I’m really excited to share this exclusive post from Lenore Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids:Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry. I am intrigued by the free-range idea, mostly because that’s pretty much how I grew up. I’m far from a helicopter mom, but I do have a few fears and worries that are probably a bit over-the-top.
I’ll let Lenore do the rest of the speaking. Everything below is all Lenore. I’m not sure I agree with every tip (I still need my Boo Boo Bear!), but I think she has a lot of great advice in here!
Ten Tips to Help Turn Scared Parents into Confident Ones
By Lenore Skenazy
We all worry about our kids. On my new reality show, World’s Worst Mom (Thursday nights at 9/8 central on Discovery Life), I deal with parents who are ultra-worried. For instance, one accompanies her 10-year-old daughter into the ladies’ room — and then into the stall!
Another wants to hire a man with a van to pick up her kids and terrify them into thinking they’ve been kidnapped — just to remind them they are NEVER safe.
A third is begging her husband to install cameras inside the house so she can make sure the kids, age 13 and down, do not sneak outside to play.
Over the course of five days I’m like the Supernanny…for adults. I nudge (or sometimes force) the moms — 13 episodes’ worth — to let their kids do some things on their own: Walk to the store. Play in the woods. Go solo to the bathroom at the mall!
And by the end of each show, most of the moms have changed COMPLETELY. Now they’re proud their kids are independent. Some hugged me when I left. Some plied me with me gifts. One once-terrified mom me that now she felt like she had TWO birthdays: Her real one and the last day of my visit.
But one mom…well. You can’t win ’em all. She still won’t let her children — aged 8 and 9 — play on the front lawn of their quiet suburban home.
So: What exercises can turn very scared parents into confident ones?
None of these are foolproof (clearly! ) but I’ve seen these help:
1 – Let your kid run an errand for you. Maybe not when she’s 3 or 4 (although they do this in Japan). But when she’s 5, she can go an aisle over and get you an orange. When she’s 6 she can make her lunch or start simple cooking. The exact ages don’t matter. What matters is your kids seeing that you don’t just help THEM, THEY can help YOU.
2 – Teach your child how to use a knife. That was my very first task with my very first kid on the show. After I showed him how to curl his fingers under so they wouldn’t get sliced, he was off! Not his finger. HIM — he cut up ingredients for a sandwich. The next day he made a salad. Never looked back.
3 – When you’re wondering what to get at one of the baby stores, walk around it with your oldest living relative. See which things SHE thinks make sense. (And watch how she reacts to things like specially designed tissues for baby boogers.)
4 – Offer to watch all the kids who are waiting with their parents for soccer (or lacrosse, or school) to begin. If no parents budge, flip it and say, “Well, then I’m going to leave my kid here. I trust all of you!” Go get yourself a Starbucks.
5 – Try a day without your “must haves.” Sallying forth with your child but without Band-Aids, juice boxes, snacks, board books and Purell is a good way to remember how little kids really need. Trust me: Our kids are built to survive a lot more than a scrape with no Boo Boo Bear in sight.
6 – Conjure up one of your favorite childhood memories — something you just LOVED doing. Was your mom right there next to you? Please. Give that same joy to your own child.
7 – Google “Crime Stats.” You may be surprised to learn that crime is back to the level of 1963. So if you were born any year after that, your kids TODAY are living in safer times than you were.
8 – Leave your cell phone at home. Make yourself unreachable for a least a little while for a day, so if your kids were planning to call and ask for your help, advice or permission, they have to make a decision for themselves. The way you used to do. They need some practice in this!
9 – Read any classic kiddie book, from Danny and the Dinosaur to Little Women. Look at how normal it was until JUST this generation for kids to do things on their own. (Including riding dinosaurs!)
10 – Practice crossing the street with your kids or other skills they need — asking for directions, learning to read a map. Once you see they can do these, you don’t have to worry that they can’t! Your confidence and theirs grow together!
Good article. As parents, it’s our job to protect our kids but at the same time they need to learn some independence. The point about thinking of my old childhood was true. My parents didn’t hover over us and we did a lot on our own. I think it helps teach responsibility.