After watching the news or reading the latest headlines in my newsfeed, it is a wonder that as a mother I let my children out of sight. The headlines give so many reasons to be afraid for my children’s safety and future.
As a parent, I can let fear determine how I am going to raise my children or I can chose to live out of faith. Watching the news only feeds fear and insecurity in the world. When I dwell in a place of what-ifs, I try to control my life and my children’s lives. This isn’t how I want to live or what I want for my family.
Instead, I chose faith, freedom, and trusting that all things work out for the good. Each year the girls are given more room to be independent. With one girl on the brink of being a teenager, she needs to exercise her critical thinking muscle and be quick on her feet. I want the girls prepared for a world that is full of uncertainties.
So, what are small steps that are age-appropriate in promoting freedom and independence? I choose to train up the girls to live in a place that requires them to step into being responsible problem solvers.
Working around the kitchen is part of our family culture. It is a full kitchen when all the girls are at foot. When it comes to dinner prep, one of the girls is usually working over the stove, one is stirring up some sort of side dish, and one is cutting up veggies or fresh fruit.
Once the girls were tall enough to safely stir over the stove top, I taught them how to scramble eggs. I would always warn them of the dangers of getting burned. However, they all know how to quickly get their burnt finger under cold water, because eventually a finger managed to hit a hot pan.
The fear of them burning themselves did not keep me from teaching them to cook. I knew that no matter how many times I would warn them a burn was inevitable. Thankfully, cold water and ice were all that has ever been required.
Likewise, teaching the girls to use sharp knives has taught them responsibility in the kitchen. Each one of our girls wants to contribute in the kitchen and it is a right of passage to be trusted with “mom’s knives”.
I start with teaching them to cut soft fruit such as a strawberry. First, they have to hull it and then cut it with a steak knife. Once that has been mastered, they are given more difficult veggies to cut. The girls all want to do the dinner prep that involves using their knife skills. They like to be responsible and contribute to the family in this meaningful way.
The best part of winter in the midwest is the sledding. All three of the girls love to sled. I don’t mind taking them but the last couple of years they have been able to walk themselves to the sledding hill. This has given them opportunities to solve their own problems without me to mediate.
The sledding hill is in our neighborhood but out of my sight. The girls feel like they are going to another world when they go to their sledding hill. They have named it “Snowflake Hill” and have their own agenda when they are there.
At first, I feared what my neighbors would think of me allowing the girls to walk to the sledding hill unattended. I was more concerned about the judgement of others than the capability of my children.
One day as the girls were headed to their hill, a neighbor stopped the girls and told them just to cut through their yard and not walk all the way around the outside of the cul-de-sac. I was proven wrong about how I would be judged. Our neighbors have been encouraging about how much the girls are outside and comment about how it brings them back to when their kids were young.
The library has proven to be a great training ground for the girls to seek adult assistance, learn to navigate checking out, and going into a building independently. At an early age, I expected the girls to speak for themselves and ask adults questions instead of having me do it for them.
My youngest daughter was the most timid as a preschooler. If you know her now, you know this isn’t the case anymore. She loved checking out books and was on the search for the newest princess book or Fancy Nancy. Instead of telling her where the books were, I used this as an opportunity for her to go talk with the librarian. She overcame her fear because the desire for the book was greater than her fear of talking to the librarian.
Now my youngest will run into the library independently, seek help in finding a book, check it out and be back out to the car quickly. She is developing independence and enjoys the freedom of going into the library unassisted. This seemingly little independence makes the girls feel more confident in their skills to navigate their world.
The skills developed in the library now transfer to the pet shop. My older girls are responsible for going into the pet shop to buy the food and supplies they need for their animals. Little by little they are given more freedom and more responsibility.
It isn’t about my girls overcoming fear and building courage. The girls do not fear getting hurt, judgement from others or the what-ifs. It is about me as a parent choosing not to hover or control but training them up to enjoy the freedom that comes along with responsibility.
I want the girls to be given opportunities to develop skills to nativagate their world well. In small ways, they are given independence and freedom which builds their confidence. With this desire in mind, I choose to raise the girls in freedom + faith.
How to you let go of fear and parent out of faith?
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