I’m pretty sure my children would tell you that my favorite word is NO. It’s almost as if the moment you become a parent the word becomes a staple in your vocab. With all good intentions, I’m trying to be proactive in them making mistakes, failures or really in our cases: big messes. And I know in my head that is not doing them an ounce of good.
Trusting your children by letting them branching out on their own is hard to grasp. But it must be done if we want them to become more independent.
The other day my ten year old daughter and her friend wanted to go down to the creek about a 1/4 mile from our house. I had taken the kids down there the day before to have some fun with the dog. It is down in an open path near a populated trail literally down the street.
As a child, I played in the creek with my neighbor for hours without coming in and checking in with my mom. I have no idea if she came out to see where we were. All we knew was we were having fun and never worried about our safety.
Take A Breath and Trust Them
Of course as soon as my daughter asked, my mind went straight to the what if’s.
- What if one of you gets hurt
- What if there are older kids back there causing trouble
- What if someone snatches you up
- What if “fill the blank with the worst possible thing.”
I didn’t express my concern to her because I trust her and her instincts. She is my responsible kid and could figure out what to do in an emergency. With a bit of hesitation (in my heart) and coolness in my response I let them go.
Knowing they had to meet me by a certain time and be aware of their surroundings off they went to explore.
As the time I was supposed to meet them approached I began getting weary. Were they ok? Are they going to be there? Did they get hurt? They were several minutes late, so I paced back and forth with the dog creating worst case scenarios. I reminded myself they are kids and probably lost track of time. Now I was irritated that they were making me wait.
Embrace The Child Inside
I saw them turn the corner laughing without a care in the world and instantly I was relaxed. Any worry, anxiousness, fear and irritation had melted away because I was able to their childlike essence exuding from them.
They ran up to me to say they found a ton of cool shells in the creek. And while they were down there, they pretended they lived in the woods and made a home. They also played truth or dare. Daring each other to do things like sit in the water or go in the creek with your sandals off.
What the heck was I worried about? They are in fact having the childhood experience of their dreams. They are exploring nature, being outside and not dependent upon an electronic device to supply their entertainment.
At this tween age, they are coming into a stage where they still want to play as well as obtaining more adult responsibility. Luckily these two have imaginations that run wild, taking them on adventures that both make me smile.
Independence Boosts Confidence
Allowing them this independence to go off on their own adventure proves to them that I trust them. I don’t need to hover around making sure that everything is alright. Sometimes things don’t go as planned and this is a perfect opportunity to problem solve without an adult providing them with answers.
This independence is not something that happens overnight. It’s built on years of trust knowing that my children are able to handle the situation at hand. For example:
- Letting my 8 year old walk home from his friend’s house several streets away happens because over the years I have noticed what a good sense of direction he has.
- Letting my 5 and 10 year old kick me out of the kitchen to bake a birthday cake came with years of learning how to utilize appliances, safety with the range and cleaning up after yourself.
- Trusting my 5 and 6 year old to paint quietly together while I’m in the office doing work is years explaining that paint stays on the paper and not on the table, chairs or walls.
- Letting kids as young as 4 order for themselves at restaurants because it teaches them how to speak to adults and order what they want.
- Letting kids stay home when I take the dog for a quick walk around the neighborhood. They know the rules: don’t go outside or open the door.
Because they have had these type of opportunities with an adult nearby to supervise, I feel more comfortable expanding their independence further away from home (and myself). Soon they will be going places alone with friends, driving solo and eventually moving out on their own. It’s because I trust them.
Trust Your Children
It makes me think of how as a 17 year old girl in the late 90’s, my mom gave me the go ahead to do a college visit alone with a friend, who was a boy (nothing more) overnight, 3 hours away.
Or when my baby sister was born my senior year of high school, I made the drive from Cincinnati to Cleveland by myself in the beginning of February. I can confess now that the speedometer hit 100 once or twice cause I was so excited to get there.
It’s trust. I proved to my mom over time that I could be responsible and didn’t need someone to hover over me all day long.
Even when I was 8 or 9, I flew on a plane, by myself, from Denver to Cincinnati after spending a couple weeks with my cousins during the summer.
By giving your child more independence, you are gifting them with trust. The caveat is knowing the individual child and what they are capable of handling. There are some things I let my daughter do when she was 8, that I would never let my son who is currently that age do now.
In our house, if you want more independence, you have to prove you are capable and responsible to do so. I want my kids to grow up knowing they can do their on their own. The decisions they make are worthy of success and yet they will make mistakes along the way. It’s all good though, because I trust you!
Put your oxygen mask on first.
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