their heart, kids who know who they are, kids who have the skills to be contributors to society. What do you want?

Heart-focused Action Step:

Take a moment to reflect on this issue.  

What you believe about this will change how you parent, it will change how you react to your kids.  

  • Do you think you have been aiming for independence?  
  • Do you think your children are pulling away from you because of their independence?  
  • Do you think you need to focus more on self-governance?

And then ask yourself how do you think you’ve been communicating these things to your kids?  

Remember that little quip I said before – you want your kids to do things on their own two feet – but not on their own.  God has given your child the ability to do things – and we need to make sure they are growing in every capacity so that they can do things.  But we also need to make sure that they understand that they are not an island – they need others, and they certainly need God.  

Here are three phrases you can use to help your children transition into self-governance:

  • It is okay to ask for help – I’m here to help you.
  • What do you think is the right thing to do in this situation?
  • We all make mistakes, but we need to learn from them to make better choices next time.  What did you learn?

I hope today has given you something to think about – to talk about with your spouse and maybe to tweak in your parenting so that you can help your kids be all that God has made them to be.

Growing in Responsibility is Gradual

By the time our children are young adults we want them to be responsible for their whole being – for their body and emotions, their belongings, and their commitments.

As parents, we teach them – step by step – gradually showing them how to do things, and then as they grow in ability we give them the responsibility. There is no set time for when they should be responsible for a particular sphere – but we as parents need to know that it is a gradual thing and we need to be consistently teaching and expecting them to grow in skills and ability.

Is the word – Be Responsible – a part of your family language and expectations?

Do you need to up the teaching and expectations in a particular sphere?

Further Reading:

The Importance of Becoming an Interdependent Family: An interdependent family balances autonomy and community; being responsible as an individual but living with family.

Use Housesitting as a step Towards Independent Living:  When older teens or young adults have the opportunity to be a housesitter they have the opportunity to confirm their independent living skills.

Chores Teach our Kids CharacterCharacter is not head-knowledge; it is a life of making wise choices. Chore time gives children an opportunity to make those choices; to grow in character.

The Most Important Life Skills for Teens to Learn before they Leave Home: 15 of the most important life skills for teens to know and practice before they leave home. Teach them to be responsible young adults.

 

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