Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Friday, September 19, 2021

It works for chickens, so why not for children?

That might not be the ideal parallel, but Lenore Skenazy is going with it in FreeRangeKids, a blog/forum dedicated to the idea that today’s children need fewer play dates and more unsupervised independence.

Not that such a radical concept plays well in the era of the helicopter parent:

It’s crazy to limit our lives based on fear of a wildly remote danger. And yet, as I started speaking to people about kid safety in the last few days, I heard things that strike me as completely bizarre. One dad in an upscale suburb of New York, for instance, “lets” his 11-year-old walk one block to her best friend’s house –- but she has to call the minute she arrives safely.

As if she’s been dodging sniper fire.

Another mom castigated me for my irresponsibility and proudly said that she doesn’t even let her daughter go to the mailbox in her upscale Atlanta neighborhood. There’s just too much “opportunity” for the girl to be snatched and killed. To her, I’m the crazy mom.

It’s good that Skenazy is stepping up to the plate on this, since I, as a childless pariah, am automatically disqualified from opening my mouth on the subject. As is Douglas, despite his memories of free-range kidhood:

When I was a kid we didn’t have bicycle helmets. Heck, we only wore shin guards playing soccer because we were told we had to have them. We walked to school, and not the cliche “two miles uphill both ways in the snow” but seriously at least half a mile. We walked to and from our friends houses alone and sometimes after dark. We played in the woods. We made treehouses out of found (and sometimes stolen) planks of wood and nails, and swung from ropes over creeks. We never had to sneak out of the house because it was expected that we’d go out and play. We didn’t have arranged “play dates” at proscribed hours, we were simply told to go out and play after we did our homework and to be home by dinner time.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to grow up as a kid today. I don’t know when young parents got so protective of their children that they started to stifle them. Maybe it was when a few kids died falling off a bike (a helmet could have saved them!) or maybe when some pervert kidnapped a kid when they were at the playground (the parent should have never let them out of their sight!). Maybe when the newspapers and newscasters tried to garner every ounce of interest out of some murderer blaming his problems on his childhood when he got lost and was oh so scared or maybe some stupid marketer making parents paranoid that the little scrape on their child’s knee would lead to infection and eventual amputation of the leg.

What’s the worst that can happen by allowing kids a little more latitude when facing the world? That the micro-managing parents of the world lose their sense of control over their offspring (and, maybe, are forced to find something else to do with their time)? Or that, for instance, kids will actually want to get their drivers’ licenses, instead of extending the mom/dad chauffeur service into adulthood?

I guess those prospects are scarier for some parents than the imagined hazards of modern childhood.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/19/2008 10:47:27 AM
Category: Society
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