By Matthew Arrington
When the time comes for your children to go out on their own, will they be ready? Not always. A joint study by PayScale and Millennial Branding found that 28 percent of Millennials are still living with their parents because they can’t find work.
Sure, the job market may be tight, but there’s likely a deeper reason: These young adults aren’t equipped with an independent mindset. From the day children are born, it’s a parent’s job to give them the necessary tools to leave the nest.
Young children thrive when they feel secure, and you can foster this by providing structure and consistent discipline. Here are six ways a parent can cultivate independence in their children that will carry over into adulthood:
1. Let them falter. Learning to ride a bike can be a bumpy experience. Your children may fall — a lot. But this kind of mistake can empower them to face and overcome other challenges in life.
Help them get on the bike, and coax them back on if they stumble. Avoid the temptation to rescue your children. Allow them to fail. This promotes self-growth and self-reliance.
2. Give your children autonomy. Let them make small choices. When children realize they can make these decisions, they internalize a sense of freedom.
Replace “should” and “need to” phrases with questions like “How much money will you need to do that?” Asking your children “how” questions helps them develop problem-solving skills.
3. Offer positive feedback and recognition. Call attention to good behavior — not the end result. Say something like “I noticed how hard you worked on that math problem and how well you solved it” instead of “Great job on getting an A on your math test!” Rewarding the values rather than end results helps children stay on track even when they don’t get the desired result. The right kind of positive feedback rewards action, and it motivates your children to tackle more difficult tasks.
4. Hold them accountable. As your children mature, they should assume responsibility for their lives. By now, they’ve had practice making their own decisions, taking new challenges and failing, picking themselves up, and trying again.
Often, failure-to-launch cases occur when children aren’t encouraged to be responsible for their actions. Let them figure out how to do it on their own.
5. Be a good role model. Pay attention to the way you communicate with children. What are you really saying with your words, facial expressions, body language, or actions?
With young adults, keep communication open and non-judgmental. Don’t enable or rescue your adult children. If your child flunks out of college, that mistake doesn’t fall on you! Remember that failure can be the best teacher.
6. Allow your adult children to find themselves. Let your kids walk their own paths, and release them from whatever expectations you have. This creates trust and respect, and your children will realize that you’re in their corner.
You’ve helped your kids gain the confidence and experience to be independent. You can’t fight their battles for them, but you can cheer them along the way. In fact, you can be the one encouraging them to leave the nest and make the most of their lives.
Matthew Arrington is the executive director and co-founder of Forte Strong, the world’s first failure-to-launch program for men who struggle to leave their parents’ home or find it difficult to become independent. Forte Strong uses a proprietary coaching model to help students find purpose and direction, guide parents and families in empowering their sons, and ultimately create a healthier family dynamic. He is also the founder of Monster Mouthguards and currently resides in sunny St. George, Utah.