Hardening off: the importance of transitioning children to prepare them for the real world

Over the past few months, I have been dabbling in gardening.  Maybe, like me,  you have experimented with it as well?

And failed? again and again?

I definitely would not say that I have a green thumb.  I have killed countless plants, bushes, etc.. in my day.  (Mom, remember when I weeded your strawberry patch by pulling out all the strawberry bushes and replanting them. LOL)

Trial and Error

Anyway, we all know, most things in life are trial and error.

With my new adventure gardening, so far, I have learned that:

  • You shouldn’t sprout root vegetables indoors.  ( I was trying to sprout carrots on my window sill).
  • Overwatering kills plants.
  • That some seeds sprout really quickly, and some take a very long time.
  • And I have learned that transplanting seedlings, must be done in a gradual manner.

This last lesson, in particular, has been the most valuable.  I have learned the hard way that I can’t just put delicate seedling outside and say “good luck.”

Hardening Off

In researching how to ensure that my plants will live and flourish outside, I learned about hardening off.  This is the process of gradually exposing seedlings, grown indoors, to the sun, wind, and rain in order to ensure that they are strong enough to withstand the elements. With seedlings this process can take between a few days up to a week.

I started to think about the importance of this process in the life of a child.  A child first sprouts in the safety and warmth of our home.  And as they mature, just like plants, they need to be gradually exposed to the elements.

Some gardener choose to begin this process in the safety of their homes or greenhouses, by blowing fans on their seedlings to replicate the wind. It got me thinking about what I can do to strength my own kids to better prepare them for the “real world.”

Some ideas I thought of were:

  • Not intervening in every argument
  • Allowing them to struggle a little before stepping in
  • Teaching them more life skills
  • Providing them with more freedom to take risks

Gaining independence

I am currently facilitating an virtual book club, for the book “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap” by Julie Lythcott-Haims. While I am only half way through, I have gleaned so many valuable tips for how to set my children up for success in life.

Initially, I mostly thought that this book would be a tool for me to help others.  Naively, I did not realize the traps that I had fallen into. ( Fear of physical harm to my kids being a big one.)

One particularly interesting idea that I loved, is that kids need rites of passage through out childhood in order to build confidence, and self efficacy.  The author suggests that the process towards independence goes something like this:

  • Do it for them
  • Do it with them
  • Watch them do it
  • They do it independently

Then she challenges the reader to stop doing things for your kids that they can do or can almost do by themselves.

So, I am beginning to approach parenting from a new mindset.  If I want my kids to be strong and independent, I need to start teaching them now, at ages 2 and 5, not 10 years from now.

Initially, I know I might feel uncomfortable with the process, but I know that smothering and overwatering is not good for plants or for kids.