Monday, 13 December 2010

Parenting in risk averse times

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I have been thinking a lot about the Free Range Kid movement since Lenore Skenazy spruiked about it on her Australia tour earlier this year. While I am not really supportive of the name (way too 21st Century for me I think), I am definitely supportive of the concept. We have become over-protective and it can't be doing our children any good.

I agree that as parents we need to put safe risks back into our children's lives. If we don't our children's first exposure to risk will be in their adolescence and they will face these risks without any experience.

In my mind, it is better to expose our kids to risks whilst they are still under our protection and we are able to ensure the risks are 'safer'.

Controlling our children does not teach them to do the 'right' things. It teaches them to obey adults. When you guide children, they develop learned behaviour based on knowledge.

It seems to be about building resilience in children. Letting them solve their own problems. Teaching them to 'have a go'. Letting them learn to deal with disappointment. Giving them time. Encouraging them to practise. Giving them space. Giving them materials. And letting them be.

The five key concepts that come up in the literature about this are:

1. Set limits - these protect their health and safety e.g. We eat at the table (allowing for 'special occasion' variations) or couches are for sitting on, not jumping on.

2. Logical consequences - If they knock over the drink, it is an accident and should be treated as such. Try to use "when" statements e.g. When x is done we will go to the park rather than if x is done we will go to the park.

3. Provide choices - but make sure both of the choices are acceptable e.g. either put on your hat or stay in the shade. Acknowledge their feelings ("I understand that your hat makes your head hot"). Listen and validate their feelings.

4. Use positive communication - Always reinforce positive behaviour. The key ones in our household are:
  • Be gentle to your siblings
  • Stay close to me (instead of Don't run off)
  • Stop at the road
  • Walk around the puddle (instead of Don't walk through the puddle)
  • Walk inside (instead of Don't run)
  • Sit down while you are eating
Rehearse the rules children may forget like what do you have to do when Mum is on the telephone and tell me the shopping rules before we go inside the shops

5. Give acknowledgement instead of over-praising. Say thank you for specific behaviour (instead of 'you are such a good boy') as they may not know why they are good. Young children can get confused about sugary praise.

If you are interested in knowing more about this style of parenting, you can download a free e-book called "No Fear- Growing up in a risk averse society" by Tim Gill or visit the free-range kids website.

So. How free-range are you?


Megan Blandford said...

I agree. I'm a big believer of letting kids take risks, explore and not be hovered over every minute of the day.

Great tips there too.

Gill@OurParklife said...

well, i am completely "free range" in theory! but i have to admit it is hard sometimes to not let fear rule how you "parent"....

Saying that, I do firmly believe in what you are saying....Building resilience is the most important thing for me

I will be checking out that link you suggested, thanks for sharing

Have you read Toxic Childhood Syndrome? (I forget the author's name and I know the title sounds a little scary) but there are some interesting ideas about how to address "fear based parenting"

Would love to know what you think if you have read it?

Gill xo

Cate P said...

Have just written about not being a helicopter parent, have never hovered.
Maybe I have lurked on occasion, but never close enough for the kids to feel my downdraft :)

x0xJ said...

I agree with many of the "free range" concepts. I used to refer to it as a big part of my parenting style until someone i knew said they were a free range parent and talked excitedly about how they let their 2 year old play on the road unsupervised because "they needed to learn for themself to move out of the cars way". Really? At two?
That is when i decided i would not ever refer to a parenting style as something i agreed with because as with everything in life it is up to an individuals interpratation, and i might not agree with how someone interprates it.
But i do agree that our children do need to learn to make their own decsions and how to handle certain situations. At first, with our guidance, and then with practise on their own. I also think that clear boundaries need to be set to ensure safety and that many things need to be kept age appropriate e.g. you don't expect a preschooler to be trusted to remember road safety unsupervised, let alone a toddler.

Christie said...

I have grappled with this subject too and through Lenore's website I became more aware of some of my parenting decisions being based on fear.
You have some great strategies there for staying positive, being flexible and offering choices. Thanks for sharing them.

life in a pink fibro said...

I'm trying. That's all I can say. It's hard. A lot of me just wants to say 'don't' (don't grow up being the subtext) - but I'm learning to let them go a bit and see what happens. So far so good. But I hate the whole 'philosophy/movement' aspect. Why does everything we do have to be a movement these days?

•´.¸¸.•¨¯`♥.Trish.♥´¯¨•.¸¸.´• said...

Very sensible advice ...I try always to frame my requests in the positive.
Sometimes I fail with two doing different things :).
My kids are very free range and I'll check that link too.

Maxabella said...

We're free-rangers - I wrote a post on it a while back which I might Rewind at the Fibro this Sat. I believe that we need to simply give our children more credit and allow them to find their own way where possible. IMMENSE learning curve. Look how far Maxi-Taxi has come!!! x

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