How Much Freedom Should We Give Our Kids?

Nathan HawkinsPARENTING3 Comments

How much freedom should we give our kids?

Most parents will agree that it is better for children to play in the yard than to be on Ipad’s or videogames. However most parents these days will also tell you to always watch your kids when they are outside and then lament how much better it was when they were kids.  Because when they were kids they didn’t have to worry about being picked up by a child molester!

Actually these days our kids are LESS likely to be “snatched” by someone. I read an article today in the Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/ in which I learned about parents who let their 6 and 10 year old children walk home from their neighborhood park alone.  The children were picked up by police and taken by CPS (child protective services). They were returned to the parents 5 and a half hours later after I am sure the parents had a heart attack trying to understand where their kids were!

Here are some interesting statistics 1. It is more likely your child will have a heart attack than to be abducted. 2. The vast majority of abductions are done during child custody disputes or by other family members. 3. 97% of children are recovered these days! http://www.missingkids.com/KeyFacts.

So if you’re not involved in a crazy custody dispute and your child has a clean bill of health what’s with all the fear? Lenore Skenazy coiner of the label “Free Range Kids” reports that ultimately it is media culture difference (http://www.freerangekids.com). She says,

Our parents were watching Dallas and Dynasty, where the biggest crime was big hair. Today’s parents are drowning in bad news that comes to us instantaneously from around the world. We hear about abductions in Portugal and Aruba. I can instantly name you five girls who met ghastly ends — Caylee, Maddie, Natalee, Jon Benet, Jaycee — but our parents could never do that.

Of course there are also the occasional amber alerts and news stories to panic about and rumors your friends share with you.

As the parent of a 4 and 10 year old this hits home to me.  We don’t let our kids out of our sight. I am likely one of the purveyors of paranoia out there. My friend who is a police officer told me to stop freaking out about all of this last year. Now for the first time I am opening my eyes to this a little. Unfortunately for my paranoia there are no facts to substantiate it.  All the statistics point in the opposite direction…things are MORE safe than “when we grew up.” Indeed if I think about all of the people I know none of them would perpetrate anything of the sort. Don’t get me wrong there are still parents out there who don’t manage their children and you end up having to step into keep your child safe from the occasional playground bully. That’s normal though.

Kids do need to learn from their decisions. They need to experience real world consequences as much as appropriate and as often as possible. This builds confidence and wisdom. The more they appropriately experience life apart from you and me the more they will trust our perspective. They will learn that we gained our experience from the same place…the real world.

Also our confidence in their abilities will go up because the more they experience life apart from us safely the more we realize they can do it. Our worry will always be there but placing that onto them can foster undue fear on them and breed paranoia. I don’t want my kids paranoid. I want my kids safe. At some point as parents we have no choice but to trust our parenting. The earlier we begin to learn we can do that the better the transitions through life will be for all!

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