Teaching kids independence and letting go

As our girls get older, we are trying to encourage their increasing independence.  Although they are only 6 and 8, there are lots of things that they should be doing by themselves now- and I'm finding I need to be better at letting them do these things!

I take them to school each morning, and go to each of their classrooms with them.   They sort out their own books, water bottles and whatever else needs doing at the beginning of the day - but they are still happy for me to be there and to say hi to their teachers and their classmates.  I like that I still feel a little involved - know where they sit and get to see some of their work.  There are however, many of their classmates and friends whose parents just drop them at the school gates and the kids take it from there.

I have noticed that kids whose parents drop and go; and those kids who go to before and after school care, are kids with a certain self-confidence.  I guess without Mum and Dad always there to fall back on or turn to, they have learnt to stick up for themselves!

In comparison, I notice our girls are a little more shy, and do turn to me for reassurance, and to ask things. Perhaps this is simply just because I'm there - and they would be equally self-confident when I'm not there -but obviously I can't see that!

I don't think of myself as a 'Helicopter Parent' I do try to step back and get our girls to do things by themselves wherever possible, to help them gain more independence and confidence.  I'm lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mum, I know many parents have to work and would love to have this time with their kids but circumstances won't allow it. But I'm also aware of the fact that our kids are growing up and I need to start stepping back a bit.

One example is their after school swimming lessons. The pool is at their school, so very convenient and easy for kids to go up there by themselves after lessons.  Until this year, I always came in and walked up with them, but at the beginning of this year I decided to get them to go up together, and I'd meet them there later.  They have to make sure they have all their swimming gear in the morning before school, then when they go up to the pool, they have to sign themselves in.

The first time they did it - I arrived just as they were signing in, and they were less than impressed as they were enjoying doing it 'all by themselves'.  Another time I arrived early as one of them had forgotten their cap - so they didn't mind that.    After a few weeks they're now happy to go up on their own, but are equally happy if I meet them and we go up together.

You see, I enjoy spending that time with them, I get to hear about their school day as we walk up to the pool.  Plus if I meet them out of class, I also get to chat to the other parents too as I wait!  That's my little social part of the day!

I asked the girls if they are happy with me watching them swimming each day, and their answer was a resounding yes! I'm going to enjoy this now as I know as they get older it may change!

At a swimming carnival recently, Euan and I were running up and down the sidelines of the pool cheering our girls on in their races. Another parent remarked that they remembered when they could do that for their son - but now he's a teenager, they have to sit and watch in the stands - and not embarrass him!

I love being a part of our daughters' lives - helping out at school and watching them in their endeavours -whether it's a school assembly, class activity or sporting event.   I know at this stage they want us to be there and appreciate our support. (see the picture above which one of them drew and wrote for me after I came to school to help one day!)

Whether this means that it will slow their independence and growth of confidence, I don't know.  But there are enough people with older kids who constantly tell me to enjoy this time as the kids grow up too quickly!

So I'm going to do just that! Both we as parents and our kids want us to spend time together now. Long may that continue!  and I'm sure that in itself is boosting their self confidence too!

How about you ? Are you a so called 'Helicopter or Lawnmower Parent" - one who hovers over their kid to make sure everything is ok - or pushes all obstacles out of the way of their child to 'help' them ?   Or are your kids very independent and do they like to do things by themselves, not wanting Mum and Dad there anymore ?

I'd love to hear your opinions and stories!


  1. It's a fine line to walk, isn't it? My kids are 6 and 3 and while the younger one needs a lot of support, my older one has been quite independent for the last 1 year. It really helps that we live in a gated community. His tennis lessons are just downstairs (and I can see him playing from our patio). The school bus picks up and drops him back at our front gate. He goes down to play in the park all by himself though I hover around, doing my social thing with the other mums while the kids play.
    I like to think that I give my kids a lot of independence while being around to make sure they are safe :)

  2. Great that you live in a place where your kids can go and play by themselves, but you can still see them and make sure they're safe. It's so hard to not worry about your kids - and I don't think that ever goes away - I know my mum still worries about me!! I think it's harder for us to let go, than for them to take the step towards independence themselves!

  3. My DH is definitely a helicopter dad. His mother was exactly the same way. As a child it was extremely rare for him to clean his own room, fold his own clothes, or cook any of his own food. And while it may be seen as loving, I feel it has done more harm to him than good. To this day, he can't cook and hates making decisions for himself: to the point that he won't even decide what he wants for dinner. Don't get me wrong, he's a very loving husband and father, but I think that his mother did him a disservice. He was never taught how to be independent (if not for me, he'd probably still be living with his parents simply because they will help him). So when I find him "babying" the kids it really irritates me. They know how to clean their room, pick out their clothes (fold them even), get their own drinks, bathe themselves, etc etc. But I often find him doing all this stuff for them. I have to remind him that they CAN do it. He often replies with "I know, I'm just so used to my mom doing everything for me..."

    Anyway, I just wanted to tell this story to show what happens when it goes too far. That said, I know that you also have to show your kids that you're still there if they need you. I can see where somethings can fall on a fine line. There is no ONE right way.

  4. Thanks for sharing your story Kim! Interesting to hear of such a long lasting effect of parents over-helping their kid! It is scary sometimes to think just how much of an impact we're going to have on our children's lives for years to come!


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