My parenting philosophy in one info graphic.
My parenting philosophy in one info graphic.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, a 10-year old Maryland boy named Rafi and his 6-year old sister, Dvora, walked home by themselves from a playground about a mile away from their suburban house. They made it about halfway home when the police picked them up. Youâ€™ve heard these stories before, about what happens when kids in paranoid, hyperprotective America go to and from playgrounds alone. I bet you can guess the sequence of events preceding and after: Someone saw the kids walking without an adult and called the police. The police tracked down the kids and drove them home. The hitch this time is, when the police got there, they discovered that they were meddling with the wrong family.
Danielle and Alexander Meitiv explicitly ally themselves with the â€œfree rangeâ€ parenting movement, which believes that children have to take calculated risks in order to learn to be self-reliant. Their kids usually even carry a card that says: â€œI am not lost. I am a free-range kid,â€ although they didnâ€™t happen to have it that day. They had carefully prepared their kids for that walk, letting them go first just around the block, then to a library a little farther away, and then the full mile. When the police came to the door, they did not present as hassled overworked parents who leave their children alone at a playground by necessity, or laissez-faire parents who let their children roam wherever, but as an ideological counterpoint to all thatâ€™s wrong with child-rearing in America today. If we are lucky, the Meitivs will end up on every morning talk show and help convince American parents that itâ€™s perfectly OK to let children walk without an adult to the neighborhood playground.
Perhaps if they had been black and lived in South Carolina, they would have been arrested like Debra Harrell, the single mother who let her daughter go to the playground while she was working at McDonaldâ€™s. As white suburban professionals, the Meitivs experienced a lower level of intrusion, but still one that would make any parent bristle. The police asked for the fatherâ€™s ID, and when he refused, called six patrol cars as backup. Alexander went upstairs, and the police called out that if he came down with anything else in his hand â€œshots would be fired,â€ according to Alexander. (They said this in front of the children, Alexander says.) Soon after, a representative from Montgomery County Child Welfare Services came by and required that the couple sign a â€œsafety planâ€ promising not to let the children go unsupervised until the following week, when another CPS worker would talk to them. At first, the dad refused, but then the workers told him they would take the kids away if he did not sign.
When we lived in Calgary, I walked a mile from where lived in Deer Ridge Estates to my elementary school. Â I walked home for lunch, watched the Buck Shot Show and then walked back to school. Â At the end of the day we walked home again, always avoiding the Catholic school whose crossing guard picked on us.
No one thought that was wrong. Â The lawyer who lived behind us. Â The vet on the corner. Â The cop on our street. Â Walking a mile was normal. Â We walked around a mile to get the crappy mall. Â We walked a mile to play at our schoolâ€™s park. Â We went about two miles to the convenience store so we could get hockey cards and those crappy hockey sticker books.
When I was ten, we used to take the LRT from Anderson Station downtown and back. Â We used to roam downtown Calgary. Â We had those Kangaroo shoes with pockets that held a quarter in case we needed to phone home.Â
The fact that kids these days canâ€™t do what those same cops and child welfare workers did as children shows how much of a nanny state that cities are becoming.
Of course as The Atlantic points out, there is an alternative.
A preoccupation with safety has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discoveryâ€”without making it safer.Â Â As playgrounds become â€œsaferâ€, they lack to the ability to hold a childâ€™s attention which in some way explains why so many playgrounds are devoid of children.Â
Itâ€™s hard to absorb how much childhood norms have shifted in just one generation. Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the â€™70sâ€”walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lapâ€”are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting. One very thorough study of â€œchildrenâ€™s independent mobility,â€ conducted in urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods in the U.K., shows that in 1971, 80 percent of third-graders walked to school alone. By 1990, that measure had dropped to 9 percent, and now itâ€™s even lower. When you ask parents why they are more protective than their parents were, they might answer that the world is more dangerous than it was when they were growing up. But this isnâ€™t true, or at least not in the way that we think. For example, parents now routinely tell their children never to talk to strangers, even though all available evidence suggests that children have about the same (very slim) chance of being abducted by a stranger as they did a generation ago. Maybe the real question is, how did these fears come to have such a hold over us? And what have our children lostâ€”and gainedâ€”as weâ€™ve succumbed to them?
- Because you loved her enough, but you didn’t love her right. You weren’t attuned to your daughter’s emotional state as a child, and now, she has difficulty connecting intimately with other human beings. It’s not that you meant to handicap her. You may even have a bit of a problem with authentic intimacy too, and it’s probably an intergenerational issue, so look to your mom and dad for answers as to how the cycle started in the first place.
- Because you were her friend, and not her parent (Hello Baby Boomers!). You never set solid parental boundaries, and you failed to teach her about her right to have her personal boundaries respected. Your permissive parenting led to her low self-esteem and crappy social skills. There are four major parenting styles, and I hate to tell you, this one is not the best.
- Because you got divorced, and it was ugly. I don’t even need to discuss the damaging effects of a nasty divorce because these statistics are known. However, if you still think it’s cool to get divorced and drag your kids through the mud because children are resilient, or won’t notice how poorly you two treat one another, think again. A study by Paul Armato shows that children of divorce continue to score lower academically, and in the areas of “psychological adjustment, self-concept and social competence.” Furthering this concern, a 2002 study in The Journal of Pediatric Psychology found that adolescents from mother-alone or mother-absent homes are more likely to become sexually active at a young age, risk taking behavior that is compounded by substance abuse and lack of social support. Yes, there are situations in which divorce is best for all, but the process by which divorce happens is delicate and negative consequences can have lasting effects.
- Because you raped, beat, or neglected her. Or someone close to you did. Though plenty of women who were abused as children do not go into porn, many women who have been abused (physically, emotionally or sexually) do participate in sexual risk taking behaviors. Even though a recent study found no link between pornography and child abuse, ample research on prostitution and child abuse provide insight to correlates of selling sex. A 2012 study on juvenile entry into prostitution explores the far-reaching consequences of abuse incurred in childhood, and the suggested pathways associated with entering prostitution (i.e. the selling of sex). Of course, this statement shifts the focus from the real argument, and can turn this point into a new argument about whether prostitution is equivalent to participating in pornography. I would suggest looking up the legal definition of prostitution, which states very simply that prostitution is “the act of offering one’s self for hire to engage in sexual relations.”
- Because you are a prude — or a total slut — and you didn’t have a good handle on your own sexuality. Your lack of self-knowledge may have led you to inadequately educate your daughter about sex, either teaching an abstinence only or laissez-faire approach. Statistics on abstinence-only programs show this approach to be ineffective. And if you divorced, letting the men (or women) you subsequently dated run in and out of your life (and your daughter’s life) taught her that significant others, and people in general, are exchangeable. Kids need the truth about sex, and reliable sources of adult support and attachment. This article addresses the issues in both point four and five.
- Because you let her watch insane amounts of television. There is a cost to letting the media raise your children. Even an hour over the average 72 minutes most children watch per day can cause great damage.
- Because you gave her a smartphone when she was 10, and now she takes awesome #selfies all day. With every picture she takes to post to her social media sites, she becomes less sensitive to the idea of her images floating around on the web. Studies show that higher social media use is correlated with narcissism. Sexting is a booming practice, and a gateway technology usage that might lead to appearances on Internet porn sites. You can be fairly certain that your daughter has either thought about sexting, or has friends who do it.
- Because her friends want to be porn stars, Playboy models, the Bachelorette or any other exaggerated and hyper-sexualized version of a real woman, and you aren’t close to her friends. When a child has excessive contact with her peers and loses touch with safe adult attachments, the likelihood increases that she will become an addict, as mentioned in addiction specialist Dr. Gabor MatÃ©’s recent book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. I think it’s possible that the problems arising from being raised by her peers can also lead to other harmful and immediately gratifying behaviors, like participating in porn.
- Because you never showed her a healthy way to fill the spiritual void that is quintessentially human. Isn’t it interesting that girls leave porn because they’ve found religion? It happens every day, even to girls who were considered to be “the world’s hottest porn star.” Money, sexual exploration, and false adoration didn’t provide personal fulfillment like spirituality did.
An odd article from the New York Times about how odd parents act with their kids going to camp.
Norman E. Friedman, a consultant who conducts training at 44 camps, said parents also take up valuable camp resources by breaking the rules they have tacitly agreed to.
â€œTheyâ€™ll give their child two cellphones, so if they get caught with the first one, â€˜Just give it up and youâ€™ll have the second one to talk to me,â€™Â â€œ he said. â€œThatâ€™s widespread, not isolated. I call it fading parental morality. What theyâ€™re doing is entering into delinquent behaviors with their children. And what kind of statement is that to a child?â€
He and others said parents also frequently send children away without packing their prescribed medication for attention deficits or psychological problems â€” and without letting camp staff know.
Â A later quote sums up the problem…
“It used to be the job of parents to expose their children to the outside world; today, it is their job to protect their children from the outside world.â€