Saturday, June 20, 2009

Teaching Our Kids' Survival Skills

The way I see it, there are three techniques that parents seem to take to teach their children how to survive out there in the world.

1) Hide them in the house. Keep them away from "bad things" out there in the world. Limit their influences.

2) Let them experience life, but with a parental guided hand. Let them have play dates, get on the computer, and read edgy books all under the influence of the parents watchful eye.

3) Let your kids just get out there in world and learn. If they have questions they know who to ask: their parents.

Yes, one and two might seem a little extreme, but there is a version of all three that I see parents take. My husband and I seem to take the number two route. Let's talk about each one.

Keep Them Hidden From "Bad" Influences
The first one, well I understand where they are coming from, really I do. They don't allow their kids to read Harry Potter, or get on the computer at all unless they are pre-approved sites, and they might be going to a private school or home schooled. The parents limit their child's play dates and rather have friends come to their house and rarely if ever allow their own children on sleepovers at other peoples homes. They might believe that if their children are around those kids who might be "bad" influences then their child might fall into those influences because they are not old enough to know better.

I get you. Sometimes I just want to hover over my kids and not let them out. Keep them naive and innocent until the time is right seems to be more of my tendency then my husbands.

Let Them Experience Life - Under The Parent's Watchful Eye
The second technique is what we have found ourselves following. This theory is to teach our kids what to do when they are in a questionable situation. We talk to our kids constantly about topics that might be considered "too early" to talk about. In the bathtub when they were young we talked to them about who can touch them and where. Early folks! My husband's big button is no smoking and no drugs. We show our kid's pictures of people who smoke and tell them life stories of what happens when people take drugs (not using the scare technique, just real life stuff). We talk about how later kids will ask them if they want to try such and such and how they should respond and why. We let are oldest son read "edgy" books, but guess what, we read them before he does and we discuss them along with him (still needs to be kid friendly - we have to be careful in this area because our oldest child has been tested in college reading level). We talk about what words to say and not to say and why each word is bad and not appropriate to say. We talk about every situation we can and what to do when in such and such situation.

Now don't get me wrong, I still hover. There were four ten-year old boys and two seven year old boys at our house to celebrate the last day of school and for about half an hour they were on YouTube listening to music and watching music videos. I trust my oldest son, but I didn't know what two of the other friends would watch on the computer - especially when two young boys were watching on! I was hoovering for sure. I stood behind them watching their every move. I told them to get off a few videos and gave them boundaries of what they could watch. Then my oldest said, "I am the one who will control the mouse" - taking over the situation. I was so proud of him.

Let Your Kids Get Out There and Learn
The third method seems to be what most of our parent's choose for us. We had to come home at sun down and we were allowed to play all over the neighborhood. (Who heard of play dates anyway?) Our parent's knew the neighbors, so running around with the neighborhood kids all afternoon when are parent's are inside was quite a common practice growing up for many.

As an example, one afternoon when my husband was just a young boy, his mom noticed from the kitchen window that a little boy was picking on him. She brought her son into the house and said, don't let him pick on you, go back out there and fight him. She didn't call the boy's parents, she was teaching her own child how to survive out there the way she knew how.

Okay, so we all do it differently for different reasons, but what I have discovered is that parent's Do do it differently and we need to honor their decisions and not criticize and judge if we do it differently. We can all learn from one another.

Which method do you usually take and why?

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  1. Keep your kids close while experiencing everything that 'life' has to offer: they may just change 'the world' for the better in their 'time.'

  2. good thoughts sharon. i feel that my parents had good balance with hoovering and letting us live, but as I get older and think about having children of my own, I realize how hard it must be to trust your kids sometimes!

  3. Good blog post - It makes me think about how my parents raised me and how it has formed the way I navigate through life. Parenting comes with many big choices to make. I think this is one of the big ones.

  4. You got it, we've kept our daughter here much of her growing up time. However, we have made lots of trips: Northern Cal many times, Redwoods, camping, Alaska, up to family often. Also, she has many classes, activities and friends: coop classes/day, park play dates, gymnastics, music class, Sunday school, swimming (like everyone), sewing and now violin. My husband just believes that since we only have 20% of the her life's time here at home (probably just 18-19 years here)-- we are responsible for teaching and training.