It is not a new observation that today’s kids are increasingly in adult-run classes, clubs, sports. Or they’re inside, online, instead of riding bikes, or collecting rocks, or talking to some rando.
“While there could be many reasons our kids are suffering, what if the problem was simply this: Kids are growing up so over-protected that they’re scared of the world?
“If so, the solution would be simple, too: Start letting them do more things on their own.”
A fear fix that’s free?
The piece talks about how schools can make it easy for kids to start becoming more independent by assigning The Let Grow Project — now expanded into a year-long Let Grow Experience. (All our materials are free.)
The Project/Experience tells K-8 students to, “Go home and do something new, on your own — with your parents’ permission, of course.” Kids can walk to school, bake a cake, go to the store — just something that they’d like to try, but haven’t yet.
When the parents let go, the kids come back changed. Really! That, in turn, changes their parents.
Independence as a new type of “therapy.”
The co-author of this piece, Dr. Ortiz, had heard about Let Grow. He’s a clinical therapist who treats a lot of kids diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Often he uses Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which asks the patient to face their fears. He wondered if instead, he could simply ask the kids to start doing new things on their own that they WANTED to do.
In other words, the treatment would be a mega dose of independence.
For a pilot study he conducted with PhD candidate Matthew Fastman, Dr. Ortiz met with five patients, age 9-14, and their parents, once a week for five weeks. (Not in a group. Each family was separate.) He asked the kids what they’d like to try doing on their own. They had a lot of ideas! Go to the park. Sell bracelets at school. Take the commuter train. Each kid did 10-20 things over the course of five visits.
Does it work?
*Just kidding. It’s free, too.
I’m thrilled to be on The Times opinion page. Only the second time in my life! Let’s hope the simple idea of giving kids back some independence can spread quickly, making lots of kids feel more confident and curious about that big old world out there!
(And please consider supporting Let Grow. Your donation will help bring independence to children all over the country!)