How much independence is right independence for a child?

As parents, everyone wants to raise independent and self-reliant children. At the same time, we all face this challenge of deciding how much independence is right for a child. How do you balance your child's desire for independence with his need for safety? This issue is one that continues to emerge, even when your child gets older. Think of sleepovers, extracurricular activities, teen dating, sports, and perhaps the scariest of all – handing over the car or bike keys to your teen driver. Due to mishandling of these situations, the progression of a child to an independent and self-reliant human being is often hindered by well-intentioned but misguided parents.

When we look deeper into it, the premise of the question itself starts with the assumption that human child needs to be dependent on something to grow. There are two types of support a child needs to grow: Physical and mental. Human child is the only child who cannot physically grow herself from the point of being born to the time when she is physically strong enough; she needs support and guidance. They count on someone for nourishment and mobility.

However, on the mental support, it’s a misnomer that they need guidance. Human mind is best developed when it is left free. The challenge is not with deciding the quantum of independence given to a child but on how much you want to Project yourself into the life of a child. Hence it is important to look into the guidance you want to offer your child - is it coming from sheer need of the child or is it due to the fact that you have been conditioned to see the world in a particular way and you want to guide your child to see the world from the same view.

Let’s take a practical example here. You have the urge to guide your child on whether he should go out in the night with his friends and the question again is how much independence is the right independence. Any guidance that you are going to give in this situation will be based on your experience or what you have learnt through your environment and hence different parents will give different guidance to their children in this situation. Would one of them be right or wrong? No. Everybody will think that they have done their job by giving the guidance and ensured that they have contributed to that situation. Let’s also assume that if child had no guidance from you in that situation, do you think things would have surely gone wrong? Yes / No / Not Sure. Now relate this to situations in your life when things have gone wrong or right when there was no guidance given to you. Using your own intelligence you could figure out what worked for you. In some cases you have bad experiences, which despite all your good past experiences you have not been able to avoid for yourself and the same goes for the child.

If your children are independent, you have provided them with the belief that they are competent and capable of taking care of themselves. You offered them the guidance to find activities that are meaningful and satisfying. You gave your children the freedom to experience life fully and learn its many important lessons. We must remember - To learn the ways of life, children need to experience life.