Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Kislev 5766 - December 21, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Who is Watching Your Kids at Play?
by Dena Neuman

When our children are very little, we tend to hover over them. Of course they need our constant care! But as they get a bit older, we begin to let out the apron string. Are we letting it out too fast, and too far? Let's explore the ramifications of young children gaining independence.

For many of us with a busy household, it's a pleasure. Little Shloimi can run down the street to visit a friend, or to the park or even to pick up something at the store. Sounds like a great deal. We have gained an hour or two of time to concentrate on other important tasks, such as spending time with other children, doing laundry, or one of many chores calling our attention.

But, we know that "there is no such thing as a free lunch." So what is the cost? First, are we taking too much of a safety risk? Are we crossing over into that fine line called "careless?" Just basics such as not playing with rocks and broken glass, climbing on top of fences that are not made for playing, jumping down from way on top of playground equipment, not made for that purpose.

Perhaps you're thinking, 'there are plenty of mothers in the park . . . if my child is in a dangerous situation, they'll do something.' Did you train your child to listen to other adults? I have seen young boys as little as four years old, unattended, playing with broken glass, and not interested in any guidance from me. Bigger boys, who appear to be as old as 10 or 11 can do the same, or have been seen climbing way up in trees and bouncing on park awnings, disregarding any adult concern.

Which brings us to chutzpa. We are all worried about it, and we try to teach our children to be polite. If your child is on her own, even if she is old enough to watch her little siblings and baby-sit, she needs to be reminded how to speak to adults. In the park the other day, a swing was very much in demand, with about five little ones waiting their turn. A mother in the park suggested that each child get three minutes. As some children were not finishing their turn, I suggested that their time was up. A girl who appeared to be about ten and was apparently their "advocate" said, "I didn't agree to that! They should get ten minutes." How can we allow our children to speak to adults in that way? If we aren't with them, and don't check up on them somehow, we'll never know, until they address us in the same way.

The last point to consider is the whole maturation of children. In the back of their minds, is it possible that they are thinking, "My mother doesn't really care about me!" or "She is busy with everything but me!" "I'll do what I want, when I want!" "I can make all the decisions." We all wring our hands over teenage behavior, and the unwillingness of children to listen to adults. Does it stem from this too early independence?

In the "old days," mothers bathed their kids at later ages, watched them while they ate, kept them around more; basically they oversaw their development with a strong hands- on approach. I realize we are inundated with many demands, but perhaps wrinkled shirts, messy drawers and simple meals are worth the reward of a hand-raised child.


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