We’ve all heard the old adage “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. The underlying meaning of this is that just supplying needs will never end. Showing someone how to obtain those needs on their own helps you to help them. The results are independence for them which relieves responsibility for you. This message couldn’t be clearer for parents.
One of the hardest parts of parenting is to allow our children to grow and take responsibilities for themselves. We want to protect them and nurture them and ensure that their every need is met constantly. We even feel that we are being great parents doing this. The honest truth though, is that we should begin to teach responsibility as early as possible. Children as young as two can be taught to pick up their own toys and put them back in their place. A five year old is more than capable of setting the table for dinner. My daughters were around the age of ten when I taught them to do their own laundry. Teaching a child to be independent is our responsibility as their parent. The more a child learns to take care of their own needs, the more ready they will be for the world when the time comes for them to leave home.
Teaching independence is more than just chores. We want to teach our children to think for themselves too. If you never allow your child any decisions you are robbing them of being an independent thinker and a self-reliant person. When I was a very young mother I read a quote that resounded strongly with me. I never forgot it and modeled my parenting after the insight behind the message. The quote was, “Your biggest job as a parent is to work yourself out of a job.” That made so much sense to me then and even moreso now. Nobody wants to be providing for and making decisions for their grown children. But it happens often.
I once knew a woman who still spoon fed her five year old son. I have often wondered over the years how that poor boy fared in life. He would be in his forties now. How ridiculous is it for a mother to still cater to her preschooler the way one would an infant? How is a child ever to grow up and be independent and productive if they are not allowed to be? Or even encouraged to be?
If you aren’t allowing your child some input in decisions that affect them, or even making decisions wholly on their own, you are doing them a huge disservice. Of course they aren’t yet independent, so you must monitor their actions and decisions, but the more you allow them to do for themselves and think for themselves, the stronger your child will grow to be. He will make good decisions because he learned how to make decisions while still being under the protective parental net.
It seems much easier to just give your kid a fish and call it a day. But if you will take the time to teach him to fish you will have given him invaluable tools to be on his own one day. And life as a parent will get easier as his responsibilities grow and yours decrease.
Teach your child to fish and work yourself out of the job of giving him one.