And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
Each stage is a window of time that flexes depending on the child, parents, and situations that reveal how a child matures through each stage. For example, some children will be independent long before their twenty-second birthday. Others will live with their parents long after their twenty-second birthday. The stages are suggestive, not binary.
From birth to the two-year mark, a child is dependent on the parents (or guardians). An infant can do little as far as taking care of himself. Even as early mobility begins, he does not have the mental or physical capacity to care for himself. By the time a child is two years old, his ability to explore the world around him surpasses his mental and physical capabilities. The combination of limited intelligence and ever-increasing independence converges to creating a life stage that provides parents with incredible opportunities to lead their children.
This stage is the time to lay the groundwork for heart characteristics that will shape his heart for the rest of his life. A few of those “core traits” are humility, honor, integrity, submission, obedience, honesty, discretion, love, serving, and self-control. A two-year-old’s boundless energy and capacity to learn provides the proactive parent a pliable student for understanding what it means to be Christlike.
As the child migrates from the dependent stage, the parent works at redrawing the lines by expanding the responsibilities for what the child should be doing and what the parent should be doing. This “redrawing-expansion process” continues throughout the child’s life. The objective is always to be moving responsibilities away from the parents and to the child. Like a time-released capsule, the parent is incrementally releasing the child into God’s world to live under His authority.
You will do nearly all the parental heavy lifting before the child is 12 years old. The teenage years are more about affirming or adjusting the prior parental work from the previous decade. Like slow-setting cement, his manner of living (Ephesians 4:22) is in place as he experiences an inward and increasing compulsion to do life independently.
Most of the time, it’s a combination of the two.
This final stage is releasing your child into God’s world as an individual under His authority. There is no perfect release age; each child and situation are different. The independent years do not mean parents stop parenting, but their roles in the child’s life dramatically change.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).