Monday, September 14, 2009

Free-Range Justification

Since I first came across Lenore Skenazy's excellent anti-helicopter-parenting blog, Free-Range Kids, I've been a more confident and happier mom. In a recent post, she asked readers to give suggestions for any quick one-liners they use to refute anti-free-rangers. What do you say to someone who makes you feel guilty for allowing your nine-year-old to stay home alone while you run an errand, for example, or ride his bike around the neighborhood - gasp - without you?

Some of the responses are great, short and sweet, like “My, what a scary world you live in!” or, “Forty-five people a year die in Thanksgiving turkey-related accidents. Clearly, we need to ban Thanksgiving.”

But I decided to post about this tonight after reading one specific comment, from a psychologist named Megan who sees daily the results of helicopter parenting:

I have not been a mother all that long, my children are 5 and 2, but I am a clinical psychologist who has the regular opportunity to see the devestating (the only word that really fits) impact that highly regulated parenting is having on our children. I sit everyday with teens and twenty somethings who have no sense of who they are. I am not exaggerating-no sense. They don’t understand their emotions. They don’t know how to entertain themselves. They cannot comment on their likes or dislikes. They do not display any sign of awe or wonderment or questioning of anything. And what I am seeing, more and more, is not the same as the flatness that accompanies depression. This is as if somebody stole their soul. I feel somedays like I am in a science fiction movie. This is what I see as the most dangerous outcome to the kind of parenting you are encouraging us to move away from. Forget how stressed out (I have seen more anxiety than ever before), disconnected (think 5 teenagers standing around together, but all either talking to or texting someone else rather than interacting with each other) and branded (if I see one more pair of sweatpants with JUICY across the butt I am going to throw up) this generation is, lets worry most that they have been robbed of the opportunity to develop. Period. How about that for a media headline “Parents beware: 1 in 2 children will have the essence of their being crushed to nothingness by the age of 12″. Okay, maybe a little extreme, but you get my point. Fear of stranger abduction? Maybe we need to take a closer look at who is really doing the abducting all under the guise of loving, devoted parenting.

... no "sign of awe or wonderment"

From fall 2009

From fall 2009

... "robbed of their opportunity to develop"

From fall 2009

From fall 2009

... "as if somebody stole their soul"

From fall 2009

This is scary stuff, and helps me realize how crucial it is that kids be free-range. This post, my first of the 'school' year, was going to just be a fun, check-out-all-the-great-stuff-we've-been-doing kind of post, but I couldn't help myself when I read this psychologist's words.

Whether you homeschool or not, whether you are rich or poor, old or young, please encourage the kids in your life to be free-range. Let them take chances, let them explore, let them be independent as much as possible! It's okay because, to sum up with another great one-liner from Lenore's post, "kids bounce."


MamaLou said...

Awesome post and cool copy from the dr. SO SO SO SCAREY! I want to write a post with this copy too.....
I remember watching my first crawl across a brick plaza as a baby with a huge smile on his face and one of my friends saying "don't you think that hurts his knees?" DOH!
Again thank you for making me think and reaffirming what we are all trying to do!

Firefly mom said...

Great post! I know parents on both sides of this spectrum, from the ones who are *convinced* that everybody is out to steal their kids, to the parents who leave their 6 year old "in charge" of their younger siblings while the parents go to the movies. And normal parents who allow their children normal boundaries and freedoms aren't considered normal anymore. It kinda drives you nuts!

Anonymous said...

As always, I think I needed this post today! Heading over to check out the Free-Range blog right now!

Rana said...

Great post Karen,
Some friends and I were talking about this very subject the other day. When did this change in letting kids be kids happen? I'm 35 years old and I have 2 six year old twins a boy and a girl. My mom and dad gave us the freedom to climb trees and run around the neighborhood just as long as we checked in once in a while to tell them whose house we were at it was fine. I call myself a child of the 80's and my sister is 7 years younger than me a victim of the 90's is it her generation that has gotten so crazy with this? How is it or whose parents started this behavior? Those parents would be my generation and those a bit older than me and when they were kids they did crazier things when they were young. What changed? Does this comment make any since? It is still kinda early over on this side of the world.

Anonymous said...

What a great post, Karen. I'm half-way through Lenore's book and I haven't read her blog yet, but I* agree that kids need to be free-range. I've always been the suspect mom in my neighborhood because I let my daughter take walks alone. We live in a nice, respectable, grid-street section with well-maintained old Cape Cod houses filled with families and senior citizens. What's the problem?

Thanks again fior the post,

Dave said...

Inconceivable! Haha

Kudos to you - very interesting that I tripped upon your site. Maybe time to dust off my blog and get back in this game of educating people and helping them break down their fears and the ignorance the media spins upon them.

Home births is another area where people have been duped into forgetting all but the last 80 years of human history. Media and corporations have mistakenly tied progress to broken education and profit-driven healthcare/pharmaceuticals. Did somebody say ADD?

Here's our home birth story about such -

Good stuff, maybe we can share more together. First, I have to catch up on much more of your blog.


jugglingpaynes said...

Oh, thank you so much. I know I've felt guilty a number of times since I had kids and I've been amazed at how many adults have felt free to chide me over the years for my poor parenting. I even wrote a letter to the editor once about a woman who scolded me because my daughter was *gasp* walking along behind me! Where someone could snatch her while I wasn't looking! (The letter was published, too)

Thanks for your encouraging comment on my blog!

Peace and Laughter,