Today I realized that I trust my almost 14 and 12 year old with their siblings. Let me be more specific, as I was getting ready to take a quick shower, they wanted to go outside to play. I was ok with the older kids keeping an eye on their siblings, 9 and 5 for the ten minutes it would take me to shower. A year ago I wouldn’t have been and that got me thinking.
It got me thinking about how everyone has an opinion, how if I were to post it on face book, I would most likely get criticism from both sides. There would be those who say well come on! You should have given them a longer leash years ago, this helicopter parenting will cripple their emotional development. How will they grow into competent adults if you can’t leave them alone for 10 minutes in your own yard?
Then the other side, OMG, do you know what can happen in ten minutes? What if they ran into the road? What if a kidnapper came by? Anything can happen at any moment!
The thing is, they have a point. Both sides have valid arguments. Yes, children need to learn independence and self reliance as well as responsibility. And yes, any random thing can happen at any given time. So how do parents balance this? They seem to be two competing issues.
There is no simple, one size fits all answer. The best any parent can do is know their kids, know their environment and make the best choice possible for their family. We live in the county, down a private road. The odds of a stranger hanging around waiting to nab a child are just about nil. Traffic is also very, very light. And we have a fence around the yard. If we lived near a busy intersection, my decision may have been different.
Parents also have to know their child. Every child is different; one might be uber responsible at 10 while another is unreliable at 16. Don’t give me the “it’s the way they are raised” because anyone who has raised more than one can tell you that you can do the exact same thing with your kids and have them turn out wildly different. Because they have individual personalities. In fact, I would go as far as to say that you should NOT raise all your children exactly the same because what works for one does not work for the next. But that’s a subject for another post entirely.
The point is, you can’t judge another parent by your standard because you don’t know their kids and their situation. Not intimately. You may think your neighbor is a neglectful parent because their kids walk unattended to the park or you may think your sister is damaging her kids beyond repair with her helicopter parenting style. The truth is, you don’t know those kids the way the parents do. So you can’t judge. The best you can do is to know your own kids and make the best decisions possible for them.