I have often heard parents say that their goal in raising their children is independence. I have to disagree. I do not want my child to be independent – independent from what? Independent from others? God made us for fellowship, we need people. Independent from rules? I don’t think so! We want our kids to obey the law of the land. We need to be careful with the words we use, as our words define ideas and those ideas will shape our kids.

Instead of independence I want my kids to be self governed. That is, I want them to have the skills to be able to rule their passions and direct their choices. To do this I need to:

  • Help them see that they are sinners, and need Christ. They cannot govern themselves well while sin rages in their heart.
  • Teach them God’s word – Thy word have I hid in my heart that I may not sin against thee (Psalm 119:11)
  • Teach them to respond to people and circumstances in a way that pleases God.
  • Give them opportunity to practice making choices – and then walking them through the consequences of their choices (good or bad!)

Self governance isn’t being a rule unto yourself – doing whatever you want. Self governance only works when it is based on what is right.

I want kids who have the skill to rule their passions and direct their choices - this is self governance, not independence.

I also want my kids to have the confidence to be themselves, to stand alone if they have to, to be the person God made them be and to live a life that is pleasing to God. This isn’t independence – it is being an individual.

God made individuals – each one of us is unique – but He also made us to need other people, He made us for fellowship, for family. We can be a part of a group and yet still be an individual. The Bible uses the analogy of the body – many different parts but one body. The toe, the elbow, the nose – all have a uniqueness from each other and yet work together for a common goal. Individuals living in a family are like this. We are all unique, all have our own purpose and abilities, and yet there is a common purpose as well. In our family this common purpose is to love God and love people – and each of us do it differently, but there is a connection with each other, a support for each other, and at times we do it all together.

The third thing I want for my kids is to have the skills so they can help others. People often see their kids doing chores as setting them up for independence – so that they can leave home. I don’t see it this way – I see the skills that the kids learn by doing chores around the house as skills they have to help others. For sure, these same skills will enable them to live away from home, either with others or by themselves, but that is not my motivation – independence from other people is never my objective. I have already seen my kids use their skills to help others – the girls have ironed, cooked, and cleaned to help a family in need. The boys have done outside/yard work to help others. They can set up a venue for a party or for a meeting. They can babysit and bless young parents with a night out… these skills aren’t for their own benefit but for the blessing of others.

I don’t want independent kids – kids who think they don’t need anyone – instead I want kids who are self governed from the good things in their heart, kids who know who they are, kids who have the skills to be contributors to society. What do you want?

Further Reading:

The Importance of Becoming an Interdependent Family: An interdependent family balances autonomy and community; being responsible as an individual but living with family.

Use Housesitting as a step Towards Independent Living:  When older teens or young adults have the opportunity to be a housesitter they have the opportunity to confirm their independent living skills.

Chores Teach our Kids CharacterCharacter is not head-knowledge; it is a life of making wise choices. Chore time gives children an opportunity to make those choices; to grow in character.

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Raising independent kids seems to be a good goal, but when we look at the heart of independence we actually want something else.

Raising independent kids seems to be a good goal, but when we look at the heart of independence we actually want something else.

Raising independent kids seems to be a good goal, but when we look at the heart of independence we actually want something else.

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