We encourage our children to strive for achievement. We try to shield them from the dangers of the outside world. We're concerned for their emotional well-being. What's wrong with that? As my friend Barb passionately says, "It's our God-given responsibility to care for and guide our children." As Proverbs says, "Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck" (1:8-9).
But are there times when the best thing we can do for our children is back off? Dr. Grace Ketterman, a Christian pediatrician and psychiatrist, states that "your most important task as a mother is to enable your child to gradually become independent." But how?
Here are some insights I've gleaned as I've tackled this parenting challenge:
Know your mothering style. Regardless of what the latest experts say or how our friends at church are raising their kids, we each have a unique personality that probably affects our parenting as much as anything—for better and for worse. When we're aware of our tendencies in one direction or another, we can have a stronger sense of why we respond the way we do to our children and their problems, and, when needed, try to adjust accordingly. I had to learn not to automatically overreact when my daughter, Amanda, would tell me about some of her friendship struggles. She doesn't necessarily need an empathetic pal; she needs a mother who can give practical advice when she's feeling lonely or excluded.1