Several weeks ago I allowed my six-year old daughter to drop off a few letters she wrote at the neighborhood mailbox. It wasn’t like I was sending her to the post office; our drop-off box is a tenth of a mile down the road from our house. It is a very short and safe walk but little did I know what a commotion this would cause.
My daughter was overjoyed by this taste of freedom, so she set off on her merry way while I hung out on my driveway to keep an eye on her.
She wasn’t gone more than 45 seconds when a large truck slowed down and tried talking with her. I automatically switched to “mom-mode” and yelled that there was no reason to stop and he should keep on driving. The driver saw me, pulled up and I could see he was a concerned father wondering why there was a little girl walking down the street by herself.
My daughter arrived at the mailbox and made the drop-off successfully. She skipped back until a taxi crossed her path. The old lady driver exchanged words with my girl and then drove off. My daughter ran back, visibly upset.
It took a while for her to tell me what the taxi driver said. She was crying and kept saying she didn’t want to hurt my feelings…which really got me concerned.
Eventually I dragged it out of her. It started-off nice enough with the driver asking my daughter if she ok and what she was doing out by herself. My daughter explained that her mom allowed her to take a few letters to the mailbox. To which the taxi driver responded, “Well, shame on your mom!” and then drove off.
Shame on me? Shame on me?
I was seething! This woman decided to stomp all over my daughter’s harmless adventure. My sweet girl then meekly said, “Can I wait until I am six-and-a-half or maybe seven to go back to the mailbox alone?”
Oh no….nobody is going to squash my child’s natural yearning for adventure and independence!
So I decided to take on a “Cutting the Cord” challenge. I am now constantly looking for ways to encourage my kids to spread their wings. Nothing crazy or age inappropriate. But I ask myself, what is the maximum independence they can safely have each situation.
This “Free Range” movement is spreading. Parents are realizing that the focus of safety and security for our children has drowned out our main goal of parenting which is raising independent and confident kids.
Statistics show that our country is actually safer for kids these days. But with the 24-hour news cycle, it can seem like child abductions are actually on the rise.
We need to swing the parenting pendulum back to common sense. My daughter should be able to walk a tenth of a mile without stopping traffic and being scolded by neighborhood busybodies.
So what adventures have my kids tackled?
- My daughter found and then used the public restroom alone in a crowded museum.
- My three-year-old used an elevator by himself to travel up one floor while I took the stairs.
- My daughter picked-up eggs from the 7-11 while I watched from the car.
- My son made waffles with the waffle iron.
It has been so much fun seeing what my children are capable of and how proud they are when they complete their “adventure”.
So here is the challenge I pose to you – how can you cut the cord? What can your children do on their own that will challenge and inspire them to be more responsible and courageous?
I came up with a short list to get the ideas started (click here for the printable version).
5 – 6 Years Old
- Cook oatmeal on the stove
- Write, stamp and drop-off letter at neighborhood mailbox
- Walk into convenience store to pick up and pay for small item while parent waits in car
- Ride in an elevator alone – parent takes the stairs
- Order own food at restaurant
- Pick out clothes and get dressed (only caveat is that it has to be weather appropriate…yes this means they might mix plaid with polka dots)
7 – 9 Years Old
- Pick our recipe, put together shopping list and then make the meal
- Crack eggs and cook scrambled eggs
- Use the washer and dryer
- Use a sewing machine for a small sewing project
- Plan and pack own lunches and write a shopping list of items needed
- Use power tools under supervision to build something
- Build a campfire
- Walk to a park with a friend or sibling and play unsupervised
- Take the bus or other public transportation for a short trip
10 – 12 Years Old
- Pump and pay for gas
- Call and schedule simple appointments
- Stay at home by themselves for short periods of time
- Bake more complicated breads and cakes
- Go into grocery store and purchase family shopping list
- Map out best route for family vacation and research lodging and dining options
- Assemble the next new piece of family furniture or electronics
I would love to expand this list – so please share the ways how you are untethering your kids.