I have heard and had many conversations about today’s kids. Many of these conversations have led to the conclusion that kids are just not as responsible as we were when we grew up. Well that is at least the way we often view it from our memory right?
Recently I had a discussion with a few good friends that took on a life of it’s own and just maybe a different approach as to the reason for the lack of responsibility. What began as a discussion about what is the appropriate age that kids can be left at home, sent to the store, even given a cell phone for example, quickly became a walk down memory lane and the realization that maybe our kids lack of confidence, security, and responsibility could in fact be our fault. As the discussion continued, talk turned to the fact that maybe we are not giving them opportunities to demonstrate good judgement. Maybe we are not putting our children in roles of responsibilities. Maybe their perceived responsibilities are no fault of their own. Maybe this perception is not all that accurate. Maybe it stems from our perceived fears. Maybe our lack of trust of society and in people, has stifled our kids ability to demonstrate their responsibilities.
Then the big question and discovery. Were we this guarded or protected at our kids ages? Did our parents trust us more? Were we really as responsible as kids as we like to believe we were?
I can remember as a kid having the trust of my parents to be out of their sight. Growing up, we often went on bike rides. Sometimes in big groups that would have rivaled any poker run, sometimes in small groups and even on individual rides. These rides would span multiple miles and have us rolling into the neighboring communities anywhere from six to eight miles away. We would ride the back roads, the railroad tracks, and at times the main routes of US 36 and State Route 416. We would play all day in neighboring towns, then spend the afternoon riding home.
I had a conversation while driving a couple of these routes recently with my wife. We spent time discussing whether or not we would let our kids take such rides. With a resounding no and a look that I would be crazy to even consider allowing this to occur, not that I would, this conversation was short lived, as we both came to the conclusion that it was a different world now. However, the fact of the matter is, maybe our fears lie in the ability to trust and for we as parents to trust our children, we have to provide the opportunity for our children to display responsibility.
Other opportunities that seemed like such simple tasks, often we have sheltered our kids from in today’s society. When I think back to my childhood I can recall my parents giving me a couple of dollars and sending me off to the local store, Old Fashion Goshen Dairy, to be exact to purchase a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, whatever may have been needed. I also recall pumping gas into the family vehicle, and filling gas cans to mow the grass. I like many of the neighborhood kids, completed these tasks daily, thinking nothing of these tasks. Quite frankly independence and responsibility were expected. It was the norm rather than today’s exception. I go back to the fact that we say that kids are not as responsible, well maybe it comes to the permission and trust we grant. It is a daily struggle as to when we can leave them home alone, when we can send them to the store, and other places possibly all by themselves.
What I find amazing is that as parents today, we are often protective of the environment that we allow our children to exist in, but yet hand them a device that puts them in far more uncontrollable environments. I find the world wide web and it’s much further reaches much more frightening than allowing our children to take a ride or run an errand to the store.
None of these decisions are easy. I guess I am just trying to keep in mind, that for our children to demonstrate that they are responsible, they have to be provided the opportunities to demonstrate this life skill. Here’s to sending my daughter in for a loaf of bread, hope she brings back my change! :)
“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.”
― Anne Frank
Inventory your family as to how you allow your children to demonstrate responsibility. Sit down with your child(ren) and discuss what your expectations and boundaries are for your family. Give your child when you deem ready to demonstrate this responsibility on their own or maybe with a group of peers.