If you are a parent, then you probably have a number of goals for your children. Among them, we hope that you want to raise children who are able to take care of themselves, contribute to society, and form their own opinions. While there is value in raising children to be independent, a much better goal is training them to be self-reliant individuals. Continue reading today’s post to learn more about the differences between these two characteristics, and discover why you want to raise self-reliant children.

At Encounter Church in Denver, we strive to share the love of Jesus in our city and throughout the world. We welcome you to join our diverse community of believers during one of our Sunday worship services. Whether you have very young children or teenagers, we have Sunday morning classes where they can meet other kids their own age. Additionally, there are a variety of small groups that can provide the support and encouragement you need as a parent. Please contact us to learn more about our church.

What Is Independence?

Independence is actually defined as being free from outside control. While independence is a good goal in a number of contexts, it’s not so great when it comes to raising children. Think about it this way — humans are naturally social beings, some more than others. With that in mind, if you raise your child to be completely independent from you, then they will likely go to one of two sources to have their needs met — their peers or the culture.

Contrary to what some might think, children need their parents for a multitude of reasons, including help to shape their values, help defining what they believe about themselves and the world around them, and supporting them through their ups and downs. If they are no longer dependent on you, then they will get input from their peers, who are as limited in their executive functioning abilities as your child or the culture, which cares only about making more money.

What Is Dependence?

Dependence is defined as relying on or being controlled by an outside force. There are many instances where dependence is a great feature, but it’s not so great when you’re talking about an adult. An adult should be able to live on their own, manage a job, and provide for their own needs. There is a large group of adult children who have been labeled boomerang kids because they moved back home with their parents upon graduating from college. We hope that you love your children enough to want them to be able to support themselves once they become an adult.

With that in mind, let’s talk about…

Self-Reliance

Self-reliance means being confident in your ability to do things for yourself. Notice the slight, yet distinct, difference between being self-reliant and being independent. Both types of individuals are able to do things on their own, but a self-reliant individual believes in their ability to impact the world around them.

Raising a child to be self-reliant means that they will be able to regulate their own emotions, set aside time to study or work, take care of their needs like cooking and laundry, and much more. Allow your child to be dependent on you to the extent that they want to stay connected, but teach them to become self-reliant young men and women.

1. Don’t solve everything for them.

There are a variety of examples that fall into this category, including fights with friends, spilled juice, and untied shoes. Depending on the age of your child, find ways to support them in finding a good solution, and then allow them to work toward that solution on their own. It can be hard to sit on the sidelines, but this is an important opportunity for you to allow them to develop some skills that will serve them through life.

2. Praise their actions.

As children get older and bring home report cards, it can be very easy to say things that unintentionally praise them for the grade rather than their hard work. Focus on saying things that compliment them for the effort they put into writing neatly or solving a math problem — praise that focuses on the effort, not the letter. The danger in praising them for getting good grades lies in their internalizing that their worth lies in what they do, not who they are.

3. Allow them to succeed or fail on their own.

This is perhaps the most difficult piece of advice for parents to follow. You may know that it’s vitally important to allow your child to experience success and failure when you’re trying to raise a self-reliant child, but it is incredibly challenging to watch your child fail. Let’s first clarify what we mean by failure. In this discussion, failure simply refers to something that your child tried unsuccessfully. Perhaps they tried to go all the way across the monkey bars and fell partway through. Maybe they wanted to paint a picture of something they saw and ended up with a muddy mess.

When these moments of failure happen, remind yourself to pause and avoid the urge to rush in and rescue your child. There is always a lesson that can be learned in a moment of failure, and the good news is that the failures your child experiences along the way will enable them to become a strong, self-reliant adult — as long as you don’t rescue them.

Parenting is certainly not a cakewalk, and we know that there will be days when you may feel that you’re failing at it. Please remember that you are not alone and that your child will love you for all of the time and effort you invested into their life. If you’re feeling alone, please contact Encounter Church in Denver to learn about our church services and the various small groups we have, and get connected with other parents. The friendships and support that you will find could be the strength you need for those days that are harder than others.