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Zingers and retorts

Folks — Wendy Mogel got the anti-helicopter parenting movement rolling with her book, ‘The Blessings of a Skinned Knee.” Here’s a taste of her fabulous “Overparenting Anonymous” List that I wish I had tattooed (just for the first 20 years or so) on my arm:


A 26-step program for good parents gone bad, by Wendy Mogel

I’ve written these steps to provide encouragement to well-intentioned, devoted, loving, intelligent parents who feel powerless to stop themselves from overindulging, overprotecting, and overscheduling their children. Parents who get jittery if their offspring aren’t close to perfect in every area. And parents who have allowed traits like self-reliance, resilience, and accountability to slip to the bottom of their parenting agenda.

1.         Don’t mistake a snapshot taken today with the epic movie of your child’s life. Kids go through phases. Glorious ones and rotten ones.

2.         Don’t fret over or try to fix what’s not broken. Accept your child’s nature even if he’s shy, stubborn, moody, or not great at math.

 3.         Look at anything up close and you’ll see the flaws. Consider it perfectly normal if you like your child’s friends better than you like your child.

4.         Work up the courage to say a simple “no.” Don’t try to reach consensus every time.

5. Encourage your child to play or spend time outside using all five senses in the three-dimensional world. How come only troubled rich kids get to go to the wilderness these days?

Lenore here: That is the greatest question EVER! For the rest of Wendy’s list click here! But first, let me just give you this one more:

14. Allow your child to do things that scare you.  You have to let her take some steps on her own, without holding your hand, if you want her to grow increasingly independent and self-confident. Let her get her learner’s permit when she comes of age; let her choose her own boyfriend.

Read the rest here!

How come only troubled rich kids are sent to spend time in nature, asks Wendy Mogel.

How come only troubled rich kids are sent to spend time in nature, asks Wendy Mogel.

Behold Hank Green (bro of John “The Fault In Our Stars” Green) summing up pretty much everything about why,  despite the fact we are surrounded by good news, it’s the rarest, worst news that we take to heart.

Kindly, ponder each point. Spread the message. Feel slight stabs of envy at how good this video is. But mostly gratitude that someone is saying this so perfectly:

Hi Readers — This made my day!

Dear Free-Range Kids: Thought I would share a conversation I overheard today at my daughter’s school.  I went to pick up my 6 year old from her after school program and arrived just in time to hear her speaking to a friend and the friend’s mother.  I didn’t hear the beginning of the chat, but did hear her say (with emphasis!): “No, no, you’re SUPPOSED to TALK to strangers, you just don’t GO anywhere with them!  Like, I mean, until today I never met YOU (referring to the friend’s mother), but you would think I was rude if I didn’t talk to you, ’cause you’re Amy’s Mom.”  The mother in question was silent for several long seconds.  And then had the good sense and good grace to say, “Huh.  I hadn’t thought of it that way.”  She and I then proceeded to have a lovely chat about Free-Range parenting.

My daughter learned that lesson from me, through you!  Her school also subscribes to the same view.  The principal once described having a police officer come in to the school on “community helper” day and being struck by the irony of having this person the kids had never met teach “stranger danger.”  She describes it as an “Aha!” moment.

Aha! — Toronto Mom

Aha on this end too! – L


Wrong. Just don't go OFF with them.

Wrong! Just don’t go OFF with them.


Readers — Spread this video!

Here are the facts about strangers poisoning candy. And yet, TRY to find a TV station or newspaper that doesn’t tell parents: “Always check your child’s candy and throw out any unwrapped items.”

Meantime, many, many thanks to Ezra Horne who edited this video for us! Here’s his youtube channel and Twitter acct! – L.


Hi Readers! For Americans, this is a holiday weekend when we celebrate freedom, so here’s a nice little note that celebrates exactly that: Freedom…from fear. It comes to us from Hannah Zuniga in Reno, NV, who thanks both me and you! - L

DearFree-Range Kids: I’ve always had a macabre interest in serial killers. I read many books about them in high school and college and watched hours of true crime TV shows. When I became pregnant with my first I had to stop, but the damage was already done. I had nightmares and “daymares” about these terrible things happening to my unborn daughter. I’m glad I found your book. My reading (and TV viewing) habits made being a Free-Range parent a challenge, but the statistics you give as well as the assurances of the other parents on your blog have done a lot in calming my fears for my three kids. – H.Z.

I feel forgotten!!


Readers —  The fear of kidnapping is so huge, it is overwhelming a lot of parents. How can they possibly put it in perspective? Here’s some help — from you! Both comments appeared on the post below this one, about a mom who lets her son ride his bike around town:

…I’d  like to know how deal with the worry of something happening on the way to and from these activities? I honestly think it’s a great idea (I have a 2 year old so I’m far from this age but am always reading about every age group) but I know the main reason I wouldn’t want to let my (hypothetical)12 year old do that is the fear of kidnappers etc snatching him. How do you personally deal with that?- Rachel

An honest question from an open mind. Here’s the answer, from a reader named Chuck:

Rachel, I’d honestly say that you deal with the fear of your son being snatched, while riding his bike in public, in the middle of the day, the same way you deal with the fear of him falling in the bathtub or being struck by lightning:  You admit it’s something that could possibly happen, but it’s not likely, and you’re not going to have much of a life if you spend all your life trying to prevent any situation where anything like that could occur.

That is just brilliant. It doesn’t negate the fear, it puts it into the same file as other fears. Contextualizes it. I am going to use that from now on. All the time. Sooo helpful. – L.

Hi Readers! Christine Gross-Loh’s articles on HuffPo have been generating a lot of attention — with reason. She’s great! Thanks to her global perspective, she can attest that the worry and hovering so common in America represent a distinct and unusual type of parenting, not just the “instinct” many here feel it is. Meantime, she’s is a mom of four and author of the just published book, Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us. Visit her at www.christinegrossloh.com! -L.


When our family first moved overseas to Japan, I was stunned to see so many little kids out on their own. The first time I saw a six year old getting on a train by herself, I actually thought this was negligent parenting. (It’s understandable: I had come straight from America, where this kind of thing was totally unthinkable.)

But it didn’t take long for our kids to become used to a freedom they had never imagined being able to experience. Of course, for me there were still jarring moments that reminded me that I’d come from a totally different world – like the time my friend told me she was having her son take the bus to a new location, kind of far away, for soccer practice. Instead of doing what I assumed she would — writing down the directions for him and pressing the correct change into his hand – all she did was hand him a transit map.

When we returned to the US five years later, our kids – who became used to walking a mile to school from the time they were in first grade, and going to the park any time they wanted to meet up with friends – were confused by a culture that kept giving children so many messages that not only are they not capable, they are fragile and must be bolstered constantly. We kept wondering: why did that father over there praise his toddler son for riding a merry go round (“Good riding!”)? Why did those grandparents over there lavishly praise their little granddaughter for….drinking water? Why did that eight year old not know how to butter his own bread because he wasn’t “allowed to use a knife?”

Soon after my return, an American college professor told me how she showed her students some photos of a recent trip to Japan she’d taken. One photo was of a group of first graders, all wearing the same yellow hats that all first graders do there when commuting to school in Japan. The yellow hats are a signal to the community around them: “Look out for us.” But the professor’s college students – products of a culture that had taught them to be suspicious — gasped. “Here in the U.S., those hats would make those kids a target!”

It’s obvious we’re experiencing an erosion of trust: in what our kids can do and in our wider community.  Fear instead of trust prevails even though statistics show so many of our fears about safety are overblown, and research shows us that the greatest safety protection we can give children is to give them practice in exercising their judgment and competence. Children in many countries are encouraged to hone this competence because it’s considered such an essential way to raise kids who can keep themselves safe.

This is what’s most ironic: although we often think of so many other nations as less free than our own, and we love the idea of raising independent, free kids, somehow we’ve gotten it backwards: our children are the ones who seem to have the least freedom and least capability, all in the name of protecting them. Change won’t come overnight, but in the meantime we can ask ourselves, are there small steps we can take, empowered by the knowledge that there is surely a child somewhere, somewhere in the world who is doing these things too?

Small steps like these:

-Letting a five year old child ride a bike around the neighborhood by himself

-Letting an eight year old take some pocket change and go into a store to buy herself a treat (one that she chooses)

-Biting your tongue when you automatically start to say “be careful” or “good job.”

-Teaching your four year old how to use a knife and a cuttingboard

-Encouraging a preschooler to climb a tree

It’s eye-opening to hear what other parents do to give their children a more Free-Range childhood. What other suggestions do you have? – Christine

Japanese kids in their yellow hats. Photo from Fodor’s Travel Guides.