How can Parents Foster Independence in Children?


In our good intent, sometimes we parents do so much for our kids we cripple them as they enter adulthood. Judah’s words are worth taking in. He not only reminds us that our kids becoming more independent of us and more dependent on Jesus is one of the greatest things we teach our kids, he gives us some how-to’s as well!

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? Luke 16:10-11

In high school, I was neglected by my parents. Left to provide for myself in one of the most significant of ways: preparing my lunch for school. I know, how could they be so lazy and selfish as to expect me to do such a thing, especially considering I already had to drive myself every morning in the car they bought for me.

Somehow I managed to wake up early enough to fill a brown bag full of a PB&J, chips, water, and maybe another PB&J. As silly as it may seem, I’ll argue this responsibility my parents gave me (along with several others) contributed in a large way to my ability to successfully navigate much of high school, college and now adulthood.

Here are some ways my parents helped me gain practical and, more importantly, spiritual independence:

  1. Give your kids responsibility. Teaching your kids to be faithful in the small things, like chores and homework, can translate into their ability to be faithful in areas of much greater consequences, like finances and college (see Luke 16:10-11). Each of us, including children, have a God given responsibility for our sin and choice to follow Jesus (Ezekiel 18:20). Teaching your kids to own this responsibility will only be more difficult if they never receive responsibility in other areas, no matter how small. Start early with the simple, and allow this to be an opportunity for you as a parent to release control of that which ultimately is not yours. 
  2. Allow failure. This one is really tough, but allowing failure in small things and in a safe place puts the ball of ownership in their court. We don’t learn failure, it’s innate (Romans 3:23), but we actually have to learn how to respond to failure with humility and pursuit of growth. Don’t delay your child’s chance to grow this way. Not only is allowing failure an opportunity for them to learn how to respond to falling short and seek growth, but also a chance for you as a parent to model grace and point back to the gospel, just like the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15).
  3. Don’t just help. Teach and equip. I needed help from my parents, and to be honest at times still do as an adult. Thankfully they wanted to help, and I expect you do as well. What I will challenge you to do is use your desire to help as an opportunity to train and prepare your children, rather than a giving them a free pass and accomplishing the task for them. You might choose to change the oil in their car, but bring them along to watch. Then have them give you hand. After a while, have them try it all while you watch and support. Eventually you’ll be able to pass the job onto them. This goes along with a life in pursuit of Christ. Don’t just quote the scripture, teach them what it means and equip them to live it out by following your example (Proverbs 22:6).

Fostering independence and responsibility is a great provision of a need. Remember our children’s independence from us can also look like a healthy dependence on Jesus. It just may take a little time.

Camper Corner:

What are some things mom and dad do for you? Could you do those on your own? What is something you want to be able to do on your own?

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