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Why You Should Take a Back Seat on Your Next Family Outing

June 16th, 2017     By Boys Town Contributor

Family

Raising confident, independent children who can make decisions on their own is one of the most important tasks you have as a parent. Even if your children are still young enough to play dress-up, they need opportunities to begin exploring and exercising independence. And family outings are a great way to get started.

Supervised Independence 

When children are allowed to explore outside of their normal environments, they learn how to interact with others and experience the consequences of making decisions. They also begin to understand and distinguish between the fantasy of their play environment and the real world. They gain a sense of independence that creates a stronger sense of self and self-confidence that will serve them well as they grow into more the more social tween and teen years.

By taking your children out into the world on family outings, you help them gain a measure of independence in a safe and structured manner. You can watch over their shoulder, give them advice if needed and praise them when they deserve it.

Here are a few tips for turning a family outing into a valuable learning experience for your young ones:

  • Let them pick the destination — with a little guidance.
    You can start teaching your kids about independence before you even leave the house. Give them a list of three or four destinations or activities — go for a hike, head to the beach, go to the zoo — and let them make the call. This invests them in the activity and reinforces that you value their opinion.
  • Be prepared.
    Just like a Boy Scout, every parent needs to be prepared for an outing. When you’re getting ready to leave, assign your child a task to help the family get ready. Give older kids an important task, such as packing snacks or lunch for a picnic or gathering extra clothes to take in case it rains. This helps them understand that responsibility comes with being independent.
  • Order up!
    Family outings that involve enjoying a meal at a restaurant can be a great way to help your children gain confidence and experience in interacting with others. Give them tips ahead of time about speaking clearly and loud enough and making eye contact, then let them give their own food order to the server or cashier.
  • Let them pay.
    With older kids (ages 7 to 10), you can help them learn the value of money by giving them a dollar or two and letting them choose and pay for a snack or drink by themselves. It’s a learning experience for kids to understand they can’t have everything they want and that they must make choices sometimes. In addition, giving your children the responsibility of handling money and buying their own food is an important skill they will use throughout their lives.

It’s much easier to teach children how to be independent through experience than through explanation. So, look at family outings as opportunities to help your child learn the skills that will enable them to grow into a confident young man or woman.

And don’t forget to make it fun. Don’t worry if it rains during your hike or the restaurant you are going to is closed. Teach your kids how to problem-solve and be flexible. Then every family outing will be a success — even if it feels a bit like a disaster.

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