Encouraging Children to Become Independent

There is no doubt that the world has changed since the parents of kids today were growing up. Because of technological advances and increasing paranoia, we all know where are children are at virtually every moment of the day.  This generation has never known what it was like to go out and play and be home by dark. The term “helicopter parent” is often bandied about by those who think that we hover too much over our kids nowadays.


This week, I read an interesting article entitled “Overparenting Anonymous” written by internationally known, clinical psychologist, Dr. Wendy Mogel.  Dr. Mogel specializes in parenting, and she is regularly featured as a guest expert on The Today Show, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and a number of other media outlets.

In the article, Dr. Mogel outlines a “26-step program for good parents gone bad.”  For most of us, the perception of a “bad” parent is one that doesn’t pay enough attention to their kids, or take an active interest in their child’s education and extra-curricular activities.  While “bad” seems like a bit of a harsh term to place on parents that may be too involved in their child’s life, the article does offer some interesting suggestions to help encourage children to become more independent.

Two steps in particular stood out in the article.

1.  “Encourage your child to play or spend time outside using all five senses in a three-dimensional world.  Send them to camp for the longest
stretch that you can afford.” The cost of going to camp has risen throughout the years.  There are numerous sleepaway camps that offer a full summer experience, but far fewer offer a partial summer option.  Because Iroquois Springs offers both three and six-week programs, parents can choose to send their children to camp for the longest stretch that they can afford.  Quite simply, there is no better way to encourage kids to become independent than sending them to sleepaway camp.  This gives them the opportunity to expand their horizons without parental oversight in a safe, controlled environment.


2.  “Consider the long-term consequences of finding work-arounds for the ‘no-candy-in-camp-care-package’ rule. If you demonstrate that rules are meant to be broken, and shortcuts can always be found, you have given your child license to plagiarize, cheat on tests or break laws.” It is certainly extreme to think that kids that receive candy in a care package are on the fast track to becoming cheaters or law breakers, but there is some validity to the point that kids will perceive that finding ways around rules is acceptable. One thing that I learned from being at camp is that the “no food in the bunk” rule gives kids a true appreciation for something that they take for granted during the rest of the year.

If they were allowed to keep candy and other assorted treats and beverages in the bunk, days like Carnival wouldn’t be nearly as special.  The exuberance that I witnessed first-hand over cotton candy at the event certainly wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t a special treat.

In addition to the cotton candy, the kids all look at extra canteen as a valued prize for winning a competition.  If they knew that they had all of the same stuff waiting for them in their bunks because their parents broke the rules, the incentive to give maximum effort in certain situations would be diminished. As a parent, we never want to see our kids experience any heartache, so our natural instinct is to shield them as much as possible.

Can we be doing more harm than good at times when we “overparent?”

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Written by Adam Waldman