“But a Child Getting Murdered is So Much Worse Than Them Dying in a Car Accident!”

The question of the day (week/year/decade/century):
Dear Free-Range Kids: I was wondering if you had any advice when you are met with the following argument against Free-Range Parenting.
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This came up the other day when I was having a conversation with an opponent to Free-Ranging, and it’s one I’ve heard before. They were arguing against letting a 9-year-old walk by themselves, for fear of them being kidnapped/raped/murdered.
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Now, this person completely admitted that the statistical likelihood of this happening was extremely remote. They further admitted that many other things are more dangerous to kids that they don’t protect them from; i.e. being in a car. However, their argument was that because a child being raped and/or murdered is so incredibly horrible (in their view the worst thing that could happen, far worse than dying in a car accident or by another risk factor), it just isn’t worth it.
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I find myself having a much harder time arguing against this as opposed to the folks who erroneously think that kids are being snatched off the street left and right.  I have pointed out that I myself am a very petite woman, under 5 feet, and thus easily kidnappable. Also, statistically, as an adult woman I am actually more likely to be attacked in such a manner than a child is. Yet I doubt they would argue that I also should not leave my house alone.
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The reply is always that  being out by yourself is necessary to get through life as an adult in modern America, while the same cannot be said for a child, who can still do all the things children like to do, just with supervision.
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Have you had any luck in developing successful strategies to counter the, “Even if there’s less than a one in a million chance this could happen to a child, it is still technically possible, and so not worth the risk” argument?
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Thanks in advance! — -S. C.
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To which I replied:
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Of course we all agree that a child dying is a tragedy. If and when we focus on that rare and awful scenario, we can’t let our kids do anything, including walk down the stairs, because some kids DO die falling down those.
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I realize that that does not dissolve the picture parents may already have in their heads of their kid being whisked into a white van.  And I also realize that fear grips the soul long before rationality comes up with a way of explaining, “It’s not that I’m irrational, it’s that kidnapping is so much worse than…” (Jon Haidt wrote a whole book on how we react emotionally, and how our rationality comes along afterward as sort of our press secretary, explaining “why” we did what we did, and why it makes perfect sense.)
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So here’s the deal: The only thing that really makes people change is SEEING THEIR CHILD ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING INDEPENDENTLY. Once they, somehow, despite their great fear, LET their child walk to the store or bike to a friend’s house, and the child comes home just fine (as they will, or they’ll have fallen or gotten lost and STILL come home, triumphant), THAT is what shatters the fear. Parents have to see for themselves what IS versus what IF.
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That’s why I’m always recommending schools do the Free-Range Kids Project. (And just last week,  another school signed on!) Teachers tell the kids to go home and ask their parents if they can do one thing they feel ready to do that, for one reason or another, they just haven’t done yet, like get the milk for dinner. Once the parents say yes and they do the project, the parents change as much as the kids. It is that simple.
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And that  crucial.
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Make it happen out by you and a whole lot of parents may change, too! At the top of this blog there’s a tab that says “FRK Project.” Read it and bring it to your school — and your friend! – L.

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Why do we give such weight to some dangers and not others?

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59 Responses to “But a Child Getting Murdered is So Much Worse Than Them Dying in a Car Accident!”

  1. JLM April 27, 2017 at 5:53 am #

    In a way, I understand where those parents are coming from though. Dying in a car accident CAN be sudden and relatively painless. Compared to rape and murder, and the preceding terror of being kidnapped by a stranger, I would indeed choose the former over the latter. However, as I also have a life… Wait, no, what I mean is, statistically ‘y child is far more likely to die in a car accident, so it makes sense to choose the thing your child is less likely to die from, not the one whose modus operandi is the most horrifying.

  2. JLM April 27, 2017 at 5:54 am #

    And that should be “least horrifying”…

  3. Andrew April 27, 2017 at 6:38 am #

    I suspect the real reason why that parent considers it would be less bad if their child was killed in a car accident, is that the parent is unlikely to be blamed for that happening. Either it was just one of those random events, or it was someone else’s fault.

    Whereas fingers will be pointed if (god forbid) a child is raped or murdered.

    It is rather invidious to make the comparison, but are they really saying that they would rather have a dead child (killed in a car accident) than a living one (who is a rape survivor)?

  4. delurking April 27, 2017 at 8:07 am #

    In response to the question actually asked:

    There is no argument against it. That people rate various modes of death differently is a well-accepted phenomenon in our culture. “He died doing something he loves” is better than “He died in his sleep,” which is better than “He died in a car wreck,” which is better than “He was murdered for his iPhone,” which is better than “He died in a terrorist attack.” People think this way about both their own deaths and other peoples’ deaths (and if you think you are too rational for this, ask yourself: do you not care if people discover that you died in your sleep vs. that you died masturbating?).

    Once you accept this set of value judgments (and such a ranking clearly exists, though the values and particular order vary from person to person), many things become rational. Gun ownership for self defense by anyone with children is facially irrational, given that the risk of accident or suicide is much greater than the odds that the gun will be used in self defense. However, if you think your child’s being killed by a criminal is sufficiently worse than being killed by accident or suicide, then gun ownership is rational. Extreme measures to protect against your child being murdered make sense, if you believe your child being murdered is much worse than your child dying in an accident.

  5. Dienne April 27, 2017 at 8:13 am #

    I would point out that it’s not a choice of safe vs. not safe. First, there is no such thing as safe, so, at best, it’s a choice between somewhat risky vs. safer (probably). But more importantly, keeping a kid “safe” is not cost-free. There are harms to restricting any human being that are (a) much more likely to come to fruition and (b) potentially just as harmful. Maybe you’ll keep your kid safer by not letting them go anywhere, do anything, but you’re raising a stilted, fearful, potentially dysfunctional shell of a human being. People tend to react to being over-controlled by either shutting down and becoming helpless, or by rebelling 180 degrees the other way – both of those are very real harms that are much more likely (and nearly as devastating) than the remote possibility of a kid getting kidnapped/raped/murdered.

  6. Roger the Shrubber April 27, 2017 at 8:58 am #

    It is difficult, if not impossible, to use reasoned arguments to counter a position that was arrived at emotionally. Lenore is right – only personal experience that forces one to reevaluate their assumptions and look at situations through the experience of their children will convince the helicopter types that perhaps their fears are irrational.

  7. SKL April 27, 2017 at 9:26 am #

    It’s not horrifying at all to be in a bad car accident where not only are you injured, but you see your parents and siblings also badly hurt and perhaps killed in a most graphic manner.

    Apparently in some people’s minds, car accident deaths are always instant and painless.

    That said, I don’t know if it’s best to point out the scary possibilities of driving; some parents would just go even crazier about how they drive. As it is we have elementary school kids being required to sit in rear-facing car seats and middle-school kids still required to use booster seats, older teens having more and more restrictions on driving ….

    I dunno, I need to give this some thought. I mean, anyone can die any day for all sorts of reasons. We as parents aren’t supposed to be OK with that. But, while I would be devastated to lose a child (or they to lose their parent), I don’t “worry” about this. I don’t believe in worrying about things you really don’t control. Which includes extremely rare crimes and freak accidents, since we can’t control what is really rare and random.

    And I don’t worry about what others will think of my parenting if I lose a child. I’m pretty sure the loss of a child would outweigh everything else happening around that time. Especially other people’s opinions.

  8. SKL April 27, 2017 at 9:30 am #

    How about this: letting our kids out within boundaries is like teaching them to swim in shallow water. The dangers are extremely small, but this experience will prepare them for the day they will (not may) be plunged into deep water. People think their kids can learn how to navigate “real life” starting at 18 with no experience, but that’s like saying you can drop an adult into the ocean and she’ll figure it out, regardless of past swimming experience. It’s more than just flapping around like you’ve seen others do – and panic plays a negative role. Some will survive, others will need to be rescued and many will be afraid to try again for a long time. Why is that not scary?

    Do today’s parents think their kids don’t need to grow up?

  9. M April 27, 2017 at 9:54 am #

    People who have those beliefs won’t let go until they are forced to.

    I had a friend who insisted her burly, 190 lb high school football player couldn’t catch a ride to practice with another parent “because I don’t know them well enough”. Not that she didn’t know them at all, she just wasn’t sure if any of them were “safe” enough for her to trust them. And she lived in a fairly affluent area full of helicopter mothers.

    She got a new boss who would not let her take off every time her kid needed to go somewhere. Suddenly, she had to let go. Her solution was to get her kid to get a driver’s license, so he could drive himself and ferry his younger brother around. Which is ironic considering the risk factor of a teenage male driving.

    Once they get past the fear, they then dismiss it or deny they had it in the first place. “I never though it was that risky.”

  10. Anna April 27, 2017 at 9:56 am #

    Although it’s true that the thought of malicious violence inflicted by a person is more distressing than the thought of random misfortunes (Hobbes has some interesting stuff about why that is) I think the real factor in people’s decision-making here is their idea of what is and isn’t necessary.

    I.e., our society has been set up so that driving is considered the most basic necessity of life, not far behind breathing, so it doesn’t really matter how dangerous it is or isn’t, nobody is going to seriously consider not driving their kid around. But since a kid walking or biking alone, for instance, doesn’t feel necessary to most people, any risk involved can loom so large they’ll curtail the activity.

    Likewise, since leaving your kid with a sitter or daycare provider is a necessity for most people, they’ll do it without thinking about the fact that most abuse is by someone known to the child. But letting kids go to the park alone doesn’t seem necessary, so the least fear of stranger danger is allowed to curtail that too.

  11. lollipoplover April 27, 2017 at 9:58 am #

    My “go-to” answer for parents who believe they can protect for everything is the Finding Nemo quote:

    Marlin: I promised I’d never let anything happen to him.
    Dory: Hmm. That’s a funny thing to promise.
    Marlin: What?
    Dory: Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.

    Personally, my biggest fear is the “nothing”. I want my kids to find their happiness in life, whether it be out in nature riding a bike or an introverted book lover. I care a lot about their physical safety and health, but I also care equally about their mental health, which we also need to develop. Coping mechanisms, good friends to support us and guide us, and yes, taking chances and having success with a bit of failure mixed in and working through it.

    When you worry so much about what could go wrong, you take your eyes off the prize of what could go right and how that feels, as a child, to accomplish. I forget who says this but the quote is “Life is a balance of holding on and letting go”. There really are no black or white answers on the best way to raise kids. Every situation, every kid, every parent, comes with different variables. Some kids may thrive with more parental guidance. Others express and request freedoms at young ages and they thrive, too.

  12. Donna April 27, 2017 at 10:06 am #

    “People think this way about both their own deaths and other peoples’ deaths (and if you think you are too rational for this, ask yourself: do you not care if people discover that you died in your sleep vs. that you died masturbating?).”

    Not really. I couldn’t care less what people think about me now most of the time, let alone waste time caring what they think when I am no longer cognizant of their judgment.

    That does not mean that I don’t place different values on different ways of dying, but those values are based on suffering while still alive not manner of death. I would much rather die suddenly and quickly while masturbating than a painful death due to being burnt over 90% of my body in a house fire or from a long drawn-out protracted illness like alzheimer’s disease. And I want that for my loved ones as well.

    Whether I value car accident over murder is going to depend where on the suffering spectrum the death occurs, not the manner of death. I would rather die instantly after being shot in an armed robbery than linger on for days after a car accident. I do think most people who envision their child being murder envision lots of suffering first – kidnapping and rape before finally being murdered in a brutal fashion – so it would rank worse than a quick car accident death.

    “Gun ownership for self defense by anyone with children is facially irrational, given that the risk of accident or suicide is much greater than the odds that the gun will be used in self defense. However, if you think your child’s being killed by a criminal is sufficiently worse than being killed by accident or suicide, then gun ownership is rational. Extreme measures to protect against your child being murdered make sense, if you believe your child being murdered is much worse than your child dying in an accident.”

    Are things rational because of how you personally value different deaths or are you rationalizing your irrational desires by asserting that different manners of death have different values? My guess is that it is much more the latter than the former.

  13. Melanie April 27, 2017 at 10:32 am #

    That’s a great idea to turn the conversation. Having moved from an area where people keep a very tight leash on their children to a place where I don’t see my kids until the sun sets each evening, kids and families miss out on A LOT as a result of too much supervision. Indeed, if you want the kind of community where people trust and watch out for each other, letting go is an important part of that. And it doesn’t mean giving up worrying wholesale or becoming a person who “doesn’t care” (all parents worry). Sure I have gone door to door searching for a child I expected home more than once! You can still be a loving, protective, involved parent while living in a community that values independence for youngsters. Every day my 3 year old neighbor toddles over and plays cars in our living room. I always watch to make sure she gets home safely when she is ready to go, but don’t walk her back because even she loves the independence of our community. And at three she doesn’t venture across the busy street or more than two houses down the sidewalk. She understands the limits. I would have enjoyed my son having such freedom at that age, not to mention a 20 minute break for myself before the older kids got home while we were stir crazy! The joy in providing independence to your children really does outweigh the fear.

  14. James Pollock April 27, 2017 at 10:48 am #

    The first thing to do is sort out if you’re dealing with a rational fear or an irrational one. If you’re dealing with someone who has an irrational fear, pretty much no amount of rational argument will sway them. Usually, you just have to give up on the irrational. (For example, the people who claim that sex-traffickers are everywhere usually also have a handy excuse for why all the child sex-trafficking isn’t in the news… the news organizations, and sometimes even the police, are in on it. This means that when you point out “look, that just isn’t happening” the answer is “yes, it is… they just don’t want you to know about it.”)

    The advantages of raising capable, confident kids… including the fact that they are less likely to be victimized… often work on people who are rational… but the truth is, nobody is changing their parenting style much over one conversation or discussion. Habits are hard to change. They’re even less likely to change if the discussion wasn’t one they wanted to have…

    The best thing to do is to raise capable, confident children and point to them when someone asks about how you did it, tell them.

  15. Backroads April 27, 2017 at 11:01 am #

    I think both horrible scenarios have their particular horrible bits unique to them. Being murdered is awful, but I’d also hate to think I somehow killed my child because I was driving the car or whatever–the guilt!

  16. K April 27, 2017 at 11:27 am #

    I mean, sure, being kidnapped, raped, and murdered is worse than dying in a car accident. Concede that. But it’s not “so much” worse than dying in a car accident that you protect against the former instead of the latter. A child dying is so much worse than a child living that you protect against the thing that is most likely to kill the child as opposed to the thing that is highly unlikely to do so.

    But I think Anna is right about how it’s all about what we perceive as “necessary.” When I was cosleeping with my infant – who would not sleep anywhere else for more than 15 minutes at a time – I had a response all prepared for if I was challenged on the safety of it, in which I compared it to driving kids in a car. “That’s probably the most dangerous thing we ever do with our kids, but life doesn’t stop just because you have a baby. So you install the car seat, make it as safe as you can, and then you live life and accept the remaining risk. We do the same with cosleeping. We need to do it to be able to function, so we take off the pillows and blankets, we make it as safe as we can, and then we accept that there might still be some risk, and we live our lives.”

    No one would ever tell you not to drive anywhere with your kid in the car because of the risk, and personally, I think the comparison to driving makes cosleeping seem just as reasonable in the right circumstances. (Though I admit that if the next one will sleep in a bassinet, I will let him!) The challenge is making people see that a) kids have a right to live their lives, too, and b) independence is not a luxury, it’s just as vital as getting where you need to go or getting enough sleep to function.

  17. elizabeth April 27, 2017 at 11:41 am #

    I think about death alot (thanks, depression). But when it comes down to it, i really dont care for the manner of death. Im dead after, so why should i? When i babysat for my aunt, i let my now-9yo cousin get ahead on the way to the park if she brought her bike. I didnt let her cross at the big four-lane intersection…but thats because i knew how people drove in that neighborhood. I know she knows how to cross (stop, look both ways, wait for the signal, cross quickly), but i also knew that the people there drove like where they were going was more important than anyone’s safety. I gave her alot more leeway than her mom did, but i trusted her more than her mom did. Did i worry that id get blamed if she got hurt or killed? Yes. Did it stop me from trusting my cousin? Nope. People worry too much. Calm down, worriers.

  18. pentamom April 27, 2017 at 11:45 am #

    I don’t think it’s all about blame.

    I think that if a child died in a car accident, regardless of whose fault it was, there wouldn’t be the horrific thoughts haunting the parent about what the child’s last moments or hours were like, how much they suffered, etc. I mean, there would still be some of that especially if death wasn’t reckoned as instantaneous, but still — compared to the thoughts that would haunt a parent about a child’s experience of being murdered, it would not be nearly as bad, unless by murdered you mean “suddenly shot” or something.

    So I don’t think the comparison of one being worse than the other is wrong. It’s just using that as a reason to justify all the other stuff, that doesn’t work. There are too many other things going on to make the decision on the basis of “Which is a worse way to die,” not least of which is, “Excessively preventing which possibility is a worse way to live?”

  19. pentamom April 27, 2017 at 11:51 am #

    “Gun ownership for self defense by anyone with children is facially irrational, given that the risk of accident or suicide is much greater than the odds that the gun will be used in self defense.”

    That assumes that statistical risk of accident of suicide for the population is the same as the personal risk for a given family, regardless of the mental health of family members, the adherence to safety and use guidelines, etc. It’s not.

    The risk to a child of a gun in the home where the gun is secured and the child is consistently taught first to avoid, and then to appropriately handle and use (and not use) the gun is not comparable to the risk to a child in a home where this does not occur. It’s kind of like driving a car that way — reckless or alcoholic drivers get in a lot more accidents than careful, well-trained, competent, sober ones.

  20. James April 27, 2017 at 12:06 pm #

    Part of the issue is control, or the illusion thereof. We believe we are in control while driving, but not in control of kidnappers–thus we accept the (much higher) risks of driving our kids everywhere instead of the (much lower) risks of our kids being kidnapped while walking somewhere.

    Secondly, anyone who thinks car accidents are quick or painless has never spoken about this topic with emergency response folks. Not surprising–they really, really don’t like to talk about these runs. But I’ve spoken with a fair number of EMTs, fire fighters, and police officers about this, and seen the effects these runs have had on them even when they don’t talk. They are frequently messy, brutal, and painful. These are the runs that cause people to quit emergency response for good. It takes a LOT out of you to watch a person bleed to death in front of you while you’re trying to save their life. I don’t say this to horrify anyone; rather, we have a very screwed up view of what a deadly car accident actually is like. Most of us have never experienced one except on TV–and like so many other things, the portrayal of these events on TV is pretty far from reality. If we’re going to say “I would rather my child die by X than by Y”, we need to understand what X and Y really are like.

    “….while the same cannot be said for a child, who can still do all the things children like to do, just with supervision.”

    No. This isn’t even close to true. I remember being a kid, and a lot of what we did we simply couldn’t do under close supervision. Would you complain about your boss with them standing over your shoulder? Parents annoy children; it’s the nature of the relationship for that to happen from time to time. Kids need to gripe about it. Kids also need to learn to interact socially without parents setting the rules–because in college dorms, or summer camps, or their job they won’t have parents around to do so. This means making mistakes as a kid, mistakes that parents wouldn’t let their kids make if they were there to stop it.

    Sociologists have known for generations that interacting with a group alters it. There’s no way around it. Children are, sociologically speaking, a group–and if parents are there interacting with the group (and even known observation is an interaction), this will necessarily alter the group dynamics. This is a law as inevitable as the law of gravity. So no, children CANNOT do the same things they would otherwise do, just with someone watching them.

  21. fred schueler April 27, 2017 at 12:16 pm #

    My argument would be that the only justification for having a child in an over-populated over-consuming planet is that your child will be raised in an environment where it will grow up to effect a net reduction in the human ecological footprint, and that free-ranging is a necessary part of developing the gumption that’s needed to change the direction of civilization. Being murdered is part of the game in many tropical countries, but so far we’ve been mostly spared that in North America (though, of course not spared automobile mortality – brother, daughter, uncle & cousins in my case).

  22. Helen Quine April 27, 2017 at 12:23 pm #

    My argument against it is simply: “Dead is dead. But x times more likely dead is a worse risk and denying that is not a good way to love your child.”

    I have followed up with an argument along the lines of not letting my fear of living with horror make my kids’ life worse now. I’m the grown up and I need to deal with my emotions without letting them hobble my children.

  23. John B. April 27, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

    If a 9-year-old child was walking home by himself, could he be abducted by the Texas Chainsaw Massacre gang, thrown into a white van and gang raped mercilessly until he dies? Yes, that is a possibility albeit an extremely rare one at that.

    But if he is stifled from independence and not allowed to walk anywhere on his own, the most likely scenario is that he will lack some of the independence skills necessary for him to have when he reaches college age. I understand that more young people today in their late 20s and even 30s are still living with their parents compared to 30 years ago. Perhaps America’s obsession with helicoptering their kids, which started about 30 years ago, might have something to do with that.

    So I guess parents need to pick their poison. Do they allow their child to walk home alone and risk the extremely unlikely possibility that he’ll die a horrible death at the hands of creepy degenerates OR do they restrict his independence and risk the LIKELY chance he will lack some basic independence skills when he becomes an adult. If it were MY kid, I’d risk the former but that’s just me.

  24. Donna April 27, 2017 at 12:42 pm #

    Murder may be a worse death to visualize than a car accident, but ANY child death is devastating and life altering. It is not like parents are truly sitting around saying “It is fine if my child dies in a car accident, but not if she is murdered.” BOTH are horrible situations that every parent would like to avoid if at all possible. The difference is one people will go to extremes to avoid and the other those same people just hope never happens while continuing to regularly engage in the activity that could cause it to occur.

    I think Anna hit the nail on the head with necessity. Life in America in 2017 generally requires using a motor vehicle at least occasionally. For many people it is a daily need just to get by, but even those who live in a city with a great public transportation system likely find a car ride an occasional necessity. Walking to school or the store or the park is not a necessity. In fact, millions of kids – helicopter, free range and everything in between – live perfectly happy, productive lives having never done one or more of those things. My child has never walked to the store because there is no store within walking distance. It is much easier to not do something in order to prevent something horrific, albeit highly unlikely, from happening when that something isn’t necessary anyway.

    That means that you need to reframe the argument. Debating whether dying via murder or car accident is worse will not work. Talking statistics will not work. Making them see that both deaths are equally devastating and that this is just a necessity determination and then reframing the necessity argument from “walk to school” to “gain independence and skills necessary to be a successful human” may work.

  25. James April 27, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

    “I understand that more young people today in their late 20s and even 30s are still living with their parents compared to 30 years ago. Perhaps America’s obsession with helicoptering their kids, which started about 30 years ago, might have something to do with that.”

    Possibly. However, the issue is actually pretty complex. The idea of a household being just Mom, Dad, and (until they grow up and move out) the kids is a very new one, and one that was never actually universal. Multi-generational homes are not uncommon. They have a number of advantages, such as built-in child support and the ability to withstand fiscal hardships, that the “standard” household lacks. Given the economic downturn for the past decade or so, and the issues associated with caring for an aging population, a lot of families are deciding that multigenerational households are a good option. Remember, for most of human history multigenerational housing was the norm–sons would build onto their parents’ house when they got married, and continue working the land.

    Another option that I’ve seen is for families to live in the same neighborhood–within walking distance of each other, in fact. This has the same benefits while still allowing for greater privacy.

    That said, helicopter parenting is a factor. If you’ve never experienced life away from Mommy and Daddy, opting to stay in the household–even as an adult with your own family–becomes a much easier choice. Having my parents critique how I raise my children would drive me insane, but that’s in large part because my parents gave me a lot of freedom growing up. If you’re used to micromanagement from your parents raising your kids in the same house as your parents probably won’t seem as much of an intrusion.

  26. test April 27, 2017 at 1:01 pm #

    Maybe the best response in such real world dialog would be to listen, ask questions including why and then listen some more. The least effective way how to convince people is to make assumptions about why people feel/think the way they do and then “win” by calling them emotional/irrational. That never works.Fear is an emotion, yes. But it is real and you can not make it go away easily. Our culture does not accept emotions as valid reasons for actions, so people rationalize and take the above as argument. Also, people really dislike admitting that they are wrong, so even if you manage to stop arguing, you are less likely to make them act differently.

    Yet also, seeing one kind of death more horrible then other is not all that much unusual. People are not machines and this kind of discussion is solidly emotional area. They feel certain way and have been honest about that. I would not try to convince people that they don’t feel what they claim to feel – they are experts on their own emotions not me and such thing is insulting anyway.

    So I would mostly listen and then stated that I personally feel differently about various ways to die.

  27. test April 27, 2017 at 1:03 pm #

    Correction: ” rationalize and take the above as argument” was meant to be ” rationalize and take the above as insult”.

  28. Eric S April 27, 2017 at 1:14 pm #

    smh. Wow. The ignorance of some people. DEATH IS DEATH. Losing a child is the worse thing that can happen to a parent, regardless of how it happens. So again, it comes back to what I always say. For parents like these, it’s NOT about their child, it’s all about their own feelings. How THEY feel towards something is far more important than what is actually best for their children. Not about the children’s feeling, not about their emotional and mental well being. It’s all about the parents and their feelings. Selfish, ignorant, and stupid.

  29. Eric S April 27, 2017 at 1:21 pm #

    @SKL: “Do today’s parents think their kids don’t need to grow up?”

    Sadly, yes. More specifically, they “don’t ever want their babies to grow up”. I hear that so often. A lot of parents I know (mostly the mothers), coddle and spoil their children from a very young age. Because they don’t want them to grow up. They want them to stay the way they are for as long as they can. Even when they are 10 years old, they still view them as the infant that just popped out 10 years ago. That’s a very terrible mentality to have as a parent. And very dangerous for the child. Due the fact that they remain completely clueless as to how to navigate this world. And the irony, at 18 most parents just cut their children loose. So they never teach their children independence and how to protect themselves. And when it’s time for them to do so, they are cut loose without knowing anything. That’s pretty much feeding them to the lions after they’ve been fattened up. lol

  30. Neil M April 27, 2017 at 1:22 pm #

    “However, their argument was that because a child being raped and/or murdered is so incredibly horrible (in their view the worst thing that could happen, far worse than dying in a car accident or by another risk factor), it just isn’t worth it.”

    This is crazy moon-logic. I might similarly conclude, “Since it would be far more horrific to be mauled to death by a puma than to be fatally struck by a car, I’d better buy myself some anti-puma spray.” Don’t engage with that kind of “thinking.”

  31. Eric S April 27, 2017 at 1:32 pm #

    @James: “Possibly. However, the issue is actually pretty complex. The idea of a household being just Mom, Dad, and (until they grow up and move out) the kids is a very new one, and one that was never actually universal. Multi-generational homes are not uncommon.”

    Very true, but not as complex as you might believe. I grew up in that situation. I didn’t leave home till I was in my late 20’s. My mother always made a point to guilt trip me from moving, she wanted me to stay home. My dad was fine either way. Friends who’ve moved out of their homes years before, told me “if you can stay at home, stay as long as you can”. And when I thought about it, I had it pretty good. No rent, no bills. 100% of my paycheck went to me, and my own bills (cellphone, car and motorcycle expenses).

    However, my parents taught me independence from the age of 5 (as far as I can remember). And according to my parents, they actually started teaching us from the day we could start walking and kind of talking. I learned to walk to school on my own, or with my siblings at the age of 5. Fully walking alone or with just siblings by the age of 6. No curfew. Learned to use common sense and logic. Lights come on, time to go home. Without fail. By the time I was 18, I was already working a steady part-time job. No more handouts from parents. They did buy me a car, but I was responsible for it. Maintenance, insurance, gas, etc.. If something went wrong, I was responsible to take care of it myself. Mind you they were always on the sideline ready to help. But 90% of the work was my responsibility. And I actually never needed their help. They’ve prepared me well for that very reason, since I was a child.

    So you can still live at home, and still be independent and responsible for your own actions. You just don’t have to pay rent. That is the only difference. At least for me and my siblings. And a lot of friends who went the same route.

  32. Peter April 27, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

    “He died doing something he loves” is better than “He died in his sleep,” which is better than “He died in a car wreck,” which is better than “He was murdered for his iPhone,” which is better than “He died in a terrorist attack.”

    It’s a good point. I’d rather go out like my father–peacefully asleep–rather than screaming in terror like the other people in his car.

    :^D

  33. James Pollock April 27, 2017 at 1:58 pm #

    “smh. Wow. […] Selfish, ignorant, and stupid.”

    Wow. smh, indeed.

    “The ignorance of some people. DEATH IS DEATH. Losing a child is the worse thing that can happen to a parent, regardless of how it happens.”

    How many of your children have you lost? Because it does, as a matter fact, make a difference how.

  34. BB8 April 27, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

    “And the irony, at 18 most parents just cut their children loose. So they never teach their children independence and how to protect themselves. And when it’s time for them to do so, they are cut loose without knowing anything. That’s pretty much feeding them to the lions after they’ve been fattened up. lol”

    As someone who works on a college campus, this is OH SO TRUE!!! We’ve had students call the police when they see a mouse in their apartment. Students who want to have their parent do all the interaction with a professor (not allowed, by the way), students incapable of making a single decision without consulting mom or dad. People talk about the increase in administrators on campuses, and there has been a HUGE increase, but they don’t talk about why such the increase. A large part of it is to basically babysit the students and offer services to try to teach them how to function as an adult. More counselors, more advisors, more special services, more advocacy offices, etc.

  35. Kenny Felder April 27, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

    I was going to reply “OK, what’s worse–one child being murdered, or two children dying in car accidents? How about ten?”

    But actually I like Lenore’s reply much better. This is a purely emotional argument, and must be met on emotional terms. And the emotion you want is the incredible value–for both the child and the parent–of the kind of independence we’re promoting.

  36. Alanna April 27, 2017 at 3:40 pm #

    I think a child getting killed in a car accident might be much worse than the child getting kidnapped. Suppose the parent was driving, and the accidents was the parent’s fault.

  37. Rachael April 27, 2017 at 4:00 pm #

    I honestly think we can blame media for a lot of this one. In tv and movies, they never show a child’s last moments after a car accident, the child often passes quietly. However, in tv and movies where a kidnapping/rape/murder is the topic, they display that as terrifyingly as they can (and still get the rating they want). It’s all about making the audience feel something. We have been trained to think about if like that.
    Also, car accidents are a social norm. They happen every day. We drive by them frequently, emergency personnel (thank you) shield us from the worst. When it’s the social norm, very few question it, and those who do are thought to be crazy.

  38. Roberta April 27, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

    It reminds me of how – when my kids were in preschool – fantasy sword play was ok but fantasy guns were off limits. Because, um, swords are a gentler way to kill?

  39. James Pollock April 27, 2017 at 4:22 pm #

    “I think a child getting killed in a car accident might be much worse than the child getting kidnapped. Suppose the parent was driving, and the accidents was the parent’s fault.”

    Ah… but continue down that path. Suppose you have parents who believe that all kidnappings are preventable via vigilance (and knife-wielding). To a person who believes that all kidnappings are preventable, the parent is ALWAYS to blame if a child gets kidnapped. Child snatched on the street? If I’d only held on a little bit tighter! Child lured by a trusted adult? If only I’d done a little more background checking. Child lured by an Internet predator? I should have been monitoring more closely. Child taken from the home, their own bedroom, while the parents were home? If only I’d put those bars on the windows, like I meant to. Child abducted while touring Europe? If only I had a certain set of skills…

    There’s no way to win, once you’re caught in that spiral.

  40. JP Merzetti April 27, 2017 at 5:00 pm #

    Say what?!?
    Death is death. Very uncool.
    Apparently we have absolutely no control over the way people drive
    (only over the way they park)
    The logic escapes me, for the moment…………..

    Yeah.

    Here’s to all those kids, every single one of them, who have been sacrificed to the great autopian god.
    (May Montezuma forgive their chauffeur’s transgressions.)

    Hmmm.
    The best argument I’ve ever been able to come up with….are the agonies of unfree kids silently tweeting within their gilded cages.
    (Though to truly feel that agony, they would have had to experience what freedom actually feels like.)

    Personally, I’ve always enjoyed protecting children. One of my favorite experiences in life.
    I just never wanted to be a jailor.
    (And I still believe to this day – there is an enormous difference, between the two.)

    The main reason I never died in a car when I was a kid – was that I was hardly ever in one.
    The main reason I never died from any other calamity – was 5% luck, and 95% good sense.
    (and no – I wasn’t born with the latter. It just grew into me….starting very, very young.)

    I just can’t get over that headline.
    My kingdom – for a little rational perspective.

  41. James Pollock April 27, 2017 at 5:07 pm #

    Forget sex traffickers in Ikea or JC Penney or International flights.

    We need to start talking about this new terrorist threat to the American way of life, before it is too late.

    https://www.facebook.com/NewportPolice/photos/a.58442529943.19478.16585379943/10150800285309944/

  42. BL April 27, 2017 at 5:15 pm #

    @James Pollock
    “We need to start talking about this new terrorist threat to the American way of life, before it is too late.”

    You could have at least given us a trigger warning.

  43. James Pollock April 27, 2017 at 5:52 pm #

    “You could have at least given us a trigger warning.”

    “Terrorist threat” wasn’t enough?

    It was bad enough when these guys were just sneaky, infiltrating our homes. Now we need to consider the possibility that they may be armed.

  44. Dean April 27, 2017 at 5:53 pm #

    Should we outlaw carrot sticks? There might be a chance that a child could choke to death on one…

  45. donald April 27, 2017 at 6:51 pm #

    “But a Child Getting Murdered is So Much Worse Than Them Dying in a Car Accident!”

    This actually makes sense. It shows where this type of thinking is coming from. I’ve been saying for years that emotional thinking is tremendously more powerful than rational thinking. It’s hardwired for, in the event of an emergency, it can declare ‘marshal law’ and take control of 100% of all the decisions. This is ‘fight or flight’ and was originally used for life or death situations. However, over the years our ’emergency trigger’ has become over-sensitive. Emotional thinking can hijack us during inappropriate moments and not just life or death ones.

    A child murdered would make THEM (the parents) feel worse. Even if the parents agree with statistics of how rare kidnappings are vs the great number of car accidents, emotional thinking can trump rational thinking. This terrible feeling can override logic.

    This is not strictly a selfish decision. (the parent doesn’t want to feel bad and therefore puts the child in even more danger) We’ve been hardwired for survival since the stone age. It’s only in the last 50 years that our trigger sensitivity problem started popping up.

    The drama addiction that I keep harping on about is one of the major causes for the trigger erosion.

  46. David N. Brown April 27, 2017 at 9:08 pm #

    My favorite “unlikely risk” is drownings in buckets, which I remember first reading about decades ago. From what information I can find, the official estimates are in the range of 10 to 20 fatalities annually, about 1/10th the rate of “stranger abductions”, though that has to be weighed against the comparatively limited range of vulnerable ages as well as possible underreporting. As a thought exercise, I tried to come up with a new design that could solve the problem. The parameters I came up with were a funnel-like mouth that would make it difficult to fall in and a narrow base that would make the whole thing fall over first, which happens to be identical with a traditional urn or vase.

  47. lollipoplover April 27, 2017 at 9:36 pm #

    I think there are different *tiers* of bad deaths, but having lost a very close friend to a particularly violent death (by chainsaw), it does still bother me.

    While a stranger kidnapping/murder seems like the ultimate punishment to a parent, the more likely scenario is domestic violence. But while these crimes are far more likely, they also get completely swept under the carpet. Parents kill their OWN kids at much greater rates than plucking random kids off the streets but no one even cares. Once it’s labeled “domestic” and a whole family is obliterated (usually by the father), there is sadness but not much else is ever reported in the news and dead kids are actually accepted. I cannot for the life of me understand why parents kill their OWN kids but it happens All.the.time.

  48. James April 27, 2017 at 10:52 pm #

    “I cannot for the life of me understand why parents kill their OWN kids but it happens All.the.time.”

    Got any numbers to back this claim? I mean, I know it happens–but you seem to be suggesting a rate at which there would be distinct evolutionary consequences. I’d also like proof that it’s usually the father, by a statistically significant margin. My understanding is that post-partum depression hits women harder than men, for fairly obvious biological reasons.

  49. James Pollock April 27, 2017 at 11:34 pm #

    “I’d also like proof that it’s usually the father, by a statistically significant margin. My understanding is that post-partum depression hits women harder than men, for fairly obvious biological reasons”

    You’re putting two different things together, here. Murder of children may be linked to depression (post-partum or otherwise) but isn’t necessarily so. When parents murder their own children, it is often part of a murder-suicide, which of course leaves a lot of questions behind. While women are certainly capable of it, most murder-suicides are carried out by men.
    http://www.vpc.org/studies/amroul2012.pdf

    You also might want to google the term “family annihilators”.

  50. SKL April 28, 2017 at 1:00 am #

    Actually I think (though I don’t have stats) that most cases of parents killing their kids are actually unintentional, i.e., they beat, shook, raped, or tortured them, let them starve a while or sit in their dirty diapers for weeks, but they didn’t actually expect the kid to die. Possibly because it’s actually not easy to kill a human, even a small one.

    And when you think about it, we worry about the horrible things those rare kidnapped/murdered kids go through, but how does it compare to what is suffered over the years by a kid abused by his own parent / “care”giver?

    And ironically, the best way to actually help a kid in that situation is to take the time to look around and notice kids – how they look and how they’re doing – when they are out in the community. The very things that will get you accused of “child sex trafficking” or whatever. :/

  51. Mark Headley April 28, 2017 at 1:37 am #

    compelling as usual, Lenore! perhaps somewhat akin: why generally imagine no psychic, ultimate safety DOWNsides, to overprotection? including risks from kids stunted in appraising, taking reasonable precautions to suucessfully protect themselves/others against such tragedies?

  52. delurking April 28, 2017 at 8:35 am #

    Donna, that is not the point. There is no rational difference to prefer chocolate ice cream over vanilla, but it is a preference. If you prefer chocolate ice cream over vanilla, it is rational for you to pay more for chocolate ice cream than vanilla ice cream. It is not rational to prefer dying doing something you love over dying in a terrorist attack. It is simply a preference. Nevertheless, the vast majority of people would prefer dying in a accident to dying in a terrorist attack, and are therefore willing to endure far more government intrusion and inconvenience to prevent the latter than the former.

  53. SteveS April 28, 2017 at 10:42 am #

    Gun ownership for self defense by anyone with children is facially irrational, given that the risk of accident or suicide is much greater than the odds that the gun will be used in self defense.

    This is likely not true, but it depends on the statistics used. There is also no causal relationship between owning a gun and suicide. While it is true the likelihood of having a gun accident if you don’t have a gun is almost impossible, it is also important to know that gun accidents are very rare, though they do tend to generate a great deal of media attention.

  54. Douglas John Bowen April 28, 2017 at 11:18 am #

    We have parents presumptuously declaring one form of unanticipated form of child death is worse than another. Glad that’s cleared up!

    I don’t claim to be strictly rational on every child-related matter myself, but I’ve always told adults “concerned” about my child’s safety almost the opposite of what’s posited above. I don’t worry too much about my kid getting shot, though it could certainly happen. I don’t worry about him too much about him overdosing. And I’ve never worried much at all about kidnappers lurking at every corner.

    No, I worry about him getting nailed by an automobile. In part, that’s because lots of other people don’t worry about that at all, statistics notwithstanding.

  55. lollipoplover April 28, 2017 at 2:56 pm #

    @James- What I meant was that so often it IS the parent murdering their own child.

    Here are some statistics on filicide from FBI homicide data:

    On average (past 3 decades) there are 500 children killed each year by their parent. The vast majority, 3 out of 4, are under 5. More than 1/3 are under age 1.

    Fathers kill 6 out of 10, most often beating or shooting them (so SKL’s theory that it may not be intentional is likely true).
    When mothers kill, they are far more likely to kill victims under the age of 1 than children of any other age. Nearly 40% of all children killed by their mothers were less than a year old.

    Among homicides (1993-2008) for which the victim-offender relationship was known, between 21% and 27% of homicides were committed by strangers and between 73% and 79% were committed by offenders known to the victim.

    I guess it doesn’t happen ALL THE TIME. But 500 a year is more than one a day…and it’s usually a parent or family member.

  56. Anna April 28, 2017 at 3:17 pm #

    Mark Headley: “compelling as usual, Lenore! perhaps somewhat akin: why generally imagine no psychic, ultimate safety DOWNsides, to overprotection? including risks from kids stunted in appraising, taking reasonable precautions to successfully protect themselves/others against such tragedies?”

    Sure, that would be rational, but unfortunately, I don’t think we’re ever rational when it comes to weighing that kind of harm – intangible, long-term, and diffuse (if that’s the right word for it) – against harm that is dramatic, sudden, and acute, such as kidnapping or death in a car accident. The latter type of harm just seems to stick in our imaginations better, while the former is more easily ignored or rationalized away. E.g., all the people who say, “Kids can play outside/learn to negotiate with others/learn independence and skills/etc. just as well while parents are supervising.” Since each individual opportunity a kid gets to be unsupervised or do something independent is just a tiny drop in the bucket with respect to the overall, longterm effect by adulthood, it’s easy to say, “Well, this drop doesn’t matter,” and “How could this tiny little bit matter?” But the trouble is, drop by drop, the bucket ends up empty.

    However, I really don’t know how you combat that. I think that kind of flawed risk assessment or cost-benefit analysis is a pretty universal human phenomenon. (Actually, it seems like the kind of phenomenon economists would have a technical name for. . . Does anybody here know a name for it?)

  57. Donna April 28, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

    “It is not rational to prefer dying doing something you love over dying in a terrorist attack. It is simply a preference.”

    If you mean that it is not rational to rank manners of death because manner of death is not something you get to select in most circumstances so said rankings are completely meaningless and a waste of time, I agree.

    However, if you mean that all dying is 100% equal and such preferences can never be rationally-based, I disagree completely. Rational means nothing more than “based on reason and good judgment.” My mother is the one exception to the above rule – she is terminally ill and living in a state where physician-assisted suicide is available. Barring an unforeseen intervening force, she will ultimately get to choose her manner of death between two choices. She has a definite preference and that preference is based on reason and good judgment. In fact, I imagine that if we were all given a menu by God on our day of death and told to select the manner, we’d all chose the same small handful of options for very rational reasons. Alas, that is not how death works which is why having any preference ranking at all is not rational.

  58. James May 1, 2017 at 9:51 am #

    “It is not rational to prefer dying doing something you love over dying in a terrorist attack. It is simply a preference.”

    I like the false dichotomy here: something can either be rational, OR a preference. Pure Reason and whatnot, I assume. The only way this statement makes sense is if we remove all personal preference from the equation–which means, if we ignore data. Which is the opposite of rational.

    I prefer dying doing what I love over dying in a terrorist attack, because if I die doing what I love I will have enjoyed the process up to the point where things went bad. Further, I have made the conscious choice to continue in my job, despite nearly being killed a number of times. A terrorist attack, on the other hand, is someone else choosing to kill me to make others suffer–it is someone else making the choice to kill me. It is murder.

    If you can’t see the difference between a conscious choice to taken an action, knowing the risks, and being murdered, I suggest that you aren’t qualified to tell other people what is rational vs. what isn’t.

  59. Anonymous May 8, 2017 at 10:42 am #

    The usual “enabling” comment, which this inherently is. Allowing your kids to walk freely “enables” weirdos to kidnap them. Fear, emotions, all things safety over all things freedom. I would have replied:

    Keep your kids off the monkey bars. They might fall and break their neck and that’s horrifying. Don’t let your kids learn to swim. They might drown in a pool, and that’s horrifying. Don’t let them do anything, ever, at all, because something “might” happen.