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Monday, February 17, 2014

Taking a Risk as a Parent

Photo credit: WallpapersWide.com

Do you like to make sure your kids are safe? Do you help them learn to look both ways when crossing a street, don't talk to strangers, and tell them to 'be careful'? If so, I'd guess you're among the overwhelming majority of parents. It's our job to protect our kids and keep them safe...isn't it? I've been wondering lately if--as a society--we have gone too far. 

I've been reading lots and lots of articles about failure to launch. I've been looking into it from an autism perspective to try to help my son be able to leave our little nest. (I love all my kids, but I also look forward to a day when Sean & I have an empty nest...except on special occasions.) There are a lot of stories about kids with autism who can never leave home. Nathan is capable of learning to live on his own and it's a goal we have for him in his life. He should be able to have a job, have a apartment or home, and live a full and fulfilling life.

In the midst of all these articles, I'm reading over and over again that we, the parents, are creating the problem ourselves by insulating our children too much. It is being determined that "Failure to Launch" comes from an overwhelming fear of failure. Remember when we were kids? I grew up knowing the rule was, "Come home when the streetlights come on." None of the moms in our neighborhood ever really knew where their kids were...unless the pack was currently hanging at her home. When you wanted to find your kids, you yelled up and down the street until they came running. There were boundaries, of course. We knew how many houses we were allowed to be at. Don't deviate from those 6-8 homes without telling the folks. But now, we are giving our kids cell phones in grade school. We don't let them outside without supervision. They can't cross the street without us. Parents are taking away all the risks that kids used to take. And if you don't take risks in the little things (like crossing a street), you'll never learn the protocol for taking a risk. If you don't know how to take a risk, you won't. You'll live in dad and mom's basement forever. Because if you got an apartment and can't pay the rent, you would be evicted--and that's too scary. 



I'm beginning to feel like we do nothing but wrap up our kids in bubble wrap. We don't let them make a mud pie - too messy and too germy. We don't let them drink from a hose--the horror! They have never heard the phrase 'come in when the streetlights come on'. 

And today, my daughter yells in to ask if she and her friend can play in the back yard...umm...sure! Isn't that why Dad & Grandpa put in a giant playplace? So I go look out and realize it's covered in snow. And--get this--precious Rebekah didn't listen when she went out to play and I said, "Put a coat on." So here is my daughter and her friend, both without coats, playing on the play area covered in snow. (Now, it is almost 50 today, and after the nothing but below freezing and below 0 temps, it feels like a flip flops kind of day.)


As I took these photos, I'm thinking...who in the neighborhood is a bad parent for letting her kid play in snow without a coat? I almost had guilt...and then laughed. I'm letting her take a risk. I've already calculated the odds and she won't die. She may be cold, she may get wet from snow, but she will live to play another day. And she will learn that playing in snow makes you take the risk of getting wet and cold...but you will live. I guess I'm not so bad of a mom after all. 

Have you let your children take risks?    


46 comments:

Divapalooza said...

I am so happy to see this post. What you wrote is RIGHT ON!

I am a BIG fan of the Love & Logic parenting. Love & Logic says that if kids are not permitted to experiences the natural consequences of their own decision-making while the stakes are small (they call these learning opportunities) then they will not know how to think for themselves or to problem-solve when they are adults. Once they are adults the consequences of their decisions or lack thereof are a bit more serious and permanent in nature.

My biggest pet peeve with younger first-time moms is their incredible need to “rescue” and “control” and “problem-solve” for their children in EVERYTHING they do. The result—a child that grows up who doesn’t know how to think for themselves who doesn’t have the confidence to make even the smallest decisions regarding their life without talking to mom first.

Love & Logic covers all the parenting styles from “Helicopter” parenting to “Drill Sergeant” parenting and it’s really telling the negative affect these parenting styles have on kids later on down the road.

When my kids come to me with something that happened at school I listen intently and then I ask them what they did about it. Sometimes I will also ask them what they think they could have done about it or how did that situation make them feel. I validate their feelings but not as right or wrong. We then discuss scenarios that make them THINK about what their options are. I don’t spoon feed it to them, they come to me with their ideas and I may suggest something if they ask me how I would have handled it.

When my youngest goes outside without her coat I let her be. To an outsider it would seem as if I don’t care that she is outside without her coat. That’s not the case at all. I allow her to be outside without her coat so she can experience for herself what it feels like not to have her coat. She then can decide for herself if she needs her coat. These are affordable learning opportunities. If I tell her to put her coat on every time she goes outside then she will never experience on her own what it is like in that situation.

About a month ago the school called to tell me that my youngest had left her sack lunch in the van. She wanted me to drive and bring her that sack lunch. The consequence of forgetting it would have her eat the school lunch. It’s completely affordable to let her experience what it’s like to forget something. The consequence of that will not kill her. She winds up eating the lunch she doesn’t like. She’s not going to shrivel up and die if I don’t “rescue” her, in the meantime she is benefiting from that learning opportunity.

I could go on and on about this—especially from an educator’s perspective. Parents who are not on board with other educators, teachers, or moms because of their insatiable need to control every aspect of their child’s life—and what will the result of that be? We have a child who grows up unable to develop their own healthy relationships and habits without mom having something to say about it. We also have young adults who don’t possess a healthy sense of self—or the ability to make decisions or problem-solve.

What a great post! I commend you for bringing this topic up!!

bxcrochet said...

As a first time mom I know I need to let go a little bit and let her have her experiences but it is just so hard. My mom and sister laugh at me all the time.

Michelle F.

Cole Nemeth said...

I consider myself to be a very laid back mom. I remember that rule, too "come home when the street lights come one." One of my friend's parent's even had a whistle they would blow when it was time to come in.

My boyfriend was raised the opposite of me. He wasn't even allowed to leave his family's property until he was 16! I couldn't even imagine.

He agrees that his parent's rules may have been too strict but we still get into arguments sometimes about what we are willing to allow our daughter to do or not to do. For example, I have no problem letting her play out front if I am indoors because she knows not to go on the street, and stays between our driveway and the neighbours. But my husband doesn't think it's safe, even if I'm watching from inside.

I guess when you hear about different things in the news like children getting hit by cars, or kidnapped, it makes you rethink your rules, but we live in a neighbourhood full of kind people who are always enjoying their front porches and I feel we look out for one another.

Great post!

Gluten Free for Jen said...

I love this post! It is so true we are massively protective of our kids. When we lived in the city I never let them out front on their own. But now we are in the country and they just run a muck!

Becka M said...

About a year ago I gave my children the freedom to come in and go out as they please although they do have to stay in the yard because we just moved here and I still don't know any of the other neighbors yet.

I understand I have made mistakes in their early years. My son doesn't know how to locate his own clothes at 7, I have made super huge helicopter mom mistakes and we are currently working to fix them.

I have always given them minor choices and encouraged them to help out around the house but I have over done for them. I have taken from them learning opportunities by rescuing them from embarrassing choices or mistakes they have made. Now at 7 and 8 we are still relearning life. They have their responsibilities, their rooms are theirs to clean not mine and the consequences of a messy room are their own. They have to do their school work and homework before play or they deal with the consequences of not having it completed, it only took once and I don't even have to mention homework. They come in and sit down at the table and do what needs to be done. They have to keep up with their important books and papers.

This helicopter mom landed about a year ago and the kids are still kicking. Consequences that are healthy learning experiences will not kill them but benefit them in the long run. I think it was easier to be a helicopter mom than to decide which situations are going to be beneficial and which ones are harmful, or it could be the helicopter mom in me still screaming out trying to protect them from everything while they experience nothing.

Also both my oldest children were outside in short sleeves building snowmen last week because it was 60 degrees and still snow on the ground and they are alive and well. :)

Now if my son could just dress himself I would be over the moon with pride. :)

Tina said...

Robyn, As a mom of 2 boys (7&9) who grow up in the 70's (come in when the street lights come on) era, I believe there needs to be a balance. Today is not like how it was 30+years ago. I don't believe we should keep them in a bubble but keep them safe at the same time. Balance is key - thanks for a great post - Essential Oil Lover - Tina

Bren said...

Great discussion, Robyn. I struggle with the too much freedom/not enough freedom issue everyday. I hope I am finding the right balance. We move a lot (military family) so I feel that it is harder than if we lived in the same neighborhood our entire life.

Clint Butler said...

As NCO in the Army I had the priveldge of leading a lot of Soldier, six times in combat. I can tell you that today you can clearly see the effects of overprotective and overbearing parents. Those young adults who come into the Army who have never once had to take care of themselves. I lost count on how many I had to teach how to do their laundry, clean their rooms, take a shower. And on the other extreme you get the kids who had no boundries at all. Then when they come in they can't handle a regimine. These are the one's who complain to mom and dad about how mean the Army is to them and as a result of negative publicity, the Army lowers its standards. Here is a tip from someone who had to raise my other people's kids. Teach them to problem solve, teach them to ask questions, and teach them personal responsibility, and teach them that hard work is something that is rewarded, because the real world won't give you anything you haven't earned.

Kelley @ Never a Dull Day in Poland said...

Isn't that a perk of being a kid, being about to take risks? When I think of my favorite childhood memories is when my parents let me take risks whether they are positive or negative!

A Day in Candiland said...

I think we all know what this is like, being afraid to lose our kids or what will others think of us. I think your post brings up a great question and you will get some great responses. An opinion post, the type most people are afraid to write because what if they get negative comments. I can relate to this because I have a son, who I never thought would leave and now I had to ask him too for our sanity and it hurts, but I hope he is gaining something from this.

Jen S. said...

oh my goodness..I am such a lurker when it comes to my kids. I am a hoovering mom. I also think though I give them independence. I wish I could be more of a risk taker and be more laxed. Hopefully I can find a balance.

Julie Corbisiero said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by my blog and compliment me on the knit scarf I made. I do hope that you can find someplace to take a knit class. Sometimes they have them at the local library and you can watch YouTube videos if you buy yarn and knitting needles. I do hope you try and learn, it's so nice to make something.
Julie at Julie's Lifestyle

Glenda said...

For me my son is 6 and taking a risk drives me up the wall as I lost my daughter to her doing something I would not normally be allowed to do and that was crossing a street and so I am not sure I will be letting him take risk but I admire the parents who do let kids take risk.

Anna said...

My son is only 16 months, but is very mobile. I feel like I am already leaning towards this way of thinking because I don't always rush to him when he falls down. I make sure he is okay and he may cry some. BUT we move on and everyone is okay.

Thought-provoking post!

Jessi said...

I love love love this post! Letting your children make choices and take appropriate risks is what parenting SHOULD be all about!

It looks like the girls had a lot of fun playing outside. Did they ever come in and get coats?

Robyn-coolestmommy R said...

Jessi--No, they never did come in for coats. They had a blast coat-free...and it really wasn't very cold. They hardly got wet in the snow (surprisingly) so she didn't even have to change clothes.

Michelle Williams said...

I must admit that being a first time mom I have a hard time "letting go" from time to time. But then again, my guy is only a toddler haha. I do think a lot of things have changed over the years, and therefore do agree with some of the changes that have been made in that time as well. But I do also feel that like you said our kids need to take risks too. Great post, I really enjoyed reading it :). And hey, I'd go outside with no coat on in 50 degree weather right about now too! haha

Thanks so much for linking up with us at the MaMade Blog Hop! Don't forget to stop back next week to link up again and see if you've been featured! :) Have a great week!

Tatyana Gray said...

What a great post! My first baby is still little (only 9 months), so there aren't that many risks in his life yet that he's able to take. Letting him crawl around is probably the biggest dangerous activity he's into right now. But I totally agree that we need to find a balance between protecting our kids and letting them take risk and learn from their own mistakes.

Sarah Thompson said...

I admit to being pretty overprotective, but my LO isn't quite 3 yet. The biggest risk we've taken was yesterday when she didn't want a pullup or a jacket. DH wasn't thrilled, but I tossed a pullup and change of clothes in my purse and took her jacket with us. She was fine.

As for letting her out of my sight, well, we just had a ten year old girl kidnapped in broad daylight near her home and found dead the next morning. I don't think I'm letting munchkin out of my sight until she's 30. Kidding (sort of), but I do plan on enrolling her in a martial arts class as soon as she's old enough and I find one I like.

Crisi @ Reserved and Waiting said...

As with all things in life you have to have a balance. I have and can be an overprotective mom in some areas of my son's life. There are some situations that taking a risk is not an option. Then there are those other opportunities that risk taking is better for the child.

Marissa from Mommy Knows What's Best said...

I was just thinking about this today when I saw parents on the news trying to justify what crime their teenage son committed. We can't always swoop in and rescue our babies, teaching them that Mommy and Daddy will always be there to bail them out, because, let's face it: parents can't always be there. Mistakes teach us about life, and if kids don't learn from their mistakes, they don't learn about living.

On the other hand, with my little kids, I am protective of them, but not in the sense that I am not allowing them to make mistakes. I trust they can learn to make the right decisions; what I don't trust is other people to make the right decisions. I can't let them cross the road on their own yet because of distracted drivers. I can't let them alone in my own backyard because of strangers who trespass on the property next to our home. There are so many instances where I want to let them learn and be on their own, but I just can't with everything, not until their judgement about other people's actions and reactions is more developed.

Our Provident Home said...

Consequences are incredibly important to teach to kids. I always give my kids options and they learn to choose for themselves.

Teaching kids to work hard is also incredibly important.

Interesting thoughts.

Neva Fels said...

This is so true of all parents. My first child was over-protected and then as each child came along, I let go a little bit more.
If there were more parents like you, there would be all the issues of bullying, etc. today.

JanetGoingCrazy said...

I work in the Child Protection field and I have to admit that I don't let my boy take too many risks when it comes to crossing our busy street or going outside alone. He can go in the backyard with the dogs and fence, but not the front unless I'm out there. I guess I see too much in my line of work. I did; however, let him crawl on his belly in the mud before he walked because, well, he's a boy and they're supposed to be dirty!

Selena Brown said...

I don't have children, but if I did, I would probably be very protective of them. I would want them to learn from observation rather that partake in any risk that could cause bodily harm or possible long-term consequences.

I learned a lot about right from wrong and what risks could do to people, from my relatives and cousins. I had a father who was more overprotective than my mom. However, it wasn't until I was ready to leave my parents and join the Army, did I learn what it really meant to take risks and be allowed by my parents to take this militant risk.

As a child, there are but SO many things that can be allowed, as far as risk, but things like playing in the snow without a coat is just another day of fun to a kid and sometimes to the parents too.

C. Lee Reed said...

As a helicopter parent, I have a love/hate relationship with allowing my child to take risks; or more specifically unnecessary risks. We allow her to "broaden her horizons" after ensuring they are appropriate. We have taught her how to be safe, smart and most importantly, independent.
I think it's a common misconception that helicopter parents hamper their kids ability to "launch". We don't always. What we wish is that they DON'T launch...not that they CANT.
We realize she will leave us soon and that means we've done our job. I just wish we could have another 18 years!

Lisa Barton said...

It's so difficult isn't it! All we can do is the best we can. We'll get it right and get it wrong either way all our kids will find their way in world and learn from their peers and own experiences. I was a early 70's child and can remember being given all the freedom i wanted - now i think thats because my parents didnt care! Until children can learn about consequences then i feel its my job to guide, advise, protect and say no if necessary, after that they can start taking responsibility for things themselves and we can discuss together the big stuff that requires mutual consent.

Rosanne said...

I don't have any children yet, but I have to say that I have been around enough parents recently to know that this helicopter parenting thing is out of control. It is almost embarrassing to watch it happen. In preparation for when our baby makes his or her appearance, I have read some books that talk about how parenting is done in France (generally,) which is basically the way it seems to have been done in the 70s and early 80s when I was growing up. It's hilarious how the pendulum swings back and forth. It makes sense to allow your child to take some reasonable risks and LIVE!! If you don't it seems like they won't have the common sense they need when they grow up! Great discussion!

Lindsay Swoboda said...

I am not a mother yet, but I admired this post. As a teacher (and of littles, 3-4) I am constantly deciding throughout their day and classes what risks can happen in our controlled environment. And sometimes we fall or say "oops", sometimes it doesn't go as planned. But they always learn, and try again. If my parents didn't allow me all of my risks, I certainly would not have flown off to Italy on my own, pursued a dance career, or moved on with my military spouse to Korea! Life is about taking risks, and learning from the good and the bad! GREAT post;)

Arianne Bellizaire said...

Such a tough topic to tackle! Parenting is a true challenge and there are so many varying opinions on what's right and what's wrong. Thanks so much for sharing your insight, Robyn! ~Arianne

Melissa Coleman said...

I definitely let my child take risks. I don't like to because i'm a worry wort mom but I do because how can you learn right from wrong without taking risk every now and then.

Carli Walker said...

Love this! I let my child takes risks every day! Sometimes I feel the need to manage his every move, but then I stop myself and remember that he will never learn unless he does it himself! I am that mom at the park who lets my kid play all by himself. A) he wants to since he plays with me all day long anyways and B) he is there to play with kids and learn to interact socially! I get funny looks a lot but I will not ever be that mom!

Jelli B. said...

I grew up with a similar rule about playing outside. My parents generally had an idea of 1 or 2 houses I'd be at if not in front of the house playing kickball in an empty lot. These days, I don't think I'd let my kids run so free, but the idea of it is wonderful. I do agree with you about over protecting our kids. Here in Costa Rica moms cringe and grab for my baby's naked feet whenever we take him out without socks. They say that walking barefoot will make you sick, just like getting rained on. It's pretty crazy. I can only giggle imagining what most moms and grannies would say if they saw my kids playing in the snow without coats. Haha! Love it.

Marissa D said...

This is a great post! I feel the same way, granted my kids are quite a bit younger and still need stronger boundaries because of their age. But I hope to the parent that allows them to try things on their own as their age allows.

I hope you don't mind but I'm sharing this on Salt & Light because I really appreciated this post as a mom who feels like society needs parents who are willing to stand near their children and watch, but not hold on so tightly they can fall once in a while when they try.

If you want to check it out (Salt & Light) here's the link. http://raysofgraceandjoy.blogspot.com/2014/02/salt-light-8.html

Thanks again!

Marissa

Vivian Peppers said...

My niece is autistic and as she grows older, the more challenging it is especially since she does not speak.

Anna Mujica said...

I do think a lot of parents nowadays are a little too overbearing , not letting kids actually have fun doing things we used to take for granted as kids, and many could probably loosen up a bit but at the same time, I think the times are much different now than they were 15-20 years ago and that's hugely affecting how we raise our own kids today. We live in my hometown where I grew up and when I was a kid/teen it was no big deal to cross the main street and now it has become one of the deadliest roads in the northeast, in fact a girl coming home from high school just got struck in a hit and run about 2 weeks ago! I can teach my kids to fend for themselves as much as possible but it's the others out there I'm worried about!

Teri said...

Ah - such a great post. My husband and I have talked at length about the streetlight thing and why we just don't do that anymore. I guess it's because we know (we think) that most of the neighbors don't watch out for each others kids either. I think there is less of a sense of community.

We try to let them go with some boundaries, but I just can't help but feel sick over the thought of "what if one of those registered sex offenders that lives in our neighborhood does something in the 30 minutes that we let them play in the park?" It's a tough job - we do the best we can and hope to raise responsible and respectful human beings. Hopefully they're protected - but not sheltered.

Alison @ Horseshoes & Hand Grenades said...

I wrote a post talking about this issues on my blog "Are We Too Hands On As Parents". I asked many of the same questions and being guilty of being too overprotective I think in a lot of cases. Not sure if there is a right or wrong answer, but I do know that parenting is different now than it was when I was small.

survivingtoddlerhood.com said...

How do I let my children take risks? Well, right now, they aren't taking to many just because of their ages. We have been teaching the baby how to get off the couch by himself. The three year old gets to play outside by himself in the summer, he actually was doing that at two and a half. I'm sure as he gets older there will be more risks like climbing trees, walking through the woods by himself, etc. It is all a part of growing up and maturing. Responsibility is one of the biggest things that I think kids these days need to learn. If you daughter got sick from playing outside then she will know that she took a risk and she is responsible for the outcome.

Tammy said...

Such a great post. My son is grown and gone but can use this advice with the grandkids.

Jennifer @Making Our Life Matter said...

I am trying very hard to let go a little and let them make their own decisions. I try to be involved because my parents never were. I don't want for them to look back and say "Mom wasn't there for me".

Gave me a lot to think about!

Holly Higgins said...

My kids and 1 and 3 so I let them take risks appropriate for their age, such as letting my son pick his own clothes and put them on without help. Or letting him make his own sandwich, for example. As they get older, I intend to let them do their own thing within reason.

OhMyShihTzu said...

I don't have kids.. but I don't understand why people wouldn't let their kids drink out of a hose? lol You sound like a great mom :)

Heather said...

I find myself letting my 3 1/2 year old take more and more risks as she gets older. I learned to let her make a mistake (as long as its not harming her physically) and she learns from those mistakes. You have to let them take some risks and learn for themselves. It's part of growing up!

Samantha Cummings said...

I really like this post and I think you're 100% correct! I am really trying to let my children take more risks and do things on their own. I know they have to do it in order to be independent. It's hard, though! haha.

Mom on the Run said...

I get less crazed with each child. My youngest who I have let up with the most is probably my most scaredy cat of them all. Makes me laugh sometimes. I think it is important to make some decisions for themselves. It builds independence. I let mine go out without jackets last weekend. Felt good on their skin!

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