Recent books and media coverage indicate that current parenting trends in North America  produce young adults who are seemingly unable to take initiative and remain reliant on the caring adults in their lives. We are being told through books and articles that our children are sleep deprived, have sensory motor problems and are unwilling to take risks. Educators, authors and researchers lament the scarcity of young people who possess executive function and self-regulation skills.

Many of us parents worry that perhaps we may be letting our children down. We want to make changes in the way we are raising our children, but where do we begin? Some may wish they had the fortitude and ingenuity to hop off the hamster wheel and blaze a new trail in parenting trends. Many of us are driven by fear. We fear what others may think of us. We fear that if we do not provide our children with sufficient enrichment they will fall behind. We are afraid that if we do not deliver the extra assistance that other parents are offering, our children will not measure up to standards that have somehow become the norm. We fear repercussions from people with power outside our families if we are perceived as being neglectful or remiss in our parenting obligations. We do not want our children to suffer the possible negative consequences of changing the status quo.

But is it true?  Are all of us stuck in the trap of parenting in ways that are ultimately harmful to our children as the popular press would have us believe? Are there trailblazers out there raising their children in culturally diverse ways? Do some parents give their children autonomy, allowing them to take risks and do things independently? Do some parents resist the urge to overschedule their children, allowing for time to play, create and explore? Are some parents relaxed about the development of their children’s resumes? Do some parents even allow their children to fail without picking up all the pieces and putting them together on their behalf? OF COURSE they do!!! Many parents are already raising their children in ways that do not conform to current societal trends and norms.

Here are 10 things many parents are currently doing that run counter to parenting trends that are reported in the mainstream press:

Some parents give their kids free time.

Some parents encourage their children to climb trees.

Some parents tolerate messes.

Some parents accept and encourage exploration.

Some parents turn off the tv and fill the house with music.

Some parents bite their tongues to hold back words of wisdom and advice to their children.

Some parents allow their children to fail.

Some parents leave their children unsupervised to play alone in safe places.

Some parents do not help with homework.

Some parents fight the urge to drive the forgotten homework/cleats/raingear to their child’s school/game/practice.

I have seen parents do all these things. I watch in awe as a mom remains calm when her child is clearly going to spill the milk they are pouring without help. I admire the father who observes his child make several attempts to solve a problem without reaching over to fix it for him. I try to emulate the parents who actively seek ways to build in opportunities for their children to make discoveries and try new things.

Although parents themselves ultimately decide their own comfort levels with regards to risk and failure, freedom and autonomy, I believe that parents need access to more information on ways in which to foster growth in these areas. To this end, I am committed to writing a series of posts offering concrete examples of ways in which parents can begin to alter the ways they talk to their children and how they can give their children the opportunities to practice becoming confident, competent and persistent problem solvers.

How do you parent differently from other parents?  What parenting practices do you employ in order to encourage freedom and autonomy?  What kind of parents do you admire? What questions do you have?  In what areas are you looking for help and support?  Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.