Thanksgiving with Dr. Phil

You know you need Dr. Phil if you’re watching him on Thanksgiving. But if indeed you do tune in, you’ll see a rerun of “Extreme Moms.” One of them is me.

Extreme?

I’m on the show as the mom who let her 9-year-old take the subway alone, a fact that will be chiseled on my tombstone. But really I’m there, I think, as a foil for the other moms who worry so much about their children’s safety that they hardly ever let them out of their sight. Literally.

Not to give too much away, but it sure felt like Dr. Phil didn’t really consider me extreme. He seems to believe the same thing a lot of us on this web site do: That, given love and preparation, children are usually more capable than we think. Also that we make them less confident and competent the more we try to “save” them from the everyday vicissitudes of life.

A middle school here in New York City just gave its sixth graders an extra credit “Free Range” project: Do something on your own that, for one reason or another, you never tried. The 11-year-olds jumped into action and did everything from making dinner to baking a cake to walking to school – all the kind of sweet, simple things they would have been doing without a second thought a generation or so earlier.

What was different was their trepidation: “I thought they were going to abduct me,” wrote a young man who took the subway solo home from soccer on a Saturday morning. A girl who made herself a sunny side-up egg admitted, “I was scared. I didn’t want to burn myself.” Another boy walked proudly five blocks to and from the grocery only to find out at the end that his mom had trailed him the whole way, through one of New York’s fanciest neighborhoods. She didn’t trust him to make his way safely.

This kind of fear gets passed on from the culture to the parents to the kids. “Extreme” may be one word for parents trying to buck it, but another word is “old-fashioned.” Or even, “confident.” Or even, “sane.”

In an era when a walking a couple blocks is considered daring for a 6th grader, I guess it’s no surprise that “sane” and “extreme” are one and the same.

Happy  Thanksgiving. I’ll be there, in all my extremeness, in your living room. —  Lenore

 

51 Responses to Thanksgiving with Dr. Phil

  1. kherbert November 25, 2008 at 9:56 am #

    I’m going to set my Tivo – since I’ll be with family while a group of cousins ages 5, 4, 3, 1, and almost 1 run wild in the back yard. Then Saturday run wild on our farm.

    When I was in JH and Sis was in elementary school. A schoolmate was kidnapped for ransom. She escaped with the help of strangers because we were taught self defense in a very non-threatening way as part of PE. He was caught. The next school day we all walked to school as usual – past the buffalo and under the sky scrapers. (I grew up in Houston and yes there were buffalo in the field next to the elementary school.)

  2. Mrs. Olsen November 25, 2008 at 1:56 pm #

    Thanks for taking the fall for all of us. Or at least, helping us realize we grew up free-range and we’re not bad parents if we do some of these things.

  3. dianeinjapan November 25, 2008 at 3:27 pm #

    Hope I can catch this episode of Dr. Phil. You’re certainly giving people something interesting to think about. Here in Japan, my own children are currently living the kind of “free range” life that was common in the U.S. when I was a young child (okay, actually about a decade before I was born…). Kids walk and ride their bikes everywhere, alone or in groups. And they play outside in common areas, not fenced in their own “yards.”

  4. Irina November 25, 2008 at 3:55 pm #

    I just can’t get my brain round eleven-year-olds who can’t walk six blocks on their own. Is it that different in the US? We’re in the Netherlands, and my middle daughter took a train to Belgium (five hours, four changes) to visit a friend at thirteen and a bit. She did have a detailed travel plan (on her own request) and texted us when she arrived (on our request), but we trust her to be, well, sane. (And all of our teenagers can cook, bake cakes and clean their own room– we must be an extreme family!)

  5. Uly November 25, 2008 at 10:58 pm #

    Irina, I suspect – I don’t *know* – that this is a concern of wealthier families, both the excessive fear and the worry that they’re not giving their kids enough freedom due to excessive fear.

    I live in NYC just like our resident blogger, but in a poor-ish neighborhood. I routinely see third graders walking home by themselves – a slightly-over-half-mile walk, past a *dangerous* crossing (that crossing alone was why my younger niece isn’t going to the local school. She’s actually going to one closer that’s “local” for kids in a well different neighborhood who have to be bussed, in a weird quirk of the public school system)

    I also routinely see kids at the playground or library, either unsupervised (from the fourth grade or so up) or supervised only by an older sibling when the older sibling is no more than 13 or 14 and the little one is as young as 5 or 4.

    A ten year old girl down the block from me – sorry, she’s nine – is allowed to pick up a babysitting charge from daycare a good 15 minute walk away – an 18 month old – and bring her to her mother to watch for the afternoon.

    All the kids on my block play in the street, and kids from surrounding blocks play on our street as well (because we’re a very quiet street surrounded by three busy ones, so the kids can’t play on their *own* streets. That really isn’t safe, there really are a lot of accidents already.) And when I say they play on the street, I mean they play *on the street*, with their parents inside, from the time they’re five or so – younger if they have older siblings. The older of the kids have spent whole summers constructing moveable skateboard ramps, playing basketball in the street, hiding in the most improbable locations, picking our mint (we let them do that), going hither and yon. Last year some of the kids played football on the street every night during the summer.

    But when I speak to friends of mine who live in wealthier neighborhoods, they think it’s insane. Oh, it “must be nice”, but they couldn’t do it, it’s “not safe”. They have the money to have somebody constantly supervising their kids, and that’s what they do.

  6. Uly November 25, 2008 at 10:59 pm #

    Edit: When I say “slightly over half a mile” to get from school to home, I mean from their school to *my* home. Some of these kids live closer to their school than I do, others are clearly further away.

  7. Uly November 25, 2008 at 11:01 pm #

    Edit again: I had a point there, and that point is that these kids – like her own kid – do take the bus in the fourth grade. But they don’t go in the news because, of course, it’s expected that they take the bus by themselves to get to school and home. Their mom and dad can’t spend their lives doing that for them!

  8. HeatGirl November 25, 2008 at 11:15 pm #

    I am amazed at the concept that cooking is so dangourous! I remeber when I was 10 one summer I went on a baking spree… cakes, cookies, cream puffs, ect. Eventually I made a “spiderweb cake” which required carmelizing sugar and then stringing the hot sugar over small creampuffs circling the cakes… 10 year old with boiling sugar….

    I don’t remember when I was first allowed to cook, but I have a picture of me covered with flour and a cookie on a spatula at 6, with mom standing there smiling… And I still have all my fingers!

    How do we expect our kids to learn things if we don’t let them do anything….

  9. Nerida November 26, 2008 at 7:24 am #

    I am so glad I found this blog and comments. This is a topic so dear to my heart.

    I just wrote a lengthy rant about parents driving their kids to school – but I’ve deleted it all because really, it was just a whinge. So I’ll try to make a coherent point instead.

    I live in a tiny rural town and on the whole the kids are allowed, and able, to do a lot more on their own then their city peers. It’s surprising to see that even here, there are parents who over supervise and cater for their kids.

    I’m not immune to worry and fear for my child. I think that’s perfectly normal and reasonable. But I think becomes a problem when a parent fears feeling fear. So they cosset their children, call it love, and stunt the kid’s development and keep them dependant and fearful.

    How can we send them off into the world as adults if they’ve never had to work out how to solve problems, manage money, shop, cook, be kind to people, recognise danger…no wonder kids never seem to leave home!

    Anyway, I’m ranting again! Have a great Thanksgiving all those who are celebrating.

  10. Jessica Saefudin November 26, 2008 at 9:17 am #

    I’m from Australia, and managed to catch an episode of your film, im 18 years old and i know from observing my friends and how their parents control them. i believe some parents have a natural instinct to caring and worrying about the well being of their children, but there comes a point when they are too extreme in controlling their children. i have a group of friends whom their parents have a strict leash on what they are allowed to do, some of them are 18 in which in Australia is the legal age to do such things as go clubbing, drink alcohol and quite frankly the age your deemed and adult. although the definition of that, is such where its a learning process i believe this process is hindered by their strict and rash decisions. ive seen some of my friends retaliate and rebel, i observe the cyclical actions of which if the child is depressed or upset by their parents controlling nature, they defend their parents for their actions one day and complain about it he next. In an ideal world, what you say about allowing children to roam the streets on their own, tailored with that depth of responsibility and learning experience i would love to experience and have my own children experience just the same.

    We are going on a trip called schoolies next monday, and already some of the girls have their licenses but the parents wont allow us to drive even if though it is an hour away opposed to most other teens our age whom are traveling by plane to a completely different state. Its a time in which the parents should allow their kids to have a weekend of being on their own, relaxing after exams and hanging with friends, theyre parents have meetings to discuss without confiding decisions to use relating to how we are getting to the place we’re staying at, its very annoying and we wont even be having a car at the place, not even one, i wonder how we’re going to be able to get around!!! i dont know how i would be able to deal with that, my parents care but im glad i have more leniency than their parents.

  11. Carole Pemberton November 26, 2008 at 10:16 am #

    The Dr. Phil show, featuring your segment, is screening in Australia as I tap this Lenore and I felt that I had to make an important and relevant point about ‘stranger danger’ – a fear that seems to be the major catalyst in the extremely protective behaviour of parents.

    Statistics show that the majority of child abusers are not strangers but are KNOWN to the child. What do we do now then, close down scout groups, choirs, camps, stop car pooling, baby sitting opportunities for our teens and keep guard outside bedrooms during ‘sleep overs?

    I list these ‘exposure zones’ in no order with no pointing finger but known child abusers have found their prey in similar locations, not to mention the ‘family get togethers’!

    Surely we are not going to let a deviate minority dictate how we raise our children? We need to teach them to embrace the wholesomeness and joy of life which means equipping them to self protect, develop high self esteem and and ssertiveness in being in charge of their bodies.

    To really ‘protect ‘your teenager, ensure that they receive comprehensive sex and relationship education so that they are in control of their own future and do not fall prey to sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies.

    The majority of us ‘out there’ DO have a duty of care to our young people and they WILL be safe – but on their own, after a few drinks, in the heat of passion in the back seat of car????

    Let’s divert our ‘extreme’ energy from ‘over protecting’ our teens into supporting sexual health curriculums in schools (including how to say no) and talking to them about protecting themselves from sexual exploitation.

  12. Jane November 26, 2008 at 10:19 am #

    I’ve just started watching the Dr Phil episode and had to check out this website as soon as it was mentioned… I’m a single Mum in Australia and I can’t tell you how good it is to know that there are other parents that are as supportive of their children’s independence as I am. I am constantly criticized by my friends and other parents because I encourage my children to learn how to do things for themselves and gain their own independence just as I was expected to. I’m a professional in a high profile career and the only reason I have come as far as I have is because my parents gave me the responsibilities and freedom I needed to be an independent and successful adult. I love that my 12 and 9 year old are able to do just about anything they need to and get themselves anywhere they need to go – they’re street smart, they’re responsible and they’re happy. It’s a big relief and very reassuring to know that other parents think along the same lines. Thanks, this site has made me feel MUCH better :).

  13. Chrissie November 26, 2008 at 10:57 am #

    Hi Lenore,
    The Dr Phil show on which you appeared has just aired here in Australia. I think that you children are blessed to have such a brilliant Mum. You should have your own TV show, Kind of like how Supernanny does. So many people could learn so much from you. Some Mums do absolutely everything for their children and it is SO wrong.
    I have two girls, one 19 and on 23 and they have grown to be very happy and well-rounded people who will make amazing contributors to society.
    It is a parents responsibility to to assist your children to become fully functioning adults who will take educated risks in life.
    You go girl!!!
    Chrissie
    Gold Coast
    Australia

  14. Sarah M November 26, 2008 at 9:33 pm #

    I just asked my MIL to dvr it–(we don;t even have basic cable at our house!)–can’t wait to see you in your free range glory!
    PS-super interesting project outcomes–baking a cake and walking to school! THe madness! :)

  15. Virtual Linguist November 26, 2008 at 10:26 pm #

    Lenore, you are in Oxford University Press’s (UK) Words of the Year 2008 with free range kids. You’ll be in next year’s book with extreme mom!

  16. The Spokesrider November 27, 2008 at 1:57 am #

    I wonder if some of the problem of over-protective parents (surely not all of it) is due to smaller families. Parents of 5 or 6 children can’t possibly hover over their kids to the extent they watch over 1-2 children.

    I’m the oldest of 5, and as I grew older I slightly resented the fact that my younger siblings got a lot more freedom than I did. By the time they got to kids #4 and #5, my parents were a lot more relaxed about the whole business. It’s probably a common story. I sometimes joke about it now and give the younger ones (now 50-somethings) a hard time about it.

    Not saying we need to have larger families, of course. Just that we need to recognize what provokes us to act the way we do.

  17. Trisha November 27, 2008 at 11:51 am #

    I’m another Aussie and I’m so glad I saw you on Dr Phil. I’ve been feeling guilty about leaving my kids in the bath unsupervised. One is a six year old, very responsible intelligent girl, the other is a nearly-two year old boy. I know for a fact that my daughter is so safety conscious that she will (and does) call me if the boy gets as much as a splash of water on his face. He’s not going to drown while she’s with him. I made that decision based on knowing my kids.

    Yet some stupid magazine made me feel bad because it said “Never leave a toddler in the bath supervised by a child.” I understand that a baby should never be unsupervised, and some children, no matter what the age, aren’t responsible enough to look out for a sibling.

    Though, how many 6 year olds would watch a toddler (who can sit up and walk around very well) drown in a bath right next to them?

    I have a feeling that the toddler could do okay without any supervision at all, but I’m not taking that risk, because drowning is possible if he hits his head hard or something like that.

    I’m not recommending anyone else do what I’m doing, but I think we should be able to judge for ourselves what our kids can handle and what they can’t.

  18. Trisha November 27, 2008 at 11:53 am #

    I just want to add that I taught my daughter exactly what to call me for – if he hurts himself, if he touches the taps (don’t want burns), if his head goes under the water for more than a tiny splash. She takes it all very seriously and calls me if in any doubt.

  19. Jack's Mom November 28, 2008 at 4:13 am #

    Just a message of support. My son is a free-range kid and thriving. He started taking public transportation to school alone in Grade 4 and now 3 years on is very capable and confident. Meanwhile, his classmates are still wrapped in cotton wool! Oh well one kid at a time.

  20. Angel November 28, 2008 at 4:15 am #

    Hi, I am from canada so I can watch it because it is not thanks giving, but Happy thanks giving to you!

    You seem to be a very caring mom, interested in the well being of your children… I believe that I would have been a very scared adult if my mom had not allowed me to be independent. I love how you prepared your son and made sure that he was ready, he seems intelligent and out going and would know to ask for help from someone if needed.

    When I was in elementary school, a man chased me and asked me to come with him, I ran into a donut shop, where a nice lady helped me and bought me a pop and called my mom… the man watched me and then left. I know if my mom had not prepared me, this could have been very bad. It isn’t about the state of the world, it is about preparing your children for the world and then sending them into it….

    Well done!

  21. Annee November 28, 2008 at 4:31 am #

    Just wanted to say Bravo…..I and every child in my neighbourhood were free range kids, We never had play dates but simply went next door and “called on” our friends to come out and play….we had sleepovers and went to summercamp, we walked to school by ourselves and went to the park and library without our parents. I would love for my child to have these experiences but if I even suggest it I feel judged. Thank you for showing me that there are other “normal” mothers out there that know that we grew up “OK” and we were free range….so why not our children? I teach high school and I see the effects of different parenting in the extremes…and let me tell you helicopter parents seem to produce children who can not make a choice for themselves and in the worst cases are easily influences by elements that are not the best. Love your children but let them grow and live….humans have survived the worst of conditions and in many cases excelled….if you don’t let them make mistakes they will never make great accomplishments either.
    so thank you again and keep up this blog…I will definatly be awaiting your book and want to give you an award for mom of the year…way to go !!!!

  22. pearl November 28, 2008 at 6:11 am #

    I am actually watching you right now Leonore.. and am shocked to see the child molesters’ concentration in the area your son has been so that worries me.

    However crazy it sounds, I do think you are very brave to have given him this experience though and wish you and your family a great thanksgiving.. now I’ll watch the rest of the show… :)

  23. Hilary November 28, 2008 at 6:17 am #

    I’m watching as I type. I have to admit that one of my sons would only give me only slight pause at that age, whereas the other would have not likely been as capable. My boys are different. Same parenting.. different kidlets. You have to know your child, your surroundings, your expectations.

    You come across as totally reasonable.. and amusing. :)

  24. Beth November 28, 2008 at 6:18 am #

    When I was a kid my mother wouldn’t let the babysitter let me out to play with the other kids after school because she would “worry” and wouldn’t be able to work. As a result I sat in a chair for hours every afternoon until they came to pick me up. Maybe after another 40-50 years in therapy I’ll forget about the trauma of THAT :)

    BUT! When I was about 14 and my best friend a year younger, they let her 17 year-old sister drive us both down to NYC to visit their oldest sister. That sister took us out, explained to us exactly how to ride the subway, the busses, cabs, etc. She taught us how to act, what kind of attitude to have in the city, who not to talk to what to do. To make a long story short, I never felt so empowered in my whole life.

    My friend and I were having the time of our lives and learning so much on these trips to New York and I never felt more secure in my whole life.

    The next year we did the same thing on a trip to Montreal with my parents and they were absolutey horrified when they found out where we had been all afternoon when they were busy with our car that had broken down. We had taken the Metro downtown and explored the city.

    I’m still getting over lack of confidence and self-esteen in many aspects of my life but that is one area I NEVER have any trouble with, and I’ve travelled all over the country and the world on my own and always feel great. Thanks for listening.

  25. Christine November 28, 2008 at 6:26 am #

    I just want to say that I think what you did was fantastic. I also believe in teaching my children “stranger danger” and think that we are strangling the future generations with tight chin straps and way too many “helmet laws”. My nine year old son, cooks, cleans and is responsible for his little sister when I let them free range in our neighbourhood.
    Granted we don’t know our neighbours as well as we used to but I bet they would help keep my children safe if they saw them in danger. I would do it for others.

  26. Elaine November 28, 2008 at 6:38 am #

    The Dr. Phil episode where I first heard of “free range kids” is still playing in the background. I watched the first 20 minutes and thought “parenting with a little common sense, finally”. Having been a free range kid when I was young, I can definitely say it’s the best way to go.

    I don’t have children of my own but if I ever do have any, teaching them awareness and letting them experience some of life on their own is healthy and actually allows them to “live” their lives and not go through it like drones. It also prepares them for their lives ahead of them. I know a whole bunch of people who have their children/nieces/nephews almost living in caves because of control issues or irrational fears of the world. Kudos to you, Lenore, for bringing this to the limelight.

  27. CDO November 28, 2008 at 7:14 am #

    I have raised my kids, now ages 23 and 20 and we live in a small forested community. I know from living in a large city that I always felt safer there, as there are so many people keeping an eye, or available to help.

    I wish my kids could have been more free range in our country community. I recall when I gave the kids more freedom to walk home, by cutting through a campground, but to this day, they never liked it and felt too isolated and alone in the woods. I do believe if they were raised in a city I would have given them the same opportunities that you are giving your son.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  28. ollie morrrison November 28, 2008 at 8:40 am #

    Hi Lenore,
    I am a 62 year old gramma and have 3 grandkids living in BC over 2000 miles away. I’m trying to sell my house so I can go there and help my son look after them.
    I have come up with a name for today’s kids. I call it the Gazelle Syndrome. When I was growing up and my son as well, there were so many kids out playing in the streets,hopscotch,ball hockey, climbing trees, swimming in the lake and so on.
    Now it’s a rare treat to see kids outside having fun and because there are so few kids, the freaks will actually go into peoples houses to get the kids.
    The lions are hungry and if they can’t attack the herd, they will go after a straggler which is one kid allowed to walk to school.
    What you did with your son was probably the best thing you will ever do for him. He might be the lone Gazelle out there but he will always be the smartest.
    You are a wonderful parent.
    Ollie Morrison

  29. TheMommason November 28, 2008 at 8:45 am #

    I was beyond free range as a kid. My Mom was a single Mom when that was not the norm. My brother and I can remember at me 8 him 6 us walking 2 miles to school with breakfast at a restaurant I will not name and totally blow my age cover. I baby sat babies at 10. One time at 11 I decided I wanted to see the St. Pats Day festivities. I rode my bike the 5 miles to downtown, ended up IN the parade, Winning a costume contest and invited to one of the finest must be at parties in the town. All alone.

    But then one day walking home from school I was stalked by a “nice guy” that followed me home and raped me. This man had molested 16 other girls in my home town.

    I’m sure you would call me a hoover mom. I slowly allow the growth. You all will laugh your heads off at my “break through” limits I am sure but they were huge for me.

    1st was at 7 I let him go out for the first time with the other kids in the ocean and stayed on the beach with the other parents. He is now allowed to play in the pool or ocean without me having to be with him.
    A few weeks ago we had forgotten something in frozen foods area and instead of going back to get it after paying for what we had I let him go and get it. Yes I was scared and you may think it is stupid but we do have to give these progressive freeness in a way that both parent and child can feel safe.

    I applaud your information. I don’t judge your decision it works for you…..definitely would not work for me.

    The judging of each others style is not beneficial. we need to always put more effort into supporting and helping each other find the paths that can help us all help our kids.

    My way is little steps with lots of two way communication which are of course coming faster now as he is entering pre-teen land.
    Hugs to all and Happy Thanksgiving,
    The Mom

  30. Crystal November 28, 2008 at 10:12 am #

    HEY..
    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

    I am SICK of mothers who let their children do NOTHING.
    My daughter was walking to school at the beginning of the year, (5 blocks) and the school called Social Services! They told me to have her ride the bus. A 3 block walk and a WAIT by the side of the road! HOW REDICULOUS!
    I’m in total agreement with your parenting, and only wish people could open their eyes and see what they are REALLy doing to their children.
    And before anyone BASHES over “child predators” etc.. REMEMBER, Adam Walsh was obducted less than 2 feet away from his mom!!

  31. Kim November 28, 2008 at 11:39 am #

    I don’t normally watch Dr. Phil but happened to be home today painting my bathroom and while waiting for the first coat to dry I caught the show. I think what you said made perfect sense and also got the feeling that Dr. Phil agreed with you. Parents who are constantly making their children think that the world is a dangerous environment are setting them up to be fearful people who won’t be able to take responsibilty for themselves. And, as evidenced by the rebellious 17 year old on the show today, the begin to revolt against the limits put on their freedom and independence. I believe that with good communication and preparedness, kids can do alot more on their own than they seem to be allowed to these days.

    I also had a free range childhood. My friends and I spent summers swimming in a river beside a railroad track with no adult supervision. We all taught ourselves to swim and no one drowned or got hit by a train. We built cabins in the woods from leftover scraps from construction sites and slept in them during the summer nights. I walked to school with friends since I was 5 years old, even in the rain or snowstorms and always made it home. There were scary people in our town but we had the smarts to be able to recognize them and knew how to get help if we needed it. I now live in a large city and have 3 sons. My oldest, who is 21 now, has been travelling on the subway and getting around the city on his own since he was 10. My middle son is 17 and has low vision and is considered legally blind. He also knows how to get around completely on his own, a skill he MUST have to make it as an adult in his situation. My youngest son is 12 and is one of only 3 students in his class who walk to school (about a mile and a half from our home). Everyone else is driven by their mothers…pretty astounding. I think this blog is a great idea and hope some of these “helicopter moms” I saw on the show today take a look at it and learn something.

  32. Shelley November 28, 2008 at 12:19 pm #

    When I was 9 and my brother 13, my family moved from AZ to UT. When we arrived with the first load of our things, we discovered that the house had been broken into(it had sat vacant for 5 years, we later found out it was teenagers just goofing around). My parents wanted the house to look lived in while we returned to AZ for more things, so my 13 year old brother lived there alone, during the summer for 6 weeks. Most people would be appalled. My Mom would run to the store(about an hour), and leave us home alone when I was 4 and he was 8. There were rules and we followed them. When I was 7, I broke my leg in a motorcycle accident, I was wearing a helmet. My brother and I have fallen off or out of bicycles, motorcycles, horses, trees, swings and many other things. We were bumped, bruised, scraped and highly INDEPENDENT!! We had a GREAT childhood and we learned a lot.
    I wonder what happens to extreme moms when their kids are adults. Do they still panic? If so, my brother now flies Cessnas and I work on a Train..perish the thought….

  33. Eddy Rolet November 28, 2008 at 1:42 pm #

    I must congratulate “extreme mom” who appeared on Dr Phill.

    I reside in Australia and we have had some discussions of late where it has been said that
    we have created a fear of pedohpiles at each corner.

    Speaking to my mother of 73 about this topic she informed me that predetors had always been there. She went on to say that it is the media that has provided us with the impression that there are more now than ever before. Per head of population the number would be the same as years prior.

    I am a single father who had undertaken a youth work certificate and I was alarmed by the ideologies that the mothers had in our class. They viewed all men as potential pedohpiles and the single moms or dating mothers would never leave their children alone with their partner. Fellow students had said that women should always be the primary carers of children and had even gone as far to say even if a mother was allowing a released child sex offender to care for her kids she sould still be the primary carer. The TAFE counsellor when I had disclosed this had even said to me when I expressed my concerns “listen Eddy mothers will always be the primary carersof children and you need to accept that”.

    Is it strangers that we need to worry about? I say no!! The majority of perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assault against young children are male siblings. As I had mentioned this to my class fellow students and teachers had ignored me for a whole month. On the last day of the course a guest speaker had confirned my disclosure. No opologies where frorthcoming.

    I know of a case where a mother would allow a released child sex offender care for her children. His son who sexually assaulted the daughter was also permited to care for the children. The father attempted to obtain custody of the children as to take them out of that environment but instead of awarding him the children he was labelled as nurotic and mentally unstable. It did not mater to the court that there where reports and disclosures by the children. The family courts reason for not awarding him the children was because the children where stable in there new environment and he did not want to uproot them after travelling 480km to relocate the year prior. Ten years later it turns out that the children are suffering from PTSD, ODD, CD and severe anxieties.

    IMO because we have forgotten how to say NO to our children and this is the reason why they are driven everywhere. The excuse of them being in danger is also another excuse as we do not wish to argue with our children.

    I am often told that being lazy is what teenagers are about. Wrong, we have desensitized ourselves by no longer being consistant with out bounderies and avoid being argumentive with our children. We give them what they want and when a parent stands by their values and beliefs they are judged as abusive parents to their peers and the childrens peers.

  34. Angelique Smith November 28, 2008 at 6:22 pm #

    I am so in agreement with you! I walked a mile accross town everyday to get to elementry school! No one abducted me or tried to sell me drugs. I have 3 young children and they will absolutely be free range, self-secure, free thinking human beings! Our society has tried to shield children from everything, thus crippling them from the ability to properly deal with the situations of life.

  35. Eddy Rolet November 30, 2008 at 7:48 am #

    Conrgatulations to teh founder of this web site.

    As my mother (73) had recently said perpetrators have always been around and it is the media and freedom of speech that has given the impression that there are more around that prior years. In reality there isn’t if you compare it by head of population as years past.

    Being overprotective will in fact drive ones children out of the home sooner therefore they are not ready for the real world. Here in Australia motehrs are saying increased traffic around schools being the reason why they drive there kids. Who is ctreating that traffic?

    the past 3 decades has seen many changes. Our economy requires both parents to work, we have become materialistic which has rubbed onto our kids, children are having sex earlier, there is an increase in binge drinking, there is an increase in the use of party drugs, we have allowed our children to swear in front of adults, we let them stay out later on school nights and we have let them be on chat rooms until all hours of the morning.

    So has that created. The need to be resilient where over the decades it has become the “norm” in teenage behaviour. To be resilient means that one must put aside there values and beliefs on how they treated dults as a teenager. As a result of the need to build up resilience and all the material posetions that we and tehyu demand leavesus with little energy to be consistant with our parenting and disiplin. It is easier for us to serve on our children then to say “no you can walk that half mile to your friends”. It is even easier to say “I fear that a predetor will get my child” than to say “no you can walk that half mile to your friends”. Don’t you think that our kids have picked up on this and use this to their advantage? Wake up! They place themselves in more danger that what we may by letting them catch a train, bus or to just waIk down the road. We need to teach our kids how to protect themselves. We need to teach our children to be problem solvers. We need to teach our kids that most predetors are people we know.

    It is sad to hear that many mothers who are dating or in de-facto relationship will not leave their child alone with their new partner. It is sad to see that they see each and every mabn as a potential pedophile. It is even sadre for a man to think taht he is looked upon as that. Lets get real and teach our kids the real meaning of life.

  36. Cody November 30, 2008 at 8:45 am #

    Listen, I am 13 years old and I would appresiate it if my mom would let me be a little more “free” but i think that it is outregous that you let your son travel ALONE?! c;mon i was reading the newspaper the other day and a girl maybe about 16 or 17 got into a gypsey cab and was never seen again. Is that what you want to happen to your son? I know you think that he is around many people but all someone has to do is put clorophorm over his mouth and then pretend thathis son is ver tired. See what I just thought of? AND IM ONLY 13!! Think what a rapist who has kidnapped 3 or 4 kids before! What will he do?! Listen, I’m not saying that you should completley stop giving him freedom,I’m saying that you should let him travel or go out with a couple of his friends and let him go to the mall or something. E-mail, I’m intersted to hear from you.

  37. Cody November 30, 2008 at 8:47 am #

    AND I FORGOT TO MENTION! Angelique, I bet when you walked across 1 mile, it was back in the 1980’s or 70’s. NEWS FLASH TIMES HAVE CHANGED!

  38. Uly November 30, 2008 at 9:58 am #

    Cody, doesn’t your mom supervise you on the internet?

    At any rate, times haven’t changed as much as you think. Trust me. I’m twice your age – and I know how to read statistics. It is safer now than when I grew up, and the world I grew up in was safer than the world a decade earlier.

  39. Andrea December 3, 2008 at 12:04 am #

    My mom was (and still tries to be) a helicopter mom. When I was in 4th and 5th grade, my mom wouldn’t let me walk to school without watching me all the way… and the school was LESS than a block away. She would also drive me to school (when I went to a different one) when I could have easily taken the bus. (We lived right across the street from the bus barn.) It has been like this for as long as I can remember. My brother and I weren’t allowed out of the yard unless she was watching. We could only ride our bike to the end of the block and back, but only if she was there.

    I could list on and on the things that I’ve haven’t been able to do by myself… up until recently my mom was still scheduling my doctor (hair, dentist, etc) appointments, and I’m 21 years old! I took a train ride for my 21st birthday that my mom almost “forbid” me to go through with. I lived in the house up until a few months ago. I’ve never been on a plane, I’ve only been on a train by myself once… and I think (besides moving) I’ve only been out of state by myself one other time. In my entire life!

    My mother’s helicopter parenting style definitely inhibited me… I’m afraid to do most things by myself. Walking down the street, shopping, getting my hair cut or going to a doctor’s appointment… since I moved (much to her dismay) I have had to completely rearrange my life! I have had to learn (in a VERY short time span) how to do things by myself. I’m scared of people and have a difficult time making friends (because I was made to believe that everyone is out to kill me), and my comfort zone is extremely small. If I’m pushed too far out of it, I’m prone to panic attacks.

    I can’t understand how ANYONE could think being a helicopter mom is a good idea. It does far more damage than it does good. I know from personal experience!

  40. Lori Haas December 3, 2008 at 4:03 am #

    I don’t think the mom that followed her son to the store was afraid that he would not make it on his own but of what someone else might attempt to do to him.

  41. jerry December 3, 2008 at 6:32 am #

    I think there’s a very fine line b/t protecting a child and hurting them…kids are not being allowed to think on their own for many reasons…tv, video games, and security being the top three…i personally would not let my 9 yr old ride the subway alone…takes just a second to steal a child…just a blink…

  42. Uly December 4, 2008 at 2:33 am #

    And how often does it happen, Jerry? Lori? How often are children actually taken by strangers from crowded areas?

    The answer to that question is “so rarely that you quite literally have a better chance of being struck by lightning”.

    You can’t live your life catering to imaginary fears. Take reasonable actions about the things that are *likely* to happen (and that you can can reasonably control without causing more harm than good) and ignore the rest.

  43. Cairenn December 5, 2008 at 1:07 am #

    !!Bravo!! to you Lenore!!!!

    I 100% support this method of teaching independence. My 16 year old daughter is an absolutely “fearless” being for understanding the “responsibility” of living. I have 100% Trust and Faith in her decision making knowing that she is willing and capable of accepting responsibility for her choices. We as parents need to learn to let our kids fly and fall freely and to support their decisions though they may not be what we would choose to do. This is how they learn Life and how we (as parents) learn to not feel the need to be so responsible for others therefore allowing more time to take care of ourselves and our own needs and desires.

    Cairenn

  44. melody December 5, 2008 at 4:13 am #

    I think that ‘free range kids’ is a great idea. My only issue is that I believe in waiting until double digits (10) for some of the things that have been suggested. My parents raised me to be independant and I wanted to give that to my kids.

    My daughter is in her 2nd year of university away from home and doing well. We talk on the phone all of the time but she has the skills and confidence in herself to function effectively on her own. That has not been the case with many of her friends – they depend too much on their parents to do their laundry, cook, grocery shop, and even nag them to do their homework! She still has some things come up – how to cook a certain thing – or how do you get this stain out of that — but I am so proud of how she is doing.

  45. Tracee Sioux December 12, 2008 at 11:37 am #

    Dr. Phil – exciting. I don’t think what you did was that extreme. I’m with you.

  46. kathy December 15, 2008 at 12:11 am #

    Good for you and for all free range kids and their parents! Our culture has developed a safety fetish that stunts kids and is only an illusion, anyway. Life means risk. My two daughters are now 21 and 24 and my husband and I agreed early on that we intended to raise confident, independent, adventurous girls. Those were far more important values than safety. Even 20 years ago, we were outside the norm because we let them walk to school alone, cook without constant adult supervision, and even smile and say hello to strangers. When they were learning to drive we insisted they drive in the Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul) and on the freeways. Our friends were aghast! I now work in academic administration at a graduate school and there are prospective students who come to visit our school with parents in tow! I’m stunned and wonder when/.how they will begin making grownup decisions on their own.

  47. elizabeth durel December 22, 2008 at 6:44 pm #

    Hi Lenore,

    I’m an American living in Norway and am currently about ten weeks from having our first baby.

    My husband and I are a bit older (late 30s) and are hoping that we can help our kids have the kind of childhood we had (wild and free summer days, science experiments, experiences, etc…).

    We hear alot about the helicopter parents, and while we both know it’s too early to predict what kind of parents we will be, we really are going to try to avoid it.

    So today, I am flipping around the channels, and this show popped up on Dr. Phil. I’m really enjoying watching it and think you make great sense. (Plus it makes me miss NYC terribly!) Izzy looks like he’s doing okay, too! The show is not even over yet, but I looked you up immediately.

    So thanks! I look forward to perusing your site.

    Happy holidays,

    Best,
    Elizabeth Durel

  48. Debbie December 24, 2008 at 9:50 pm #

    Well if your a bad mum please move over so I can fit on the chair with you.
    This year I allowed my son to fly from London to Australia alone, he is 15.
    He was on a tour with a Pipe band he is in and the people he was to fly home with had to pull out. He had been to Japan with the school all supervised but this trip was different. He was not labeled as “unsupervised Minor ” so had no one helping him. He had never flown international also let alone with an over night stop. He had to arrange his wake up call in London the cab to the airport, at Dubai he had to find his way to the motel get sorted have a wake up call for 1 am. Get himself to the airport board his flight to Queensland Aust then domestic to Sydney.
    We live in a small town in Australia so not alot of major public transport needed but thought i was concerned i had faith in him.
    One thing i believe your son will cope so much better in an emergency than those who have parents who think for them

  49. kim December 27, 2008 at 6:31 am #

    I’m not saying the concept here is wrong, but it seems your answers have to do with not trusting the child to do something, cook something, arrive somewhere safely. The reality is, a 10 year old does not have the intrinsic knowledge to know when a situation is safe or not, and no way in hell would I allow a 10 year old to ride the subway or light rail train (by me) alone. High school, sure, but no way at 10. It’s not about trusting the child, it’s not trusting the freaks out there these days. When we were kids? When we were kids, kids weren’t getting killed and raped every day. Kids weren’t being murdered for the brand of shoes they have on their feet. There are certainly ways to foster independence and adventure in a child without endangering them.

  50. Ruadhan January 6, 2009 at 10:59 am #

    RE Uly’s quote I had a point there, and that point is that these kids – like her own kid – do take the bus in the fourth grade. But they don’t go in the news because, of course, it’s expected that they take the bus by themselves to get to school and home. Their mom and dad can’t spend their lives doing that for them!

    Thinking about it, i think you may be on to something here. I live in the Ann Arbor, MI area — exactly between Ann Arbor (which is painfully middle class) and Ypsilanti, MI (the small city right next to Ann Arbor, which is very working-class), and while the wealthier middle-class of A2 at least understands that Ann Arbor is a “safe, college town” and I regularly see pre-teens on the bus by themselves, kids wearing clothing obviously too expensive to be Ypsi kids, the chatter between mothers concerned about “safety” and how they’re “so glad to live in Ann Arbor, where it’s safe, and not Detroit or Chicago or Manhatten, where their kids will surely get abducted and raped on the bus to school” just strikes me as bizarre. You overhear the Ypsi mothers talking about their kids amongst each-other and it’s comments about how Little Bobby is acting like he can’t do X by himself, and Mom says to her friend that she just snapped back at him and said “don’t give me that BS, I raised you to have the good sense to do it, now do it.”

    RE: Kim —When we were kids? When we were kids, kids weren’t getting killed and raped every day. Kids weren’t being murdered for the brand of shoes they have on their feet.

    Yes they were. It just wasn’t ending up in the newspapers, cos the middle and upper classes saw those things as a quirk of the working classes and didn’t want to call attention to those issues amongst their own children, and couldn’t be bothered with the occurrences amongst “those people’s children”.

  51. Anette - Swedish mom February 1, 2009 at 5:13 pm #

    I saw the show in Sweden today. My husband is American and when we were first married we lived in the States. When it was time to have kids (we now have four 14, 16, 18, 20) we did not want to live in the States. Here they have the freedom started taking the bus to school when they were 6. The oldest on her own and then they always had an older sibling with them on the bus. The year they turn 13 we have sent them on their own to the States for 6 weeks. It is about that time (especially for girls) that they start feeling the need to break loose. It was a great experience of freedom for them, even though they went to family and had tickets for unaccompanied youth. Now the oldest will interrail through Europe, fly to Irland to visit friends, fly to Spain with friends to celebrate graduation. It is so natural for them. One big relief for us as parents is that they have decided not to drink but they are around friends that do. They have ended up in difficult situations and managed which is great..

    When the American culture is discussed abroad, double standards are one issue that come up. I wonder if that stems from the hovering up-bringing…We see a great difference from how our childrens cousins are brought up in the States.

    As encouragement, there are always some freedom you can give to your child to train them. If you trust them, respect them you will get that back from your children.