Parenting Styles idealistic vs realistic?

While I have dozens of blogs in my bookmarks folder that I read at least weekly, there are only a very few that are in my top sites and I click on daily (or as often as they post something new). One of these is my favourite, because I really do identify with the blogger and enjoy reading what she writes. I especially enjoy reading about her parenting style, as while it’s not to different from my own, there are some stark contrasts. I find her style of parenting to be on one hand refreshing, possibly even inspiring. On the other hand, I find it naive in its innocence, lacking perhaps in depth and I wonder if her children won’t be in for a nasty shock when one day they step out into the real world without her there to protect them.   This is of course, not a post meant to slam any other blogger, I only know of her parenting style that which she cares to share through her blog, and I’m not criticising her.

I only use her as an example because when I read her posts about parenting, I, of course, compare it to my own style and wonder which is best, ultimately. That, I don’t know. I am accused of being over protective of my kids, I am told I should give them more freedom, especially my oldest son.  I try to be fair, and I certainly don’t want my children to feel as if they are caged, so I consider it.

When I moved my oldest children to England not quite six years ago, I had these wonderful ideals about the childhood they would have. To some extent those ideals have been fulfilled. We take long rambling walks through the woods, go to the beach all the time, they climb trees, eat fruit straight off the branch,  know the joy of a snow day, and are sick to death of historical monuments and buildings. But the one ideal that has not been met is the one where the kids would spend days out playing, like I did and I imagine my parents before me. I built huts in fields, rode bikes, played in my friends houses, played hide and seek at twilight. My kids don’t do those things, or not often anymore.  Don’t get me wrong, they LOVE to do those things.

Smiley

But, Britain is a funny place. Children here are a strange breed. Having gone out to ride bikes with her big brother, my daughter has come home in tears, having been shoved off her bike and punched in the stomach by a bigger boy. My son has been the victim of a group attack after having gone to play at the skate park with friends, by kids he barely knew. He has also been the victim of random violence, coming home one evening.  The children who live across from us, who my kids used to be friends with and the older one went out to dinner with us for my sons birthday last year, turned nasty and started doing things like calling us names, throwing eggs at our house, even ringing our doorbell and running away. Their parents couldn’t care less.

Children who very much appear to be younger than 5 play outside on their own, or with slightly older siblings. Older teens roam the streets with beer in hand, shouting abuse and obscenities.

So, yes, I consider giving my children more freedom. I would even like to. But, it seems like it would be ridiculous to ever follow through. I worry about my daughter, she is only ten. It seems she is at an age where she is at risk of being kidnapped or even sexually assaulted. She is allowed certain freedoms, but very little compared to her friends. She complains about it, but I can only cringe at the freedoms her friends have.  Once while at the park with her friends after school (Daddy was there to keep an eye on her), one of her friends had a strange phone call from a man who said he wanted to meet her in the woods. The friend wanted to go into the woods to meet the man(!!), but my daughter talked her out of it. I have no idea if the girl really did get that strange phone call, but the point is that had my husband not been there, there would have been no adult supervision whatsoever. He was there only because I refuse to let my daughter play at the park alone with her friends, the other girls parents would have had no idea he was there. Another cringeworthy example is my daughters (former) best friends freedoms, we took her out Trick or Treating last halloween, and for fun stopped at her house, at some point after dark. We told her father we’d have her home probably in an hour or so, and he said not to worry, she could walk by herself (!), after dark, on Halloween!  I was gobsmacked.  (We, of course, dropped her off)

Rocket Man

I worry about my 13 year old son, who is at an age where I myself was experiencing my first days in juvenile detention, sleeping on the streets, smoking, having sex and doing drugs. Needless to say, I lose countless hours of sleep worrying about him. I give him some freedoms, he is allowed to go out to “play” but I insist on regular, in person, check ins. I like to know where he plans to be and who he plans to be with. He gets ever so annoyed about my frequent reminders about not smoking, drinking, or kissing. I am strict. Failing to check in and being gone for hours and hours is a guaranteed road to grounding. I seem too strict but I find my method works. I have a better idea of where he is and what he’s doing. He has a failsafe, he can always get out of uncomfortable situations because his mom makes him check in and after years of this, I know that when he fails to check in it is usually because he is having a good time with his friends, riding bikes or building forts, and I worry slightly less. If something off were going on, he would be more likely to check in and not go back out.

I find that far from constraining them, my limits allow for more quality family time. We can hardly take those long rambling walks, go to the beach or enjoy £1 bowling or movies if the kids are never around. The kids moan about it, but they are far happier when they are out with us than when they come home having been with their friends all day.

As parents we always have our kids best interests at heart. The other blogger obviously wants her kids to have an innocent childhood, blissfully unaware of the bad shit that happens in real life. This is commendable, but I wonder if it’s realistic?  On the other hand, I believe in being honest and open with my kids. They know all about the bad shit. My daughter knows what to do if someone tries to grab or lure her off the street. My son knows about smoking and drugs and sex. They know that sometimes kids get killed, and they know that the world is not necessarily a nice place.  Is this a good way for them to grow up, have they lost some of their innocence?

Easter Cake

I never quite know which method is best, and I sometimes covet the apparently idealised childhood her kids seem to have. But, I can’t quite remove myself from the stories of bad shit that happens to kids, or from my own experiences, enough to let go and let them have the freedom they want, and others tell me to give. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Do I need to cut the cord? Or is my parenting style encouraging stronger ties with their family, giving them a strong support structure and keeping their minds open to all the opportunities out there, beyond spending 6 hours jumping on a trampoline, culminating in a level of boredom that will lead to drinking/smoking/making out?

I am truly interested in this, because I must admit to getting irritated at the constant squeaking of the people involved in my sons education who listen to his complaints and refer to me as overprotective and controlling. I disagree with them, I am not blind and see the way kids are being raised around me, and surely it is my job as a parent to do whats best for my child? Is my 13 year old son really old enough to make his own decisions and be trusted with the level of responsibility necessary to keep himself safe and healthy on a day to day basis when is being pressured? I wasn’t. Hell, I can’t even trust him to remember to feed the cats every day. Is it really safe enough to allow my daughter to play alone at the park with only other 10 year old girls with her, or walk home alone late in the evening?  Do I need to take into account that we live in Nowhere,Hampshire as opposed to Central London?

I wonder what others opinions are on this? If you have kids, how much freedom do you allow them? Is family time more important than friend time and do you let your kids be aware of the bad things that can happen, or do you keep them insulated from it as much as possible?  Would you prefer your kids had extracurricular activities and interests or would you rather they enjoyed the freedom of going out to play with their friends after school and on weekends?

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8 responses to this post.

  1. I wouldnt worry about your style. Your style is your style. No to families are the stame. No two kids are the same. No two neighborhoods are the same. You do what you feel is best. You do what you can to get through the day , the week, the month. Dont waste your energy on what people say you ” should” do. Tell them to mind their own business and maybe worry a bit more about their own kids.

    Reply

    • Posted by The General (aka: Mommy) on June 10, 2011 at 7:13 pm

      Hi Kelli,

      Thanks for your insight. It’s difficult to balance what I know and what is happening around me, and I can’t quite work out if it is a culture clash? Maybe British kids traditionally are given a lot more freedom? It would explain all the little ones running around with only slightly older siblings to watch them…

      Reply

  2. I don’t have children. I’m an outside observer to parenting through my experience (over ten years, now) of working with children and adolescents. I agree with the above comment: no one can tell you what is best for your kids, as you know them best. I can offer some trends that I’ve seen, however.

    Knowledge is power. Knowing about the bad stuff prepares your children to deal with it when you can’t be there. That isn’t always going to keep them from giving it a try, but it is going to predispose them to giving the matter thought. That can’t hurt.

    The kids that have the opportunity to spend good, quality time with their families tend to be happier, healthier, and better adjusted. They may not understand or appreciate that now, or they might. Later, they will. Particularly when the meet and spend significant time with people who didn’t have the opportunity to have that experience with their families.

    Like I said, I’m not a parent, but as an outside observer that’s what I’ve seen.

    By the way, your kids are beautiful. You have some amazing pictures of them. I really hope that when I DO have kids I somehow morph into a shutterbug. ^.^

    Reply

    • Posted by The General (aka: Mommy) on June 10, 2011 at 7:20 pm

      Thank you for your thoughts and your kind words. My husband is the photographer, and most of the pictures here are his work. He doesn’t face book or blog or anything so it’s hard to give him the proper credit, sometimes.

      I agree with your points, naturally! Though I must admit sometimes I do wonder if my controlling nature does exert itself on my parenting to often. Though, I kind of think that can only be a good thing!

      I suppose I’ll have to wait a few more years to see the results of my methods though, my oldest will be eighteen in 4 years and 16 days. *cue prerequisite sigh and tearful “they grow so fast”*

      Reply

  3. Thanks for this post comparing idealistic and realistic parenting styles. It would seem many parents tend to struggle with these type of questions. Good read.

    Reply

  4. Wow, way more strict than I am…then again my son doesn’t get beat up on his way home. Good luck with that.

    Reply

  5. Posted by The General (aka: Mommy) on June 10, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    I’m glad your son doesn’t have to worry about the kind of random violence we are dealing with. Perhaps just a cultural thing. Britain seems a lot more tolerant of aggressive attitudes.

    Reply

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