Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Helicopter vs. Free Range - what do you think?

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?


  1. This is something I struggle with as well, I think times are far different now than they once were. It's hard to let go.....

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  2. Interesting topic. I think I'm in the middle. I let my little boys play and rough house, when my mother in law tends to freak out and worry they will get hurt.

    However, in public, it's a different story. Being a cop, I have seen tragic things that have happened to innocent children just playing at the neighborhood playground or at the local grocery store in my city. In public, my children do not leave not only my sight, but I almost always have my hand on them. Granted, my little boys are 22 months and almost 4 years.

    I think it depends on the age of your children, the community you live in, and the circumstances. Now, when we are at the deserted State Park, I let my boys run ahead and roam free as long as I can see them.

    Just my thoughts! :-)

  3. I think I fall in the middle, like Cop Mama. Granted much of this is hypothetical, since my little ones are 2 1/2 & 7 months. As a former teacher (& daughter of a 30+ year teacher) & someone who spent the last 5 years in jobs that placed tons of just-out-of-school young people, I can tell you how turned off I am to helicopter parenting. It does no good for children to be protected to the point that they feel entitled & cannot function in society on their own.

    I'm sure it's something I'll struggle with as the girls grow older, but I do want my children to make some of their own mistakes & learn by way of consequences. Check back in about 10 years & I'll let you know how that's going!

  4. Mmmm... Easing into it might help :-) You've got a fabulous blog.
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