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Building scaffolds to independence

29 June
Posted by:
Michael Grose
Ever had the situation where your child wants to do something that you consider risky or not within their capability?

Here are some recent examples of potentially risky situations that were child initiated:
• A seven year old boy wanted to go into a public toilet on his own.
• A six year old girl asked her mother if she could make herself a cup of tea.
• A twelve year old wanted to catch a train into the city to watch a movie with friends.

These are tricky parent dilemmas.

On one hand, you want to develop a sense of independence in kids. You should welcome their willingness to have a go.

On the other hand, your duty of care means you must match the potential risk attached to a situation with your assessment of our child’s abilities to manage.

Many parents underestimate their children’s abilities, while children will often overestimate their abilities. This is a common problem with parents of teenagers where fourteen years old think they are three older than they are, and their parents think they are three years younger so finding some middle ground is imperative.

There is little doubt that modern parents are an anxious bunch. Caring we maybe, but daring we are not. Letting go and granting kids sufficient space is perhaps the greatest challenge for the current generation of parents.

So how do you grant kids greater independence when there is an element of risk involved, while keeping them safe from harm?

The solution is to build scaffolds to independence. That is, look for opportunities to move your children closer to independence while keeping them safe.

Here are three ways you can build scaffolds to independence for your child:

1. Look for simple, safe options to start: E.g Allowing a child to go a public toilet on their own at the local swimming pool is easier and safer than in a large shopping centre.

2. Do activities together: E.g Making a cup of tea with your child is great way to teach her about safety.

3. Break complex activities in to simpler activities: E.g Catching trains with friends on short trips is great practice for kids who are itching to do some activities with mates without parental supervision.

If you cringe when kids ask for greater freedom or you typically respond with ‘No!! Wait until you are older’ then think about looking for opportunities to move your child further down the road to independence.

Building scaffolds to independence is one way parents can move towards redundancy while ensuring that kids stay safe.

Sometimes kids will mess up, or experience some outcomes that are less than pleasant. How do you react as a parent when your kids experience hardships, frustrations and difficulties?
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