Updated: Aug 3
Raising a child is hard. When we bring our baby home from the hospital, there is no handbook on the right way to care for your child. There are so many opinions from opposing viewpoints. Parents are full of worries and anxiety about making the wrong choices, causing potential long-lasting harm to their kids. The current trend is to hold them close, create very structured and controlled environments, and intervene when there is a potential hazard. In some ways, this can be helpful, but in other ways it is detrimental. How do we raise strong, confident, well-rounded children? I believe the answer is to let them be.
During the first months of life, the parent should strive in every way to develop a strong bond of trust and connection with the baby. This comes by meeting basic needs, physical contact, and showing love and affection. It is natural that as the baby grows, they want to exert some independence. This is very difficult for some parents who want to keep them from harm. Toddlers are notorious for bumps and bruises as they discover the world around them. As they continue to grow, it is important for them to maintain the security of their relationship with their parent, but also to have the freedom to explore and learn.
Let them be inquisitive
One of the dreaded phases of the toddler and preschool years is the 5 million questions. They ask why about everything! However, this is part of learning. It is healthy for them to be curious about the world around them and answering their questions helps them become more confident and fuels their knowledge base. One day you will be happy that they come to you for answers! Don’t stifle this while they are young. They will learn quickly if questions are off-limits and they will seek answers elsewhere.
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Let them be imaginative
Children can be intensely creative. Your child may have an imaginary friend, may believe they are a superhero, or may believe their blanket is a rocket that will take them to the moon. Let them be. Creativity is a wonderful thing. Eventually, they grow out of it, but this phase can be deeply meaningful to them. It’s ok if it seems weird for a while. Some view storytelling is lying behavior. For more on that, check out this article about the motivation for lying.
Let them be independent
Natural consequences are your best friend as a parent! You can spend a good amount of time lecturing them on the consequences of their behavior, but life is a great teacher. Let them make choices. Let them experience the results. Of course, there will be moments when the danger is too great and you must intervene, but most decisions your child makes will not be life-threatening. Let them learn while they are young, so they do not have to learn the hard way once they are older. Your child will quickly learn the limits to their abilities, how to stretch those limits, and how to manage failure. This is vital to our society today. Parents are not allowing their children to fail, and it is causing great harm! It is hard to see your child mess up, but they need to learn how to cope with the little things while they are young so they can better cope with larger issues as they grow older.
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Let them be vulnerable
When your child opens their heart to discuss how they feel about things, listen with an open mind. They may not know how to say it respectfully and it may hurt to hear, but listen to their heart. There are no right or wrong emotions. When they feel upset, they need help to process situations. Be cautious to avoid saying things like, “Suck it up,” “stop crying,” or “get over it.” First, help them process what is going on that is making them upset, then come back to it later to deal with disrespect.
Let them be outside
There is new research coming out about the importance of “green space.” Spending a little bit of time every day in nature will lower stress and bring a sense of well-being. For children, they get to run off energy, engage with friends, and be creative. Unstructured play is the hallmark of childhood and is greatly lacking these days. I know parents worry about the temperature, tracking in mud, and having to take time away from other things to go out with them. It is ok to let the kids work on dealing with these issues. They need to learn to wipe up their mess. They also know when they are too hot or cold and need to take a break.
In conclusion, it is natural for children to want space and independence. Younger children will need parents to be close by but as they grow older, we can give them more and more space. The goal is to always be the safe place to turn when things get tough. Special needs children come with many exceptions to the rules. They are all unique in their needs, some needing more constant help while others can have independence. I hope you can breathe a little and realize it is a good thing to let your child be.