Independence, for children
How can you gently teach your child independence so that they don't feel like they need to be with you and dictate your every move 24/7? Only time I have to myself is if I stay up past 3am and it's really getting old. My son is 8.

Sandra Dodd:
How to help young kids sleep has been discussed a couple of times in the past few months, so you you might want to search the group for that.

You don't "teach" a child independence. They grow into it, each in a different way, each in his own way.

If you think back to ways your own parents might have tried to get you to be independent, it's possible that you will notice that some of those things backfire, and the child clings more, or is needier.

-=-they need to be with you and dictate your every move 24/7-=-

The best thing this group can do for you if you read (lots, not just responses to your own question, but read back through other topics, and follow links) would be to help you calm accept that your child DOES need to be with you. Biologically, and emotionally, your child needs you.

Your choices are to extinguish that need (break the bond so that he's afraid of you, or turns cold and avoids you), or you can accept and embrace it as a wonderful and temporary stage of your shared life with him.

"... and dictate your every move 24/7"

This is an extreme exaggeration which probably comes of frustration. That's understandable, but not the best place to stay.

If you see him as "dictating," rather than seeing yourself as learning to help him be comfortable and provided for, you're seeing antagonism rather than partnership. We can help you with that, too!

Original Poster:
Sandra Dodd thank you. You're right. I'm speaking from a place of frustration and feeling like I am struggling having a life outside of being a parent. It's just very mentally draining sometimes, especially being an extreme introvert.
Sandra Dodd:
None of the details matter. :-)

You ARE a parent. You must BE a parent, especially if you want to unschool. You must be an UNSCHOOLING parent.

You only get one life. :-) You happen to actually be a parent, seems, and if you want to become an unschooler, work at it all time time in small ways, with the choices you make about how to respond to your child, what to do for him, and with him, and (most importantly of all) WHY.

Jenny Gowen Lemker:
My 5 year old son needs me a lot too. He is the youngest of 5. I have found over the course of living with my children that the more fully I surrender to their (sometimes quirky) needs, the faster those needs go away.

Sandra Dodd:
-=-Only time I have to myself is if I stay up past 3am and it's really getting old.-=-

"it's really getting old" is a phrase you borrowed whole.

People do that.

They do it more, when they're stressed.

He's only 8. It's too soon for you to give up! :-)

Don't make this as high a priority as reading the other link, about precisely how to unschool (and the links at the bottom of that one, while you're there), but at some point consider this page: Phrases to Hear and Avoid

If you hear yourself using phrases that might have been used on or about you, it can be a signal that you should do something non-verbal for a while, and get centered or calm enough that you're thinking more clearly, in your own words. It's a small trick that can bring big benefits. As you're more aware of your own words, you will re-think enough to rephrase, and in that review of your thoughts, you can sometimes see the problem, and maybe a solution. When it becomes a habit, to notice when you use an idiom or a "stock phrase," it will improve your clarity. https//

Sandra Dodd:
"Dictate your every move 24/7" is probably one of those phrases, too, that you didn't clearly think up on your own. :-)

If you want to smile, after a while, maybe look at this collection of things parents stated. I could (but I won't) add yours. You didn't use the magic words "If I let him [he would dictate my every move 24/7]"

Tracy Bobsin:
Engage fully, listen to him, give what he needs. Mine needed me constantly at 13! The more he can trust that you’re there for him, the easier it will be for him to take steps on his own. Let it come on his terms instead of yours. Mine is now a successful happy independent adult.

Sandra Dodd:
Thought experiment, about choices. If you feel trapped or that you "have to" be with him all day every day, come up with an alternative.
You could abandon him.
You could put him up for adoption.
You could (as I suggested above) try to extinguish his desire for you.
You could stay with him.
You could learn to more calmly accept his needs.
You could try to move toward really enjoying being with him.
Realistically, you're about in the middle, but if you think of two, clearly, then you can choose the better one.

Next time you're frustrated, you'll probably be further up the scale, and not even want to consider the less desirable (for him AND for you) options.

You can only choose to be with him if you step back far enough to see an alternative. THEN what you do will be by choice.

Thoughts can entrap people. "Have to" can make one feel entirely and completely helpless.

"I want to" makes the same old stuff happier, brighter, newer.

Making the Better Choice

Jo Isaac:
==How can you gently teach your child independence ==
You can't. The very basis of unschooling is that teaching does not equal learning - and that is equally true of things like 'independence' (whatever that means) as it is of 'math' or 'science'.

An 8 year old should not be 'independent' - they are not ready to be independent, they need a parent to help them navigate the world, to be their partner, to get them food, water, to help them succeed in a world that is generally set up for children to fail.

== so that they don't feel like they need to be with you and dictate your every move 24/7?==
'Dictate your every move' seems like an exaggeration - every.single.move. Really think about that. I don't think it's true.
==Only time I have to myself is if I stay up past 3am and it's really getting old.==
Here's the good news - your son is really getting older too! Soon he won't need you so much - it'll happen quick - don't look back and regret trying to make him 'independent' too early :)

Sandra Dodd:
Independence isn't something to learn.

Independence develops gradually. Partly there's reaction to what's going on around, and partly some people are calm and confident earlier than others. (Nurture and nature.)

Some people have a child who will always be dependant on others, for some reason, physical, mental, societal...

As with some other aspects of parenting, you can't make better, but you risk making it worse, if you try to "teach" or push.
Julie Creech Markoski:
I’m the mom to 3 always unschooled kids, all about 2 years apart. They are almost 15, just turned 13, and almost 11. I found the quote below a long time ago when they were all pre-school age. It made a large impact on me by helping me shift my perspective:
"It is the nature of the child to be dependent, and it is the nature of dependence to be outgrown. Begrudging dependency because it is not independence is like begrudging winter because it is not yet spring. Dependency blossoms into independence in its own time."
Peggy O'Mara,
Editor, Mothering Magazine
Independence is Not taught. It comes about as dependency needs are met and maturation occurs. And, like everything, each child has their own timetable for this.

Another member mom:
Totally opposite of most answers here, I think independence can be taught, or at least "realized". It takes time but I found reminding my kids of the various independent tasks/games/chores/etc. that they could do throughout the day lead to them eventually making those choices independently and appropriately. Although I always supervised (and hubby or I are always within helping distance), my 9 & 10 year olds have "learned" to rely on themselves to decide how to spend their spare time without needing a parent present or participating. That said, I think "together time" is important, but it becomes more valued when it is an option chosen by both, not a forced upon need. Start simple with a light list of independent games (puzzles, coloring, books, etc.), eventually your kid will discover their own ideas too.

I hope I haven't totally missed the boat regarding what is being asked.

Jo Isaac:
['nother member name] - perhaps you haven't been reading here much in the 3 months since you joined? Please re-read the announcement post, and associated links.

Please don't post about 'teaching' here, or separating 'alone' time from 'together' time. Thanks.

Sandra Dodd:
-=- I think "together time" is important, but...-=-
"Yeah, but..." always means "No, I don't agree." :-)

"Together time" should no more be an unschooling term than "me time" should. Don't try to chop life up. Integrate imagined different lives and times into one strong whole.

A mother *IS* a mother. A child needs the mother.

Deciding to unschool well and for many years involves some slight but real changes.

This is part of something Pam Sorooshian wrote once about becoming an unschooling parent:

Overly self-centered people can't do it because it requires a lot of empathy. People with too many personal problems that they haven't addressed in their own lives probably can't do it because they are too distracted by those.

People who are too negative or cynical can't do it because they tend to crush interest and joy, not build it up. People who lack curiosity and a certain amount of gusto for life can't really do it.

On the other hand, we grow into it. Turns out that we parents learn, too.

So—when we are making moves, taking steps, in the direction of unschooling, turns out the trail starts to open up in front of us and we get more and more sure-footed as we travel the unschooling path.
The trail starts to Open Up

Original poster:
Thanks everyone! I think I just need to work on changing my mindset. I enjoy time with him but I also enjoy time alone and crave it when I don't have much of it. However I'm sure once he is finally independent I'll miss him needing me so much so it's time to just relax and enjoy while I can ☺️
Sandra Dodd:
I'm being picky, but it's because stepping out of problems will help you move away from them.

"I just need to work on changing my....."

"Just" is a problem.
"Work" is even a problem.
Too many words. :-)

You need to change your mindset? Maybe.
You need to see directly what IS, what is right now, right where you are. Don't work on it. Make more choices.

Here's a link about why "just" is a problem, and one about living in the moment.
It can feel disturbing when people ask you to stop reaching out far, and look close. if you think of changing as work, as something you try, as something separate from this moment now, it will be something to think about maybe doing later, perhaps. Make the space between you and your child smaller and warmer. Smell his head, in a calm moment. Look at photos of him from when he was a baby, and remember the best things you can remember.

If you want to get away from him, don't go too far. Find him something newish as a distraction, and go and make some food he really likes, maybe.

If you fold things back toward here and now, for a while, instead of trying to stretch them into other (imaginary) times and places, I think you will feel less frustrated entrapment.

Tanya Stoyanova:
Remembering that we get to choose is so helpful in those situations :) I have three kids 7 and under. In the last month I started going for a short run on some days. And it is the first time in the last few years that I get some time on my own kind of regularly.

After a couple of times one of my kids wanted to come with me on my run. I got frustrated for a few seconds - "It's MY time!". But I remembered immediately (thanks to this group!) that I had a choice. I could still go out on my own, even if he is upset. I could take him with me and be upset. And there was a third option too - I could take him and deliberately choose to enjoy spending this time with him. I chose that. And it was wonderful. Yes, there wasn't the usual silence on my run and I couldn't run as much as usual - there were a lot more stops, but there was his cheerful voice and his joyful smile! And it was wonderful and we both got home feeling great!

I still enjoy when I get some runs on my own, but I always say yes when he wants to join. And sometimes I invite him to join me. Most of the time he does and sometimes he chooses to stay home with his dad. And I know that after a few years I will have more time for myself. But right now I choose to enjoy my time with my kids :)

E.L. (a third mom I'm anonymizing):
[Original poster], one thing to keep in mind here - it's not your mindset that's necessarily the problem. We (humans) evolved as tribal people. The idea of nuclear families - living independently from one another with 1-2 adults in charge of the kids is pretty new historically. In tribal civilizations (and even in hunter-gatherer communities now) there are older kids around, and kids play in groups, older kids teaching younger kids through play and life experience. Also, there are more adults around - grandparents helping keep an eye on everyone, aunts, uncles, cousins living right over there. It takes a village. You're not a failure - our current societal setup is the failure. I know you don't have time to read a book, but if you did, consider reading Civilized to Death by Christopher Ryan. (Or here he is on a podcast: As for practical steps, any way you can build community in your life? Having more kids to play with, more adults around who are able to help might put things in better balance for you.
Kristen Sheppard:
I’ve found this thought process very difficult to mesh with RU. I believe it too, and at times have craved it deeply, even traveling the world with a desire (this is only one desire, there are a lot lol) to find it and build it for my family. Its been so wonderful when we meet up with that tribe around the world.. we’re working on making it a more permanent thing. But I feel like it’s really difficult to mesh the two... and I’ve found more peace and joy when I stopped seeking that and just enjoyed my life exactly how it is in these moments. I still want this at some point for my kids, because they crave more time with people outside of our immediate family and it’s difficult to find that in our area because... most people are in school and schedules rarely mesh up, and so do I occasionally because it does wear me out trying to nurture connections with people who really just live so differently — I think there’s something to be said for people connecting from all walks of life but there’s also something to be said for having people around that live or believe similar things at least in some areas — but like I said, I’ve found more peace when I really make decisions and choices and shift my own thoughts toward connection in the here and now.

I just wanted to comment on this because there was a time I made myself miserable believing and desiring this, when I was unable to attain it. And I know what seeds were planted at that time and how hard it all pulled at me. It’s been really valuable for me to allow myself to continue believing it and seeking it, but without getting so discouraged by not having it in the present moment that I lose sight of the fact that I am capable, and finding ways to appreciate where I am in my life right now. 🖤🙏🏻

Sandra Dodd:
E.L., I had written this elsewhere in this topic before seeing your comment: "If you fold things back toward here and now, for a while, instead of trying to stretch them into other (imaginary) times and places, I think you will feel less frustrated entrapment."
People evolved? When did that stop?
-=-We (humans) evolved as tribal people. The idea of nuclear families - living independently from one another with 1-2 adults in charge of the kids is pretty new historically. In tribal civilizations ....-=-
Not all "tribal civilizations" are the same. Don't glorify a vague ideal, and bring it here to make an unschooling mom who already feels trapped to feel MORE trapped.

Because your link won't help anyone to understand unschooling any better, it was inappropriate, but because it already had one excellent comment, I left it.

Pining for what you don't have, complaining about what you DO have, is not even close to living lovingly with children in this moment, THIS moment, here, where one honestly and actually is living,

That moment will not be made better by listening to a podcast about how the whole world is wrong. We have enough of that these days. Fear and sorrow impede peace and learning.

Sandra Dodd:
-=-We (humans) evolved as tribal people.-=-
We primates live in small bands.
We humans have been living in settlements for thousands of years, lots of us.
5,000 years ago, Uruk had 45,000 people (Iraq's area now)
4,000 years ago, Memphis had 600,000 (in Egypt, not Tennessee)

Cities didn't just pop up by accident. Evolved humans made them.

If we allow the larger "tribe" (it would be nice if people would leave that term for actually still existing tribes) to make decisions about our children, then all of our children will be in school.

This forum is for discussing unschooling for the benefit of people who want to do it well.

Sandra Dodd:
A discussion called "me time" with some especially great parts:

Sandra Dodd:
Page on my site, about "me time" that leads to other good discussions. (Me Time)
Eleanor Chong:
This thread has been like balm for me. So appropriate and a long-time needed. Thank you.

Investing your Time

Sandra Dodd:
Something Deb Lewis wrote in 2011, somewhere (and I quoted it in Just Add Light and Stir):
Once you’re really listening to your kids and not your sense of injustice, you’ll find that answering them and interacting with them is intellectually rewarding and stimulating and fun. It’s not something you *have* to do. It’s something you *get* to do for a very little while. You can’t change this need your kids have right now. You can only change how you see it, how you think about it and meet it. And that’s good because that’s entirely in your power to do.

Choosing and Power

Original poster:
Sandra Dodd totally! Just difficult sometimes when you have depression.
Sandra Dodd:
If you want to keep that as a reason not to do better, many people will support you in that. Not many of them will be successful unschoolers.

Each time you successfully rise out of (or cycle out of) depression, it will make it easier to do that next time, if you want to learn to do that.

The same many-decisions-a-day that can help you be nearer to unschooling can also bring you nearer to peace and joy.

Tania Löwenstein:
sometimes I love to have the opportunity to finish thoughts in my head without being interrupted. what works well for us: having another adult close to the children at our house. important: in my presence! I do not leave (my seven year old does not like it at all to be without me at least physically present). it also works via skype (even though not as well). also a babysitter could work wonders :-) an older teenager with maybe even similar interests.

Robin Allenton:
You'll miss it when he doesn't want to be with you all the time. Savor every second!

Sandra Dodd:
From 2011 (and beyond) I often think back to the things I learned in La Leche League, from readings and other moms. If you nurse a child a long time does it make him dependent on the mom? Seems to be the opposite. If you hug a child every time he wants a hug, does it make him want a hug-a-day for life? You WISH! The more they get, the less they need.

Jenny Cyphers:
It's human nature to cling tighter to something when it feels like it is going to disappear. From a child's perspective, a parent who feels desperate for time away, that child will naturally want to get more time. Make the moments with him more engaging, so he feels full. Once he feels full, he'll be able to let go and allow distance.

I also had a child who needed me, what felt like 24/7. It wasn't until I figured out the above, that it really wasn't 24/7. The issue was that she never felt enough, so I intentionally changed HOW I was with her. It was only then, that I could step away for a moment to do things solo. It was really great because it did 2 important things, it built up a relationship that was made up of great memory making things, and it helped that child feel really intensely that she was loved and cared for in a way that she felt. The goal wasn't to be able to get alone time, that was the result of truly meeting her needs in which she didn't feel needy of me.

Laura C. Munoz:
This is for more for younger kids but I think it can give you ideas and tools. I have a question for you my son is 3 right now so I have no idea what I'd do until I'm there. What kinds of conversations have you had with him?
Sandra Dodd:
I have some comments, about that.

She's not an unschooler, and she IS trying to sell services.

The intro says:

Move over, Corona, there’s a new pandemic in town.

It’s Play!

And it’s spreading like wildfire throughout the globe....

I know, COVID-19 is no laughing matter - my heart aches for all those suffering from it’s far reaching effects.

"Its" is a possessive without an apostrophe. That's what she meant.

"It's" is the contraction of "it is."

Play might be "spreading like wildfire," but it's not new to unschoolers. :-)

One of the things she lists, to click, is "The art of strewing."

Strewing is my term. I clicked it, and got this notice:

Uh oh, it looks like you found a lesson that no longer exists.
If you want, please contact the course creator and let them know.
Oh! She made a course, with a lesson on strewing!

That's convoluted. :-)

Sandra Dodd:
"Play Pandemic"?

That would mean to play the boardgame "Pandemic," which was first published in 2008 (and there are expansions and other versions now).

Or it could mean to get the video game of Pandemic, and play with friends.

What she's using it to mean is that playing is new to some families. It shouldn't be new to unschooling families.

Sandra Dodd:

When I contacted Dodds-TNG to confirm what I was writing about versions and expansions, and the video game, I got another recommendation for anyone who didn't already know: A similar game, also in boardgame form, also was made into a video game, Plague, Inc.

I needed to say "Thanks, good! Enough for now," because these folks KNOW stuff about games. :-) Adults, and still playing. It's not new to any of them.

Karen James:
My son is seventeen. I find, these days, especially with being home all the time with the Covid-19 restrictions, I go to him for a lot of the company he used to come to me for. "Want to go for a walk with me?" I'll ask. "Sure," he'll often say, not because he really wants to go for a walk, but because he understands, without me saying so, that I'd prefer to go with him than alone. It's a kindness from him, given freely. It's something he's learned and internalized from having received that kindness all his life.

He was ten when he turned to me and said, "I think I'll be okay going to sleep on my own tonight." Probably around that same age, I was still tying his shoes. The other day, I was driving past a yard with a trampoline in it. A memory of Ethan jumping our old trampoline popped into my mind. "Watch this!" he'd say as he did some trick. "Watch this!" he'd say again and again and again and again. I remember hours of listening to his game adventures and analyses, sometimes getting brain-sleepy from the information overload. I remember seemingly endless questions and requests. At the end of nearly every day, I was pooped but confident about another day well-lived with my boy.

Those attention-intense days are mostly gone now. We still spend a lot of time together, but he doesn't need me nearly as much as he used to. I feel very proud of that time he and I shared. It's been one of the greatest adventures of my life.

Don't rush your kids to greater independence. Savor this time with them. Lap it up, knowing how well loved and much needed you are. That's really beautiful. There's nothing quite like it.

Let them, when you can, grow into their independence naturally, with the kind of confidence that comes from having all of one's of needs met again and again until it's enough. That kind of independence is where generosity and kindness and compassion for others can really take root and grow, but needs to be nurtured, not taught, and we get to be the caretakers of it. <3

Pam Sorooshian:
Try to be fully attentive in the early part of the day. Set the tone for the day as you being super engaged and really "there." When the kids feel full of mom's attention, they can handle it better if you go do something else.

Plan ahead and write down things you and the kids plan to do together that day. That helps the kids know you take their needs seriously. They count on you. Don't screw that up by not getting to it. Ask if they want to add some ideas of things to do while you are busy, too.

The level of neediness these days could be an expression of a really outgoing kid who feels desperate for a lot more interaction. My grandson is that kid and I am sympathetic to both the child and the mom.If mom is focused on her own needs, i don't think that will help. Focus on the child's needs. Don't think of neediness as something negative, it is your child's social personality.

Sandra Dodd:
Today I came across something Pam wrote years ago, too: Parents who make meeting their children's needs a higher priority will find that life is good and they, often unexpectedly, find that they are, themselves, less needy when they feel like really good parents.
—Pam Sorooshian

Being a Happy Mom Respect Building an Unschooling Nest