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Give your kids more independence – it could be the best bit of parenting you ever do

Our children are the most important things to us. So much so that we’d gladly wrap them up in cotton wool and never let them out of our sight. The thing is, though, what if our parents had done the same for us? Would we have become the people we are today? And what damage are we potentially causing our kids by being so protective?

My hopes for my kids

I want my children to be confident, healthy, inquisitive, street-smart and sociable. Are they going to get all of that from me? Well, as much as I’d like to say yes, I know it’s not quite the case.

They’ll get that from playing outdoors, doing things without me, making decisions themselves and playing with friends (in the real world; NOT via a computer!).

We try to keep our kids protected because we love them. But also because we’re fearful of the threats in the world around us. The thing is, those threats existed before, we’re just more aware of them now because we have so many 24/7 news sources at our fingertips.

The problem

What we’re doing by worrying about these threats is we’re making our children worry about them too. We’re actually making them fearful about going out alone. At the age of 5-6, that’s acceptable. But at the age of 11, it’s definitely not. And this is why we took action and got a My Gator Watch.

Before I tell you what that is, let’s look at the issue some more.

Our childhood vs our kids’ childhood

Think back to when you were a child. Throughout the latter years of primary school, I remember spending time straight after school and in the holidays playing with local friends. I’d come back home each evening filthy, with a new bruise or scrape, but full of stories and smiles. I was living and having a ball. What was yours like?

These days, playtime is more controlled. Kids are transported to and from their friends’ houses and it’s a struggle to get them outside in the first place as the pull of the TV, and other computer games, is so strong. It’s little wonder stories about childhood obesity and vitamin D deficiency are hitting the news so often.

If you have kids, how much independence do they have? And how does it compare to what you had?

If you asked them if they wanted to go to the local park on their own, what would they say? And how does their answer make you feel?

We’re bringing up the next generation of businessleaders, parents, teachers, politicians, etc. But how much are we helping or hindering by being so cautious about their wellbeing?

What’s a My Gator Watch?

The My Gator Watch is a GPS tracker and phone within a watch for kids aged 5-12. No internet, games or texting – it’s all about you knowing where they are when they go out. It’s designed to be simple and give kids independence to start exploring the world on their own.

I first came across My Gator Watch when my company Upmarketry was asked to do a rebranding exercise for them. I don’t always have the luxury of trying my clients’ products, but the more time I spent working with the company, the more strongly I felt that they were solving a really big problem affecting society today.

We got my 11 year old stepson one as we’d realised that he never went anywhere on his own. We drive him everywhere, he doesn’t have school friends in the local area and we’d never thought to send him on errands like we were made to do as kids.

What had this protective parenting achieved? We’d made him uneasy about going anywhere without us. And as he’s just months away from secondary school, we knew this had to be fixed.

How does the watch work?

Activated with a monthly phone contract, the watch is connected to a mobile phone app which allows parents or carers to monitor their child’s location and call them when needed. Kids can store and call a set number of phone numbers, leave voicemails and there’s an SOS button in case they wish to get hold of you urgently.

The idea is that, with the watch, you and your kids will feel more confident about the idea of them going out alone. Whether that’s to walk to the school bus, fetch something from the local shop or meet friends in the park. You know where they are. They know that you’re watching them.

Not only can you see where they are at any time, but you can also track where they’ve been.

Incredibly easy to use, the phone has only four buttons, which make it really simple for your child to power on and off, make and answer calls, and receive voice messages.  It’s splash proof, has a battery life of four days, and you can even set safe zones so that if your child goes outside of that area, you are automatically alerted.

Does it make a difference?

Yes. Within one day of getting the watch, my stepson had walked to the shops on his own to get milk. A mile from the house. On his own. He was a little nervous but so unbelievably proud of himself afterwards.

(The fact that we realised five minutes after he’d left that he’d forgotten to take money with him made us put the phone feature of the watch to good use too. Kids, huh? *rolls eyes* )

How much does it cost?

It’s £99 for the watch – which you can buy here – and it’s £9 a month for the phone contract. This may seem pricey but I honestly can’t think of anything of better value for your kid’s wellbeing, confidence and development.

And it’s perfect for this blog – living life to the full, 100%.

Is it for my child?

My stepson is a marvel. I know every parent is proud of their children but Thomas is incredibly smart. He’s very articulate, keen to learn about the world around him and a delight to spend time with. As Head Boy of his primary school, the teachers have high hopes for his future. And as his parents, we all have a duty to do whatever we can to help him reach his full potential. Keeping him overprotected indoors is not it.

What are your children going to be? Help them get there.