Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Attachment Parenting and Independence

So I found this chart on Pinterest, about ‘Training Children to be Independent’ from the book ‘Teaching Your Children to Fly’ by Merrilee Boyack, and reading through it, I had some thoughts. My first thought, of course, was, ‘Well, clearly, I am doing things wrong’. Then, I thought about all my children know how to do and cut myself some slack. Now, looking at it again, I am wondering if I have short-changed them, or if this chart is a little ambitious (at least for us).

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but we follow an ‘attachment parenting‘ style philosophy with our kids. The basic idea behind this style of parenting is that by meeting a child’s need for a close attachment to their parents (through parenting practices such as extended breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, no ‘cry-it-out’, limited mother/child separation, etc.), you’re allowing them a firm foundation of parental trust that allows them to venture further into the world as they’re ready rather than pushing them to be too independent, too fast. The ideal throughout childhood is interdependence, not co-dependence or independence. This, in my opinion, is a healthy balance between ‘free-range parenting‘ and ‘helicopter parenting‘.

Though I believe wholeheartedly in the AP approach, I do sometimes flirt with the idea of a more free-range style in the scheme of helping your child develop independence in a ‘real world’ way, especially as the kids get older. While I do firmly believe that children are capable of doing more than parents often give them credit for, pushing them to be independent for the sake of being independent isn’t good either, which is the crux of my issues with ‘free range’ parenting. It seems like too much, too soon, and unnecessary – independence for independence sake – in virtually all of the examples I have read about.

In looking at this list, I am also torn between my perceptions of being a ‘good mother’ as my grandmother would define it (think June Cleaver) and more feminist ideals. Not that there isn’t anything good to be taken from that video; good manners are, after all, good manners; though there are some things seriously wrong with the perceptions and ideas perpetuated in it (Mom and Daughter OWE it to the men to look nice?? Don’t make Mom and Dad uncomfortable by talking about your feelings – wouldn’t want honest communication or anything…). I want my kids to know how to function in the real world – cook, clean properly, do laundry, be able to repair things in their home or on their car, and other basic skills. But I also don’t want to be the kind of parent who sees their kids as mini-servants, there to fetch and carry, thinly veneered as ‘fostering independence’.

So how does one find balance?

I would imagine that has to do with knowledge vs. expectation. Yes, I expect my kids to clean up after themselves and contribute to the running of the household (especially when the majority of the ‘mess; is theirs to begin with). But I don’t expect them to do things just because there is an arbitrary age at which to begin them. I think that child-rearing and (I don’t know what the specific term might be… I’m going to say ‘adult training’ despite the potential negative connotations… just go with it until I think of something better) are not incompatible. Adult training is part of child rearing – an integral part. I’d say that the goal of child rearing is adult training, even – preparing your children to be productive members of their family and society as adults.

But some of these things on this list make me wonder who would really expect their X-year-old to do XYZ. Taken as a general guideline or goal, and recognizing that yes, a 5-year-old can be expected to empty the trash, and fostering such skills, but that knowing how to do something does not make it his responsibility to do so, then this list is fine. I certainly helped my children to use the toaster and microwave at young ages (though admittedly, this was more so I could sleep in on weekends than it was to make them prepared to be adults), and they do have regular chores to attend to on a daily basis. But they aren’t solely responsible for fulfilling these responsibilities in the same way that you might expect an adult to fill them (i.e.: completely independently). There are still age-appropriate reminders and a parent to go behind them to make sure that whatever task was carried out completely. This is part of adult training, in my opinion. I do send my kids into the grocery store with either cash or a debit card to pick up a small list, alone. As their mother, with an eye towards their future, I present them with opportunities to explore on their own (today, we went hiking in a familiar area – they have the skill and are responsible enough to run ahead, and I allowed them to do so) and make their own decisions. But they are also given guidance and structure, especially with money (savings/contributions to charity and the like) and what our expectations of them are as members of our family. I think these are age-appropriate independences, and having my supervision (not molly-coddling) is the ‘inter-dependent’ part. They know that I will be here for them if they need me.

I’m curious to see what others think about this list, and how you prepare your children for the ‘real world’.

Warmly,
~h

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