I’ve heard some well meaning commentary from various people, including my husband, over the past few weeks, some directed at me and some directed at others. While on different aspects of parenting, it just dawned on me that they all sort of have to do with the same thing: mollycoddling versus promoting independence in your child.
There is this theory that abounds in everything from homeschooling, to feeding, to sleeping habits, etc. that if you love your children too much they will never be independent. Now of course, it isn’t said quite like this, but when you break it down that is the basics of it.
“Homeschoolers graduate and then they aren’t ready for the world. They then get an education real fast and learn that everybody isn’t as nice as their homeschool friends and parents. Children need to learn to deal with being picked on and mean teachers to get them ready for the way the world really is.”
“Homeschoolers are too dependent on their parents. They don’t learn to socialize properly and expect their parents to hold their hands with them through college and to their first job interview.”
“You’re still breastfeeding?”
“If you breastfeed for too long your child will never learn how to self-soothe and be independent.”
“Whatever you do, don’t let your child in your bed with you. We did that and we only regret it. It is a bear trying to get them back out.”
“She’s still sleeping in your room?”
“You don’t want her to get too dependent. At some point she needs to become independent and start sleeping in her own room by herself.”
And yet when I look at our nearly five month old baby, “independent” is certainly not the word that comes to mind. She’s completely dependent on us for everything. So why should I be trying to force her into independence? I mean seriously people, she can’t even crawl yet!
Stephen and I definitely agree on the homeschooling thing that teaching your children in a loving environment will only serve to make them more confident and more secure in who they are. I don’t think you really need to be picked on or compete for the attention of one teacher with 50 of your peers in order to become independent and well rounded in your education.
So applying that same concept to other areas of our lives is just making sense to me right now. So what if Jillian is almost five months old and still sleeping in our room and sometimes in our bed? It works for us. For one thing she isn’t sleeping through the night and gets up for at least one feeding. Why in the world would we drag ourselves across our room and down the hall into her bedroom when we can take care of it all just feet (if that) from our bed?
The best piece of advice/commentary I’ve gotten so far is this: “Your job as a parent isn’t to force your child into independence, it is to lovingly guide them gradually.”
I was just reading almost this exact same thing in The Baby Book with regards to nighttime parenting:
“Get under your baby’s covers and imagine how she feels about her cozy quarters. Of course baby won’t want to leave. She fits where she is. Why hurry a baby into independence? A child’s needs that are filled early will eventually go away; a child’s needs that are not filled leave an empy space that can come back later as anxieties. It is not your job to make your child nighttime independent, but rather to create a secure nighttime environment and feeling of rightness that allow your child’s independence to develop naturally. The important fact is that for now you enjoy this arrangement and it’s working for you. When the time comes, your baby will wean from your bed just like all the other weanings.”
I think today’s events just got me thinking about how precious our children really are and what a miracle life is. They are only this small for so long. I don’t think we should get so bent out of shape worrying about whether or not we’re making them independent quickly enough.
“One of the most precious gifts you can give your child is a vivid memory of happy childhood attachments. What a beautiful memory it is for a child to recall how he was parented to sleep in the arms of his mother or father or to recall how he awakened in the mornings surrounded by people he loved rather than in his private room in a wooden cage, peering out through bars.”