How To Be a Better Dad is the Fatherhood and co-parenting section on SingleDad. Share and exchange great fatherhood advice from our members who are in all stages of fatherhood. This month, learn about a dad’s most difficult choice – risk and responsibility.
Risk and Responsibility – A Dad’s Most Difficult Choice
A few years back, a couple in Maryland was placed under
investigation and threatened with the removal of the kids from their care for
allowing their kids to walk home unsupervised from a playground. A ten-year old
boy and his six-year old sister had been dropped off to play. While walking
home, they were stopped by police and asked if they were ok. They handed the
police a card that their parents had written – "We are not lost. We are
On the other side of the coin, everyone has heard horror
stories about helicopter parents – we’ve all seen them. Mothers following
little Janie around at a friend’s birthday party making sure she doesn’t play
with some new toy or have a disagreement with one of the other five-year olds.
Dads standing on the sidelines, and instructing little Johnny on every single
pitch at every Little League game.
However, we don’t hear as much today about free-range
parents. Those are the ones who let their kids go solo as often as possible.
Those are the ones who take the leash off early in life, just like that
Maryland couple. Free range parenting is not just a concept, it’s an actual
movement started in 2009 by Lenore Skenazy after she was chastised for
permitting her nine-year old to ride the New York subway alone.
Responsibility – A Dad’s Dilemma
Though parenting skills usually develop based on a parent’s
personality type, they are a choice. In today’s instant-information society,
bad news surrounds us all. We have to decide how much risk we want our kids to
assume, and how much responsibility to give them. Do we let them ride their
bike to a friend’s house three miles away when they are seven years old, as my
parents did fifty years ago? Or do we drive them there and take away just a
shred of responsibility?
We instantly hear about every tragedy, no matter how far it
was from our neighborhood. The 24-hour, omnipresent news makes all us think
about becoming a helicopter parent. This continual news cycle instills even
more fear and worry than parents already possess.
But, there is a balance that all parents must find between
risk and responsibility. No one wants to end up with a neighbor, friend or
family member ranting about them because they let their child walk along the
train tracks to a friend’s house, like I did those many years ago. No one wants
to get in trouble with law enforcement like those Maryland parents. But, kids
need to learn responsibility. They need to learn how to take care of
themselves. They will be adults before they learn to be their own person if the
helicopter is always buzzing near their heads.
How to Responsibly Give
Your Children Responsibility
- Start small – gradually
give them more responsibility. Extend their range and responsibility in
stages over time.
- Even if you don’t want
them to have a cell phone until a specific age, provide them with one for
times when they are going solo.
- If you want to be a
helicopter parent from a distance, there are wearable GPS-tracking devices
like LZ KiZon and kidsport GPS.
- Listen to your gut and
believe your instincts. As a parent, you are constantly making gut
decisions. Combine your gut with a desire to see your children learn to
take responsibility, and you may not become a full-fledged free range
parent, but you will be making sure the helicopter stays in the hanger,
where it should be.
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Richard “RJ” Jaramillo, is the Founder of SingleDad.com,
a website and social media resource dedicated to single parenting and specifically for the newly divorced, re-married, widowed and single Father with children.
RJ is self employed, entrepreneur living in San Diego and a father of three children. The mission of SingleDad is to help the community of Single Parents
“Make Life Happen…Again!”