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This is one of the primary contradictions of parenting – the delicate juggling act between setting limits, while simultaneously encouraging independence.
Finding a way to give our kids both roots to keep them grounded and wings to soar, is quite possibly the best gift we parents can ever give. Finding the balance between boundaries and freedom is key to raising strong kids who will thrive no matter what. In some situations finding the right mix is easy – outdoors we talk about appropriate road safety behaviours.
They are very adept at learning how to behave in different situations by copying us, but that is no excuse to be passive.
We visited a local government office so that I could take care of some household paperwork. My first parenting fail was to assume he would know instinctively how to behave appropriately.
As I shuffled papers and mangled the French language my brain had sufficient capacity only to keep track of my son’s presence. Naturally, this directionless attempt to appeal to his better nature had absolutely zero effect.
My final parenting fail was to assume that watching me do dull adult stuff was an acceptable way of spending time for him. I learned that leaving our children free to explore the world is fine in certain environments. Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Md Mate provide some excellent wisdom on this is their book Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers. Independence requires knowledge, and our kids need to know they can depend on us to provide that.
In a carefully timed parachute moment, we simultaneously provide safe limits for our kids, while allowing their confidence to grow. Did you know that, given the right soil conditions, a tree can grow roots that are as deep as it is tall?
But if the roots of their emotional and spiritual well-being are not also nurtured then they may become weakened, and vulnerable.
Giving them roots provides the stability and internal resilience they will need to meet life’s challenges with confidence. Attachment theory teaches that, as children grow, parents can help their child form secure attachment by explaining things to them, by being present as much as possible, and by continuing to meet basic needs.
With hindsight the simple act of placing myself in his shoes could have averted the stress for us both.
And we have the honour, privilege and responsibility of helping to prepare them for the adult world. Freedom is also about being able to think, act and feel without being plagued by negative self-talk, doubts and uncertainty. We can help our kids to achieve this by honouring their feelings every day, and giving them the freedom just to be. The ultimate gift is to make a child feel invited to exist in our presence exactly as he is, to express our delight in his very being.
When we show our kids how to embrace their feelings we are showing them how to truly own them. As you first try this approach the intensity of their feelings may take them (and you) by surprise. This gift of freedom from their emotions is one of the very best ways to help put the strength in their wings. First, our children are born, and the cutting of the umbilical cord marks the start of their journey of independence. And in between all of these are a multitude of mini-independence steps, where our children begin to do things for themselves.
The way in which we present all these separations to our children can have a significant effect on how they deal with them. In her wonderful book Encouraging Words For Kids, Kelly Bartlett calls this emotional encouragement. Earlier this year the value of this approach was tested when my 7-year old daughter faced her biggest independence challenge yet.


We shopped for supplies and packed her bag together, giving her some ownership of the event.
Every second of separation was a reminder of how precious she is, and how easily that can get lost in the day-to-day. Raising strong kids is partly about providing a strong base to which they can feel attached and safely grounded. Every interaction with our children provides an opportunity to strengthen our bond, or encourage independence.
1: Learn to recognize when your kids are filing a plan for a solo-jump and step back from the landing zone. About Cally WordenFreelance writer and editor Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France.
I would say that leaving the room may be counterproductive though, as it could be making her feel abandoned at the very time when she is struggling to manage some big emotions. Bathtime – ‘Time to go bathe, do you want the pink pjs or the ones with the bunny on tonight?
In spite of the whining crying short circuiting my brain I will endeavour to stay in the room with her. And it’s a paradox that will haunt many of our parenting decisions until they leave home.
It’s the difference between raising a child who is tentative, and one who is self-assured. But in order to help our kids flourish we need also to be willing to allow a little free form skydiving before deploying the chute.
In these more mundane situations it’s easy to forget how little our kids actually know about life. There are times when a little more guidance is needed to help them understand the social intricacies of the world. My 4-year-old had no concept of this stuffy bureaucratic space as a specific behavioural environment.
Distracted, I failed to notice him constructing a clever and elaborate game involving a precariously balanced cup of water, and an extendable elastic barrier.
But also that I need to modify my own expectations of just what they will learn if I don’t provide any guidance in other environments. Everyday scenarios like the one I experienced with my son offer a wealth of opportunities for show and tell.
We can help our kids grow into physically healthy, strong and fit people by teaching about nutrition, exercise, and caring for your body.
We need to make sure we nurture their sense of self, the belief they are inherently good, and their knowledge that they can cope with unknown and thrive. His work suggests that a child who develops a secure attachment with their caregiver early in life will naturally develop into a more secure and confident person. But each small effort we make to guide our children with loving limits, and a healthy dose of empathy, is like giving them a dose of Miracle Gro. Our children are not our possessions, to be corralled and herded, then put out to pasture when we see fit. Because freedom is not just about being able to do what you want, when you want, with who you want.
As parents our default is often to hush down strong emotions in our child in an effort to take away the pain. But with practice, and experience, your child will learn that feelings are not to be feared. A sobbing parent waving a soggy tissue at the nursery door is not going to make our baby feel happy. And together we worked on strategies she could employ when she was feeling sad, homesick, left out, or overwhelmed. She chose some photos and small items to remind her of home and tucked them neatly into her socks for safety.
Slowly, in the week or two that followed, she blended back into home-life.  But she has changed. When this is in place, our children will internalise it and use it as a springboard for healthy growth.


This can be anything from allowing them to fill their cup alone (and not minding the spills), to a bigger independence step like a sleepover. Help them to name their feelings (anxious, afraid, worried, concerned) and help them with preparing for the task or event.
You are doing a great job in allowing your daughter the freedom to express herself – at nearly 3 she still lacks many of the language skills required to verbalise her frustrations, so giving her the space to show you what she is feeling in other ways is really important. I want to be present for as she experiences these emotions but i guess i am the one deciding which ones are real and which are not and for her they are all real.
One who will take life’s knock-backs hard, and one who will meet challenges with confidence. Stressed and frustrated I glared at him and muttered barely comprehensible sounds in his general direction.
Paperwork done, I deployed my parachute woefully late and shuffled red-faced from the building, my giggling boy at my side. If we provide this security, they will have the strength to find independence when the time is right for them. And, importantly, a safe place under our watchful eyes for them to try out what they’ve learned. This is broadly true because via secure attachment all children’s basic needs are met, and through this they learn to truly value themselves. I spent a lot of time and energy working out how best to help her prepare for what was to come.
In allowing our children this freedom to explore in the context of caring boundaries we provide the ideal platform for them to fly. When they are done, ask how they feel about having accomplished it (happy, successful, proud). But you are also right that some things just have to be done, so explaining that is important too, and often our kids need us to draw that line and insist calmly and firmly that this is just how life works sometimes. Does she have a specific fear of something associated with bathtime (or the chore of the moment) that you could help her address? And fair warning: while none of this is professional advice, it is powerful stuff and could potentially change your life! I had averted one disaster, but knew in an instant that another one would soon start brewing. And it’s vital we acknowledge and validate their feelings in order to help our children cope.
Over time this will build up a pattern of good feelings around facing and overcoming challenges. Know these moments are coming, and show your children they will be okay by working on your own sense of self-belief. Now I say well I know you don’t want to do this but that is how life is, people wash every day.
Sometimes it’s possible to predict the kinds of situation that will spark this kind of response in our children – can you see any kind of pattern? Sensing the need for swift damage limitation measures I lifted him onto the counter next to me.
And peek out again whenever they can, in an acting out that may seem to come from nowhere, or be out of proportion with the challenge of the moment.
We give children the gift of wings by providing opportunities for them to become capable and feel valued. So I left her to grow her wings in peace. So if you want to keep crying you can, but i am going to wait outside till you are finished. If so, you can help her by introducing the idea of what’s required in advance of it happening. I believe i am giving her the opportunity to feel but not sure about stepping out of the room while she does it.



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Comments

  1. FenerbahceX, 28.05.2014
    Her find out when she needs.
  2. lady_of_night, 28.05.2014
    Wee's and poo's in potty spot, then you will probably need to paper-train him 1st with.