Working Yourself Out of a Job

Parenting is a job. It requires a lot from you. You must show up to work, be consistent in the way you  provide physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual guidance. Your job is to provide an environment in which your child feels loved, safe, and encouraged to become all God created him/her to be.

The  job of parenting is an honor to have, scary in the scope of responsibility, and growth-producing to any parent that gives a good effort at it. But, parenting is not a lifetime job. It is not a cradle to grave commitment. Generally speaking, active parenting should end by the time your child is in his early twenties. By this time your child should be able to be on their own financially, and be mostly independent of you. If you should die, they should be able to make it without you. The most loving thing you can do for yourself and your child is to work yourself out of a job.

But, we know things don’t always go as they should. Such was the case with George. He was out of high school, twenty years old, wouldn’t keep a job, still living at home and was “mooching” off of mom and dad for gas money and all his living expenses. His parents came to see me to determine what they could do about their dependent twenty-year-old son.

Both were quite disgusted with George and worried at thinking  about what would happen to him if he didn’t make some changes soon. They also resented the idea that their freedom to retire and have a life of their own was being compromised by his dependence on them.

George was stuck, an eight-year-old in a twenty-year-old body. At the time when George should be launching himself into independence from his parents he was woefully unprepared for the real world. He was still dependent; emotionally, physically and financially.

What a sad situation for George and his parents. They were frustrated with him, and had every right to be. But, as we delved further into the facts of the situation, they began to had understand that they were culpable in his failure to grow up and accept responsibility for himself. They had failed to work themselves out of a job. If they had dealt with George as needed when opportunities came they would have saved themselves and George a lot of heartache and misery.

One of the things I’ve tried to say to parents through the years is this, “You need to work yourself out of a job.” Be very conscious of the fact that you must do your best to prepare your child to be on his own, to become independent of you and develop his own life. God has meant life to be this way and it is a sign of a lack of real love if you allow your child to become so dependent on you that he or she cannot function on their own.  Do you want to be sure you don’t end up where George’s parents were when they came to see me? Do you love your child enough to do everything you can to keep them from becoming a twenty-year-old facing the future George was facing?  If so, keep reading.

Working Yourself Out of Your Parenting Job.

Why work yourself out of a job? Another way to say this is: why raise your kids to take responsibility for themselves? Let me mention a few reasons for you to take this advice (to work yourself out of a job) very seriously.

1. Your mortality. To put it bluntly, you are going to die. Most likely that will happen before your child dies. Then, who will get the job of providing for him? The government or some sucker who feels sorry for him? Is this the kind of life you want for your child? This may sound extreme or harsh but the consequences of your child remaining dependent on you can be pretty severe when you’re not there to take care of him.

2. Your child deserves that you work yourself out of a job. God created children to be able to grow up and be their own person; responsible and contributing to society. Don’t rob your child of the possibility of becoming all he can be by taking the easy road on this issue. One of the surest signs you love your child is that you teach him to do what he can for himself and to make decisions and hold him accountable for his choices.

3. Our world needs responsible people and leaders. If current conditions of our society and politics don’t emphasize the need for personal responsibility then I’m afraid you have been hiding under a rock somewhere. We need leaders and lay persons who can make wise decisions and will accept responsibility for wrong ones. Many people we see in places of responsibility in politics, sports, religion, business and other areas seem to be interested only in what serves their personal, selfish agenda. If we are going to have good, moral, responsible people to lead us we have to look to parents to do our job. That means working yourself out of a job.

Working yourself out of a job: Balancing your child’s dependence and independence needs.

jobHow do you get to the place in life where your child can live without you? You do this through a process of balancing their  dependency needs with their ability to assume increasing amount of independence. You do for him what he cannot do but increasingly wean him from you as he can take on more responsibility.

I like to think of this progression as a series of boxes. When your child is a baby the box is very small because he is very dependent. As he develops and is able to turn over, sit up, crawl and eventually walk the box increases in size. As he gains in his ability to communicate the box gets even larger because he can tell you in different ways what he needs. By age five or so he can do lots of things for himself and, hopefully, you have increased the box to reflect his growing independence. Get the idea? As your child grows in ability you give him more responsibility for himself.

By the time your child is twenty or so he should be just about ready to be on his own. He shouldn’t need you to “parent” him much any more. So, it is a process in daily living in which you provide the help he needs but gradually teach him to do things for himself that will help him become more self-dependent.

Some Steps to work yourself out of a job. The following ideas come directly from my book  Patenting Wit h A Purpose and apply to older children as well as younger ones.

  1. Allow your child to do what he can for himself. Children are motivated by a desire to become big and you should tune into this to help him do things he is capable of doing. Of course, this is more trouble for you and will take longer, but the long-term benefit will be worth it. Children do not like being “mothered” too much when they can handle a task on their own.
  2. Increase your child’s freedom and responsibility when they become able to handle it. For example, teach your child to set their alarm, make their bed, and do simple tasks when they are capable of doing them. Be careful not to overload them but help them learn to take responsibility for the things they can do as a part of the family team.
  3. Give your child specific tasks and hold them accountable. Start early with such things as making his bed, picking up toys, helping fold and put away clothes, and other small tasks that he can help do. As he matures, other household jobs like laundry, loading and unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming and  taking out the trash can become part of their training for adult life. Their future spouse will thank you for teaching them to do these everyday chores. Should your child remain single, they will need to be able to handle these chores or be wealthy enough to hire someone to do it for them.


Here’s the book with lots more ideas to help you become a successful parent.job

Something extra from a child psychologist

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