Monday, November 1, 2010

On Teaching Independence

What to say, what to say.....there are so many things that young parents need to know. I have been pondering what is the most important thing a parent should teach their child. I would hope we all know that leading them to a personal relationship with the Lord would be foremost. That should be a given, but after that, what would be next. My sweet DIL (well, actually, she is Whitney's SIL so we just made her my DIL since her husband's parents are both deceased) has been going through a major ordeal in her house in the recent past - her precious angel could not go to sleep on his own. He preferred to have his mother or father rock him to sleep no matter how many times he would wake up at night. Not good for the parents or the child. Now look at this face......

How could you not get up 10 times a night to rock him back to sleep!  He is absolutely the most adorable thing!  And that brought me to this blog.....what is the most important thing a parent has to teach his child.
One thing would be independence.  In this case, this adorable little boy needed to learn independence with his sleeping habits.  As the mother so well put it, he had never had the opportunity to go to sleep by himself, so therefore, he didn't know how.  They had to let him cry for a few minutes one night and then he slept all night by himself for the first time in 10 months.  The second night the crying only lasted one minute and he slept all night.  I have to say with Whitney, it wasn't quite that easy.  It only took two nights, but we had crying to the point of throwing up to deal with.  She was 14 months and REALLY spoiled to the rocking chair! ha  With both children, it was one of their first lessons in independence.

Why did it take my DIL 10 months and me 14 months of enduring no sleep to let our children learn this lesson?  Because we love our children so much and didn't want them to have to be without any of their "needs"?  Because their need for being held filled our need to nurture?  Because in our minds we were not being good parents if our child were upset?  All of the above and more I am sure.  The fact is, it doesn't hurt our children to cry when there isn't a real problem and as I had to learn, it doesn't hurt to let them cry until they throw up.  They can only do it twice.  ha  Sleeping at night without being rocked and cuddled is the first step to independence. 

So many of us think it is our duty to give our children all of their hearts desires.  When we do this, they do not learn independence - they learn to rely on others for all their needs.  They do not learn patience - they learn that whenever they want something, they should get it now and never have to wait until they can work for it, afford it, deserve it.  They don't learn the value of things because they never had to earn it.  They don't learn the concept of sharing because they always had their own.  

So the hard lesson for parents is that we are to be PARENTS.  It is our job to raise strong, healthy, independent children physically, emotionally and mentally and in order to do this, we have to know when to stand strong so our child can learn a lesson on their own and when to be there so they can fall into our arms.  There is a fine line between the two.  For me, it was much harder to let her learn the lesson "on her own".  I had the "falling into my arms" come naturally! ha  It is hard to see our children unhappy, suffering, discouraged, failing, struggling, crying. But what can they learn if we are always there to rock them?  It is through our struggles that we grow to mature adults and grow close to the Lord.  It is where we learn life's lessons. 

There is not one most important thing we can teach our children, but a lifetime of things.  We don't need a lesson on love because that comes natural for parents.  We would lay down our lives for our children.  We need lessons on teaching independence, on letting our children fail and take responsibility for their actions, on helping them to make right decisions all through life, on being protective, but not over protective.  Stand in the background so they know when they really need you, you are there, but let them learn life in their own way.  Remind them that life's path is straight and narrow and they may have to walk alone at times or in this case, sleep alone at times.  Much of the wisdom we gain in life comes from parenting.  It keeps us close to the Lord and seeking His wisdom for directing our children's paths. What a blessing it is to be parents.  Keep up the faith and have a ....
Blessed day.

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