Calling All PP Parents — Your Input Needed!
I’m 45, with a 9 yr old and 7 yr old.
-Are you intentionally trying to be more “relaxed” in your parenting when it comes to supervising/controlling your kids activity? If so, why?
I was a latch-key kid in the 80s with parents who were liberal 60’s boomer hippies. They had a “relaxed” parenting style. I mostly “raised” myself. Though this childhood forced me to adapt, improvise and overcome with creative solutions to life’s challenges, and I appreciate the grit I developed from it, I would not wish this childhood on my own kids or others. Nor am I a fan of “Helicopter Parenting”. A happy middle ground is my parenting path.
-How are you managing digital devices?
We use digital devices for learning (we homeschool with them) and occasional entertainment (once a week or so, curated, quality content). This includes the TV.
-What safety concerns do you have with giving your kids more autonomy?
This is a valid concern. For my own childhood, running around generally unsupervised, exposed me (and some friends) to unfortunate numerous encounters with child predators and child molesters starting from 4 yrs old. From abusive day care workers, pedophiles at church and school, and random child molester strangers out stalking the playgrounds and parks, I was exposed to all of these, mostly unbeknownst to my parents. I was always naive and unprepared for these encounters, and although I survived and overcame them, these encounters could have been mostly prevented if my life had more structure and supervision, i.e. involved parents. As a child, I craved that missing time, structure and attention from my “relaxed” parents. Most of my school and neighborhood friends were latch-key-kids like me, and similarly neglected. The world has not become a safer place since my childhood, so I am not a fan of the “relaxed” boomer parenting style of the 70’s /80’s. The best parts of my childhood, the time in nature, the learning and adapting through challenges, bonding with others, are all things that my kids get to experience in safe situations with quality people I have vetted and trust.
We are definitely more relaxed. We intentionally live in a small town, where the average cohort for each grade in school is 75-100. This enables our local children to bike to school with their friends, run to the ice cream shop or the grocery store with their friends without me worrying all the time if they are safe. I grew up “coming home when the street lights come on” and that’s definitely something I want my kids to experience. I can’t wait until they are both old enough to bike to school- no more dropoffs!
As far as devices, we did a good job pre-lockdown, but i’m not going to lie, my kids basically spend 3-5 hours a day with their friends on minecraft. I don’t stop it because they are still pretty young and they need some type of interaction with their peers. We are in Northern California and we are on day 89 of SIP. My kids have literally only left the house a handful of times in that time. My husband I are extremely concerned about the effect all this will have on young children who are just now learning how to socialize.
Today is a different world, I dream of the world I grew up in , where we could go do stuff without supervision, and it was safe – I feel we were smart kids then, I dont know what the kids of today would be like. I guess they think the same. But it is a more populated world , it is more dangerous. And the safety in numbers thing is lost.. I guess if you have 5 kids and the six homes neighboring yours – all had kids – it would be a lot safer, as no one is ever really alone. but people have less kids now.. and a lot of mixed neighborhoods.. and then social classes – it affects safety.. you need a lot more of the middle class again. you need larger families.. etc. But there has to be something between yesteryear and helicopter stuff.
Basically, I see the more you control a child the less compliant they are – perhaps its basic psychological phenomenon. Its sort like training a cat – you make them want to do something rather than make them do something. My opinion is rather narrow – as I have one small child under 5- If had more and they were older – Id probably have different thoughts.
I’m a 44 year old mother of a 3 year toddler. 98% of my parent friends have raised (if you can call it that) their children very relaxed. Watching this over the years, the relationship of parent/child gets morphed. When the children grow up, their “independent” attitudes are more of uncontrollable/disrespectful brats. Then these children change to adults, leave home never to return.
It’s amazing how in just one generation, family traditions like Christmas parties, have gone to the waist side since these relaxed families are too busy doing their own thing and have no time for each other.
I personally think loving my child, cherishing every moment with him and being there to guide him and comfort him every step of the way is what motherhood is. Society may try to name call it as “helicopter parenting” but I think that is because it’s trying to promote the break down of family. Look around, relaxed parenting has yielded its fruit.
To its core, parenting is moral. Children are gifts from God. If one does not believe God exists, then one will not seek guidance on how to parent from the Creator. Parenting becomes a “relaxed” form of what the individual parent believes is “right”, when in actuality God has given us a responsibility to raise the children we were given the way He defines right. God created all of us to be born with the internal need of parenting. We crave it and it bonds us with parents who are there through the thick and thin. There is truth and there is right and wrong to be taught. If a parent doesn’t believe this fundamentally then “relaxed parenting” is born. If you are found to be instilling morals in your child, society has labeled you a “helicopter parent”. No surprise that labels are created to cause yet another division in society! It’s bad enough the breakdown of family is flourishing, now let’s turn parent against parent. Oh but wait, the definition of parenting, of family, of marriage, of gender …its all being redefined! The real point of these discussions aren’t to determine which method is better, it’s to confuse society and ultimately our children from what is right so they can join the bandwagon of “my way is right”!
One last comment, it breaks my heart seeing these children being pushed off to other people to raise them. I have friends who could be home with their children but choose not to. One parent I know, not only was off work during this pandemic but still choose to have her 3 children sent to their child care provider (who was open). Why? I think the true topic isn’t relaxed versus helicopter, it’s why has having children morphed to a form of keeping up with the Jone’s breeding? I have seen children being considered an object of status versus a valued member of a family. I feel for these children and pray for my son because Society’s values have “relaxed” and there are no agreed set of morals any more. When did we walk away from “in God we trust” to govern our society and adopt “ in myself I trust”?
I have a five and an eight year old. I am definitely a more relaxed parent and give the kids a lot of freedom, to a point. We live in a rural area and they have been allowed to run around and play outside without supervision since the age of four or so. They know their limits for the most part, and don’t push themselves to do something that is beyond their capabilities.
They are allowed to roam the property and ride their bikes down the street without asking. If they want to go further (five minute hike to the creek, for example) they need to ask and I usually like them to bring the dog with them, especially if it is near dawn or dusk (bears).
Most of our friends have similar approaches to parenting, although I am often the loosest as far as what supervision I require of them. They haven’t done many sleepovers and things yet but I would absolutely require meeting and spending time with both parents before letting them go alone to someone else’s house. Again, I am more fearful or other people then the possibility that they will come to some harm of their own devices.
I would be more concerned about my laid back approach if we lived in a city or had nosy neighbors scrutinizing them. I have more fear for “well meaning” strangers then I do of them actually getting themselves in trouble.
We don’t have TV, but watch movies more often then I’d like. Video games are a big no (they didn’t really even know what those were until this last year) and I have no intention of ever getting either of them a cell phone. The are just starting to use the computer to look things up, write stories, and draw pictures. I think they use technology too much and see a clear decline in their behavior and creativity when I am lenient with the movies.
Really the only part my husband and I clash is in regards to cleanliness. I am a slob and see no issues with the kids getting dirty, he’s a virgo who was raised by an OCD neat freak, messes are hard on him. It’s funny, because he definitely agree’s with the concept that getting down and dirty is one of the best ways to build up a young immune system, but in practice he has a hard time with it.
My husband also has a hard time not correcting them when he sees them doing something wrong or inefficiently, whereas I prefer to just let them figure it out themselves trough experimentation (unless they ask, in which case I’d be happy to offer advice.)
Hope that helps!
I can only tell you what I see in my job. Yes, I’m a parent too but my kids are grown-up and I’m a Canadian version of Supernanny, so I have lots of contact with moms and dads and I write about developing resilience. For parents that were already having problems dealing with things, Covid-19 has just exacerbated issues. Stuck at home and having to take part in online schooling has put a lot of them under tremendous pressure. When kids are used to the social drama of school, its online version is largely boring and kids get turned off pretty quickly, creating additional arguments in the home over school work. Secondly, parents are often juggling multiple responsibilities and now have to be all things to all people. All of the above means to make it through this period with their sanity still intact, they have to relax and take the pressure off. That’s much of the advice that parents have been getting through the normal channels of social media/parenting gurus etc.
Over parenting is a huge problem at the moment and being able to relax their way through this is key. Yet it’s what they should relax. In times of stress kids need firm boundaries more than ever. Things are upside down and they can feel that and so effective leadership is vital.
In terms of developing resilience generally, here’s something I wrote on my blog on how it develops and why it’s so important. https://anniethenanny.ca/a-parents-guide-to-building-resilience/ Apologies for not going in to the Covid-19 thing more tonight but it’s been a long day. Best of luck with your interview.
Anna/Annie (either works)
I was a vey relaxed parent, as was my husband. Really only intervened on safety issues. Our kids, however, are helicopter parents and control every move.
Any thoughts you have will be fine, though here are some questions to get things started:
Are you intentionally trying to be more “relaxed” in your parenting when it comes to supervising/controlling your kids activity? If so, why?
No not really, but on the other hand, I am 53 and We have 4 kids from age 23 to 3! With my kids I have always had the philosophy of trying to get them to solve their own problems, to be given rope to get slightly hurt so they can learn lessons, but not enough that they get in deep trouble. My first wife shared this same philosophy I think, my second wife is a little more of the helicopter style of mom. With all my kids I have tried to get them outdoors as much as possible, and We all ski a lot too. I think that skiing and other similar outdoor sports are excellent for teaching independence, and awareness of risks to teach kids to be good decision makers in their own risk choices. For example: My daughter ski raced as a child into college for example. She has been extremely independent as a result. She is 23 and already has a Masters Degree in Environmental Engineering as a result. The money spent on ski racing was expensive, but very worth it imho.
What are the benefits you’re hoping a more relaxed parenting style will yield? Are you seeing success? What trade-offs (if any) are you struggling with?
Greater Independence. Yes. I think the best way to do this is to ensure that kids can always learn cause and effect. If We stop them from seeing the impact of their decisions then they will naive and unaware of risks. For example, We have had woodstoves and never put any kind of guard around them to stop kids from touching them. They might touch them once when hot and that is it, the lesson is then learned. None of them has ever gotten burnt from the stoves.
Is your more relaxed approach creating any issues with your spouse or with other parents of your kids’ friends who have more a more controlling approach?
Only once really. I am of the mindset that kids need to experience winning and losing. My wife is not as much that way. Once we had a situation with her nieces where they had a race that one of them clearly won. I had said that whoever won would get a candy bar. When one won, and the other lost there was immediate crying by the loser at not getting a candy bar. My wife felt like they should both get a candy bar. I was like no way! The winner gets one the other doesn’t. Anyway, I ended up eventually losing the battle of course, but at least the point was made that there are benefits to winning vs losing. I grew up when not everyone got a trophy, my wife was a little closer to the everyone gets a trophy mindset. So this was our only issue really.
Are you seeing any difference in your kids attitudes/happiness after adopting a more relaxed parenting style?
Never done anything different really.
How are you managing digital devices?
Perhaps We could do more here, but I think the key is having something more interesting for kids to do than play games etc. If the games and tablets are more interesting than other things they can do, then they will gravitate to them. Get them outside in nature doing stuff, that is the key.
What safety concerns do you have with giving your kids more autonomy?
We have always tried to give our kids autonomy, so there has not been a change in parenting. In the city more autonomy can be a problem obviously. In the country it is obviously better. I think too many people focus on having their kids go to the best schools but then they forget that so much learning takes place out of school. Being outdoors doing things is the BEST thing I have found to help create healthier kids. Being outdoors is as important as schooling in my opinion. This may sound a little too exclusive, but with all of my kids I have seen tremedous benefits from getting them outdoors camping, backpacking, boating, canoeing, or skiing (for example). First of all ski hills teach independence. Second of all they can go ski with their friends at a much younger age than they could ever go out in a city safely. Ski hills have a barrier to entry in their cost that keeps out riff raff. Also, the kids all can probably ski better and faster than anyone that would seek to hurt them or cause them problems. They represent a “safe” place that kids can take chances and learn. We have had our share of injuries skiing however. Now, obviously this is not an option available to everyone, but the point is to find similar outdoor options for kids to learn and play in if possible. If anything the Virus situation has highlighted the importance of not living in a densely populated area. If you can get your kids out of the city to a place where there is a good balance of schools and outdoor activities, that is my best advice. Another good thing is providing kids access to things like tools and raw materials to build things and experiment with them. Just a pile of wood and lots of tools can spark their imagination and get them creating things. Again lots of safety instruction might be needed for power tools, but general hand tools don’t need lots of teaching. Nothing teaches like a hammer hitting your finger instead of a nail.
Are you seeing any difference in your kids attitudes/happiness after adopting a more relaxed parenting style?
Never done anything different really. All of our kids are independent to varying degrees and able to take care of themselves quite well. I think parents always need to pay attention, but as I said they need to be able to learn from cause and effect. Also, I think they need to develop a certain amount of toughness, and this does not come from being helicopter parented. I think parents should focus on teaching kids to make good decisions and understanding risks. In skiing for example, I made them all learn how to fall and practice doing it in a safe manner to build understanding and awareness of the threat. When we are outside together I am constantly discussing the threats and pitfalls in the environment, but then I let them get out and go on their own and take their own risks and make their own mistakes.