Is this good or bad parenting?

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Agent 204 Agent 204's picture
Is this good or bad parenting?

Some friends of mine have observed that many parents are not only, in their opinion, overprotective, they are exceedingly judgmental of parents who are not highly protective. Here are the examples they cited; in the first I agree entirely, while in the second I’m not so sure.

The first example took place at a playground, where the mother of a two year old girl was sitting on a bench reading as the child climbed on a play structure, while all the other mums were actively helping their children with each step. She says they were glaring at her like she was some sort of horrible parent. Since modern play structures are designed to make it extremely difficult to injure yourself even if you want to, I don’t see any problem in her conduct.

The second example was when the mother of a six year old girl sent her down the street to a corner store. There were no streets to cross, it was less than a block away, and it was 10 AM on a Saturday morning in the summer, so in the unlikely event that a would-be abductor showed up, there would be far too many witnesses to risk such a move. However, the mum’s mother-in-law tore into her like she was some kind of horrible monster. The thing is, fifty years ago nobody would have thought twice about this. Of course, although crime statistics show that per capita crime rates are lower now than in the past, the 24-hour news cycle means that coverage of crime is far more prevalent, so that this behavior looks more dangerous now to someone who watches a lot of TV news.

Of course, the second mum’s behaviour could still be inappropriate; it could be that it was inappropriate 50 years ago, but that parents had the excuse then that we didn’t know about predators and the like, and even with the lower crime rate today it could still be an unacceptable risk, and parents no longer have the excuse of ignorance anymore. Or, it could be inappropriate because even though the risk is minimal, it will alter others’ perceptions of the mum’s parenting ability and cause them to treat her child differently (e.g. teachers who were aware of this might assume that the mum doesn’t care about her child and thus pay less attention to the child’s needs while the squeakier wheels get the grease).

So, what do y’all think?

Agent 204 Agent 204's picture

Sorry about the junk at the top of the post; where the hell is the edit button on the new layout??

Caissa

First mother:appropriate

Second mother:inappropriate.

Star Spangled C...

I agree. The first mother was letting the kid develop on their own, learn that you can fall down and that you get back up. I think it's actually a good lesson. In the case of the second mother, some of it obviously will depend on jsut what the neighbourhood was like, etc. If I personally had kids, I wouldn't let them do that at that age.

Michelle

Ooooh, you've hit upon one of my playground pet peeves, Agent!  The parents who feel like they have to "help" their children play up until they're in freakin' high school.  "Oh here, here Brittney!  Let me hold you tight while you climb the three-rung ladder!  We wouldn't want little boopikins to fall!  Here, let me climb the ladder with you!"

And then when they get a little older, they have to be right there, helping their child communicate with all the other children in the playground, interpreting each remark from one kid to the next, suggesting ways to play to the kids instead of letting them figure it out for themselves.

Now, of course, I think it's a good idea to pay attention to kids on the playground, and be there if your kid wants advice or wants you to help them.  Or if your kid starts scrapping with some other kid or doing something really inappropriate (like swearing, bullying, etc.).

But if they're happy playing, and they're not hurting any of the other kids, then geez, leave them alone, quit interfering.  They have to learn how to socialize with other kids and learn physical skills and take some "safe risks" without mommy or daddy intervening in every little conversation and every step they take sometime.

As for walking to the store...yes, I walked to the corner store at 6 or 7 too.  In fact, I used to be SENT there by my parents to buy them cigarettes!  :D  Something you wouldn't see so much these days...

It all depends on the neighbourhood, if you ask me.  If there was no street to cross, and the store was on the same block, and you've taken your kid there lots of times before, and you know your kid is able to handle it, then I don't see why you can't let them run off to the store.  Heck, I was walking to school by myself at 6 or 7 years old - and we DID have streets to cross then, albeit with crossing guards and such.

One thing parents can do if they want to give their kids a bit of space like that, but not overwhelm them, is to let them walk to the store by themselves a few times while you secretly watch them to make sure they're okay.  That will let you know whether your kid really can handle it, or if they seem confused or overwhelmed or scared, or whatever. 

Most parents, I think, watch their kids the first few times they walk to school by themselves just to make sure they're okay.  And then it becomes old hat. :)

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Well, when Ms T was 5 yrs old she wanted to go buy candy at noon hour after her morning kindergarten class and I said no, not now, fed her a sandwich and sent her upstairs to play.  The blond guy and I sat out on the back deck while we discussed some business stuff when the doorbell rang.  There was a scruffy looking man at the door who asked if I had a little girl named Ms T -- who happened to be at the corner and wouldn't come home.

 She'd gone upstairs, dressed up like a princess, taken her own money and trotted off to the corner store, crossing a busy intersection and a parking lot to get there, chosen some candy and paid for it herself.  When the clerk asked her where her mother was, it became clear that Ms T was unsupervised, so she walked her home -- until it dawned on Ms T that when she arrived with candy she was going to be in trouble.  At that point, she balked and the clerk asked a passerby to knock on our door.

I wouldn't send a small child to the store alone, but I also have a lot of faith in the people around here.  Even knowing that in this neighborhood you have people looking out for other peoples' kids, it wouldn't feel right.

 I have been sending Ms B on errands since she was 10.  The grocery store is about 2 blocks away and she manages that fine, but she's also savvy about crossing the street and counting her change there and at the post office.  It gives her a sense of independence and accomplishment and it makes my life easier.  It's a win-win. 

It's hard to decide when they're ready to do something on their own.  I tend to the overprotective and I'll admit that the first time she went, I watched Ms B all the way down the block and checked the window about every 30 seconds until she got back.  When she did, I was considering putting on my shoes and going to look for her.  Still, I also knew she could handle it and that this was part of growing up.

So, long drawn out answer, no, I think 6 is too young.  Nine or 10 makes more sense, depending on the kid -- but most kids walk to school on their own at that age anyway.

 The first mom, however, was fine.  She was there if kidlet fell and was probably keeping an ear out and looking up periodically.  I know the glares from the "involved" parents, since I have been the one with a book while the others hover.  I'm also regarded with a certain coolness by the other music lesson parents in my daughter's group lesson because I show up with a book or laptop and work or read during the less rather than follow every stroke of my wee violinist's bow.  Frankly, after Ms B's cello Suzuki program and in the 3rd year of Ms T's...  This is year 6 of the same songs for me.  Frankly, I'm bored spitless with it and if I pay too much attention she acts up.  But some of the other parents think I'm definitely a poor and inattentive parent.  Which makes me smile when Ms T outplays the coddled ones.  Cool

Refuge Refuge's picture

I agree 100% Michelle.  That is one of my big pet peeves too.  And some parent "help" their kids play right into highschool too, attending slumber parties like they are one of the teens etc.  Geesh.  Give kids / teens some space when supervising.  And don't supervise if they are trust worthy.

 In the case of the second child IMO I think it depends on to many factors.  Some kids at 6 are fine, others are not, what is the neighboorhood like, do they know the store owner / clerk.   How long the family has lived in the area. In some situations it would be fine but in others it would not.

I used to walk to school by myself at the age of 6 when I had lived in the neighborhood my whole life, we knew people along the way who I knew I could go to for help and would be hanging out in their front yards.  But my brother was walked to school until he was 7 even though he was older than me.  Different kids, different decisions.

Bookish Agrarian

When my kids were that age I used to get glares from the safety patrol parents because I was actually playing with my kids at such things.  Now it usually meant we had driven or biked into town so it was kind of a special treat for all, but I had no problem with being the troll trying to get the billy goat as my kids went screaming across the bridge structure, but apparently that was bad.  Here at home I built a large fort and other play apparatus for them to play on they were left to it.  On the other hand they were and are definite off-limits spaces though - like parts of the barn, the drive shed and around any equipment.  Very, very supervised around that stuff.

On the other issue we just gave our kids the truck keys and sent them on their way.  Okay maybe not, but if we lived in town and the road situation was safe, no problem in my mind.  

remind remind's picture

Different kids different situations.I dislike helicopter parents.

 

___________________________________________________________
"watching the tide roll away"

martin dufresne

I love these parlour-game double binds: "If the woman floats, she's a witch and should be put to death.  If she sinks, she was a good Christian after all..." (Malleus Maleficorum)

Mothers are always wrong in the eyes of others. Eriksson said fifty years ago that you can't be a good mother, you can only be good enough. Good enough for some, but that won't silence the others. Fathers rarely get that kind of lip. Indeed, when some do things much worse, such as forgetting an infant in a locked car for a full day in the sun, everyone sympathizes with poor dad and any charges are dropped, if ever laid. (Happened in Montreal a few years back.)

Other interesting gender issues about how the "problem" is framed for us to chime in: the children involved are girls. Some of you have made the point that boys get plenty more leeway - I certainly did in the ho-hum fifties - the stories I could tell...

Also, in the second story, the girl is sent on an errand, making the mother doubly responsible to start with, "instrumentalizing" the child... What if s/he is just out to play in the front yard, on the street? That would be mere "negligence", right?

Even day-care centers are now being rabidly denounced by a right-wing doctor media darling (Hopital Sainte-Justine's Dr. Chicoine) as contrary to the "natural law of parenting". Hard rain's gonna fall.

Bookish Agrarian

What's a helicopter parent?

Caissa

One who hovers.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Oh, you get the bad parent thing from all angles.  You either grow a thicker skin or you wind up losing your mind.

 An artist friend of mine and I often joke about designing a logo and making "Bad Mother" t-shirts.  Would be popular with both the playground set and bikers.  Laughing

Although I have to say that the blond guy gets the same attitude, but to a lesser degree.  Then again, I am a lot more blunt and direct where he tends to avoid conflict.  And I'm content to ignore their disapproval -- as long as my kids are succeeding and growing and happy, then I am as good a parent as I need to be.

 The flak that's more difficult to dodge is when it comes from teachers and school administators...  I had a conversation with the school counselor last year when Ms B was having meltdowns (associated with bullying and the teachers wanted her to modify HER behaviour) where she said, "Look, you've got a great kid.  She's so smart and articulate and creative.  She's going to be a fantastic adult.  We just have to get her through the school system."  I just try to think about that comment when faced with the "bad mother" tone and look, take a deep breath and soldier on. 

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Here's an explanation of helicopter parents.  You'll recognize them when you see them!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helicopter_parents

Bookish Agrarian

Caissa wrote:
One who hovers.

 Thanks

Duh.  Can't believe I missed that, either more caffine is needed or a nap!

 

remind remind's picture

Interesting to note, the only time my child got hurt on the playground was when I was playing with her. No other kids were at the playground at that time, so I filled in as playmate. She was also riding her bike to school on her own by Grade 2. It was a quiet suburb and all the kids rode in a pack to school on a designated bike path.

Also, my daughter at 6 was very advanced, and had a lot more freedoms than what her daughter at 6 had, who was not so much. In fact,  I came home from work one day, when my daughter was 6 or 7, her father was a stay at home dad at the time. She had what I first had thought was a lemonade stand and selling of junk stand right in front of our house, something that she did regularily. When I had a closer look, at what was being sold, I saw she was selling my clothes amongst the junk. My good clothes as a matter of fact, as I , in her words, hardly ever wore them. She got 50 cents for a pair a dress heels I had paid over 100 bucks for on sale, just a week prior, for a wedding we were going to in a couple of weeks.  Thank god I came home before the silk dress I was wearing to the wedding, went too. Now my granddaughter would never have thought of doing such a thing, amongst many other things my daughter had gotten up to when she was a child.

 

 

___________________________________________________________
"watching the tide roll away"

martin dufresne

Remind, is your daughter interested in a job as Rabble fund-raiser?Smile

remind remind's picture

LOL, no.

Though I was furious about the selling of my stuff, I never stopped her from continuing to have her junk stand, as she was very clever about selling junk. We would go to yard sales and she would buy something for a nickle, or as cheap as she could get it, and then when she collected enough stuff she would have her own sale and sell it for marked up prices. I have no idea where she got that inclination to re-market things from. But I just let her carry on, it kept her busy and interested, as well as actively learning about public conduct, money and responsibility. Also, she was not interested in other outside of school cultural activites, except for karate.

When she was old enough to decide she wanted to baby sit, she actually developed a rate scale. Premium time meant premium dollars, and she got it, the kids loved her as they were her single focus and the house was just as the parents left it, or better. Her highest one evening sitting take was 364.00, for 1 child.

___________________________________________________________
"watching the tide roll away"

martin dufresne

That's definitely GOOD parenting... and rich neighbours!!!

remind remind's picture

na, no rich neighbours, strictly working class neighbourhood.  It was an unusual circumstance, as a out of town friend wanted a sitter on a Sunday night so he could play poker. She demanded a 10% take on what he won, instead of a flat rate.Laughing He won 3,640 dollars.

___________________________________________________________
"watching the tide roll away"

Michelle

Ha!  That's fabulous! :D

Bookish Agrarian

Now that is a life lesson I can get behind!  Very funny!

Agent 204 Agent 204's picture

Thanks to everyone who participated in this.

This thread was crossposted to EnMasse and BnR, as well as a control post to the American dominated and libertarian-leaning board at Kitco. At EnMasse I described the children as boys, while at BnR and Kitco I did not specify the sex. Despite all this, though, there was surprisingly little difference in the range of responses. Not a very scientific study, I must admit, but interesting nonetheless to see everyone's response.

Oh, and FWIW: the kids are real. They are in fact girls, and the first and second mum are in fact one and the same.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Came across this over the weekend:

http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/

I'd heard about Lenore Skenazy's experiment with her 9 year old son (she gave him $20, a cel phone and a map and let him find his way home on the subway) and there was quite a kerfuffle about it.  She started the blog as a result and makes the case for more independent experience for kids.

Agent 204 Agent 204's picture

Thanks for that link. Have to pass it on to the mum in question. 

When I was nine there was a "bike rodeo" at my
elementary school. At the time we lived in St. Clements, Manitoba, and I
normally took the schoolbus (for the bike rodeo, though, my mum had to
drop me off with the bike). I asked her if it would be OK for me to
ride home (about 13 km); she thought that would be fine. And it was; I
knew the route just fine, and I didn't get run over, but I can't help
but think that if this happened today she'd be getting criticized for
it.

Agent 204 Agent 204's picture

Update: anyone listen to As It Happens the other day? They discussed a similar situation:

Quote:

But last night, I was listening to As It Happens from the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (to listen, the story is in part one of the link at 14:50 to 27:50). They told the story of Lori Lavarre-Pierce from a small town in Mississippi. Lori was supposed to take her 10 year-old son to soccer practice last week. He asked his mom if he could walk. He had walked the same route the night before with his dad and sister, a route that he had taken many times. He knew the route. Mom said okay and gave him her cell phone. The kid left, and since she had to go to practice to meet a parent, she showed up 15 minutes after practice began. What she didn't know, was that in that period of time that he son walked to practice and she arrived, all hell broke loose.

 

It seems that people FREAKED OUT!!! A number of people reportedly called 911, and the police went to her home, and then to the soccer field. the first thing the police officer told her was "Do you know that you could have been charged with child endangerment? Your child is too young to walk alone." The kid only made it a few blocks from home before he was intercepted by the police. The police then drove the kid to soccer practice and then went looking for MOM.

Only link I could find for the story was here.

triciamarie

Martin, it wasn't just boys who had that freedom. When I was growing up in the 70's in a small village in Ontario, all us kids would be out in the woods or on the river from morning till night, all summer, every weekend and after school, starting from the time we were old enough to climb over the rail fence. Most of the time no one had the faintest idea where we were, and no one was expected to care. We fished, we got lost, we got stuck in the swamp, I fell into an old quarry one time, we played in the gravel pit, we threw cow patties, we learned to stay away from the cows, we caught every kind of frog and bug, we got poison ivy, we tobogganned down the first or second or big hill, we swam out to the little rock or second rock, we smoked anything we could find, we jumped off the bridge or the train bridge, we rode dirt bikes and skidoos, we hung out under the ice-breaking dam, and every other stupid thing we could think of, boys and girls often together. The only time I ever wore sunscreen was if I went to the beach (Coppertone SPF 2 oil!). If I missed the school bus I had to walk to school, through the woods, about an hour and a half, blackfly / hunting season or not.

It was wonderful. If I could give my kids that experience I would do it in a heartbeat. But that world is gone in Ontario, even there where I grew up. As it is now, I'm as safety-conscious for my kids as anyone else. It just seems like there's no way around it. I say that even knowing that for all the physical risks I'm helping them avoid, there are enormous known disadvantages to being so oversheltered, even including the physical risk of being so often confined to relative inactivity. I mean, we do our best, but it's not the same.

martin dufresne

"But that world is gone in Ontario, even there where I grew up..."

Why is that, do you think? Less children so more pressure on them and on mothers, more psych/CAS policing, apparently more assaulters on the prowl, more tolerance for 'transgression' (male violence), less open spaces, more speeding cars...?

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

There aren't more assaulters on the prowl, and I'd dismiss the other ideas as well.  No, it's more that we hear more about what happens when there's an abduction or assault and in much more detail.  That awareness has an effect on you, as a parent.  It's also a lifestyle shift, in my city anyway, of families out to housing developments rather than old-fashioned neighborhoods.  My kids have the opportunity to run an errand to the store or head over to the library for an hour without us, for example, where a kid out in the newer areas of town won't be able to.  It's a drive-everywhere culture for most families, and that makes kids more dependent for longer and it makes such experiences as walking somewhere unattended odd and suspicious because it's outside the average experience.

Michelle

I don't know, but I agree with triciamarie - we've gone to ridiculous, overprotective lengths with kids now.  The only thing that really worries me about kids is water - I don't think kids should be let near water without supervision.  But otherwise, yeah.  I did the same thing as a kid. 

At the age of 5, I was allowed to ride my tricycle around the corner to my friend's house in the same subdivision (on the sidewalk, of course) by myself.  I walked to and from school with friends the same age to a couple of years older when I was in kindergarten and grade one.  When I moved in grade one to a new community, I was allowed (at 6 years old) to ride my bike to the corner store, and walk to and from the school bus stop (which was out of view of my house) by myself.

From the age of 7, I was allowed to wander through the mall by myself while my parents went grocery shopping (since that's boring).  And we moved that year (when I was 7, and in grade 2) to a new town where it was a 10 or 15 minute walk to school.  I walked to and from school either by myself or with friends my age, and all the other kids walked to school there too, from kindergarten.  I had a babysitter after school since I was too young to look after myself for a couple of hours at home alone, but we walked to and from the babysitter (who lived near us) ourselves.  It was in this town (Trenton, Ontario) that I used to go to the store all the time to run errands, or to just get treats for myself or with friends, and we did have to cross a street to do it.  I used to go out to a park a couple of streets away and spend a few hours there at a time, or go to friends' houses in the neighbourhood (out of view of my parents' place) by myself.  The rule was that I had to tell my parents where I was going, and that's about it.

When we moved to a new place when I was 9, I was pretty much allowed to go anywhere and do anything as long as I let my parents know (generally) where I was going and as long as I was home when they told me to be home.  Walked to and from school (which was a 10-15 minute walk for a kid), and from grade 5 on (started grade 5 when I was 9), I was a "latch-key kid" after school.

We played in the woodsy areas of the community, went to parks, went for long walks with friends, walked to the strip mall in the community, etc.  We hardly ever got rides anywhere unless it was after dark, or it was REALLY too far to walk (e.g. the next community over).  We had "curfews" which was the time we had to be home, and as long as we got home and our parents had a general idea of where we were or who we were with, they didn't care where we went or what we did.

I sometimes wonder about our kids, the next generation.  Will they be capable adults?  Will they learn independence when they're so babied and coddled and protected by us?  I don't know.  When I was a kid, we all learned our addresses and phone numbers from kindergarten if not earlier.  We learned a lot of basic safety rules, and how to do things for ourselves.  My son and his friends, on the other hand, didn't generally know the basic information about where they live and their phone numbers even in grade 2.  (He didn't live with me during the week then, or else I'd have drilled it into him from an early age.) 

Maybe this is just one of those things that changes from generation to generation and it's not that big a deal.  But I can't help but think that there must be something missing from the childhood of the next generation when they can't do anything for themselves, and they can't have any freedom or independence, or playtimes that aren't completely structured by "joining" stuff.

WillC

I know I'm getting my vote in late, but I feel close to this issue because I supervise my 2 year, seven month old grandson as he plays on the combination slide, rope climbing and metalic fitting ladders  for climbing that we find in playgrounds in Toronto. There are numerous high points, several metres high, on these structures totally open that he could fall from. I always closely supervise him, often climbing up in the stucture with him. To show that it's not generational, his parents supervise him more stictly than I do. 

 

My daughter is about the same age as Michelle.  She was raised on downtown  Toronto streets, full of cars and pedestrians, and she never went anywhere by herself until she was 10.  That judgement is totally dependant on circumstances.

 

Independence should be more about independence of thought, than of independence of risking life and limb.  Do we want to raise a sky diver, or someone who thinks for herself?

 

Sven Sven's picture

Michelle wrote:

But I can't help but think that there must be something missing from the childhood of the next generation when they can't do anything for themselves, and they can't have any freedom or independence, or playtimes that aren't completely structured by "joining" stuff.

You know, I don't think kids are that much different than kids were when I was young (or than kids from 100 years ago, for that matter). But, that I do think is different is that parents are so fucked up and overprotective and want little ms. and mr. perfect for kids.  Jesus, even colleges are now having parent liasons because parents want to be so intimately involved in their kids' lives (Christ, when I turned 18, I was out on my own and my parents had no clue what I was up to.  My college grades?  Hell, they didn't know if I was getting A's or F's).

The end result today?  Snot bags for kids who think the world should revolve around them.  And, I sure as hell don't blame the kids.

This all started with the self-centered baby boomers, who look at their kids as inseparable extensions of themselves.

_______________________________________

Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!

Michelle

Thanks so much for posting that "Free Range Kids" blog, Timebandit.  It's fantastic.  I've just spent a couple of hours or so reading it!

Michelle

Banjo, that's interesting.  My father remembers taking the Ottawa buses when he was 8 or 9 by himself, and my mother remembers taking the TTC in Toronto when she was 9 or 10 by herself.  I can't even imagine my son doing that - he doesn't go anywhere by himself in Toronto, although that's because he is only with me on weekends, and so since he doesn't go to school in my neighbourhood, he doesn't know the neighbours, hasn't had the opportunity to "build up" the independence by walking to school, etc.

But honestly?  He's old enough to walk to the store by himself.  He's old enough to walk to the school down the street and play there in the playground.  He's probably even old enough to take the bus by himself (I see a kid around his age on the bus on weekday mornings on my way to work, by himself). 

But does he do that stuff by himself?  No.  Maybe if he lived with me full-time it would be different and I would look for ways to let him do appropriate independent things.  But while I believe we as a society are overprotective, I also find myself conforming to it, even though I know it's silly to do so.  Toronto's really no more dangerous than anywhere else - if anything, there are way more people who would notice if someone was messing with a kid on the street, and if your kid knows basic safety rules (scream or yell for help if a stranger bothers them, look both ways before crossing the street, etc.) then they will be fine.

saga saga's picture

Sven wrote:
Michelle wrote:

But I can't help but think that there must be something missing from the childhood of the next generation when they can't do anything for themselves, and they can't have any freedom or independence, or playtimes that aren't completely structured by "joining" stuff.

You know, I don't think kids are that much different than kids were when I was young (or than kids from 100 years ago, for that matter). But, that I do think is different is that parents are so fucked up and overprotective and want little ms. and mr. perfect for kids.  Jesus, even colleges are now having parent liasons because parents want to be so intimately involved in their kids' lives (Christ, when I turned 18, I was out on my own and my parents had no clue what I was up to.  My college grades?  Hell, they didn't know if I was getting A's or F's).

The end result today?  Snot bags for kids who think the world should revolve around them.  And, I sure as hell don't blame the kids.

This all started with the self-centered baby boomers, who look at their kids as inseparable extensions of themselves.

_______________________________________

Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!

Are you talking about yourself sven?

your own kids?

Just whose 'snotbag kids' are you maligning ?

Cool

remind remind's picture

Sven is speaking from the arrogance of having no children, and being the penultimate of selfish and centered.

His bashing of boomers is pure right wing screed that he is spewing, they would have us believe the problems of the world are boomers fault, idiots that the right are.

Wilf Day

To answer Agent 404's question: in the second example, it would depend on the six-year-old, as well as the neighbourhood. A cautious, "street-proofed" six-year-old could be trusted to walk half a block to the corner store. But is it good parenting to turn your six-year-old so cautious? Or is it better parenting to let her be the exuberant child she so loves to be, the kind who runs because it's more fun than walking?

 

Jacob Two-Two

We have a lot of "Why are things so different now?" comments and the consensus seems to be that it's the media or that we get nervous because we hear more about these things, but I don't think that's it at all. I think it's the loss of community that western society has undergone in the last fifty years. North America doesn't know itself anymore and you always fear what you don't know.

When I was a kid we wandered all over the place with no supervision, playing in construction sites, trespassing on people's property, stealing crabapples from our neighbours. But we knew everyone who lived in the area, and so did all our parents. They might not have known where we were or what we were doing, but they trusted that whatever happened, any adult that was around to see it would deal with the problem. It's not true that we were less aware of pedophiles or predators. On the contrary, the "high risk" individuals in our immediate area were well known to everyone, and we were instructed to avoid them. Whether they were actually predators or just maligned weirdos is an open question, but the point is that everyone was aware.

Now nobody knows their neighbours, nobody knows their neighbourhood. A killer could be living downstairs from you, a pedophile on the next corner, and not only wouldn't you be aware of this, you might never have seen them before. You wouldn't recognise them if they passed you on the street. This is the real problem. We're a social species but all the society has been drained out of our culture and replaced with people who are modular units in a capitalist machine. Now we look around the places we live and in the absence of any real knowledge all we see is a wealth of potential threats.

On the Gulf Islands where my mother lives, the kids still run around wild (though not like they did thirty years ago, probably). I expect you would find this anywhere that real communities still exist.

triciamarie

I'm sure the loss of community is part of it, but the place I come from was then and is still a farming community, only increased by a few hundred residents. And not one of those adults was watching us when we ran around wild. (Except when my brother got into the one farmer's hayloft and the farmer got ahold of him and literally kicked him in the ass through the air where he landed on hard dirt outside -- and started running.)

It's not like that there anymore either, or maybe as you say, just not so much. Those kids do sit inside and play video games and get driven to hockey and play dates, same as anywhere else. And they too get kept home from school for a runny nose lest they could possibly infect their classmates with a cold -- condemned as a moral failure these days.

I thought this was an excellent point on that Free-Range Kids blog:

Quote:

Two scenes from Mexico, where my family just spent a week’s vacation. (Skip the envy. Nice weather, yes, but my husband slipped before we left and spent the whole time on crutches. Meantime, this was the general tenor of our kids’ conversation: “I just saw a stingray.” “No you didn’t.” “I did too!” “You just think you did.” “But I did!” “See?”)

Anyway, that’s not the point — thank God. The point is to contrast two scenes. The first, in town: A Mexican boy of about 8, sweeping his home. Not its floor. Its roof. With no guardrails.

Scene two, at the resort: Our own boys, 10 and 12, renting snorkeling gear: Mask, flippers, life jacket.

Even a few years back, my sister informs me, snorkelers did not wear life jackets. Now these are standard issue, at least for kids.

I was very happy the boys got them, since I am, at heart, a chicken. But if these jackets didn’t automatically come as part of the package, I wouldn’t have missed them, either. Just like most of us would not miss the safety belts that now come standard in toy wagons. Or the arm straps that now come standard in strollers, so you can plaster your kid to the seat as if you’re on your way to a  typhoon, rather than the park — where, by the way, there’s a spring under the teeter-totter so no one lands too hard, and the slide is short, so no one falls too far, and the ground is springy, just in case someone does.

Did I mention the fact that the swing chains’ holes have been filled in so no one catches a finger in them? On some playgrounds, that’s the case.

As we pile on the safety precautions and equipment, the expectation of zero danger becomes the norm. What seemed a reasonable risk even a year or two ago now seems foolhardy. Snorkeling without a life vest becomes a quaint memory, on par with putting your baby to sleep in a room without a sound monitor. Sure that seemed fine – until those monitors came along. After that, putting your baby to sleep without one sounded positively rash.

Then along came video monitors. Full color, flat screen ones that let you see and hear everything going on in the crib. At which point, putting your baby to bed with just a sound monitor sounded positively rash. (And don’t even ask about the infra-red cameras.)

Do children really need all this protection? It’s hard to say no, when all around us are the means to prevent our kids from encountering even the least likely catastrophe.

But the parents of the Mexican boy sweeping the railing-free roof are protecting their child another way – protecting him from feeling helpless and timid. Deliberately or not, they are raising a child who is confident in a scary place, or, if not confident, then at least forced to be brave, which is how confidence grows. He also looked pretty cheerful. And he’s good with a broom.

Those happen to be my exact goals for my own sons. So far?

Well, they’ve seen some giant sea turtles. And they’ve lived to tell the tale. But now that we’re back home, it may be time for another brand new experience.

It involves a dust pan.

 

My relatives in Holland think it's hilarious how risk-averse North Americans are. They blame it on insurance. Their take on it is that you do not put a helmet on your kid who grows up on the back of your bike because you are going to raise a wimp. Now that's going too far!  ;-D

Michelle

Jacob, I think a big reason why there is "no community" anymore is BECAUSE people drive their kids two blocks to and from school and none of the kids play outside anymore in the neighbourhood unless it's properly supervised drives to the park with their parents, who hover over them on the playground and mediate their every interaction with every play structure (which are mind-numbingly boring these days) and every other child there.

In my neighbourhood, which is a pretty, tree-lined street with lots of kids, the place is a ghost-town every weekend.  None of the kids play in their front yards (maybe they're all playing in their fenced-in back yards) and there is no park nearby except for the school grounds at the nearby elementary school, which I think is off-limits after school hours.

As a result, I've lived there for almost two years, but my son knows no children in my neighbourhood because you never, ever see kids outside anywhere.  There's no way for him to meet them because he doesn't go to school here, so he can't make "play dates" with kids he meets at school.  The only kid he knows in Toronto is a kid he met at summer camp at my workplace, and this kid lives about as far east in Toronto as you can go without being in Pickering.  (I live in the west end of the old city.)  

I take him to the local library around the corner, but there isn't much in the way of programs there for kids his age, and the other kids have been so freaked out about "stranger danger" by their hovering parents that none of them really socialize with each other there - they're all doing all their socializing with their parents (who, god forbid, can't be more than 2 feet away from them the whole time they're in the library). 

I sign him up for swimming lessons, but the kids are all driven there, their parents are there the whole time watching everything like a hawk, and rush them out of the change rooms as soon as they're done changing.  No real time to socialize or exchange phone numbers.  If you want your kids to play with any of the kids you meet there, you as the parent have to approach the other parents instead of the kids talking to each other.  But you don't know which kid belongs to which parent, or where the parents of the kid your kid seems to be having fun with in the pool is. 

I remember one woman was so worried about letting her son change in the boy's/men's change room by himself (her son was 7, like my son at the time) that he actually changed IN THE HALL while she held a towel up around him.  Talk about humiliating.  He seemed to accept it - or maybe he was so accustomed to being overprotected that he was scared to change in there, I don't know.

G. Muffin

I don't really feel qualified to pass judgement because I don't have kids of my own.  But I will say that I thank my lucky stars that I grew up in the 1970s.  I was given a lot of freedom and came to no harm (until I got into high school, when a little more parental involvement probably would have been a good thing).  In the wiki article on helicopter parenting, there's a reference to "lawnmower parents" which is helicopter parenting ratcheted up to an absurd level even when the kids are adults.  Much as I love them, I have to admit these are the kind of parents I have. 

ETA:  I agree that the problem is our car culture. 

ElizaQ ElizaQ's picture

 Interesting thread.  I and my siblings were definately free range kids as were most in my neighborhood.  We pretty much just went outside, joined up with the other kids and did stuff.  The best were these epic games based on movies and shows like Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica with the game board taking place over a broad area in the yards of various peoples houses. We'd build forts for the bases and then game on. I climbed trees, fences and whatever. There was a park at the end of the street that we were allowed to go to but if there were big kids there (teenagers) then we weren't supposed to stay.  I think thats because there was a group that would hang out and smoke or something.  Our friends who lived across the street were called for lunch or whatever by their mother who would stand on her porch and ring an old school bell that you could hear for blocks.   We walked to school starting in grade 1 which was about 1.5 kms.   We even walked home for lunch pretty much everyday.   I remember it being a big huge deal when I was allowed to go by myself.  I wasn't like those little kindergarteners anymore.  :)   

 I really started to notice a difference in kids and some mothers when I became a Guide leader at around age 19.  My thing was camping and outdoors stuff, something I'd done for as long as I could remember and was pretty much recruited because I actually knew it and had years of experience.   Every year there would be a backyard camp where girls would go to learn basic skills.  The main rule was that the house was only be used as a bathroom.  I remembered them as being pretty much that we were on our own with the leaders being just around to supervise and give basic directions.

     The first problem came when we started to do the cooking part.  We had gone over the basic use of camp stoves in a regular meeting but at the camp went over it again.  It was then when one of the other leaders just freaked out when she realized that the girls would be actually lighting and looking after their own stoves. This was pre-propane canister era so this meant filling them with gas and pumping.  What was really bad was that she freaked out in front of the girls and when the time came to do the lighting most were so scared that they couldn't do it so she went around and did it.    I was so mad and also confused because this leader made me feel like I was doing something horribly wrong by daring to teach them that they could indeed do it themselves,   yet I was sure that remembered that back in my day we were perfectly capable of working with stoves, safely, at around age seven.  It was one of the great things about camping.  

 Then it came to the actual cooking part.  Since most were new to camp cooking their was a lot of direction on my part which was fine but even then I soon discovered that what I thought was basic had to be even more basic.  I couldn't just say, okay we need to chop some carrots get a knife and a cutting board.  For one more then half barely knew what a cutting board was and most didn't know how to use a knife to chop veggies if their life depended on it.  A good many just didn't know but were actually really terrified to even hold a paring knife.  I was told that knives were really, really dangerous and they weren't allowed near them at home.  A couple even flatly refused to do it at all because they were afraid they'd get into trouble.   So the whole thing wasn't just about teaching the most basics of knife safety but about getting past the fear of even working with the thing. 

 The whole weekend was really about overcoming fear, fear of getting hurt or fear of doing something wrong or the wrong way and getting into trouble.   Now one or two wouldn't  have been an issue. I remembered that there were always a few like this. It was the number that got me. In general they were not capable of doing anything without the most minute, one step after the other directions and having me the adult just basically being a robot director.  They *wanted* to have an adult there all of the time.   I had a lot of trouble getting my mind around because in my memories of backyard camp we hated having the adults hovering around and it was *gasp* horrible if the leaders wouldn't let us do something ourselves.   I remember my leaders spending most of their time sitting on lawn chairs and us bringing them food.  :)  

 I went home after that weekend, totally exhausted and wondering if my memories were just wrong and that we weren't really as independent  and capable as I recalled.  I talked to Mom about it who had been a leader when I was younger and continued on for about 15 years.  She said that no I wasn't crazy as within a ten year period she noticed a real difference not just in the girls but in some of the leaders as well.  It's not a PC way of saying it but she said that it was like the kids just became dumber and lost a lot of what in my early time was a general common sense and the basic ability to act independently and grow in that independence through learning various skills.   One of the reasons she eventually quit was because she couldn't deal with what she called the 'fear of danger' factor that undermined what she felt really was the point of the program.  Camping and even basic outdoors skills became dangerous and there were some people that didn't even want them to be taught anymore because it was to durn risky for the kids to learn these things.    She  got frustrated with having to constantly deal with what I guess now would be called helicopter parents and worse helicopter leaders.  

   I could relate because the next year in my group there were a couple of kids who simply weren't allowed to do anything related to camping and weren't allowed to go on the yearly campout because it was too dangerous. They were eleven and simply weren't allowed to even touch a match.   I felt really bad for the kids because they sure wanted to but there wasn't much I could do. One of the mothers insisted that she be allowed to sit on the sidelines at every meeting to make sure her kid was okay.  It became a real pain in the ass because she'd constantly jump up to help her kid with the simplest of things and like Michelle commented on interfere and mediate dissagreements.    The worst though was that all of the other leaders except one didn't  have a problem with it.  It was just the new normal I guess.  I only lasted one year after that because doing what I was most interested in and skilled at (outdoor stuff) became more pain to try to do then was worth it and couldn't handle the amount of fear about the whole realm floating around it.  

  Oh and then there was the hugging thing. Sometime in that ten to fifteen year period some sort of policy came down that we weren't allowed to ever hug or touch any of the kids.   I get where that came from but frankly it was one of saddest things that the this overriding fear of abuse outweighed basic human interaction.  It became a liability issue and just too risky a thing to do because you might get in trouble for it if someone decided to take it the wrong way and freak out.  

 

 

triciamarie

martin dufresne wrote:

more psych/CAS policing...?

Absolutely! It's out of control where I am. That is certainly one of the reasons why I wouldn't DARE send my seven-year-old on her own to her school at the end of the block. There are crossing guards at the little street they have to cross, I doubt if it's 500 feet from here, you could easily throw a ball from here to there, takes us two minutes to walk. But the horror stories of CAS intervention -- and the effect that would have on my daughter -- if I did let her do it and someone anonymously took exception, are a huge factor in my decision to just go with the flow with everyone else and I will probably be walking her there at least through Grade Four.

My mother-in-law says it's so much harder now to raise kids, exactly because of this aspect. You have to be immediately available if not actively attending to every potential risk they might encounter every minute of the day. And the kids are more bored and demanding.

ElizaQ, thanks for sharing that experience. Really puts it all in perspective.

Wilf Day

Jacob Two-Two wrote:
Now nobody knows their neighbours, nobody knows their neighbourhood. A killer could be living downstairs from you, a pedophile on the next corner, and not only wouldn't you be aware of this, you might never have seen them before. You wouldn't recognise them if they passed you on the street. This is the real problem. We're a social species but all the society has been drained out of our culture and replaced with people who are modular units in a capitalist machine. Now we look around the places we live and in the absence of any real knowledge all we see is a wealth of potential threats.

On the Gulf Islands where my mother lives, the kids still run around wild (though not like they did thirty years ago, probably). I expect you would find this anywhere that real communities still exist.

We've lived on the same street for 10 years. Our granddaughter, 6, lives three blocks away. If it wasn't for traffic, she could walk between the two homes already. Maybe when she's 8.

When she's 7, her mother plans to let her walk a couple of blocks from the elementary school to the high school after school, even though that means crossing a main road, because there's a crossing guard and lots of other kids making that walk.

In short, even in "real communities" we still don't trust the car drivers.

But by the time the kids here are 11 they are biking all over town on their own.

Meanwhile we have a local playground three blocks away, very well used all summer, dozens of kids there. Making friends, even. Cool

Sven Sven's picture

saga wrote:

Are you talking about yourself sven?

your own kids?

This "parent" only has "kids" with four legs!! Tongue out

_______________________________________

Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!

remind remind's picture

Here in our small comunity, kids alone are often seen riding their bikes to town on their own, they wander the streets freely all the time and even go fishing by themselves.

I think my much older sister than I, was part of the first "helicopter" parents back in the early to mid eighties. Her sons, my nephews,  never walked the 4 blocks to school, even when teenagers. And this was a small town too. When my one nephew, came to the Island to go to university, at 18, and choose to live with us, my sister was beside herself, we free spirits, after all could be a corrupting influence on him and encourage him to do what he pleased educationally and socially. ;)

First long week end we were awoken to the door being pounded on in the early morning hours. There stood my sister and brother in law, with my BIL looking sheepish and we are talking a 14 hr trip to try and catch us "corrupting" her son.

However, I learned from her and determined my daughter was going to walk to school, ride her bike, or take the public transit and that she was going to be allowed to freely interact with people and make her own work and career choices. And that she was also going to have a job when a teenager to provide her with her recreational spending money.

Frankly, people who are into building more rules and societal controls allegedly for our own "good" as if they know, when indeed they do not,  are only consumed and driven by their own fear. IMV if they want fear permiating their lives, to be their reality, they can have it, however IMV others should be rejecting it, wherever it raises its head, and not just going along.

saga saga's picture

Sven wrote:
saga wrote:

Are you talking about yourself sven?

your own kids?

This "parent" only has "kids" with four legs!! Tongue out

Well I'm glad to hear that.

It would certainly be sad to hear a real parent speak in such disparaging tones about youth.

Perhaps if you spoke of them and to them in a more mature way, you'd learn more about what kids are about today.

One thing is certain ... You speak to them in that disparaging way, you get it back tenfold! They don't take shite from nobody!

But I guess you've learned that already, eh?Tongue out

 

Sven Sven's picture

remind wrote:

Sven is speaking from the arrogance of having no children, and being the penultimate of selfish and centered.

His bashing of boomers is pure right wing screed that he is spewing, they would have us believe the problems of the world are boomers fault, idiots that the right are.

Remind, I'd like to kindly "remind" you of [url=this">http://rabble.ca/comment/993648/Okay-Sven-and-remind-both][u... post[/url] by Michelle from earlier this month.

_______________________________________

Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!

Michelle

Yeah, sorry for not noticing that earlier.  I really don't want to have to suspend anyone, but I will follow through the next time it happens. 

Rexdale_Punjabi Rexdale_Punjabi's picture

lol this thread is funny the thing about the full screen color monitor made me go wow.

the 1st parent ok the 2nd depends on the kid. But yo around here u always have kids go around on there own cuz the parents (mostly momz) either at work or they chillin. They can usually see where the kid is or find out fast cuz u end up knowing each other in the area mostly. The only place you don't is apartment buildings where it obvious why and some of the houses cuz u either never go around there or ppl aint out. But the low-rise projects every1 knows each other for the most part.  and even in the apartments and houses nuff kids know each other and chill together from a young age. The manz you see chillin wit der crew proly been doin that since times. That why it hurt real bad when one of ur niggas turns on you cuz u proly grew up with the man like ur momz fed him his momz fed u before. 

What a play date btw do some parents actually follow their kids to the park n shit like that? only time I seen that happen is when kids are like in strollers and it a mother or grandparents or something lightly swingin them on the baby swings at the park. And the ground aint soft at the park lol it muddy n full of dog shit. 

What other said in the thread about mothers is true everyone always blames the mother.