Keep Overprotective Parenting from Becoming the LAW!

Hi Readers! I am thrilled to present to you a post by David Pimentel, a professor of law and author of a scholarly article on how to keep overprotective parenting from becoming the law. As he writes in his abstract:

…the powerful influence of media has sensationalized the risks to children, skewing popular perceptions of the genuine risks children face and of what constitutes a reasonable or appropriate response to such risks. Consequently, individuals who do not buy into Intensive Parenting norms, including those from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, may be subjecting themselves to criminal prosecution for child neglect and endangerment.

The criminal statutes are, for the most part, very vague, leaving these prosecutions—which amount to little more than one person’s second-guessing the parenting choices of another—in the discretion of prosecutors, who bring the charges, and of juries, who render verdicts. If prosecutors and jurors share the media-fed misperceptions of risk, overprotective parenting becomes the de facto legal standard of care.

Terrifying!! He’s fighting it where it counts — in the court of legal opinion. Please click on his site and then download his article to show that there is genuine, even passionate interest in the topic! (The legal world takes note of how many downloads he gets.) And later this week  I will share a post by him. — L.

Where are their parents? Headed for jail?

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69 Responses to Keep Overprotective Parenting from Becoming the LAW!

  1. LRH February 13, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    I am glad to help anyway I can. Short of molestation or beating aside the head with a wood blank, the law has zero and I mean zero moral authority to tell me how to parent my kids. Zero.

    LRH

  2. genie February 13, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

    Posted this post on my facebook profile. Hopefully we’ll get a good number of folks to download his article!

  3. BSH February 13, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    I tried downloading his article and it didn’t work for me! Will try again later.

  4. Kelly February 13, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

    I wish they’d focus more on intent and actual harm being done. If you intend to hurt your kid that’s obviously a bad thing. If you do something incredibly stupid and get your kid hurt, then it’s more of a judgement call. If you do something semi reasonable and your kid gets hurt then I think the punishment of having your kid hurt is bad enough.

    I think people are in the quest for perfection and anything or anyone that isn’t perfect must be doing something wrong somehow.

  5. gap.runner February 13, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    As LRH said, as long as I’m not abusing or starving my son, I should be free to parent him any way that I see fit. The German equivalent of CPS should only step in if my son is obviously being abused or neglected. Just because he is walking to a friend’s house or taking the train by himself doesn’t mean he’s being neglected.

    I can see more laws coming out that reinforce helicopter parenting. As I mentioned in my latest blog post about the little girl who thwarted being abducted in Wal-Mart, there will probably be some sort of legislation coming out about leaving a child unattended in a store or other public place until he’s 18. It would be called Brittney’s Law of course.

    I feel truly sorry for the kids who are growing up with helicopter parents and have zero real world life skills. If legislation is passed that criminalizes free-range parenting, I would hate to see the consequences. A lot of parents will be thrown in jail for teaching their kids how to deal with the curves that life throws at them. Their free range kids will then be turned into a bunch of spineless wimps who won’t know how to get by without Mom and Dad. Thank goodness this madness hasn’t reached Germany yet.

    It never ceases to amaze me how people react to rare events like a child being abducted by a stranger. Yet they are unfazed by common causes of death, like auto accidents.

  6. MJP February 13, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    > As LRH said, as long as I’m not abusing or starving my son, I should > be free to parent him any way that I see fit.

    May I ask, (without becoming a pariah of some sort, I hope), why is that true?

    Now, I agree that risk misperception is out of hand and we are doing a disservice to the next generation by raising them in an environment of fear.

    But what makes “I should be free to parent him any way that I see fit.” an absolute good? I mean, we’ve got these social scientists running all over the place making and testing theories. Let’s say that eventually, out of all of this, they come to a consensus with compelling evidence about what way is “better”. Is there a *right* to be a bad parent? Should there be?

  7. Wilson February 13, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    I wouldn’t put the blame squarely on the media. The media, as a business model, puts out content that we ask for through subscriptions and ratings. We ask for sensationalized news and we get it.

  8. Silver Fang February 13, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    @MJP I think the idea is that the parents know their kids better than any government entity ever could. The parents are better fit to judge when a child is mature enough to undertake a risk such as riding their bike around their neighborhood alone than the city, the state, etc. Thus the state shouldn’t be able to set a minimum age for when a child may venture outdoors alone.

  9. Beverly Smedberg February 13, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

    I agree with what LHR above, wrote on 13 February. Government has NO business trying to parent children–that is parent’s responsibility. If parents don’t do a good job and the children later get into trouble, then the law steps in. Until then definitely, NOT.

    That said, I do believe TEACHERS should have the authority to discipline students, and parents should stay out of it. If homework is not done, tests have low scores, teachers should be able to resrtict children from recess, snacks, treats, and whatever they think should be done. Many parents don’t do much in the way of discipline regarding school work.

  10. pentamom February 14, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    “Is there a *right* to be a bad parent? Should there be?”

    In addition to what Silver Fang says, the other thing you have to look at is what the cost of “not allowing people to be bad parents” would be. There’s no way to do that without a tyrannical level of interference on personal decisions.

    For example, let’s say that one aspect of “being a bad parent” is defined as “allowing your kids to get into unsafe situations.” Okay, define unsafe situation, by age, by neighborhood, by time of day, by really precise immediate situation.

    So the parenting cop comes along and sees you ten year old at X place and decides he shouldn’t be there because it’s an “unsafe situation,” and subjects you to investigation and potential prosecution.

    Maybe you can successfully argue or prove that it isn’t, but now you’ve 1) given law enforcement the authority to decide where an individual kid should be at any given time and 2) hauled you before the courts, with your freedom or the custody of your children at risk, over a *very* subjective judgment.

    And if it becomes illegal to “be a bad parent,” scenarios like this must necessarily ensue.

    Think of what “mandated reporters” would be burdened with it not only suspected abuse was reportable, but just bad judgment? Either they would go absolutely out of their minds and be pretty much unable to function in their actual job responsibilities, or, more likely, *everything* would be reported in order to protect the reporters’ behinds.

    And then you’d get situations like this one — http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/9075866/A-mother-on-a-visit-to-the-UK-loses-three-children-to-social-workers.html — which happened in a country which hasn’t even gone as far as making “bad parenting” illegal, though they’re pretty close.

  11. Renee February 14, 2012 at 12:04 am #

    This is not quite in the same vein, but I think it shows another side of the picture – the need for clearer and more tolerant guidelines for police in dealing with “suspicious” adults.

    http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2012/02/me-apd-and-babysitting-while-white-part.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzEmail&utm_content=79553&utm_campaign=0

  12. EricS February 14, 2012 at 12:25 am #

    @ LRH, Silver Fang, Beverly and Pentamom… I agree.

    @ Wilson, I would have to disagree. It’s always been the notion and ideal that media should be responsible. Telling the truth to the masses. But as time goes on, it’s not about the truth anymore, it’s about ratings, which transform into profits. We as viewers don’t ask for it. Many things are sensationalized because media companies KNOW, psychologically, most people will be drawn to such “news”. It’s a natural tendency for people to be curious, no matter how macabre it is. Thereby more viewers, listeners and readers. More profit. Think about it, if EVERYONE thought logically, and with common sense, there would be very little news. Little news means less ratings, less ratings, means no money. No money means no media company. No jobs. The media will always be the media. But it’s up to every individual to think for themselves. Take everything with a grain of salt, I always say. And use your own best judgement. I watch news and listen to radio ALL the time. I hear all these things everyone else does. But I don’t hang on to every word. I know bad things happen in the world. But I don’t believe they happen around every corner at every second, and WILL happen to me or my family. We are always aware and mindful of our surroundings and situations. That is the best way to protect our children. While keeping our sanity intact.

    Making “over parenting” law, will only do harm to the children in the long run. People will always make that judgment that would be deemed “unlawful” under such law. Their children taken away. And where does that leave the kids? We know the statistics of children being raised in Foster Care. Who loses out in the end? Certainly not the “adults” making all the decisions.

  13. Brian February 14, 2012 at 12:57 am #

    MJP–I totally agree. While there are others here that have more libertarian streaks, there is a proper role for government and it makes our nation better.

    Look there is a line, everyone agrees a line exists. The question is where do you draw that line. It is also as MJP says, a question of whether you are examining the macro or the micro. From the macro view, better education, medical care, food and parenting leads to less crime, more innovation and economic prosperity as a nation.

    Bottom line, there are other things beyond abuse and molesting. Requiring parents to feed children and providing adequate shelter SHOULD be in the purview of the government. Regulating that children are educated (at home or in school) is a proper role for government. Controlling the age and type of work children are allowed to do at certain ages is acceptable.

    That all having been said, the line has moved way to far towards government regulation and needs to be readjusted accordingly.

  14. mollie February 14, 2012 at 1:01 am #

    I love this guy already. Thanks for the link!

  15. antsy February 14, 2012 at 1:27 am #

    I ended up in court for something so silly, I figured any judge or prosecutor would take one look and have the case immediately thrown out. Apparently not. I learned that I was not even alone in such an absurd circumstance – poor guy I met was foreign and ironically had recently immigrated to the U.S. for freedom. It seems overprotective parenting is already seen to be the law in some places. I would like to thank David Pimentel for this important work!

  16. Laura February 14, 2012 at 1:31 am #

    I am honestly scared that as my son gets older, if I parent him how I want to, I would face the law. I already find myself making contingency plans…. “Well, when *I* think he is big enough to go to the park by himself, but I think the police might get involved if I let him go alone, I will have *him* take *me* and he’ll be responsible for both of us unless he actually makes a dangerous mistake….”

    Seriously? I feel like I will (in a while: he is three now and no, not ready to get there by himself yet!) be tagging along purely to keep from legal hassles. Ridiculous. But I *will* do something like that if it is that or refuse him any independence at all. Having to do it with your mother trailing after, when she isn’t needed, is dumb. But not as bad as not learning to deal with the world at all.

  17. ChecklistMommy February 14, 2012 at 1:31 am #

    I was having a similar conversation with friends last week — we were talking about kids and booze and drugs. I was saying I would SO MUCH rather let my older teens share in wine at dinner at home than go boozing elsewhere. And that we used to steal my Dad’s pot — which was about a million times better than going and scoring it somewhere else, IMHO. And I believe that coming out of a house like this is why I have never had a substance abuse problem.

    Further:

    When I was a teen, most of the parents I knew preferred their kids to throw parties with beer AT HOME, parents present, keys collected. Yet here in SoCal, that’s now a punishable offense — which is just APPALLING.

  18. Kara February 14, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    Thanks for posting this, I have been worried about this for a while. There seems to be a prevailing assumption that if you are not panicked for your kid’s safety at all times, you are not a good parent. There is even a sneaking suspicion that if your child is too independent that there must be neglect.

  19. Claire53 February 14, 2012 at 1:56 am #

    Please forgive me if someone already mentioned this in the comments, but I hope you have all heard of Pamela Druckerman and Bringing up Bebe on French style parenting. Me? I’m moving to France where the kids say please and thank you and don’t run Mommy’s life…..
    http://www.scpr.org/programs/madeleine-brand/2012/02/13/22498/pamela-druckerman-explains-the-art-of-french-paren

  20. Jespren February 14, 2012 at 1:57 am #

    MJP, if you want a really good answer to your question all you have to do is look at what ‘science’ has agreed upon in the past. At one time the social/medical consensus *knew* a deformed spine and ribcage was a product of being female, along with a host of internal issues. It took *decades* for them to realize the corset was *causing* the problems and not treating the problems. As late as the 30’s there were still doctors advocating for early corsetting (a training corset for a 5 or 6 year old) so that the delicate internal organs and bones of the girl could be protected by the stiff corset. At one time everyone *knew* babies must have only pure water for the first 24 hours to help clean out their system. Then the consensus was formula was *better* for babies than breast milk, women were ruetinely given medication to dry up their milk, without being informed, immediately after birth. More recently scientists were sure *all* fat was bad for you, then it was saturated fats, then it was transfats. First eggs were the perfect food, then they were horrible for you, then they were good for you as long as you only ate the whites, now whole eggs are good for you again. Barring real, provable danger to a child’s health, such as abuse or starvation, the parents are the *only* ones who can ‘know’ what is good for them. We can disagree (and probably should) about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ parenting. But what the scientific consensus called ‘good parenting’ just a few decades ago would today be considered not just ‘bad’, but bordering on criminally neglectful. There is absolutely not a single reason to think the same thing won’t be said in another few decades about what we ‘know’ today about raising kids ‘properly’. Parents, being the natural and (in most cases) biological caregivers for their children should be left alone by ‘the consensus’ to parent as they see fit.

  21. CrazyCatLady February 14, 2012 at 3:54 am #

    Clair53, I heard an interview with the author yesterday. It turns out, my family, and most of our friends, are French and didn’t know it! We bring a ball to the park for the kids, then we adults sit and talk. Yes, we push the toddlers on the swings, some. But we are not with them every second. We expect the kids to amuse themselves (it is not our job.) None of us makes different foods for kids or babies after they get teeth – they eat the adult food or they go hungry. All of my kids eat a wide variety of foods with no issues. In fact, my kids are still amazed at the things that they love and think of as normal that other kids turn their noses up to.

  22. Edward February 14, 2012 at 3:57 am #

    An absolutely fascinating document. I have downloaded and saved to examine it more thoroughly.
    My first thoughts about it were who should I (we) be forwarding this link to? Legistatures, Judges, Child Service Departments, All manner of Media outlets, (Individual reporters), All law enforcement agencies, Public Recreation Departments, National organizations that run Childrens Programs (Little league, Boy Scouts)???
    My point is this should not stay only on this website.

  23. Marie February 14, 2012 at 4:02 am #

    MJP, my problem with your idea is that kids are individuals. There is no one best way to parent. You have to see what your child in particular needs. Certainly there are some practices that are better or worse than others in general, but short of abuse, starvation and the like, things aren’t that black and white. Some kids can take independence earlier than others, some are more clingy, some need tons of time with a huge circle of friends, some need more time to be on their own, and so on.

    Even if social scientists come up with some ideas as to the best parenting techniques, there would still be a ton of guesswork to deal with the individual children.

  24. bmax February 14, 2012 at 4:54 am #

    @checklistmommy. Yeah it’s callled UNDERAGE DRINKING. There are laws against it.

    You and LRH make aren’t helping your cause. It paints all of you as nutbars. LRH says the law has no moral authority on how to parent. Well I would be nervous to send my kids over to “Miss Hippy” aka checklistsmommy’s house. Free Booze and Pot for all you kiddies… yippeee!

    Good luck telling a cop that they have no ‘moral authority’ to arrest you. Lol.

  25. Michelle Potter February 14, 2012 at 5:06 am #

    In addition to what others have said regarding why parents should be free to raise their children as they see fit, consider also that no one is as invested in the best interests of any particular child as that child’s parents.

    The government may come to conclusions about what is best for the largest percentage of children, but it cannot care for the needs of each individual child as parents can. The government may be happy to enforce school attendance by age 6 if that is good for 90% of children, but I care about my one child in the 10% for whom it is detrimental. (Just as a hypothetical example.) Parents are invested in the lives of the small number of children for whom vaccines are detrimental. (Not because of autism, but for example, my daughter is allergic to some of the ingredients.) It is parents who have the most reason to ensure the best possible outcome for their own particular children, and absent clear abuse or physical neglect, parents ought to be left to it.

  26. Andy February 14, 2012 at 5:38 am #

    @bmax a lot of cultures (including mentioned French) give teenage kids (e.g. under 18) a little vine to sip on family occasions. Those kids usually turn out perfectly fine.

    Somehow, I do not see it as a case that requires all caps (as if it would be if they would ‘kill them and eat them’).

    One note: it is perfectly ok for usa to make the practice ‘not allowed’. It may be even a good thing about America. Still, all caps as it would be SOMETHING HORRIBLE are unnecessary panic.

  27. hineata February 14, 2012 at 5:52 am #

    Does anyone find there is an element of racism, too, in what is considered good/poor parenting, and in what is prosecuted?

    Ten or so years ago, there was a high profile case here in which a four year old boy who had a very treatable form of cancer was ‘abducted’ by his own parents and hidden around the country, taken to Mexico for alternative treatments etc, because his Pakeha (white) parents were New Age hippy types who didn’t want the doctors ‘poisoning’ their son. There were all sorts of pleas by the doctors, injunctions by the courts and various attempts by police to return this boy to the hospital for treatment, (from memory he was made a ward of the state) but in the end the child died. These parents, because they were educated whites, were not prosecuted.

    Meanwhile, in South Auckland, a Samoan couple who believed in healing by prayer, had a 13 year old son who himself refused medical treatment, because he wanted to trust God for healing. When HE died, the parents were prosecuted for manslaughter. Fortunately they were found not guilty, but they were still dragged through the courts for effectively giving their son a choice.

    In another case, a farmer was found not guilty of manslaughter when, in a decision that defies any sort of common sense, he allowed his 4 year old daughter to ride an adult quad bike in a paddock that was not level (as most pddocks in NZ probably are not, full of ruts etc). This was the child’s very first time in charge of an adult quad bike, and predictably she died (just turned 4 year old, BTW. Heavy bike, very light child). Of course, she was a ‘farm child’ (excuse me while I choke) so she was somehow more competent than a city 4 year old would be in handling a large piece of machinery.

    (By the by, most kiwi farmers do have more brains than this moron, and don’t allow their preschool children to handle farm equipment of this nature).

    Had this child been a 4 year old city child whose parent had allowed her to run their people mover down their driveway, in the process running over her toddler sibling, you can bet they would have been charged with manslaughter.

    Double standards, anyone?

  28. hineata February 14, 2012 at 5:55 am #

    P.S meant to add ‘found guilty of manslaughter’.

  29. B February 14, 2012 at 7:05 am #

    bmax, you’re being quite judgmental here. No, the cops have no right to tell me how to ‘morally parent’. They do have a right to arrest me for something that is illegal. The whole point of the article (did you even read it??) is that the current laws are so badly written, and so vague, as to essentially give social workers and cops carte blanche to arrest people for what comes down to parental judgment. My 10 year old niece is mature, respectful, smart and capable of staying home on her own. Who is a judge to say otherwise? Shouldn’t my brother and his wife get to make that choice? And if, say, a car drove through their front door, they should not be arrested for her being home alone and failing to protect her from that one-in-a-million event.

    On the subject of underage drinking – get over yourself. checklistmommy has a great point, one I thoroughly agree with. By making drinking such a huge issue, we encourage them to binge as soon as they have the opportunity. I work on a college campus – most of these kids binging every weekend would have been a lot better off if their parents had been allowed to introduce them to alcohol in a controlled manner. Don’t get me started on the fact that you can vote, not to mention get sent overseas to fight, and not buy yourself a beer when you come back. Other cultures, with much less stringent views on underage drinking, have many fewer problems that we do here, especially when it comes to college binge drinking.

  30. Jespren February 14, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    Bmax, also, it’s not necessarily illegal for children to drink ‘underage’ everywhere. And by that I don’t mean that a 16 year old can drink in the U.K. but laws even vary in the U.S.. now, admittedly I haven’t lived there for a couple of years so it’s possible there has been a recent law change. But as little as a dozen years ago when I was in high school, it was perfectly legal in Oregon for me to drink alcohol, as long as I did it in a private home and it was supplied by my guardian. I couldn’t legally go grab a beer at a street party at 16, but I could have a glass of wine after dinner with my family at 16. Just a few decades ago legal drinking ages varried all over the U.S. how is it remotely logical to say it was normal and fine for my mom to go to I’LL and have a drink at 18, which she did one summer visiting relatives, it was perfectly legal and normal for me to have a drink at 18 in our family home, but somehow ‘abusive’ for a parent today to let their kid have a sip of wine at the dinner table?
    You know I think a *huge* part of the whole helicopter parenting problem is so many people today just have no sense of history or differences in cultures.

  31. Jespren February 14, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    Stupid cell autocorrected the abreviation for Illinois to ‘I’ll’.

  32. LRH February 14, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    You know if bmax is symptomatic of this culture, that somehow thinking the law has no moral authority telling you how to parent (outside of molestation, starving to death, beating with baseball bats etc) is somehow a “nutbar” point of view, no wonder this “overprotective parenting possibly becoming law” is such an issue.

    I think the term “common sense” can be overused, people in some parts of my mother’s side of the family will criticize those like me who read books & so forth for parental guidance saying “it’s common sense, if you need a book to tell you how to parent you have no business being one” etc. But that said, this would seem to be a common sense thing, that a parent, as long as they’re not starving their kids to death or shutting them up in dog cages etc, has the right to parent as they see fit without harassment and outside intervention. That such is even up for debate & is so strongly challenged does not bode well for our society as long as there are as many as there are who can’t seem to get this.

    LRH

  33. pentamom February 14, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    Jespren —

    Someone posted this a while back, and I’m posting it again just because I think it’s a really handy chart, detailing the differences in underage drinking restrictions across the 50 United States.

    http://drinkingage.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=002591

    FWIW, you’re one of my fave commenters here and on SHS. You never waste words. :-)

  34. Jespren February 14, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    Thank you Pentamom :) it is worth something.

  35. Jespren February 14, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    That’s a great link too, I was pretty sure it was more than just Oregon who allowed ‘underage’ drinking with parental consent. That it is in fact LEGAL in a majority of states just makes those helicopter parents freaking out about a kid having some alcohol all that more foolish.

  36. antsy February 14, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    That underage drinking chart is handy. It had been our family tradition for generations to pour everyone (of all ages, which I now know has been perfectly legal) a small bit of wine in crystal glasses at Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners. I can remember having a glass at my place even when I was 3-4 years old. And I still only drink on special occasions!

  37. Tsu Dho Nimh February 14, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    @bmax … In most states, it is legal for a parent to serve alcohol to that parent’s children while inside that parent’s home.

    My SO did it … and nothing protects a teen from the urge to drink like being exposed to the good stuff. When shown a keg of Coors, they would turn up their noses at it and ask where the real beer was.

  38. Kenny Felder February 14, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    It is *wonderful* to see a legal mind tackling this issue formally, since so much of the problem lies in the legal realm. The other issue that can be approached in a scholarly manner is the common misperception that the world is more dangerous than it used to be, when the reality is quite the opposite.

  39. pentamom February 14, 2012 at 11:12 am #

    What’s sad is that I’m in one of the “no exceptions” states. But we do it anyway. Not in the “throw the party and leave your keys way” that Checklistmommy describes — I don’t agree with that. But for our own teenagers, occasional wine with meals and a half or single beer now and then at home for the over-18’s, yes. And it’s precisely because we believe it’s important for our kids to have a healthy attitude toward alcohol, not a forbidden fruit + don’t know how to deal with it attitude.

  40. CrazyCatLady February 14, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    Those who do not know the past are condemned to repeat it. Or maybe expand upon it.

    The plight of Native American children of the past would be a case in point. The government didn’t “like” the children learning their own language, customs and history, so the government made laws or enforced made up ones to take the children away.

    Today, Native American children in many states are disproportionately in foster care. Taken away from families due to bogus charges that are proven false, removed to white families or warehouses, hair cut (against their religious beleifs) and kept apart from family. Often just because they are poor, and live in traditional manners that lets face it, do not require electricity. In South Dakota this foster system is fueled by money from the government that gets money for each foster kid, more if they are special needs, more again if they are Native American. At some point the state deemed all Native American kids to be special needs. You can read more here:http://www.npr.org/2011/10/25/141672992/native-foster-care-lost-children-shattered-families

    Is there a double standard? You bet. Could it get more narrow and effect more mainstream society who has some different ideas on how to raise kids? I would say resounding yes. I saw a boy moved to foster care while his mother was in drug treatment. Before she could finish rehab, and prove that she could be a good mother, the foster family was saying that they wanted to adopt him. But then the foster mother got pregnant, and they couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. But the state was going to support the foster family over the birth mother, who needed the incentive of her son to get clean.

  41. Renee February 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    I was going to post the state-by-state checklist, but I see pentamom already did. I was surprised to read that; I’d thought I was running outside the law letting my daughter have alcohol in our own home. It shocked me to realize that in general, it’s not a law against consumption, but against purchase and/or public consumption of alcohol.

  42. JaneW February 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    My parents often split a bottle of wine at dinner. Once I reached about age 12, they would pour a sip into a glass for me. By the time I was 17, I could have a regular glass if I wanted it.

    Right before I left for college, the “talk” they gave me about alcohol was: “Here are some ways drinking can get you killed. Do not do any of these things. If you want to drink until you get sick, that’s your decision.”

    I’ve never had the urge to drink myself stupid.

  43. CrazyCatLady February 14, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    The dad who shot his daughter’s laptop after he told her he would do just that if she was disrespectful on Facebook again, has had the police and CPS called on him. While he doesn’t say what CPS said, he reports that the police were supportive and planned to use the video when they did school events. http://www.wsoctv.com/news/news/local/youtube-dad-who-shot-daughters-laptop-gets-visit-a/nHbcR/

    On the sad side, it shows that people not related to him or who know him or his daughter other than on this video, think that they know better than him how to parent his own daughter. I think he is great for following through on what he said he would do. (I don’t think, like many, that he acted in anger. The anger was months before when he said he would shoot the computer if it happened again. The rash words, were then.)

  44. Donna February 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    @ MJP – Yes there are some really crappy parents. I see them everyday and kids pay a price. But what’s your suggestion? We arrest all these parents and place the kids in foster care because foster care is a wonderful place with many great parents just waiting to take on troubled children?

    Where do we draw the line? What are parenting decisions people can make? What are not? Who gets to decide?

    And yes there is a right to be a crappy parent. The right to parent your own children is fundamental. The right to be parented by your parents is also fundamental. So fundamental that courts go far and beyond what I think is in the best interest of children in many cases to keep parents and children together. I see far more kids left in crappy homes than kids taken from good homes by overzealous courts. But if the kid is fed, clothed, cleaned, sheltered and not abused, the government shouldn’t interfere unless the sitauation is dire.

    Hineata, yes, there is a HUGE racial and socioeconomic double standard in these cases. Socioeconomic probably more than race in the US, but it’s hard to tell since race and poverty are so linked.

  45. Uly February 14, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    I see far more kids left in crappy homes than kids taken from good homes by overzealous courts.

    That is the same thing I see in my community. There are some families who go far beyond “free range” straight into “insanity” (a three year old should not be wandering into other people’s backyards in a neighborhood bounded by three busy streets without her parents not even CARING that she’s outside of the house) and who have had child services called on them repeatedly and… nothing.

    Me? I’m moving to France where the kids say please and thank you and don’t run Mommy’s life…

    I’ve heard from people living in France that a. this only describes one subset of French families (just like APing only describes on subset of American families) and that b. in general, well-behaved French children behave very well in the care of their teachers and parents… and not so well elsewhere. In the US, it’s almost a cliche that “children always behave better for other people”. I’ve certainly said it a dozen times in the past month! So in the end, you might not get anywhere by moving.

  46. Lollipoplover February 14, 2012 at 11:47 pm #

    I shudder at the possiblility of paranoia parenting becoming the “standard of care”.
    Instantly I think of the “standard of care” in medicine and how it’s meant to protect patients lives, but often makes doctors turn away from using their brains and common sense and into checking the boxes and ordering too many tests and procedures that they need to do in order to protect themselves legally.
    As for parenting and it’s “outcomes”, Martha Beck said it best:
    “We don’t actually have much control over the way our kids turn out. Genes do a lot of the deciding, and the owner of those genes does most of the rest. Some kids let parents have a great deal of influence; others don’t. Either way, people blossom when we love them, not when we worry about them. Worry just teaches worry. Let it go.”

  47. Rita Watts February 15, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    How good that we have someone in the legal community who is trying to bring sensibility to the courts!

  48. Kristin February 15, 2012 at 1:41 am #

    Fantastic article!!

  49. Edward February 15, 2012 at 2:18 am #

    Lollipoplover : “Some kids let parents have a great deal of influence; others don’t.”

    What a wonderful way to put that. How many parents think THEY decide if they are influencing their kids?

  50. Michelle February 15, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    Here is an example of exactly what I meant when I commented about the dichotomy of government policies regarding what is best for “most” children vs individual parents making decisions based on their love and knowledge of their OWN children:

    Preschooler’s Homemade Lunch Replaced with Cafeteria “Nuggets” –
    State agent inspects sack lunches, forces preschoolers to purchase cafeteria food instead: http://www.carolinajournal.com/exclusives/homemade-lunch-replaced-with-cafeteria-nuggets.html

    A loving mother who knew her own child’s proclivities specifically packed a lunch that was not only reasonably healthy, but was also something she knew her child would eat. Some government worker decided the packed lunch wasn’t healthy enough, and replaced the sack lunch with a cafeteria lunch. The result? The kid eats three chicken nuggets and throws the rest away.

    Now, I don’t approve of coddling picky eaters, but if I give my child something that I want her to eat, I would not appreciate the government deciding to replace it with something that I know the kid is just going to dump in the trash.

  51. J.T. Wenting February 15, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    “the law has zero and I mean zero moral authority to tell me how to parent my kids. Zero.”

    Moral authority no longer counts when it comes to the law, only legal authority counts. IOW the law no longer has to be (in many cases isn’t) moral, all that matters is who has the most guns to enforce it, and that’s the government (unless the entire population were to rise up to defend every arrest, which will never happen).

    If you think you can defy the law when you consider the law to be unethical or immoral, go ahead and try. You’ll find yourself under arrest and in prison shortly, convicted by a jury of your peers too frightened to stand up for your opinion that the law is incorrect (in fact prohibited from doing so under the law).

  52. LRH February 15, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    JT Wenting I’m well aware of how the law system works. I don’t need such enlightening. What I & others are saying is that the law is overreaching what it has any business reaching into in being the way it is sometimes, particularly where it regards parents parenting their children how they see fit, and it needs to be changed.

    LRH

  53. Cynthia February 15, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    Michelle, you just stole my thunder, I was about to post that same article.

  54. Cynthia February 15, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

    Also, the article mentioned that meat is required in each meal. Does that mean they would replace my son’s PB&J with some fried chicken? We try to have one or two meatless dinners a week, for health and economic reasons. I don’t have anything against meat per se, but requiring it for *every* lunch seems a bit much.

  55. kiesha February 15, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    Regarding the lunches in the Pre-K classes: what if your kid is vegan? I noticed that the school not only requires a serving of meat, but also a serving of dairy. One of my friends is a vegan mom and her nearly five-year-old daughter is too. Has been since birth. What would the school do with that?

  56. Cynthia February 16, 2012 at 1:01 am #

    I assume they would make exceptions for vegans, but that begs the question of who is in charge here. It should be my decision what kind of diet I want my kids to have; it should also be no big deal if I skip the vegetable because I ran out of baby carrots this morning. Good grief.

  57. kiesha February 16, 2012 at 1:21 am #

    “I’m afraid your school lunch policy interfers with my religious freedom. I belong to the Church of He’ll Eat What I Pack Him.”

  58. Cynthia February 16, 2012 at 1:22 am #

    Love it!

  59. Donna February 16, 2012 at 1:44 am #

    On what planet are chicken nuggets healthier than a turkey and cheese sandwich?

  60. mollie February 17, 2012 at 12:57 am #

    Judgement, labels, evaluation… we must move away from this model to one that looks at the larger picture of human needs and making room for a variety of strategies to meet those needs.

    The article cited by Lenore points out how devastating it is when words like “adequate,” “appropriate,” “nurturing,” “safe,” “reasonable” or “healthy” are used in the drafting of laws relating to the care of children. Anytime we use a word that requires us to interpret or evaluate a situation, look out!

    Interpretations are highly subjective; they are our “thoughts on the matter,” and one person’s version of a strategy to fulfill a need for safety or nurturing for their child might look quite different from another’s. If laws are more like agreements that we hold all of these values equally, and encourage curiosity about parents’ motivation instead of throwing the book at those who don’t immediately “conform” on the surface, well, I think we’d have a more harmonious climate and a more efficient system.

    When we pair judgement and evaluation (“dangerous,” “inappropriate”) with a death-grip on particular strategies (“children will not be permitted to supervise a child younger than themselves until the age of 14”), we are missing out completely on what unifies us and helps us to thrive as humans: the values that motivate these judgements, laws and strategies in the first place.

    If we focus on the values, and examine parents’ decision-making by investigating what values motivated their decisions, it’s quite likely that far fewer parents who skate outside of middle-class American intensive parenting “norms” to be seen as “criminally negligent,” because once we look from the perspective of values, we see that there is no separation between us at all.

    I have found that when my ex-husband threatens to call CPS or “the authorities” or take “legal action” when he finds out that my 9-year-old kid went a half mile on foot to the grocery store alone to get some olive oil for me in the middle of a temperate Saturday afternoon, if I say something like, “Butt the hell out,” or “Go ahead and call them, I’m within my rights as a parent,” it’s engaging in the battle of judgement and strategy, which, in my experience, gets very expensive, in terms of energy and resources.

    However, when I meet him with compassion, and say, “Sounds like you really care about our son’s safety and well-being, is that right? And hearing that he’s running an errand like that alone brings up some concern in you, you want to be sure he’s safe and happy?” He can realize that even when I reflect this back to him, it’s evidence that I understand and share those same values. I become less of an “enemy” and more of a fellow human.

    If I then say, “So I want to be seen as someone who shares those same concerns and values safety and happiness as well. Would you be willing to hear how this decision I’ve made to send him to the store alone on this errand could be supporting that?” Again, I’m looking for what unites us, our values, which are always the same, the same for all human beings.

    And if he is willing to hear, I can tell him, “I have witnessed our son cross streets safely and navigate his neighbourhood easily and confidently. I want to support competence, to allow him to participate in meaningful and age-appropriate ways to the running of the household so he can learn skills that will serve him as a young adult. I also want to support health, to encourage him to get places under his own power to build in habits of incidental movement. I want him to have chances to make decisions on his own, and handle things that might come up: being short five cents, or someone offering him a ride— small chances to build the insight that he can handle himself on his own, or ask for help, another form of maturity. What I intuitively sense as a parent is that if he has these experiences now, as a 9-year-old, he will be more impervious to some of the real dangers that might come along in adolescence. Hearing all of this, can you hear what it is I’m aiming for when I make this decision to send him up the road for olive oil?”

    And chances are, he can. Who couldn’t? Unfortunately, the law and the authorities don’t support this kind of compassionate view of things, so when my ex-husband says, “That’s all fine and well, but if I hear that he’s doing anything like this again, I will be very upset and consider it an infraction of the laws and report it,” I realize that the deck is, indeed, stacked against me, since I am the one whose strategy is outside of the present prevailing cultural norm.

    I would, however, encourage anyone who is facing down CPS or a judge or the police to see if they can express themselves honestly and listen with empathy. It is bound to help more than outright rebellion or resentful submission would, and really, we have nothing to lose, right?

  61. LRH February 17, 2012 at 1:43 am #

    mollie I hear what you’re saying, but other than doing so merely to keep CPS the hell out of it, why should one HAVE to do this? Why can’t people just mind their own business and leave responsible parents alone? I would love NOTHING more than to have a system that backs me as the parents over & above the entire world, so long as I’m not beating them with a wood plank etc. The law should not only back me up, it should even legally penalize people who meddle in my business.

    LRH

  62. mollie February 17, 2012 at 2:09 am #

    LRH, I imagine that bringing compassion into any conflict is an opportunity to elevate consciousness and promote understanding and respect.

    If I rail against what is instead of finding a place first of acceptance, I will be in a state of rage and battle, which serves neither me or my kids.

    If what I am wanting is ease, freedom, respect, contribution, family… then I can find a way to articulate what I want in a way that invites others to become part of creating that. If I treat them like enemies, they will remain enemies.

    What I propose is radical, and it requires energy and dedication. Nonviolence, for me, is the way to fulfillment of all that supports thriving for me and my kids and my community. And I strive to radiate that “higher self” into whatever conflicts arise.

    Right now, yes, there is a conflict between my strategy around raising kids and the prevailing ideas in society about what is “safe” and “appropriate” for kids. What I enjoyed about this article is that it speaks to what aspirations “non-intensive” parents have, what values they are supporting when they choose to allow their kids some space to learn, play and grow independent of adult supervision.

    I believe that we will have more of a chance to become co-creators of a world where there is autonomy for parents and children if we bring compassion to the discussion and focus on values.

    Resisting requires a lot of energy, rebelling requires a lot of energy, and respect requires a lot of energy. I’m working hard to bring respect, that is to say, an acknowledgement that all people’s needs matter, including those who create the laws and threaten me with punishment. What are they after, and will their strategies get them there? When we reflect back the truth of what is being accomplished on the level of needs, unification and transformation can occur. If we engage in battle over strategies, judgements, laws and ideas, the “other side” simply becomes more entrenched, and the battle continues…

  63. Michelle February 17, 2012 at 5:17 am #

    The problem with what you are suggesting, mollie, is that you’ve put yourself in a position where your parenting decisions are only acceptable insofar as you can get others to understand and agree with them. That’s fine when you’re talking about the father of your children, but not when it’s the guy who is fixing my neighbor’s driveway and is “concerned” that my son isn’t wearing shoes. Sure, it might be a much more pleasant situation for everyone involved if I engage the guy respectfully and explain my reasoning, but my desire / ability to do so should not determine whether I actually have the *right* to let my kid play outside without shoes.

  64. Liberty Children February 17, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    Getting involved in people’s parenting is no different than wire-tapping their phone calls, or spying on dinner conversations. When will the government get out of our personal lives?

  65. mollie February 18, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    “The problem with what you are suggesting, mollie, is that you’ve put yourself in a position where your parenting decisions are only acceptable insofar as you can get others to understand and agree with them.”

    While I do like the idea of other people understanding what it is that I am aiming for when I make the decisions that I do, I realize that the people who “come after me” or are “concerned” about my parenting are in desperate need of empathy, and until they get it, they’re not going to give a rat’s butt what it is that’s going on for me. In fact, they’re likely to keep coming after me. And after me. And after me.

    So we can go on and on about how it “should” be, that the government “should butt out” and other people “should mind their own business,” but I’m wondering how well that’s working for anyone who would like to enjoy autonomy and choice as a parent. Chances are, if we say, “Butt out,” those “concerned” will simply yell at us louder, since we didn’t seem to “get it” the first time.

    If I can reflect back to the person, be it a police officer, a judge, a lawmaker, a fellow parent, or anyone else WHAT MATTERS TO THEM when they are asserting their “concern,” it does two things: it immediately communicates that I am hearing them (not hearing their advice, but hearing what’s behind it) and that we are sharing the values in common. This is important, because if the person isn’t imagining they’ve been heard, they’ll likely tell me again and again. And if they imagine that we are not unified, the same, at the most human level, they will continue to see me not as a fellow traveller but as a label: “bad parent,” “neglectful parent,” “lazy parent,” “irresponsible parent,” etc.

    Sure. I know. We “shouldn’t have to do this.” People “should just let us do things the way we are wanting to do them with our kids, and leave us alone.” And when they don’t leave us alone, and when the laws don’t reflect respect for autonomy, then what? Do we sit around grinding our teeth and deriding the way things are, or do we take action?

    For me, action comes in the form of empathy. If nothing else, I show up in each one of these conversations in a way that leaves me satisfied that I have behaved with love and compassion, and, after all, why else am I here? When I get a chance to model that for my children, it is a gift to me and to them. I welcome opportunities to navigate conflicts with compassion, because inevitably, I find, the connections that end up being made are truly profound.

    We all want the same things: well-being, thriving, growth, and joy for our children. All children. Sending out that message, again and again, that we all want those same things, even if our strategies are different, is an important one. It reminds people that there is no right and wrong, there are just strategies that meet everyone’s needs and strategies that don’t. And I love getting the chance to open up to new ways to have it all. It takes time, it takes energy, it takes love, and it takes a huge shift away from “us and them.” It’s radical, it’s different, it’s nonviolent.

    And, I find, it works pretty well. I don’t always get my way, but I get peace in my soul, and bring peace into the world, one moment at a time. That’s usually the way huge changes end up getting made, when each individual decides to show up a little differently…. it’s all I can do, my tiny part in my tiny life, but I trust that every bit of empathy I bring is a gift to the whole world, and to this Free Range Kids cause.

  66. Larry February 18, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    The problem with our child protection laws is the same as with all laws — We, as a culture, are so intent on the intent that we ignore the spirit.

    No one I think is against legal guidelines and standards intended to protect children, we’ve just forgotten what guidlines and standards are and have started legislating our laws as absolutes or at least as absolute requirements. AND have allowed them to be so vaque and ambiguous as to be meaningless as guidelines and terrifying as legal implements.

    We may not be able to demand clear and concise legal verbage in our laws, I’m not a jurist so have no idea what constitutes legal legalese. But I think we can, and should, demand clear and concise instructions on how a jury is to be instructed. From my read of the paper the lack of guidelines on jury instruction seems a major factor that we, as citizens, can address. Just a thought.

  67. mollie February 19, 2012 at 12:26 am #

    “We are so intent on the intent”

    I see it another way. I see that we are so intent on judgement and blame and criticism that we cannot see “intent” at all. It takes discipline to set judgement aside and become curious about what is actually the root motivator… the values the person was trying to support.

    I can celebrate the motivation for what you did, whether it was fun, ease, play, power, connection, nurturing, growth, autonomy… all things that every human values. I can also mourn the strategy that you applied to try to get at those things, if it didn’t work for me. Just because I share the needs doesn’t mean I agree with the strategy.

    And again, it goes both ways. I celebrate the needs for safety, order, security, and well-being that many laws have as their motivation. I don’t love the way they are drafted, or the way they get interpreted by juries or the verdicts handed down. But I can always see that what people are aiming for is something that I value myself.

    Intent is what it’s all about, in my view. What was I aiming for when I sent my child alone to walk to school? Can the CPS worker, school administrator, police officer, ex-spouse, “concerned” neighbour hear how I share the same values they have… that all people everywhere have? Can I foster an environment of mutual respect and positive action? What can I do with my mouth, my typed words, to support that?

    Most people agree that Jim Crow laws were a flawed strategy, perhaps aiming at order, predictability, and sustainability for the region in which they were applied. Martin Luther King advocated for the use of nonviolence, for empathy, to bring about change. There is undeniable power in empathy.

  68. J.T. Wenting February 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    LRH, just saying you can’t ignore the law. If you don’t like the law, try to get it changed. If you don’t like a proposed law, try to stop it getting passed.

    Just saying “I don’t like this law so it doesn’t apply to me” isn’t going to work in the long term (unless you have the political clout to order courts and police around of course).

  69. ladydon February 24, 2012 at 1:08 am #

    i feel the laws try to force perfection when it come to children ,the truth is perfection live in non of us,and this is with every law, its often carried out in a very narrow minded way