Teaching and not teaching “responsibility”

Okay, bear with me here… this post started with my penchant for country music.  My oldest will be the first to tell me that he should be able to listen to mainstream radio because my country music is “just about drinking beer”.  Touché

But this morning I was listening to a song as I drove Girly to camp and it got my gears going about how kids who grow up out in the sticks are forced to think in ways that other kids are not.  I feel similarly about kids who live in cities like Manhattan and such.  My exposure to these groups is that they are required to think about how to handle situations that my kids in the ‘burbs are just not.  I started wondering if this was something we should address…

And I decided that I DO want to address it.  Because I can.  Well, actually, I don’t KNOW that I can, but I have way more resources to attempt to address it than many people do–so I want to try.

Some would say that “free range parenting” is to the suburban child what daily life is to urban and country children in terms of building independence and problem-solving skills.  I have to be honest: while I’m by NO means a helicopter parent, I’m not fully behind some of the more extreme tenets of the Free Range Kids movement.  Like many controversial topics, I land somewhere in between.

BigGuy has Asperger’s and doesn’t often (ever?) realize that he’s in a dangerous situation.  And Girly is still really young (6).  Girly definitely outperforms BigGuy in terms of picking up the signals that a situation is either not good or going in a bad direction; and she’s quick to respond to it.  That’s scary for us.  We have, as a family, frequent conversations about the “bigger” dangerous things–the social situations that have potential to go really wrong.  However, we don’t have much opportunity for them to really be in situations that call them to action in ways that build their skills for independent problem solving and instill the confidence in them that they can handle problems.  As I type this, I’m really starting to think about this on a social level–and how that is impacting all manner of things, including the growing trend for adults to believe that someone else knows better about what’s best for them and their family.

How to accomplish my task is something I really need to figure out.  What kind of rope am I going to give my relatively sheltered suburban kids?  I haven’t decided yet.  But this goes “on the list” of things we need to start teaching our kids.


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