Sunday, May 9, 2010

Watch Out

Anna’s preschool theme last week was Safety, and I picked up three books from Watch Out series – this one, and the ones about safety at home and on the road. Anna really enjoyed them, and read them many times on her own. They are talking about serious matters, but stay positive overall. It’s not that we really needed to reinforce safety rules with her. We call Anna jokingly our “safety girl”, because she is always so concerned about being safe. Of course, her safety concerns didn’t prevent her the other day from stacking two chairs on top of each other trying to reach a high shelf in her room. It didn’t go over well and resulted in a couple of new bruises. This incident really reminded me that despite all her maturity and knowing the rules, following the rules can suddenly slip when she is tired, excited or very determined to reach her goal (three of those together is really dangerous). And that’s why we still supervise her quite a bit and will continue to do so for years to come.

At the same time, I do think that older children are supervised a bit too much here in US. Both my husband and I grew up in big cities of Europe with well developed public transportation system. We both visited friends in the neighborhood, traveled to school, shopped in local stores before we were 10. Both my parents were working, and I would come home from school and be on my own for a few hours every day. We definitely want Anna to experience this kind of independence too. I cringed when my best friend (who by the way had exactly same childhood as I did) wouldn’t let her 13 year old daughter to walk 10 minutes to the library in her upscale town of Northern New Jersey. Her explanation was, What if something happens – I would never been able to forgive myself. I hope that Anna’s life will not be shaped by our parental fears that are fanned by TV and other media. I want her to grow up an independent and responsible child, not someone who goes to college without ever making a step on her own before.

What is your take on encouraging independence and letting your children go “free range”. Are you having “don’t talk to strangers” talks to your kids? By the way, we believe that talking to strangers is completely fine, but following strangers’ direction and going somewhere with them is not OK.

13 comments:

Joyful Learner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joyful Learner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ticia said...

Hmmm........ I'm with you on parents being too protective, but I'm still trying to figure out what the balance is. I'm trying to decide if I'd let my 13 year old child go to the library on their own via bike. Ultimately I think it'd come down to the child's maturity level, and what type of area the'd be traveling through. My Mom used to let me at the same age ride up to our local comic store. But it was all neighborhood roads with sidewalks or low speed limits. We also had to take change with us so we could call when we got there and when we were leaving.
So, I'll probably try to take a tack similar to what my Mom took, freedom with guidance.

Debbie said...

Both my husband and I were raised in a time when yes, we were allowed at a young age to do all that you and your husband did. While I agree children are over supervised in many cases, I feel more supervision is needed to a certain point considering all the new dangers in our world. There has been a shift in society from when we were growing up.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

It is frightening to send children out on their own, but they have to learn sometime. I don't think any of us wants to end up with a twenty year old, who can't cross the street alone :)

MaryAnne said...

I like your approach to talking to strangers. No idea when we'll let our kids out by themselves, it will mainly depend where we are living at the time. Our neighborhood is pretty safe, and I find there is more of a problem with under-supervision than over-supervision where we live...

Autumn said...

I'm one of those kids whose mother wouldn't let her walk 10 minutes down the street to the library, but I would do it anyway when she wasn't home to stop me. In fact, when I was in college, I would take the train from New Haven to Washington DC to visit my boyfriend that my mother didn't know I had (and my mother would have been extremely angry if she had known that I so much as took a bus across town). So I guess I was an rogue free-range kid, LOL.

The idea of my children doing things like this behind my back scares me more than if they did them with my full knowledge and even encouragement. Mark and I are trying very hard to be as hands-off as possible, even at this age. We allow Tommy to ride his bike all around the perimeter of a large playground as long as he is in our field-of-vision. Sometimes he is so far away that he wouldn't be able to hear us unless we shouted at the top of our lungs, but at a playground, especially in our town, there's not much that can happen to him. I wouldn't let him out of my sight or even a few steps pace at a very crowed place, though.

Christy said...

I am certainly not a "free range" mom. My oldest is almost 13 and he can go out in the neighborhood alone, but that is about it. We live in a great neighborhood in a safe town, and yet there were two attempted abductions of 12 yr old boys in the last year. I try not to hover over my children, I try to give them some freedom, but there are a lot of crazy people out there and I'm not taking any chances.

Valerie @ Frugal Family Fun Blog said...

Our town has a Safety Town program every summer for kids 4-5 years old. Emily went last year and had a great time! It was a good way to introduce the kids to fire safety, dealing with strangers, how and when to call 911, how to cross the street, and much more.

Also, stopping by to wish you a happy mother's day!

真坤 said...

very popular to u! ........................................

Henna-Maria said...

My children are still young (all under 6). I grew up in a very safe country in Europe (Finland), and always walked/biked to school by myself. Now we live in Central Asia, and I let my kids go buy bread at the end of our street or to the shop around the corner (alone or with friends). Our neighborhood is so small and we all know each other, so I don't worry too much.
I am not sure what I would do if we lived in US, or in a bigger city.

Joyful Learner said...

It's hard to tell which way I would go but if I had to choose, I would rather be safe than sorry. I grew up free range at a young age and have seen too much to know better. I don't need the news to show me what could happen. My husband on the other hand grew up having been driven everywhere until he was old enough to drive and he turned out perfectly fine. Same thing with bullying. I got bullied and I stood up to the girls. My sister on the other hand was never bullied. Some people think you need to face these hard things to build character but there are better ways of learning the same thing. I don't wish it on anyone, especially my own daughter. I wish for her a happy, carefree childhood where she feels safe and secure.

Pathfinder Mom said...

We're definitely more on the safe side at this point. Our child would seriously walk off with anyone and was hugging any stranger. We really needed to do something to help him be able to identify who he can have physical contact with. He's also still a runner and bad with physical boundaries - doing things like running in parking lots. I'm forced to hover until he can use better judgement. We'll re-evaluate when he's a bit older how much free reign he will have.