Perfectly planned parenthood? More and more of us millennials seem to be driven by fear and perfectionism when parenting their kids. We want everything to be perfect and God forbid nothing shall ever happen to our child. Thanks to modern media we know how pretty…
Where I live, kids are supposed to get to school by themselves. From first grade on schools and the local police encourage parents strongly to not drive their children to school but to let them walk. As a special gift every first grader receives a bright yellow and reflecting high visibility vest and it is recommended that school bags have brightly colored patches. My daughters schoolbag even has flashing lights. The police explains to parents that by driving their kids to school, they increase traffic in front of the school and endanger the kids. In order to make the way to school as save as possible, parent teacher organisations organize volunteer school crossing guards for more dangerous crossroads.
Of course we prepare our kids to walk to school. Most parents practice during the last days of kinder garden with their kid where to go and where to pay special attention to. Or some parents, like I did, accompany the kids the first couple weeks in the mornings. Actually I let my kids walk ahead of me independently, so they could prove me they knew how to do it.
In some places, especially when the way to school is longer or traffic is particularly dangerous, there are “walking busses”. Those are groups of children who walk to school together and are – at least in the beginning accompanied by an adult. The kids meet at certain points in the neighborhood where they know the group will come along and wait there for the others. When the group arrives they walk together.
When the school is further away the kids are supposed to take the bus or metro or even train. Elementary school kids, who live more than 2 kilometers or from fifth grade on 3 kilometers from school, receive a free ticket for public transportation, which they can actually use during their leisure time as well…
Studies have shown that younger kids are much more accident prone on a bike than on foot. That is why they are not allowed to ride a bike to school until they passed a special “driver’s license for bicycling”.
A driver’s license for bicycling
In Germany there are special “youth traffic schools” for children. Their goal is to support an independent and safe mobility of children and teenagers by enabling youth and teaching them the traffic rules.
In Bavaria traffic education provided by the police for children has a long tradition. The first youth traffic school in Munich was opened in the 1960s. Since 1972 almost all fourth graders receive a special traffic training. For this training the police collaborates with the schools. Students have to take theoretical lessons about the traffic rules and saftey rules for riding a bike in traffic. Then they have to take a written test. Once they pass that test, they start practical training. Instead of normal elementary school classes, they go to a special “youth traffic school” of the police station where there is a practice area with miniature streets, traffic lights, street signs, obstacles, etc. The traffic schools provide bikes for the children and all the kids get on a bike and practice the traffic rules they learned. After a couple days they have to take a practical “bikers driver’s licence” test.
Once they have passed this test, the kids are offically allowed to ride their bike to school – by themselves. This program is a good indicator for parents whether they can allow their kid to bike in traffic by themselves. The kids who did not pass the tests do need more traffic and have to take more training until they are secure on a bike in traffic and pass the test.
The advantages of an independent mobilty of children
Here are some reasons why I think teaching children to go to school independently is very important:
- Kids who walk or bike to school have actually physically moved in the mornings and can pay better attention at school (there are studies that show a strong connection between success at school and physical exercise).
- The kids love to walk with their friends from the neighborhood and have a nice chat before school starts.
- Kids learn to act responsible in traffic and to find their way.
- Being able to get to school by themselves helps kids to experience success and to feel competent and confident.
- It teaches kids to trust in their abilities.
- It takes pressure from parents, because once the kids have left the house, they can go to work without having to drive the kids.
- It is better for the environment and there is less traffic in front of schools.
As explained before, I believe that everyone will find limits in life. That is just how live is and we will all have to learn how to live a happy live within certain limits. Freedom comes with responsibility. When I teach my kids, to respect…
Know your limits and teach your kid limits
Writing about limits?
“Should I really write about setting rules and limits?”, I asked myself. I am fed up with all this parenting advice telling me exactly when and how to set limits and how I would damage my child’s psycho by enforcing a rule without the proper therapeutical words (I recently found this article and my husband and I needed quite a while to figure out whether we it made us feel like crying or laughing. We ended up laughing tears. http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/positive-discipline/How-to-set-Empathic-Limits).
To me personally, setting limits comes quite naturally. So my intention to start a blog to encourage parents to not helicopter, or over-parent, to let children play instead of training them and let them grow with reasonable freedom somehow seemed not to go together with advice about how to set limits. However, as a professional social worker, as well as mother, I have seen many young parents who are not setting limits. I don’t know if it was like that, when I was a child. But I do know that there can be very annoying families out there, who seem to let their kids do anything. Seriously, who hasn’t been annoyed by mothers, who sit in a café and chat without interfering once, while their kids don’t just play but run around the café screaming, walk with dirty shoes on chairs and benches and off course right in front of the waiter’s feet so he almost drops something?
Just a couple weeks ago my first grader cried at night, about a child hitting her in the face with a stick on purpose and laughing about it. When I saw the mother the next morning, I kindly told her. Not accusingly. Just letting her know. And her answer was: “I am sorry, but there is nothing I can do. He will not listen to me anyways. He was like that in kindergarten, too.” And then my kids both tell me how annoyed they are about other children who are misbehaving and their parents are right next to them and totally ignore this. So I wondered, why do so many parents not set limits?
Raising a “free” child
I have seen parents, who really want to raise a “free” child and are afraid of being too authorial. Some of them just did not really care and reflect much about their parenting and seemed to be too lazy to set rules. And many other parents I met, cared very much about being a good parent. They even read all these parenting books, or articles, or watched super nannies on TV. And with all this advice somehow they became very insecure about what to do and were afraid to hurt their child’s feelings or somehow damaging them for life by setting limits.
Well, knowing about those parents and reading articles like this one http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/positive-discipline/How-to-set-Empathic-Limits made me write about my view on setting limits. I hope it is inspiring to some people. I do not see it as the perfect parenting advice. I don’t think there is such a thing. Everyone has to find out what’s right for their family. It is meant as food for thoughts and to remind parents, why we set limits. Hopefully, remembering why, will help us, the next time some article like the one I mentioned above is making us feel guilty or unsecure.
Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand
Some people confuse raising a free child, with not setting limits. A parent who allows free play and exploring and does not keep the child under constant supervision still needs to teach rules and limits.
Good parenting has to combine both: rules and limits as well as freedom. Personally I believe that only when my children know the rules and limits, I can give them the freedom to explore on their own. I want my children to learn, that freedom always comes with certain responsibilities.
Of course there are limits!
It would be naive to believe that there are no limits. We all live within limits – and that’s ok. If we want to stay physically healthy, we need to respect our body’s limits. If we want to stay mentally healthy, we all need to be able to say no whenever someone is crossing a line or pushing our limits to far.
For our wellbeing it is essential that we are aware of our needs and that we can voice them. If we don’t tell other people about our needs and our limits, they will be annoying or even hurting us without even knowing. And if others do not tell us their limits, we will be crossing their lines – even if we don’t intent to. We need to teach our children that we all have the same dignity and we all are worthy of love and wellbeing. We teach them by standing up for our own needs and by respecting our children’s needs.
Why is it so hard to set limits?
We try to avoid conflicts
Saying “no” to a child can make the child upset or angry – especially if they haven’t learned yet that there are limits. Most children will show us when they are upset or angry. Many will cry or scream, “throw a fit” or maybe behave aggressive.
It seems to me like many people in our modern society, especially women, try to avoid conflicts at all costs. Somehow conflicts and all forms of „aggression“ seem to have become socially unacceptable. Sometimes it appears like all feelings except for happiness are not accepted in our society.
Many „family dramas“ I have watched over the time, were caused because the parents did not take the responsibility to say no. I have watched parents give in to their kids, even when they were really annoyed or embarrassed by their behavior and also when their child disturbed or even hurt others. These parents did not step up and set limits – and I wondered why. Deliberately observing such parents for quite some years now, two reasons stuck out to me (There are probably more):
- Some parents have a very hard time seeing their own kid upset. They want them to be happy. They cannot stand to see their child cry. They feel guilty when their child is sad or in whatever way unhappy. So they allow everything because they believe it makes the child happy and they do not want to upset the child.
- Some parents have not learned how to stand up for their own needs. Maybe they were raised in a family that did not allow them to have their own opinion. Maybe they did not learn, that their own feelings and needs are important, too and that it is ok to voice them.
We need certain conflicts to maintain healthy relationships.
Not setting limits is not good for our relationship with the child: If we don’t set limits in time, there comes a point, when our patience has been pushed so much, that we just cannot take it anymore. We get stressed and really annoyed and at some point so angry, that we explode. And then we “loose it”. Later we feel bad about it and try to make it up to our children by not saying “no” again and the vicious circle starts all over.
Two types of limits we really need to teach
Understand the importance of play Let your child play! Professional social workers like me, but also pediatricians, psychologist and therapists have said it for many years. Neuroscientists proofed it, too: Play is not a waste of time! Besides love and nurture, I would say play…