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Sittervising: What you really need to understand

What is “sittervising” you ask? I'll tell you. It's a trend floating around social media showcasing the idea that you can and should “supervise your kids from a seated position.” And I call BS. Here's why.

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Encouraging your children to play independently isn't a trick or parenting “hack,” and it sure as hell shouldn't be considered a “trend.”

It's a crucial parenting philosophy that requires a shift in mindset about how we look at unstructured play (hint: it's significantly more important than most parents realize). 

50 screen free activities for kids

But even deeper than that, it indicates how far our society has moved away from childhood's true purpose and meaning.

I've dedicated my 7-year (and four children) parenting journey to helping parents understand the importance of letting children play–and talk extensively about the need for children to have time and space away from adults. 

Not only is it one of the most simple ways to reduce parental stress and burnout, but from a developmental perspective, it's WHAT CHILDREN NEED to thrive.

Let me back up and tell you a story.

I was an educator for over 10 years in the public school system. Working with thousands of adolescents and their parents, leading as progressive a classroom as possible within the confines of the public school system in the U.S. Do you know what I experienced day in and day out?

Children who could not think for themselves. Who lacked curiosity and refused to take healthy risks (but took plenty of unhealthy risks). Children with zero intrinsic motivation who only cared about “getting it right” or “getting it done” and never about learning for the sake of learning.

Do you know what else I saw?

Parents worried about the fact they had to supervise their children constantly. Parents who didn't understand why their child was incapable of doing anything on their own…

I want to be clear–there are a variety of reasons why children lack the “soft skills” needed to be independent, curious, and confident. But a huge driving force? Helicopter parenting

What is helicopter parenting?

What is helicopter parenting? Helicopter parenting is when parents are excessively involved in their children's lives through over-scheduling, over-protecting, and always being available.

This parenting style has become more and more common in recent years as parents strive to give their children the best possible chance at success.

The problem is helicopter parenting doesn't achieve this goal. It often has the opposite effect.

Helicopter parenting creates children who lack independence, are afraid of taking risks, and are not intrinsically motivated. In other words, helicopter parenting produces children who need their parents to sit by them and supervise them constantly–which is exactly how we got to this “sittervising” trend.

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Sittervising is helicopter parenting in disguise.

For children to gain independence, autonomy, confidence, and intrinsic motivation, they need time and space away from adults to practice those skills. 

And not just with adults “sittervising” nearby–aka still hovering but just making themselves a bit more comfortable.

Children need us to let them be. To let them play without us intervening and interrupting. They need hours of free or unstructured play daily (with open-ended toys that truly encourage this).

Now let's talk about when you can start letting children play independently. There is no hard and fast rule about when a child can or can't play by themselves. I have always given my babies time and space away from me to engage in the world without me hovering. Here's what that can look like.

Think of an infant lying in their bassinet for an extra 15 minutes looking around at the shadows, or a baby rolling around on the floor with gates or a pop-up play yard to keep them contained. Or in a pack and play with a few toys.

By the time children are toddlers, they are capable of engaging in play without you–just make sure you set up a “yes” space. 

Here is something that might shock you…

I don't play with my kids. And my kids don't have access to screen time beyond the occasional coding app and a few curated TV shows. People think it's superhuman parenting. It's not.

It's because I have always embraced this idea of allowing children to be without constant input from me.

Don't get me wrong. We do plenty of activities together. We read books, do puzzles, watch movies, go for walks, cook, and occasionally build or color together.

What I don't do is sit around all day, entertaining or “sittervising” my children. I embrace the idea that children know how to play (because they are hard-wired to play–it's how they learn), and they don't need me getting in their way.

So sittervising? No. Setting up your environment to naturally encourage children to play independently and shifting society’s whole mindset about how you approach raising independent children…Yes.

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