For context, my husband and I have 3 children. Our two sons, 12 and 15 years old, and our daughter who is 5 years old. In this post I’ll explain some of the things we’ve decided to do to allow them to become a bit more autonomous, as we slowly detach ourselves from the tight grip of “micro-parenting”, as I like to call it. You know, that tendency to always be on your kids’ backs, checking everything they do, monitoring every move… We found that micro-parenting was having less of an impact as our kids started to grow, so our approach to raising them really changed over the last year or so in order to accommodate their need for independence and autonomy.
We let them manage their own pocket money
Our 2 eldest sons get a monthly allowance, which we let them spend how they want. We’ve taught them the benefits of saving, but we’ve put an emphasis on short term savings for things they might want to buy with their own money (e.g. a particular video game, item of clothing etc.).
When it comes to long term savings, we believe it is our responsibility as parents, and as long as our children are minors, we will continue paying into their trust funds and savings accounts.
We encourage them to use public transport
We’re quite lucky to live in an area that has great public transport. We don’t feel the need to drive our sons everywhere they need to go. If they can get there by public transport, we always encourage them to be independent and explore.
We don’t believe in smothering our kids but at the same time we’re conscious about safety so we do use a tracking app for that purpose. (There are many out there, please do your research).
We’ve always encouraged independent play
Our daughter is 5 and quite happy to spend time playing alone. We’ve taught her independent play from when she was about 2 years old and she’s one of those kids that will happily entertain herself. We did the same for our sons.
This doesn’t mean we don’t spend time with her at all but she doesn’t constantly need an adult to entertain her – she creates her own fun and in fact enjoys that “freedom”.
We still read her a story at bedtime and will continue to do so until she outgrows it. But playing alone is something she does a lot, and enjoys.
We allow them to develop their own individual style
Style is something children discover from quite a young age and get exposed to through various things – society and the people they see around them everyday, TV, the Internet, the media etc. It’s normal for children to want to experiment and develop their own style.
When my sons first expressed a desire to braid their hair, I was very reluctant to let them do it. It took me some time to unlearn all the negative things I had been conditioned to believe about men having braids.
I’m glad I eventually got over it. Today they have their own distinct hair and fashion style.
We let go and let them make some decisions for themselves
Emphasis on “some”. I’m still working on this, because I’ll admit that as a mum it’s not easy to stop nagging, especially when you have teenagers. My heart broke when my sons told me they no longer wanted to play the piano. Or when my middle child announced he wanted to play football instead of tennis, despite having played it since the age of 3, being amazing at it and following in his brother’s footsteps.
Raising responsible children means you’ll have to let them make decisions for themselves sometimes. We teach them the foundations, we set rules and routines, but we let them figure out a lot of things along the way. Another good example would be their choice of career. As much as we’d love for all our children to have high flying careers in well-paid industries, ultimately, what they want to do will be entirely their choice.
We give them space and respect their privacy
It’s important that our kids have their own safe space to just exist, create and have fun without constant interference from us. The boys share a bedroom, but being 12 and 15 years old, we make sure we knock on their door before entering.
They have mobile phones and we have set clear rules when it comes to Internet safety. And they’re happy to hand them to us if we did need to check their usage. However we don’t feel the need to constantly spy on them.
Our daughter is only 5, so there’s literally nothing she needs to keep private from us, but we do teach her the basics about having boundaries with strangers or people that are not part of her immediate family.
They’re allowed to voice their opinion
We don’t run our home like a dictatorship. Everyone here has a voice and is allowed to use it as long as there’s respect. And respect is mutual in our home.
Although we’re quite strict parents in the sense that we don’t just allow everything and anything, we also don’t believe in silencing our kids just for the sake of “establishing authority”. Authority is important but we value our children’s opinions too.
As parents we recognise that we can sometimes be wrong. I am teachable, even when it comes to motherhood – I’d happily listen to my kid telling me where I went wrong, and apologise.
We teach them basic life skills and good values
I wouldn’t want my children to grow up clueless about basic life skills, good manners and values.
Part of becoming more independent and autonomous involves learning to look after your own environment, your health and wellbeing (cooking for yourself, cleaning, etc.)… but also the importance of hard work, how to treat others, and just generally being a decent human being.
It’s never too early to teach children these things and we’re actually quite passionate about this.
What are some of the things you’ve done to allow your children to become more autonomous? Feel free to share below.