Hi Readers : You read it here first! Free-Range Kids is officially declaring Saturday, May 22 — the weekend before Memorial Day– the very first, “Take tdiibffisi
Our Children to the Park… And Leave Them There Day.”
Just that. If our goal is to get kids back outside (it is), and playing together (it is), and for parents to relax (it is), and to start creating community again (it sure is!!!), then “Take Our Children to the Park… And Leave Them There Day” is a great first step.
Across the country — what the heck, across the world — parents will Â converge upon local playgrounds and parks with their school-age kids. They will tell them to have fun, make friends and don’t leave with anyone. Then the parents will wave goodbye and the kids will amuse themselves for whatever amount of time they’ve decided with their folks. An hour. A morning. Or maybe even just half an hour, to get used to the whole thing, which, admittedly, sounds radical. But is it?
The crime rate in America is back to where it was in the early ’70s. Crime was going up then, and it peaked around 20 years later. By the mid ’90s it was coming down and continues to do so. Â So the strange fact — very hard to digest — is that if YOU were playing outside in the ’70s or ’80s, your kids today are safer than you were! I know it doesn’t feel that way. In fact, here’s an interesting poll about how the majority of people feel crime is going up when actually its going down. But anyway, the point is:
Most of us used to play outside in the park, without our parents, without cell phones, without Purell or bottled water and we survived! Thrived! We cherish the memories! And if you believe the million studies that I’m always publishing here, kids are healthier, happier and better-adjusted if they get to spend some time each day in “free play,” without adults hovering.
I know there will be shrill voices insisting, “Predators are gonna love this holiday!” but keep a level head. Crime is down. Awareness is up. There is safety in numbers, which means getting kids outside again, together. This won’t happen until we actually start DOING IT.
So spread the word and be not afraid. Free-Range Kids never says there is no risk in the world, only that the risk is small and worth taking, as it always has been. The trade-off is kids who make up games, who solve problems, who discover nature and get moving (to coin a phrase). Kids who don’t need a screen to entertain them. Playing outside, on their own, is what kids all over the world do. We have forgotten how vital and wonderful it is.
Walk around your neighborhood. Do you see empty sidewalks? Empty yards? Empty playgrounds? It’s a waste — of childhood. Let’s bring it back, starting on May 22.
Feel free to add your ideas, caveats, endorsements and suggestions below. This could be the start of something big! (Or not. Guess we’ll see.) Â — Lenore
Fantastic idea! Bravo! I’ll tell my three kids about it and they’ll even have a month or so to pick a park!
“I know there will be shrill voices insisting, â€œPredators are gonna love this holiday!â€ but keep a level head. Crime is down. Awareness is up. There is safety in numbers, which means getting kids outside again, together. This wonâ€™t happen until we actually start DOING IT.”
This isn’t shrill, but Yeah!, the predators will continue to prey on UNsupervised children, and especially school-aged children. There is no substitute for Responsible Parenting! Dropping off children ill prepared or unused to this activity would be neglect (and child abuse, depending on the laws where you live). And please don’t make your child’s playtime welfare my responsibility because I am a responsible adult that happens to be there.
This is a great idea! Although in our house, we already have this holiday. We call it Saturday.
I love this idea!
I also really love my neighbourhood. Now that the snow is gone and your face doesn’t freeze off in five minutes I regularly see packs of kids riding around on bikes or walking down the street with hockey sticks to play street hockey.
Last fall I remember watching kids play some sort of cop and robber game down my back lane, which wraps around my house on two sides.
Every school day you see kids walking down the street in the direction of the school with NO adults in sight.
My kids aren’t old enough to be left alone at the park just yet, but I look foward to them joining the roaming neighbourhood hoard in a few years.
I think it’s a great idea. I will send my kids out that day but as I haven’t accompanied them to a park in years it won’t be anything new for us. However, we’ll support the movement. Don’t worry, Omaha, my children can take care of themselves for an hour. No need for you to worry about it at all.
I am fortunate enough to live in an area where this isnt a radical idea. My older boys are 6 and 7 and have been allowed to stay home by themselves for short periods, this is how you begin to teach responsibility.
Bravo Lenore for understanding that kids need a bit of freedom to grow and inspire them to become responsible and intelligent adults.
Actually, Omaha, that *was* pretty shrill.
I’m the child of free range parents. The majority of my generation was not free range. I’m now 22, married, going to law school and living without support or help from my parents, or anybody who isn’t a member of my household (student loans notwithstanding). I even have a dog.
Most of my peers are living with their parents, whining about how hard it is to support themselves, and wouldn’t even know how to care for a dog. Why? Because their parents never made them do anything on their own. They never learned self-sufficiency – now they’re basically screwed, because they never had any independence as children (or teenagers), including this amazing holiday which Shelly refers to as “Saturday.”
The only way to learn independence is to practice it.
Can I just send her down there like I always do, or do I have to actually go down there with her then leave. She’ll be very confused and wonder why I’m walking with her. lol.
My daughter went to a nearby park with her cousins recently and they had a great time, but advertising “Hey everybody! Unsupervised kids!” just seems reckless. There really are predators, and they really do prey on children.
I think there are far fewer of them, Shauna, these days than there were back in the 70’s and 80’s, apparently, Letting your kids play for an hour unsupervised at a park can hardly be called reckless.
Driving them in a car to the grocery store… now that’s another matter.
Our whole family was already planning on going into the city and attend an outdoor concert that day. But it is in a park, so I guess letting my 8 and 12-year-olds come and go as they please to our blanket would count, right? I usually let them explore the grounds and get food as they feel like it.
Who knows, maybe I might even let them take the subway car before or after mine on the way there 🙂
There aren’t any fewer predators, but parents and children are certainly more aware of the dangers and how to avoid being victimized than they were back then. Again, my problem is not with letting kids play unsupervised at a park, and as I said, I’ve let my own daughter play with other kids at our park just recently. It’s with the coordinated effort to make a free-range park day and advertising it to the masses. Is it really free-range parenting to have to be told when to let your kids play in a park without you? It kind of seems like a publicity stunt to me.
Umm…Not to be nitpicky, but I am not sure you meant “WITH adults hovering” above. Didn’t you mean “without”?
Cyn I was about to post the same thing, lol!
Shauna – *Groups* of kids out on their own aren’t, and never were, particularly appealing to predators. The point of this is (I believe) to try and get more kids out there at the same time so they meet each other and don’t have to wander around bored and alone when they go of to play unsupervised. That is how parks used to be and most of them were perfectly safe places – even though everyone knew there would be lots of kids there without supervision.
Announcing to the whole world that you’ll be leaving your kid alone at a particular place and time would be less wise, but I don’t see that a general announcement to bring lots of kids together in a park should be a dangerous thing.
Sorry, mine isn’t school-aged. But I did take her to a playground and sit on a bench instead of hovering, so that counts, right?
I do this already, yay! I was able to talk the mom of my son’s friend into letting him go with my son and my daughters – safety in numbers convinced her. And her kid is really big for his age, as tall as me and he’s not even 12 yet! Yes, I said 12…the media is pervasive. Age helped her with that. I don’t think she’s ready to let her six year old go with them yet, but that has more to do with the six year old’s bouncing around heedlessly than his age.
Shauna: if a grown man was to take any of my kids by force, there’s nothing I could do to prevent that. He could knock me down just as easily…
Sorry, I didn’t mean to induce more paranoia, but I really think the worst consequence of adults not being there would rather be kids getting into a fight over whose turn was it on the swings.
Devil’s advocate here: Isn’t it possible that the *reason* there are fewer crimes against children these days, is because parents are more protective?
It’s not “paranoia” to be wary of the genuine threat of predators and take appropriate measures to minimize the risk of me or my kids being victimized. That’s rational, reasonable behavior.
Bonnie, crime has gone down across the board, not just against children, so it’s not because parents are more paranoid that there are less crimes against children; there’s just less crime, period.
We’re game! I may even let the boys bike to the park by themselves and tell them not to come home ’til dark.
I’m sick of people like Omaha trying to take the moral high ground on this issue, as they issue forth a generation of soft, flabby, whiny, dependant young adults who are incapable of contributing anything to this world because their parents wouldn’t let them grow up. I’m willing to bet that Omaha has no problem with ferrying her children all over the place instead of letting them walk, even though statistically the chances of them being killed in a motor vehicle accident greatly outweigh the chances of them being abducted and killed by a stranger. Classical liberal was dead on in her comments, and Yes Omaha your voice is somewhat shrill !
the apt complex i live in is the “nice” one next to a, well, slightly ghetto-y one that we sometimes cut through on the way to a playground, and i’ve noticed that this one always has packs of roving children making up games in the courtyards. there is one courtyard in MY complex that seems to have several children living off it, because they’re always out there mucking around in the dirt. no parents in sight, though i suspect they’re in their apartments keeping an ear out, and yesterday, i actually saw a grandmother come out on the balcony and holler “ma RIIIIIII aaaaa … ” in that time-for-dinner callout voice that i remember so well! i got such a pang of nostalgia and hoped maria had been having fun. when my daughter reaches school age, i hope we’re in a community where the kids run about making up games, waiting for the dinner callout. that’s what i’ll be looking for, anyway, when my lease is up.
I’ve tried to get my kid’s friend’s parents to stand 50 yards away from the playground, instead of hovering over the playground. It didn’t work – so I think I’m on my own for this.
Children around where I live do this every day. It’s known as playing out. Not all UK parents formally organise every waking hour of their children.
That’s wonderful! My child is not school aged (he’s not even walking), but that might be a nice park day anyway!
Great idea. My toddler really is too little to be left by himself, but maybe I’ll make 4/22 the day I remember (as I keep intending to do) to bring a book with me to the playground so I can more clearly communicate the point that he needs to entertain himself.
Yea! Sign me up. I will even let my seven year old bike to the park with a friend by themselves!
“Itâ€™s not â€œparanoiaâ€ to be wary of the genuine threat of predators and take appropriate measures to minimize the risk of me or my kids being victimized. Thatâ€™s rational, reasonable behavior.”
But it may be paranoia to consider things appropriate and reasonable and rational and necessary that aren’t actually even helpful, to reduce risks that don’t really exist in the particular form that’s feared. That’s the point.
This idea should definitely only be used by people whose kids know how to appropriately cope with being sent/left on their own. But realistically, nobody who’s helicoptered their kids up to now is going to read this article and throw their kids to the winds anyway, right?
Bummer 🙁 I’d love to participate but at the grand old age of 13 months my son will be a little too young this year.
Yes! I love it! I always used to go to the park a few blocks away, amuse myself for hours, then come home when it got dark! There was never any question of my safety. I bet all the kids will be just fine, and probably learn a lot of great lessons in making friends.
Just to clarify – the most likely hypothesis for the drop in crime is not the new societal levels of paranoia somehow making people safer – especially since we seem to reserve that paranoia for the most unlikely circumstances (rather than the likely – like your kids dying in the car on their way somewhere with you).
Rather, the likely reason has to do with a demographic shift. In the 80’s, when crime peaked, the largest demographic block were between 20-40 years old. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:United_States_Population_by_gender_1950-2010.gif) Now, not all crimes are committed by 20-40 year olds, but it is a well documented truth that criminal offenses decline with age, for whatever reason. (http://law.jrank.org/pages/473/Age-Crime-Age-crime-patterns-U-S.html).
Sexual assault of minors included – despite the popular image of the ‘dirty old man’ three quarters of assaults on minors are by young men. But our population of young men is smaller subset of the total population now than it was in the 80s (when I was a child), and so the sorts of crimes young men are more prone to committing are also lowered.
Anyone else read all those news stories a week or two ago, when the crime stats for the last year came out and everyone was surprised to see that the recession did not cause an increase in property crime? Credit was claimed by all sorts of groups but I would note that 50 year old men do not go out carjacking to make ends meet.
Incidentally – I’ll take my 5 yo and 2 yo to the park that day. They’re too young to be left on their own (more for fear of running into traffic than predators!!) but I’ll bring a book and sit on the sidelines, as I usually do. 🙂
MAY 22, 2010 – â€œTAKE OUR CHILDREN TO THE PARKâ€¦AND LEAVE THEM THERE DAYâ€
Great Idea – Lenore.
1.) I wonder if this idea will bring you more publicity for “encouraging irresponsible parenting?”
2.) You can usually tell who comments on this blog who has NOT read your book. Come on, folks, buy the book, and then pass it on to friends, school administrators and board members, and helicopter parents you meet in the park or at school.
My daughter (10) tells her friends’ parents that she’s a Free Range Kid. (T-SHIRTS, Lenore, we need T-SHIRTS!) Then when they ask what that means, she tells them to call me. Yeah, most of them are appalled…but I have made a couple of solid converts!
And now we have a pack of girls & boys, all around 8-10, riding their bikes all over the neighborhood, watching out for each other, and reminding each other when the street lights are about to come on. 🙂
I just posted about your book on my legal blog. Chica, your message rocks!
Let me start by saying I am a family law attorney. Your book was recommended to me by a former client (a Dad who was falsely accused of sexual molestation of his son and for whom I eventually exposed the lies and got him full custody – Mom coached the kid, but it is a long story), who had the book recommended to him by his child’s therapist. I read it and LOVED it. And, as I pointed out to my husband, “Honey, we’re not slacker parents! We’re actually doing it right!”
May 22nd will be just another day for me – because I already kick my kids out of the house. My husband and I spent the money to live in a “nice” neighborhood. Not wealthy and within close proximity to what someone might term the “barrio” – but, “nice.” Right behind our house, within shouting distance of the back door, is a park . . . oh hell yeah, the kids get sent there to play, get dirty, etc.
We have to be rational, folks. Yes, we have to keep our children safe, but we also have to raise them to become self-sufficient BECAUSE MOST OF THIS TIME ON EARTH THEY ARE ADULTS. I point that out to my clients when I see them getting unnecessarily crazy regarding custody.
Great idea, but my child is only 22 months old, so if anyone is reading this in Brooklyn and has a responsible at-least-9-year-old who will supervise her at the park for the day, please swing by. I’ll pack a lunch. Sorry it won’t be organic!
Hey–does Izzy babysit???
I just spoke with a representative from the Arizona Child Protective Services and they would initiate an investigation if my five year old was walking down my block alone.
Taking action by setting an example to others is far better than for us to just agree with each other on the FRK site.
In marketing, one key is to try to think like your target audience and not like an insider from a company or group.
For this to catch on it may need a shorter, catchier name directed towards the average parent.
Freedom Day sounds too political and is already taken.
Free Range Kids Day can work, but may be interpreted by those that aren’t regulars here to sound like self promotion.
We have a month to prepare and get the word out on this.
Curious what age people (who plan to participate or already do this) think is appropriate for kids to be at the park alone. My kids are only 5 and 2. Considering the distance to our park (10 blocks), and a busy street to cross… I think I’ll wait til my son is 7 or 8. I’d be fine letting him go around the corner to play at the school’s playground with friends, though. I can hear them shouting from my backyard. 🙂
“I just spoke with a representative from the Arizona Child Protective Services and they would initiate an investigation if my five year old was walking down my block alone.”
I find that very hard to believe. I don’t find it hard to believe that you were told so, but I find it hard that to believe that they would actually DO that. That may be a threat to try to influence your behavior, but something tells me that a social worker on the way to an abuse investigation isn’t going to go out of his way to stop and initiate something because he sees a child walking down the street.
Let me clarify. First, the name is CT, not Omaha. Keith, you don’t even know me, and your comments are so incredibly off base of who I am and what I do! I am the biggest proponent of not carting my kids around ad nauseum, of not coddling them, of holding them responsible, teaching independence, and of not letting our society turn into the spineless, wimpy, impolite little snots that I see all around us. So stop flaming, please, dear Keith.
My point was that if you haven’t been doing this kind of activity (taking your children to the park and leaving them there all day) already, then your children aren’t prepared, and doing that would be irresponsible parenting. The article advocates just “DOING IT.” I disagree. And I really disagree with someone advocating that others drop their kids off in this manner (unprepared) and leave them to fend or be another adult’s responsibility. The article does not even mention that children should be practiced and prepared, just told to “have fun, make friends and donâ€™t leave with anyone.” That is irresponsible.
My kids do venture responsibly to our park, but they have been taught responsiblity, safety, and caution. So many other kids have not had that, and I can surely see trouble if their parents did as the article promotes.
After seeing the author *scream* on Fox News this weekend, I don’t really care to buy her book. I already know the concept, agree and disagree with various points. Enjoy your week, folks!
It does not require a social worker to initiate an investigation. Any overly-concerned stranger can make a phone call resulting in my home being investigated for neglect.
I am not suggesting this should keep one from letting a child run amok. I intend to go to the police department this afternoon and have someone sign a statement telling me how far and for how long a (insert age here) year old child is allowed to leave one’s parent.
But Arizona CPS is that Orwellian.
You should make a CalDav- style link thingy so that people can click on it and have it automatically added to their calendars!
Since my little guy is only nine months old he won’t be able to participate yet…but in a few years and once he learns to swim (we have a deep pond behind our house) I’m sure he’ll be out running around the neighborhood getting dirty and having fun!!
We love our neighborhood though, cause it’s small and the people are involved and everyone has met most of their neighbors. We even have a community email group to give each other a heads up if we see suspicious behaviour or if there are people out trying to sell stuff door to door. I will have no problem letting my little guy be free range in a few years.
This reminds me of the story where the woman was arrested for leaving her sleeping kids in the car while she stepped less than 25 feet away to drop a letter in a postal box. People have gone crazy. And I hate to say it but I do believe that CPS would investigate in many cases if they ssaw a 5 y/o walking down the street alone. I had a county cop stop @ my house and ENTER my house w/ out knocking because he saw my blazer running in my front yard with the kids in carseats. Now the rest of the story was they were watching a movie and I was simply unloading the groceries before I had to run back to town to meet a friend. I knew I wasnt going to be at the house more than 10 minutes total and they were happy and safe while I did what I needed to do.
The kids were not scared or unhappy at all until the damn cop scared them because they didnt know he was there.
Afterwards it took me 20 minutes to calm them down because he frightened them so.
I told him that I felt he was out of line coming in my home without bothering to announce his presence and that I really didnt undersstand why he stopped.
Sorry to harp on it, but Arizona (not sure of other states) has a 10% substantiation rate on CPS reports. 90% of reports of abuse/neglect are unsubstantiated.
I love, love, love, love, love this. If there were enough participants, what could CPS do?
Omaha, omahacheapthrills, whatever you’re calling yourself, you’re shrill. And condescending. Greater Nebraska is unimpressed.
In fact, I think you may be one of the parents I encounter at our local park who insists on getting INTO THE SANDPILE with her grade-school kid and mommying any other child present as if someone had asked you to. I sure didn’t, I feel sorry for your timid friendless kid, and I’m amused as anything that my seven-year-old decided to start telling your daughter fart jokes at the top of his lungs (to your visible annoyance). Suggest you confine yourself to the reading benches and let the kids work out their own social dynamic, mmkay?
Let it be, LetThemBe. You’re really off base.
May I offer this? Raising a child to be independent does not mean that safety issues are disregarded. Obviously, if your child is too young, you are not going to allow them to go to the park alone. It seems to me reading the criticism here (for this post and others) that those against free-range childrearing believe it to be an “all-or-nothing” deal, and support Ms. Skenazy’s argument that their risk assessment is not reasonable.
But I will say this, as a family law attorney – make sure that you and the child’s other parent are of like mind on certain issues if you are in the midst of a divorce or have a contentious ex. Unfortunately, I have seen tiny things – such as a child getting Kraft macaroni-and-cheese for dinner – turn into an ugly and very expensive argument before a judge. Most judges are pretty rational but there is the risk of a judge having watched too many “Law and Order” episodes.
BTW, here in CA, judges are regularly rotated, which means you coulkd end up with a judge who has practiced only civil litigation for construction contracts and has never been married or been a parent suddenly deciding your custody case. Have I seen a judge award 50/50 custody for a nursing 2-month-old? Yup. So could you get someone clueless who thinks a 14-year-old could not possibly be left alone in their home overnight? Yup.
Egads… stop flaming people! Wow! Omaha/CT didn’t say she’d hover – she made a point that there ARE kids out there who don’t have the capability to go “cold turkey” to the park alone because they don’t have the smarts built up to do that. They haven’t been allowed outside in increments in order to understand common sense… it’s what we harp on a LOT on this site. Omaha/CT – the only reason there was a flare up is just that your initial post did come off a little terse. No big deal, it happens (I’ve had it happen to me a couple of times). It’s all good.
With the 5-y-o walking alone, I can’t say I’d let a 5-y-o go that far – depending on where the park is. The nearest park for us is behind my kids’ school – three-quarters to a mile away and they have to walk beside a road in the median since there’s no sidewalk. While I feel my children at 8 and 9 can handle this – not at 5. But – again – it depends on where and how far.
Oh come on. Any parent who is clueless enough to blindly follow the advice of a website without first thinking about whether or not it is appropriate for their child has more important problems to work out.
CT — Eh. Like the idea or don’t like the idea, but Lenore didn’t advocate taking your kids to the park and leaving them all day; her post explicitly mentions the possibility that it’s just for 30 minutes. (Also, Nicky: I’m with you).
I can’t play that game; my kids are too old for that. So, in June I’m playing another version: boot the kids (separately, different countries, different times) off to Europe. Child #1 will be joining her boyfriend, who has spent the year in Europe, will spend 3 weeks going around with him, staying in hotels and hostels, and, I hope, having a great time. Just before she comes home, Child #2 will leave for 6 weeks study abroad program.
But, my kids were free range. They rode their bikes to friends’ houses, went to the park and played by themselves, walked to school (even in bad weather…Uphill! Both Ways! In 6 feet of Snow!…LOL) So now I am working on letting them be free range adults. (Inside I’m thinking…Europe? My kids? I WANNA GO TOOOOOOOO!!!!!)
I just asked my kids what park they want to be left at and they said, “Disneyland”! So, I hope Disney doesn’t mind. Do you think they’ll pick them up at the airport?
And again, it strains the imagination that any parent who previously hadn’t taught their children to fend for themselves in public is going to drop off their kids at the park just because Lenore says so. So between that, and Nicky’s point that anyone who did would have serious issues anyway, the advice seems superfluous.
Okay, I’ll concede that AZ CPS is overzealous and I certainly can imagine that it’s possible. I’ve never been inclined to give CPS departments credit for being reasonable. However, what the person who spoke to AZ CPS said was that if a child was walking down the block alone “they would initiate an investigation.” Not “would, if someone complained,” but “would would initiate an investigation if my five year old was walking down my block alone.” And again, overzealous or not, I’m guessing they don’t go looking for kids walking alone just so they can initiate investigations.
My kids from the time the oldest was 5 often went to the playground near our house. I also would have a friend’s daughter 10 or so who would go play with them and earn a few dollars when I had to go to the nearby store. We never had any problems. Of course my youngest is now 28 and the oldest is 31. But you know my sister never let her kids out of her sight and catered to them in everyway. Toys activities etc. today her kids the same ages as mine are floaters, can’t hold down jobs and live off her still getting help with their celll phones and car repairs. My kids have families, good jobs and own their own homes. When our kids were little my sister often looked down on me for letting my kids get dirty and that I couldn’t afford to buy the things she did for her kids. I know I was not perfect but my kids are reasonable productive functioning adults, says something doesn’t it?
Awesome idea. One problem: we just had an attempted abduction of a 12 year old in broad daylight today. No one’s going to sign on to this, and they’ll all look at me like I’m insane if I even mention it. I can hear it now….”What?!? Didn’t you just hear about that little girl? And you want me to leave my kid alone????”
*Sigh* If only there was an ignorance inoculation you could give people…..
I love this idea, and I wish my grandson was old enough. A few more years. He’s a runner too, so he’s not the safest kid if I’m not in catching range.
Interestingly, I’ve been transcribing my mother’s memoirs, and I just a moment ago finished the story of my younger brother’s abduction from Golden Gate Park’s Panhandle at the age of 5 (1983). That singular event (he did by the way show back up about 7 hours later, maybe more… it was a very looooong day) marked my parenting a few years later in deep, deep ways. I was very paranoid, I was hovery, I never let my kids out of my sight. My mom went on as she always had, very free range. When my husband and I moved here to Michigan, the neighborhood was full of kids, riding bikes, roller blading, going to the park. That move changed my life in a similar deep way. I held my breath and let my kids go play with the neighbor kids. They went to the park… they gained more and more freedom. In a few short years, my then-15 year old son would be riding his bike to the lakeshore (30ish miles) with a friend or two. My then-16 year old daughter (well, earlier… she had other things going on at 16) would be going to concerts downtown and even out of state with friends. They are now, at 20 and almost 18, both living independently, she on the west coast, he in town with roommates. I am so grateful for the community I moved into here. They helped me gain perspective, and become a rational parent. If we’d continued on our previous trajectory, they would probably both still be at home, afraid of their own shadows.
So yes, abductions happen. They are scarier than anything else you can imagine as a parent or a much older sibling. But they are rare, and I’m so glad that the fear of that particular horror had taken it’s rightful place in the things I worry about. Back-burner. Very, very back-burner.
@dahlia – Did you grow up in Boston? Your comment made me nostaligic for those Prince Spaghetti ads with the mom yelling “Anthony” out the window. Unlike most days, Anthony sped through all the tiny, twisted streets of Boston’s North End to get home because it was Wednesday, Prince spaghetti day. Wonder if kids even play alone on their front stoops now in that gentrified neighborhood, never mind having free rein over an entire neighborhood with thousands of residents.
CT – What I’m curious about is what exactly are you preparing your kids to do if not fend for themselves?
Here’s what my parents taught me: Look both ways before you cross a street; be home before dark; tell us where you’re going to be; don’t take anything from strangers…you know, the basics.
I mean honestly, I’m curious about what it is you’re teaching them?
Oh, and I’m not flaming, I’m just asking.
OH, MY GOODNESS! 11 kids on that rickety metal slide! GET THEM OFF BEFORE THEY DIE! And that awful wooden sandbox–those kids are going to get splinters! And did someone cover it last night? Some feral cat probably used it as a litterbox! Those kids are gonna get a disease!
Phew. The perils of growing up.
I’m going to check my calendar for 5/22 right now, and make some phone calls. Safety in numbers–let the kids go with a few friends for 1/2 hour, just to try it on for size.
Two things coming to mind after reading the comments …
First, there seems to be an equation setting up here whereby letting kid go to park alone = raising child who will become responsible, job-holding adult. It’s not that simple. Even a parent who is more “protective” regarding outside time might do a great job encouraging independence and responsibility at home (doing chores, not being coddled). Even a parent who does let kids roam free outside might not require enough of them on the home front to instill those values so sorely needed in the adult world.
Second, when I decide whether or not a situation is safe for my kids to be alone it actually has nothing to do with predators, and I find it odd that that seems to be the issue on most people’s minds – whether it is or isn’t of concern. What about (and some posters noted this) traffic? One of my children is a five year old who certainly knows perfectly well she SHOULDN’T wander into the streets, but she’s a dreamer and she simply doesn’t always pay attention. What about playground equipment? She’s been known to get herself stuck on the top of climbing structures. I’m not worried about her being kidnapped, but I would prefer she not break her arm or crack her head open, so if a high structure is involved, I’m going to be within earshot of her until she’s to the point where she can physically negotiate these things alone.
I’m not on facebook, but this seems like the perfect thing to post and send onwards! Where I live, everyday is let your children go to the park…or the corner store…or the coffee shop…or the bike jump by the railroad tracks…or the friend’s house…by yourself or with friends day. Yahoo!
@Jen C – I tend to be skeptical when hearing of ATTEMPTED abductions. Telling kids about a boogieman may stimulate their vivid imaginations and lead to the modern version of the boy who cried wolf. The local Police spend a week chasing after this false report of a woman in a Lone Ranger mask. (This is the same town mentioned in Lenore’s book about cutting down the hickory trees over a nut allergy.): http://nhregister.com/articles/2008/09/13/news/milford/doc48cbacbf381fb526631980.txt
We should consider how many ACTUAL cases in our area were from a familiar person vs a random individual driving by or from halfway across the country.
Since my kids are still preschool age and below, I’d love to annex this as “Let somebody else take your preschooler to the park day” or “Take somebody else’s preschooler to the park day” or even “Take your preschooler to the park already but use the time to chat with other parents or read a book day” (OK, that last one is kind of every day for me)
I feel very fortunate that in my neighborhood I can always rely on other parents to have their eye out for all the kids, not just their own. The social norms of my neighborhood allow for lots of independent play at the park with other kids and without hovering parents. I also find that the kids keep an eye on each other, and whether my daughter is outside in the alleyway by our house or at the park, some kid will come and tell me if she needs help. I keep my eye out, but it gives you a sense of security when other folks are keep their eyes out too.
I agree that being on your own is something we have to help kids learn to do, but I’d really like to live in a world in which we were actually helping our kids learn to navigate the world on their own, one in which the park was populated with good friends, and one in which the majority of school-age kids had the street smarts to navigate a park/playground on their own.
Ooops – I was early to the party and did this last weekend …although in actuality we did leave them with my 13 yr old daughter and we Bad Moms snuck off and got manicures !
Angela: Aaaaaa-men to all you said.
I thought the idea was to gradually build the community some people lost. Perhaps Lenore went a little too fast, but as my children are still too young, maybe I’m not the one to judge that.
For FRK beginners, I would advise another option: what about teaching your kids your neighbours’ first names? Now, that could make some people realize they mistrust neighbours just because they don’t know them well enough, which seems to be the biggest trouble here.
Just an idea…
On spaghetti and Free-Range — I remembering hearing a story of how in our city’s Little Italy, maybe 50-60 years ago, when the kids were all in one backyard and the mama in that house said the water was boiling for the pasta, all the kids would know it was time to head home and wash up. Apparently their dinnertimes were all fairly synchronized that way.
How exciting! If this catches on my kids with finally have someone else to play with! I am always sending them out to the park to play but they often return because there’s no one there. 🙁 At which point I tell the to entertain themselves there for a bit and maybe someone will show up.
First, let me start by saying that I agree with many of the free range ideals and think it is perfectly fine for a kid who is mature enough to navigate traffic, manage the monkey bars and other playground equipment on their own, won’t wander off, etc. to go to the park without an adult.
I have a few comments:
Jen C, wrote:
“Awesome idea. One problem: we just had an attempted abduction of a 12 year old in broad daylight today. No oneâ€™s going to sign on to this, and theyâ€™ll all look at me like Iâ€™m insane if I even mention it. . . *Sigh* If only there was an ignorance inoculation you could give peopleâ€¦..”
I wouldn’t call these people ignorant. Abductions do happen. Yes, they are rare so free rangers can generally go about their business assuming that their kid being abducted is a rare occurance.
But if something happened in my neighborhood, I would assume the opposite. The odds are no longer in my favor. I would assume that someone who lives in or near my neighborhood – or someone who is traveling to my neighborhood and probably knows the neighborhood well — is up to know good. When abductions do happen, there does tend to be a pattern and more than one child (or woman or man as the pattern may be) are taken. So I would be more cautious in that neighborhood.
I don’t think the abduction is something you should shrug off.
And just to play devils advocate:
Someone else mentioned “*Groups* of kids out on their own arenâ€™t, and never were, particularly appealing to predators.” All predators look for the week prey that is set apart from the rest of the pack. So if your kid is the type to want to play by him/her self, or perhaps the oddball or younger kid that no one wants in on a game, he/she is a target.
Another comment: “if a grown man was to take any of my kids by force, thereâ€™s nothing I could do to prevent that. He could knock me down just as easilyâ€¦” While true, this is not usually their MO. They usually sweet talk the kids with them or grab someone who is alone.
I can’t find it, so you’re reading it here. The post about new book titles for helicopter parents was included in the May 2010 Reader’s Digest.
“First, there seems to be an equation setting up here whereby letting kid go to park alone = raising child who will become responsible, job-holding adult. Itâ€™s not that simple.”
I doubt anyone thinks it is. This is the distinction between a “necessary” and a “sufficient” condition. A necessary condition is something that must be present in order for a situation to occur, but does not necessarily cause the situation to occur by itself. A sufficient condition is one that causes the situation to occur if it is present.
In this case, raising your kids to function independently out in the world at younger than typical ages is claimed to be a “necessary” condition for raising them to be successful adults. No one here, and no one anywhere I’ve ever seen, has remotely suggested that it is a “sufficient” condition.
I agree with Ellen — an actual incident in your neighborhood does change the calculation. It means that the statement “there is probably no one around here who is interested in harming your kids” moves from likely true, to definitely untrue. It’s not cause for panic, but it is definitely cause for a higher level of vigilance.
Sure, sometimes these “attempt” stories are products of overactive imaginations. When I was in elementary school, probably second grade or so, there was a report of a “kidnapper” in the area and my walking group saw a guy walking a half-block behind us on the way home from school one day, and got scared and hurried up. One of those girls might have told her parents that she’d seen the kidnapper, when it was presumably no such thing. But sometimes, they ARE real. We had an incident a couple of months ago in this neighborhood where an 8th grade girl was grabbed by an unknown guy but was close enough to the school to break away without pursuit. Thirteen-year-olds generally don’t imagine things like that.
The only change I’ve made because of it is to worry a little more, and only let my 12 year old daughter leave our immediate neighborhood alone on her bike, not on foot. But I certainly don’t discount it.
Geez people. Use common sense.
If your kid is too little, they are too little. Start instilling the values of safety in them now though – it’s not too soon to start that.
If your city park is too far away, don’t let your kids go alone.
Work up to the goal of freerange kids. I agree with Omaha, that some kids just cannot be left alone cold turkey. It’s a great idea – but if they aren’t prepared, it’s a BAD idea.
You do have to start somewhere, and this would be a great day to START. Use your best judgement and common senses…
Just because we all did it at kids, doesn’t mean it will be exactly the same in today’s world. There are newer dangers for kids and they start at younger ages.
This is a great idea to get a movement going to get children more independent, but if parents don’t have some common sense in this, it’s going to be disastrous.
Leaving kids in a park is a hard sell for the general public when OUR OWN FEDERAL GOVERNMENT explicitly advises against doing that very thing (see this page, about half way down):
However, Uncle Sam is not just fixated on stranger danger in formulating that recommendation – that directive also weighs the risks associated with custody abductions, which are much, much, MUCH more common. But if you don’t have a custody dispute, the associated risk analysis doesn’t apply to you.
I do like the short, succinct risk description page associated with this site (tho’ I wish its statistics were more up-to-date). It spells it all out and shows just how rare homicidal child abductors really are:
I drop off my 9 year old then watch from around the corner. She knows not to talk to strangers, and not to get into cars with people. But she’s never been in that situation, so how do I know for sure how she’ll react. I think it’s great for kids to learn how to play on their own and make friends without adult interference. It’s a great way to learn problem solving skills, and build confidence. However, I feel that parents should be aware of where there children are and who they are with. I check the sex offender registry often, and encourage parents, and teachers to do the same. Heck everyone should check. You won’t be there forever, so teach them to be independent now. Good luck and be safe!
Ellen – I said that â€œ*Groups* of kids out on their own arenâ€™t, and never were, particularly appealing to predators.â€
To counter your devil’s advocacy I would say:
You’re right that predators tend to look for the vulnerable kids. But those kids are likely to be more vulnerable in pretty much every situation – they’re more vulnerable at school, at scouts, at music lessons, at church and at home. Predators, whether they are strangers, family or authority figures will look for the child who seems easier to befriend (because, for instance, they seem lonely) and less likely to tell. Since most predators start with kids they know, it seems unlikely that your kid will be more at risk if you send them out on their own than they are in other situation.
Though, as others have mentioned, you need to use your common sense with your own kid – if there is something about being unsupervised that makes then more likely to be the one on the outside than they are when supervised then you may need to work on some skills before you can leave them at the park. But I think that’s more because they won’t have any fun if they’re always on the outside, or being bullied. That’s an emotional toll that can also be debilitating and much more likely than being snatched by a stranger.
Totally off topic, but as I was wrapping up my taxes last night, I saw (on p.22 of the 1040A instructions) this little gem:
“If your child is presumed by law enforcement authorities to have been kidnapped by someone who is not a family member, you may be able to take the child into account in determining your eligibility for head of household or qualifying widow(er) filing status, the dependency exemption, the child tax credit, and the earned income credit (EIC).”
Stranger danger is in the *tax code*.
I let me two children walk to and from school. I back up to the school and I can see them the whole time they walk.
yet I have the “intake” of breath when I mention to other parents that I let my children walk home. (they are 10 and 7)
My husband doesn’t like it when I leave my daughter out front while I come into the house to grab something.
I’m really trying to not be a helicopter parent, but society and my own husband makes me think twice. Any advice???
I don’t know if anyone has seen this, but it goes along perfectly with this site and what *not* to do.
I still don’t understand why people think it’s necessary or constructive to make sure we add “Now don’t try this if your kids are two years old or have never been left out of their yards alone before!”
If a person is dumb/careless/foolish/ignorant enough to need that advice, why would you think they’d take it?
I think my wild 5 year old is not old enough to leave yet though… I don’t worry about him being taken by a stranger, I worry about him exposing himself to other children (today), getting stuck on top of the fence he shouldn’t be climbing (yesterday) or jumping from the top of the slide and having to get stitches (his best friend last week).
Usually most of the neighborhood kids play in the backyards on our street and they just run in the house to tell me when adult intervention is needed 🙂
Its not predators that I worry about- its bullies and kids who have no self discipline. I can’t tell you how often I encounter children who shove, push, kick, and worse on the playground. I once encountered a girl no older than nine or so try to shove a toddler off a slide.
Without adults there to keep their kids in line, I simply don’t trust my own to fend for himself.
One small change: how about “SEND our children to the park day”?
What a shame my daughter’s still way too young for this (she’s not yet two) otherwise I’d be well up for it.
I went to several parks 10 minutes away from when I was about 7, and I cannot think of a single reason that it’s somehow more dangerous to do so now than it was 25 years ago. Except maybe for the danger of some busybody marching your child home and accusing you of neglecting your child.
Anyway, I did actually run into a pervert once, when I was 13 – a naked man lying in the grass. But I thought, I walked away, rang the police when I got home and escaped without suffering lifelong mental scarring.
You make some good points.
The overall point of my original message was to caution against blanket assumptions. Just as there are people who say “OMG! You let your child do what?!? THEY COULD BE ABDucted and KILLED!!!” There seem to be a small number here who appear to say that there are no problems, regardless of the particular circumstances.
While stranger danger is rare, if something happened in my neighborhood, it may be more likely to happen again so I would definately exercise more caution. While being in a group is often protection, it is not if your kid is the likely one to be left out. ( And predators do not necessarily mean a stranger; the local bully is one too.)
Also, I have to agree with Derek, “SEND our children to the park” sounds much better. If we are trying to win over the masses, we don’t want to sound like we are trying to get rid of our kids. 🙂
I just posted a link to this page on fb. I must be bad, I already send my 10 and 11 yr old to the park and they walk the whole way there together!
To the person who commented about â€˜Donâ€™t expect me to take responsibility for your childâ€™â€¦ isnâ€™t that one of the big problems with society now? Not that there are paedophiles behind every privet, but that people donâ€™t want to â€˜accept responsibilityâ€™ for others, and see it as a chutzpah that it could ever be asked of them. This is the primary thing that has made children less safe and itâ€™s also contributed to this awkwardness between parents where they feel they have to hang around at other parentsâ€™ houses on playdates, rather than just leaving their kids there, because they fear theyâ€™ll be seen as â€˜taking advantageâ€™ of free childcare, rather than letting children enjoy their own friendships free of parental hovering.
Most of the â€˜responsibilityâ€™ that civil society places on individuals for ones another is hardly onerous â€“ it should be natural and simple. But the culture of blame has helped destroy the bonds of trust essential to this. We need to trust parents to have made a reasoned risk assessment based on their knowledge of their own child and their local environment, rather than wagging the finger at them or harping on about â€˜neglectâ€™ or â€˜anything could happen!â€™
Hmm… “If your city park is too far away, donâ€™t let your kids go alone.”
How about, “if you live in a city and the nearest park is too far away for your kids to get to… MOVE!” :-)))
Between schools and city parks, we are blessed with literally FIVE parks within easy walking distance. A couple more slightly farther afield.
I realize not everybody is this lucky, but is it really luck? “Close to parks, schools, etc” used to be a real estate clichÃ© but now that parents are driving kids everywhere, perhaps it’s one we’re overlooking in our haste to get out of cities.
I’d rather have a smaller home (we do) close to a park (or five), than a mega-home in a new suburb with one park too far away to walk. Parks in new suburbs tend to have lousy tree cover, too. 🙂
Love it ! I’m in Australia, in a city and a suburb with a very low crime rate, and I never see children unaccompanied in the park, and if they were, someone would probably call the cops on the parents.
I love your blog, I already raise free range kids in a big family, and I know it is good for them.
We travel a lot too, you can read all about our scary free range escapades on there.
Good Work !
Claudia – Bravo! Part of the problem with kids today (now I sound like my mom, ugh) is the lack of respect for adults. When I was a kid, if ANY adult saw us doing somthting wrong we got yelled at. God help you if they knew your parents because they would tell on you. Now we’re all afraid to repremand other people’s kids because if the parents find out they’ll yell at you.
I think we will do this. Although, kids alone at the park is not an odd sight around here. There are kids out all over the place. My big worry is mostly pushy kids. The playground equipment isn’t the safest. I was just there yesterday and one swing is completely broken as is the chain ladder. The playground is right next to the local public school and when school gets out the place is packed with 50+ kids between the ages of 5 and 12, most without parents (either they are alone or being watched by older siblings).
Yesterday I was there picking my 4yo up from preschool (she goes to school at the park in their little field house) and I saw my 7yo at the playground with her Girl Scout troop so we went to say high. There were at least 40 kids in the park from toddler age up to middle school and about 10 or 12 adults (those were the ones with the toddlers and the preschoolers that just got out of class, also the 2 troop leaders and a group of parents that were obviously watching a large group of kids…they had boxes of snacks but just sat on the edge and chatted).
When I got home my older 2 kids (9 1/2 and 8 1/2) were outside on the sidewalk doing their homework and talking to the neighbors huge dog while he cut his grass. They spent the rest of the day outside playing with their friends.
When the weather is nice like this and the other kids in the neighborhood are out I rarely see my kids. They spend every moment outside (at least my younger 3, my oldest hates being outside). In the summer I kick them out the door after breakfast and tell them not to come back until lunch (they never listen, though, lol). Only the 4yo isn’t allowed out alone. She has to have at least one sibling with her so she can’t wait for them to get home from school in the spring.
And we had one of those near abductions in our neighborhood recently. The kids brought a flyer home from school last month. A young girl was almost grabbed by a guy in a green car a couple miles from our house. It prompted a long talk about what to do if someone tries to grab them or get them in the car, etc. But nothing changed. The next morning they waved bye to me as they walked off to school on their own (4th, 2nd and 1st grades). The school is 3 1/2 blocks away around the corner. They’ve been walking on their own for months now. Unfortunately the school doesn’t agree with my opinion that they are capable of walking. They don’t allow k-4th grade to leave without an approved adult picking them up so I have to walk to the school every day to get them. Drives me nuts.
Leaving young children alone at the park is just plain stupid. Yes, children may have the skills to be self reliant, but you are taking a chance that is too great. There are many child predators out there who are waiting for parents like you to do something stupid like this. Go to the missing childrens website or turn on the news and get a splash of reality.
Please, must we say it again? Really? The world is no less safe now than it was when we were children. In FACT it is safer – there is less crime generally, and less crime perpetrated on children.
Most missing kids are abducted by family members (esp. estranged parents). Stranger abduction, while horrific, is extremely rare. And, it has been a fact of reality for thousands of years and will probably never go away, but it is no worse now than it ever has been in the history of human society. People are just more aware of it and thus more afraid of it now.
So now we can’t let our kids go to the park alone? Nonsense. We all played in the park by ourselves as children, and we were actually in greater danger than our kids are now… and would you really have preferred to have been cooped up at home all those days and years like some kind of dog in a kennel? To keep you “safe”? I don’t think so. I sure as heck wouldn’t have.
You might want to check your CPS guidelines before dropping your kid off unsupervised at the local park. In my county, CPS guidelines call it â€œchild neglectâ€ to leave a child under the age of 7 unattended for ANY period of time ANYwhere (including your own backyard). One county over, the age is under 9. Yeah, Iâ€™m paranoidâ€¦about having CPS called on me. So, no thanks on this one. Although I do allow my kids to play in my backyard, despite the guidelines. And with the neighbor kids in their backyards and their front yards. Unless we neighbors are all simultaneously going to call CPS on each other, I think Iâ€™ll be fine with that.
â€œcrime has gone down across the board, not just against children, so itâ€™s not because parents are more paranoid that there are less crimes against children; thereâ€™s just less crime, period.â€
Iâ€™ve heard this argument repeated here many times, but Iâ€™m not sure how logical it is. Adults in general (parents included) are more paranoid (or, if you prefer, cautious) than in the past, about their children and themselves. It seems likely that this caution has contributed at least partially to the decrease in crime against both children and adults. It is simply logical that if children are rarely unsupervised, there will not be as many opportunites for crime against them. Stranger crime against children is rare, of course, both now and in the past, but I donâ€™t think there are any fewer predators now than in the past; there is, however, less opportunity than in the past. If crime against children has decreased, then a reduction in opportunity is a perfectly logical contributor that should not be ruled out. This does not mean that I donâ€™t support allowing more freedom to my children than is currently fashionable, it just means that I like to be logicalâ€¦and I think we have to admit that helecoptering probably has at least *contributed* (not been the primary cause of, but certainly contributed) to the general reduction in crime. Not all bad trends have all bad outcomes. There are good and bad side effects of almost anything.
It is simply logical that if children are rarely unsupervised, there will not be as many opportunites for crime against them.
Except that most crime against children, now and in the past, occurs by the people who are ostensibly supervising them, doesn’t it?
This is a great subject! I actually talk about this in my book in several chapters; especially in regards to our children’s emotional and social maturity.
Children these days do not have the social confidence when every friendship they have is pre-arranged through the “play date.”
I propose safe zones, block by block as a neighborhood watch so-to-say, so adults are aware of what children are doing without the kids actually seeing them constantly, to give them some independence in who they visit and play with in their neighborhoods or on their blocks.
I also have a fantasy of huge, fenced FREE SPACES with incognito security on the periphery so kids can play in the woods, trees, etc. safely without adults around. 3-5 acre lots of FREE SPACE for kids to be kids without the worry or hovering.
Unfortunately, the predators are out there so instead of overcompensating and denying our children their real and basic needs, we need to create safe spaces so they can still be outside and socialize.
In the US, we tend to isolate further and further inward out of fear instead of standing tall and facing things head on. Our children are suffering terribly from all of this fear-based behavior.
GrannyPants – “Unfortunately, the predators are out there” what do you mean when you say this? Because one of the themes of this site is that they aren’t any more out there today than they were 40 years ago.
3 – 5 acres of space with “security on the periphery” sounds quite odd to me – though it’s not entirely clear what you mean by this. How would it be different from a wood or park?
There isn’t a “park” in my town. (The town is so tiny there isn’t even a church. Unless you consider our biker bar a house of worship.)
I am considering expanding my son’s boundaries, though. He has proven himself capable of dealing with our unfenced front yard, scrupulously avoiding passing cars… I think he could handle being allowed to ride his bike a little further down the road to play with the neighbor kids. They’re about his age.
I’d need to get him a watch so he would know when to come home, though.
GrannyPants, would you consider a school – where there is security (incognito or not) and fenced play areas safe? Because that is just one area where kids have been preyed upon by child molesters. How about your backyard, with your cousin keeping an eye on them? Again, kids have been molested in this sort of situation.
My point is that you can’t keep kids from harm by having “someone” watch them every minute. Supposing you did create this big park. How do you know that this security staff you hire won’t be the molesters? If the security is by other parents, how do you know one of them won’t molest?
I’m not trying to scare anyone. The point is that you have to give your kids the tools to deal with life. They need to know what to watch out for, what to do if something bad happens. Our kids aren’t zoo animals we can put in a cage (however big) and watch. There are bad things out there. But there are good things, too, and we need to let them experience those good things and learn how to prevent or deal with the bad things.
i do agree with this idea because just about everychild in my community does this anyways. I also agree that kids need some freedom and should be taught to look for dangers such as traffic etc. but yes there are children who should not be left unattended (i know a few personally ) I cannot let my 5 year old go to the park as it is too far away but i do let him play outside around my house and plus this community is a fairly tight knit community and everyone knows everyone and would look out for any suspicious activity. we actually have a program called neiborhood watch. But i can understand where some parents are coming from because yes it is very scary to think of anything happening to your kids and all of the stories on tv and in newspapers dont help but as was said before how will they learn responsible “outside” skills needed in this world as kids and as adults if we dont teach them. And i am sure there is plenty of info on the internet or in books on how to teach a young child if needed the “Safety “skills they need.
Great idea! Nice pictures. They are so cute!
You’re my hero!
Though, thankfully, this idea is not so radical in my little corner of the world (Marietta, GA). Yesterday after church, my 7 and 9 year old boys ate lunch and then disappeared into the yards and woods of our neighborhoods to play with friends. They didn’t land back home again for good until 6 p.m. – though ever now and again they would pop by with some other free ranger children for a drink or a popsicle or to jump on the tramp.
I appreciate your taking up the public mantle for the many many parents who are not terrified to let their kids have happy, healthy, independent childhoods! Rock on!
If you do this with a 7-year-old in Maryland, you will be breaking the law. Child Protective Services can then come and investigate you as a neglectful parent. They can go to your work and your kid’s school and tell everyone they can find that you’re under investigation, leaving them to imagine that you’re burning your kids with cigarettes.
Children here may not be left on their own, anywhere, for any length of time, until they are 8 years old. Someone younger than 8 must be left with a babysitter (or whatever) who is at least 13 years old.
Want to leave your 6 year old with your 12 year old to play in your front yard while you run to the corner store? If you’re here in Montgomery County, your neighbors will rat you out, CPS will knock on your door and threaten you. No kidding.
Hm. My kids are 3 so I am pretty sure I’d get in legal trouble if I left them at the park and anything happened. Plus, they would whip my butt (figuratively) themselves.
They are old enough now to do their own thing without close supervision, so what I do is take a brisk walk around the paths and such. They know they can find me if they need me, and vice versa, but I finally get a chance to do something for my own health.
I think this post addresses an important point and a catch-22 situation. In order for children to be left to play more unsupervised perhaps requires lots of parents to let go simultaneously. Letting my son out to play by himself when he is the only one doing so would to some extent be pointless, unfun and, yes, possibly dangerous.
This was something that struck me about the British programme “Hop Skip and Jump” about children’s outdoors play that aired on UK television last year: the sheer NUMBERS of children in some of the footage from the 1950s and 60s. There were streets that ressembled school playgrounds, children as far as the eye could see in some shots! The children appeared to own their environment.
Well, I don’t know if I would want hoards of screaming kids “owning” the street. Busy playground is good, but endless screaming outside my window? No thanks.
You’d have to see the footage to know what I was talking about. A completely different world…sadly.
I love this! My kids can’t wait for this day! I have also posted about May 22nd on my blog as well, linking back to you of course.
I also just wanted to let you know that I am so very happy that I am a Free Range Parent with Free Range Kids.
Yesterday, I had to leave my kiddos with my neighbor while I went to an unplanned doctor appointment. She planned on riding bikes with them and taking them up to the park. All fine and dandy with me. She told them to get their bikes out of the garage, close it and bring their bikes and themselves to her house (they are more than capable of doing so and she lives right next door). However, there was a miscommunication. As my kids got their bikes out, they realized they could not see my neighbor anymore. They looked briefly out front and out in our back yard into her yard and couldn’t see her. So my son, not sure what is going on other than he knows he can’t see our neighbor and seems to have disappeared, gathered his bike and his sister’s back into the garage and came in the house to call me. He told me the situation and I reminded him of the things he needed to do. He did them with me on the line. After that, I then called my neighbor and she explained the situation and that my kiddos misunderstood. Everything turned out just fine and they all made it to the park on their bikes. I must say I was never happier that I have been doing the right thing in training my children for situations like this. I was never more assured that it is actually all sinking in and that my 7.5 year old son is able to keep his wits about him and remember the proper procedures we have gone over. We have awhile to go yet before I will be comfortable leaving him home alone, but I know more than ever that we are on the right path. 🙂
In the 60’s and 70 they had the places call asylums for the “Criminally Insane” Today 1 in 4 people in the park is a predator. 3 Sex offenders live in my neighborhood, As long as these weirdo’s have free range. I will continue to be old fashion and see that my 12 year old daughter has a proper escort.
I came across this article that has a visual of how far kids used to get to go on their own and just wanted to share it with everyone.
@ vanyali, Thanks for the info. I’ve been looking at moving out of CA…anywhere but Ca. I’ll make sure to scratch Maryland of the list of possible places. My kindergartner is 6 and starting in the fall when she is in 1st grade she will walk to school with her big brother who is 9. I hardly consider that child endangerment. I don’t think I would leave them home alone just yet though but a stroll to the park is by far closer than the school…
Children should be able to play outdoors, go hiking, camping, gardening, horseback riding, make mud pies and get dirty. However, I wouldn’t leave them in a potentially harmful environment, like dropping them off in Golden Gate or Central Park. People need to use their common sense based on their own environment.
Not all sex offenders are child predators or even truly sexual predators. The Registry is very flawed at telling parents the nature of the offense. That doesn’t me we shouldn’t be aware and prepare our children. We can teach our children about these predators and even use the registry to show and tell our kids who to avoid.
Here are some statistics on child sexual abuse…
It’s more likely to be happening within your own home or at your neighbors house than down the street at the park.
“Even within the walls of their own homes, children are at risk for sexual abuse:
* 30-40% of victims are abused by a family member. (2, 44, 76)
* Another 50% are abused by someone outside of the family whom they know and trust.
* Approximately 40% are abused by older or larger children whom they know. (1, 44)
* Therefore, only 10% are abused by strangers. ”
I think it’s a fantastic idea: http://www.anonymouseducator.org/2010/04/unattended-children.html
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I let my kids play outside unsupervisedâ€¦ but in our fenced-in backyard (my kids are 8, 4, and 2). Our 8 year old is allowed to play in the front yard by himself and ride his bike on the street (because heâ€™s old enough to not run out in front of a car), but not towards the highway, and only with a group of friends. Our street is short and I can look out the window to check on him anytime. Iâ€™m sorry, but as much as the statistics say that crimes are down, a lot of that is because people are more cautious OVERALL and educated OVERALL about how to prevent becoming a victim. I believe that for crimes against children the drop has to be at least in part due to supervising our kids more to a certain degree. As they get older, and learn more about the world, they are able to accept more responsibility. I canâ€™t advocate being like my neighbor who lets her 2 year old daughter run up and down the street with no shoes on and momma nowhere in site, or the other neighbor who lets her 3 and 4 year olds bounce on the un-screened in trampoline all morning with no supervision. Guess what happened? Someone fell off, broke a bone and had NO IDEA where momma was (inside, taking a nap).
Or what about the 13 year old in my class growing up who was allowed to ride his bike down the street (and not a busy street, I might add) that got hit by a car and spent 3 weeks in a coma before his family had to go through the agony of dealing with the fact he would never recover? If his mom had taken 3 minutes and driven him to his friend’s house instead…
Sorry, I understand the idea of not hovering and unscripted playtime, but thereâ€™s such a thing as taking it too far. Thereâ€™s a line where you go from encouraging imagination to endangering your child. Dropping them off unsupervised in a public place where you are not easily reachable crosses that line.
We lived on a sortof busy street in Oklahoma City about 6 blocks from a small shopping center. I totally remember riding our bikes up there ALONE when we were 10. Couldnt have been more than 10 because we bought white glitter eyeshadow. It had to be around 1981.
The worst thing that ever happened was we got to watch the cops bust shoplifters. That was scary enough to make us never want to steal anything.
I support raising children to be strong and independent as much as anyone. I want my kids to be to know how to take care of themselves when I am not there. However sobering story to think about before everyone drops off their kids on the 22nd.. When I was in grade school one of the girls 2 years ahead was abducted at park full of unsupervised children in mid day and raped in the woods next to the park. No adults were present and this girl was forced to walk to local grocery store to get help. She made the mistake of leaving her friends. I still think about Erin and how her childhood ended that day and I would rather that my children not have to experience that. Teaching kids common sense and safety doesn’t mean throwing them into the world and hoping they make it back ok like our parents did.
I think it’s time to bring some quantitative methods to this topic to bring things into perspective.
To judge the risk of a day at the park against its benefits, let’s assign some values to the different possible outcomes, and then weigh those values against the probability of each coming to pass.
Let’s concede that one possible outcome of a day in the park is, as one commenter suggested, abduction and rape. That’s pretty bad. On a scale of horribles ranging from 1 – 100, I’d say that’s about a 90.
Another possible outcome, as another commenter suggested, is death: the kid could run out into traffic and get hit by a bus, fall off the jungle gym and break his neck, etc. I’m going to give that outcome a 100, meaning it’s an absolute worst-case scenario.
On the other hand, keeping a kid from any sort of independent play also comes with risks. For example, the child may never learn to interact with his peers comfortably, or may get fat and develop diabetes, or both. These risks are less catastrophic, so I’m going to add them all together and give them, combined, a relatively low 25 on our scale of horribles.
Here comes the important part. To really compare these outcomes, we have to guess how likely each is to occur. You can assign your own values and likelihoods to judge for yourself, but I’m going to throw in my guesses. I think I’m overestimating the likelihoods of the worst outcomes, but it makes the math easier.
Possible Bad Outcomes of Day at Park:
Abduction & rape: 1% likelihood.
Death: 1% likelihood
Possible Bad Outcomes of Sheltering:
Social & physical underdevelopment: 25%
Now here are the weighted values of these outcomes:
Abduction/rape: 90 harm * 1% probability = 0.9
Death: 100 harm * 1% probability = 1.0
Underdevelopment: 25 harm * 25% probability = 6.25
On this scale, it becomes clear that the risks of sheltering a child — not sending him to the park — is more than six times the weighted risk of letting him go.
You can substitute your own numbers and try this yourself. Then stand back and ask yourself how you really feel about your inputs. Do you honestly believe that there is a 1 in 100 chance of catastrophic harm to a day in the park? Or that sheltering causes no harm at all? It can be easier to think about the inputs individually once you have a framework to analyze them.
Hope this helps.
I like this content so much.Imagination is more important than knowledge.
My son is only 2, there is no way my mind could even logically think leaving him alone at the park (or anywhere) for any length of time would be acceptable.
I’m seeing a lot of “hovering” comments on here, it’s quite funny, I for one do not hover over my son, I do this crazy thing called being his mom and playing with him. I see so many parents that do not play with their kids. When we go to the park I’m right there to build in the sand or go down the slides, he’s only going to be this little once, why not enjoy it while it lasts?
2 things to point out: 1) By saying you are participating in this event you are giving computer savy predators a easy way to find an area where there will be unsupervised kids. 2) Great day to choose, my birthday, I’m a huge fan of survival of the fittest. Cheers!
I’m going to make this really simple. My children went to the park with their friends. The parent of her freinds was present and apparently the neighborhood thought that was inappropriate supervision and called CPS. My children were removed from my care for 3 years based on that alone. Stop being a rebel and work where the real problem is. With people letting out the predators. You are neglecting safety rules and anyone who follows you. Do you realize that even numerous false reports if someone hates you can land you in court and they don’t even listen to your evidence.
Even the internet is not safe. Just this Thursday someone made a false report to CPS about me web caming with my children inappropriately. When i was just sending home videos of my new infant in her baby saucer. Which my mom has on her Face Book. Seriously check yourself. Before you lead the buffaloes of a cliff.
by the way are you just writing this post to get people to write so that you can make money at home?
this is a really bad idea. why would you knowingly put your child in harms way? I am a “child that played outside in the 70’s” but that is because almost ALL the moms in my neighborhood stayed home during the day, every house had someone in it all day. And we knew them all because of it. now? many more moms work and very few moms stay home. So our neighborhoods are quiet, super quiet. All the kids are at daycare or afterschool care.
Leslie – you are aware that May 22nd is a Saturday, right? And that Lenore is not advocating taking your children to the park and leaving them there if what they need is daycare?
That last comment was directed at Leisle, not Leslie. Sorry.
Just so you know, I followed this link from 4chan.org (I’m a trending researcher, not a pedophile).
I wish that everyone in favour of this ridiculous idea would hug their children and realize that they are far more important than “being right”, inconvenienced, or gratifying your egos.
I cannot believe where people are running with this; mostly, it’s just FUNNY.
If you haven’t done so already, please give yourself a chuckle over Vanyali’s “quantitative analysis” post on May 3.
Apparently, there is a 1% chance that your child will be raped at the park. Another 1% that he/she will be murdered there. Really??? Two in a hundred kids either DIE or get ABDUCTED as a result of a trip to the park?
I don’t have hard numbers on that, but obviously, neither does she.
And for Tina, who mentioned yesterday that her son is only 2 and there’s “no way” she’d leave him alone at a park. Let me just say, that comes as a tremendous relief. She probably wouldn’t leave a newborn at a park either… but the fact that she thinks that’s what’s being advocated here is a little silly.
Use a little sense. Maybe eight is the right age; maybe ten.
But not necessarily if they’re ten with Down Syndrome: know your kids, know their capabilities and then let them expand them just a little bit within the range of what’s ACTUALLY safe, and not just our exaggerated ideas about needing to keep them safe.
After all, that’s what this blog is all about, right?
Jennifer, you completely missed the point of my post.
I wonder if today’s stranger-danger panic is linked to a current epidemic of poor reading comprehension?
Being a free-range kid is not about sending your 2 year-old unsupervised to the park. That is ridiculous and dangerous. This is about letting your school age children have the opportunity to be responsible. Give your child a chance for independence. If you shelter you children all the way to college you end up with a child who can’t handle life on their own. You need to teach them gradually starting with little trips to the park.
I don’t need a “take your kids to the park and drop them off day” because MY kids are capable of walking themselves to the park and they do so every day. They also cross streets on their own. I have even sent them on a bike to the store.
Teach you kids to swim before you throw them in the deep end of the pool….
You woman are pathetic. This is what is wrong with our society. We should focus on the youth of this nation and then maybe this world would improve. Letting our young ones go to the park unsupervised is just plain stupid if you have any sense in your thick skull. I would not take even a minuscule chance with my kid’s safety in regards to a child molester. Why would I give them any chance at all to make my kid a statistic? I do not want any of my girls to be one of the 1 in 4 that gets sexually abused as a child OR one of my boys to be one of the 1 in 6. Why on God’s beautiful green earth would I want to even minutely allow such an abomination to occur. There are so many other ways to get children to be self sufficient. They are called chores and personal responsibilities. Like for example, if your kid forgets his/her lunch or lunch money, let them figure it out. Don’t rush to school with their lunch. They can learn responsibility in other safer ways. Wait till they are teenagers to drop them off and be 100% unsupervised. There is nothing wrong with taking your kid to the park and sitting on the bench away from all the action. I do not believe for a second that my children will be any less self sufficient or responsible than yours just because I was an ear shot away instead of a mile away. But, my kids might be more emotionally and spiritually sound, not having been a victim to a predator.
ok, so I was very insulting, and I would like to apologize. I don’t know you, so I should have never insulted you so. I still think that your views are insane though. What about a happy medium between free-range and over-protected? It does exist.
When I was in junior high my family used to travel with two other families to Ensenada, Mexico for vacation. My parents would hang around with the other grown-ups doing boring grown-up things like eating and drinking and talking while me and the other kids would roam around town exploring. Our natural inclination to not go into dangerous places was well defined by that age because we had been enjoying similar freedoms our whole childhood (exploring the forest, hiking old logging trails, riding bikes around town – all kids-only). All we did in Mexico was cruise the shops and outdoor markets and hit our parents up for extra spending money after they’d had a few margaritas. It was normal! And we always stuck together so if there had ever been need for help (which there never was) there was plenty of back-up to go for help. Coming from that perspective it is positively baffling to me how anyone could find spending an hour at a suburban playground the apex of perilous behavior and child neglect. That’s just called paranoia. They have therapists for that.
Re: “Why would I give them any chance at all to make my kid a statistic?”
There is almost no chance at all that your kid will become a statistic. Those ARE the statistics. And that is the point.
Yeah, Jr. High
Not elementary school.
I was 12 (Jr. High) when I went to the mall for the first time alone with a friend. No problem. That is fine. But. . . letting a a 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 yr. old go to the park alone is just stupid.
And, I do not want my children to be included in the high percentage of children who make up the statistic.
You are wrong, it is not leave your child at the park day, it is Harvey Milk day!!
No worries, Kate. Even though your 13 month old is too young this year, by next year he’ll be old enough for you to send him off downtown on his tricycle for an afternoon of unsupervised fun. (jeez, you people are nuts…I don’t care what you do with your own kids frankly, but I still think you’re asking for it should anything happen)
I dont have any kids but I’ll go climb trees and explore all day in support! Maybe I’ll bring a soccer ball and go play with some strangers.=]
Ya’ see….this is why I never had kids. It’s because half of their peers would be raised by idiots. And you don’t know which half I’m talking about, which should serve to re-ignite the controversy.
Some of you talk about the low percentage of abduction like it’s chicken pox. Is there one single person here who has experienced abduction or rape of some form? Do you have any idea of what it’s like to have this happen to yourself and have to live the rest of your life in fear because it actually did happen? Living in fear because it happened is way different than fearing that it could happen. It could happen to anyone, regardless of age, including me. I have 3 savvy children who trust I would keep them safe. I would never jepordize their childhood just to teach independence. There’s other safe ways.
“I have 3 savvy children who trust I would keep them safe.”
…If only we could.
Maybe they’ll stay out of the park but break an arm (my son did, riding his bike last month).
Maybe their pizza shop will be blown up by a terrorist. Maybe they’ll develop lymphoma. Maybe their father, aunt or someone else you love and trust will abduct or molest them (far more likely than a stranger in the park).
I have a friend whose son died of brain cancer when he was 10. She has lived ever since in terror of the “maybes.” Every time my kids do anything at all, she’s horrified at how dangerous it is.
I don’t want to jinx anything, but your “savvy” children are as much in danger as anyone else’s. So are mine (terrifying).
Of what? I have no idea. But unless they’re wrapped in cotton, there’s something that can get them. (and if they are, they’ll suffocate)
Not to sound glib, but life is risky…and invariably fatal.
@ Sarai Yes I had a schoolmate kidnapped for ransom. She remembered the things from the basic self defense class we had every year in PE. This helped 2 elderly ladies rescue her with the help of a clerk, who called the cops. School’s response – they started teaching the unit 2x a year. Once at the beginning of the school year because most of us walked. Again at the end of the year since we would be running the neighborhood dawn to dusk all summer.
Starting in 6th grade they added Date Rape to the subject matter. It was handled in a way that made me feel empowered not scared.
I had 3 cousins kidnapped but they had not been taught how to call Dad (mom is mentally ill) It took Mom’s family realizing how sick she was and turning her in to get them back.
Heard you on KGO San Francisco today… bravo. Worst Case Thinking can really cause bad decision making, from parenting to… well… the reaction to 911. My youngest is 14, but I celebrated early by letting him and his friends walk to Little Caesars to buy their own pizza. Hope yours cleaned up the eggs he dropped on the floor this afternoon…
This would be a lot more of an interesting concept to me if it was written in the first person rather than as a patronizing, judgmental, and imperious piece. Better to talk about your experiences and let other parents find their way (or not) to what you clearly see as the “right” way to raise children. Growing up is a process from totally helpless infancy to self-reliant adulthood. It’s a complicated trajectory that is further complicated by individual make-up (of both parent & child) and, in this case, the particulars of where a family lives. Calling parents “overprotective” who don’t subscribe to your way is not very persuasive. Saying “we survived” in the supposedly more dangerous 70s is irrelevant to any individual parent’s choice or parenting style. So more power to you and your way — please give the rest of us the same courtesy.
If your child is “school-age” yes it is a good idea for them to go to the park, but why can’t the parents get together at the park as well? you don’t have to hover over them, but come on, “leave them at the park”???? What are you doing that is so important and private that you cannot “read” or “socialize” at the park, so your children (especially if they are under the age of 13) still know you are nearby and feel safe? This is one of the stupidest things I have ever heard of. Why not just call it “Let’s take our chances and hope a pedophile or rapist is not at the park that day”. this is the stupidest thing I have ever heard of!
I can tell you that nothing I am doing is private or too important. What I am doing is letting my child grow. My 9 yo takes the 6yo to the park frequently and on their own because they are capable children and not imbeciles who need mommy solving every problem for them. No I will not take my kids to the park and leave them there. My kids will take themselves to the park (without a cell phone)!
Stephanie: Hooray for you and your parenting choices as you help your children navigate their paths to adulthood, but why do you have to insult other parents who might be making different (and equally valid, we have to assume) choices with their children? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this issue (or any child-rearing issues, for that matter).
I was merely responding to the previous post that considers me doing something besides hovering over my children as having something more important to do or too busy (to pretend to read a book or socialize with other parents at the park) as being stupid. I consider giving my children responsibility and life skills as the most important thing I can do.
If parents are at the park children will go to them to have their problems solved instead of trying to solve their own. I occasionally take the younger kids to the park but the older ones don’t need me. If we teach our children the skills they need then they will be fine. Do I worry sometimes, of course I do but I refuse to live my life in fear of the “what if’s” if you want to then go right ahead. I suggest you don’t ever leave your house…something might happen. You might get hit by a car. You might get in a car accident. you might trip on the curb and end up in a coma…there are a lot of “what if’s”
My children –at ages 1 & 3– already play quite independently. They do not “need a screen to entertain them,” in the slightest.
However, statistics do not tell the whole story: we DO live in a more dangerous world. While I do not consider myself a ‘helicopter parent,’ I plan on being within “range” for quite a number of years to come. Period.
i live in NYC, as i think lenore does. would i be copping out if i said i support this whole idea, but with reservations?
it’s just that i cringe at the idea of something meant to HELP kids actually causing them serious hurt.
there are places in NYC’s central park that would not make good play areas for young kids [for some reason, i picture free range kids standing on the top of belvedere castle, walking with outstretched arms along that high wall….ah, maybe i’m just neurotic].
at the very least, parents have to know the environment they’re tempting their child with, and warn them explicitly about what could happen there. this seems simple and obvious enough, but something tells me it won’t be done in NYC- after all, YOUR kid knows better than to fall off the big rocks in central park, right?
here’s hoping my reservations about this are unfounded.
This is a good idea, but of course as a parent I myself have reservations. I have a 9yo 4yo & 5 month old. My 4yo & 5 month old are definitely out of this type of play. My 9yo is high functioning autism. I would not leave him without my watchful eye b/c he is also ADHD & very impulsive. We have alot of kids nowadays that are challenged in those areas. Even if my son didn’t have those problems, I would still want to be there for the same reasons. Kids will be kids. They run, romp, fight, do things that they’re not supposed to do & play all at the same time. If something seriously would happen to them, we as parents would be responsible. For instance, if my son was throwing rocks or something that he shouldn’t be doing. If i am not there to tell him to stop it and he hurts someone, would I still be blamed for leaving him alone? HELL YEAH. This idea is great, but with all the mess that is going on nowadays, it would probably not be good to leave most kids alone unsupervised.
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Too scared of CPS to do this. Funny how I’m more scared of my own government than I am of the criminals.
Funny thing — yesterday, I was at the playground with my girls, both approaching birthdays that will bring them up to ages 5 and 9. The older one felt hot and wanted to leave, so I gave her a bottle of water and let her walk home. This playground is half way between her elementary school and our house, and we’ve walked it together before.
When I got home, she said she never wanted to do that again. Why? Because at least a half dozen strangers stopped their cars to “make sure she was ok”. Plus one group of teenagers followed her for a bit apparently yelling “are you ok?!” at her. No sooner would she finish explaining herself to one busybody when the next would emerge. So she says she ran much of the way to get away from the cloying, suffocating busybodies surrounding her.
What’s interesting is that I see boys her age riding bikes all the way from her school to homes near us completely unmolested (so to speak). So, my question is, is our society constructing invisible burquas for our girls, attempting to completely shelter them from view? Must they be escorted everywhere, like in Saudi Arabia, to literally guard their virtue?
And why is the crime rate down? Because people are nicer? Can you actually answer this question with facts to back up your assertion? Not your assertion that crime is down, but WHY is crime down?
Perhaps it due to the fact that there are far fewer unattended children running around in public or at home along and people actually lock their doors. Criminals look for the path of least resistance. That’s an unlocked door for a thief, and an unsupervised child for a predator. Letting children go unsupervised on a set day is like setting loose your pet deer on the first day of hunting season.
I am very small and remember having my ass grabbed in a vitamin store at about 22 when I still looked like a teen. The cashier took the guys license number down (on his white van, yep) and it turns out he’d been watching the children at the McDonald’s across the street. I wonder why he chose my ass to grab and not that of the others who were not alone. Gee, I wonder?
For the mom who says she doesn’t ask us to get in the sandbox with her kids… Fine, I won’t.
And while I’m at it I want YOU to stop asking me for tissues, band-aids, wipies, food, and whatever else one or more of you always needs, but NEVER brings because you rely on moms like me you know always will. Stop watching your kid bullying others no matter how many times they ask your kid to stop. Tell him to stop and quit blaming the victim, which isn’t my kid, by the way. Everyone was playing just fine before you and your kid showed up. And stop expecting my child to share his toys under the guise of “sharing” when you’re just to lazy to ever bring toys at all.
You don’t like us, but you certainly don’t mind using us when you need us, and you ALWAYS need us. I think that’s what the mom meant by saying that we don’t want to be responsible for your kid. What that really means is that we ARE responsible and you know it, and you rely on us to do it for you.
This reminds me of when the “free-range” kid went missing at a party and ended up on the river bank alone. Guess who found him? MY husband, of course. As he said, “Kids usually go to the most dangerous place or object when they roam off.” I through it was going to KILL that free-range mom to thank him.
And, by the way, this logic of most children are preyed upon by someone they know does not refute anything. In fact, it affirms what some of us are saying. Criminals want the least resistance, and having a personal relationship with a child helps in that regard for child predators. It’s not all-or-nothing, but a continuum. And most child molesters are NOT on that registry you’re relying on to keep your kid safe. Only the ones who were so inncompetent that they got caught and couldn’t afford a good defense, which further perpetrates the false notion that child molesters “look like” child molesters. They don’t. Any time you are anywhere there is one near you. That’s right. You’re just in complete denial if you think they aren’t there. And one of the ways people violate boundaries is to put YOU on the defensive about being overprotective.
I used to work at a jail. Guess what? “That” guy and “that” guy, and even “that” guy over there we saw behind bars and know for a fact they are criminals, they just aren’t commiting a crime at that moment so you don’t know it. If a LE officer tells you s/he knows “that” person is a criminal would you watch them more or avoid them? You can’t rely on them not being there because they are, but can rely on taking safety measures. Without any comment before doing this ask your child to draw what a child molester or “bad stranger” (however you put it) “looks like.” Time and time again when a child a parent thinks is prepared if they are approached and offered candy or asked to look for a puppy they completely forget what they’ve been told and go with the person because that person doesn’t “look like” a bad person. Have someone test your child while you stand off and watch. Do it, and if your kid draws a “scary-looking” person or even walks off a little looking for that “puppy” then your kid isn’t prepared to deal with a predator.
Here’s some advice from security expert Gavin de Becker: For one thing, if you are somewhere you feel you have to guard your bag then you probably need to be watching your child. Your child is more important than your wallet. And if your child gets lost tell them to ask a mommy to help them. Statisically (I know how you love those) your child is far less likely to be harmed if s/he is helped by someone S/HE chose, not someone who approached her, and if helped by a female. The advice to look for a police officer is not helpful at all because chances are there won’t be one around when your child gets lost. I recommend his book, Protecting the Gift, about this very issue: http://www.amazon.com/Protecting-Gift-Keeping-Children-Teenagers/dp/0440509009
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