Trap 2 of 3: Independence happens naturally.
Many parents think that children will automatically learn to be independent as they grow. That isn’t necessarily true. We need to help our children develop a healthy sense of independence along the way. Don’t we all know stories of children who are raised with overactive parents dictating what to do and when these children get to college they can’t handle the freedom and fall apart or drop out?
Not enough independence is frustrating and slows development, however, too much independence is overwhelming and can negatively impact one’s self-confidence. So how do you seek the right balance?
There’s a trust formula that I used to recite in leadership classes:
Trust = Skill X Will. In other words, trust occurs when you feel the person is capable (has the skills) and is willing or motivated (or has your back). I find that this also holds true for nurturing independence. In order to be independent, you must first teach the necessary skills (if the person doesn’t have them already) and then motivate the individual to accomplish the task on their own. And, every person requires their own development plan. Typically in the workplace, I see leaders enrolling their staff in training which is a development activity to teach new knowledge or skills. However, in many cases (especially with more tenured staff) the issue is more around motivation (or “will”) than skill. On the contrary, parents often assume a child is not taking responsibility (e.g. clean up after dinner) because of lack of motivation (or “will”) but more likely, they’ve never been taught HOW to perform the task. When you break down a seemingly simple task, you realize the complexity in the number of steps and how unrealistic our expectations often are as parents. So, when encouraging independence, first ask yourself, is it an issue of “Skill” or “Will?”