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.

On homeschooling:
“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.”

On feeding:
“You’re still breastfeeding?”

“If you breastfeed for too long your child will never learn how to self-soothe and be independent.”

On sleeping:
“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.”


Filed under Parenting

8 responses to “Independence

  1. So true. I really like the last quote you have posted. That is what I pray for every day.

    Oh that and sanity and wisdom to get through the teething months! 😉 wink wink.

  2. Great post, Lisa!

    I completely agree with you. In my opinion, the things people do to make their baby/child “independent” are the very things that will make the baby/child insecure and more clingy. When forced into things they are not ready for, babies aren’t going to trust that you’re there for them or are going to meet their needs.

    Babies will naturally develop independence. It’s just something that happens. Anyone who’s studied child development even at surface level can see that the baby goes through stages that gradually make them independent. It’s called nature.

    William is 16.5 months old. He still sleeps 1/2 of the night in our bed. He’s still breastfeeding. I still wear him in a carrier at times. He’s never “cried it out”. And yet…miraculously…he’s very social, and is becoming independent faster than I’m ready for!

    Do I want to be able to sleep the whole night through in my own bed — yes! Has co-sleeping sometimes been a pain — yes! But the benefits can not be measured. Especially when one considers what a short time our babies are so young and need us so much. Why make that time even shorter?

    My advice (which you’re already doing, of course) is to ignore everyone’s advice. You have to do what’s right for your own family. Mothering instincts are there for a reason — don’t ignore them! My belief is if you do what feels natural and right, you’re on the right track.

    P.S. My one homeschooling friend I had growing up turned out to be the most successful (full-ride scholarship to Oxford, plus tons of grants for her research) and well-rounded, well-adjusted people I know.

  3. Emily

    I’m with you. People aren’t used to attachment parenting, so it’s not only foreign to them, it actually causes them to feel defensive about their own parenting methods. A little bit of research will tell you that children who are attached well to their parents are *more* independent, not less. Can a parent overprotect and shield their child from too much, so they are incapable of self-soothing and self-guiding? Sure. But that’s not an attachment parenting issue – it’s a PARENTING issue.

  4. Liz

    Hi, I read everyday, and the thng I love about your blog is that you very eloquently say things a lot of people might not have thought of before.

    My husband and I have two boys–a 2 year old and our newest born just a week after your little girl. We are firm believers in attachment parenting. Our oldest son nursed until the baby came, and then he self weaned. I plan on nursing this baby as long as he wants. We do many other things that are considered attachment parenting, but that’s a very long comment indeed.

    My oldest son is very independent, social, bright and curious. We believe this is because he has been attachment parented his whole life.

    Also, I’m so excited to read that you are planning on homeschooling. We are too. Actually we have started some preschool stuff already.

    So this comment wasn’t super insightful but I just wanted to leave one anyway.

  5. So, so true! And you say it so eloquently.

  6. anna franey

    perfect way to show how great homeschooling is.

  7. lwuertz

    My favorite is the last one, Louisa May Alcott. OMG! To get to study with all those great authors! So amazing!

  8. Pingback: Well, that was dumb. « Daylight Rising

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