Thursday, July 02, 2009

How Free Range are YOU?

"Miss Tracey! So and so did thiiissss!!"

"Miss Tracey! He was mean to me!"

"She pushed me! He called me a name! Whine! Whine! Tattle! Tattle!"

OY VEY!!

Seriously, kids. Figure. It. Out. As long as no punches are being thrown, and no one is being verbally abused, DON'T BOTHER ME. I am studiously examining the kitchen tiles or marveling at the color of my coffee. I cannot and will not take sides or be drawn into every petty little argument the children of the neighborhood will undoubtably have.

Remember when we were all little? I grew up on a block of 10 or 12 houses, almost all with kids living in them. We had a church with fields that backed up to our yards and no one had fences. We knew every nook and cranny of that field, the baseball dugout, small hill, church parking lot, and pine trees. When we argued (and OH! Did we argue!) we either figured it out or stomped home, proving how angry we were, only to return to playing later that day.

My own kids have a smaller world to explore. (Though I am constantly reminding Justin that he is allowed to go on bike rides or walk to the park! He is hesitant about venturing into the wilds of our suburban neighborhood...) Our backyard backs up onto the yards of 2 of our close friends and neighbors. Between the 3 houses, there are 11 kids to play with (well, 10 kids. 1 is a tiny baby!). It is INEVITABLE that they will be on top of each other at times. It is inevitable that they will feel cramped and closed in. But it is what it is. They need to play together and be nice to each other. They need to get through their disagreements or take a break.

The worst thing about all of this togetherness, though? The tattling.

I. Hate. Unnecessary. Tattling.

My response to "He's mean! She's not being nice! He's a bully! Blah blah blah!" is something along these lines:

"You are ALL mean sometimes. Remember how it feels and be NICE instead. I am not here to take sides, guys. Figure it out or everyone go home."

This usually kills the conversation. Once they realize I won't take sides, or will make them all go home, the argument either ends or they go home. Since our yard is the only one with a swingset, sandbox, playhouse, random toys scattered about and even trees? They usually figure it out.

Not all parents are happy with this approach. Some feel I should be stepping in to break up the tiffs, and regulate the turns on the swings to avoid anyone's feelings getting "hurt."

Well, guess what? Sometimes, in life? You don't get a turn on the swing. Your feelings get hurt. And you walk home feeling upset. Who among us didn't have their heart broken that their best buddy in the world told them they were Never playing with them again? Who among us didn't grow a bit wiser and stronger from that situation? Maybe, just maybe, we learned a smidge about negotiating turns, and listening to different ideas? Maybe, just maybe, we understood a bit better that not everyone will want to play/talk/dress/learn the same way? Perhaps we were on the way to gaining life skills that would benefit us in adulthood? If an adult were to be watching out for me every time I had to stand up for myself, where would I be today?

I am loving Lenore Skenazy's site, Free Range Kids. The basis is pretty simple. Freedom for our kids like we had growing up. Ignoring the fearmongering of the media and letting our kids LIVE their lives instead of placing safety cushions all around them, just in case they fall. Letting them have those moments of pride when they do something themselves. Giving them the benefit of the doubt (based upon their skills and maturity) that they can make the right decision, all by themselves.

I may not be able to give my kids much monetarily, but if I can give them independence and confidence? THAT will be something which will stick with them for the rest of their lives.

16 comments:

Silicone Momma said...

wow! I totally agree. Apparently my kids are the only kids in the neighborhood with toys or food or supervision so the kids all come over here. I don't mind and feel flattered that I am "the cool mom" but if you are gonna argue and irriitate everyone with your whining go home.

Stephanie said...

I love this! Rock on, Mama.

we are reilly said...

AMEN!

Sarah said...

I could not agree more! Although, when I was little, we didn't go tattle on each other, but I did take all my friends into the bathroom when my mom was in a bubble bath...maybe that's why she always says, "I hope you have 5 just like you!"

Dana said...

I wholeheartedly agree. I would guess that I'm a pretty "free range" type mom. I absolutely HATE being pulled into their bickering. I just ask the boys, "do I look like I'm wearing a black and white striped shirt today? No? Well, that must mean that I'm NOT in fact a referee!" Geesh, figure it out guys. Problem solving is such an important part of life!

Tonya said...

I am with you my friend! I can't stand tattling. We have somewhat of the same mantra here.

CaraBee said...

Well said! When I was a kid, we ran all over the neighborhood. Kids fought. Kids argued. Going to the parents was a LAST resort. I hope I can give my kid(s) that kind of independence.

Kristi said...

Amen, sister. I couldn't agree more. Isabella is just getting to the age where fights over toys begin, and unless there's blood and physical violence, I let her work it out, with some gentle guidance about the importance of sharing. When she's a bit older, as your kids are, I'm adopting the same motto as you have.

mom2three said...

Yep I am a freerange mom! I cracked up so bad over the tattling thing...that is something I can't stand of our neighborhood kids. Bella my 5 year old is allowed to do more than most 5 year olds....and is constantly being told on...The doorbell rings ummmm Bellas mom Bella is doing this, that.....ugh ! I hate it and I think the kids are thinking I am the mean Mom because I constantly say if she isn't making someone bleed than I don't care!!!

Laanykidsmom said...

I agree too. I think more parents need to relax. I do fear for some of these kids when they're grown up - how will they even know how to wipe their own nose? I also say, no one's bleeding, it's not an emergency - figure out how to get along or go play all by yourself. Enjoyed this post!

sheila said...

So true. This post brings back memories of why enjoyed moving so much. :)

Now that they're older it's so nice, but we barely have any kids on our street. Everyone is near death. (I 'm sorry I mean...elderly) So to visit friends it's generally a long drive. Normally filled with bickering. Go figure. Nice trade off. :)

Feener said...

it really is interesting. we have been going to the beach and of course i watch like a hawk, fearing every step they make to the ocean. however, when i was not even 5 - my folks let me go to the beach with family friends. me and the kid who was my age ran into the ocean. i recall getting knocked around, gasping for air and having sand all in my suit. NO ONE was watching us or cared, and i learned that i couldn't go too far into the waves. OH and NO ONE put sunscreen on me and i came home redder than red and was in extreme pain. how different huh ??

Christina said...

I agree with you. I prefer if the kids try to work out their problems before coming to me. I honestly hate to deal with kids tattling that someone was mean to them. Conflict resolution is part of growing up.

Gettysburg Mom said...

I'm so free range, I just toss some food in the back yard for them to peck at during the day.

I loved when this approach came out. Before this, I thought I was just a lazy parent. Now, I know otherwise. I'm a free range parent.

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

That cracked me up! Yay for a nice sounding label!!!

Beck said...

I recently had a discussion with another mother which caused me to tear ALL OF MY HAIR OUT - her son and my son are friends/enemies and her darling blossom has been in trouble all year long for settling problems by hitting, swearing, calling names...
"I told him to tell the teacher, but she said he had to settle problems himself!" she said, "And then she wonders why he gets in trouble."
What's that sound? Me smacking my head on my desk.

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