This week my teen went out of her way to make sure she could attend an in-person job interview; something hard to find these days when most people send you to an online application so they can weed out anyone before seeing them.
My wife dropped our daughter off and went shopping, so my teen had no one there to help her through this interview. She was on her own; unlike so many these days who have a parent accompany them.
I don’t know about you, but if I was hiring, anyone bringing their parent would automatically be disqualified. The lack of soft skills (common sense and social know-how) among young people concerns many employers these days.
I was proud when I heard that the interviewer complimented my daughter for dressing up for the interview. Life skills are important. We’ve all heard about the ill-equipped teen who ends up at college unable to do his own laundry or who calls her parents for help with a professor who is “being unfair.”
But if I really want to raise independent, self-reliant adults, my kids are going to need more than just skills lessons. Self-sufficiency is a mindset, not just a skill.
And before I go on, please don’t get hyper-spiritual on me and correct me by saying “Well none of us should be self-sufficient. We must be reliant on Christ!”
Yes, I get that. I’m not teaching my kids how to live without depending on God. I’m teaching them how to live without Mom and Dad, while still remaining reliant on God for everything. Now that we’re clear on that. I’ll continue… 🙂
Most people agree our children need to have the confidence to think for themselves, handling challenges and finding the right path forward without us. But how do we nurture that mindset?
There are many things that help, but here are three that I’ve seen:
1)An early emotional connection with the parents makes kids feel validated and safe when they first experience the uncertainty of life. This firm foundation of security carries kids into adulthood, making it possible for them to deal with challenges confidently. Touch them, hold them, read to them, get on the floor with them, look into their eyes, enter their world.
2) Children need freedom too. Freedom to explore, test, invent and be resourceful in order to better understand who they are and the world around them. That is hard for me to give. I tend to hover too much. But letting them fail promotes maturity in them.
When we give our children freedom, we’re sending the message that we have confidence in them to make good decisions (and recover from bad ones). It doesn’t mean hands-off parenting where no guidance is given, but a deliberate style of parenting that involves standing back, waiting to support and guide if needed. It’s a hard balance to make.
3) Let them make some decisions. When children are given the opportunity to be part of decision making – of having their voice heard and influencing outcomes –it helps them see that they’re able to make good decisions, and also see what it’s like to be part of mature, responsible decision making.
Parents who make decisions for their kids (telling them what to think, do, and say) are clipping their wings. In a collaborative relationship, I consider my children’s ideas and wishes. True, those ideas may be immature or unwise, but let them make them and decide on their own if it was a good idea or not.
Again this is hard for me because I was raised by a dad who made all the decisions and I was reminded it wasn’t my place to have a voice as long as I lived in his house.
I moved out at 18.
I continue to control my kids too much. Many times just because I’m lazy and don’t feel like cleaning up a train wreck. It’s so easy to just do it myself….and faster, more efficient. It takes a lot of energy to allow my teens to do it themselves.
But I must.
If I don’t, I’ll be taking care of them the rest of my life. And who wants that? I wanna retire, relax and spoil my grandkids. But most of all, I want to look at my adult kids and say, “They’re doing good. They are not just surviving, they’re thriving.”
Lord help me get this right.