Teach them how to get on without you

Posted by Samantha on January 10, 2011 in Thought for the day |

The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.

Frank A. Clark US cartoonist (1911 – 1991)


I love when people are brave enough to stick their necks out and use superlatives. It certainly makes for catchy quotes.

When someone says that ANYTHING is the most important thing that a parent can teach their children, I tend to sit up and listen.

I wouldn’t say that how to get along without me was the MOST important thing I can teach my children – but it’s certainly one of the things I try to teach my kids daily.

I think parents have a duty to help their kids grow up and gain their independence from them. But it’s actually easier said than done. Knowing how much to do and for how long is one of those tricky parenting issues to which there are no easy answers.

We start out doing absolutely everything for our kids. And we hope that eventually they’ll end up doing everything for themselves.

But there’s a long walk between those two points and we’re often navigating without a map. It’s a pretty delicate business.

Generally speaking our kids are more capable than we give them credit for. Just think of what street kids in India, Brazil or Morocco can manage for themselves the next time you’re about to make lunch for yours.

And that’s just the physical stuff. I’ve eliminated my role as sibling-mediator by teaching my children to listen to each other to solve their own problems and negotiate compromises. I’ve learned to step in only when it’s really necessary. And I know how to step out too.

Practice this phrase the next time you have a chance: “And what are you going to do about that?”

And know that far from being unhelpful you’ll actually be teaching your kids one of the most important things they need to know – how to get along without you.

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