Learning the hard lessons of raising independent children

Behavioral Health Services
Puppy Love 1

Written by: Tamara Langhoff, APNP at the Treffert Clinic

My best friend has always come to me for parenting advice. I guess this is the benefit of having a pediatric nurse practitioner for a “bestie.” My children are three to seven years older than hers; I have “been there and done that.” When I was suffering through adolescence, and she was loving the school-aged years, I remember thinking, her time will come.

And, it has. Recently her youngest, 17-year-old daughter went to prom. She reported after, that Grace (not her real name) wore “these plain white tennis shoes while all the other girls wore these very cute colorful tennies….the boutonniere that she bought her date was plain white while her dress was this beautiful hot pink…I asked her, ‘ Grace, why couldn’t you at least get pink???’” She wondered why Grace was angry and tearful at the end of the day, feeling completely nagged. My friend just wanted everything to be picture perfect, and she wanted Grace to have the time of her life.

What I recognized in this situation was the fight for independence between a mother and a daughter. If Grace’s friends hadn’t approved of her shoes, they would have told her so. If her date (who adored her) hated the boutonniere, he wouldn’t have worn it. If my friend had just let the circumstances unfold, Grace could have made very age-appropriate choices and suffered natural consequences if they were wrong.

Sometimes we have to let our kids fail. Unfortunately, I see this all of the time, only in much larger situations. The parents who won’t let their child fail an exam that he/she didn’t study for, so they make arrangements with the teacher for a retake. Worse, a child gets into legal trouble and a parent intervenes to lighten the sentence so that the star student’s reputation is not tarnished.

The difficulties in these situations are that from little on, we all learn best by natural consequence. There is no substitute. We do our children no service by protecting them. As I have told many, many parents in my office, if you don’t do your job at work, you are terminated from employment. So it will be for your child. These are lessons that need to be learned at an early age. It is the “love and logic” of how the universe works.

Please. Let your child wear the plain white tennies.

Seize the day.

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