The topic of independence and parenting has been on my mind. With Independence Day coming up in the next 2 weeks, it’s a somewhat timely topic.
I recently did an interview with our local newspaper, The Signal, on just that topic. The article appeared in the parenting supplement of the June 22 edition of the Signal (the yellow insert).
In preparing for the interview, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the role of parents in helping children achieve independence. Struggles for independence occur at every stage of childhood – from a toddler learning to take his shoes off by himself to a teenager borrowing mom’s car for the first time.
The ways that parents handle struggles for independence differ based on the age, developmental level, and needs of the individual child, but one factor remains constant – parents must constantly balance allowing their child to explore new freedoms while still maintaining healthy and consistent limits. Going to one extreme or the other can become a breeding ground for problems. Parenting research has shown that an authoritative approach, in which there is room for negotiation while still maintaining firm limits, produces the best outcomes in kids in this culture. Being either too passive and permissive or being too harsh and authoritarian are both associated with greater problems in kids.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to deciding when to allow different freedoms for your children. It really depends on the individual child and parent how this should look. However, if this is an area of significant struggle and ongoing conflict for you and your child, consulting with a therapist to mediate the conflicts can often be helpful.