I have been having semi-regular dates with my oldest recently. I am constantly amazed at her as a person, and now as a mother. Our conversation on these nights ranges from music we can’t get out of our heads to theology. Never a dull moment.
She gets credit for making me a grandpa. She also gets credit for modeling an adult version of everything we taught her over the last 26 years.
When she took her first steps, I realized something. “Everything I teach her, from this day on, is teaching her to walk away from me.” Not something easy to absorb when you are still a kid yourself. Yeah, a kid. I was 19 when she was born.
It was at that moment I understood a core principle in parenting. It is absolutely critical that we raise our kids to be independent.
They need to be able to think for themselves. They need to be able to make good decisions. They don’t need to spend their lives dependent on us for every need or decision. If we never allow them to make their own choices and mistakes, what happens once we are gone?
Here’s a few area where we should focus…
Not meaning that the are given wealth so they don’t have to work. Meaning that they understand how to make money and how to manage it.
It wasn’t until a few years back, that I really saw the importance of managing money. We have just survived for most of our lives. Paycheck to paycheck? Barely. More like paycheck to just short of paycheck is more like it.
I just got tired of being broke.
As a family, we made a new plan. We searched for new sources of income. We made choices on how to spend our time and how to make better use of what we had.
We joined LegalShield as members and then as associates. The company has a great service and pays well with minimal commitment. That’s right… our kids have their own attorneys on call. And we get paid to show others how we do it.
We published books and articles that opened doors to the work I live on now. We figured out what investments we could manage and studied the options.
The kids are all part of this. I just wish we had figured it out sooner. They all have their own checking accounts and earn their own money. They all have a head start that should keep them from struggling like we did.
My kids are allowed to openly discuss, question, argue and debate things they believe in and things they don’t. I have allowed them to challenge rules and opinions. “Because I said so” has only been used when they attempt to use arguments to avoid responsibility.
That decision has challenged me as a man.
Allowing a four-year-old to question you and even explain why they think you are wrong is rough on the old ego. It progressively gets worse when you add in ever-expanding life experiences and their ridiculous intelligence.
The only time I really draw the line is when they push something just to argue or become disrespectful. Then I have a habit of playing the ogre, once they go that route. My issues are not all resolved, just managed a little better.
They have all seen dad reach the end of his rope and blow up. Much less often over the last seven years, but they still know where those buttons are and how to push them.
In this particular season, where we are rapidly approaching the empty nest phase, it is gratifying and encouraging to think they will do well without my regular influence. I fully expect them to be successful in all they do.
My kids have always been encouraged to express themselves. Art, music, writing and other forms of creative expression practically identify them. They are all capable of maintaining an intelligent conversation and each one has artistic skills that constantly impress me.
They also know that we don’t demand perfection. School work is important, but so is social engagement and life experience. They need these years to discover what they really enjoy and what they are good at.
My son recently played football, started running, earned a first place team trophy in deck hockey, took guitar lessons and played either first or second seat positions in two different school bands… All in the same year, all by his choice. That year also included multiple garage projects where he had an idea and we built something directly from his imagination.
Our home is also an art gallery. My wife loves having art on the wall, but only when it was created by one of our kids. The work runs from some of the most elaborate pieces down to a massive crayon scribble on canvas from my oldest from before she was two. Each one has a story and they are all amazing.
Each one of our kids has experimented with a range of interests. Some they just took to, others were a struggle and caused more stress than they were worth. But, we wouldn’t have known without allowing them to try.
We don’t teach failure. We teach try, and do your best, and don’t make excuses. Laziness is a serious sore spot for me. It is highly discouraged.
But, at the same time, we make sure they know that home is the safe place. Even once they step out on their own, they know they can come back and try again.
We are far from perfect parents, and the kids are not super-humans. Anyone who digs around can easily find our flaws. But, these areas have made a huge difference in our kids. We are not raising drones that have been trained to simply follow orders and are easily manipulated.
As long as they can show me a rational thought process and not an emotional surge behind their decisions, we can have a mature conversation about other considerations.
We have been a tight family, even during those challenging years of teen angst. No family is perfect from every angle, but we have managed to produce adults that a capable of making their own decisions with minimal guidance.
As a father, that’s one accomplishment that I am most proud of.
M. Erik Matlock is a self-professed recovering knucklehead with more than 500 articles and four books in print. He shares his hard-earned wisdom at ErikMatlock.com, ProSoundWeb.com and through his books, which are available at Amazon.