Wednesday, April 21, 2010
You know what a helicopter parent is, right? One who hovers and never let their children fend for themselves. These are the parents who fight every battle for their children and never teach them how to handle situations on their own. These are the parents who call college deans and ask that their child's grade be changed.
What about a free range kid? Lenore Skenazy wrote a book about it after her experience letting her 9-yr-old ride the NY subway by himself and getting lots of criticism for it. She argues that we overprotect our kids so much that we fail to make them self-reliant. And while we've all heard someone say "Well, times have changed," or even said it ourselves, statistically crimes against children aren't higher than they were when we were kids. We just hear more about them thanks to the advent of round-the-clock news networks.
I thought back to my childhood, roaming the woods and hills of West Virginia. My brothers and I rode our bikes everywhere. When I was in kindergarten, the school bus dropped me off at the end of our dirt road and I walked about a quarter mile home all by myself. Sometimes Mom packed our lunches and we explored the countryside around us all day long. We walked to the playground at the end of the road by ourselves and looked out for each other with no adult supervision. When Mom went grocery shopping, she left us in the car (windows all rolled down in the summer) and we all survived.
Were there dangers then just like there are now? Could we have been abducted or gotten hurt? Sure. So why did our parents feel safe letting us take care of ourselves? And why do I cringe now at letting my kids cross the street and walk to the mailbox?
Common sense tells me that I can't protect my kids from every single thing that could harm them. My heart tells me that I should clutch them to me and never, ever let them out of my sight.
So here's my question. How do you let go of the paranoia and allow your children to learn to take care of themselves without feeling like a negligent parent? What do you think?