American Hyper-parenting Is Infiltrating Norway

.

Fear is a virus. It can spread even to the independent reaches of Scandinavia, as this letter suggests. It comes to us from Ingebjørg Berg Holm, an interior architect, novelist, and mother of two adventurous kids, aged 4 and 6.The 6-year-old walks himself home  and runs small errands. His little sister is looking forward to do the same when she reaches his age.

Dear Free-Range Kids: I stumbled across your blog googling kids-safety. I am Norwegian, and I have recently become concerned about what I see as a worrying trend:”Americanisation” of parenting. Just as in USA (and Australia, apparently,) parents are restricting their kids’ freedom despite the fact that the society is safer than ever.

Still, reading your blog I realised that we are still lucky here in Scandinavia. What is seen as normal parenting here could get me arrested if I moved to Australia or USA!

And, the thing is: Our kids are fine!

You are probably aware of this already. But if you need some inspirational tales about a whole, crazy population with thriving kids, I`ll give you some examples of what is normal, widely accepted parenting in our little corner of the world:

-Kids walk to school. This is dependent on how safe the traffic is, not everyone has safe roads. But if it is safe (enough), kids as young as 6-7 years do this, or start learning to do it.

-Babies sleep outside in prams. Yes, even in winter. In the yard, on the balcony or outside the cafè where the parent watches them through the window. If we are not within earshot or have visual contact, we use baby monitors. Or just check upon them often.

Kids are left at home alone. This varies a lot, not all kids or parents feel comfortable doing this when the kids are small. But most kids are used to this from at least 9-10 years of age. Many starts much earlier. Teachers/child psychologists etc. encourage it. My own 6-year old walks home from school alone (we live 5 min. walk from the school) and spends one glorious hour at home alone before a parent comes home from school.

-Kids handles dangerous things. In Norway, it’s widely accepted that kids should learn to handle a knife from 6 years of age. Not unsupervised in the beginning, off course. Parents teach safety rules and proper knife handling and have a band-aid ready. It is quite common to get at whittle knife for your 6th birthday.

We also go on hikes where the kids roam relatively free in nature filled with vipers (not like the Australian snakes, but still), dangerous cliffs etc.

-Kids are naked. This custom is actually under pressure, because people are starting to fear pedophiles with cameras. And because natural nakedness is having a general set-back in Scandinavia. But still, it is not uncommon to see naked kids on our beaches.

We are not irresponsible! We use bike helmets,(but teach the kids to remove them on playgrounds,) and car seats, child-proofs our homes and educate our kids about sexual predators.

Stricter rules about playground safety, mandatory car seats and rising awareness about dangers like drowning accidents have been very important. In 20 years, the number of kids dying in accidents has plummeted. Norway and Sweden are now some of the safest countries in the world!

But,  in general, we believe in keeping a child safe by educating them and empowering them. Not by constant monitoring. And our kids are more than fine!

(I apologise for the many typos, strange wording and bad grammar.)

— Vennlig hilsen

Ingebjørg Berg Holm

What a sane-sounding country. When we want our kids to have some unsupervised time and onlookers say, “No way!” let’s counter with “NOR-way!”

(Sorry. It’s Sunday. Brain is fried.) – L.

.

Please brake for Norwegian kids with pet snails.

Please brake for Norwegian kids with pet snails.

.

, , , , , ,

33 Responses to American Hyper-parenting Is Infiltrating Norway

  1. Emily June 19, 2016 at 3:16 pm #

    I lived in Australia for two years (early 2010 through late 2011), and I saw kids roaming independently, and being dropped off for extra-curricular activities (I volunteered in two different Girl Guide units, and ALL the parents dropped their kids off; even the parents of the youngest girls in Gumnuts, and the one girl in the Brownie unit who was blind, and the one girl in Rangers who had epilepsy), and I don’t think child nudity at the beach was a huge concern either–there were outdoor showers, and it wasn’t uncommon to see a naked toddler being cleaned off by a parent, although it didn’t go beyond that age. Also, their version of “water safety” was much more sensible than some of the stories I’ve seen on here, of public pools that confine kids to the shallow end and require arms-length supervision and life jackets until some arbitrary age. Instead of doing that, kids are enrolled in something called “Little Nippers,” which is a class that teaches swimming, surfing, and lifesaving skills to kids elementary school age and up……and this is in the ocean, which is much more dangerous than any pool. My point is, I loved seeing those kinds of things in Australia, and there’s no reason why children shouldn’t live like this. I mean, if a child does something stupid, by all means, restrict their freedoms for a week or two–I think they used to call that “grounding,” but now it’s become the default setting for anyone under eighteen, which is just asking for trouble when eighteen inevitably comes.

  2. Anna June 19, 2016 at 4:17 pm #

    Thank you for your input. We live in Bavaria. Our kids had their first pocketknife for their 5th birthday, played alone in the garden as soon as they could walk, walk to school since 1rst grade and do spend time alone at home with 5 years. And they wait in the car when I run an errand. And they are healthy and happy and this is a perfectly normal childhood here. Yesterday they had a party with friends over and all the 5, 6 ,8 and 7 year olds carved with knives, had a scavenger hunt in the woods by themselves and made bread on sticks over the open camp fire and guess what: no one got insured but all of them made memories they will never forget.
    Let children be children. They need that or will will do more damage then harm.

  3. Michelle June 19, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

    It’s getting worse where I live. The other day I was literally told that it’s not safe for my 18yo to walk across our upper middle class suburban church and exit by the front door because “there aren’t any adults in that part of the church.” The explanations for this were “we’re just not ready” (for her to be treated like an adult), and other teens / pre-teens were also exiting by that door so they had to stop everyone. “It’s not safe.”

    She’s literally an adult. Old enough that she could have driven herself, and could be going home to her own apartment. Old enough to die for our country, and only a year younger than I was when I adopted her. And today, in direct response to our family having an issue with this and other similar slights, her Sunday morning Bible study class was all about “respecting your elders.”

  4. James Pollock June 19, 2016 at 6:02 pm #

    “What a sane-sounding country. When we want our kids to have some unsupervised time and onlookers say, “No way!” let’s counter with “NOR-way!”

    Norway is currently experiencing a SIGNIFICANT level of complaining because of the intrusion of their version of CPS into families. You can have your kids taken from you for spanking them.

    Google “Barnevernet” for news stories and opinions.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  5. K2 June 19, 2016 at 6:14 pm #

    I think that it could be argued that Norway and Sweden are better places to live than the US and that this is one of several major reasons. I think China will soon have both a larger economy and a larger military than the US. I have heard that many Asian countries have better education results than the US, not more money – better results with the same money or less. Some of the kids actually experience what it is like to have hard times and that in part motivates them to do well in school. CPS does it best to make sure no American child will ever go a day without anything important, so American children (especially those who really need education to succeed) generally don’t value education and are more likely to misbehave, not turn in work, etc.. India has more children and the economic prosperity of a nation’s future is often determined in part by how many children it has now. The number of children being born in the US is declining (CPS in part?). Yes, liberals are trying to import from our southern neighbors to maintain a young workforce etc.. All for the melting pot, but do not think the country will be as strong if the demographics change to favor one religion or ethnic group too much above what the numbers are now. I am an American and find I have to abide by the totalitarian laws we now have, but I also think they are part of our future decline.

  6. Sandefjording June 19, 2016 at 6:23 pm #

    But still we have Barnevernet in Norway, google it up. They are after many innocent families for different reasons than American CPS, but with equally devastating consequences.

  7. Jessica June 19, 2016 at 7:30 pm #

    Thank you to the commenters who point out that every country has its problems, and that Norway is not actually a utopia. I lived several years in Japan (and loved the country!) and it drives me nuts to hear people fetishize the way the Japanese raise their children. Largely in this US we think that every other country does everything better than we do.

    In Japan yes, young children take public buses a stop or two alone and no one thinks twice. It’s wonderful. But because of the same “mind your own business” culture, children who are being truly, catastrophically abused are often ignored by those who are fully aware of it.

    Every culture has its positives and its negatives when it comes to child-rearing. I don’t know the negatives of Norway’s, but I assure you, they exist.

  8. Renee Anne June 19, 2016 at 7:43 pm #

    I have friends that live in Norway and they keep telling me how things are so different over there when it comes to raising children. Quite frankly, I agree with the saneness that is child-rearing in Norway. My 5 year old knows how to use a cutting knife. Not well, mind, but he’s had experience cutting things like bananas and cheese and cucumbers. He learned it at school…because he goes to a Montessori school (public, charter) and it’s part of their curriculum. I wasn’t crazy about it but he’s done pretty well. He also pours his own milk & cereal (unless the jug is too heavy) and I will let him go to the bathroom by himself if we’re out (like at Target or Costco since he knows where those bathrooms are). So, there’s that.

  9. Theresa June 19, 2016 at 7:53 pm #

    I’m guessing that our government is telling the other governments how to raise kids. Our government is pretty bossy at times.

  10. Denise June 19, 2016 at 10:18 pm #

    @Michelle- suggest that the next lesson needs to be 2 Tim 2:17- For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

    Or it’s time to find a new church

  11. Workshop June 20, 2016 at 9:56 am #

    I had to force my kids to get dressed when their cousins came over yesterday. They really like being nekkid.
    Even then, they took off their clothes when they went into the kiddie pool. Sure it freaked a couple cousins out, but if that’s the worst thing they ever see, I’d say it’s a victory.

  12. Crystal June 20, 2016 at 10:53 am #

    To Jessica, yes, yes and YES! I am an American living in Europe and am BEYOND SICK of hearing everyone back home romanticize this continent, like it has zero problems whatsoever. Yes, there are good things about it, but there are good things about America, too. Use your brain and know the difference between right and wrong, wherever you go!

  13. lollipoplover June 20, 2016 at 12:18 pm #

    “What is seen as normal parenting here could get me arrested if I moved to Australia or USA!”

    This is a generalization that is not entirely true. There are still many free range towns in the US with sane parents who don’t call the police on one another. This type of hyper-parenting police state for children does exist, and Lenore is correct, it IS like a virus and spreads contagiously. Parents should try to eradicate this virus with education and allow their kids to experience childhood. There are power in numbers and the more kids out there playing and encouraging other kids to do the same normalizes a very basic right of our children.

    My kids also rode bikes to school since Kindergarten (5-6). They’ve slept outside within earshot since early ages (at the beach, pool, on our deck) and have plenty of skill with knives and tools (especially wood working tools). All have been left alone since around 4th grade(9-10) with no problems, it’s just we don’t go broadcasting that they’re home alone. In the US, it’s still a dirty little secret to have your kids be capable and self-sufficient at young ages, unfortunately. Many other milestones are celebrated (walking, talking) at very early ages. But teach a 6 year-old to cook, bike to school, and be capable is seen as negligent parenting, ironically. I still don’t get why, and will parent my kids in a manner that’s best for their development.

  14. Another Katie June 20, 2016 at 12:43 pm #

    We live in a largely blue collar, working and lower middle class city in the US and our older child attends public school. She has classmates who live literally a block or two away who are not allowed to walk to school. There are good sidewalks, crossing guards at every crosswalk, and relatively low traffic outside of school hours, but those things do nothing. Mommy either drives the child a few hundred feet and deals with the chaos of the dropoff/pickup line, or she walks with them each way. The district had to pay a traffic engineer to figure out new routing for buses and the dropoff/pickup line because so many of the children who are supposed to be walkers are actually being dropped off and picked up.

    Some parents were recently complaining on Facebook that the Boys & Girls Club, which provides before and after school care in the elementary schools, didn’t have before/after care in the MIDDLE SCHOOLS (6th-8th grade, or roughly 11-14 year old kids). The Club offered a middle school aftercare program in the past and ended up cancelling it around over a decade ago because there were only a handful of kids in each school attending and it wasn’t financially viable to provide a staff for so few students. The helicopter moms wanted the program revived for their special snowflakes.

    I said that barring a disability or developmental delay a middle schooler should be able to go home after school and occupy themselves safely for a couple of hours – as you can imagine, I was excoriated and my own parenting skills were questioned. I pointed out that at that age I was responsible for walking to/from school and that in the afternoon when I got home I usually started cooking dinner for the family so that we could eat at a reasonable time when my parents and younger sibling got home. The response from the helicopter mommies was that 20-odd years ago was a different time and the world today is *so* much more dangerous, and that you certainly can’t let an 11 or 12 year old use knives or the stove. I decided then that I wouldn’t even bother to relay the fact that I was a latchkey kid after school starting in 3rd grade!

    Incidentally, nothing is stopping any of these kids from taking the bus or walking over to the main Boys & Girls Club for their free afternoon tween & teen program. The panicked suburban mommies didn’t want their kids riding a public bus for 5-10 minutes; they’d rather pay for daycare for a freaking teenager.

  15. Vaughan Evans June 20, 2016 at 1:48 pm #

    I am a 67 year old man-very angry.
    Children blame adults-for the very things that children are guilty of.
    Around 1990, in a pool changing room(Racquetball players also use that changing room) a boy about 9-approached me.
    He used the word “bony”(In certain contexts that word is a synonym for “horny.”
    I told the man who was in charge(The boy is a participant in a swim program-that is part of an after school day -care program.
    The man gold the boy to sit down-and miss his swim.

  16. M.M. June 20, 2016 at 2:01 pm #

    America has its problems, sure…. but Norway has BIG, BIG problems regarding its CPS system, Barnevernet. They confiscate newborns on baseless charges, confiscate children without due process or justification…. it’s horrendeous! Lack of eye contact, too much eye contact, too strict, too lenient, burnt toast… I mean it’s unconceivable! When the government has too much power, human rights are trampled on.

  17. sexhysteria June 20, 2016 at 4:58 pm #

    “…it is not uncommon to see naked kids on our beaches.” And yet there are no reports of rampant child pornography or child sex abuse coming out of Norway. Does everybody understand that?

  18. Paul June 20, 2016 at 6:41 pm #

    I don’t think it’s all of America that smothers their children. I’m able to do everything on that list without fear of repercussions. Once, a cop saw my eight year old daughter in a wooded park alone and asked if she was ok. She responded yes and the cop left her alone.

    In short, there are still parts of the US where parents are sane and don’t freak when they see a kid that’s unsupervised.

  19. Curious June 20, 2016 at 7:37 pm #

    Norway also has the world’s sanest criminal justice system. Lenient jail sentences. Emphasis on rehabilitation, not vengeance!
    How did they become so evolved?

  20. Beth June 20, 2016 at 8:25 pm #

    @Crystal, what’s the context for your quote ” Use your brain and know the difference between right and wrong, wherever you go!”? I’m not clear what you’re trying to tell us in terms of free range parenting.

  21. Kara June 21, 2016 at 7:50 am #

    Sure Norway has it share of problems, as does every country, but I really don’t see Barnevernet as one of them. Media loves to write about how someone lost their kids over burnt toast, or because they had missmatched socks, but of corse this is never the actual case. Barnevernet are not alowed to discuss cases in media, so we only ever get the parents side of the story, and they are out to gather sympathy. Of course there are mistakes made, everybody makes mistakes, and mistakes involving children will always be felt more keenly, but the Barnevern is no where near as bad as some try to make us believe.

    When it comes to hitting your child there is zero tollerance policy, and you can risk loosing your child for smacking them once, but even in these cases they will try to work with the parents to keep the children in the homes.

  22. Workshop June 21, 2016 at 9:32 am #

    “[Y]ou can risk loosing your child for smacking them once” is probably the definition of over-reaction.

    If that was the case, I’d have lost my kids twice just this past week.

    But sure, they’ll try to work with parents to keep the child in the home . . . right. Just your kindly benevolent government bureaucrat at work. “We’re here to help you, and if you don’t cooperate we’ll put you in jail.”

  23. James Pollock June 21, 2016 at 10:01 am #

    “Sure Norway has it share of problems, as does every country, but I really don’t see Barnevernet as one of them”

    A rather vocal group of people does.
    Among other complaints, it seems that immigrants are FAR more likely to have their children taken.

  24. Beth2 June 21, 2016 at 10:50 am #

    Major takeaways for me for this post and comments are that no country is perfect, different cultures do things differently, there is no one “right” way to parent, and our definitions of “reasonable” are shaped by our communities. It’s not the end of the world that something commonly accepted in one country is frowned upon in another.

    What I think really bothers a lot of folks who come to this blog is the feeling that our *own* culture is fragmenting. We feel that in our *own* country/state/neighborhood the public definition of “reasonable” parenting is spiraling farther and farther away from the average parent’s experience, to the point where many parents in this country now feel that “parenting is now literally impossible.”

    This is partly driven by a click-bait economy where the media makes money off of sensationalism and tragedy. And I think it’s partly driven by an unprecedented number of people today not having any children, or waiting until their lives are socioeconomically “perfect” before welcoming children. Some of the childless view parenting as a “lifestyle choice,” that deserves no special sympathy, respect, or broad community support. I’m sure there was plenty of judgment in the “old days” too, but I suspect it was at least tempered a bit more by empathy, when children were seen as an inevitable part of life. And we now have a million new social media outlets and electronic devices for people to anonymously subject strangers to merciless scrutiny, and it makes for a toxic brew.

    I think pointing to other cultures such as Norway to say “they do it better” or “I hope they don’t become like us” is not helpful. What’s helpful is pointing out that the definition of “normal” in parenting is relative. Different cultures have used different parenting techniques throughout human history, and somehow the kids survive and humanity goes on.

  25. Yocheved June 21, 2016 at 4:26 pm #

    I wonder how much of this fear has to do with the mass Muslim immigration? I know that in several parts of Sweden it is a huge problem for both boys and girls to be outside on their own. Same thing in Germany. Read the Gatestone Institute for statistics and details.

  26. AndreL June 21, 2016 at 5:11 pm #

    I think several forms of social nakedness are going down just because cameras are now ubiquitous everywhere there is a cellphone, not necessarily (only) by fear of pedophiles.

    In certain parts of Europe, women used to go topless on a beach, or on a city park grassy area, or a leisure swimming pool, quite often, up to the late 1990s, when first digital cameras and then cell phone cameras increased the risk someone would get not only photographed but also plastered over the Internet as such.

  27. Tim June 22, 2016 at 5:50 am #

    bloody hell!!!! why are people so obsessed about helmets?

    There is hardly any proof that they make bike riding safer:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jS9UhHf7GsQ

    If you think you need to mitigate the risk by wearing a bike helmet you should wear in your car as well and while taking stairs and in the bathroom etc.

    Better teach your children to be aware of traffic….
    And do not change nappies on a table…. Or only with a helmet on 😉

  28. Elin June 22, 2016 at 7:59 am #

    Yocheved

    I live Sweden and I have never heard of any area where boys and girls can’t go outside due to Muslim immigrants, we do have a problem with ignorant idiots that think that everything wrong with this country is somehow linked to immigration. I am Swedish ,and I live in area with a high percentage of immigrants and my 4 year old safely plays outside without parental supervision.

    That said, of course we have areas with social problems and some of them do have a high immigrant population but these areas where considered “bad” even before any immigrant moved in there.

  29. Papilio June 23, 2016 at 10:11 am #

    Thank you, Tim, that’s what I thougt.

  30. James Pollock June 23, 2016 at 11:28 am #

    “That said, of course we have areas with social problems and some of them do have a high immigrant population but these areas where considered “bad” even before any immigrant moved in there.”

    Well, of course, where are you gong to dump the immigrants that nobody really wants but in the neighborhoods nobody really wants to live in?

    I thought that the comment about not letting kids play outside because of Muslim immigration referred to the Muslims themselves, since some Muslim nations practice strict separation of sexes in public, while Sweden (and Europe generally) does not.

    I have seen (in the US) parents who wanted to keep their kids isolated from people who were not of their faith (but Christians, not Muslims.)

  31. G4Change June 28, 2016 at 1:20 am #

    I always thought that Norway was so much more advanced than the U.S. when it came to these issues. Then, as per one of the posts on here, I web searched “Barnevernet”. Holy crap!!! This “Barnevernet” is probably as bad if not worse than the CPS Nazis here in the U.S. I’m so disappointed!!!

  32. MaeMae July 2, 2016 at 2:34 pm #

    Not all of the hands off parenting practiced in Europe and such is good. I have an exchange student from Slovakia and one from the Czech Republic and they both started drinking, smoking, and hanging out in pubs at a very young age with no adult oversight. They don’t think it’s a very good idea, especially the one from the Czech Republic where he said kids start drinking and smoking at around 10 years old. Those countries have a joke that students go to the US as foreign exchange students to save their livers.

  33. Papilio July 2, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

    @MaeMae: There’s is quite a big difference in living standards etc etc etc between, roughly, the north-west and the south-east of Europe.

    And about Barnevernet… I wouldn’t be surprised if only the horror stories and mishaps have made it to the English-language part of the internet (and like Kara pointed out, aren’t the negative stories always more prevalent than stories about the good things CPS-like institutions do?)
    IOW if there IS a nice, balanced, honest piece about Barnevernet out there, it’s probably in Norwegian.