03/09/2012 05:37 EST | Updated 05/09/2012 05:12 EDT

They Don't Really NEED You Around All the Time


Ken Rabow on Our Kids

So what's wrong with giving kids their space?

Meet the Parents: The Petersons, The Smyths and the Janssens:

All three families believe in giving their kids their space so that they can be themselves. Yet, there's trouble here in River City. For the Peterson family, their child Skeeter tends to get into more trouble when his parents aren't around. For the Smyths, their daughter Patti tends to do scarier and scarier things right under her parents' noses. For Charley Janssen, the freedom from her parents has led to an opportunity for her to able to find her own place in the world as an artist, and entrepreneur.

How could so much freedom be a bad thing for some, and a good thing for others?

It is not in what we do, but our intentions that breed fortune or misfortune.

For the Petersons, a family of highly successful people who are captains of their industries, leaders in charity and the ultimate hosts, the space they offered Skeeter was filled with maids, video games, and "buddies" doing whatever he wanted, showing themselves to be understanding and cool parents.

For the Smyths, pillars of their community, the space was filled with chances to succeed.

Then there were the Janssens, who believed that sometimes, the best parenting involved benign neglect. They wanted to allow Charley to find herself, be responsible for her curfews, take care of her work, and make her own life choices. All of these were accepted and this seemed to make Charley more sure of herself, investigative, and willing to give things her all. If it did not work out as she had anticipated, she would simply try another route free of fear or blame.

Was giving space wrong for Skeeter and Patti? Not necessarily, but sometimes what we don't say shouts louder than what we do say. When we have faith in our kids, it come from their strengths. When we are fearful of every bump, they feel unsafe in the world and often sabotage themselves, when we say the "right things" without sharing our deepest truths, our kids will minimize dangerous "adventures," and suffer the consequences.

How scary is it in this world today to trust that our children can be safe?

Studies on children's independent mobility show that our fears of childhood abductions by strangers (which are statistically incredibly low) are driving parents to chaperone their children everywhere, setting them up to

lose the freedom to create, explore, and gain mastery over their physical and social environments. They also lose opportunities that could be significant in developing healthy lifestyles, social networks, and environmental competence and resilience.

We need to allow our children to explore,

They need to be okay with the occasional scrape and scratch, to ensure that they are trained to be stranger-proofed without instilling fear. We also need to believe that each person has wisdom that will blossom when we encourage it.

Now, repeat after me:

When we say over and over again in our minds that we believe in the common sense of our children, and that they will learn from their mistakes and become the best that they can be, we send out that faith into our children. Unfortunately, the reverse is true as well. Be certain that they are up to no good and you shall be proved right.

To find our place in the world as young adults

We must first leave our father's house, leave all the things we know, leave our land, and go out towards an unknown adventure that promises us untold abundance if we keep faith in ourselves, and keep our wits about us. The first step in that system is space. No one can give that space more lovingly, or powerfully than a caring parent.