Look long range for a child’s destiny…destination self-confident-self-reliant-action land.
“Growing up is a promise you can promise yourself.” Who spoke these words? (Plato, Aristotle, Longfellow?) No, this is what a four-year-old boy told me during a counseling meeting. This precocious wisdom isn’t merely amusing; it’s life-changing and isn’t rare at all. A sensitive seven-year-old boy said, “I understand growing up now; it’s about niceness and it’s a very fun way to live.” A still-so-small six-year-old girl speaking about her mother’s return to work said, “I know I can’t keep crying my whole life.” A red-haired, freckle-faced nine-year-old girl jumped out of her chair during our first meeting and announced, “I’ll just get rid of the fits and grow up.” “You have to pull trouble out by the roots; you can’t just knock the tops off.” That’s right, the words of an earnest 12-year-old boy.
Parents and Educators are invited to “drop out” of the telling-and-managing-children business, thus taking away some pressure that you must know the just-right thing to say and do, and “drop into” the asking business, with the purpose of guiding children onto the self-reliance pathway.
What is self-reliance?
In a nutshell, self-reliance is thinking, deciding and doing things for yourself. When children are self-reliant, they have an inner knowing and self-confidence that leads them to believe they can handle life no matter what challenges they meet along the getting-on-with-growing-up pathway; knowing that they can depend on themselves even when life gets tough. It doesn’t mean they want to run their lives alone; it simply means they know they can if they must.
Without self-reliance practice, children learn to look to others to handle life for them. Constantly telling your children what to do, and doing, thinking, listening, remembering, deciding, and talking for your children puts them on the pathway to self-doubt and dependence. Allowing them to do, think, listen, remember, talk, and decide for themselves puts them on the pathway to self-reliance. Give them much practice!
When self-reliance is not taught, children begin to doubt and they can experience constant anxiety and fear that stops them from starting anything new. Self-reliance adds a sense of calm to life—a sense of being that soothes worries about attempting new things. Developing the confidence of knowing that they can handle whatever life throws at them allows children to move past the fear that they can’t navigate the troubling waters of constant change.
Self-check for parents:
- Are you the kind of parent who holds the vision that your child’s destination is self-reliance? Or do you believe that you must do much for your children throughout their growing-up years?
- Are your parenting practices guiding your child along the self-confidence, self-reliance pathway or along the self-doubt and dependence pathway?
- What possibilities open up when you believe your children can handle much of their own thinking and deciding?
Children develop self-reliance when they are allowed to continually practice thinking and deciding for themselves and then successfully complete the tasks or activities they choose to engage in. Self-reliance practice can begin very early in life for those parents focused on long-range parenting. Ideally, it starts with small steps very early in life and builds as a child develops. Throughout their young lives, children must be allowed to consistently explore, talk about, and try out—within safe boundaries and supported by caring others—how they are running their lives on a moment-to-moment, day-to-day basis.
Consider the self-reliance practice results in your children beginning to build an unbreakable, unshakable knowing about their value and capabilities as unique human beings. They become people who can get on with growing up to live a happy, productive life—even when life doesn’t turn out, at various times, the way they wish or hope it will.
Kids and teens then become the self-responsible, self-confident, self-motivated, self-accepting and, ultimately, self-reliant “experts” in their lives. Imagine parents associating pleasure with handling their children’s growing up, rather than believing age-stage stereotypes and seeing it as a painful collision of wills.
Change and confusion are the constants in modern-day living, making self-reliance more important than ever, and it can begin in early childhood. Again, self-reliance provides the stabilizing foundation that enables kids and teens to successfully run their lives. Our modern world is difficult to navigate. Notable and confounding issues include: the high divorce rate and separation of families, young adults returning to live with their parents, a lack of time for both parenting and working, and increased mobility leading to cultural diversity and a concomitant confusion of values. The road to self-reliance land is continuously lined with getting-on-with-growing up tasks and adventures. There is little in the way of a practical and concrete road map for the child traveler. I provide a fresh, kids-and-teens-in-mind-first “road map” using unique, engaging language and simple, precise questions.