“Free Range Kids” Working on Increasing Independence…
I stumbled across this blog recently and it has made me think.
Being a kid has changed a lot over the last generation.
When I was 3-5 years old, I could make a sandwich. I could wash dishes. I bathed myself. I ran around my neighborhood while my mom did housework inside. I had a pony that I could saddle and ride with little assistance. I went on sleep overs. At six, I went to camp for a week. By the time I was seven, I was running in a pack of kids and we were always getting into scrapes and adventures. I had a single working mom and I was a latch key kid. I wasn’t alone–there were tons of kids just like me.
These days, we fear just about everything and “helicopter parenting” is the norm. I see my fellow moms anxiously hovering over their little ones on the playground. Mothers waiting to catch their children as they fall…anxious to prevent injury and cautioning their kids to “slow down”. Is this a good thing?
Has the world really become so frightening?
It seems like I cannot read the news without seeing that another child has been abducted, attacked, killed. If an adult doesn’t get them…another child will. We worry about bullies, pedophiles, drug dealers, and random accidents like drowning or falls. Our children don’t cross the street–even if they do make it outside alone. Are we doing them a favor?
I might not have made all of the right choices as a kid, but I am incredibly self reliant. I learned early what I was capable of….letting nothing stand in my way if there was something that I wanted. I had the determination to leave home, put myself through school, and never look back. As a young adult, I was gainfully employed with health insurance because I knew that no one else would take care of me. Not such a bad thing!
Today, I look at my toddlers and wonder if I am doing them such a big favor?
I have a five year old who cannot tie his shoes and who has never walked to the mail box alone. He doesn’t play with neighborhood kids because they are as closely guarded as he is. His social circle consists of structured play dates, scheduled activities, and school. He dresses himself…he can pour a glass of water…but he is never out of my sight.
I want him to have confidence in himself. I want him to go forward in this world without his mother holding his hand. I want my daughter to know that she is strong and capable.
What do we do as parents? How do we increase self reliance and still keep them safe?
I’m taking baby steps. My kids are 2 and five, so I am still at the park with them. Nowadays, I work on staying outside of the play area and letting them do their thing. I resist the urge to settle their disagreements and I let them fall. It isn’t always easy…and I get the damning looks from helicopter moms when my children do fall. Still, this is how they learn to test and push their limits and fight their own battles.
I bought paper plates and let them carry their dinner to the table and put it in the sink when they are done. I put cups next to the fridge rather than fetching beverages for them. We are working on putting away laundry and toys and making beds. It sounds like such small things…but since I was basically doing every single thing for them it feels like progress.