Photo credit: Gary Koh

How I Raise My Son to be Independent

Are we restricting our children’s growth, or enabling them?

By Gary Koh | 28 February, 2017

My son turns eleven this year, and boy is he growing up fast. Recently, I watched with a tinge of sadness as I sent him to camp. Even though he would only be away for a few days, I still found it difficult knowing I wouldn’t be able to see and talk to him. Call me sentimental, but I struggle whenever he is not around for a longer duration. I can only imagine what it would be like as he grows older, heads off to the army, and one day moves out of the house. No wonder empty nesters feel such a void. I myself will probably break down then.

Yet it is part of the growth process for both parents and child. It is unhealthy if we dictate their lives and control their choices; they will need to make their own decisions as they grow older. They will definitely face speed-bumps and crashes along the way, and while we would like to rescue them from all the heartache, pain and despair, we can’t and shouldn’t. That is necessary for our kids to grow into responsible and resilient adults.

For instance, when my son interacts with people, there are times when he says things I felt could be phrased differently. I often want to correct him immediately, but I know that would stop his interaction with others. I’ve learned to give him some slack and, as a result, seen him communicate more freely and openly with others.

When he wants to climb a rock, my immediate reaction would be, “It’s too dangerous, you’ll fall down, you’ll get a concussion and get hospitalised.” But I’ve learned to let him try, under supervision of course. As a result, he has become more confident and is willing to attempt new things.

Parenting is like a tea bag. There are times we have to release and times we have to pull back. If we hold on too long, the taste doesn’t quite develop. Yet if we release too much at a go, only part of the bag gets worked on.

“Parenting is like a tea bag. There are times we have to release and times we have to pull back.”

Then there are other instances where we as parents may impose our own expectations and dreams on our children. Even as my son had to choose a Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) in school, there were some I would have preferred him to choose because that is what I would do, or what I think will benefit him in a few years. I had thoughts like, “Take this CCA because it will give you the advantage when you try to apply for secondary school. Don’t take that one because all they do is... I don’t know what they do. No long term benefits.”

Rather than guide our children to make a choice they would enjoy and most possibly thrive in, we parents sometimes “force” them to make one that could bring misery because of our own preference and biasness. Our children might oblige at an early age, but it would ultimately lead to resentment as they grow older – not just at the choice but with their parents. That applies to their choice of schools, career, and who they marry.

What parents can do is walk alongside rather than lead. The relationship with our growing children gradually evolves from telling to listening and coaching. Our children may or may not take our advice at times, but don’t feel offended as a parent. They need to make their own choices, and they individuate to become who they are meant to be.

“The relationship with our growing children gradually evolves from telling to listening and coaching.”

It is not easy, but part of the parenting process is letting go at appropriate times. We have to learn to release and support where and when we can (and when they want to listen to our words of wisdom). That’s when we allow our little ones to grow into their very own persons, and that’s when they will begin to soar on their own.


©2017 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

Gary thoroughly loves travelling, good food and having lots of fun with his family. He believes that life is better when you get to do things with the people you love.

Discover how to set age-appropriate boundaries and become a trusted mentor to your children at our upcoming Parenting with Confidence workshops.

 

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