Free Range Parenting a Toddler – AKA Put that Cigarette Butt Down Baby
What if I told you there was a something guaranteed to strengthen your toddler’s immune system, prevent vitamin D deficiency, build resilience and help them sleep better at night? I bet you’d be out scanning the supermarket shelves for this wonder-product; this magic bullet. But the best-kept secret to your kid’s health and happiness isn’t found in a bottle. It’s Free Range Parenting. Let ‘em run amok and you’ll reap the rewards.
Kiss your pilot’s license goodbye
So, you want to say goodbye to your days as a helicopter parent? You’ve probably piloted more than your fair share of choppers, anxiously hovering over your precious first-born as they toddled through the park. Darting ahead, flinging aside twigs, scooping up cigarette butts and kicking away dog poo like some kind of demented maternal street-sweeper. Or perhaps you’ve been the parent with the silo-sized bottle of hand sanitiser. You’ve got it cocked to unleash a torrent of germicidal jelly. All that hovering is exhausting and your trigger finger deserves a rest.
Your Blackhawk is down…for good. Come join the proud parental procession, don a mortar board and graduate with honours from the laissez-faire school of childhood development. You’ll soon find out how liberating it is to parent with benevolent negligence.
The more hands-on the better
Life’s too short for matching socks, over-scheduled weekends and hyper-sanitised floors. You’re meant to embrace it (and your kids) with gusto. Get down to kid level with them and see it, hear it, smell it, touch it and taste it…all within reason, of course. Fingertips are designed to touch, feel, grab, mash, pick at and squelch. They’re not engineered to be dragged listlessly over the screen of a tablet or device. The greatest and most interesting discoveries aren’t on YouTube or on TV. They’re found stuck to the bottom of a shoe, under a rock or up a tree. All you need to uncover this wonderful hidden world is unscheduled time, fresh air and plenty of freedom to move. There’s no rule book for you to read or seminar you have to pay to attend. Yay to that!
Sure, it’s sensible to draw the line at your littlies engaging in activities likely to result in the amputation of a vital body part or the insertion of a large object up a small nostril. But the rest is up to you. Free-range parenting is simply learning to take a step back and let your kids find their own way in the world. It’s such a risk-adverse society today. It’s easy to feel like you’re paralysed with the fear of what could happen. So you go out of your way to eliminate any possible source of risk or harm that your kids might encounter. You’re not going to be within hovering range of your kids forever. Someday they’ll have to make their own assessment of the world. If you teach them to take sensible risks when they’re young you’ll equip them with the skills necessary to deal with all the world can throw at them later in life. Even if it’s some other unhinged mother at the park throwing sticks, scooping up cigarette butts and kicking dog poo.
Knowing when you’re on the right track
How do you know if you’re getting it right? Easy! You can measure your kid’s happiness by counting the number of rocks, feathers and bottle caps you have to extract from their pockets when you do the washing. You’ll be able to judge the success of a day spent in the great outdoors by the depth of the colour of the ring around the bath. Happily, like you, kids and their clothes are completely washable. For best results, finish by air-drying with a nudie run. Your kids can join in too if they like.
It’s time to get serious about your kid’s fun. Resist the urge to pilot your own parental chopper. Don’t hire a drone, stick a GPS tracker on their shoe, microchip them or do whatever it is that anxious parents do nowadays. You can grow resilient, imaginative kids by letting them learn to take on the world one dog poo, one bull ant bite and one cigarette butt at a time.