Free-Range House Call on “The Today Show”

Hi Folks — Let’s hear it for Real Simple Magazine which is running an article by self-professed overprotective mom Jennifer Breheny Wallace who wanted to stop worrying so much. It begins:

” A couple of years ago, my then five-year-old son William took a standardized test in which he was asked about everyday objects. The tester noted his unusual responses to some questions. When asked ‘What do candy and ice cream have in common?’ William replied, ‘They both give you cavities.’ For the question ‘What is chewing gum?’ William answered, ‘A choking hazard.’”

Jennifer wanted to be brave enough to let her two older kids, 6 and 7, ride their bikes and play outside on their own, so she tracked me down and asked if I ever did house calls.

Good question. I had done 13 of them on my reality show World’s Worst Mom, which was like the Supernanny, except for “out-of-control kids” substitute “extremely nervous  parents.” My m.o. was to separate the parents from their kids and then give them — the kids — “challenges”  like  crossing the street, walking to the store or even going to a public bathroom without a police escort.

Once the parents saw that their kids not only could do those things with aplomb, but were so HAPPY to be trusted and FREE, well, they sometimes actually wept with joy.  What’s more, they couldn’t even remember WHY they’d said, “No playing on the front lawn,” or, “No you cannot go on a sleepover.” They changed THAT COMPLETELY. (Well, 12 out of 13 did.) Deep-seated fears that looked like they’d require years of therapy disappeared in an afternoon.

I was almost as shocked as they were. But having seen it with my own eyes, I told Jennifer I’d come to her place and see if the same technique worked without a camera crew.

You can hear what she has to say:

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Off camera, she told me that last summer,  she kept her kids inside by playing board games and reading to them. Both are lovely activities! But this year, post-house call, her son is outside “all the time.” He has also discovered how much he loves bugs.

As a result of this kind of transformation, Free-Range House Calls is now a business I’m trying to start. Having spent seven years in therapy myself, I realize that “real” therapy is a wonderful thing. This isn’t that. This is just a visit from me that helps separate parents from their kids long enough from them to see how safe and competent their kids really are.

It’s also something you can try on your own, with a friend. Have them sit with you  while the kids (properly trained not to run in the street or go off with anyone, yada yada) play outside, or take a little walk.

As I’ve come to see: I don’t change parents. The kids do. They show their parents something deep that they’d forgotten: Childhood isn’t a looming disaster to be avoided.  It’s a time of exploring, running, growing up.

And sometimes bugs. — L.

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