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Readers — Either I am not getting the joke, or this is a REAL article about why parents should REALLY worry about letting their kids watch “scary” movies like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and (I kid you not — unless she’s kidding us ALL), “Miracle on 34th Street.”

Anybody? It it a joke or not? And if it IS a joke, where’s the punchline? And if it’s NOT a joke, where’s the Abombinable Snowman when you need him? — L.

Hi Readers! If you’re wondering what would make a great gift for your kids, or some other kids you love, how about giving them back time outside, and playdates that they make on their own, and the thrill of doing something — anything! — on their own? My book, Free-Range Kids, can help. (And it’s only $10.17! CLICK HERE!)  If you’re wondering what it’s like, here’s the table of contents:

THE FOURTEEN FREE RANGE COMMANDMENTS

1 KNOW WHEN TO WORRY

Playdates and Axe Murderers: How To Tell The Difference

2 TURN OFF THE NEWS

Go Easy On The ‘Law & Order,’ Too

3 AVOID EXPERTS

Who Knew You Were Doing Everything Wrong? …Them

4 BOYCOTT BABY KNEE PADS

And The Rest of the Kiddie Safety-Industrial Complex

5 DON’T THINK LIKE A LAWYER

Some Risks are Worth It

6 IGNORE BLAMERS

They Don’t Know Your Kid Like You Do

7 EAT CHOCOLATE

Give Halloween Back To The Trick-or-Treaters

8 STUDY HISTORY

Your 10-Year-Old Would Have Been Forging Horse Shoes (Or At Least Delivering The Paper)

9 BE WORLDLY

Why Other Countries Are Laughing at Zee Scaredy-Cat Americans

10 GET BRAVER

Quit Trying to Control Everything. It Doesn’t Work Anyway.

11 RELAX

Not Every Little Thing You Do Has That Much Impact On Your Child’s Development

12 FAIL!

It’s The New Succeed

13 LOCK THEM OUT

Make Them Play – Or else

14 LISTEN TO YOUR KIDS

They’re Sick of Being Babies (Except The Actual Babies, Of Course)

SAFE OR NOT? THE A-Z GUIDE TO EVERYTHING YOU MIGHT BE WORRIED ABOUT

From Baby Formula to Walking to School

STRANGERS WITH CANDY

Even the Folks Who Put The Faces On Milk Cartons Aren’t Too Worried

CONCLUSION

The Other Problem that Has No Name

How to Fix It and Give Our Kids Their Childhood Back

– And here are a couple of review from readers –

” I read the whole thing and feel so much better! The pressure of always trying to do the exact right thing for my kids was exhausting. In truth, I have two normal, high-energy boys who need to be able to explore the world. Thank you!”

“Your book had me laughing so hard that my husband had to come and see if I was okay! (I think my gasping sounded like sobbing.)”

“Just what the doctor ordered. I’m a single mother of two girls, 7 and 10, in a middle-class suburb that is very safe. I needed the advice in your book and had a lot of belly laughs reading it.”

Ok, folks — end of commercial. Thanks for listening! — L

Hi Readers — I wholeheartedly endorse this note!

Dear Free-Range Kids: Recently I started watching hours of “Law and Order SVU” (streaming live on Netflix for graduate students wanting to procrastinate!) and it’s really quite absurd to watch after a year of following your blog. The episodes where there is a child abduction or attempted abduction always involve some crazy sicko, and the parents are hysterical messes vowing never to let their child go anywhere alone again, etc.

I have to say that, as I think about it, I cannot off the top of my head think of more the three or four names of children who have been kidnapped by crazy psychos (as opposed to by their own family members in a custody battle or something). But SVU seems to find it a pressing enough problem to make countless episodes about it…I guess my point is just that maybe people are so paranoid because they watch too many TV shows and movies that depict this kind of situation, and we allow fiction to creep into our reality.

Why do we automatically jump to Worst-First thinking? In part, because TV and movies have programmed our brains to think that the worst happens more frequently than it really does. — Emily Tanner

Yup, yup, EXACTLY, yup. And in my Free-Range Kids book I have a whole chapter on how the media chooses its stories, and how the brain stores scary images, and why these influence us even when we KNOW they are rare or even FICTION!

And speaking of my book — here’s a link! It’s $10.17 on Amazon and makes a lovely (non-scary! non-toxic! non-threatening!) present. — Lenore

Hi Readers — Here you snow. er, go, from Scotland, via news.scotsman.com:

CHILDREN have been banned from playing in the snow during break times at city schools due to health and safety fears.

Pupils in some primaries have been kept inside during their morning and lunchtime breaks since the schools re-opened on Wednesday.The decision to stop the pupils playing in the snow has sparked criticism among parents, who believe it is “misguided” and is depriving children from enjoying the winter fun.

One of the schools involved is James Gillespie’s Primary where the headteacher stopped youngsters going out on Wednesday and Thursday during playtimes. It is understood reasons including the depth of the snow, a shortage of staff to supervise the children and the resulting mess from pupils walking with wet boots into the building were cited for the decision.

I’m cheered to know that some parents found this ludicrous, as did some other officials. But that headteacher — sheesh!It’s no fun when safety hysteria trumps absolutely everything else in life. Including snowmen. And women (see below). — Lenore 

Not quite relevant, but is this or is this not the COOLEST snow-woman (and kid) ever?

Good Morning, Readers: Wondering what to get those parents on your list?

Dear Free-Range Kids: I thought you might be interested to see this.  A local dentist was advertising this service.

http://www.yoursafechild.com/parents-toothprintsr.html

Now if your child’s body is found but so decomposed that it can’t be
identified visually, you can use “toothprints” to record his/her
dental records so he/she can be identified.  It apparently also helps
scent dogs track your child’s body to find it.

This is really, really morbid.  I can’t believe parents spend money on
this kind of thing.  The local police gave us a kit to fingerprint our
kids and save a DNA sample in case either of them were killed in some
gory way, and I didn’t even save the free kit.  I can’t imagine
spending money to do this. – Nicole

Hi Readers: Let kids eat dirt? Yes!

At least, that’s my take-away from reading this thought-provoking article. It discusses the work of Emory neuroscientist Charles Raison, MD,  who studies the link between cleanliness and depression. His hypothesis is that maybe young people are experiencing more asthma, allergies and even depression because they are less exposed to the benign germs that have been co-existing with and HELPING humans since the beginning of time. One way those microscopic “old friends” may help humans is by teaching the immune system not to overreact to other non-threatening germs and become inflamed. And there is some connection between inflammation and depression.

Here’s Dr. Raison putting it far better than I:  can: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qfl6p4U_8Mw&feature=channel]

His entire study appears in December’s Archives of General Psychiatry.  But me, I watched more of his short videos on YouTube and found them really good. Now…off to toss the Purell. — Lenore

Oh Readers —  I can’t take it. Look at this crazy “news” story from the Cortez Journal in Colorado: An unidentified man entered a high school. He used the bathroom, left and asked some students to give him a ride, which they did.  Said the paper: 

No weapons were visible on the man, who was dressed in black, but he was carrying a black duffle bag, Cortez Police Department Chief Roy Lane said.

Despite rumors, the man was not wearing a mask or anything to conceal his face, Lane said. No one was injured, and no property damage occurred.

Is that the definition of a NON-STORY or what? And yet, get this!

Officials did not feel it was necessary to place the school on lockdown after the suspect had already vacated the premises.

In other words: If the stranger were still ON the premises, the whole place would have gone into LOCKDOWN? Furthermore:

The suspect is described as a 6-foot, thin male in his early 20s with dark brown straight hair grown over his ears.

“We’re just as concerned as the parents,” Lane said. “We  would ask anyone with information to call us. Even if they’re not sure who it is, if they think they might know, give us a call.”

SUSPECT? Suspect suspected of what? Evacuating his bladder in a bathroom? Using paper towels he did not pay for? Breathing while male? Shiver me timbers! I sure hope they catch him before he strikes again! – L.

Yiiiiiiiiiiikes!