Monday, August 18, 2008

Let Kids Be Kids

Where have all the children gone
This was an extraordinary post, and expressed many of my own feelings about parenting. It is a difficult conundrum: trying to protect our dear ones, but seeing them want to be independent, and knowing that they need to grow up.
I believe in being very attached with infants--breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping, and responding to them whenever they cry. Experience and observation (of my own children and others) suggests that while these attached children may seem 'clingy' for a year or two, they end up being more confident and adventurous than less-attached children, because they know that mom/dad is there if needed, and they never worry about being left or alone, so they feel free to explore without fear.

Look out, I am about to wax philosophical!

At the same time, we need to allow our children to grow up--at their pace, not ours. Climbing and exploring and doing things that are 'too hard' are natural parts of expanding their horizons, and if children are never allowed to try things, they will never learn to accomplish them. I have found that most children are far more capable than their local adults want to believe. While I do not push a child to sleep in their own bed or stay with strangers before they want to, I also do not hold them back when they are ready. I am reminded of a college roommate who couldn't handle the responsibilities of independent living. For example, she liked to eat chicken but refused to touch it raw (to trim/prepare it)--she expected me to do that for her. She was clueless about the value of money, having never held a job in her life; she went out late on weeknights and neglected her homework, then skipped classes (damaging her grades) because she slept through them or was not prepared. She had no job and lots of free time, yet never seemed to be able to get to homework, or the minimal household chores that she had signed up for. She had been babied and watched over every second of her life by protective and concerned parents, and had essentially never moved beyond toddlerhood. Living with me was a rude awakening for her: first she complained that I was treating her like a child (I pointed out that she was acting like one and that I had merely fallen into the natural mothering role she was pushing me into). Later (meaning years later) she thanked me for helping her grow up. I don't know that I did it in the best way, but I'm glad that someone did. Better to grow up at 20 than not at all...but better still to grow up long before then.


Becky said...

Have you ever read (or seen the PBS show) called "Raising Cain?" They made a point that I really liked - if kids are having a conflict, let them work it out themselves. Obviously I'm not going to let my kid seriously hurt another child, but I get frustrated with parents who immediately jump in at the first sign of trouble. Part of being a kid is learning how to deal with others, right? What do you think?

Brightonwoman said...

No, I have not seen (or heard of) that show. However, yes, I agree with the sentiment. I'm not going to get all up on my soap box again (there will be future posts for sure, lol!) but in short I think that parents need to let kids deal with things on their own as much as possible. Model/explain/help a toddler, but by 3-4ish encourage kids to figure it out themselves. Kids often come up with really interesting solutions--things adults would never think of nor consider fair. But hey, 'fair' is in the eye of the beholder, and if the kids are satisfied, then so am I!
Obviously I will step in if someone or something is in immediate physical danger, just as I would snatch a child from falling off the dock or into a fire...but will I let them stand near the fire and feel the heat? Sure. Because that's how they learn. Will I let them dip their fingers in to see how cold the water is? I'll hold their hand, but you betcha.

Mae said...

Well, luckily I was not this roommate. But I did learn these nuggets of wisdom from Jenni.

1) Sobe bottles make awsome rolling pins for even more awsome pie crusts and "tasty goodies" (Thanks for that name, Cabe!)

2) Always keep a second roll of toilet paper near by. When you run out of paper, use the spare, and then immediately replace the spare. I have never been stranded again because of this sage example.


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