Eight tips on how to raise free-range kids

Bring back the good ol’ days this sum­mer

Thornhill Post - - Life - KATHY BUCKWORTH Kathy Buckworth is the au­thor of I Am So the Boss of You: An 8-Step Guide to Giv­ing Your Fam­ily the ‘Busi­ness.’

“We never used to come in un­til the streets lights went on,” is some­thing I’ve heard many of my friends say, some­what wist­fully, with their heads down tex­ting their kids to see where they are, ev­ery minute of the day.

Of course it’s only nat­u­ral to want to know that your kids are safe and that you’re aware of what they’re get­ting up to, but the more we con­stantly keep tabs on them, the less in­de­pen­dence and per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity they learn. Are we the ones hold­ing them back?

With the long, lazy days of sum­mer ahead, what can we do to loosen the reins and let the kids have a “throw­back sum­mer” this year, with­out feel­ing we are putting them in dan­ger or wor­ry­ing our­selves silly?

1. We can start small. Let them walk to a friend’s house, with that friend. And back again. You might want them to check in when they leave and when they get there. Try not to check in with them at all while they’re there.

2. Have them call on a friend. Not call a friend or text a friend or mes­sage a friend. I mean, ride their bike over and ring the door­bell.

“Can Liam come out to play?” is one of the best sen­tences they’ll hear.

3. The next time you go to the park with your kids, tell them the rules of play. No hit­ting, leav­ing the park, teas­ing, etc. Then, leave them alone at the neigh­bour­hood park for 10 min­utes. Then 15, 20, etc. You know your kids’ lim­its. Come back to the park, and watch them for a few min­utes be­fore they know that you’re ac­tu­ally there. If it ap­pears all the rules are be­ing fol­lowed, let them know you no­ticed that and that you’re glad you can trust them.

4. In­stead of con­stantly tex­ting them “Are you OK?” or “Please text me back,” set up a con­tact time that they have to ad­here to. Have them call or text you at that time to let you know they are OK. If they for­get and don’t bother to check in, maybe they lose a priv­i­lege un­til they can teach them­selves to be re­spon­si­ble and proac­tive.

5. Get to know the kids your kids are hang­ing out with. Have a sense of the things they might be do­ing while hang­ing out to­gether, with­out ac­tively grilling them. Of­ten your kids’ friends will be more forth­com­ing with in­for­ma­tion than your own chil­dren.

6. Build your vil­lage. If you see some of the neigh­bour­hood chil­dren hang­ing out, with­out an adult, please don’t panic im­me­di­ately. If they are en­gaged in in­no­cent play, let them be.

7. Teach them some out­side games. Kick the can? Hide and seek? Red rover? Loved these as a kid. Not sure par­ents to­day sup­port red rover as you run full force into each other, but boy, it was a fun game to play. Send them on a scav­enger hunt in the neigh­bour­hood. Re­sist the urge to creep along be­hind them, hid­ing be­hind bushes. Buy them some side­walk chalk, set up the sprin­kler in the front yard and then qui­etly slip in­side and try to read a book.

8. Pick an ac­tiv­ity you en­joyed do­ing as a kid, and let them try it. My broth­ers used to en­joy blow­ing the heads off my Bar­bie dolls with fire­crack­ers. Maybe don’t start there.

Try let­ting the kids hang out alone at your lo­cal park

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