I need to stop being so available to my kids. It’s driving me crazy and it’s stripping them of their independence. They don’t actually need me to think for them, do for them or live for them, so I need to stop being so available.
Maybe you do too?
The Mumpos machine
I feel like my kids withdraw answers from me all day. I’m like a 24/7 Mumpos machine. You put a question in and an answer comes straight back out.
“Mum, can I have… ”
“Mum, what’s the… ”
“Mum, where are my… ”
“Mum, can you… ”
“Mum, did you… ”
“Mum, I can’t… ”
Argh! My head! As if a mother’s brain isn’t already full enough from all the life strategy heavy-banking shit we churn out each and every day, we’ve also got to do constant small withdrawals too. Where are my shoes, homework book, breakfast, brain? What can I do, say, feel, think? What’s the time? What’s the freaking time?!? Whatever the clock says the time is, Child-old-enough-to-read-the-freaking-time.
How will my kids ever learn resourcefulness, independence and responsibility when they have a one-stop place to get everything they need, whenever they need it? They simply won’t and that’s not doing them any favours whatsoever.
Change begins today
So, I’m making some changes and they are starting right now. From now on, children, when you put a question into the Mumpos machine, the answer is not my problem.
The answer is:
“What do you think?”
“Where do you think?”
“Why do you think?”
“When do you think?”
“How do you think?”
Weaning the kids off withdrawing from the Mumpos machine is going to be ugly. But, we’re a considerable amount of time along this parenting road now, so we’re used to ugly, right? We can do ugly.
How to teach kids independence
Here are five strategies that are going to help inspire my kids towards independence and, hopefully, less reliance on Mumpos. Let’s do this.
1. Stop rescuing
I’m pretty good with this one, but I know lots of mums who aren’t. When a kid finds herself in a pickle, it’s our nurturing instinct to just buzz on in there and sort that shit out. It’s awful to see our kids struggle, just the worst. But I’ll tell you what completely wipes out the awful in 10 seconds flat: seeing the pride and delight on your kid’s face when she solves things for herself. So, stop rescuing, start guiding and bring on the empowered kid.
2. Hold the space
We like to tie up the messier bits of a kid’s life quickly and efficiently, but that’s not really how life works and we know it. Teaching our kids how to hold the space when things aren’t going so well is one of the best life lessons we can give them. Show them that we can sit with negativity, we can hold it and not do a thing with it. We can just leave negativity be and it will not come to get us like we think it will.
3. Be consistent
This is a phrase that should be tattooed on every parent’s forehead the minute their baby is born. Be consistent. Do the same thing over and over in the same way. Do what you said you will do each and every time. Yep, it’s relentless, and more than a little boring, but it’s what builds the boundaries that our kids thrive within.
Boundaries allow parents to keep a little bit of ourselves just for us. We can nurture within the boundaries and anything outside of the boundaries we get to keep just for us.
4. (Re)teach accountability
Set consequences and follow through every time. Allow kids to learn that X results in Y and to avoid or receive Y you need to do or not do X (whoa, that sounded scarily like algebra). Fair enough, we’ve been trying with the whole ‘consequences’ thing since our kids were small, and nothing seems to stick, but let’s keep going. The older our kids get, the harder the natural consequences become and eventually they will get it. Be more rigid in following through when you set your own cause and effect system (see “be consistent” above).
5. Put them to work
When my kids were little we didn’t have a lot of chores or expect a lot of them within the family unit. We tried, but we weren’t consistent. We rescued instead of teaching accountability. We didn’t hold the space. So sure, it’s difficult to suddenly turn that Titanic around and say, “Right, from now on we are going to expect a tidy room, dishwashing, garbage collection, bathroom wiping, etc, etc,etc.”
It’s definitely harder, but guess what, you still get to do that. Just because we didn’t raise kids who were cleaning from toddlerhood, doesn’t mean we don’t get to raise kids who clean from adolescence.
We just need to start.
Are you too available too?
This post was originally published at MumLyfe: For Mums With Older Kids. It is republished here with permission.