Keeping My Super-Independent Kid Safe Is No Easy Task

Keeping My Super-Independent Kid Safe Is No Easy Task

One mom must establish special rules to keep her very independent kid safe in big places.

By: Lorraine Allen

My little firecracker is the kind of kid who started walking before she could even fit a real shoe on her tiny foot and began running away before she had more than four teeth. (Good thing, because in one such escape up a couple of stone steps, she slipped, bumped her lip and broke those baby teeth in half!) By age 5, she was already begging for sleepovers, and when I finally allowed her to go on one, she did not even care to say goodnight to me on the phone and was in tears when I picked her up the next afternoon because she wanted to stay longer. She’s been talking of moving out -- in vivid detail-- since she was 4. Sometimes, she starts packing. In short, she’s quite an independent kid. I love this about her, and of course, I don’t want to quash that.

But it’s also exhausting, and stressful, living in a big city and keeping tabs on such a fiercely independent, tiny kid. There are lots of cars everywhere. Millions of people. And huge, busy spaces where a kid could instantly get lost. I soon figured out that to keep her safe without crushing her independent spirit, I must set boundaries that are firm and that she can understand. This way, she can roam freely but will remain in an area where I can keep an eye on her.

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For most little kids at a playground with a fence around it, a mom does not need to constantly say, “Stay IN the playground.” But I have to repeat this sort of thing daily. And since most places don’t have fences, I have to get creative and use landmarks like benches, lampposts, and trees to rein her in. I’ll tell her she can go anywhere in between that oak tree, that lamp, and that road, for instance. I have to make it crystal clear that if she does not respect these safety boundaries, she may not play freely for a while.


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At first, a few times, I had to put her (kicking and screaming) into her stroller because she still ran farther away. Soon, though, she understood that she can enjoy exploring the world on her own, but it won’t be fun if she gets lost, and it’s my job to keep her safe.

Now, I make sure she knows our phone numbers, and I often point out to her who to go to in case she does get lost, since she is 6 and off at school and at friends’ and neighbors’ homes a lot. Once in a while, I have a scary moment, but for the most part, these boundaries have worked really well to keep her safe and allow her the freedom she craves.

How do you keep your independent little kids safe in big spaces?

Lorraine Allen is a writer, and mom and personal chef to one spunky 5-year-old girl with severe food allergies. You can enjoy their delicious recipes and follow their amusing family cooking adventures at Feeding Lina.

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