How do you decide how much independent play is best for your child, and how long of a leash do you give them to do that?
I find this PAIL Monthly theme a very interesting one.
I have always felt that parenting is a lot of common sense. Parental duties include getting to know your child, giving your child opportunities to learn and grow through independence and a guiding parental hand.
Parenting should be catered to your child’s individual needs.
Because of when my children were born, I have not really been a part of the trends of “attachment parenting” or “helicopter parenting” – or maybe I just don’t pay attention to the trends….
I just go through trial and error. I know my child.
Or…sometimes, I don’t “know” my child.
When I was a first time mother, my son would not play in the way “independent” or “executive” play as described. I had no idea that anything was different or wrong – I really did not notice anything unusual. I just knew he liked crafts more than pretend; that he LOVED building models in LEGOS (but not necessarily creating something out of them—he liked to stick to the plan). He and I did nature walks and museums and various other adventures. I would always let him take the lead on these adventures—letting him explore things, sometimes directing to something he may not have noticed. He loved to read and his vocabulary was exceptional. He could be left alone to play with cars or dinosaurs (he just would not necessarily come up with elaborate scenarios). Going to the park, he would wish my participation in play. He would prefer to play with me or his father versus other children…although as time went on, he would find one or two children he would want to play exclusively with. In the early years, I just assumed this was part of parenting an only child (while we struggled with Secondary Infertility).
It was not until Second/Third grade that we found out that he had special needs, that he had ADHD and more recently (Middle School) High Functioning Aspergers.
As time has gone on, as my son has struggled with social pragmatics and behavior issues—we found that certain things that would be common and “normal” tactics for parenting, just do not work. For example, he did not like being rewarded with stickers. He has issues with stickers, they annoy him. Also tags on clothes.
When we go out to a restaurant, after he is done eating, he generally can only sit for so long—and then he excuses himself to go outside to pace around. I see no harm in it, although I am sure that there are parents who wonder if we are being “lenient”. Especially when they see our reaction to our son when he says something inappropriate to the situation or how we are not so picky about whether he is looking like he is actively listening (testing again this year has found that he does absorb information like a sponge—his can be distracted easily, yet listening). These are not excuses or defenses--the challenges of dealing with a child who is quirky or other wise special needs means that you need to understand, at least a little, what makes them tick (or "tic"), and deal with those special needs with some measure of what will work and what won't.
With my daughter, she has different levels of play activity--she is imaginative and can play for hours on her own. It has been a wonder to watch how differently she plays than how my son did. I enjoy watching her and find that often if she makes me participate, she is not as creative as she is on her own. I try to be nearby, usually trying to be accessible to her if she wants my input. And that works for both of us very well.
Most important to me is bringing my children to experiences. Saturday night we all went to see Japanese Drummers. I was proud I was one of the few people who brought a young child. She behaved brilliantly, and she enjoyed it. She talked about it the next day, making me smile and realize how much fun it is to see the world through her eyes. With her.