Let them go - (Sang to the Frozen theme song)
There is a saying in horse training. The best horses get to be horses. In fact, most horse training programs begin with 2 year olds. This is because, for a horse to emotionally balanced, understand communication and respond to cues - it is best to grow up with the herd.
Our children also need this type of social environment early on. And it can be very difficult for us to give them the freedom, or find the community that our children need to just be kids.
The basic idea is to put our kids in environments that let them figure it all out for themselves. Let them put our training, love and expectations to the test. Let them go - in a controlled environment so that they are ready for the next step and the next one.
Early practice dealing with others is so important. Number one because human beings need to socialize. But number two because freedom is coming, and no matter what we do at some point these children will be on their own.
Some kids are on their own when they go to preschool. Some are on their own when they go on to elementary school. Some even are lucky enough to be home-schooled and don’t get fully cut loose into society until later. But at any age, if we have not put our kids in situation where they can fly solo - we have not prepared them for the great opportunities and pitfalls waiting for them.
The library, the playground, the swimming pool, the airport, the backyard barbeque, the birthday party, the neighborhood street, the soccer field . . . these are all opportunities for us to be there - without being there.
Our instinct is to interfere in our kids’ interactions in these environments. We want to protect them, and we also want to tell them what to say. We say things like “Share!” and “Say Please!” and “Be careful!” Instead, it is very powerful to just back off and let horses be horses. Our kids can figure it out for themselves. When we are there, watching, but not interfering, our kids have confidence and take the steps we pray they will in “real life”.
OK then what is the line? When should a parent get involved in these environments? The line is safety. If you see something that makes your motherly or fatherly instinct jump to attention - get in there and fix it. Up to that line, it is OK to observe. You should observe, and be ready to answer questions and debrief situations. This is your child’s chance to practice very important skills like leadership, responding to peer pressure, manners, self-confidence, taking risk, and concentration under your watchful gaze.
More often than not, the child will know when to come to you rather than the other way around. Have faith, and let horses be horses. Let your kids get through the social ringer that is society at a very young age, and give them the chance to find their own resilience. Letting them go begins very early. Letting them go is so hard and counterintuitive. But at the end of the day they belong to more than just their parents, and our job is to prepare them for that future. By reserving our leadership and protection in controlled, safe environments early-on, we inoculate them and do our best to prepare them for when the consequences are higher. Think about the future, and what will they do when the big dangers come calling.
Pd: Yes, all of this is truth. Just don’t forget to take the time to teach your child, create a good environment for them and work on having a connection before you leave them out in the world. Click here for some tips on how to do that.
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