We celebrate Independence Day with family gatherings, parades and fireworks. Revive Family wishes you a wonderful day this 4th of July with your family. Today it seems that independence has taken on a twinge of fear for parents. The thought of granting our kids independence carries with it the sense that we are taking a risk and not being “good parents”, but this has not always been the case.
Previous generation of Kids
As late as 1945 what we view today as kids were seen very differently. In fact at the end of World war two there were over 4.5 million kids age 14 to 18 working in factories across the nation supporting the war effort in Europe and the Pacific.
Because even younger kids had been working prior to this, kids and teens were seen differently. They were seen as more capable, responsible and able to have independence. Given this universally accepted perspective of young people we find that these kids were happier, felt like they had a purpose, were encountering less depression and making far better decisions than kids today. As a result there were far fewer parent child issues.
Enforcement of Labor Laws for Kids
It was not until child labor laws had been in place for 20 years in the mid 1960’s that the view of children began to change. Kids and teens began to be seen as less capable. Older kids began to be treated more like children and parent child issues became more common. In fact, it was not until this time that adolescent issues became common because prior to the early 1900’s the word adolescent had not even been used in our country.
As more issues arose with kids, as a result of the way we viewed and approached them, it fueled the idea that young people were not responsible or capable. This led to older kids being seen and treated more and more like incapable children. We have been trapped in this cycle to the point where now we question if 18 to 24 year olds are responsible and capable. The outcome has been an increase in mental health issues among kids and adolescents in our nation.
Why the Independence of our Kids Suffer
Perhaps the answer to the issues we see with kids today is not more control, oversight, and tracking. My time with thousands of kids revealed that these “answers” create large emotional wedges between parents and kids. Perhaps the answer is the opposite, INDEPENDENCE. The answer is to extend belief, trust, and space because today’s brain research indicates our kids need to grow, learn, and develop.
If George Washington could survey the wilderness by himself at age 13 and Abraham Lincoln could use a musket to shoot a turkey at age seven and decide he did not like killing things, why can’t our kids do the same?
If we viewed our kids as they were once viewed in our country and we believed in them and trusted them, would they rise to that belief and trust? If my research and family coaching is any indication, the answer is yes.
Kids are longing for Independence
Unfortunately I find the majority of kids today are silently screaming for freedom from their parents while making their parents feel like they are happy at home in order to keep the fragile peace. Many kids are pursuing freedom while in their parents’ home without their parents’ knowledge. One thing is clear. A vast majority of high school seniors we talked with in our research were tired of their parents and screaming for freedom when they left home.
As you celebrate the history of our nation’s independence and freedom from the control of the English Empire, consider if your kids need independence and freedom at home as well. This can be a scary transition if your kids are older. It requires a specific process to help them reset their view of you, their parents, and themselves. It is vital if they are to be ready for life on their own. Read Jennifer’s College as a Student’s Blog, to learn why college students are so unprepared.
Examples of Implementing Independence with our Kids
We found it was great to start with this different perspective of parenting when Eric, our youngest, was a toddler. Recently I helped a mom whose daughter was continually whining, crying and having mini-tantrums at the age of just 14 months. The message being sent to this daughter was always nice and kind but she heard over and over that this is not for Sara, as she sought to touch and hold things from shelves in their home.
I coached this mom to talk with her daughter and share that items on the shelves were breakable and why they were special to her or her husband. I asked her to tell her daughter she could hold them if she was careful. I also asked her to have her daughter agree that if she handled things roughly or carelessly, mom could take it back. This effectively extended responsibility for important items to a 14 month old and it worked. Their relationship is getting better and better. Additional coaching and concepts have helped this little girl become happy and cooperative in just two months rather than continuing to whine and have tantrums.
As adults we hate it when we are not trusted and given the responsibility to do our jobs. Our kids are no different.
So celebrate Independence Day in more than one way this year. Celebrate the historic freedom of our nation and recognize the historic reality of kids’ independence in our nation. Then set yourself free from the burden of fear and mistrust that leads to unhappy kids, unhappy homes, frustration and often hurt as your dreams for great relationships vanish before your eyes.
We wish you an amazing Independence Day on this 4th of July. You can find more on these kind of topics at ReviveFamily.com. It can set you and your family free to love, laugh and stay together!