Six Ways Stop Protecting Your Children
It is a parent’s job to keep their children safe, right? To protect them at all costs? Wrong. A parent’s job is complicated. We need to develop people. Protecting them is important, but growing them into responsible citizens, caring individuals, contributors to society is equally important. We all worry about our children. We must also teach them to take risks responsibly, and be there to support them when they fall.
1. Go Barefoot
Let your kid play outside without shoes. It’s a challenge to get kids out the door with shoes anyway. So save yourself the stress. They may step on something, they may acquire a cut or scrape, maybe a stubbed toe. Kids will learn when it makes sense to wear shoes: when the blacktop is too hot for a basketball game or the grass is littered with walnuts so walking or running becomes hazardous or uncomfortable (among other things). Experiencing the outdoors, without shoes, is a sensory experience that heightens a child’s awareness to their surroundings.
My only rule is that shoes are required when riding bikes. Greater damage can be done if a fall occurs without shoes, so it’s a non negotiable. Most of the time if the kids leave the house with a pair of shoes in their hand, I am okay if their feet are bare.
2. Encourage Independence
It’s easy to overestimate how old a child needs to be to do something. Can the child make his own bed? Can he put away his own clothes? Can he set an alarm and get up for school by himself? Kids mature at different ages and at different rates. Be on the lookout for ways that your child can be more independent than he is. Ask your child for help. He will learn that it’s okay to ask for help when he needs it, and that it feels good to be helpful.
3. Overcome Adversity
Your kids don’t need the best shoes, the coolest clothes, or the newest games. They want to be like everyone else because being different is hard. When kids face difficult times and they learn to rise above they will begin to take responsibility for their own feelings and experiences. Sometimes your children will face adversity that is outside of your control. Talk to the child about the experience. Talk to them about their feelings. Don’t miss the opportunity that adversity offers - the opportunity for growth and strength to overcome difficult situations.
4. Work Hard
Are your children stressed about their workload at school, or is the running is too tough at soccer practice? Do they complain that they have too many chores, or work is too difficult? In Amish communities, children are viewed to have economic value. They contribute to the family by plowing fields or making baked goods to sell. Kids who are constantly being carted from one activity to another are an economic burden rather that an asset. Kids are accustomed to parents who work for their children instead of the other way around. Teach your kids ways that they can contribute, and expect that they are capable of age appropriate challenges. Don’t back down when the tears fall and whining ensues. Teach them that when everything seems stacked against you, effort and persistence must prevail -- and often they are the only tools they truly need.
5. Experience New Things
New experiences can be challenging. Children and adults feel stress and anxiety when experiencing something new. Talk to your children about their feelings. Let them know that it’s okay to be nervous about the new experience. Be encouraging and supportive, and provide ample time for them to experience the positive emotions that come from learning a new skill or gaining some independence.
Kids inherently want to do things they are not allowed to do. They get dirty, climb fences, blow things up, and knock things down. Be wary about protecting your kids from activities that are not actually dangerous, but are probably inconvenient for you as the parent. It will probably cause you more work to clean up your kids or their mess, but kids who are allowed to experiment are more likely to become innovators. They will become creators rather than consumers.
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