Teaching Children to Live Independently

by Jennifer Dryden

I have a bird’s nest on my back porch at home, and over the past three summers barn swallows have made their home in the nest and hatched baby birds. It is a joy for me to watch this process, and I marvel at the different stages that occur, from the laying of the eggs to the baby birds being pushed out of the nest. As I watched this process this summer, I thought about our own role in raising our children from infancy to adulthood. In the beginning stages the mama bird tends to the eggs and spends large amounts of time making sure that the babies have food to eat and are protected. However, rather quickly, the baby birds are literally pushed out of the nest, and they are taught to fly and gather their own food. The adult bird knows that if the baby can’t fly it will not survive!

As parents, one of our main goals should be to help our children move out of our lives and into their own. However, we have to prepare them to fly and teach them the skills to live independently. We have to teach them to work and to take care of themselves.

Dr. Robert Barnes, a marriage and family counselor, says, “In many homes, parents think making a child do chores is more hassle than it’s worth. But once children have learned to do chores, they feel like team members who are working toward the good of the whole family. That makes them more emotionally mature.”

When John Rosemond, author of John Rosemond’s Six Point Plan for Raising Healthy, Happy Children, asked an audience of 500 people how many of them expected their kids to do regular chores for which they were not paid, about 50 people raised their hands. However, when he asked them how many of them were expected to do chores as a child, almost every hand went up. Rosemond declares, “This is no laughing matter. In the short span of one generation we have managed to misplace a very important tenet of childrearing:  children should be contributing members of their families.”

Chores teach children that work belongs to everyone. They also teach them to serve others. I have heard parents say that sometimes kids are just too busy for chores. In the hustle of being shuffled from one activity to the next, kids are learning that somebody else will do the work and their main responsibility is to play and participate in leisure activities. Hard work and responsibility are important qualities for life. However, we are not just born with these; they have to be taught!