Raising Kids to be Independent Adults: How to LET. THEM. GO. & The M.O.M. Initiative Monday Link Up!

with Karen Ehman

My friend Sheila Wray Gregoire asked a great question last week: “When Does Childhood End?”  I agree with her premise that one of my duties, as a mom, is to help my kids find their route to independence, maturity, and purpose.

So it’s been hard to admit that I was a “smother mother” when my daughter was in high school. I ran interference with my daughter’s teachers so often, she did not learn how to advocate for herself.

She didn’t know how to ask, “When can I come make up the quiz I missed yesterday?” or “Why did I get 25/50 on this essay?” or “What can I do to improve my grade in this class?”

My well-meaning “help” (read: meddling) resulted in unintended developmental delays. My daughter’s freshman year was a tailspin of ditched classes, failed tests, social media overload, anxiety attacks, and depression.

And she’s not unique. I read daily on Facebook of the pain and confusion that blind-side many of my former students their first year of college, when they are expected to behave as adults but lack the skills and practice to do so.

Karen Ehman on “Turning Over the Reins”

Today, I’m thrilled that Karen Ehman, Director of the Proverbs 31 Ministries speaking team and featured speaker for Hearts at Home conferences for moms, is here to share her strategies for preventing such unnecessary challenges!

When They’re Little

Cheri:  Many of our readers aren’t even thinking about sending their babies and toddlers off to college. They’re just trying to get a decent night’s sleep! Should they even be worrying about letting them go this early?

Karen:  Absolutely!  In the toddler years, it’s important to allow your kids to get the feel for making choices. Offer them options that don’t really matter, like the clothes they wear or style of their hair. (Yes, you’ll survive it when they pair stripes with plaids!)

When They’re in Elementary School

Cheri:  In your new book LET. IT. GO.: How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith, you emphasize setting boundaries during the elementary years. Does this just mean spelling out the family rules?

Karen:  No, it goes way beyond “laying down the law.” It’s vital to also explain the consequences and tell them why. When possible, use a story, a video clip, or a real-life tale to show them, not just tell them.

When They’re in Middle School

Cheri:  You recommend involving our children in setting boundaries and consequences in middle school. Why?

Karen:  First, they’ll feel a sense of ownership and will be less likely to balk at the consequences, since they helped invent them. Second, you’re inviting your children to discover how society works, on a microcosmic level. The real world has laws and rules; bad behavior has consequences.

When They’re in High School

Cheri:  I can attest to the wisdom of your advice for parenting high schoolers. Instead of treating them “like young adults, not babies” I stepped in and rescued mine far too often. I thought I was “helping.” I now see that I needed to walk alongside them through the normal pain of growth.

Karen: This is so hard! When your fist is almost unclenched and your baby birds are test-driving their frail, underdeveloped wings, it will tear your heart right in two, and it will toy with your emotions daily. But you have to fight the urge to step in and overcontrol.

And don’t beat yourself up for their bad choices. They aren’t your fault. Yes, equip them as best you can, but don’t glean your identity from their decisions. It’s God’s job to be their God and your job to be their mom.

When They’re in College

Cheri:  You’re so right in saying that where others may see our college-aged child as “a young, independent man taking his place in society..but you may still see a little boy.”  My son was born prematurely, and even though he stands six feet tall and sports an impressive beard, I still see a little blue bundle in an incubator when I think about him!

Karen:  It’s hard, but necessary, to remember that while your adult children will always be your children, they are now also full-fledged adults. You may want to intervene when you see your children making choices that will lead to heartache or trouble. However, sometimes you need to keep quiet and let them take a path that might temporarily sting but, in the end, will steer them in the direction of spiritual maturity and success in life.

Fight the urge to step in and intervene when God is trying to teach your adult children a life lesson. Back off. Hit your knees, not the phone.  Know your role as a praying parent, not a meddling mother.

Always: To God

Cheri:  You emphasize that during all stages, we are pointing our children to our faith. What might this look like?

Karen:  Make applying biblical principles around your house as natural as breathing.

  • Show your children — by your attitudes and actions — that God is your plumb line for living life and that you long for every decision you make to glorify Him.
  • Knit Scripture into your conversations, not as a weapon, but as a way of showing your children that God is right and good and knows what He’s doing.
  • Steer, cheer, and encourage instead of control.
  • And don’t forget to ask for forgiveness when you blow it.
Many thanks to Karen for sharing her time-tested strategies for “Turning Over the Reins” slowly and intentionally so that our children are ready to go when the time comes!
 

Karen’s new book LET. IT. GO.: How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith releases tomorrow! A Participant’s Guide and 6-week study DVD are also available.

You can read an excerpt from LET. IT. GO. and sign up for the 5-day From Chaos to Calm: The LET. IT. GO. Christmas Challenge (I just got my 5th e-mail today and have LOVED the whole series!)

AND, you can enter to win a copy of LET. IT. GO!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 So, now it’s time to LINK UP & join the fun, meet new friends & make your message more available to others!

 

(Oh…and please be sure to grab our Link Up button on the sidebar! :-) )


Cheri Gregory

Cheri Gregory is a Certified Personality Trainer; contributor to multiple books, including Wired That Way and 21 Ways to Connect With Your Kids; and frequent speaker for MOPS groups, women's retreats, parent workshops, and educational conferences. She is also a high school English teacher and graduate student. Cheri has been "wife of my youth" to Daniel (her opposite personality), a pastor, for over a quarter-of-a-century; they have two college-aged kids (who are also opposite personalities). She blogs about expectations, “baditude”, and hope at www.CheriGregory.com. Connect with her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/Cheri.Gregory.Author and Twitter @CheriGregory.
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      Jennifer —

      Just like Eve gripping that apple, I think we all have the instinct to grasp rather than let go.

      Prayers for you and all of us moms who seek wisdom for when to hold and when to let go!

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  1. If only I had read these words five years ago, my husband and I would have saved ourselves a lot of heartache: “Fight the urge to step in and intervene when God is trying to teach your adult children a life lesson. Back off. Hit your knees, not the phone. Know your role as a praying parent, not a meddling mother.” As it is, we are still dealing with the results of our choices to try to fix the situation. On the plus side, we are finally seeing some light at the end of that tunnel.

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      Lori —

      I am SO with you. It was in January of this year that I started to suspect that I’ve been a bit of a meddler…and the more I step out of that Egyptian river (De Nile), the more I see why I’m so exhausted a middle-age. I’ve been living everyone else’s life but my own!

      God is faithful. I am daily amazed at His mercy at bringing good even out of my worst decisions and their oh-so-real consequences.

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  2. As the mom of 2 high school daughters, I’ve seen firsthand how important it is to not “step in and overcontrol.” Both of my girls are really maturing and this week when one of my daughters had a difficult situation going on, she told me that she needed to work it out with the other person and that she was glad I hadn’t gotten involved in the situation like the other girls mom.

    Even though there are days when parenting is just plain hard, I so enjoy watching God shape my children!

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      Lisa —

      What a great example of supporting your daughter in her growing independence!

      And you’re right. When I look too close, I get wrapped up in all the areas I’ve failed as a parent. When I step back, I see the amazing young adults God’s leading them to be!

  3. Pingback: Karen Ehman — ‘Twas the Day Before Book Launch….

  4. HA! The part about letting your young one make choices about their clothing or hair just slays me! That will probably be harder on me than some of the bigger things : ) I have just a teensy, weensy issue with control.

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      Heya Jennifer —

      I so understand. I was a Gymboree and Osh Kosh mom, and it just about killed me when my daughter would dress herself using 3 items from 3 totally CLASHING ensembles! (Her favorite color was “bright” and that was her guiding fashion principle!) I used to look at other mothers’ kids and envy how “together” they looked…which, of course, had nothing to do with character development or maturity (especially mine!)

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  5. This is really good! I think we are starting to see some of this as my son is in his first year of middle school. Trying to teach him to take responsibility while making sure he doesn’t get so lost he is drowning. A challenging balance.

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      Jennifer —

      I spent 15 years teaching junior high, and you are so right — it is a challenging balance! Much prayer for discernment and wisdom. The world is an increasingly complex place that overwhelms adults, let alone middle schoolers whose bodies are changing so rapidly.

  6. I love that you mention all ages and stages of children. I am such a type A personality and control nut that I really have a hard time letting go of anything. Thanks for the chance to win the book.

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      Catina —

      Glad you enjoyed having it broken down by ages and stages! I understand the type A-ness…it worked so well when they were little, it was…okay IS!…hard to believe it can work against us as they get older.

  7. The advice Karen shares here is so helpful. I would love a chance to win her book. She gives so many good ideas and she is so creative.

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      Deb —

      This is actually the first book of Karen’s I’ve read, and she is amazingly creative! AND understanding and downright funny…no guilt but plenty of challenges. I’m actually feeling reassured that I can pick up one of her organization books!

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      Tonya —

      The book is far better…I had to revise and condense to keep this from running 2000 words, and her amazing sense of humor got sacrificed along the way! You’re going to LOVE the real deal!

  8. I am *that* adult child, trying to find grace from my parents for my failures & at the same time, I am momma to a teenager & a preteen. I know that so much of the grace I seek, I can begin to bestow on them by preparing them better to be adults through so much of what you wrote about-particularly the consequences on choices. I wish I had learned that much better at 12 instead of now!!

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      Heather —

      I am SO with you on wishing I’d learned this stuff earlier…I regularly tell my kids I wish that I was 45 in ALL areas of life rather than 5 or 12 in specific areas of immaturity and weakness. But they know God is working on growing me up…we are weak but HE is strong.

  9. I’m super excited about Karens book. I may pick up some copies for my sisters in law for Christmas. Lol, hopefully they don’t take it the wrong way 🙂

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  10. Really gained alot from the Karen’s five day Chaos to Calm Christmas Challenge. Plan to implement what I’ve learned and hopefully have a less stressed & more memorable holiday season this year. I am definitley a control freak and micro manager and have really been trying lately to LET IT GO so when I found out about Karen’s book I know it’s just what I need. Can’t wait for it’s realease to see what else I can do to Let it go and Let GOD:)

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      Tara —

      You and me both! JUST finished the 5-day Chaos to Calm Christmas Challenge — wasn’t it convicting and encouraging?

      I bought the printed edition of Untangling Christmas and read it this weekend…SO good and practical. I feel myself exhaling and enjoying the Christmas season already!

      Absolutely: Let it go and Let GOD! 🙂

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  11. Thanks for the good wisdom! I am completely enjoying the new chapter I’m in with my son, Garrett, who is a freshman in college. I hope he will agree that I’m supporting him but not too much. 🙂 Love my sweet boys!

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  12. I am so detail-oriented, it is really hard for me to let my almost 3 year old make choices. It is definitely something I have to work on every day.

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  13. My children are 27 and 30 now. Enjoyed your words of encouragement at each stage. Wish I had them earlier but will pass them along for grandchildren. Hope I will have the cjance to read the book.

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    1. Sharon —

      No need to freak…having made it almost all the way thru my kids’ teen years, I can tell you they are FAR more joy than struggle.

      But starting now, with a plan, is so wise. And continue to re-visit the plan. (That’s where I got sidelined…we moved 7 years ago, and I went into autopilot.)

  14. I have such a hard time not trying to micromanage my kids’ lives. My son is in his first year of college (commuting) and my husband pointed out that I needed to stop insisting he wears a coat, etc. He reminded me that if our son were staying in the dorms he’d have to make these decisions on his own. So I sat down with our son and told him I was going to make a conscientious effort to allow him to decide appropriate wear without my unsolicited input. Amazingly, this made an immediate difference in our relationship. Instead of fighting me on what to wear, he voluntarily started approaching me to find out the expected weather conditions many times before leaving home. I also realized that if our son chose to underdress for the conditions, he would still survive; although he might be a little miserable. It’s just one more lesson we’re learning together!

    1. Dee —

      Good for you! Taking those hard steps to change how you relate to him. VERY cool that he responded so quickly. (Often, kids will “test” to see if we mean it!) Sounds like you made it possible for him to choose to seek you out as a respected resource, which is a great parental role when they’re in college!

  15. What great interview!! I sure wish I had this advice when I raised my daughter!! I think as a Christian woman who has lots of contact with children that this advice can apply as well!!

    Loving this blog tour and can’t wait to read Karen’s book!!

    God Bless,
    Nancy

    1. Nancy —

      Me, too! I can think of a whole host of things I’d love to “do-over”…grateful for God’s grace! Bless you for being a mentor to others and passing along valuable information to those still in the trenches! 🙂

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