American Child Protection Workers Would Investigate All Parents in Europe


Here’s how we look to other, less fear-wracked countries. Boldface, mine. (And for contrast, see my yyazyhyzfb
piece in yesterday’s New York Post
about not expecting kids to walk to school):

Dear Free-Range Kids: I am from Germany and what I read on your webpage is really shocking for me. How did American parents get so paranoid and CPS professionals support that! I am a social worker and a mother of a 4 year old girl and a 6 year old boy. I work for the city of Regensburg at the youth department. Our CPS would NEVER even think about investigating Free-Range kids. Parents who are no giving their kids the possibility to play outside, go to playgrounds, walk to school are much more likely to be referred to CPS for counseling than Free-Range parents. The parents here who are helicoptering (Americans would probably see our helicoptering as Free-Range) are considered to be paranoid and not normal by most of the people.

Part of my job is to ensure our city provides a healthy and good environment for kids to grow up. So our city has me professionally investigate how child-friendly the neighborhoods are and make suggestions how to improve. We work really hard to provide playgrounds in all neighborhoods that children can and are supposed to go to by them selves from age 6 on! We check the streets to help make them safe so children can go to places alone! All 6 year olds are walking or biking or taking the bus to school! The parents only accompany them the first few days to teach them how to do it. We organize volunteers for difficult crossroads  who stand there before school and when ever the kids come they help them cross the street. Our whole system is there to make sure that kids can go alone to school or music lessons or playgrounds or friends.
That is always our goal and it is the norm and our kids do grow up healthy, socialized, good at school and safe! There are more kids hurt in car accidents sitting in the back of a car than walking around by themselves even though most kids walk to school by themselves. Our kids even take public transportation by themselves like buses and subways.
The most shocking news are for me the ones about the mother having such trouble because the kid was alone in the yard. Our kids play in the garden alone for hours! My son started playing alone in the garden when he was one year old! He loves it. When our kids need something, they know where to find us and can come. In the mean time we can take care of our household etc., and of course we check on them. The frequency depending on their age.
I wished your Police and CPS would professionally understand what  it means to raise healthy and responsible children. I cannot believe that they are supporting this paranoia. Such professionals cannot really believe their way is the only right way. If that was true it would mean that all Europeans are neglecting their children and harming them and endangering them….
I wish you good luck with you cause and I hope sincerely that  Americans stop depriving children of all the Learning opportunities of a normal and free and loved childhood . Children are persons not puppets or prisoners. If I can help your cause by providing information from abroad I am happy to do so.
Anna Schledorm
Yes, I know “sinseriously” is not a word, but sincere + serious just seemed perfect. It also seems perfect to expect kids to play outside on their own, the same way we did just a generation or so ago. – L

Regensberg, where the letter writer allowed her 1 year old to play in the yard by himself.

Regensberg, Germany, where the letter -writer allowed her 1 year old to play in the yard by himself. (Of course, she would check on him.) 


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60 Responses to American Child Protection Workers Would Investigate All Parents in Europe

  1. Montreal Dad July 28, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    One cool thing they do in the Netherlands is to use mini-playgrounds as part of their traffic-calming urban design strategy.

    Yup, little tiny playgrounds taking up what would otherwise be a lane of traffic!

    Sometimes, they only leave enough space over for bike paths, like this one:

    Other times, the lane left-over is still used by cars, but they have to do a chicane and slow down to go around them.

    I imagine the very idea would give North American urban planners the vapours. But it’s a cool idea, and it works.

  2. Montreal Dad July 28, 2015 at 9:56 am #

    Whoops, that image was here:

  3. theresa hall July 28, 2015 at 10:00 am #

    if fear isn’t stop in its tracks it will grow like wildfire and become almost impossible to put out

  4. Montreal Dad July 28, 2015 at 10:01 am #

    This one is also fun to read ->

    It just takes looking at Risk Differently to see solutions here…

  5. Juluho July 28, 2015 at 10:15 am #

    How hard is it to emigrate to Germany?

    I live in a very rural area and while that gives my kids the opportunity to play outside without fear of cars, traffic, strangers, etc., there is no opportunity for them to walk places themselves. The closest park is a 10 min drive, the library is 25 mins away, school is about 10 minutes away. I would love love love to move somewhere that planned communities based on kids needs! How cool is that!!!
    Plus, I bet they don’t worry about rattlesnakes and coyotes 🙂

  6. Juluho July 28, 2015 at 10:17 am #

    I’m interested in what she meant by ‘Americans would see our helicoptering as free range’.

  7. Mark Roulo July 28, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    “I’m interested in what she meant by ‘Americans would see our helicoptering as free range’.”

    Probably something like this. Going from less paranoid to more paranoid:

    German-Free Range —> German Helicopter –> American Free Range –> American Helicopter

    A bit like the claim that American doesn’t have a “real” leftist political party (because,
    as an example, the Democrats rarely advocate for nationalization of major industries)

  8. caiti July 28, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    The family court system doesn’t even attempt to appear to adhere to the same standards as the criminal system (not that the criminal system actually upholds constitutional standards, but at least they have a standard to deviate from). Instead, cps aspires to the “if one child is saved” fallacy and it seems like everyone is too scared to argue with it because to do so feels like putting a price on a child.

  9. L. July 28, 2015 at 10:27 am #

    I think most Americans do think most Europeans are negligent parents. Most Americans speak only English and only a minority of Americans have passports. We also have no sense of geography or history.

  10. Cynthia July 28, 2015 at 10:29 am #

    I am an American living in Germany with kids who are 7 & 3. My 7 year old twins have been playing unattended since they were 5. It was hard at first because I was accustomed to American parenting. For two years they’ve known to be home at 6pm and they’ve been late once! While the writer makes it sound idealistic (and it is) what isn’t mentioned is that the entire community looks out for the kids and they wouldn’t hesitate to yell at a kid doing something wrong (without fear of parents yelling at them later). The playgrounds are also RIDICULOUS…and I mean awesome! They’d never get away with them here because of potential lawsuits. I’m sadly moving back to the us in a week and am so sad that my children will be losing their independence. It’s not because of what I am going to do but because of how the rules/laws will likely affect us. I can already here the rumblings of my neglectful parenting…

  11. Beth H July 28, 2015 at 10:29 am #

    Thanks you for sharing this Anna. First, I studied in Regensburg for 6 months at the Universitaet there when I was 22 (in 1986). Regensburg is a wonderful and beautiful town. I walked and took the bus everywhere — I lived in the dorm on Vitus Strasse. I wholeheartedly support and love what you and your town are doing. I am lucky that I live in a smaller suburban town here in the US in Rhode Island where the houses are closer together and there are parks and playgrounds and sidewalks and our kids are encouraged to bike and walk to school — at least from age 8 up. Unfortunately much of the US is not walking or biking friendly and there isn’t any or much public transport. However, that doesn’t mean that we should be allowing CPS to tell us how to parent — and that we shouldn’t allow and encourage our children to be independent and play alone. Even when I lived in suburban Georgia where it was hard to bike and walk because of long distances — we all let our kids play together in the back yards without much supervision.

  12. Juluho July 28, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    Thanks Mark! That makes sense. I’d like to see some statistical break down of international parental paranoia! Of course it probably depends on the real threats that a community or culture faces. But I do wonder if this is a solely American thing (especially considering perceived vs real threats) and how much of the paranoia is driven by the government, such as schools and CPS?

  13. That_Susan July 28, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    This is especially intriguing as I’ve heard some people on this site equate government intrusion into parenting practices with “liberal” politics, and yet it seems that the “liberal” countries of Western Europe are totally cool with letting kids roam their neighborhoods and have a great childhood.

  14. Adam Kampia July 28, 2015 at 11:15 am #

    “We work really hard to provide playgrounds in all neighborhoods that children can and are supposed to go to by them selves from age 6 on! We check the streets to help make them safe so children can go to places alone!”

    What a novel idea. CPS and law enforcement working together to make it safer for children to explore the world outside instead of punishing parents for allowing it.

  15. James Pollock July 28, 2015 at 11:23 am #

    “I’ve heard some people on this site equate government intrusion into parenting practices with “liberal” politics”

    “Liberal” literally means “with freedom”
    Generally speaking, American “liberals” want to regulate economic activities, but leave personal decisions to the individual, whereas “Conservatives” want to deregulate economic activities, but want the government involved in personal affairs. Neither side has exclusive claim to supporting actual freedom (of course, freedom can usually be stated as occupying both ends by adjusting the definition you use… for example, on one side is freedom to smoke where one wants to, and the other side is freedom to breathe smoke-free air.)

    Libertarians, on the other hand, DO tend to favor more freedom, but are hamstrung politically by the fact that no two Libertarians agree on anything, notably including what it means to be “Libertarian”.

  16. lola franco July 28, 2015 at 11:25 am #

    i also live in nyc. i would love to have my daughter, 8, walk to school. but the new bike lane, and the biking commuters, make it crazy. they don’t often pay attention to the grown crossing guard, who is in her own world. the awesome one retired. but i do give my kids their independence in different ways. i try to encourage more of it, but it’s the kids who are hesitant to walk somewhere or take the bus/subway.

    i think the public has gotten so far away from helping kids rather than turning parents in. i wonder what it is that spurned that?

  17. MaryW July 28, 2015 at 11:42 am #

    And then there’s this kind of crap.

  18. Wendy W July 28, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    This line is very applicable to American neighborhoods:

    “forcing them to focus on the school and make them think, “I am a guest here” rather than “I am in charge”.

    We see it all the time on the news reports about car vs. pedestrian/cyclist. The drivers think they own the road and anyone else is a trespasser. And our roads are built to encourage that mindset, with no sidewalks, crosswalks, or even shoulders in many areas. Our culture has been so car-centric for so long that making changes, both lifestyle and infrastructure, is not easy for any of us to adjust to.

  19. Lizzie July 28, 2015 at 12:08 pm #

    I have lived in Canada my entire life. I am an early childhood educator, and I have two children ages 8 and 11 years.
    As I have been educated by Free Range Kids website/facebook articles, and Richard Louv’s writings and such, I’m simply stunned at American laws (not only regarding children, but gun laws as well). It scares me to no end of traveling in the US for fear of these reasons. The culture of the USA is that of fear and not peace, its been this way since the time of exploration and discovery of the country and it produces generations of ignorance. Where ever we have lived as a family, it needs to be in close proximity to walk to school, open natural spaces, playgrounds, parks, neighbours, stores…and my children as myself have been FREE RANGE since being born.

  20. Reziac July 28, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

    Europe is not a monoculture on this, and America has no monopoly on paranoia. There was an attempt in Britain to make their version of CPS have the job of inspecting ALL children on a regular basis. (Can you say “job security” ?? I knew you could…)

  21. gap.runner July 28, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

    Anna, first of all I miss going to Regensburg. I lived in Parsberg for 13 years before moving down south to Garmisch.

    I think that most Americans would freak out about German kindergarten (preschool). The kids are allowed to run, jump, climb and do pretty much whatever they want. Kids walk to school by themselves at an early age. Where I live there is a busy intersection, but parents volunteer to be crossing guards to help the younger ones cross the street safely. Kids here also take the train or bus to other cities at a young age by themselves.

    When I lived in Parsberg, the kids would play on the street between apartment buildings. Kids of all ages played outside without adult supervision. When a car was coming, one of the older kids would shout, “Auto!” and the others knew to get out of the way.

    My son is now 16 and has been taking the train to Munich with his friends (no adults allowed) for over a year. I talked with some of my fellow Americans about how he takes the train and they can’t believe it. Usually the first thing they say is, “Aren’t you worried that something will happen? What if he gets kidnapped or lost?” First of all, he is with other teenage boys. There is safety in numbers. Secondly, he is practically a native German speaker and has gotten lost. He knows to ask people for directions, just not to go off with them. Thirdly, nobody in their right mind would kidnap a group of teenage boys because he couldn’t afford to feed them!

  22. Anna July 28, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

    Wendy, this is so true: “We see it all the time on the news reports about car vs. pedestrian/cyclist. The drivers think they own the road and anyone else is a trespasser. And our roads are built to encourage that mindset, with no sidewalks, crosswalks, or even shoulders in many areas. Our culture has been so car-centric for so long that making changes, both lifestyle and infrastructure, is not easy for any of us to adjust to.”

    As a frequent cyclist and walker in car country, this drives me nuts. I try to optimize my routes to avoid dangerous roads, but there’s often no choice because so much of this city is constructed of cul-de-sac neighborhoods that are only connected by huge multi-lane streets with a 40 mph speed limit and intermittent sidewalks. I can’t believe how angry and resentful drivers get if they have to either: stop for 15 seconds while I cross at an intersection, or slow down for about 10 seconds and perhaps change lanes to pass me.

    I thought it was delightful in her letter that they would actually try to fix a street for pedestrians instead of just demonizing them for being there.

  23. Heike Larson July 28, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

    Yep: this is exactly how my nephews live. My kids are having a blast right now participating in a normal Getman free-ranging summer: walking to the neighbor’s house, walking to their cousin’s German school with them, and just generally hanging around outside. We see elementary-age children our on their own wherever we go–walking, playing, riding scooters, biking. The contrast to paranoid Anarica couldn’t be more stark!

  24. lollipoplover July 28, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

    Not all American towns are like this. Ours doesn’t fit this stereotype and we have a great deal of kids walk and bike to school, travel solo to parks, pools, stores and restaurants within our suburban town.
    It’s something we looked for (and the school system) when we moved here. The infrastructure (wide roads and sidewalks and bike trails) makes teaching independence in children and coaching them on the various transportation choices to get to places so much easier.

    Lenore said in her NYP article:

    “In part this is because many towns built their new schools on cheap lots at the far edge of developments. And in part it’s because many parents driving to work can easily drop their kids off on the way.”

    Parents need choices to get their kids to school but schools and communities need to provide parents the safest possible infrastructure in which to get them there. Most schools just assume you will drive them.
    Make them assume wrong.

    If more parents let their kids tackle the very commutable distances and forced towns and schools to build around the walking and biking trails, not the pollution churning car lines that clog roads around drive thru hours, things would change. Sadly, the demand for drive-thrus at schools is outpacing those who wish for independent-kid-friendly choices like walking, biking, and public transportation.

  25. JulieC July 28, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    I really think it is important to understand that America is a big country! Where I live, kids walk and bike to the stores, to school, and to sporting events all the time. The idea that CPS is lurking around every corner to catch parents is really the flip side of the coin that says evil murderers are lurking around every corner to kill our children.

  26. John July 28, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

    I haven’t seen the stats but I’m willing to bet that European children don’t have the obesity problem that American kids have neither.

    It’s interesting that when I was trekking with a group in the Annapurna Range of the Nepal Himalayas, the little mountain kids of Nepal would crowd around us Trekkers as we’d hand out pens. They were very poor and only had electricity 2 days a week but they were infatuated with pens! So I was known as the pen man as I would hand out lots of pens to the kids. But as my family was watching the video I took of all this, my niece could not get over how all these kids watched over their younger siblings WITHOUT the parents being around. I mean, there were 10-year-old boys carrying around their 2-year-old sisters and 12-year-old kids with younger toddlers in hand. Except for us, no adults were present.

    The USA was probably similar to that in the 1950s. Back in the early 1960s, I remember my friend, who was 8-years-old at the time, would push his baby sister around the block in her stroller every day, UNSUPERVISED! Heck, CPS would be called on his parents today and they’d be given a stern lecture for allowing their young son to be with his baby sister unsupervised out in the neighborhood, eegads! They’d be deemed irresponsible parents but yet their father was an Attorney and their mother an at-home mom. In America today, all the parents of those Nepalese kids would be reported to CPS and even lose custody of their kids for allowing them to mingle around strangers with small siblings. We’re just crazy here in America when it comes to kids!

    By the way, there was not one overweight Nepalese child we came into contact with during our trek. All those kids were lean and tireless and it was pretty obvious why!

  27. Warren July 28, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

    The thing is even if your school was poorly placed where walking from home is not easy, that doesn’t mean you have to drive them right to the front door, and wait in line. Drop em a few blocks away and let them walk the rest of the way.

    As for the whole no sidewalks thing………….we didn’t have sidewalks other than on major roads, none in the subdivisions. So this is nothing new. You have to realize that yes the developer can put in sidewalks everywhere in new subdivisions, but after that, their upkeep and repair becomes the problem of the local gov’t.

    I have lived where drivers act like they are king of the road. Instead of whining about it, do something about it. We did, and it works.

  28. Red July 28, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

    There’s a theme throughout her letter which I think relates to some of the more insidious reasons why free-range parenting is under attack by government in the US.

    Making the world good for children to be out and about requires public policy and public (aka, government) investment. (I’m not even going to say safe, because while safety is part of it, it’s not the only issue.)

    In the US, the decreasing lack of investment in making places friendly and walk-able actually preceded the real growth of helicopter parenting. Adults have cars, so why do adults need sidewalks? And children should always be under the control of adults, so why should children need sidewalks?

    And playgrounds/parks. The majority of newly-installed playgrounds/parks in the US are cheap and small equipment appropriate for about toddler age. It’s not just about liability, although people croak about that. It’s about the fact that park equipment which is appropriate for older kids is more expensive in materials cost, costs more to install, costs more to maintain. So, something needs to be replaced? Replace it with the toddler version. It’s cheaper and oh, we can say that it’s safer.

    Once we “free” our 7, 8, or 9-year-olds, in a lot of places in the US they don’t have anywhere to go to play which is interesting to them. We were up in Canada recently, and my 8-year-old was utterly blown away by the playgrounds we found. He’s outgrown every playground which he can walk to locally.

  29. Anna July 28, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

    “As for the whole no sidewalks thing………….we didn’t have sidewalks other than on major roads, none in the subdivisions. So this is nothing new. You have to realize that yes the developer can put in sidewalks everywhere in new subdivisions, but after that, their upkeep and repair becomes the problem of the local gov’t.

    I have lived where drivers act like they are king of the road. Instead of whining about it, do something about it. We did, and it works”

    Warren, with all due respect, you don’t know what we’re talking about. I’m Ontarian too, and Ontario simply wasn’t built the way we’re talking about. Even the most far-flung suburbs in Ontario (as far as I’ve seen) are generally built to be safely walkable for kids to go to school, the park, etc. Also, Canadian drivers by and large don’t think they own the road the way American drivers tend to. (For one thing, we are taught much more explicitly to give pedestrians the right of way – very few Americans I know are even aware that they should stop to let pedestrians cross at crosswalks, even though that’s also the law here.) Yes, there are streets without sidewalks, but Canadian drivers generally understand that when that’s the case, pedestrians have every right to walk along them, and drive accordingly.

    There is nothing I can do that is going to make my neighborhood in Denver safer for my child to walk and play in. Out here sidewalks are about 18 inches wide, and molded in one piece with a sloping curb that makes it visually look to drivers like the whole thing is roadway. So if you have a stroller or a toddler or a dog with you, forget fitting on the sidewalk; but drivers will consider you an intruder on the side of the road because they think you should be on the sidewalk.

    Also, our (purely residential, not at all busy) street is about 30 feet wide, which inevitably means people are going to drive fast – very fast – and indeed they do. I let my son play in the front yard and bike back and forth on the sidewalk, because that’s where he’ll run into other kids, but it is a bit nerve-wracking. Yes, he knows not to go in the road, but the fact that cars are driving through my residential neighborhood at close to 40 mph. means there’s no margin for error if a kid does something impulsive like chase a ball. And from conversations with neighbors I know that they consider that kids shouldn’t be playing there and think of them as intruders in the roadway. No street hockey happening here, that’s for sure!

  30. Liz July 28, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

    Are there even crossing guards anymore?

  31. Warren July 28, 2015 at 2:36 pm #


    You know what, I could compare all the places I have lived line by line with your comment.

    But it is suffice to say that all you have is a long list of excuses.

    Two choices, keep whining about it, or do something about it.

  32. That_Susan July 28, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

    Warren, speaking up about an issue and increasing public awareness actually IS one step in doing something about it.

  33. SKL July 28, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

    I think it would be fun to see a comparison of different European countries (and other continents too) regarding FRK attitudes.

    We toured Europe last summer from Athens to Dublin. The folks farther south (Greece, Italy) tended to call my 7yo daughters “the babies” and would actually lift and carry them in some situations. In Switzerland we were told of a lovely lake “very close” where the kids could swim – turns out this was miles away, icy cold, rocky, not segregated from boating/fishing, and unmonitored by lifeguards or anyone else. (Unless you count the angry swans.) I can’t remember all the examples, but it definitely felt different depending on where we were.

  34. Jeff July 28, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

    When I worked in a Montessori school, there was the tightrope we had to walk between licensing regulations and Montessori philosophy (aka developmental science). My licensing agent was very sweet and genuinely interested in Montessori, but definitely was stuck in the traditional prejudices that most adults seem to have about children, at least in America. We got into a conversation about a Montessori school in the Netherlands that she either visited herself or heard about through a licensing friend of hers in that area (can’t remember which). Among other things, children would be outside in the cold for extended periods of time if they so chose, were free to start(?) and huddle around a fire when they were cold, and the guide was usually off giving lessons to free children or simply observing, leaving the children to come find her when they needed to. Knowing what her response to this would be, I used all of my strength not to let out a very nerdy sounding “sweet!;” predictably, she thought this was not appropriate to put it lightly. Again, she was very sweet and good at her job, but definitely underestimated children.

    At least in America, the best solution seems to be to either get Montessori schools classified as schools instead of child care centers, get accredited Montessori schools exempted from certain licensing regulations, or change the regulations for all child care centers. All of these are uphill battles that will certainly get a lot of blowback from many angles, though it has been accomplished in a few areas.

  35. Anna July 28, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

    “Warren, speaking up about an issue and increasing public awareness actually IS one step in doing something about it.” Exactly! Although where I live I think it’s a lost cause: out here people love their cars so much and walk so little (on streets, that is – there’s lots of recreational hiking, but virtually no pedestrians off of hiking trails) that any movement to add sidewalks would be vehemently opposed if it narrowed the streets even a little. The assumption here is definitely that bigger, wider & faster is better when it comes to streets.

  36. lollipoplover July 28, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

    At our elementary school, they’re called “line leaders” and are typically a 6th grader in charge of 5-8 younger children at dismissal. My daughter was one last year (they are picked by the principal at the beginning of the school year) and enjoyed the leadership role and responsibility. She walked through school and picked up her kids from each classroom then brought them to the bike rack area where they got on their bikes. Once she checked everyone was ready (helmets buckled, etc.) she was responsible to safely get them across the crosswalk on the road behind the school. Once they were on the bike path, they were on their own and her job was over.

    Each line leader had their own group of kids on their route (walkers were in separate groups). They became quite close as the year went on and my daughter wouldn’t let me schedule end of the day appointments because “What about my kids?”. It’s an expectation at our school for the older kids to role model responsible behavior to the younger ones and get chosen as a leader. She now babysits for two of the families of her “kids”. All of this with no parents involved.

  37. Kariane July 28, 2015 at 4:40 pm #

    Perspectives on how kids are raised in the rest of the world (in this case, Germany) are so helpful. Hopefully hearing those perspectives can encourage change here. My 6-year-old is capable of a lot. 🙂

  38. Anne July 28, 2015 at 5:23 pm #

    This is literally one of the hardest things about parenting for me. We expect to live abroad for the vast majority of our children’s childhood, but come ‘home’ to the U.S. periodically for work or family reasons. Adjusting to the different expectations for the kids is awful and stressful. My nine year old doesn’t understand why he can’t go to the museum on the metro here the way he has done a million times in London, and “because the police might pick you up, investigate your parents and put you and all your siblings into foster care” seems like an answer from a world that has gone crazy to him. He’s still got all the skills he needs — he knows how to navigate trains, pay fares, read maps and enjoy the museum — he just can’t use them.

  39. Steve July 28, 2015 at 5:50 pm #

    Juluho –

    There are thousands and thousands of small towns in the U.S. where kids can get around safely.

    But, you have to want to be there.

  40. Juluho July 28, 2015 at 6:17 pm #

    Steve, I’m sure you don’t mean it’s as easy to move somewhere by just wanting to be there. If that were the case I’d be typing this from a sandy beach somewhere. Lol.

  41. lollipoplover July 28, 2015 at 6:59 pm #

    My 9 year-old daughter had her friend over today to play. She called her home line, made arrangements with friend(10:30 arrival) and that was that. Except her friend had a babysitter (even though her siblings are home ages 15 and 12) and the babysitter needed to confirm with the mom this was an approved activity. The mom texted me to confirm it was OK (why am I being involved?) and the babysitter drove her the 2 blocks.
    When she arrived, the friend lingered in the kitchen saying hello to me (I was at the kitchen table working). She was eyeing my fruit bowl and I asked her if she wanted some. She said she was starving, no one made her breakfast. My daughter made smoothies and got her a bowl of cereal and asked her why she can’t make her own breakfast, then she wouldn’t be starving. She said, “I’m not allowed”. I don’t think we are helping our children by doing things for them they are capable of doing themselves.

  42. Amanda July 28, 2015 at 9:06 pm #

    It’s not that they are “supporting paranoia”. They are creating it. There are many CPS workers coming forward lately and saying they are encouraged to take children for arbitrary reasons to meet a quota to continue being funded. They are the reason we don’t let our kids play outside. We are afraid of our own “protection” services stealing our children.

  43. Betsy in Michigan July 28, 2015 at 10:25 pm #

    It sounds like Germany is much more rational than the US in this regard. They do, however, make it impossible to homeschool ones own children, and I know some of the Free-Rangers are also homeschoolers. A few years ago there was a German family that tried to get refugee status in the US (or whatever you’d call it) because it was ILLEGAL to homeschool in Germany, which they had been doing anyway. As much as I worry about homeschoolers who don’t provide their children with an adequate 21st century education, I do find that law disturbing. There are lots of other homeschoolers who ARE giving their kids an outstanding education.

  44. Essie July 28, 2015 at 10:36 pm #

    I live in Chicago and am expecting my first child. I support free range parenting but I also think that the U.S. is a very different place than Germany or Canada. There is less of a sense of community which means that neighbors don’t always lookout for each other. Having been raised free range in a big city in India, I can attest to independence coming at a price– kids are not safe from predators. In a country as diverse and disconnected as the US, I believe this is also true here. Certainly some types of crime and issues are lower in the U.S. Now than several years ago but is it because parents are more watchful? How does one strike a balance?

  45. JKP July 28, 2015 at 11:28 pm #

    Essie – “Certainly some types of crime and issues are lower in the U.S. Now than several years ago but is it because parents are more watchful?”

    Actually ALL crime is down, including crime against adults. So it isn’t that parents are more watchful. It actually is because it is SAFER now.

  46. James Pollock July 28, 2015 at 11:53 pm #

    “There is less of a sense of community which means that neighbors don’t always lookout for each other.”

    Indeed, some parents will complain if you even try.

  47. sexhysteria July 29, 2015 at 2:33 am #

    I’ve only visited a part of Germany once, but I saw many German kids out alone enjoying their freedom. The same as in all other European countries (20) I’ve visited. The hysteria in the U.S. is far beyond anything else in the Western world.

  48. James Pollock July 29, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

    “The hysteria in the U.S. is far beyond anything else in the Western world.”

    The opinions expressed by actual parents in the U.S. varies widely. Accepting any one of them as typical is probably a mistake.

  49. Lori July 29, 2015 at 5:53 pm #

    I’ve already informed my three kids (ages 14, 12, & 10) that I think they should look for college and jobs in Europe. This just reinforces it.

  50. Rachael July 30, 2015 at 6:16 am #

    Tempted to move…

  51. Andre L. July 30, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    Parenting attitudes differ significantly between the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe. The difference is that British laws are nowhere as draconian as American ones, so parents not abiding by latest predominant trends don’t risk criminal prosecution or a police investigation. The exception is for corporal punishment: European law are in general far more stringent and in some countries that is a criminal offense.

    There are cases of the domestic equivalents of CPS overreaching, though. The controversies are not related to playing unsupervised or walking alone, but instead to certain practices related to housekeeping, child labor on family business or certain medical practices.

  52. Papilio July 30, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

    It probably has been a while since she last wrote a letter in ‘Englisch’ 🙂

    Nice to see how focused they are – at least in this bit of Germany – on walkability from the age of six. I’ve never heard that as a specific goal in my neck of the woods, only a more general focus on bikeability and walkability.

    But improving conditions for children can be a good starting point for that. MontrealDad linked to a photo of a street partially closed off by a little playground, perhaps it’s nice to see this 9.5min video about how it got that way: CHILDREN protesting against the condition of the streets they had to (but couldn’t) play in!
    The video is 40 years old, but I think you’ll see the Dutch streets anno 1972 and the attitude of (some of) the adults are, sadly, quite similar to those in many places across the world today.

    @Gaprunner: The UK likes to pretend it’s the 51st state, looking across the ocean for a solution to problems that are even worse in the USA…

  53. Papilio July 30, 2015 at 3:57 pm #

    Re: homeschooling in Germany. Okay – I’m not from Germany nor am I an expert (so, Gaprunner, please tell us if I’m wrong!), but I get the feeling this is due to different perceptions of whose responsibility it is that the children of a country get decent education.
    The USA basically puts all of it with the parents. They (you…) have the choice between the, not a, public school (the one in your district). If you think that’s a crappy school, they can tell you to bugger off, after all if you pay a fortune you DO have the choice to send them to private school or quit your job to do it yourself, if you think you know so much better.
    Germany on the other hand thinks that good education benefits the whole population, so the responsibility lies with the government to provide decent education. They don’t have school districts (all schools receive funding from -I guess- the state, depending -I guess- on the number of students), so parents can choose to which school they send their kids without paying a fortune. And yes, the German govt has decided they don’t want homeschooling.

  54. Peter Brülls July 31, 2015 at 8:56 am #

    @Papilio Yes, homeschooling is indeed illegal over here in Germany. This has a lot of reason, one of them rooted in history: By making it impossible for parents to pull out their kids, children are guaranteed to have a shot at getting a complete education instead if being misused as cheap farm hands or workers. Of course, mandatory schools are also a great way to indoctrinate children with state-approved ideology against their parents’ ideologies. Both the 3rd Reich and the GDR were keen on that front, but even for the FRG acceptance of the principles of modern society and the constitution is an official goal of normal public schools.

    Also, there’s a fundamental difference between German and US understanding of the role between parent and child. While Germany acknowledges parents as the main care-taker and educators of their children, it also acknowledges children as persons of their own, with needs and rights apart from protection and care given by their parents. Parents, for example, have no legal say in their childrens’ religious choices after the age of 14, where they can opt out or in a church or other religion of their own. (Incidentally, age 14 is the age of the first stage of sexual consent, though there are provisions in place to protect teenagers from sexual exploitation by adults.) The same train of thought led to outlawing corporeal punishment (including emotional harmful punishment) , because the right of people not to be hit against their will doesn’t begin with adulthood, but at birth. So the idea is that people have a right to be exposed to general society at large even if their parents do not like that society at large.

    If the idea of public schools is horrible to these parents, they can, however, found their own school and teach there, as long as they fulfill he general curriculum, do not use corporeal punishment, etc.

  55. Beth July 31, 2015 at 3:19 pm #

    “Germany on the other hand thinks that good education benefits the whole population”

    Sigh. It seems so logical. Wish the governor of Wisconsin (and presidential candidate) thought that. The defunding of public schools and universities here is outrageous.

  56. Crystal July 31, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

    This sounds awesome. Yet part of me wonders why, if Germany believes in the ability of parents to make choices for their kids, homeschooling is illegal there.

  57. James Pollock July 31, 2015 at 7:44 pm #

    “Sigh. It seems so logical. Wish the governor of Wisconsin (and presidential candidate) thought that. The defunding of public schools and universities here is outrageous.”

    The people of Oregon did it to themselves. A couple of decades of systematic defunding, and now something like a 1/3 of high-school students don’t graduate on time, and the ones who do endure gigantic class sizes. (When I was in grade school, a class had 20-24 students in it. Now it has 30-36)

  58. J.T. Wenting August 2, 2015 at 11:20 am #

    Offset that to the by now almost routine news articles about men being beat up in Europe because someone thinks they’re a pedophile simply for being seen in the vicinity of schools or playgrounds, and police doing next to nothing against the perps because “they had the right intentions”, and you see the other side of what’s going on.

    Europe’s indeed safe for children, but only (at least in the eyes of CPS, police, and parents apparently) because it’s a dangerous place for men, especially single men.

  59. Nikki August 4, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

    Yes, here in America, we’re scared to death of everything. We’re scared of germs, strangers, neighbors, our kids being unsupervised; even our own shadows! I definitely blame the media for having a hand in that. (Anybody remember that South Park episode where the news keeps talking about people you know kidnapping your kids? And soon, it gets so ridiculous that husbands and wives don’t even trust each other! And it’s all because they listen to and believe the news!) And of course, we don’t know how it is in other countries unless people from there tell us, or unless we’ve been/are there. We live in a culture of fear for sure. Fear is a great manipulative tool.

  60. Tom August 5, 2015 at 1:16 am #

    I have three kids am german and live in Germany. Things aren´t quite as great here as some might think. We are far away from US paranoia but it is bad enough already! My younger brother still walked to kindergarten (15 minutes – no road crossing) but we were already warned not to let our son walk by himself. I asked why and was told: “because of predators”. I asked how come as the last child abdution here probably happened in the 30 years war and that ended in 1648. The answer: “we see it all the time on TV!”
    As to home schooling I find the German attitude frankly ridiculous. There has been some bad coercion here against radical christians who can´t stomach over the top sex ed which starts in Germany in elementary school. People have been jailed for it and indeed one family rather went to the US. So not all is that good here