As parents, we want to help our kids grow up to do the right things, say the right things, and achieve the proper milestones in life. We hover over them, we push them, we enroll them in the best schools, we sign them up for music or sports lessons, and we give them activity after activity to keep them occupied. Some say this is the proper way to parent by using every means necessary to ensure the success of our children.
Here’s the reality that I’ve learned after almost six years of parenting: Children will grow up with or without you. Your job as a parent is not to control the growth of your child, but to allow it to happen naturally and organically. You need to get out of the way and just let your children grow up.
My oldest daughter taught me this lesson again in the process of her learning how to read. Before she started Kindergarten, I had wanted her to be able to read. Some of her preschool peers were already reading, but she wasn’t. I was frustrated at all my attempts to read with her at bedtime, make frequent trips to the library for kids books, and buy different games and apps to help her read. Whatever I did, she still wasn’t able to read.
In Kindergarten, she started working on her phonics and reading simple words and sentences became easier for her. She was learning with her classmates and her progress was picking up speed. At home, she’d proactively pick up books to try to read by herself rather than having me read it to her. And recently, she has used an app (RazKids) to learn on her own. She devours the books and engages in the quizzes for comprehension after each short book. And she challenges herself to read the longer, harder books. Her learning is all self-directed and all on her own.
My daughter is a reader now, not because I made her one, but because she made herself one. She developed the interest to learn organically and is doing it at a pace that she likes. With more confidence and progression, she’s reading more stories, learning more words, and is becoming more curious about things. Her curiosity for learning has been sparked and now she’s in full control of her learning…all because I got out of the way and let her grow up.
As a father of two young girls, I’m beginning to figure out this parenting thing. Through trial and error, I’m figuring out what works and what doesn’t work.
Here’s what I’ve found to work best:
- Let go of your ideals. Walking by ten months old, potty-trained by eighteen months old, speaking by two years old, reading by four years old…The list goes on and on of milestones that we think our kids should be achieving. Let go of what you think they should be doing and accomplishing, and let them do it on their own, when they are ready.
- Encourage, but don’t force. Forcing kids to do something they don’t like to do is an easy way to lead your kids down a long road of unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and even depression. Let them naturally gravitate towards their interests and give them the tools and the environment to explore those interests fully. When kids are engaged in activities that truly interest them, they’ll be happier, healthier, and better at what they do.
- Foster curiosity. Watching TV and playing video games all day as a kid is a recipe for a sedentary lifestyle as an adult. Let your kids run around in nature, go on walks together, visit museums, and travel. Let your kids discover the world on their terms and you’ll be amazed how curious they can be.
- Model the way. Kids look to their parents as their primary role models. What you say and what you do, how you behave, and the attitudes you have make up every part of your kids’ social and moral fabric. Be a good example and live your life how you want your kids to live their lives. Be positive, compassionate, and caring, and your kids will be the same back to you and others.
- Love, and love some more. Kids need their parents most for their love. They need to know they are loved for who they are. When kids have the unconditional love of their parents, they are given the confidence to be who they are and live to their fullest potential.
It’s a beautiful thing to see your children grow up. As you become more mindful of the opportunities to allow your children to grow up, you’ll give your children the space and freedom to blossom into the people they were meant to be.
Let your children grow up, get out of their way, and always cheer them on.