Thoughts on Raising Independent Kids

Americans love independence. It’s central to our nation’s story. A group of discontent patriots from 13 colonies rebelled against a powerful nation to create a unified land of the free and the home of the brave. Independence inspired people to move west and later to fight for freedom and democracy in oppressed nations. America’s story is rooted in independence.  

Independence and Parenting
Anyone with a 2-year-old knows what independence looks like, but what does it look like in a 25-year-old young woman? I met a friend for breakfast who had worked a full time job for years, had purchased a new car, and had recently purchased a home. By the world’s standards she was incredibly successful. She explained that because her parents had taught her to be independent and only rely on herself, she found it difficult to depend on and trust anyone, especially God. Not only had this impacted her dating relationships, but she also realized that she had relegated God to a place of doing only what she thought she couldn’t handle on her own. Her statements caused me to think.

Independence vs. Interdependence
What did the Bible say about independence? Was Jesus independent? What I saw was a man who proclaimed His reliance on His Father and only did what He saw His Father do (John 3:19), a man who called His followers to follow Him (Matthew 4:19), not to make their own way. Could it be that Jesus’ life did not reflect INdependence but modeled INTERdependence? 

Interdependence and Authority
Our culture is filled with independence—independent bookstores, local coffee shops, independent films, etc.—so we can do things our way without the oversight of a larger, governing authority. But living under authority is God’s idea, not to take away our freedoms but to give us protection, guidance, and blessing. God says, I’ve set up these commandments God says, make your plans but I’ll guide your steps (Proverbs 16:9). Trust in me with all of your heart and don’t trust your own understanding. Acknowledge me and I’ll direct you (Proverbs 3:6-7). I love you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). I am the solid rock that will not change (Psalm 18:2).

Certainly there are ungodly and even evil authorities in this world and one example was reigning when Paul wrote to submit to governing authorities (Romans 13). We want to make submitting to authority a conditional request based on the character of the authority, but there is no condition in scripture. Even if we can’t trust the authority, we can trust that God will take care of us (Jeremiah 29:11). When we teach our children conditional submission to authority, it gives them a sense of pride which may cause rebellion at home or in future employment settings. 

Interdependence and Community
God created Adam and for a time he was completely independent, without influence, without companionship. God said it was not good for Adam to be alone, so He created Eve. (Genesis 2:22) God knew from the moment of creation that we would need each other.  The Bible says to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21), to confess your sins one to another (James 5:16), and to call each other to be more like Christ "as iron sharpens iron" (Proverbs 27:17)

God calls us to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2),  consider one another’s interests ahead of your own (Philippians 2:4) because He knows that if we aren’t actively a part of someone else’s life that we can become self-absorbed in our own. We need the wisdom, compassion, creativity, and kindness of others in our lives to help us to learn and grow and become fully who God created us to be.

Interdependence and Celebration
Today, as we celebrate Independence Day, consider that more than 200 years ago a group of patriots, some who were men of faith, banded together to fight injustice and to form a more perfect union. Patrick Henry, the voice of the revolution, could not have done it alone. Thomas Jefferson, the pen of the revolution, could not have done it alone. Some were leaders, others were followers. They needed each other. And, of course, they needed God. Today the country will be celebrating our independence from England, but I’ll be thinking of the interdependence that made it all possible.