One of our BASIS Independent Brooklyn families worked diligently for months to secure a speaker for our BASIS Independent Thought Series, which explores many different views and perspectives across a spectrum of topics. As a school, we do not promote any single stance but encourage the conversation.
The Dubovs live in Park Slope with their three young children, and Ms. Lenore Skenazy's columns had inspired them to find ways to foster independence in their kids on a daily basis outside of school. We wanted to share some of their reasons behind recommending Ms. Skenazy before recapping her speech and talking about her non-profit organization's "Let Grow" project that would benefit from our community's participation.
What prompted you to allow your children to start taking on more responsibility?
We both were born in the former Soviet Union and there was very little of the overprotective culture witnessed here. We went into the yard (large building, not a private home) and played with other kids unsupervised from a very early age. Once we immigrated to the United States, at 9-years-old for both of us coincidentally, we were poor and our parents were mostly busy, thus leaving a lot of our time free for self-directed play. All this makes it very natural for us to let our kids take on tasks and responsibilities that others may feel the kids are unprepared for.
What change have you seen in your kids after giving them more independence/responsibility?
Kids feel a sense of pride an accomplishment, but as most things with kids, it becomes the norm very quickly. When Victor and Jacka went to the grocery store by themselves for the first time, it was something they couldn't stop talking about for a few days. The pride was real. Now it's just part of what they can do. Same goes for walking to a friend's house in our summer community.
What change have you felt about it?
Letting go once certainly makes the next time easier.
How could other families get started? What type of projects could families take on?
Start with something small. Even little things like allowing the kids to take the stairs while you take the elevator allow you to "try on" the separation and see that it's very workable. Thinking back to your childhood and how natural it felt to do some of these things made us more willing to try.
Let Grow Talk on November 2
Ms. Skenazy arrived on our campus in early November with one main message: parents should think about the differences between their own childhood that typically involved independent, enjoyable playtime as well as responsibilities and compare that to how thier kids are growing up now with very limited freedom. Then she discussed the implications of our current very controlling—even though well-intentioned—ways of raising kids with extensive oversight to keep them safe. She helped flag that this unintentionally communicates to kids that they cannot take care of themselves.
Ms. Skenazy ended her talk to our parents with a request for our families to participate in her "Let Grow" project, where parents allow their children to do one thing independently they remember doing as a child that makes sense for the child's age.
Below is more information on the project along with a specific link for families participating from our school.
About THE LET GROW PROJECT (abridged from letgrow.org):
While we want our kids to learn to roll with some punches and solve some problems—even spats—without constant adult intervention, they have fewer and fewer opportunities to do so. One way kids acquire the resilience and self-control they need to succeed in school and, eventually, the workplace is by doing some things, even negotiating some risks, on their own. Most of us remember playing outside, walking to school, running errands. These are actually maturity milestones.
But when adults do everything with or for their kids, the kids don’t get that same chance to grow. How can parents feel confident giving their kids some independence?
Kids talk with their parents about what one thing they feel ready to do that, for one reason or another, they haven’t done yet: Walk the dog, make dinner, get themselves to a friend's house…almost anything their parents did at their age. The kids can do this project alone or with another kid or kids.
This one independent experience has enormous repercussions:
- Kids who have been under constant adult supervision discover and develop resourcefulness
- Parents consistently report that afterwards, they feel exhilarated: their worries have been replaced by pride and joy in their blossoming child
- School counselors report a shift in maturity (and calmer parents)
- Kids are ready to do more things on their own
LIST OF LET GROW PROJECTS TO DO ALONE OR WITH A FRIEND
Run an errand
Walk the dog
Wait at the bus stop
Ride your bike to a friend’s house
Make a fort
Climb a tree
Pick up something from the store
Build something out of junk
Go get ice cream
Go get pizza
Spend some time at the library
Ride a local bus
Organize a visit to a friend’s and get yourself there
Build a surprise for your parent
Do something with your brother or sister outside
Organize a game outside with your friends
Take the subway
Go to a museum
Get yourself ready for school and out the door
Get the ingredients for a cake and make it
Bake something delicious
Make your lunch for tomorrow
We’d like parents to go to http://www.letgrowsurveys.org and click on the survey that is set up for our school to RSVP for the survey. The page has a list of different schools, with a link for each to an English language survey and a Spanish language survey. Families will be asked to input one name and email.
From there, parents will be sent an invitation to the pre survey (to be completed BEFORE the project starts) and then once they complete the pre survey, an invitation to the POST survey (to be completed after the child does the survey) will follow.
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Our families have many different approaches to raising children, so we know this project will not be a fit for all. However, we do encourage parents interested in participating to do so.
Please also let us know if you do want to share your experience with our school community as part of a follow up blog post slated for early 2018.