Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dependence Begets Independence?

Can dependence really give rise to independence? How can that be?

It does seem counterintuitive, doesn't it?

Think about it for a minute. What makes someone independent? I don't mean independent by the current youth standard - not caring, not needing parents, and not being curious ... in short, being apathetic to life. Indeed, those very kids are totally dependent on their peers for validation, so in actuality, not independent at all.

No, I mean independent. Completely secure in who they are, what they believe, and how they act. We've all met them - heck, maybe you're one of them. When I was a young adult, I secretly looked at those people with great awe - those people who dressed in their own style, who held religious or political beliefs distinctly separate from their peers or their family, who forged ahead on their own and without a safety net, and who followed their own, if seemingly outlandish, career paths. I was never comfortable enough in my own skin to be one of those people.

So, I ask again, what makes a person independent? Secure? Willing to go out on their own without a group backing them up?

Let me go out on a limb here and say dependence. If a child starts life being dependent on caring parents, knowing that those parents will be there for him, rain or shine, then he can focus on exploring the world. If he knows that he's going to be loved unconditionally, with all his warts and indiosynchrocies, then he can become secure in who he is. If he learns early on that the world responds to his needs, then he becomes comfortable with being curious and expects that he'll get results from his actions.

If he begins life dependent on loving, caring adults who cherish him for who he is, there is no other path than that of independence in the healthiest meaning of the word.

Isn't that what we want for our kids?
If you liked this post, you might enjoy What We Give Our Kids.


  1. Yes, and it really does feel like going on a limb sometimes just because it's so counter to mainstream philosophy, the whole "meet their needs and they'll grow out of them" idea.

    I do like the goal of independence and even a certain degree of fearlessness, but I wonder whether the ultimate goal would be a healthy interdependence?

  2. I agree completely. This is how I felt when my son was born - that if he felt secure in his immediate environment, that he would be more willing to explore the world, trusting that we would always be there for him.