My daughter, Hannah’s 18th birthday is approaching, and with it a tidal wave of emotions. The day looms over me as the turning point in which I am no longer authorized to make decisions on her behalf. Yet I recognize that rather than a line in the sand, it’s simply the culmination of what I have worked toward for years.
Looking at my daughter I see an independent, strong, resilient young woman. Her wings are ready for the flight ahead, and though it might not be perfect, I am confident in her strength.
I see several big and small things that have paved the way for her autonomy, and I believe they’re good tips for anyone raising a child to consider.
- Instead of giving chores, make her responsible for her own upkeep. Hannah does her own laundry, cleans her own bed and bathroom, and makes her own breakfast and lunch. This means she is responsible for making sure her work uniform is ready before her shift, that she sees what happens when she neglects her shower for too long, and as such, she succeeds and fails on a tiny basis, which gives her the life skills to manage her life as her responsibilities steadily increase.
- Don’t tell her what to do. Hannah makes her own decisions. She comes to me for advice, and to develop her decision-making strategies, but her choices are her own, as are the consequences. This is something that has slowly evolved since middle school. I don’t want her to find herself on her own with no decision-making experience, so allowing her increasing sway over her own path has been crucial for her to be confident in her ability to chart her own course.
- Model values rather than imposing rules. My husband and I have several key values, like integrity, kindness, and resilience which we embrace as core values in our dealings with ourselves, each other and the world. Rather than making rules about lying, we emphasize how being a truth-telling person means that people will believe and trust you. We teach her that when someone is mean or angry that you can kill them with kindness. And we live out the lessons in our own lives.
- Help her look past appearances. Hannah has two siblings with special needs, so in many ways she lives this lesson from the flip side; she knows all too well how it feels when people cannot look past the appearance of our family. However, there are many other stigmatized appearances, and we look for the beautiful human being in everyone.
- Show her the beautiful human being in herself too. Emphasize the things you see her doing right. Often we place heavy focus on correcting our children, and correction is important when needed, but it has to be balanced with encouragement and building confidence in strengths.
- Demonstrate a sense of humor about yourself, and help her have one about herself. When you can laugh at yourself, you’re much less worried about others laughing at you.
I cannot begin to list the mistakes I have made, if I did, the list would be exponentially longer than this one. Yet despite my failings, my daughter has become a woman who I like and admire. I believe that our emphasis on the above has been instrumental in her development into a dynamic, confident woman.
Photo Credit to So PhotoJenic, all rights reserved, 2016
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