Tag Archive for maturity

Who Needs a Prescription for Play?

I read an article that began by stating “A new paper in the journal Pediatrics summarizes the evidence for letting kids let loose.”  I thought, “Interesting.” The authors of this article went on to encourage pediatricians to write a “prescription for play” for their youngest patients. Why would they write a “prescription for play”? Because play, intrinsically motivated and unstructured fun, is disappearing from the lives of our children…and with it the benefits of play are disappearing from their lives. What are the benefits of play? Here are five benefits discussed in the article.

  • Play promotes brain development. Specifically, play promotes the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is important for learning and growing healthy connections between neurons in the brain. In other words, play primes the brain for learning.
  • Play reduces obesity and diseases associated with obesity. Running, jumping, and climbing helps children build confidence in their physical ability. It helps them learn the limits of their body as well. Knowing the limits helps them remain safe (Let Them Take a Risk). The physical activity of play helps them develop into physically active and healthy adults. In fact, children who got the most outdoor time were 42% less likely to be overweight.
  • Play contributes to improved behavior and reduced stress. Children resolve traumatic events through play, working through the troubling aspects of the trauma so they can learn to “put it behind them” rather than let it intrude into their present lives. Obviously, this will reduce stress in the child’s life. Moreover, a study in which teachers engaged children in one-on-one play led to improved behavior in the children who engaged in play compared to a control group. (Investing Time & Attention in Your Children)
  • Play helps families to bond. Play brings people together. It helps us learn to listen and it teaches us to compromise. Play helps us attune to our children emotionally, mentally, and physically. This attunement allows us to help our children learn to manage their emotions in an effective manner. (Make Your Child a Head Taller Than Himself)
  • Play contributes to academic success. Play encourages language development, the exploration of ideas, the ability to delay gratification, and spatial relationships. Each of these skills contribute to academic success. Blocks encourage increased knowledge in putting words, ideas, or architectural materials together. Playing store promotes social skills, math, and negotiation skills. Imaginative play promotes storytelling and self-regulation. Physics, social skills, language development, storytelling, arithmetic, geometry, emotional regulation…it can all be found in play. And children learn it faster and better while playing. (Learn more in Have Fun AND Reduce Childhood Aggression.)

We could expand on this list of the benefits of play, but you get the idea. Let the children play. I’m not a pediatrician, but I am a “doctor” of psychology. So, if you need a prescription, here it is: “Your child is to engage in imaginative, unstructured play for at least one hour per day.” 

Follow that prescription and your children will flourish…and you could find yourself rejoicing in their growth and maturity!

“You Complete Me” Kills a Marriage

At least two quotes came out of the movie Jerry Maguire (1996): “Show me the money” and “You complete me.”

I wouldn’t mind if someone took the time to “show me the money.” Better yet, hand me the money.  I’m glad to work for it, but I still want someone to “show me the money.”

The second quote raises more serious questions for me.  “You complete me” is NOT the basis of a healthy relationship. “You complete me” sounds like I’m half a person without my spouse…that only my spouse can make me whole, meet my needs, and help me grow. “You complete me” raises expectations that my spouse and I must think alike, behave alike, hold the same opinions, and dream the same dreams. Preferably those dreams will be mine and you will simply “complete them.” Think about it. If my spouse completes me, I am incomplete on my own. I will expect, even demand, my spouse:

  • Always be there to listen to me and comfort me when I am sad or upset,
  • Always want to have sex as often as I want and every time I want it,
  • Always appreciate me and never get angry with me
  • Always be available and attentive to my every need,
  • After all, “you complete me.” I’m incomplete without you. You are an extension of me. In fact, there is no room for individuality. We are one!

As you can image, “you complete me” can easily lead to feeling trapped. “You complete me” also attempts to change the other person so they can make me more complete. “You complete me” will blame others for my incompleteness and eventually lose interest in one who does not do what I want.

Great marriages are not about addition in which two halves add up to make a complete whole. Great marriages are about multiplication in which two individuals choose to become one.

Let me explain. Two people who are “half way mature” do NOT make a whole mature relationship, but a QUARTER of a relationship. In other words, .5 X .5 = .25.

Only two individuals who have reached independent maturity make a whole mature, healthy relationship. In other words, only 1 X 1 = 1.

Mature adults in healthy marriages each have their own lives.

  • They accept personal responsibility for their decisions and emotions. They do not cast blame on others for decisions that go wrong or for negative emotions they experience. Instead, they take action to correct their decisions or manage their emotions.
  • They have friends who support them and their marriages. They know how to develop friendships and they enjoy time with friends.
  • They have dreams and aspirations. They share their dreams with one another. They also take the initiative to work toward those dreams and support their spouse in reaching his/her dreams together.
  • They accept their strengths and weaknesses. They utilize their strengths to compensate for their weaknesses and even make improvement in areas of weakness.
  • They are relationally comfortable in their own skin, warts and all.

So if you want a truly healthy marriage, become more mature as an individual. Learn to manage your life. Develop your interests. Share your maturing self with your spouse. Your marriage will grow more intimate as you do. Paradoxically, the more mature you become as an individual, the more intimate and secure you can become as an adult.

Two Observations on Parenting (Than Can Save You Money)

Over the years of observing families, I’ve noticed a couple of interesting things about children and their interests. I’m sure you’ve noticed them as well.

  1. Children playing on a cell phone, watching TV, or playing a video game do NOT listen well. They are preoccupied with their TV show, game, text, or pic on the screen. They can sit right next to you, playing on their mobile device, and totally block you out. They don’t listen.
  2. Children love boxes and blocks and dress up clothes. They have great fun with objects that can become whatever they imagine. In fact, I’ve seen preschoolers more interested in the box their gift came in than the gift itself!

These two observations got me thinking. Parents spend a lot of money on mobile devices, TV’s, X-Boxes, etc. Our children delve into these devices. While engaged on their devices, they interact face-to-face with other people less often. They engage in less hands-on activities. They explore the world beyond the screen less often. They even stumble across videos we don’t want them to see.

But, when you give children some empty Tupperware, old boxes, blocks, crayons, and paper they create amazing things. They become curious and imaginative. They explore ways of using the material. They create forts, planes, and dinner out of the same “raw materials.” These “open-ended” materials, or what Magda Gerber calls “passive toys,” become the raw ingredients of imaginative play, explorations, and new ideas. And, in the midst of creating all this, they talk with one another. They share ideas. They ask for help. They negotiate, compromise, and problem solve…together! As they engage, combine, and re-engage these simple objects, they learn and grow. They have fun, too.

I love the poster from Let the Children Play. It explains the benefits of “passive toys” with a simple acronym.

  • Passive toys help children become better PROBLEM-SOLVERS.
  • Passive toys engage children in ACTIVE LEARNING.
  • Passive toys encourage SELF-INITIATED play and SENSORY EXPERIENCES.
  • Passive toys SUPPORT SCHEMAS. They support what children already know and how they already think while supporting them to move up another level in their thought life. As Vygotsky used to say, “In play, a child becomes a child a head taller than himself.” (Read Make Your Child A Head Taller Than Himself for more info)
  • Passive toys throw open the doors for INVENTION, INVESTIGATION, and IMAGINATION.
  • Passive toys are VERSATILE, which nurtures creativity.
  • Passive toys encourage EXPERIMENTATION and EXPLORATION.

I’m not against some screen time, but what video game or TV show can do all that!

Help Your Children Internalize Great Values

As parents, we want our children to internalize positive values and the discernment to make wise choices. We encourage them to begin developing this kind of maturity early in hopes that, over time, they will internalize the skills necessary to do so independently. How can we help our children internalize the positive values and behaviors needed to live well? Here are some do’s and don’ts to consider.

First the DON’T’s:

  • parenting challengeDon’t yell. Yelling “scrambles” children’s minds. It threatens their sense of security. They feel responsible for their parent’s anger and threatened at the same time. Their fight or flight system is activated as a result; but they can’t run or fight. They are left in limbo, frozen, minds scrambled, unable to listen and unable to learn. Rather than yell, stay calm. Speak firmly but respectfully.
  • Don’t lecture. Children stop listening when parents lecture. They shut down. Instead, make your statements brief, concise, and to the point.
  • Don’t use permanent attributions like “always” and “never.” Your children will internalize your “always” and “never.” If you say your child “always lies” or “never cleans,” they will come to believe that about themselves and live it out. Use phrases like “this time” instead. Stick to “this” specific situation rather than letting your mind and your words go to “always” and “never.”
  • Don’t make comparisons. Comparisons never turnout well. Instead of helping to internalize positive values, comparisons contribute to a poor self-image, overly competitive behavior, fear of failure, and resentment. Focus on the specific behavior you want to address instead.

Don’t stop with the “don’ts” above. To really help your children internalize positive values and wisdom…

  • Do invest in a relationship with your children. Children internalize the values of people they know love them. If you want your children to listen to you and follow your guidance, build a relationship with them. This will demand an investment of time and energy. Take time getting to know your children. Learn about those things that interest them. Meet their friends. Enjoy activities with them. The closer your relationship with your children, the more likely they will internalize positive values from you. (Check out this Amazing Parenting Insight I Learned in 3 Parts for more.)
  • Do build on what they know already. Children already have a surprising ability to know right from wrong. Just check out this video from Yale University’s Infant Cognition Center, you might be surprised. Capitalize on that innate knowledge and encourage it. Rather than simply telling them what to do, ask them what they think and gently give input. Talk to them about choices movie characters make and the consequences. When a friend does something, ask them about it and their thoughts. Give them a chance to talk and develop their knowledge of right and wrong with your gently guidance and acceptance.
  • Do let them make choices. Children of all ages can make choices. Of course the nature of those choices will change over time; but, the opportunity to make choices will help them internalize positive values at any age. Let your toddler pick a shirt from the two you lay out. Your teen, on the other hand, can pick out a shirt from his whole closet. Let them make choices about simple daily activities like whether to take a bath or shower. And let them participate in larger more complex family decisions like where to go for dinner or what to do on vacation.
  • Do let them suffer. Sometimes our children will make poor choices that lead to some consequence. Don’t bail them out. Do let them suffer the consequences. Let them experience the results of their choices and their behaviors. Of course, take the initiative to protect them from decisions that can lead to greater harm. But, if they forget their lunch one day, let them suffer. They’ll survive. If they neglect their school project, let them suffer a poor grade. They’ll recover. Our children, like us, will learn a lot from the experience of a consequence.

DON’T neglect these four Do’s and four Don’ts to help your children internalize positive values. Get out there and DO them. And, have fun!

Does Your Child Get a Choice or a Voice?

H.G. Ginott made an important distinction between a child’s voice and a child’s choice in his book Between Parent and Child. Children need to have choices. Giving our children choices builds their sense of responsibility. It helps them learn that choices have consequences; so

they learn to choose wisely. Choices allow our children to become participants in decisions and take greater ownership of their choices as a result. Allowing our children to make choices also communicates our trust in them and their decision making…within the parameters of their maturity of course, which brings us to our children’s voice.  Children need choices in areas that fall within their age appropriate responsibility, but they are not mature enough to make all their own decisions. So, in areas where children lack the maturity to choose wisely, or in areas that fall under a parent’s responsibility, our children have a voice only. Some examples might make this distinction more clear.

  • A 4-year-old can choose which outfit to wear to a wedding based on two outfits pre-chosen by a parent. A teen, on the other hand, can choose an outfit from a broad array of outfits and limited only by parameters of modesty predetermined by parents. In both cases, the child and the teen have the opportunity to choose. But, the child only has a voice in the two wedding appropriate outfits chosen by the parent and the teen only has a voice in determining the parameters of modesty. These areas of children’s voice remain a parent’s responsibility.
  • Children can choose how much of a particular vegetable they want to eat (one helping or two). But, it remains the parent’s responsibility to assure a healthy diet. So children only receive a voice in whether vegetables will be served at dinner. The parents make the choice.
  • Children and teens can choose whether or not they want to go out for dinner and a movie with a group of their friends. A parent is responsible to assure their children’s health and safety. So their children only get a voice in determining the time they must be home from the dinner and movie. Of course this voice will increase as your child matures and, eventually, will become their choice when they leave for college.
  • Children have a choice when using their cell phone. However, a parent is responsible for their children’s emotional health and safety. So children only get a voice in whether the parent has access to their phone and whether the phone is allowed in their bedroom overnight or remains in a family room for charging.
  • One more. Children can choose which age appropriate shows to watch on TV. However, parents are responsible for their children’s physical and emotional health. So, children only get a voice in determining how much TV they watch each day and whether they can have a TV in their bedroom.

 

In areas that children have a voice, the parent makes the choice. Children can voice disappointment and even anger over the parent’s choice, but the responsibility remains with the parent. Children can even negotiate and give reasons for the change they desire. But, the parents remain responsible for the final decision because they have more experience and greater wisdom than their children.

 

The distinction between when your child gets a choice and when they get a voice is an important limit for parents to determine. You may or may not agree with the examples I listed above. Nonetheless, areas will exist where you can give your children choices and areas where you make the decision and they only receive a voice. Take the time to recognize that distinction and how it changes as your children grow. It will help you and your children grow together.

Family Honor & Respect in a Card Trick

Did you ever see “The Colour Changing Card Trick” on YouTube?  It is a cool card trick…and so much more. In fact, the “so much more” makes the trick astounding and teaches us an important lesson about family. Take a short 2 minutes and 43 seconds to watch “The Colour Changing Card Trick” in the video below. You won’t be disappointed. Then read what this trick taught me about family.

People learn and grow; they mature and change. More to the point, your spouse, children, and parents learn and grow. They mature and change.  Taking the time to recognize and acknowledge how they learn, grow, and change honors them. Adjusting our response in accordance with their growth also honors them and communicates respect for them. Unfortunately, we often miss the real changes, the significant growth, because we focus on some small aspect of their life or behavior that has irritated us. We focus on the “cards” and miss the all the changing shirts, table cloths, and back drops. Let me give some examples.

  • We recall the time a family member was late in picking us up and tell that story for years, but never acknowledge how many times they were there for us when we needed them…or how they have grown more responsible over the years.
  • We focus on a family member’s angry reaction to some pet peeve and neglect to recognize how patient they have become in the last year or how patient they have always been in so many other areas.
  • We constantly talk about our children’s messy room while ignoring how well they clean their dishes, the car they drive, or the desk they study at.
  • We bring up the time a family member said something obviously wrong (“Is this chicken…or is this fish? I know its tuna, but it says ‘Chicken of the Sea.’) while neglecting to acknowledge how intelligent they are and how much more knowledgeable they have grown.

I’m not saying we need to let inappropriate behavior run amok in our families. Inappropriate behavior needs addressed. But, we show respect and honor when we recognize how our family members have changed and matured. Take a look at the “big picture,” the whole picture. Notice the changes your spouse and children have made. Admire their maturing character. Acknowledge new behaviors and attitudes they have developed in response to lessons learned. Notice the changing colors of their life as it grows ever more mature. It’s a great way to show honor and respect.

“Dream Big”…Are You Sure?

I often hear parents tell their children, “Dream big; you can become anything you want.” This encouragement, although well intended, misses the mark. It provides incomplete and even inaccurate information to our children. Think about it. Can anyone really become anything they want? I suggest we continue to encourage our children to dream big, but modify that encouragement, expand it to include some helpful information. I suggest we try changing to sayings like these three…all three beginning with “Dream Big….”

  1. Dream Big and Be Prepared to Work Hard. Dreams do not bring success; hard work does. We need to encourage our children to work hard in reaching for their dreams. We need to teach them that reaching for the big dream requires tradeoffs and sacrifices. Effort invested in the area of any big dream will result in less effort in another area. Any big dream will demand sacrifices in time, energy, and even possibly lifestyle. The effort our children invest in their big dream deserves our acknowledgment and recognition. Their effort, not simplyKids on Victory Podium their dream, will move them closer to their goals.  Their effort, not the dream, brings success. So “dream big and work hard!”
  2. Dream Big and Celebrate Every Step. Our children need to learn that big dreams are achieved by taking one little step at a time. Teaching our children to set smaller goals that lead to bigger achievements will help them reach their big dream. Our children need to learn that each step toward the big dream, each little goal achieved, represents a significant accomplishment. Celebrate the effort it took to take that step.
  3. Dream Big but Be Realistic. “You can become anything you want” is not really true; it is inaccurate. For example, consider these stats from NCAA research:
    1. Only .03% of high school seniors playing basketball will get drafted by the NBA. That works out to 3 out of 10,000.
    2. Only .08% of high school seniors playing football will get drafted by the NFL. That means 8 out of every 10,000.

Face it, not everyone has what it takes to become a pro athlete…or musician, engineer, chef, or anything else. Our children cannot really become whatever they want. It is even less likely they will become what we want. Instead, we need to help them take a realistic look at their strengths, abilities, interests, and weaknesses. With a realistic self-concept, we can encourage them to dream big…in the right area. We can help them develop a big dream that coincides with their strengths, abilities, and interests.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for telling our children to dream big and shoot for the stars. But as we encourage our children to dream big, we need to give them the complete picture:

  • Dream big and be prepared to work hard.
  • Dream big and celebrate every step along the way.
  • Dream big, but be realistic.

Did It Again-The Emotional Cocktail of Parenting

Well, I did it again. For the second year in a row I took my daughter to college, unpacked her belongings, said good-bye, and left her hundreds of miles away from “home.” I’m not complaining. I am proud of her…and excited to see where life takes her. She has grown and familysunheartlearned so much in only one year of college. Still, I find myself holding back the tears when I drive away after dropping her at college. In fact, several diametrically opposed emotions fill my heart as I drive away—pride in her growth and excitement for her future, yet heart-breaking sorrow that she is growing up to leave home and deep pangs of missing one of “my little girls.” I’m not sure why I’m surprised at this mix of emotions. Parenting has always led to the uncanny experience of having more than one emotion at the same time. I remember the time my then 3-year-old daughter decided she did not want to eat her dinner. She got her mother’s (my wife’s) attention and began to talk to her in an animated manner, one hand making broad gestures. She maintained great eye contact and a wonderful give-and-take conversation. She held her mother’s rapt attention, face to face and eye to eye they carried on a conversation. In the meantime, I watched my daughter, unbeknownst to her mother, use her free hand to carefully remove pieces of meat from her dinner plate and deposit them under the table. We had to discipline her. She can’t go through life deceiving the authorities in her life in order to avoid tasks she did not like (I know, a little melodramatic). At the same time, I have to admit to a bit of pride in her creative ability to do two things at one time (hold her mother’s rapt attention and carefully get rid of her food) to achieve a goal even at such a young age. There it is…concern for her future and pride in her ability—a mix of emotions.

In elementary school our daughter decided she did not want to attend gym class one day. Having seen other children hand in notes to “get out of gym,” she decided to do the same. She got her crayon and very carefully, with the penmanship of any first grader, wrote: “Please let me out of gym today” (or something like that). Being the diligent student, she flower girlcarefully signed her name. The gym teacher was a little angry at her seeming deception and push against the system. Our daughter ended up in the office. She got in trouble and we got the call from the school (go figure). Her only excuse: “I didn’t want to go to gym today.” We had to talk to her about the whole incident, even discipline her so she would understand what she had done and not do it again. But, when she was in the other room, my wife and I admired her ingenuity and laughed at her ill-conceived attempt.

And then there is the “wedding incident.” Yes, parenting is filled with mixed emotions. Like me, you can probably recall moments when you were angry at your child’s behavior, but also extremely, gut-bustingly funny…or, times when your child’s risky behavior raised concern and worry, but also filled you with pride. And then there is college…filled with excitement for their future, but concerned for their safety; filled with pride while worried about their wisdom and the choices they have to confront while away from home; filled with joy for all the new experiences while experiencing your own heart-breaking reality that they are leaving home and, in fact, will call some other place their home while merely visiting your home.

Yes, parenting is filled with mixed emotions. We let them learn how to walk on their own. We watch them fall down. We help them stand up again and we send them on their way. We celebrate their successes and encourage them to “chase their dream.” We trust they have learned what we tried to teach them. We pray that God will keep them safe and guide them. Oh…and we look forward to the emotional cocktail of walking our daughter down the aisle of marriage or seeing our son marry the woman of his dreams. What can we do?  Enjoy the journey.

Make Your Child “a Head Taller Than Himself”

I enjoy learning about and teaching child development. Recently I read that “in play a child becomes a ‘head taller than himself.'” Most people probably do not use the phrase “a head taller than himself.” I had to think about what that meant; and, as I read the example, I children playrealized it means a child is “beyond his years” or “mature for his age.” Play enables a child to go beyond his years in maturity, to engage in mature behavior expected of someone older than him. I don’t know about you, but I want my child to become “a head taller than himself” (well, herself in my case because I have daughters). Although play enables a child to grow “beyond his  years,” not just any play will do. Video games won’t do it. No, the play that helps a child to become “a head taller than himself” is imaginative, dramatic play…the kind of play in which a child takes on and acts out an imaginary role. Preschoolers do it when playing house, teacher, princess, or cops and robbers. This kind of play becomes the first activity in which children must control their impulses and resist the urge to instantly gratify their own desires. It becomes an activity in which children follow the rules of the character in a story line they first had to develop. A study completed in the 1940’s supported play’s role in helping children grow beyond their years. In this study, researchers asked 3-, 5-, and 7-year-olds to stand still. Not surprisingly, the 3-year-olds had difficulty standing still for any length of time. The 5-year-olds stood still about four minutes and the 7-year-olds could stand still for over 10 minutes. However, when 5-year-olds were asked to play the role of a “lookout” by remaining at their posts and not moving, they were able to stand still for as long as 12-minutes! Their ability to control their impulses and self-regulate their behaviors during this role playing activity had become “a head taller than themselves,” making them look more like 7-year-olds.

 

Interestingly, this study was repeated in 2004 and the children in the 2004 study were actually “a head below” the children of the 1940 study. The 7-year-olds of 2004 exhibited self-regulation and impulse control skills that looked more like the 5-year-olds of the 1940’s…and the 5-year-olds of 2004 appeared more like the 3-year-olds of the 1940’s in impulse control and self-regulation. Sadly, the children of 2004 did not engage in the same level of imaginative, dramatic play of the children from the 1940’s. They spent their time in adult organized activities and video games, limiting the time they had to engage in dramatic, imaginative play and the skills we learn in that play. They missed out on the creative planning and role playing that would put them “a head taller than themselves.”

 

Perhaps we need to take a lesson from the comparison of these two studies. Our children need time to engage in dramatic play. Dramatic play gives them the opportunity to plan out an activity, develop roles, and then act within the boundaries of that role. It provides them the opportunity to practice self-regulation and impulse skills as part of their mutually agreed upon story line. This translates into less “blurting out answers” in the classroom, less “striking out at others” in anger, more “thinking” before acting, and a greater ability to problem-solve with others, among other things. In other words, dramatic, make-believe play helps our children become “a head taller than themselves.” So I say, “Let the children play!”

5 Tips for the Dirtiest Job of Parenting

I love to watch “Dirty Jobs” with Mike Rowe. “Dirty Jobs” gives us a glimpse of dirty jobs that most of us never knew existed and would avoid if possible, even though they contribute to our life. Parenting involves some dirty jobs—jobs like changing diapers after an “especially explosive episode” or cleaning a toddler after he eats his first cupcake. I recall a particularly dirty episode in parenting my daughter. I was holding my daughter over my head, pretending to make her fly, when she threw up…right into my open mouth. These are dirty jobs. There is one parenting job, however, that will most likely not make the “Dirty Job” cut. This dirty job may well be the most difficult and arduous job of all. I am talking about the job of letting our children go.  It begins early in life, as early as their first steps. Remember when you started to help your 3-year-old zip up their coat and they looked you straight in the eye to say, “I do!” Your child was telling you to “let go” even then. The steps we take in the process of letting go only grow larger as our children get older. From watching our children leave our side to attend first grade…to trusting them to resolve simple conflicts without our input… to dropping them off at college, letting go grows more demanding as our children mature. 
 
Letting go is a positive parenting goal though. We instinctively teach our children to make decisions independent of peer pressure. We encourage them to pursue independent interests and goals. We cautiously step back and allow them to independently learn from their mistakes. We even admire their independence, most of the time. When their independent decision seems contrary to our individual goals, we may unjustifiably become upset. When they decide to pursue some career outside of our dream for them, we mistakenly question their independent wisdom. When they want to go out with friends rather than us, we wrongly perceive it as personal rejection. Perhaps most difficult of all, when we see their independent decisions leading to simple, but painful, consequences, we jump in to save them, rather than trust them to learn, from their mistakes. This “letting go” really is a “dirty job;” but, there are some basic skills that can help make it a little easier.
     1.      Put aside your dreams and expectations. Look at your children; study them to find their “natural bent,” their natural talent, personality, and ability. Nurture those unique attributes. Take the time to step into their world of interests and develop an appreciation for those interests. The more you know your children, the more comfortable you will feel “letting them go.”

2.      Connect your children with other adults–youth leaders, teachers, mentors, or extended family. Step back and allow these adults to nurture your children’s talent in ways you never could. These adults will also be able to tell your children things that they will not hear from you. You will find your children coming home excited about something a teacher told them while you think, “I told you that 2 months ago.” Sometimes, parents become jealous of the influence other adults have with their children. After all, “I used to have that influence.” Remember, you still do have that influence. It may seem as though your children no longer listen to you, but they do. You will hear other adults talking about what your child said and you will recognize your words coming from your child’s mouth. So, rather than become jealous, be grateful that there are other positive influences in your child’s life. Take time to thank them personally.

3.      Provide your children opportunities to expand their independence. Let them make choices. When they are young teens, let them participate in decision like which night will be family night and which night they can spend with friends. Let them choose whether to watch a movie with you or with friends. Encourage them to seek the advice of a mentor in addition to input from you. Allow them to take sponsored trips with trusted groups such as those at your church, school, scouting organization, etc. Encourage their involvement in positive activities outside of your presence. As they show wisdom and maturity in those decisions and actions, allow them more opportunities.

4.      Allow your child to have time independent of family. This time will increase with age. A toddler needs constant supervision. However, as children mature, they make more independent decisions, engage in more peer related activities, and define their individual life more clearly. They will spend less time with family and more time in pursuit of their individual lives. A parent’s role changes from one of control to influence. In order to have influence, we must give up control.

5.      Give up control and pick up trust. Trust the work you did as a parent. Trust that you have instilled positive values and decision-making skills in your child. Trust that they have experienced your love and will always feel safe to return to that love when they need to. Trust that God will bring people into their lives who will continue to provide a positive influence to them. Trust your children’s growing level of wisdom and maturity, nurtured by childhood years of loving discipline and instruction from you.
 
By the time our children leave for college, they need the skills to independently manage their decisions, time, and relationships. They begin growing toward that independence from the moment they learn to walk. Join them in the process. Work toward the goal of independence. It’s a “dirty job,” but someone has to do it.
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