The Power of Independence

Independence:

  noun

1. the state or quality of being independent.

2.freedom from the control, influence, support, aid,or the like, of others

3. a competency.

(dictionary.com)

Happy Independence Day, everyone!  And Happy Birthday, America!

This July 4th, I’ve found myself really pondering the meaning of independence.  Certainly, in the context of this holiday, it pertains to independence from England’s tyranny, and the ability to form a new and free country.

But what does the word “independence” mean in our lives, especially as it pertains to the kids we love and teach?

As I travel throughout the country and teach thousands of teachers, parents, and professionals, I end my classes with a challenge:

The average lifespan in the US is 80 years.  The average years of formal education in the US is 12.9.  That means that, on average, our kids will have 67.1 years of life when they are not involved in formal education.  Are we using our time well, are we focusing on life skills, character development, vocational discovery, and self-advocacy?  Are we, as teachers and parents, tapping into those years to build independent thinkers, adults who will act on principle and not just follow the crowd, people who can speak up for themselves, speak up for others who can’t, and make their way into adulthood?

Independence begins at birth, as soon as the cord is cut.  Toddlers fight for independence (the delightful terrible twos!), and “I do it my way!” is a constant refrain.  The training wheels come off, the driver’s license come their way, graduations follow suit.

Every day, our kids strive for independence.  They try to figure out who they are in this crazy world, where they fit into the big picture.  While a strongly independent spirit isn’t always the most easy to parent, it is often the most revolutionary in the world.

Let’s choose to cherish independence in our kids, and find ways to facilitate it in every day life. Raising independent kids means there will be lots of mess and mistakes along the way.  Things won’t always be perfect, and failure will be a necessity at times.

But carefully consider the third definition listed above:

a competency

So as summer begins to wane and the new school year starts sneaking forward, let’s not just work on reading, math, and writing competencies.  Let’s value the competency that will create strong, capable and self-sufficient adults:  Independence

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