Poppet has been showing signs of growing up recently, changing from a little girl to a, dare I say it, young lady?! She has mini strops on a regular basis (which remind me of myself when I was 13, not 7-and-a-half!) and is desperate to have more independence and responsibility.
As our oldest child this is all a steep learning curve for us, so I’ve done my usual and researched lots on how best to allow her more independence without letting go completely.
I have never wanted to ‘control’ my children but do realise that as parents it is the easy default to go to at difficult times (like trying to get out of the house in the morning!) A survey which has tracked more than 5,000 people since their birth in 1946 researched the impact of over-control on children. “Parents also give us [a] stable base from which to explore the world while warmth and responsiveness has been shown to promote social and emotional development” said Dr Mai Stafford, of the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) Lifelong Health and Ageing unit at UCL. “By contrast, psychlogical control can limit a child’s independence and leave them less able to regulate their own behaviour.”
I would hate for my children to grow up to be ‘contingent children’ (part of our reason for home educating them I think!) but really don’t think this will be the case as our children certainly don’t fit the criteria of depending on others for their happiness or incentive to achieve (although they occasionally make poor decisions which is another sign, but don’t we all!)
I believe that independence is vital, when a child is ready to leave the safe attachment bond they have with their caregivers, and hope my children will all grow up to display the characteristics:
- self motivated to achieve
- able to choose activities that they enjoy
- good decision makers
- share a collaborative (rather than controlled) relationship with their parents
These characteristics seem to fit so well with home education and the unschooling theory of child initiated learning. Interestingly, independence has to be ‘taught’ to an extent by allowing our children to experience many opportunities of their choosing and providing the following essential aspects:
- Love and Respect Of course we all love and respect our children, but it is important to remember to show them love regularly in the little moments and to respect their choices, however odd they might seem to us at times!
- Be proud of their abilities However small an achievement might seem to us, it can be a big deal to a 7 year old. Poppet was so excited to complete her first ever mini dressage test completely independently, so I made a really big deal out of it because it mattered to her 🙂
- Ensure they understand the control they have over the world Whether it’s negative or positive they need to recognise the impact they have on those around them. Displaying our emotions can really help them to understand this (and I’ve found that crying when Pickle has really pushed me does seem to make her think!)
- Give guidance but allow them to make their own decisions I often find myself explaining possible outcomes but then try to back off so the Ps can make their own choices. Even little Piccalilli at 2-and-a-half is able to make her own decisions, often resulting in the weirdest outfit combinations (a dress with Poppet’s skirt over the top and wellies on the wrong feet today!)
- Teach Responsibility Poppet is starting to desire more responsibility within the family so we have discussed with her how she can have this and the tasks she can undertake to help out. She has also started to show more responsibility for her own learning as she is starting to understand that she can achieve things independently now.
- Teach Accountability We all get things wrong occasionally and it’s important to be accountable for our own actions. If children do not learn to take responsibility for their mistakes they will struggle to take responsibility for their achievements. I am not advocating punishment when things go wrong, but I am aware that a discussion and time-to-think often work for us.
- Encourage Freedom and Exploration (AKA Risk Taking!) This is another aspect which fits so well with home educating as it is so much more possible to give children the freedom to explore when you have the time and space. We spend so much of our time in the great outdoors so there are often risks to take (usually resulting in very muddy children!)
I’m sure some people think of home educated children as being less independent as they spend ‘all’ their time with a care-giver, but I can assure you that this is definitely not the case in our home ed journey! Without the constraints and control of school I have seen my children develop in confidence and with that independence; I aim to do everything I can to continue to bring up strong, independent young ladies.