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Author Topic: Developing independence- help me out please  (Read 9833 times)
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« on: June 08, 2015, 02:29:05 AM »

I have been reading Free Range Parenting and have decided some of my parenting choices are holding my kids back. Can't have that now!  laugh so I am looking for ways to increase their independence. I rad that in Australia we naturally are pretty protective of our kids in this generation and I have to agree. I was much more free range as a child than my kids get to be. I also read that other countries are much more likely to let their kids do things I wouldn't consider. I want to know what you do that you think helps your children develop independence. What do you shake your head at at that silly Westerners do to bubble wrap their kids? My kids are 7,9,11 and I want them to be fully functional adults before they'd turn 16.
Some things I tried this week
Let them loose in a zoo
Made my oldest sort out her own doctors appointments, and talk to the doctor directly about her problems
Taught them how to clean the shower, toilet and mop the floor
Organised a payment chart for extra chores. I expect a fair bit for no money but they wanted a chance to earn $$$ too.
Order their own food in a cafe and pay with my key card.
What else can I have them do for themselves? So many things I do every day for them but never stopped to question. Help me question everything I do!


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« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2015, 02:51:18 PM »

I'll be watching this thread with interest! I loved that book too, and it is hard to implement.

My kids are are only 4.5, almost 3, and 1, and I struggle to have the confidence to let them do things. I just increased their (unpaid) contributions to running the house (washing dishes, picking up toys, and laundry), and they have optional chores for money too. But most of their free ranging is staying out while I take one into a public restroom, like at the park or the library, or playing in the front yard with me glancing at them through the window every few minutes. And even then, I'm waiting in fear for Child Protective Services to show up.

We like to read a manga called Yotsubato (Yotsuba& in English), about a Japanese five year old. I want to live in Japan! When she goes to the corner store by herself to buy ramen, the cashier compliments her in running errands by herself! I'm pretty sure my corner gas station would call the cops. And the parks have loudspeakers that announce dinner time because kids are expected to be there without their parents. Jealousy!

Anyway, for older kids: at that age, I'm pretty hopeful that my kids will be running the house with me supervising. (Hey, a mom can dream, right?) There's the public transportation option, like in the book. Are there stores your kids could bike to and shop at? Or make the grocery list and buy the groceries while you sit in the car? How far can they go play on their own? What can they build? Can they create a business to earn money from other people? I hire an 11 year old babysitter, and her 9 year old brother does yard work. Do you have a garden? I like what you've already tried; it sounds like a great start.

Like I said, my kids are younger, so I don't know if these apply. Just brainstorming!


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« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2015, 06:49:38 AM »

Thanks for the ideas. Yes some apply. No one would let an 11 year old babysit here...except me letting her watch her brother who really can look after himself.  smile
Shopping alone I can do. Sometimes they do milk and bread but I think they could do more. No one would bat an eyelid over it here either. That would be socially acceptable because they would assume I am waiting at the door. They really can't walk anywhere for a purpose (we live in the country) but they could walk alone more around the block. (Hubby won't like this will need meatloaf or cheesecake to get him on board  smile )
I am considereing leaving them alone for the holidays while I am at work but although I feel comfortable doing this I am questioning my sanity at feeling comfortable! Go figure.


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« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2015, 02:21:58 AM »

Interesting topic and I know I'm personally not good at allowing my children out of my sight at all (8, 5 and 11 with special needs). I probably need to do it more.

But, I do wonder about leaving your 3 children at home while you are working not because I don't believe they are capable but because of the legal aspect. Queensland law is unclear but it states that a child under 12 is not to be left at home for an unreasonable amount of time (what is unreasonable is open to interpretation). I have absolutely no legal knowledge but I think the 11 year old would probably be in the fuzzy area but the 7 and 9 year old would probably be considered too young (I don't think a child under 8 is allowed to be left at home at all without a responsible adult). And leaving the 11 year old 'in charge' of the other 2 probably wouldn't be seen as sufficient either.  Apparently Qld law is the harshest in the country with the penalty being up to 3 years imprisonment for the adult.

As I said I really don't know the legal ins and outs and I'm pretty much the opposite of a free range parent so feel free to ignore  smile

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« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2015, 11:00:34 AM »

Yes the laws are certainly not clear are they! I did ask a policeman about the laws. He told me they were guidelines aimed at keeping children safe. He said any child who is being well cared for, with reasonable safety precautions taken and left in no immediate risk would not raise their interest at all. He did say every child and every family are different and some 18 year olds should never be left in charge but some much younger children can be quite safely. He wouldn't commit to an age because he said there isn't one cutoff age.

Had you asked me about this last year I swear to you I would have said "no way! I just wouldn't do it! They are far too young" but something in them has changed and I am quite comfortable with it. We do have well loved neighbours who are around should they need an adult and I think that certainly helps. They can go to the neighbours if they are bored or lonely too. We also live in a acreage estate and that definelty helps! But most of all I know they are ready. I do think this comes down to individual kids. Anyone who met them would agree they are much older than their years. My 9 year old babysits toddlers, their mums are around but everyone is perfectly comfortable if they both go out of sight together, even in busy public places. My 11 year old runs a taekwondo class- full of kids her age! And my son is very easy going and independent. Even I am shocked at how much my views of them have changed in the last year. Still I don't think it would be fair to do it full time. (I don't work an 8 hour shift but I do work 5 days.) They need a holiday too. So a few days here and there perhaps. I might even get the neighbours or babysitter to pop by while they have lunch. Still if hubby doesn't approve I won't do it at all, even though the kids are ok with the idea.


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« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2015, 11:21:17 AM »

Fair enough. And as I said I'm definitely not free range!!  Our 'eldest' is only 8 so we are just coming up to the when can we leave him at home by himself for short periods of time question.  He takes after me though and isn't one for taking 'risks' so he isn't comfortable with it anyway.

I'm sure whatever you decide will be right for your children.

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« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2015, 11:26:49 AM »

 I didn't used to be free ranging at all. It's a new concept for me. Helped immensely by my kids growth in maturity.
My kids stayed home alone for 10 minutes for the first time at age 9. I was one street away picking up furniture and they didn't all fit in the car so I left two at home. Other than that one time it's only been this year with my oldest at age 11 that I even considered it. And I checked the neighbours were home first.  happy
If I go out they automatically come with me. Even if it's just to get fuel or bread. It's jsut the way we have always done it and these habits are hard to change. I am happy for them to tag along for a few years yet but I want them to develop these skills too. It's a delicate balance I tell you that! I do think you will KNOW when the time is right. I certainly did. It did kind of creep up on me still but I knew.


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« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2015, 05:24:58 AM »

Hi MandaB:)

I can't believe the kids are so old now! Glad to hear they are doing well.

This topic is one that I have put a great deal of thought into as independence in Alex is one of my largest goals for her. I can tell you some of the things I have done and plan to do. Of course, some of it will be for purposes of this thread only, as Alex is just five and your kiddos are older.

When I was brainstorming ideas on how to foster her independence, i decided that most independent actions stem from confidence. So I thought the first step would be to ensure she was confident in taking the 'babysteps', sort of a scaffolding approach to independence. I am attempting a condensed 'watch me, do it with me, do it yourself' approach... it occurred to me that even the illusion of independence would be enough for many things. So we tried an experiment:
Alex has always loved going to the dry cleaners to take daddy's shirts. Because of my wheelchair and the lack of convenient access to a ramp into the building, I used to take advantage of the very American convenience of a drive-thru dry cleaners:). However, I noticed that the place was perfect for our experiment. Alex was familiar with the place and the people, as well as the procedure for dropping off/picking up. A few other key features made the place perfect. The shop is located in a small strip where you can literally pull into a parking spots few feet from the door of the glass-fronted shop. I can see directly into the place from my van. So I phone the place and let them know Alex is coming in, and allow her to go in by herself. She takes the shirts and my debit card, marches up to the counter and relays instructions such as how many items, how much starch, etc., and picks up completed items. She brings them to the van along with the receipt for my signature and then takes it back once I have signed. She LOVES to do this, and it really opened my eyes to the possibilities. I just had to set her up for success, provide her with the experience and tools to be confident, and then make sure that given her age I could show that she was being monitored:)
I now have all sorts of errands, activities, and tasks at home we are working on. We are always looking for more! Here are a few ideas:
1. Trip/activity planning- one weekend per month we put Alex in charge of planning our day. She must research online what and where she wants to go. I help her brainstorm sometimes, but ahe is in charge of writing out our plan. She must check opening times/closing times, costs, wheelchair access, meal planning if we need a picnic and so on. We have taught her to use a map app on her IPhone (not as bad as it sounds, it was cheaper to hand down daddy's than to get her a new IPod!) so she can find the best route and plan times. She must research weather and all applicable information as well. She usually has a budget to work with, but everything must be put onto paper as a sort of proposal:) it is a lot of fun and it has given her a better understanding of planning!
2. Learning to balance her 'checkbook.' She gets an allowance, and I gave her a blank checkbook register that we do mock transactions as well as real ones so she can practice the skill.
3. Household repairs- there are so many small things that go wrong in a house that people often pay to have repaired. YouTube has any number of videos on simple repairs so when something goes wrong we put her in charge of learning how to repair it if possible. Of course, much of it she is too young to do (such as the replacement of a cracked electrical outlet the other day!) but she is old enough to seach YouTube and find videos of HOW to do it. She made a list of things we needed for the repair, then we took her to the DiY store where she located the items with us in tow. She then was in charge of directing daddy as he fixed it. As she gets older we will gradually allow her to do much more.
4. Auto maintenance- everyone should know how to perform basic auto maintenance, including oil/fluid checks, tire changes, and safety checks. We have taught Alex to check fluids and tire pressure, but also to converse with the mechanics at the shop when we take it in.
5. Meal planning and prep- my goal is to completely turn over the reigns to Alex one night per week this year. She is to plan a healthy dinner, make a shopping list for ingredients within a budget, shop, and prepare the dinner. Obviously she will be very limited by what she can currently safely cook, but we can start small. She can now make a lovely salad, and does roasted potatoes/veggies in the toaster oven. She did some vegetarian boxed cutlets with them and sliced a loaf of bread for her first dinner...of coarse, this was quite some time in practicing with me first. Your kiddos would feasibly be able to each take a day and cook! Imagine the possibilities, LOL. Just be prepared for some strange ideas!
6. Laundry- washing, folding, ironing, sewing buttons and other small repairs.
7. Speaking in public- there are so many opportunities for this that are available. After Alex decided she wanted to memorize the Gettysburg Address (long story) I decided to phone and ask the organizers of a small function for MLK day if she could deliver the speech for them. They were thrilled, and the experience really gave Alex the confidence I was hoping for. I don't think she would have been able to find her own words to speak in front of so many right now, but delivering someone else's powerful message empowered her. I will continue to look for opportunities.
8. Kids choice- have them choose things they want to do/learn. Things they maybe think would be fun or cool. One of Alex's early ideas was to learn to Frenchbraid hair. She hasn't gotten it, but she did have to track down ideas and videos on HOW to do it. We keep a running list of things she wants to learn how to do. We have a second list for experiences and places she wants to visit...many of which will probably never happen, at least as long as she lives at home:)
9. Public transportation- this is a difficult one in the US. She won't be doing it on her own, but I want her to be able to read time tables and plan routes. We practiced this in England and France this year, but this will be an ongoing thing.
10) our Random Acts of Kindness book- there are tons of ideas on Pinterest for these, but she has gotten some great ideas from this. When she has an idea (such as we used our huge collection of sample toiletries from hotels to make gift bags for a local family shelter) I have her either phone the organizers (usually I phone first to arrange for her to 'arrange' things out of earshot-again, this will change as she ages) or allow her to do the talking in person.
11) doing things for neighbors/walking to their house on her own to take them items.
12) starting a business- I bought a composting set and she will be raising red wiggler worms! Who knew? But here they are sold to other composters ( she will be making kits), fishermen, and bait shops. For a first business, it is relatively low key and inexpensive...and super low maintenance:)

Anyway, these are some of the things we have been working on. There are others, but not all are fleshed out yet. I would love more ideas and input, so maybe others will jump in.

« Last Edit: June 15, 2015, 05:46:05 AM by Kerileanne99 » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2015, 05:37:41 AM »

I love some of these ideas. There are some things I definitely need to start working on. I would love my 5 year old to start working on one meal per week (in the hope that it extends to all planning, shopping, cooking!). Also giving a speech. And one that I really want to put serious thought in is starting their own business. Will need to consider some ideas.

I have to admit that I tend to just do most things myself as it is easier... And I'm not very organised. But I know that I need to start now so that they can actually become independent because I seriously don't plan to be completely supporting them still when they are 20.

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« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2015, 07:44:10 AM »

Hi Keri! How are you? Bubs? Give Alex a big hug from me!
Your list made me reflect. I realised I am doing pretty well overall. I forget what they do already do when I start to focus on what they don't do!  blush
They all cook dinner. Two happily, one under thread of starvation. Start to finish no help from me. Including sharp knives now too.
Yesterday I sent the girls to do the shopping while I filled up the car. They had to wait for me at the checkout as we only have one card and I have no cash usually. I might need to get a second card just for them as this is a recurring problem....
Public transport just isn't going to happen. That one I just can't do. I can't see it as safe enough for them yet.
Trip planning- I gave them next Friday- dinosaur exhibition. smile
Washing- they do that already, no way I could keep up with all the washing without their help actually
Now household repairs! That's pure genius. So onto that one! What needs fixing? Doorstop, toilet roll holder, drawer front, stove light....they could do all these independently yippee! I hate this stuff!
Great ideas. Thanks!


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« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2015, 06:04:30 PM »

Glad to hear you will soon have three little repair persons gleefully putting everything broken to rights smile

Alex is doing really well! We really need to do an update post to share, but suffice to say (for now!) that all the EL work with her has paid off in spades. It is really pretty unbelievable, although I am going to need to outsource her math classes long before she hits double digits age wise. But she has a Skyped-based math mentor (for algebra concepts!) so we will figure it out. She will officially be in Kindy this next fall:)
Her biggest, greatest source of pleasure at the moment however? She is a proud big sister to a beautiful little boy. Maximilian was born in April and Alex is determined to be a huge part of his EL! Funnily enough, when I was pregnant she read to him A LOT in the womb...and her would literally migrate to one side or he other to get close to her voice heart

One other idea regarding independence: do you guys have those prepaid Visa or Mastercards available in Oz? They can be reloaded. I got one for Alex to use for smaller everyday transactions ai wanted her to be able to do...including one for her allowance. You can even track purchases online and then it isn't disastrous if one is lost:)


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« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2015, 10:27:25 AM »

Oh that's fabulous! Welcome to the world and to the delight of Ell Maximillian! I though he must be born by now. smile congratulations. How are you coping with two? I am glad Alex thinks he is wonderful. It's much harder if the siblings don't.
Oh I bet Alex will outpace he tutor in math before double digits! Lol keeping her math advancing would be an almost full time job!
Oh the prepaid credit card! That's a great idea. I will look into that. It happened again today. I counldnt send one shopping for a broomstick (spariing Bo staff;) ) because I needed the card for groceries at the same time.


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