A Developmental Psychologist on Why Kids Need Some Independence

Note: This is the testimony provided by Dr. Rachel Flynn in support of Nevada’s “Reasonable Childhood Independence Bill.” The bill has passed the Nevada Senate and awaits a vote in the Assembly.

My name is Rachel Flynn. I am a developmental psychologist and assistant professor of
Child & Adolescent Development. I also have a private practice working with children, and
conduct parent and teacher trainings focused on behavior management. I am a resident of
Reno.

The decade prior to my doctorate I was a director of youth development programs working
closely with children and families from diverse backgrounds — ethnicities, socioeconomic status, urban and rural populations. The children I’ve worked with also range in their cognitive abilities — the gifted and talented as well as those who are non-verbal with severe intellectual delays.

Regardless of background, over the last 23 years I’ve seen children’s mental health declining – more anxiety, more depression.

The culture of fear is stressing out parents and kids

Sadly, the research evidence confirms this observation. Parents’ stress has also increased – there is more fear that something is wrong with their child. Parents also fear being judged to be “bad parents” by other parents, teachers and society.


This culture of fear is decreasing children’s developmental potential by limiting their agency
and increasing their stress & anxiety.

We need to ensure children develop to be intelligent, resilient and independent. But adults
often underestimate children developmental abilities – including those with disabilities.
To make change there needs to be more education regarding developmental science research. For
example…

What kids need, developmentally:

  • Children need to use their executive functioning skills by making decisions and solving problems.
  • They need to practice their visual spatial skills by moving through the world.
  • They need to have complex social interactions that flex their theory-of-mind.
  • And they need to play – especially unstructured play that is not adult (or technology) directed or adult supervised.

We also know children’s needs vary based on the individual child, their capabilities and their
culture. I support this bill because I believe it is good for children’s development.

NOTE: To learn more about Let Grow’s legislative advocacy or get involved, please click here.