I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Parenting Like It's 1985...sort of

How one mom parents like it's 1985.

Written by Krista Smith.

I grew up in the ‘80s and like most kids of that generation, my neighborhood was my oyster and I spent many a summer day away from home from dawn until dusk, playing with friends, riding my bike or getting a Slurpee at the local 7-11. I knew to be wise about strangers and I was careful about traffic.

Today’s world is night-and-day different for kids, though. And, if I let it, the headlines and Facebook horror stories can put me between a rock and a hard place in regards to encouraging my children to be wise and have developmentally-appropriate independence.

As my husband and I plunged headlong into parenting for the first time when our daughter was born, we saw “The Helicopter Parents” on one end of the parenting spectrum. These are the folks who constantly swoop in at the slightest bit of trouble, fix all-the-problems before they start, and squelch their child’s ability to learn. They forget that some of the most important life lessons come via hard knocks.

My husband and I thought to ourselves…Nope, that's not for us.

Conversely, we found “The Sink or Swim Parents.” These are the folks famous for hollering this adage at their children as they chuck them unceremoniously off a boat dock. 

And we thought to ourselves….Nope, we're not that type either.

Where we landed was somewhere in the middle -- a modern day version of '80s parenting, if you will. That’s not to say we haven't had some wild vacillations between “helicopter” and “boat dock” along the way, but we've tried, with God’s help to parent the way we saw Scripture leading. When we became afraid and the “what ifs?” started to come a’ calling, we got on our knees and reiterated to God and to our own hearts the following:

  • Our children are first His.
  • He has given us the awesome privilege to love them and raise them.
  • He is in ultimate control of the number of days in each of their lives.
  • He lays out the path(s) that they will eventually choose to walk. 

His Sovereignty over all things brought peace to our parenting, but it also made us want to do all we could for our children so we, as a family, could bring our Great God great glory. 

Enter: Some safe 1980s-ish parenting

Parents need practice too, amen? As a mom, I need to practice letting go and letting my kids show me what they are capable of in safe, developmentally-appropriate ways. This would be hard if I were a “heli” parent and a bit easier if I were a “boat docker." But I'm neither because I realize that I need to train my children to be capable, integral parts of God’s Kingdom and society. If I don’t, I’ll look up at my 15-year-old son one day and realize, I ONLY HAVE THREE YEARS to teach ALL-THE-STUFF! He'll either be seething and resentful of me and my lack of ability to let go and let him become a man, or he’ll have been kept so "safe” for so long that he'll be totally petrified at the thought of becoming a man and leaving home. Either way, I'll have a major, MAJOR problem on my hands.

So, I'm tip-toeing back in time with my parenting -- back to when kids had a bit more independence.

I’m gonna be really honest with you, though. What went down in our house this week gave me, simultaneously, grey hairs and also some proud-mama tears.

Wait for it…..

We let our oldest two children walk the three blocks from our house to a small “family-owned” grocery store to buy a bag of rice for dinner.

Our daughter has been asking to do this for the last three years now, to which I have always replied, “That’s awesome, Honey! Someday, when you’re bigger!”

But when I wasn't looking, she got BIGGER!!

I realized that if I didn't make good on my promise now while she’s young and willing, I’m going to regret it when she’s a teenager and “doesn’t want to."

So, I did some free-range grooming. And I set a lot of parameters like:

  • Be sure to follow the same route that we always take to the store when we go as a family.
  • Look/listen for cars, especially in driveways!
  • Hold hands and stay together.

My kids already knew the BIG parameters like don’t talk to strangers, but I reviewed those anyway. I also conducted a mock store scene where my daughter, who is prone to over-talking, used simple words with the cashier (me) to purchase the rice, get her change and say, “Have a good day." I also went over how to read the signs on the aisles to find where the rice lives and how to ask a store clerk for help if she couldn’t find it.

So with a confident smile and a, “Have fun,” I hugged my kids and sent them out the back door with a wave.

…And then I told my mom to stir the sauce on the stove for me and to keep an eye on the baby while I stalked the older kids from the opposite side of the street ½ a block back.

I have no shame.

Eventually they’ll be able to do it without me secretly tailing them, but for now, I am making sure everything is simpatico on their first few forays into wise independence. They are taking real-life steps toward big-kid-dom and feeling like the world is their oyster now too.

How did they do? you ask.

Great! Admittedly, we got a pricey pound of organic rice instead of the cheap-o 99 cent bag I usually pop for, but my sweeties will never know that. When they handed me their loot, I simply smiled and said, “This is perfect, Lovies! How’d it go?”

Then I got to listen to the THRILLING re-telling from both kids who were so proud of themselves and who were so grateful that I trusted them enough with such a big-kid task.

So here’s to practicing some old-school parenting for the benefit of our kids and to the Glory of God! Has anyone else done something like this? If so, I'd love to know. We all need stretching and pushing from other moms in the fray!


Krista Smith is blessed to be the mother of three beautiful children and is privileged to homeschool them using an eclectic variety of methods. She has a deep and abiding love for tan-colored coffee, spending time with her family, and seeing children find their forever homes through adoption. But above all of these things, Krista is, first and foremost, a lover and follower of Jesus Christ. So, may the Lord and His Gospel get every ounce of honor, glory, and credit for anything she writes, says, or does.


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  1. I'm with you about finding the happy medium. It's hard, though because of the judgments of others and how few corner markets there are that aren't smoke/alcohol shops. For my kids to run to the store for me would require them making their way across a major highway without crosswalks. Not even I want to do that! It's great you have a place for your kids to practice some independence. I know that when my kids get a chance to be independent, they're happier, and I'm happier, too.

    1. Absolutely! Not everybody has the, admittedly, crazy cool little corner grocery like we do. But I'll bet you're grooming your kids for independence in lots of different ways where you live!