When you first become a parent, the job is hard, but the objective is clear. You need to meet your child’s basic needs, ensure their safety and well-being, and teach them to be good humans. However, a lot changes as your kids grow up and start to become their own people. They rely on you less and require more independence.
As that happens, parents may struggle with how and when to give kids the freedom they want. It can be hard to know when to let your kids make their own decisions and when to step in. Here are six ways you can give your kids a longer leash without worrying yourself to death.
1. Allow Them to Meet Your Expectations
First up, you need to set some expectations. That should be easy enough. Give your kids clear rules and information about curfew, chores, self-care habits, and family commitments. Then comes the tricky part. You have to let them meet the expectations you set to demonstrate they’re ready for the independence you’re giving them.
For most parents, the best way to do this is to start with gentle prompting. For example, when your kid wants to go out with friends, ask them what time they’ll be home. If you’ve made your expectations clear, their answer should be pretty close to the established curfew. If it’s not, ask why. There may be a perfectly good reason for coming home late that your kid can explain to you.
2. Let Mistakes Happen
However, there will be times when your kids don’t meet your expectations. They’re human, and they will sometimes make mistakes. As long as those missteps are truly accidental, the occasional mistake can be a great learning opportunity. For example, maybe they didn’t give themselves enough time to do their homework. Instead of stepping in and reminding them to do it, let your kid reap the consequences. They probably won’t make that mistake again.
As a parent, you probably feel like it’s your job to make sure nothing ever goes wrong for your kids. To a certain point in their life, you can protect them. However, as they start seeking and needing a longer leash, it’s okay to let them fail sometimes. Never let them fail in a way that will cause them physical or emotional harm, of course. But when they can learn a lesson that will help them be a better person, failure is a good option.
3. Keep in Contact with Each Other
For the times when your kids are testing their boundaries, it’s important to find a way to keep in contact. Maybe they’re taking a trip with another family or are out for most of the evening. While you don’t want to be overbearing, it is essential to have a way to contact your child. You may need to reach them in a hurry if something happens. Or they may need to let you know if their plans change.
This is the time you should probably explore products like a cell phone for kids. You can, of course, get them a regular cell phone, but one made just for kids might be a better fit. Often, they have fewer functions or offer additional protections that can put you and your child at ease.
4. Teach Them to Do Things for Themselves
Another way to put yourself at ease is to ensure your children know how to take care of things themselves. The more they know how to do, the longer the leash you can extend. Start with small tasks like tying shoes and picking their outfits. Then you can move on to bigger jobs like choosing and making their lunches every day. Over time, you’ll have encouraged them to be independent and successfully take care of themselves.
Also, allowing your kids to take ownership of their lives will encourage them to make good choices. After all, if something goes wrong, they have no one to blame but themselves. This good sense of judgment will carry over into other aspects of their lives as they get older. Start having them build some autonomy while they’re young.
5. Listen to What They Ask
Judging when your kid is ready for a longer leash can be tricky. So, if you aren’t sure, follow their lead. Kids will often give you signs when they are ready to start doing more on their own. Or they may just ask you for more responsibility. Either way, it’s best to follow their cues.
Doing so will demonstrate a level of trust in them that will inspire further confidence. You don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) say yes to every request for freedom, but find ones you can agree on. Working on it together will help you feel like you still have an important, albeit different, role in their lives.
6. Shut Out the Negativity
As your role in your children’s lives changes, you may be on the receiving end of conflicting advice. Some parents push complete independence for kids as soon as possible. Others insist the world is too dangerous to grant any. Both may be valid perspectives depending on the experience of the person giving it.
You’ll likely feel the most comfortable somewhere in the middle. To navigate this transitional time with your child the best, stay away from advice that’s too extreme. You know what’s best for your family, so trust yourself. If you need advice, look to sources that won’t scare you with tales of doom and gloom. Once you’ve tuned out the negativity, you’ll be better prepared to focus on what’s best for your specific situation.
Letting your kids be more self-reliant can be scary or overwhelming. It’s important to remember that they don’t need you less at this point; they just need you in different ways. Find areas where they can safely test their boundaries and both of your comfort levels. Follow their lead, and let them know you’re here to support them every step of the way.