When’s the right time to give your child more free­dom?

Young Parents (Singapore) - - Contents -

When your child was younger and de­pen­dent on you, you might have longed for the free­dom his in­de­pen­dence would bring. You no longer need to nag him to do his home­work, or rush to his school to de­liver the wa­ter bot­tle he’d for­got­ten.

Now that the mo­ment has ar­rived, you re­alise that let­ting go is much harder than ex­pected. Sud­denly, he seems so vul­ner­a­ble and at risk.

But un­der­stand that your over-pro­tec­tive­ness can un­der­mine his self-con­fi­dence and re­duce his abil­ity to cope in sit­u­a­tions where you are not present.

Let­ting go is a grad­ual process. It takes years, and per­haps is never fully com­pleted. It’s not a mat­ter of your child ac­quir­ing in­de­pen­dence in one fell swoop, to­tally de­pen­dent on you one minute, then to­tally free to make all his own choices the next.

The best way to help him in­crease self-suf­fi­ciency is by ex­tend­ing the lim­its, a lit­tle at a time. This en­ables you pull in the reins if nec­es­sary.

For in­stance, he asks to visit his friend’s house af­ter school. Ask him to con­sider a few ques­tions:

• Who are the adults in the house when two of them ar­rive? Will it be mum and

dad, the grand­par­ents, or a do­mes­tic helper?

• How will he and his friend get to the house? Will they walk there, or will an adult fetch them from school?

• How long does he in­tend to stay at his friend’s house? Is he hav­ing din­ner there, or does he ex­pect to leave af­ter an hour?

• What will they do in his friend’s house? Are they watch­ing a video or play­ing a game, or are they go­ing to leave it to chance?

In­de­pen­dence within lim­its

to con­sider the im­pli­ca­tions of his free­dom, and not to take it for granted. Ex­plain that part of do­ing things by him­self in­volves tak­ing a re­spon­si­ble at­ti­tude.

In­de­pen­dence means plan­ning ahead care­fully, to an­tic­i­pate dif­fi­cul­ties that might arise. The more you ask him ques­tions about his ac­tiv­i­ties, the more he will de­velop a ma­ture at­ti­tude to­wards in­creased free­dom.

Bear in mind, though, you may some­times have to say no to his re­quest for you to let go of the reins, even though that may re­sult in an up­set­ting con­fronta­tion with him.

And don’t be swayed by the ar­gu­ment that his friends’ par­ents al­low them much more free­dom than you – ev­ery child is con­vinced his par­ents are too re­stric­tive.

Al­though your first re­sponse might be to re­sist let­ting go – un­der­stand­ably, you pre­fer to have your child safe be­side you – lis­ten to what he has to say. Some­times, a com­pro­mise is the best so­lu­tion.

If, say, he wants to go to a movie with his close friends, one tac­tic is to agree but add the pro­viso that you take him to the cin­ema and pick him up af­ter that.

This way, his de­sire for free­dom and your re­luc­tance to let go are both sat­is­fied. And each time he copes well with his in­de­pen­dence, your con­fi­dence in him will steadily in­crease.

Al­though you might re­sist let­ting go, some­times a com­pro­mise is the best so­lu­tion.Ɖ

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