Roots and Wings: Parenting Teens to Fly on Their Own

things I’m learning as I parent 4 kids without an instruction manual.

“The purpose of this exercise is for you to pedal your OWN bicycle.” my dad used to muse as he set out to teach his six kids about life and responsibilities.

It was usually after we had locked our keys in the car (again) or needed some extra cash to do something we REALLY wanted to do. He continually reiterated the fact that we needed to figure it out ourselves.

Handy skill — that independence thing. I think it definitely helped me in my own path and has influenced how I raise my kids.

I’ve narrowed my parenting style into 2 words, roots and wings. The 2 things I want to give my children.

Roots — a place to call home, their family, and unconditional love and a soft place to land no matter what happens in their life. Roots of security that will be the background of their beliefs and courage as they head out into the world to pursue their dreams. Roots of connection with their tribe so they never feel alone. Roots of love, community and commitment. This, I feel is the primary part of parenting. The structural layout that parents get to help lay out in the first 10–20 years of their children’s lives. Providing them with safety, security and opportunities.

and then there’s Wings.

Wings — the courage to fly. To follow their passions. Connection to their intuition, street smarts, guts, independence, hustle and determination. This is the part of parenting that is less of a provision, but more taught with immersion training and enhanced 100-fold if lead by example. Yes, you can give birds independence quite quickly by throwing them out of the nest and letting them survive, but the 20 year process (usually) that you have your children with you is what I like to think of flight training ground.

You give them opportunities to fall. You open conversations that create curiosity. Encourage individuality. Allow tears, allow hardship. But most importantly, be vulnerable about your own journey so there isn’t anything hidden from them.

To use your wings, you not only need to know how they work, you need to understand the principles of going up, the dangers of hitting the ground, and also have the courage to choose where you want to go and take the initiative to take off.

There is so much great parenting advice, I’m definitely not one to step up on my soapbox. At this point I have 3 teens and a 10 year old and my only clue that I’m doing ok is that my kids still love me (ie: they let me on their secret friends only Instagram account) and they also are each evolving into their own unique beings, with their own interests and curiosities.

With the simple mission statement of “Roots and Wings”, I’m given a bit more freedom to make decisions that promote these 2 principles. Either I’m creating a soft landing, safe place to be loved or I’m encouraging them and giving them the tools to fly.