Q. I'm having trouble letting my three boys go out on their own. They are still young, but I see their friends staying home alone or walking to other friends' houses. What kind of guidelines should I use to start letting them have a little more freedom?
A. While moving our children toward independence is one of the central tasks of parenting, actually letting our kids fly on their own can be a bit terrifying.
It is essential to keep in mind your ultimate parenting goal—to help your children develop the godly character traits they'll need to make good decisions, even when they are away from you. When it comes to increasing a child's freedom, I encourage parents to take an incremental approach so that each step of independence builds on the last.
Take some time to consider the character traits you feel are most important to you in this process. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Trust in God. Perhaps the most fundamental lesson your children need as they gain new independence is that God is their ultimate safety net, not you. There are all kinds of Bible stories that emphasize God's protection: Daniel in the lion's den (Daniel 6), Jonah in the belly of the fish (Jonah 2), Paul in prison and at sea (Acts 24-28). Read these stories with your children and talk about the ways God can protect your family, too.
Make sure to pray together at each step on the road toward independence.
Confidence. Kids who know how to do things for themselves are more confident and therefore less likely to be pressured into bad decisions. Maria Montessori, a leader in early childhood education, advised parents to hold off on doing anything for a child that he can do for himself. This includes redoing something a child has done, such as making his bed, even if his work doesn't meet your standards. Once your child has learned a skill, do not do that service for your child unless there's a solid reason he can't do it on a particular day.1