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Kids Can Do Anything and Other Thoughts That Occur to Me

Posted by Jen on August 5, 2009 at 7:00 AM in Kids Around the World
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I'm writing from Kigali, Rwanda where there is no shortage of ten year old girls who are happy to tell me their stories and show me their strength--in their academics, their home life and their dreams for the future. One of the things that strikes me about children in Africa is how independent and self-sufficient they are. Your average ten year old can navigate the bus system, go to the market to buy food, care for a younger sibling, wash clothes by hand and walk a good mile or two to carry water home for the entire family.

It begs the question: are we spoiling our children by making sure they are cared for, entertained or watched over every second? or are we truly giving them the protection that they need from legitimate dangers that exist in our society? What do you think? Can you imagine raising a ten year old to be capable of handling much more responsibility?

I'd love to know your thoughts in the comments below.


Mel writes...

I don't have a ten year old, but my niece will soon be ten and she isn't allowed to cross the street alone. I've been trying to teach our son (age 6) more and more as he gets older. He takes his own shower now, he cleans his own room, he puts his clothes away after I wash and dry them. I think I am basking in the free time that is being a SAHM. Where I can do the things for him instead of taking the time to teach him to do it himself. This is inspiration to teach him more to give him more confidence and independence. Thank you!

Excellent question. PunditGirl will turn 10 later this year and there is no way she would be able to do any of that. My fault? Our society's? Don't know. I try to reflect on what I was capable of at 10 (back in the dinosaur days as PunditGirl has started saying) and I think we were capable of more.

How can we go about making our children more self-sufficient? Or are we purposely keeping them in need of our protection so that we can make sure they're children longer?

Dawn writes...

Well, just because our kids COULD do it, doesn't mean they necessarily should. It depends on what we value personally and culturally about childhood. For me, it's about balance and that balance is something I revisit with every developmental leap my kids make. I do think it's good to stop and think about what children in other cultures or families are doing (or in other times -- Laura Ingalls, anyone?) and rethink whether or not our own kids really aren't capable of doing XYZ.

Jennifer writes...

It is such an interesting thing you write about. One I think many parents struggle with. I am not a parent but I often wonder how we teach children to be strong. Do we hold there hands along the way or do we let them take the lead. Society has really changed since I was a kid. It seems more dangerous, but is it really? Or do we just have more ways to talk about what happens and a quicker way to spread the word? I am not sure anyone really has an answer and it is a lot of trial and error. But kids need to be allowed to be kids. To make mistakes, get in to trouble, and play. Through these things I think they learn valuable lessons that can't be taught otherwise, and they learn them on there own.

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