Let’s start with the fact that we never stop being a parent. No matter how old our kids are – 5, 10, 20 or 35 – we will always be their parents. My oldest is 24 and I still call her my child, and I am still her parent – but I feel that I have stopped parenting her. We get together, have fun, I spoil her, want to be with her and I hope she sees me as some kind of a friend too, although not her best friend of course.
But the time when we CAN stop parenting varies from family to family and child to child; all our kids are different and they need different levels of parenting from us and different parenting styles. And we might have a child with additional needs that needs our support and parenting for longer.
But most importantly, it depends on whether we have taught our kids to be independent or not.
If we have done everything for them, packed their bag, tidied their room, cooked for them, even shopped for them, they will have a hard time doing all that later in life when we expect them to do it without us. They will find it harder to stand on their own two feet so we will have to continue parenting them for a LONG time. They need us..
If we have been their time keeper, manager and secretary: got them up in the morning, reminded them constantly to get ready/get going etc. or told them ‘ready to go, we have to go now or you will be late’ etc. Then we never give them the skills or trust to do so on their own. They will get up late, blame you, the teacher, the neighbour..anybody but themselves because they are not used to being held responsible or accountable, YOU are.
So, if our aim is to stop parenting and ‘retire’ early and enjoy the rid, we can do us, and them, a favour in these ways:
- ALLOW them to have daily responsibilities and be part of the weekly meal planning, shopping, cooking and tidying up afterwards. Clean the house, walk the dog, take out the bins, tidy their room, pack their own bag etc. This way they will be able to look after themselves once they get older and not expect others to do so for them. When we teach them (in a step-by-step way) to be independent they will feel confident to leave home since can look after self and not afraid to do their bit.
- AGREE to household agreements/rules: talk kindly to each other (no screaming), keep their hands to themselves (no hitting) etc. They will get used to respecting others in a community (be that family, university, work or relationships) and will find it so much easier to live in another places than home. They will be included, liked and respected no matter where they are because they know the ‘rules’ of living together. They have learned to respect other people and communities.
- TRUST them to manage their own time: trust them to have an alarm clock and get up on their own in the morning, to get out the door on time, to arrive at a party or activity on and yes, allow them to get it wrong at times and arrive late to school or an activity but also trust them to deal with the consequences that get from others. Why not let them tell YOU, ‘mum, dad it’s time to go to football or I will be late’. This will really cut the last parenting ties to you, and you can enjoy seeing them living their life with confidence, independence and skills. CLICK here to read more about ‘build resilience by letting kids fail’
- Help them to problem solve: when our kids suffer, we suffer and we just want the hurt or the problem to go away so we will do anything to fix it. But we need to trust our kids that they can learn to do so on their own. When your kids are experiencing challenges, first of all see it as part of life and as an opportunity to develop STOP and just listen (even though it hurts, or you don’t agree, just listen – to understand not to fix) then together with your child explore WHY and WHAT they can do about it. Let them think and brainstorm while you facilitate a safe and productive space. CLICK to here to read more about ‘how to teach kids to problem solve’
- Plan pocket money and jobs: when we support our kids to have money and manage them from an early age you will find that the financial tie to you gets cut earlier. Agree to pocket money * (CLICK here to read more), but also help them get extra jobs to earn money. When they are young they can have extra jobs at home i.e. wash the car, cut grass, iron parent’s shirts etc. Later they can get jobs outside the home: babysitting, helping with a friend or neighbour’s gardens, in cafés, shops etc. Teach them to save up and have self-control and wait so they can buy what they wish for.
They become likeable, since people like to be around others who can work hard, are kind, respectful and helpful, take responsibility for their own life and actions, and are not dependent on others to sort out their life.
Then you can enjoy a ‘retirement’ of healthy and happy connections with your child without being afraid, or irritated, that they always call you, ask for money or expect you to sort out their life and do things for them.