NOTE: I bumped this up because Kate has a great post about it, and there's some great comments to read as well. Enjoy
What is the difference between having expectations of your child and demanding things of him that become a weight around his neck and don’t help him truly grow up? This has been rolling around in my head for a while for a number of reasons. Beyond demanding that he do his best in following a basic set of rules – the way we do things in this family, the rules that keep anarchy at bay and maybe sketch out what our family values most – what can I demand of my child? And what demands will make him less dependent on me, not more so?
Let me give you a concrete example so you know what questions I’m asking:
I have a co-worker with a 20 year old; she lives at home, doesn’t drive, and attends community college. Her parents run her life on the premise that “it’s my house and they’re my rules.” These rules include who she can hang out with after school, who she can have in the house, and her parents’ duties include taking her to and from college every day. In other words, they have constricted her life to the point that she has no sense of personal responsibility. She makes mistakes and breaks the rules all the time, but the rules never change and presumably she never learns from her mistakes.
How do I start treating/teaching my boys now so this situation is avoided in the future? My goal as a parent is to raise adults, not dependent children. I don’t want them tied to my rules as they get older; I want them to make good decisions on their own. How do I teach that skill rather than mindless adherence to the rules?
Additionally, I want them to grow up to be who they are supposed to be. That’s something they need to work out on their own (with God’s help). I don’t want to dictate who they will or should be (especially not professionally). I want to provide them with many different and good examples of how to go about the business of adulthood, give them the skills to discern the best way to get there, and then step back. Again, how do I teach independence, good observation skills, and good decision-making? I’m not satisfied to teach just “how to get good grades, get into a good college and grad school without once thinking for yourself.” That lesson doesn’t make for happy adults – maybe happy sheep, but not happy adults.
What do you think? How do I get from fairly obedient, intelligent, creative and funny elementary students to independent, joyful adults who are doing a job and living a life they love?