I Decided To Raise My Children To Be Independent Thinkers. This Is What Happened.

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Our parenting goal goals should include raising children to be independent thinkers and raising independent adults. Here is how one mom is doing just that.

On VProud there is an amazing conversation and video titled, "Malala Yousafzai's Father: The key to raising an independent and strong daughter is to not clip her wings." There are so many reasons to love this inspiring parenting video, one of which is the concept of raising children to be independent thinkers. Writer and mother (of seven!) Tara Wood reflects on this parenting topic as someone who very much sees the goal of parenting today to be raising independent adults later. We find this concept to be on point and phenomenal and think that you will, too. Take a moment to watch the video and read the essay, these are two parents whose thoughts need to be heard.

—The VProud Team

Rethinking My Parenting

By Tara Wood for VProud

“Most parents will do anything for their children except let them be themselves.” It was that simple quote from Banksy that made me re-think my parenting.

The words were stuck on ‘repeat’ in my mind for days. They spent so much time there that my subconscious must have downloaded them. It wasn’t something I planned on or invited, but the way I responded to and interacted with my kids changed because of that sentence.

Over the course of a few weeks, I realized that I was being much more deliberate and thoughtful when they asked questions or voiced their own opinions. I found myself asking “What do you think?” when they wanted to know my opinion on an outfit or a new hairstyle they were considering. I’d make a point of saying “I think it’s cool that you’re playing soccer when so many of your friends are playing baseball. I’m glad you’re making your own choices.”  Instead of the knee jerk reaction that I was used to giving to whatever they were doing or asking or wanting, I began asking myself if I was stifling their self-expression and making them question their personal choices.

It seems awfully simple but that was a gateway decision for me. I started letting them make their own choices (being mindful of safety and of other people who might be affected). I loosened my grip on how I thought they should be and what I felt they should do.

While I’d rather burn alive than sit through a musical, two of our daughters are active in musical theatre. I suffer through the productions because I’ve never seen them happier than when they’re performing. I’m not a huge fan of mohawks on children but when our seven year old woke up one morning and asked if he could “get that punk rocker hair cut”, off we went to get a faux version that pleased him and made him all smiley.

It used to be that I wanted them to look a certain way when they left the house but then I started examining my reasons. Our 5 year old son is mad about Super Mario Bros. and wanted to wear his Mario costume (complete with an adhesive moustache) to the grocery store one day. As I started to say “Uh, no. Put on your regular clothes”, I stopped myself and studied his cheerful little face. That costume gives him infinite joy. Who am I to take that away? Does it hurt anyone or disrupt society if he wears a Halloween costume in July? Of course not...and that’s when it became clear. I was worried about what people would think of me.

There was a time when I’d have tried to steer them in a different direction because their interests were not my interests. I don’t do that anymore and we’re a stronger family for it.

Our kids are not dolls to be dressed up or puppets to be manipulated. They are separate from me and my husband. They are individual people with their own sets of opinions, beliefs, likes, and views. We’re here to cheer them on and to keep them safe- not to knead them into younger versions of us.

It’s my job to foster and encourage their sense of self. To let them know that they are loved and supported without condition ... to let them be themselves.

tara wood vproud
About the author: Tara Wood is a forty-something mother of seven (no shit! 7 kids!), wife to one ever-patient and tolerant man, freelance writer and blogger over at LoveMorningWood.com. She spent most of her life trying not to ruffle feathers but that's no fun. Some kind of internal switch flipped around the time she turned forty. She made a conscious decision to be real and give fewer fucks about trying to please everyone on planet Earth. She believes that love is love and in living and letting others live. She tries to always come from a place of love, kindness, and understanding, but is now comfortable in her own skin, with her own voice, and in making waves if she needs to. She never wants to hurt anyone, but she doesn't mind pissing people off a little bit. She believes that chips and queso dip have healing powers. She loves David Sedaris, Neko Case, and dogs. Follow Tara on Facebook and join her honest conversations on VProud.

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