Parenting Independent Children

When a child grows up independent, it is a gift, but it can also hurt. Where did my little boy go? Why do they have to grow up so fast? I don’t want to lose our bond! Watch as I tell my own stories of raising independent children, and I give 5 tips to parents along the way! Discover how these 5 tips saved my heart and my sanity through the adolescent years and beyond! 

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Parenting Independent Children

“Mom, stop it! I got it,” says my son as he slaps my hand away because I am trying to help him straighten his collar and shirt.

I can’t help it. All my eyes see is a 6-year-old boy struggling to get dressed when I am standing before my 16-year-old son, who is taller than me and capable of dressing himself.

Fast forward 5 years, and I am waving goodbye to this same “little boy” going off to college. Still, I can only see a nervous child with an oversized backpack and an Iron Man lunchbox.

It doesn’t matter if your child is an independent 13-year-old or 17 years old and leaving the nest- letting go when you feel like your child doesn’t need you anymore is really tough. No, tough doesn’t describe it. It is heartbreaking for many parents. Let’s talk about what parents can do.

Hello, my name is Kristina Campos. I am the founder of the Impactful Parent. Every week I give you parenting videos that can help you in your parenting journey. If you have a particular topic or parenting question about your school-aged child that you would like me to address, please submit it at [email protected] or by messaging me on social media. All submissions are kept anonymous. 

As parents, it’s natural to feel a mix of emotions when we realize that our children are growing up and becoming more independent. The teenage years, in particular, can be challenging as our children assert their autonomy and navigate the world independently. If you’re feeling like your child doesn’t need you anymore, here are 5 practical tips to help you navigate this new phase of parenting. Let’s get started!

  1. Adjust your expectations but stay engaged.

I remember when my son was a toddler. He used to push my hand away when I tried to tie his shoes for him. It seems like just yesterday that he was getting mad at me because we needed to get out of the door 10 minutes ago, so I am just trying to put shoes on quickly and get out of the house, BUT all my son wants to do is TIE THE SHOES himself.  He didn’t care about my timetable or being late. My child just wanted to practice putting on his shoes. 

Today not much has changed. My son still doesn’t care about my timetable or being late. He just wants to practice adulting. He wants to prove it to himself, me, his friends, … even the world- that he is grown up and can do it himself. 

Sometimes, we celebrate when our kids are taking the initiative, taking on new responsibilities on their own, or trying new things. Other times, your child will pick the most inconvenient time to hold their ground and say, “Mom or dad, I got this. Let me do it.”

When your child is driving you crazy with their independence, try to work on changing your mindset. Remember that school-aged children need a different kind of parenting than younger children. The more they grow, our role shifts from guardian to coach. The older your child is, the more you need to let go of the authoritarian, boss, or dictator inside of you. Instead, imagine your child as a student or player, and you are their life coach.  

With this new outlook on the situation, you can see that your child is craving autonomy so they can practice adulting. They want to prove to themselves they can do it, or they want the practice to get better at adulting, so they feel independent. Just like in coaching an athlete, sometimes the player wants to get into the game and play. They want to learn by doing with the oversight of their coach to watch, provide critique, and be there to support them if they fail. 

This is what my child wanted too. He wanted more opportunities to just play the game. He told me to go away, but what he really needed me to do is give him some space to TRY, PRACTICE, FAIL OR SUCCEED alone. 

So, work on letting your child do more.  Shift your mindset from parent to coach. This has helped me not to take my son’s push back as personally and instead see his pleas to “leave him alone’ as a cry for more independence and practice adulting. So, adjust your expectations to a coach’s mindset and support your child from the coach’s sideline.


  1. Foster active listening.

Have you ever tried helping your teenager with a problem but all they do is roll their eyes every time you make a suggestion? Me too!

The mistake most adults make helping kids is the adult automatically jumps in and starts suggesting solutions!

What? Yes, you heard that right. The mistake the adult makes is jumping in trying to help by suggesting solutions!  Let me explain.

Picture it.   My daughter has been hiding out in her room for a while now and I can hear some commotion coming from her room. I decide to go check on her to make sure things ok. When I walk into her room, she is visibly upset, and I can tell from the runny mascara on her face that she has been crying. Since my daughter is visibly upset, I ask her if she wants to talk about it and tell me what’s going on. Thankfully, my daughter takes me up on my offer and I get to hear about the middle school drama. 

After I know all about what he said, and she said, and what he said again…. I start to make suggestions for how my child can handle the situation. BOOOMMMM.  WRONG.

The minute parents go into fix it mode, your teenager may shut down and tune you out.  That isn’t what they wanted! Kids trying to assert their independence and want to practice adulting on their own, don’t always want to take the easy path of listening to your good advice. Instead, they want to figure out solutions by themselves.

No wonder my child was eye rolling at me! I jumped in with unsolicited advice when all they wanted was a listening ear.  And BE CAREFUL about this because if parents jump in with unsolicited advice too often, the child may stop asking for you to even listen to their problems.

So, avoid jumping to conclusions or giving unsolicited advice. Ninety percent of the time, teenagers need a listening ear. That’s it. Yet, many parents ruin this bonding time with their teen by going into “fix it” mode or saying, “Well, when I was your age….” Teenagers don’t care about that. They see your experiences as unrelated because your experience happened over 20 years ago. Instead, be a compassionate sounding board and provide guidance when they ASK. Learn to practice active listening instead. This skill is going to be very helpful in moving forward in your child’s development.

Parenting Independent Children

Parenting Independent Children

  1. Encourage Their Autonomy and Independence

While it may be bittersweet to see your child become more self-sufficient, embracing their growth and encouraging their autonomy isn’t always easy. I don’t want my baby to grow up either but if you have a kid that’s pushing your boundaries, pulling away from parental control, distancing themselves from your rules or doing their best to be independent- then I suggest, if you can’t beat them, help them.

Another mistake most parents make when their child is asserting independence is trying to hold on to the rules and relationship with a tighter grip.  Just like sand, the tighter you squeeze, the more likely your child will slip through your fingers. 

I know this is completely against your first instinct to hold on tighter, enforce more rules, and get stricter with your child, but these are not always the most successful steps to maintaining a bond with your son or daughter. Many children will only reject these efforts, dig in their heels, and it could even make the relationship between parent and child more turbulent.

Parenting Independent Children

Parenting Independent Children

Instead, try leaning in and giving your child what they want… which is more choices.  Notice how I didn’t say, more freedom. Just because you are giving your child more choices, doesn’t mean you have to compromise your rules.  What I am saying is, you need to look for more opportunities to provide more choices for your child within their day.  Your child is asking for it! They want to feel like they have some control over their own life. So, provide opportunities for them to make decisions and face the consequences of their choices. This will help build their confidence and give them a sense of responsibility. Encourage your teenager to take on new challenges, such as managing their finances or cooking some of their own meals. Allow your child to face the consequences of their actions when appropriate instead of saving them. Empower them to make decisions and learn from their experiences, guiding them when necessary.

This isn’t easy. It is so scary to let your child have more choices because it also gives them more opportunities to mess up. However, a trick that has helped me is to remember that I only have a few more years to prepare my child for adulthood. How many years do you have left? Is your child a freshman? You have 4 years? Maybe they are already a Junior? You may have a year or less before your child moves out. It’s your job to prepare them for the real world. It’s better to expose them now to some of the truths and difficulties of life while still under your care and support than protecting them from all the bad stuff and letting them discover that bad stuff world when they are living alone at college or away.


  1. Find New Avenues to Connect and Bond

Do you want to go for a walk? Nah.

Do you want to play a game? Nah.

Come make dinner with me? Nah.

How about the mall? Still Nah.

As your child becomes more independent, finding new ways to connect and maintain a strong bond is important but it isn’t always easy. This is going to take intentional EFFORT. Too often, parents think that the bond between parent and child should be natural, but as your child gets older, it will take a lot of effort!

Parenting Independent Children

Parenting Independent Children

Look for common interests or activities that you can enjoy together. This could be anything from taking a cooking class to hiking or attending a concert.

For my oldest son and I, we bond over fishing. This is something that I started doing when my child was young and over the years, I continued to use fishing trips as a way of checking in and bonding with my child.

With my second oldest I must bribe them to spend time with me.  This child is ultra independent and always has been. Because I can’t find any similar interests to bond over, I bribe this child with a once-a-week special outing to get dessert. At the end of each week, we leave everyone behind and go to the ice cream shop. This gives me an opportunity to talk to my child one on one and my child looks forward to the treat after a long week. It’s become a win-win for both of us.

My third child and I bond over videogames. I hate video games!  Yep, sometimes parents have completely different interests than their child. If you can’t find a common interest, you may have to suck it up and be interested in something your child likes. This is painful for adults but do it anyways.  It is more important to spend time with your child doing something they love than it is for the parent to be entertained. Whatever activity you and your child plan to bond over, make sure your child likes the activity! If they don’t like it, then no amount of time is going to put them into a head space to want to bond with you.  So, I sit and watch my son play videos a few times a week.  I ask questions about his game. I take an interest in WHY he likes the videogame, HOW he plans to win the game, WHO he plays against, and what strategies he is learning to improve his skills.  Yes, it is painfully boring for me, but my child appreciates my efforts.

And my youngest child and I bond over books.  We read together. Actually, I read to her.  This makes reading more special. A few times a week, my daughter comes into my bedroom in full pajamas and comfy clothes to listen to me read to her a book we have chosen together. No, my daughter is not 2 years old. My daughter is 11 and can certainly read by herself, but she allows me to read to her so that she can just sit with her head on my lap and listen.  It is very relaxing for my daughter, and it helps her relieve stress too.  Some nights I will even read her homework for her if it is appropriate.

Bottom line is, think outside the box and be intentional with your bonding moments.  Put them on your calendar and don’t just wing it. At the very least, carve out at least 15 minutes daily to check in with your child and talk to them. I suggest doing this on a car ride or at the dinner table. Make it look effortless, but in reality- you will be doing things very intentionally.


  1. Invest in Self-Care and Personal Growth

If your child is a teenager, it is time to start shifting energy from them to you!

What?!  I know you have been sacrificing yourself for years! Your attention and time has been focused on your kids for so long, raising good humans, that you may have even forgotten what YOU used to do in your free time!

As your child becomes more self-reliant, it’s an excellent time to focus on your own self-care and personal growth. Engage in activities that bring you joy, invest time in your hobbies, and explore new interests. Finally, you are at the stage in your parenting that your child doesn’t need you for every little thing anymore. Celebrate that and take advantage! Taking care of your own well-being will benefit you and ensure that you are available and present when your child needs you.

Dedicate some time each week to engage in activities that nurture your personal growth, such as joining a book club, learning a new skill, or practicing mindfulness. Stop making yourself last on your priority list.

Carve out even more time for yourself by teaching your child to be more self-sufficient, like cooking their own meals, teaching them to drive, or making them do their own laundry. Doing these benefits both of you!


Remember, as parents, our love and support will always be important to our children, even if they don’t express it the same way anymore. By adjusting our expectations, fostering open communication, encouraging independence, finding new ways to connect, and investing in our well-being, we can evolve our parenting and foster strong relationships with our growing teenagers.

If this information was valuable for you today, BECOME a more impactful parent by downloading The Impactful Parent App. The Impactful Parent app is FREE and full of episodes like this one to help you in your parenting journey. Investing in your family looks like learning the warning signs of certain behaviors so you can stop bad things before they start, discovering new parenting techniques to make your parenting more effective, and joining a community of like-minded parents who want to be the best parent they can for their child. All of this, plus so much more, can be found inside The Impactful Parent app, so download it today. You got nothing to lose with this free parenting resource. Go to and discover how to step up your parenting game and be a more impactful parent.

 But until next time, you got this, parents. I am just here to help.

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