From an early age, children want to be older than they are. Toddlers want to walk on their own, without holding hands. Pre-schoolers want to brush their teeth without assistance. School-age children want to start playing out in the street on their own. As they get older, they want to push bedtimes, to be allowed to roam further from home and stay out later. They want more freedom and more space. As they get older, what they want changes. But, it remains your job to make the judgment. There’s never a guide. No rules that say “at 8, your child should be allowed to…” Because all kids are different. One eight year old might be old enough to play out in the yard with their friends, but another wouldn’t be mature or responsible enough to make the right decisions and keep themselves safe.
As a parent, you want to give them freedom. It’s good for them. It helps them to develop all-important social skills. It teaches them responsibility, and it even gives you a little space of your own. But, how do you do it? How do you know when the time is right to start giving your child freedom, and how do you trust them enough to let them take it?
In theory, you can start giving your child little bits of freedom when they are very small, and just increase it as they get older. Let them choose their own clothes in the morning as toddlers. Let them try to get themselves dressed.
Increase this to letting them roam a little more when you are in the park together. Adding freedom gradually means that when they start doing bigger things alone, like walking to school or going out with friends, it’s not a massive shock, to them or to you.
Give Them Some Security
Even though they are freer, your top concern will always be keeping them safe. Fortunately, there are some ways that you can do this without constantly watching over them. You can buy iPhone parental monitoring from Family Orbit, if they’ve got a phone, to keep an eye on online safety. You can make sure they know essential information like your address and telephone number. You can teach them about stranger danger, and who to call if they are in trouble. You can also get to know their friends, their friends’ parents and other adults on your street, so that you know there are always people looking out for them, and other adults they, and you, can turn to for help.
Lay Down the Ground Rules
Kids need rules. Boundaries and guidelines are essential, and freedom doesn’t mean getting rid of them. When you first start letting your kids play out front, make sure they know how far they are allowed to go and what time they need to come home. If they are older, give them a time to come home, and maybe a time to check in with text. Make sure they know that if you are going to trust them and increase their freedoms, they need to earn that trust by sticking to these rules.