Are you giving your child enough independence?

Are you giving your child enough independence?

Are you promoting independence in your child? A recent poll suggests while many parents say they are, their actions aren’t matching up. 

According to a C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on children’s health, 74 percent of 1,000 parents with children between the ages of 5-11 surveyed said they are intentional with having their child do things themselves when possible. But the responses suggested otherwise:

Why is that? The parents cited reasons including safety, habits or the family’s way of doing things, the child not wanting to do things themselves, and parents believing it will take too long for a task to be accomplished. 

Among the parents surveyed with children 9-11, 84 percent believed it’s important for children to have time without parental supervision, but only 58 percent of those parents would leave their child home alone for 30-60 minutes, and 33 percent would allow their child to walk or bike to a friend’s house.  

Just over half of parents surveyed said their reasoning was because someone may scare their child or follow them, but only 17 percent said their neighborhood is unsafe for children to be alone. 

What’s a possible driving factor behind parents not giving their child independence in these ways? Criticism.  

In fact, one in four parents surveyed reported criticizing other parents for not supervising their child in a way they deemed appropriate, and 13 percent said they have been criticized themselves. 

“Raising a child in today’s world can be scary,” says Dr. Nisarg Bakshi, a pediatrician with Advocate Children’s Hospital. “We’re constantly inundated with stories of violence. Adding in the fear of judgement from other parents only makes things more difficult.” 

Dr. Bakshi says it’s important to find a balance between keeping kids safe and fostering independence. She recommends starting with small steps:

  • If your child is telling you they are ready to walk to school, show them a safe route and walk with them halfway. Encourage them to walk with other kids in the area the rest of the way.
  • If you’ve never left your child at home alone, start with short 10-15 minute errands.
  • Talk to your child in advance about what to do in case of an emergency. Preparation is key for both you and your child to feel comfortable with their independence.
  • Technology can be useful here — using location tracking, check-ins via text or remote cameras can assuage any concerns about their safety in the moment.

“Independence is a critical part of development,” says Dr. Bakshi.Kids are smarter than most of us give them credit for. Find a starting point that makes you both comfortable, and build from there. 

Are you trying to find a pediatrician? Look here if you live in Illinois. Look here if you live in Wisconsin. 

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One Comment

  1. To add to this diliemma, there are enough people nowadays that are very trigger happy to call child protective services, if THEY feel that you’ve “wrongly” left your child alone to be independent.

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.