How tight a leash do you need to put your kids on? Dr. Fran Walfish — Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author of The Self-Aware Parent, and costar on WE TV's Sex Box — offers expert insight on letting go.
I am not an advocate of "free-range parenting" in its radical, pure form. I think the current culture and electronic digital communication have raised the risk factors for danger. However, below are five of my top tips to help foster my variation of "free-range parenting."
Supervised Street Play
Take turns alternating with neighborhood parents supervising young children playing on the block (during daytime and evening hours). This allows kids to become familiar with other adults watching them vs. their own moms and dads.
Reward Every Increment of Responsible Behavior With More Independence
Each plateau of observable consistent, dependable, responsible behavior on your child's part, including respecting rules and curfew, following parents' directives when asked once, school attendance, and homework assignments delivered on time, should be rewarded with small bits of more freedom and autonomy.
Educate and Inform Your Children
Invite someone from the crime department in your local police department to visit your neighborhood and educate your kids about the best self-protection and self-defense strategies. For example, teach them that if a suspicious stranger, man or woman, driving a car asks them for help finding their lost pet, never get near or inside the car. Run — but first turn and run as fast as you can in the opposite direction that the car is facing. This gives you a head start. By the time it will take for the driver to turn his car around and follow, you might be a block ahead to scream for help. Always yell, "Fire!" People respond faster to a fire call.
Group Clusters Are Better Protection Than Single Children
Teach your kids that it's safer to hang out or walk home in groups than alone. Solo individuals are more desirable targets to bad guys.
Follow Your Intuition
Parents must do what they believe in their gut is right and best for their children. It is up to each of us to decide our family values. Also, we cannot predict life's twists and turns, ups and downs, letdowns, and disappointments. It is individually up to each of us to make decisions based on our belief system and conscience. The worst scenario would be to make a choice and then live with regret later in life. This is one of the reasons moms and dads need to communicate openly and be on the same page regarding family values prior to marriage and having children.