MY FIRST EXPERIENCE AS A LATCHKEY KID

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MY FIRST EXPERIENCE AS A LATCHKEY KID. BY TERENCE MORRIS AUTHOR, AND FOUNDER, PACE TULSA AGS FOUNDATION.  JANUARY 25, 2019.  4:40 P.M.  Join PACE TULSA NOW…TEXT:  PACEPAC  TO 22828 OR Register |  Lost your password?.  

“School age children are sometimes left alone before and after school because parents are working or otherwise not supervising. The effects of latchkey status on the development of children are poorly addressed in the literature.”

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“HOW DO PARENTS PROVIDE SUPERVISION FOR THEIR SCHOOL AGE CHILDREN WHEN THEY WORK 12 TO 14 HOUR SHIFTS TO MAKE ENDS MEAT?  

I can remember as a young man…How my parents, once I started 5th grade, just decided that I needed to have “my own key.” Our family was not at all poor, but we were like all average to moderate income families.  Sometimes my father and mother would want to take a family vacation or just do something special for all of us… so that meant taking on a second job.

At 10 yrs. old everything is exciting to most normal children.  Responsibilities are slim to none and when you do get picked, as the keeper of the house key, that is an “endearing moment.”  In my mind, I would eventually see all family assignments as privilege. 

One evening, while eating dinner, my father brought one of his old shoe strings over to me at the dinner table and placed a key next to my half eaten vegetable plate.  He said,

“Terence, your mom and I are giving you a key to the house. Terence, tie this key around your neck to make sure you don’t lose it.  Your mom and I are working in the evenings and we are not going to make it home in time to let you in the house.

I shrugged it off because I didn’t want him to think I was lame for being excited about having a house key.  However, deep inside I was smiling ear-to ear.  Finally, they realize I can walk and chew bubble gum at the same time.  This was my opportunity to be a “big kid!” And I was not going to do anything to mess this up. And since I would be wearing it around me neck,  my teacher’s could see it; my friends could see it; and any stranger could see it.  They would also notice my step into manhood. 

MANY “LATCHKEY” CHILDREN EXPERIENCE STRESSFUL AND EVEN DANGEROUS SITUATIONS WERE PARENTAL GUIDANCE IS NOT AVAILABLE AT THE TIME OF THE TRAUMATIZING EVENT.

It is estimated that as many as 10 million children care for themselves before or after school. Many latchkey kids begin their self-care responsibilities at about 8 years of age. (American Journal of Nursing Science. Volume 4, Issue 4, August 2015, Pages: 207-211) Eight years old is very young to feel like you have something to prove.  

One day I was on my home from school and 3 older teenagers bullied me and stole my bicycle.  The bicycle was one of those presents that my parents had worked overtime to purchase for me, so to me the theft and bullying part of the experience was just a small part of the traumatizing experience.  The fact that I took pride in helping my patents do what was best for our entire family by keeping up with the key to the house, coming home on time, making good grades, doing chores and carefully maintaining the upkeep on the things that they had purchased was the reason why my feelings were so hurt by the bullying and theft of my bicycle.

BANDURA’S SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY POSITS THAT PEOPLE LEARN FROM ONE ANOTHER, VIA OBSERVATION, IMITATION, AND MODELING.

The theory has often been called a bridge between behaviorist and cognitive learning theories because it encompasses attention, memory, and motivation. (Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. New York: General Learning Press.) The conflict occurred in my experience because I had never been robbed before by any of my peers.  Peers that I thought as a ten year old were privileged to the same things that were afforded to me and my family.  I had no alternate behavioral model to base my feelings, perceptions or behaviors on.  I didn’t understand adolescent regression or cognitive organization.  So, I only knew that I was extremely angry and sad.  I felt like my skin had been removed from my body, by a bully.  And I wanted revenge. I got punished too even though it was not my fault they decided to steal from me.

Over the past decade, a growing body of research has explored the applicability of his theory in understanding aggressive behavior among children and youth, with consistent demonstration of links between aggression and one’s tendency to morally disengage, justifying or rationalizing such behavior through a number of different cognitive mechanisms.

Whatever the fear once parents decide to make their child a “latchkey kid” the results of being given this responsibility are all a matter of social experimentation.  For the most part, a lot of American parents agree that their first parental experience is not as successful as the second or third.  A lot of the mistakes that they made with their oldest children are not made again with the next children.  Moreover, when children who were once “latchkey kids” comment that they have never forgiven their parents for those mistakes a lot of empty space continues to exist.  Space where there should be explanations, apologies and determination.

Here are some quick tips to help keep your “latchkey kid safe.”

•Teach children how to use the phone and lock the doors; list police, fire department and other important phone numbers.

•Walk through the routine with the child; some have been given keys to the house and then can’t reach the lock.

•Don’t let the child display a key in public—it’s a sure sign he spends time alone.

•Instruct children to tell callers that the parent is “busy,” rather than to indicate that they are home alone.

•Structure activities, such as an art project, a “treasure hunt” or other at-home games.

•Arrange for the child to spend some afternoons with friends to break the monotony of being alone five days a week.

•Consult with police and fire officials to burglarproof and fireproof your home as much as possible.

•Get a pet, which may help comfort the child.

•Teach children that independence and resourcefulness are virtues, but don’t overload the circuits. Don’t leave them alone too young or too long or give them too many responsibilities. Let them voice fears.

Terence Morris(@pacetulsa) is the author and founder of PACE TULSA a global think-tank focusing on intersecting awareness of educational opportunities within pedestrian crosswalks and public transportation policy in the United States.

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COPYRIGHT© 2019| PACE TULSA AGS FOUNDATION. “Pedestrian Awareness Crosswalk Education is an online think-tank intersecting awareness of public transportation policy in the United States.”

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