The fact that a question like that — “How safe is it to let young children run errands alone?” — is fodder for a news article just shows the era we are living in. An era when normal childhood activities, as well as normal parental decisions, are framed as a threat. Or at least something that requires an “expert” opinion.
(As if, by the way, there’s a single answer that covers all kids, everywhere.)
That “How safe?” question was just one of cascade of safety queries sent to me by a network reporter. I answer several of them over at Let Grow today, and I try to weave in a little reality checking with each response. For instance:
When a parent is thinking, “It is safe to let my child run some errands alone?” they should also be thinking, “It is safe NOT to let my child do anything independently, considering the serious mental health issues that are going up as childhood independence is going down?”
It’s not that parents haven’t always tried to balance safety, convenience, and growth. It’s that parents usually ask each other, or their own parents. Or they feel confident enough to wing it.
But in a culture that is telling us our kids are in constant danger, and WE are in danger of being considered lax to the point of criminal, it’s very hard to default to trust.
Nonetheless, that’s what the Free-Range movement is trying to do: Bring back not just childhood independence, but trust in our kids, ourselves, our fellow humans. Without trust, we are left with a very small world, and a whole lot of time spent supervising our kids when they are developmentally ready to start exploring the world.
Yes, the Netflix show, “Old Enough,” pushes the limits of what kids can do at a very young age (including 2-year-olds going grocery shopping), but the basic point is that the sooner we start trusting our kids with some independence, the sooner they become … independent. Confident. Competent.
It shouldn’t be controversial to allow our kids to flourish.