I’ve been in a reflective mood of late. I get this way every now and then, something sparks my thinking and it snowballs from there. One of the things that has me thinking at the moment is the freedom or lack of, that kids these days have compared to when we were young.
I suppose every generation is different, we all lament the past and worry about the future. No doubt my parents worried about my future and their parents theirs. But with the world moving forward at an alarming pace, much faster than ever before, I think perhaps we should be a little more worried than previous generations.
During an interview with a parenting expert last week we briefly discussed the latchkey kids of the eighties. It wasn’t uncommon for kids as young as six or seven to walk home from school, let themselves in, get their own afternoon tea and then head off to the park with the neighbourhood kids until dark. Now this scenario varied from family to family of course but it happened more frequently than not. Compare that to today’s kids and I think you will find that latchkey kids that young hard to find.
It’s true we live in a different world today; a more knowledgeable world. Living in a ‘plugged in’ society we are surrounded by news at our fingertips and stories everywhere we turn. Perhaps years ago we were just naive and more trusting of our fellow man. Perhaps our parents had more faith in us and confidence in themselves as parents. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt our kids are shaped as the cotton wool generation.
We as parents are fearful of something happening to them well beyond normal parenting concerns. We hear about abductions, abuse and accidents and we are scared of being judged an unfit parent under scrutinizing eyes of other parents. We no longer trust our instincts as parents.
Miss 8 has been asking me recently if she can walk home from school. Part of me knows she is ready. She is smart, capable and can cross the road and being the third child in the family she is mature and switched on. The other part of me though runs through the what if’s… What if she get’s lost (unlikely), what if she hurts herself (unlikely), what if she gets hit by a car (unlikely but certainly possible), what if she gets approached by an unsavory stranger… or worse (unlikely but possible). Could I ever forgive myself if something did happen?
So how do we teach our kids responsibility and the way of the world if we are forever keeping them under guard?
It’s a dilemma that all parents face and I applaud those who can trust their instincts and do what is right for them and their families. And then I think back to when I was a kid.
A lot of the time I lived out of town so there weren’t many places to ‘go’ so to speak. But from an early age I remember being allowed to head off down the paddocks with the cows and the snakes and wander, explore and imagine. What if I had been hurt by a cow, bitten by a snake? Then when I lived in a small country town (and by that I mean population maybe 60) I used to walk down to the local primary school that was about 2km down the road and play. Friends and I would go bike riding without a second thought and keep in mind helmets were not compulsory in those days! Then when I did visit friends in town we were allowed to head off down the park till dark, walk around the corner shop at all hours and explore the neighbourhood on bike, foot or rollerskates. All of this well before the age of 10.
I don’t have the answer but I do know that the way our kids are brought up is certainly going to influence them. They are constantly under watch, they have access to digital devices within arms reach at all times and the prefer TV to going outside. And parents find it easier to to sit them down with the iPad or TV. They know where they are and the house is less likely to get… God forbid… messy! It’s sad.
What I do know is that it starts at home.
Last week we introduced a new screen policy. No TV or computer until 5pm. Every. Day. The only exceptions are if the older kids (13 and 15) have homework and need to use their laptops but it will be monitored so it is indeed homework and not Facebooking disguised as homework! I also will make exceptions for relentlessly raining days. Otherwise the kids are expected to play. To use their imagination. Get outside, board games, lego, dolls, reading, drawing, painting, riding bikes and walking dogs. They are expected to be kids.
I am also going to try and follow my gut insticts. Trust my kids and allow them freedom to grow, freedom to earn my trust and freedom to learn the responsibilities that come along with that trust.
I’m not sure if I’m ready for Miss 8 to walk home yet, but we will work on that one together.
Do you find it hard to give your kids freedom?
Is their upbringing different to yours in that respect?
Linking with Jess from Essentially Jess for I Blog On Tuesdays