Raising Independent Kids
I've had people tell me that I'm lucky that my kids can entertain themselves. This has always struck me as an odd statement, because I feel like it is something that should be a really normal thing. My son has always been great at playing on his own and I really think he prefers it to playing with others. My daughter does really love to play with friends, but she is can also play by herself for hours at a time. They are both really creative kids, and I love seeing them play by themselves.
I mentioned in my post last week (found here) that I hate the need today's society has to constantly entertain our kids and provide them with structured activities. I feel that in the long run, the only thing this does is hinder their ability to be creative and learn to entertain themselves. I'll admit that with my first child, I was quick to sign up for library story hour, and a couple other mom and me classes, but I skipped every single one of those with my second child. I spent those story time classes trying to corral an 18 month old into sitting and listening to a book, while all the other moms did the same thing. Did it teach him to sit and listen? No. Did it socialize him with kids his age? No. Did he learn anything while we were there? Again, no. What it did do was drive me crazy and make me feel like a bad mom for not having a kid that would sit quietly and listen to story time. Really though, none of the kids sat quietly and listened, because kids that age just don't do that. Needless to say, my daughter never went to one and she's still managed to become a very social little girl who does great in school. In my opinion, all of these classes mean a lot more to the parents than they do to the tiny kids that are being dragged to them.
Pinterest is one of my favorite things to waste time on, but it is also something that represents so many problems with parenting these days. The whole philosophy of needing to plan out things for kids to do all day, every day just doesn't sit well with me. Do I do some projects with my kids sometimes? Sure I do, but 9 times out of 10, I let me kids do whatever they want to do. We have a box full of paper, scissors, markers, crayons, paints, and other craft stuff and I don't typically dictate what they do. My daughter makes projects almost every day, and I love seeing what she comes up with. She cuts, pastes, colors, and designs, all sorts of little treasures all on her own. That is what I think is beneficial to a child's development, not putting something that you partially made in front of them, and helping them or telling them how to assemble the rest of it. Yes it is great for them to learn how to follow directions and put things in order, but it is also great for them to just be creative. Also, my OCD tendencies always get in the way and I have a really hard time not helping them do things the way I think they should be done. I learned several years ago that they have a lot more fun, and they are really proud of their stuff when I just back off and let them create.
I have watched so many people who are just exhausted at the end of the day because their kids need constant attention and don't know how to entertain themselves. The parents move the kids from one activity to the next and dictate every playtime activity. As soon as the kid has lost their attention span on one thing, then they are asking their mom or dad for something else to do. I get it, kids attention spans aren't always great, but they really should be able to play on their own. I've always loved listening to my kids play. They are the voice of all the toys they play with, and their little conversations with themselves are hilarious. My son would play for hours with cars, blocks, trains, anything a typical boy likes. My daughter will set up elaborate Barbie or stuffed animal scenarios and play forever with no need for me to help her. (Well, other than the occasional dress change on those tiny little Disney Princesses that wear rubber dresses. What is the deal with making those impossible for kids to maneuver??) This is something I love because they are perfectly happy and I get a little time to get my things done. I have a friend who mentioned not having a free second in the day, and after being at her house one day I understood why. Her son had no idea how to play by himself because she'd never let him try. I think this happens a lot now and I really don't think it will be beneficial to the kids long term.
We've never had super structured days at our house. Even when the kids were babies, we were kind of a fly by the seat of our pants family. We had a time frame that I tried to stay around for naps and stuff, but the world didn't end if I had stuff to do and we skipped something. I tried to stay with a similar schedule, but life doesn't always work that way and I think my kids are better off because of that. They have always been able to adapt to schedule changes pretty well, which works out great when we go on vacation or have random things come up. The thought of having to plan something out for them to do all day every day makes me crazy.
When I was growing up, we lived out in the country and didn't have other kids (just me and my two younger brothers) to play with. We became really independent kids and went outside all summer long and just played. We built forts, and made up our own games, played in our little creek, and ran around the pasture. I can't imagine doing things any other way and I think it helped me grow into an independent person. I have never relied on others to entertain me or give me things to do, and I'd love for my kids to continue on that same path.
People are moving so quickly towards the "Pinterest Parenting" way of raising kids, and it really scares me what all those kids are going to be like as adults. What happens when kids grow up and move out on their own after being accustomed to someone providing them with something to do at all times? Will they be able to complete a day of work when they are responsible for scheduling their day out and getting tasks done with no assistance? I really hate that there are new moms out there who think they are doing the wrong thing if they haven't completed all of the things on the "100 Things to do With Your Kids This Summer" list they found on Pinterest, or that they haven't taken their baby to multiple "mommy and me" classes throughout the week. Parents, it is ok to not plan out a full day of activities for your kids. Further more, it is more than ok to just let your kids be kids and figure out on their own what to play with or what craft project to do. Let them grow their independence and creativity. I'm thankful to my mom for sending us out to come up with our own fun, and I'm sure that someday your kids will be too.