18 years. 936 weeks. Ask any parent and they'll tell you that it all goes by too quickly!
I want to see you soar!
Imagining "launch day" stirs up a myriad of emotions in parents: fear, hope, dread, sadness, joy, pride, freedom, expectation. The list goes on. We wonder who we'll be when they are gone. We wonder if they've been prepared enough to fly. Collectively, we hold our breaths, hoping to see young adults rise and praying against sputtering starts or crash landings. As much as we hate to see them go, we do want to see them soar!
Freedom and responsibility are given incrementally with intention. We don't toss a teenager the car keys on day one and send him out onto the freeway alone. He didn't bike to school and serve on Safety Patrol in Kindergarten like he could in fifth grade. Failing to increase freedom and responsibility at an appropriate rate can be detrimental in the launch process. Holding onto too much control frustrates kids and leaves them ill-prepared for handling responsibility that comes too quickly. Allowing too much freedom and responsibility too soon can impair a child's developmental process. Parents have to imagine the end to navigate this well.
The Launch Day Formula
Life is full of choices. Consider all the decisions you make in a day as an adult. There are a ton of them! You're choosing what to wear, what to eat, what to say, how to spend your time and countless other micro-decisions. You may have some boundaries, like an office dress code, but generally-speaking you have the freedom and responsibility for 10 out of 10 of your choices.
To launch a child at 18, there are 18 years to move them from 0% freedom and responsibility for their own decisions to 100%.
(100%-0%) / 18 years = Rate of change/year
A 100% change in 18 years, works out to be about a 5.5% increase in freedom and responsibility each year.
While it's not a perfect science, you can use that rate as a guide to see how much responsibility and freedom you're dishing out. Ask yourself, "Out of the next 10 choices, how many is (my child) making?"
A four-year old should get to make about 2 of those 10 choices. A seven-year old can make about 4 of them. At sixteen, she should be making close to 9 of those 10 decisions.
When year eighteen does come, releasing the last 5.5% is the next natural step. They'll step into college, military or the workforce ready to choose 10 of 10 times. If that last percentage released is significantly higher, it can be an unhealthy shock for both the young adult as well as mom and dad.
Letting go of that freedom and responsibility to our children is perhaps the hardest part of parenting. Giving it to the child means giving up control. If we want to see them fly, we must hand over the controls eventually. In Part 2 of this series, we'll look at the key factor that offsets the relinquishment of the positional influence we have as parents and what you can do about it this week.