In April of 2008, New York Sun columnist Lenore Skenazy let her then 9-year old son ride the subway home alone from Bloomingdales in Manhattan. She left him with a map, a Metrocard for the subway, $20 and some change to use a pay phone – remember those? not a cell phone, a PAY phone, in case he needed to call home. She then wrote about his adventure and launched her website www.freerangekids.com. She was subsequently dubbed “America’s Worst Mom” by some..while others so appreciated the child-rearing that reminded them of their own, less restrictive upbringings.
Now Skenazy has a new mission: to get parents to ease up on Halloween paranoia. She lets her kids eat their Halloween candy without prior inspection. Do you?
Here is the link to her blog post about it.
Following is the web TV interview Where Parents Talks’ Lianne Castelino did with her in 2011.
WhereParentsTalk: Why do you think today’s parents have become The
Lenore Skenazy: Parents today are fed a very steady diet of hysteria-producing stories in the media, the latest being about a baby who was kidnapped 23 years ago. And CNN had a segment yesterday on how to prevent your child from being kidnapped for the next 23 years. That kind of thing, the leap from a very very rare weird thing to this is happening all over it’s something you have to be concerned about and ‘Moms never go to the bathroom when you have a baby because the minute you’re in there uh somebody’s going to run into the room and steal the baby.’ I mean that’s what they were really warning you about. As if that’s a likely thing to happen when it happened once, in the United States, last year one time, 4 million babies born, is why we are hysterical. We’re told if we’re not hysterical something is wrong with us, we don’t care enough
WPT: So how do we go about not falling into the trap then of helicopter parenting?
LS: Well I think what I found most valuable is it’s very hard to say ‘don’t be afraid’ because we’re all afraid of something. I happen to be deathly afraid of cars. But there are – sometimes I will put my kids in a car, despite my fear, because I really have to get somewhere. It’s more important to me than to just give into the fears.
Well it turns out that there are some things that are really important for our kids that we’re missing out on because we’re so afraid that we keep them inside or we constantly supervise them even as they get old enough to do things on their own . It turns out for instance that free play is incredibly valuable to all mammals. And we are the only ones who are preventing it from happening. We take them say to a supervised little league game or soccer team or I guess you’re in Canada, a hockey team, or practice, but we don’t just let them run around on their own. Running around on their own does all sort of things that all those supervised games don’t. When they’re running on their own they have to come up with a game to play they have to make their own teams, they know that if one team is so much better than the other team, the other team is going to quit and go home, so it allows them, or almost forces them to be social, and think in terms of interaction, and to weigh things. And then they have to stay in the game everybody has to play by the rules.
This is something that teachers spend their whole years on you know “Pay attention! Now it’s your turn, Don’t speak out of turn! Now you have to hand in your paper. It’s due. Pencils down.” All that kind of stuff that’s kind of difficult for an adult to teach a kid – kids teach each other.
WPT: What’s your advice for 21st Century parents?
LS: Try to pay a little less attention to all the messages of “you’re doing it wrong, your kid is going to get screwed up, and by the way they’re in horrible danger, did I mention that they can’t do anything on their own?” And just, I don’t know, drink a cup of coffee while they go outside and play. That would probably be good.