Monday, January 03, 2011

To Hover or Not To Hover, That Is The Question

Lately, it seems that there have been a number of instances in my "mama" life that have pointed directly to the question of how much freedom to allow my child; my answer to that question, it seems, is a bit out of the neighborhood norm. It's not all that unusual for me to be in this category, as my parenting philosophy tends to border on the more liberal side (i.e. I should be living somewhere on the west coast) and I live in a rather conservative (read, midwestern) community. That being said, it's still tough to be the family that does it differently.

Recently we've had a parent come to the door tattling on my child, that he was wrestling with another kid (NOT HER CHILD) after the bus stop dropped them off, and she felt it was out of hand. And by the way, her kid was being pushed around by my kid too, just not today when she was there to observe. (I have my doubts, as her child tends to want to dominate my kid, and then seems to lie to his folks to get his way. There's history there.) I think it's reasonable to expect my kid to walk home from the bus stop on his own. He's 9, for heaven's sake.

Then, there is the boy scout policy that insisting we discuss "good touch, bad touch" with our children so they can earn a badge, as well as the safety lesson led by the den mother who told them (4th graders, mind you) to never, never, never open the door when your parents aren't home. Really? In the burbs? At 10 years old? I mean, the odds of someone coming to the door to take them away or politely rob the place are less than them being struck by lightening twice. Seems a bit extreme to me. And really, if you haven't talked to your kid about sex and touching by now, it's a bit late. They are already experimenting. Trust me.

And then there is our policy of not doing much monitoring of our child's screen time. He plays lots of games on line and watches myriad YouTube videos. Don't get me wrong, we have rules about what is and is not allowed, and if discovered breaking the rules, the computer is mine. But we don't use any "computer nanny" software to prevent him from going/doing/seeing on line. Instead, we've discussed what to do if . . . if you wind up somewhere you weren't expecting to be, if someone tries to solicit information from you, etc. I don't want him to think there's something evil lurking just behind that next link.

Recently, all of this seems to be on the "disapproved of" list. And it makes me wonder, what are we trying to do for our kids anyway? Are we trying to teach them to be responsible and make good decisions? Or are we trying to hide them under a rock and hope for the best (a very tempting choice, believe me)? As hard as it is, I'm going for responsibility. And I appreciate those who are trying to hoe the same row. Lisa Greville wrote a great article in the latest issue of my favorite publication, Brain, Child, dealing with this very topic. I highly recommend reading it. It's so much easier to be a helicopter parent, do all the defending and thinking for our kids, but in the end, it just doesn't seem to serve them as well as helping them make good decisions for themselves. So no matter how hard it is for me, I'm choosing to teach responsibility and respect, send my kid out into the big wide world, and be here for him when he needs me.

1 comment:

Caitlin said...

This is a good topic, Amy.

I've done a lot of thinking about this, and I'm sure on most of it, I'll end up changing my mind a hundred times before my kids get out of the house. But here's one thought: I'm trying to think of freedoms for my children in terms of what I want them to be able to do in the future. So by the time they go to college, they need to be able to drive, navigate, make & attend doctor's appointments, talk to adults, cook a meal, do their own homework without prompting, etc. Given those expectations, how do we get there? In other words, instead of thinking of my daughter as just 8 years older than a helpless preemie, I'm trying to think of her as 10 years away from freshman year at college.

I used to always walk her to the bathroom. Now, when she's willing, I send her to the bathroom all by herself. When she's not willing, I walk behind her. I say "the bathroom is in the back left corner" and let her find her own way with me trailing.

One of my jobs as a parent is to work myself out of a job. Teaching my children independence isn't an option. It's not a lazy way out of parenting. It's just what I'm supposed to do.