I remember dreading going to the grocery store with my Mom as a kid. She would fill the cart to the brim, and it took forever! Finally as my sister and I got a little older, she would let us go play in the toy aisle while she completed her shopping. (I realize now that she probably just needed a breather from our whining!)
Now that I’m a parent myself, I struggle to determine how far to let my children roam without me. Using the grocery store as an example, can I let them go to the toy section alone while I am in another section? What if they’re abducted!??
There have been many articles circulating lately about helicopter parenting, and raising children in today’s world without fear. Quite a lot has changed in the 30 years since I was a young kid. Recently, Daily Momtivity published an article by The Art of Better entitled 10 Ways to Lose the Fear and Let Your Kid Be a Kid. Here’s a tidbit that really spoke to me:
“As parents, it is all too easy to internalize these terrible things that could happen and then when your kid asks to go play outside, you tackle her and lock her in her room where it’s safe. Unless you want to turn your child into a totally neurotic mess of an adult, you can’t do that!”
I don’t want my kids to miss out on experiences I had as a kid… Riding my bike around the neighborhood, exploring the creek, walking to the snow cone stand in the summer… The independence I had as a kid filled me with self-confidence rather than fear. Unfortunately, as I stated earlier, times have changed. There are more dangers than ever before, and perhaps we do need to parent differently than our parents did.
But let’s be sure we don’t adopt more fear and worry more than necessary! In an article published by the Kid Safety Network about Preventing Child Abduction, the author admits that her biggest fear as a parent is her child being taken.
“…but it is important to remember that the chances of such an occurrence are quite slim and most kids actually do pass through childhood safely.”
She goes on to outline several ways we can educate our children about the dangers around them, without filling their hearts with fear.
I don’t want to hold my kids hostage indoors, or never let them out of my sight. I have to pray over them every day, and give them a little bit of independence, thinking ahead to the kind of teenager and adult that I want them to become.
I am proud to say that I finally took a baby step in this area and let my kids go to the toy aisle at Super Target all by themselves! I told them to go straight there, stay there, and “I’ll meet you in a few minutes.” I gave them about 10 minutes by themselves, and then casually strolled by to check on them before completing my shopping.
Another day, I let my almost 8-year-old take an item back to another aisle for me, by herself (on the other side of the store). I know, I know….this is small potatoes. But for me, it was a big step to let my baby go by herself! And you know what? I could see a look of pride on her face. She felt really good about herself having gone alone, and that made me happy. It also reinforced the need to give my kids’ a little more independence where I can, so they can gain skills and self-confidence they’re going to need down the road.
Every child is different, and will be ready for a little independence at varying ages. I encourage you to assess your child’s readiness to follow the rules, play it safe and go it alone sometime. Maybe they get to ride their bike down the street to a friend’s house and call you when they get there. Maybe they get to walk halfway to school with a friend one morning. Or maybe, if they’re still little like mine, they simply get to play in the toy aisle while I grocery shop! If we give them the tools to operate independently (stay with your sibling, don’t go with anyone unless you ask Mommy, etc.), they will be equipped to roam a little.