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Michelle Turnberg, Published March 09 2012

Turnberg: Let kids be resourceful

Last weekend I was with my kids and friends at a hotel. My kids wanted something they had left in the car and asked if they could go get it. I gave them the keys and sent them on their way. One girlfriend about fell over, incredulous that I would allow that. I simply said: “They have to learn to do for themselves.”

I’m not quite sure when it happened, but if you watch and compare, it seems parenting styles have drastically changed. Right or wrong, many of us seem to be more limiting of our children’s freedom.

When I was young, it felt different. Like me, you more than likely can remember being in the car without a car seat, or laying in the back window, or climbing in the back of the pickup while the parents were in the cab.

You can remember playing night games and coming home on a bike without a helmet when the street lights came on.

You can remember eating homemade, non-organic treats at school and learning how to drive on a country road. You had a swing set that jumped when you got too high. You remember biking to the pool with your friends and swimming all day without your parents watching.

Our parents let us explore, skin our knees and actually do things. We were given time to go out and play.

So when did we go so far in the other direction? Has our society become so frightening that we can no longer give our kids the freedom we had without going crazy with worry?

We all grew up walking alone to school, riding the bus, trick-or-treating and selling Girl Scout cookies door to door. Must we forbid our kids to do the same?

As a parent I try to carefully weigh each situation and pray that I don’t mess up. I trust that I’m doing most things right and that my kids will grow up to be good, thoughtful and caring people. It’s a scary and daunting task to be in charge of another human being.

We know sometimes there is good and bad luck and fate and situations beyond our ability to change. The way kids learn to be resourceful is by having to use their own resources. If we don’t give them their independence we’re stifling their ability to grow and think on their own.

I believe there are times when less is more; when hovering is dangerous; when failure is fruitful. It seems to me if we really want our children to succeed, we sometimes need to learn when to leave them alone. If we can figure out the appropriate times to lighten up, I trust they’ll learn to fly higher.

Michelle Turnberg writes a weekly column for SheSays.