When you have a child, it is easy to want to protect them from everything, shielding them from every potential danger or disappointment. Being a parent can sometimes be an overwhelming process. Scrolling through the news app on our phone, or finally sitting down to relax at the end of the day with the nightly news, can often be a reminder of just how frightening it can be to have a child growing up in this world.
However, the ultimate parental goal is to raise our children to become independent, self-reliant adults, able to navigate the world safely, making smart decisions for themselves. We want them to flourish in their lives, have their own thoughts and feelings, and accomplish their dreams. So, just how do we promote independence and self-reliant safety in our children in a way that they can not only someday explore the world, but have the confidence to make the changes they wish to see within it? Loosening the restrictions is not an easy task, but with the right approach, it can be done safely and effectively.
Promote Independence from an Early Age
Would you believe that sometimes our children are better off without us? Of course, the protective parent within absolute abhors the thought of something happening to our children while they’re out of sight, but how will they ever develop or understand independence if they are not provided the opportunity? Michael Thompson, a children’s psychologist and accomplished parenting author, makes the case that allowing our children room to develop and grow in self-reliance and responsibility while in safe environments, away from our parenting eye, is the key to raising independent, and thereby safe, children. This advice goes without saying that we should still monitor our children with common-sense parenting, but also that we must be aware that our focus on safety doesn’t admonish our child’s natural desire to become safe through self-reliance and independence.
Be Truthful about the Dangers and Their Consequences
In teaching our children about the world, it is a safe practice to assume that if they are old enough to ask questions, then they are old enough to know the truth in some respect. Martha Leathe – a mother, teacher and accomplished writer – discusses the importance of being honest with our children in her article for NPR’s ‘This I Believe’ series, Telling Kids the Whole Truth. This simple parenting tactic allows us to inform our children factually about the world and its dangers, which serves to enhance their own knowledge and understanding, and readies them for the dangers and realities that may present themselves. Leathe states that by validating children’s intuition, we can begin to provide them with an inner voice that they can learn to listen to and rely on which may serve to remove them from dangerous situations in the future.
Teach Safe Practices & Encourage Self Reliance
It is essential to provide our children with the knowledge to keep them safe without impeding their independence. Of course, we can never child-proof the world, but we can “world-proof” our kids, so to speak. Allow babies and toddlers to explore their environment while you explain the dangers of such things as stairs or the hot stove along the way. Do not stop toddlers from climbing to heights they can reach without help in order to explore their own physical limits. As they grow, let them go to the store or school on their own when you, and they, feel confident they are ready to do so. The process is all about allowing your kids to experience safety in the real world, gain confidence that they know how to approach the world and its dangers, and teach them of their own limitations and independence. Of course, this does not mean to simply turn your back as a parent, as many of these activities should be guided or observed and used as teaching tools, as well as to prevent serious injury depending on the activity.
Raising Safe, Independent Children in an Unsafe World
Understandably, it is difficult to allow such independence in what we may perceive as an increasingly dangerous world. It’s easy to worry, but vital to remember that many of the dangerous encounters are rare, so living in fear could be keeping your children from having otherwise wonderful experiences.
Being told to worry less, however, is often easier said than done, but understanding that your role as a parent is not only to protect your children, but to also prepare them for life will help make the process of providing independence easier. By informing our children of various circumstances they could encounter in an unsafe world, being truthful with them, teaching them to acknowledge their intuition that a situation or person may not be safe, and allowing them to develop their own independence and prerogative for self-reliant safety, they can begin to understand what it is to be independent in our world.
It may be impossible to keep them safe all of the time, but for everything you can remedy, we are here to help. Contact us today!