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The Challenge of Raising Independent Minded Kids

Listen up parents. (And teachers and coaches and Aunts and Uncles and ….you get my point) This one's for you!

There is not a parent out there that I have met who says “Yes…I want my kid to grow up to be a pushover. I want them to be taken advantage of, to be looked down upon, to never find their own voice, and to be bullied their entire lives.”

This is a ridiculous notion.

We want to raise strong minded, independent humans who have questioning minds, who stand up for what they believe, who are not afraid to raise their hands in public and ask questions. We all agree that those kids will change the world for the better. They will make the best friends, spouses, business owners, co-workers, leaders, teachers, and be great parents in their own rights if that’s what they chose to do.

BUT….. we don’t always love it when they turn those skills towards us! We want them to be independent minded and also to do what they are told and not question us.

Well my friends, we cannot have it both ways! If we want them to be free-thinkers, questioning thinkers, then we cannot expect total compliance. And we cannot fall into the trap of treating their questioning, their reach for independence, and their desire to stand for themselves as defiance.

We also cannot let them run amok down the road of rash choices and questionable actions that may cause them to be put in harm's way emotionally or physically.

It’s a tricky balance.

Here’s the thing. The first thing we need to do is remind ourselves that, like so many things in their growth journey, we as the adults in their lives are the testing ground.

We are their place to try out standing up for what they believe.

We are their place to try questioning the rules put in front of them.

We are their place to try putting their foot down and making demands.

We need to reframe this behaviour as ‘testing and honing their new skills’ and not as ‘being defiant’.

What they learn about doing these things is strongly tied to how we react.

We need to remind ourselves of our job as adults. Our job is to help guide them, to teach them how to get what they want, to stand up, to question what is placed in front of them….but to do so in a respectful way.

To teach them that differing options doesn’t make one person wrong and another right.

To teach them that standing up for yourself does not include shoving someone else down.

To teach them that what might be right for someone else might not be right for you, and the opposite is just as true. Just because something is right for you does not automatically make it right for them.

(And we might need a little reminding of these things too)

It’s going to be a bumpy ride. It’s going to challenge your self-discipline. It’s going to be extraordinarily difficult to decide when it’s your turn to learn. Learn that your independent thinking, strong minded questioner is not the same as you. They are not a mini-me. They are becoming who THEY are and not always in the way you envisioned.

Here’s the thing. If you can be the testing ground. If you can allow for debate and negotiation. If you can know when to hold your ground and when to acquiesce, you will raise kids who know you respect them as individuals, and that will open the door to more respect in return. And when they do just want someone to tell them what to do….you’ll be where they go for advice because they know they can ask questions and you’ll be there to support them and not to judge them.

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