Last month I read an article in the Huffington Post which completely enraged me.
A woman in Texas was arrested and held in custody for 18 hours for allegedly not supervising her children while they were playing outside. This woman was watching her children from a distance. They were not toddlers. They were ages 6 and 9. They were not about to run out on the street or get hit by a car. A neighbour called authorities claiming this woman was neglecting her children and endangering them.
This brings up a question that recurs in my mind and which I feel extremely strongly about both as a mother and as a social worker. This is a topic which parents seem afraid to talk about with one another.
How much supervision is enough? Should we let our children have some freedom to discover? Or, does this put them at too high a risk? Does complete supervision allow them to explore the world around them?
How much do parents need to supervise their children to avoid having the police knock at the door?
As a child, most of my free time was spent playing outside, unsupervised. I spent many PD days, weekends and summer vacations playing outside with neighbours and friends. It was fabulous. Those neighborhood games of Hide and Seek and Tag got us out there, and active. It got us socializing and learning to fend for ourselves. It forced us to get to know our neighbours and helped create lifelong friendships.
Nowadays, it is rare to see children outside on the street or at the park without a parent or two walking around the periphery. I accept that the world can be a dangerous place, especially for children. And clearly for the sake of this discussion, I am not referring to infants or toddlers. Nor am I suggesting we let our children run wild without being guided and supervised.
But, if we can see them through the window or can hear them through the screen door, should we not allow them this opportunity to grow and learn responsibility?
Does the need for children to be supervised 24/ 7 – which is virtually impossible for any parent – not ultimately result in more time being spent indoors playing on computers, playing video games and sprawled out in front of the television? Children are far less active than a generation ago and obesity rates are skyrocketing. Children today lack social skills and have increased levels of anxiety. They are not exposed to enough social situations that could help desensitize them to their anxious ‘triggers’.
Are parents of our generation not partially responsible for all of this?
For those of you who have been reading my blog over time, I usually include suggestions of DOs and DON’Ts or a list of tasks for parents and their children.
This piece is different. There is nothing concrete about this subject matter. Parents must recognize the strengths in their children and have faith that the responsibilities they are teaching their children are WORKING. You know your kids best. Keep in mind your child’s level of emotional development, maturity and social skills. You know what method of parenting they respond to best and how far to push them.
And don’t let your nosy neighbour try to tell you otherwise.
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