Bad News! Courts Are Rewarding “Intensive Parenting”

Hi Readers — This is so disturbing. Two professors studying family law have written a paper saying that “intensive parenting” is becoming the norm that judges expect good parents to practice. As Walter Olson explains on his blog, Overlawyered, derzfnihtt
“Gaia Bernstein (Seton Hall) and Zvi Triger (College of Management School of Law, Israel) say custody law rewards parents for greater involvement in their kids’ lives even if it amounts to over-involvement.”

And as the authors themselves say a bit more verbosely in the abstract of their paper (to be published in the U.C. Davis Law Review):

Today the child is king. Child rearing practices have changed significantly over the last two decades. Contemporary parents engage in Intensive Parenting. Parents devote their time to actively enriching the child, ensuring the child’s individual needs are addressed and he is able to reach his full potential. They also keep abreast of the newest child rearing knowledge and consistently monitor the child’s progress and whereabouts. Parents are expected to be cultivating, informed and monitoring. To satisfy these high standards, parents utilize a broad array of technological devices, such as the cellular phone and the Internet, making Intensive Parenting a socio-technological trend.

The professors go on to say that this is a trend that judges assume is healthy for the kids and hence indicative of good parenting. As if those of us who try to give our children a bit more freedom and responsibility are lagabouts who don’t love or care for our children as much. Ack. I’ve certainly heard THAT before.

I have nothing against parental involvement in their kids’ lives. I’d say I’m an involved parent myself. But when “MORE” involvement always equals “better,” that means the very BEST parents don’t let their kids do anything on their own! Having that type of  parenting lauded and legitimized in court is bad news for all of us, but especially for any Free-Rangers facing divorce. I’m very grateful to these law professors for noticing this trend and bringing it to light before it becomes set in stone. — Lenore

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59 Responses to Bad News! Courts Are Rewarding “Intensive Parenting”

  1. pentamom July 23, 2010 at 1:10 am #

    “They also keep abreast of the newest child rearing knowledge and consistently monitor the child’s progress and whereabouts.”

    Apparently, it also means that if your child-rearing methods are more traditional and tradition or common-sense based, you’re not measuring up to the latest in “scientific” child-rearing.

  2. SKL July 23, 2010 at 1:18 am #

    As a member of the adoption community, I get a little more of this when I go on the adoption sites. I am not sure why, but maybe people who have had to worry more about getting a child home in the first place are more likely to fear that they will someday go away and not return. Or maybe if our child came home only 3 years ago (at age 1), the child is still 3 in our minds, not 4. Who knows?

    But anyhoo, there was a thread on one of my “sites” about a mom who is extremely upset because the school system won’t provide bus service to her 5-year-old KG child, because she lives within a half mile of school. Mom is horrified that anyone would think a 5-year-old could walk to school.

    Interestingly, of all the commenters, there was only one (me) who thought that yeah, barring any unusual dangers, a 5-year-old can walk to school. Some mentioned that they themselves walked to KG, but “it’s a different world now.” Most were quite adamant that only a crazy person would suggest such a thing and they would homeschool if it came to that. (Several did suggest that it would be safe if Mom found some other kids to walk with the 5-year-old.)

    So yeah, apparently it is now an established fact that parents who allow their kids out of their sight are on the fringe. The edge of the frings. Oh, well.

    We have our work cut out for us.

  3. SKL July 23, 2010 at 1:24 am #

    However, I would like to make a distinction between providing enrichment and being anti-free-range. I have my kids in 5 coached activities (during the school day), but they also spend hours every day in unsupervised or loosely-supervised play. It’s all about balance.

    I have noticed that my 3-year-old has some difficulties with visual learning, so I am having her evaluated for vision therapy. Having experienced learning problems in my family, I don’t want things to be harder for her if I can help it. Is this “intensive parenting,” considering many people don’t even believe in introducing the ABCs at this age? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean my kid is living in a bubble.

  4. Rich Wilson July 23, 2010 at 1:33 am #

    Reminds me of the Judy Tyabji case in B.C.
    She lost custody of her children when her estranged husband’s lawyer argued that due to the time constraints of her job as a politician, the husband should be given custody.

  5. Anthony Hernandez July 23, 2010 at 1:36 am #

    This is why it is so crucial for free-range parents to band together and get support from all those around them. I am well aware that I face an elevated risk of being arrested, getting CPS involved, etc. I have therefore become extremely proactive in getting a large group of people involved by telling them what I am up to and seeking their support. If a showdown does occur, I can and will walk into court with no less than 12 witnesses, a fair amount of whom have credentials in the psych/child development realm.

    I hope none of this comes to pass, but if it does, I am prepared to fight an overwhelming battle and follow that up with civil rights charges.

    Free-range parenting has become a crusade for mwe, the results of which are visible the first time anyone talks to my son. Who, at 8.5 years old, is danged well going to be walking/biking the ~1 mile to school.

  6. Rachel Federman July 23, 2010 at 2:06 am #

    Yes — agree that we should band together and that this Intensive Parenting trend is terrible. Then again, I think I’m the target of a great deal of eye-rolling and behind-my-back whispers because of the therapy my 2 year old gets. Yes sometimes I (want to?) agree he is just a “typical” high-energy, wild little exploring guy and should be allowed to learn about the world however he wants to, but at the same time, the therapies we’ve gotten through Early Intervention have been amazing and life-changing. I’ve gone from every day feeling like a battle all day long to so many moments of peace and connection. Anyway, just wanted to share one more hypocritical thing about me as I comment on this stuff Lenore is so vigilant about. I am telling myself that with a little extra structure now, my little guy will be able to have more freedom in a few years. Open to criticism or behind-my-back whispers though.

  7. Liz July 23, 2010 at 2:07 am #

    I think one of the chief problems for parents (and for these judges) is the conflation of involvement and control. It’s -good- to be involved in your kids lives. Knowing your child’s teacher by name and by sight, knowing what they’re working on in school, understanding any academic or social problems they’re having in the classroom; these things are being involved. Hovering while your kid does his homework, constantly intervening in their school career socially and academically; these things are being controlling.

    To my mind, being a Free Range parent requires a very high degree of involvement to do well. After all, you need a clear and comprehensive understanding of what your child can and cannot handle independently. That requires attention, it requires involved parenting.

    It is terrible and shocking the way some children are -legitimately- neglected. But it’s also terrible and shocking that we are more and more defining obsessive, controlling parenting as the opposite of neglect. My husband and I are working on having our first child, and I started following this blog recently in hopes of feeling less alone in my philosophies about child-rearing. It has done that, but I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t filled me with a sense of dread about the future. In 2020, I might have an 8 or 9-year old child, right at the age where I think a lot of the big steps towards independence should be taken.

    How will I legally be permitted to parent in 2020? Will Free Range parents make up a significant enough minority (I have serious doubts about them ever being a majority) that there will be a support network for me? I hope the good work of the Free Range movement continues and grows, because a lot of the time, the year 2020 looks awfully cold and lonely to a potential parent like me.

  8. Rachel Federman July 23, 2010 at 2:09 am #

    Oh yes, forgot to mention he supposedly has “Sensory Processing Disorder” or whatever if you want to believe that (also called Sensory Integration Disorder). I think of it as extreme sports for babies. Anyway, this could fall in the category of one more way we are not letting kids be kids.

  9. Tara July 23, 2010 at 2:10 am #

    And what of these children when they become adults? At what point do we let the children grow up, experience some failures and learn to deal with them? I’d much rather have my kids learn to make decision now when it is a small thing (should I do scouts or football?) rather than when they’re an adult (should I use credit to buy this or save?). And what of those children when they grow up and enter the workforce? Will their bosses have to be constantly on them to do what needs to be done and foster their “positive self worth”?

  10. DMT July 23, 2010 at 2:12 am #

    From SKL’s Post: “it’s a different world now”

    I hear that all the time, from family (MIL particularly) to friends. And my question to them is always, “What makes it different?”

    Sure, we have different technology, different cars, etc, but in reality, are there any more physical threats to children than there were 50 years ago? Are there really any more pedophiles today than there were 50 years ago? If so, why the increase?

    Usually people are stumped for an answer. I then point out that in reality kids are probably safer now than 50 years ago. With the advent of technology (cell phones), emergency services (911), safe play (mulch or foam under jungle gyms), and a whole host of other safety regulations, kids are in less danger today than even when I was a kid (1970s and 1980s).

    Then I point out that statistics show a child is far more likely to be abducted/harmed by someone they know than a complete stranger.

    It’s then that the person who started the conversation changes the subject. 🙂

  11. Anthony Hernandez July 23, 2010 at 2:14 am #

    @DMT: Don’t let them change the subject!! Rub their noses in it and force them to either only up or admit they are wrong. Simply dropping it may seem tactful but doies nothing to alleviate the problem.

  12. SKL July 23, 2010 at 2:19 am #

    Oh yeah, that reminds me – in response to my comment that it is extremely rare for a little girl to be abducted by a stranger while walking to school – and that I couldn’t actually recall a single such case – someone posted a news story about a teen girl’s remains being found, saying “this news story just flashed across my screen as I was preparing to type my response.” Sigh.

  13. Stephanie - Home with the Kids July 23, 2010 at 2:40 am #

    I agree that free range parenting requires a great deal of involvement, the only trouble is that much of it isn’t obvious to outside observers. That’s why they equate it so often to negligence. It’s not THEIR kind of involvement, and that’s the danger.

  14. pentamom July 23, 2010 at 2:54 am #

    It’s true that being Free Range and having your kids in activities don’t conflict, but for non-free range families, activities take the place of any actual “free ranging,” so I suppose it’s easy for people to assume, when people start talking about “activities” for their kids, that it’s in lieu of letting them have some fun on their own. Like a lot of assumptions, it’s not always correct, but it doesn’t come entirely out of left field, either.

  15. BrianJ July 23, 2010 at 2:55 am #

    @Rachel – one of the really important elements of FRing is to know your kid and give them the tools that they need. That means each kid is different.

    You are absolutely right to give your son the structure he needs now so that you can be comfortable that when he is unsupervised later, he can be trusted to not behave outside of reasonable norms (meaning he won’t dash into the street, or hit people, or swing his arms randomly, etc).

  16. pentamom July 23, 2010 at 2:56 am #

    “How will I legally be permitted to parent in 2020? Will Free Range parents make up a significant enough minority (I have serious doubts about them ever being a majority) that there will be a support network for me?

    Free Ranging was once not merely a majority, but so normal that highly protective parents were notable. There’s no absolute reason it can’t be again. Cultural pendulums are always swinging.

    I might be wrong — we might be stuck in this model for generations, as we were stuck in the other for thousands of years of human history (outside of royalty and a few other exceptions.) But I think being optimistic can’t hurt, and there’s good grounds for it.

  17. Claudia Conway July 23, 2010 at 2:58 am #

    I think the bit that gets me is ‘devote their time to actively enriching the child, ensuring the child’s individual needs are addressed and he is able to reach his full potential’ – especially the use of the word ‘devote’, which suggests that anything less than devotion not helping your child ‘reach his full potential’ Brrrr.

  18. staceyjw July 23, 2010 at 4:05 am #

    From SKL’s Post: “it’s a different world now”
    When people say this to me, I usually say
    “YES- its SAFER than when I was growing up!”

  19. Big Mac July 23, 2010 at 4:52 am #

    I think one of the main problems is that a lot of parents I know see things in black and white. For example, I’ve met people who assume that anybody who denounces helicopter parents would, say, let their 3 year old walk to preschool alone. In their minds, it’s either constant supervision or gross neglect and absolutely nothing in the middle. You couldn’t, say, allow your child to play in the backyard alone. These are the people who say “well you can never be too careful!”
    Oddly, though, even the people who spout this as gospel don’t follow it completely. Let’s take a poll: even in this age of super-protective parents, how many of you know people who wouldn’t allow their teenagers to be alone and unsupervised in the yard? But teenagers wouldn’t be that hard to abduct. Might they be more wary about someone luring them away? Sure. But since the way people talk suggests we have child abductors (who are, of course, all men) sneaking into yards and then bodily carrying away their victims, we’ll go by that example. Teenage girls are very rarely a match for grown men. Teenage boys are often not either. So they’re not immune to the danger of abduction, and yet I think that even now, someone who never let their teenager out of their sight would be widely considered overprotective. Shouldn’t that tell them that there’s usually a pretty broad middle ground between “smothering” and “neglectful”?

  20. Big Mac July 23, 2010 at 5:03 am #

    I should add that one thing many people seem not to understand is that there are more “sex offenders” because we use that term much more broadly than we used to. I have used this example to help state my point:
    Say you’re on some island nation. This nation has one law and one law only: you may not murder. Rape, theft, prostitution, drug use, etc. are all legal and all occur, but only murder is illegal. One year, there are 8 separate murders on the island – thus, there are 8 criminals. The next year, they pass a law making rape illegal as well. Now the term criminal is broadened to include both murderers and rapists. There are 5 murders this year (less than the year before) and 10 rapes (the same as the year before) – but now you have 15 criminals, almost double the number of criminals before! The next year, theft is made illegal as well. There are 3 murders, 7 rapes, and 20 acts of theft – 30 criminals! Double the year before and almost quadruple the year before that! But while the overall crime rate is going up, the rate of each individual crime is going down. You are safer than before but you feel like it’s more dangerous because you’re lumping things together and not looking at them separately. So while we have more sex offenders than we used to, do we really have more child molesters? Do we really have more rapists? Or is the label just covering a broader array of crimes?

  21. Anthony Hernandez July 23, 2010 at 5:07 am #

    @Big Mac, that is both true and brilliantly put. Sadly, though, the people who most need to hear this message are te ones who are least able to grasp it.

  22. Eva July 23, 2010 at 5:09 am #

    This is crazy. I just heard a girl ask her mother “do I like salad?” The girl was easily fifteen!

  23. BrianJ July 23, 2010 at 5:35 am #

    @ Eva – that’s not crazy. I ask my wife things like all. the. time. 🙂

  24. kherbert July 23, 2010 at 6:47 am #

    I agree with you. You have a continuum of parenting. On one end you have the parent that calls the school and has this conversation

    Neglectful Parent I want to talk to Johnny’s teacher

    Secretary: Ok, who is his teacher

    Neglectful Parent: I don’t know

    Secretary: Ok, what grade level is Johnny in

    Neglectful Parent: I don’t know

    (Note this happens with custodial parents of elementary students)

    At the other end you have helicopter parent
    helicopter parent: I want to talk to Ms. Herbert

    Secretary: Ok, I’ll leave a message and have her call you at her conference period. Today is not 4th grade PEP, so her conference is from 10:15 – 11:30 today.

    helicopter Parent: No I know you have phones in the room put me through.

    Secretary: I can put you through to her voice mail, but I can’t put you through to the room she is teaching.

    helicopter parent: This is an emergency

    Secretary: Do you need me to pull Susie out of class

    helicopter parent: NO I want to know why Susie got a 90 on the Math test. Ms. Herbert just posted the grades. I don’t know why the test was Friday. She should be required to post them on Friday they shouldn’t be allowed to leave till they post all the grades from that day.

    Secretary: Just a second – parent gets refered to principal or AP who reinforce that A) parents are not allowed to interrupt class with phone calls. B) We are required to post grades once a week. Most teachers on my campus do it Tuesday because on Wednesday we send papers home.

    Free range parents actually fall in the sane middle of the the continueum.

  25. Jil July 23, 2010 at 7:28 am #

    Can you share your take of the Jessi Slaughter mess?

    Baffles me that you were labeled “worst mother in america” while GMA let Jessi’s parents look like victims while ignoring that their daughter was posting nude photos online and hanging out with a 30 man who’d been arrested for raping a girl.

  26. bmj2k July 23, 2010 at 9:31 am #

    Another case of intellectual theory trumping reality.

  27. Larry Harrison July 23, 2010 at 10:34 am #

    All the more reason to stay out of court if you at all can. To anyone who is single but dating a certain someone–you better make sure you two are on the same page with parenting style & that you are marrying someone who won’t resort to nastiness with regards to using the court to meddle in your parenting affairs in the event of a divorce.

    What really gets me is this–everyone talks about how Obama-care (the recent health care reform) will give the government unprecedented ability to meddle in our affairs, and MAYBE that’s the case–but how come the ones that speak of this almost NEVER speak of how much meddling the government does in people’s parenting affairs, even when there is no abuse or custody battles?

    I’m not bashing the right-wing radio broadcasters nor am I wanting to open the can of worms of a political discussion–but if Sean Hannity & Rush Limbaugh are big on individual rights, how come they never speak of parenting rights any?

  28. Nanci July 23, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    This is so disturbing. I just pray no one ever turns me in for allowing my kids to be on their own. I was recently on a Disney discussion board and the topic was how old should children be to be on their own in the theme parks. I mentioned that I allow my 8 and 6 year old to ride rides alone at Six Flags and of course people jumped all over me. One told me I better watch out because while most states have no specific law generally 10 is considered okay to be out without a parent but any younger and they will arrest the parent and throw the kid in foster care and ask questions later. Why should anyone have the authority to determine how I raise my kids. Sure if I’m beating them or leaving a 2 year old alone for days at a time with no food in filthy conditions someone should step in to protect the children. But I am a good mother, I am very involved in my children’s lives. I am a SAHM and spend most of my time doing and planning for my kids. We play games and read together and go fun places all the time. My entire focus in life is raising my kids to be successful. I take my job as a parent very seriously and that is why I have put so much thought into the way I want to raise my kids. I believe that letting them run free, make decisions on their own, have jobs and responsibilites at home, and take care of themselves while I pretend not to pay attention is the best way to achieve the best for them. How dare someone with a badge or a gavel come along and question my parenting!

  29. Nicola July 23, 2010 at 1:33 pm #

    Pretty soon they may have to yank away the birth control pill because when people get wind of the fact that you have to helicopter your child 24-7, sleep with them in their beds to prevent abduction, play with them as equals to protect them from bullies, keep them indoors because the sun is radioactive, grass is an allergen, and anyone you know or don’t know is a predator… no one is going to want to breed.

  30. ebohlman July 23, 2010 at 2:21 pm #

    Larry: The sentiment “get government off my back” is often accompanied by the unstated “and onto the backs of people I don’t like.” What passes for “conservatism” nowadays is often the notion that government is supposed to be a way for the rich and powerful to reward their friends and punish their enemies; it’s society as junior high all over again, not any sort of principled libertarianism.

  31. Steve July 23, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

    I think this is overdoing it with the courts mandating so much that can be counter productive for kids has gotten to the point of absurdity.

    Ok speaking from my experience. I am 23 years old. Growing up, my mom was per say “hands off” in the sense that pretty much my brother and I (and I’m the oldest of 4) got away with a lot of stuff and her second husband was white trash. My dad is a parent by convenience, narcissistic and verbally abusive in his own way and his second wife, was always screaming at my brother an I during all visitation that was court ordered. All condusive for not the best parenting when you look at it on the surface of what I described and see how my brother and I were raised.

    I do have a half sister and half brother (by my dad and his second wife). Now he and especially his second wife are helicopter parents. I mean seriously, they rarely leave the house to go to friends homes to visit or have sleep overs, or what ever let alone leave their sight. It really does sickens me and turns my stomach. Ok living with them is great and everything, but at the same time I really do wonder that if them being that smothered by helicopter parents to the degree that my step mother and dad are doing, I do wonder if it is healthy for them and if it really is the best thing for them. I really do wonder if they will be truly be independent and would be able to handle and cope with the stress in life.

  32. Icalasari July 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    Damnit, crap like this makes me think that all the sane people should lump their money together and purchase a large island, making it a sovreign nation where laws make sense and you can be arrested for excessive stupidity v.v;

  33. Ben July 23, 2010 at 3:35 pm #

    Unfortunately the paper abstract starts with a completely false assumption. If “Today the child is king.” then how come they don’t get to decide over their own custody until they’re practically adults? Kids aren’t king. They’re pawns in often pointless litigations.

    Unless one parent actively harms their kid with abuse, alcohol or drugs, there is no better choice except the one the kid would choose.

  34. Dave July 23, 2010 at 10:19 pm #

    This is truly disturbing. The courts and the experts continue to infringe on the rights of parents to raise their own kids. Increased government involvement in the lives of people is never a good thing.

    New parenting ideas are not necessarily better. We have a society that is youth obsessed. Now it seems that all of our focus needs to be on their every whim and want. What happened to the idea of children learning from watching adults be adult rather than adults focusing all attention of the children?

    We raise children to be adults. It seems now we only train adults to be at the beck and call of child who by nature are self consumed.

  35. LoopyLoo July 23, 2010 at 10:21 pm #

    @Rachel: if your child qualified for Early Intervention services, it’s because he needs it and you are not being a helicopter parent for giving it to him! I don’t know if it’s the same in all states but where I live, very very few children qualify — only the bottom two percent. With any luck, the extra help he’s getting through EI will enable you to give him a normal, free-range childhood.

    What I find disturbing is the stories my daughter’s EI teacher tells of parents who drag their perfectly normal kids in for testing and then throw tantrums when they don’t qualify. “Little Johnny can’t recite his alphabet yet and he’s three! How can you say he doesn’t need special services!?!” And parents who insist babysitters/nannies basically do RDI/Floortime all day long with normally developing children, get them friendship coaches, and act as if their completely normal children need all the same interventions as children with disabilities. I really hope that that isn’t the standard we’re moving towards.

  36. LoopyLoo July 23, 2010 at 10:27 pm #

    Dave: “What happened to the idea of children learning from watching adults be adult rather than adults focusing all attention of the children?”

    I wonder about that too. I have a friend who basically spends all day playing on the floor with her kids (she hates it, but she does it because it’s “so good for them.”) So now she has a five-year-old with no idea how to entertain himself and a house that looks like a hurricane tore through it. I can’t help but think there’s a lot of value in kids watching parents do adult things like cooking, cleaning, yard work, etc. and then imitating us. Adults imitating children seems backwards and a bit creepy. Are these kids going to grow up thinking adults spend their days on the floor playing with blocks?

  37. Lara July 23, 2010 at 10:34 pm #

    Loopy Loo I agree. Noone is helped by kids that know nothing but being entertained.

  38. pentamom July 23, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    “Are these kids going to grow up thinking adults spend their days on the floor playing with blocks?”

    Well, evidently in that family, they DO!!!

    How bizarre.

  39. Cynthia July 23, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

    Larry- about the talk radio thing- I have heard Glenn Beck speak numerous times about parental rights to raise their children as they see fit. Rush doesn’t have children, so it makes sense that it wouldn’t be his focus as much. And I don’t listen to Hannity very much, so I can’t speak to his views. He’s more on the conservative end rather than the libertarian anyway, so his thoughts might be different.

  40. BrianJ July 23, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

    @LoopyLoo – not just watching us do stuff, but helping. The more they do, the more they learn. (And, the less we have to do. )

  41. rhodykat July 23, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

    My take? Judges are older, many of them grandparents, and are typically wealthy. Older people watch more TV and are influenced by it more, including media sensationalism of the dangerous world we live in. Wealthier grandparents are also flooded by tales of activity shuffling, purchasing of the most recent technology to help their grandkids, and reports from their children as to what the “good” parents are and are not doing. For a judge to admit that what their kids are doing isn’t necessarily the best thing that can be done would be admitting fault in their own family; therefore, they apply their own standards to the population at large, assuming that their kids are doing everything “right.”

  42. Uly July 23, 2010 at 11:09 pm #

    Oh yeah, that reminds me – in response to my comment that it is extremely rare for a little girl to be abducted by a stranger while walking to school – and that I couldn’t actually recall a single such case – someone posted a news story about a teen girl’s remains being found, saying “this news story just flashed across my screen as I was preparing to type my response.” Sigh.

    Well, no duh. In the very rare circumstance of children being abducted, most of those children are pre-teens and teenagers – not five year olds.

  43. kherbert July 23, 2010 at 11:42 pm #

    @Rachel You are getting your child the care needed. Same as getting glasses, hearing aid, or using an inhale. Unfortunately there are helicopter parents that try desperately to get their child label because they think it is unfair that your child gets “advantages” their child does not.

    I wish there as a VR program were I could hook these idiots up to so they experience what people like your child experience every day. Then maybe they would get it.

    I also deal with parents on the other extreme. Unwilling to accept their child has any difference from the norm. So they deny them any interventions. This is especially true of those with children who are LD. One reason I completely open about being dyslexic and dysgraphic is I want both parents and kids to see a that LD =/= mental retardation/low IQ. I’m smart and accomplished. I just have a glitch in my brain. One that I bypass by using Tech.

  44. SKL July 24, 2010 at 12:25 am #

    To put the special services thing another way – if my kid doesn’t learn to read, she will not be able to keep up with her peers in independent life skills such as: reading signs, reading a map, reading a recipe, doing her own homework, etc. And she won’t learn be able to enjoy a whole area of leisure – reading for pleasure. I had a very free-range childhood, and reading was a big part of it. I don’t know if I would have had as much courage or as much freedom if I couldn’t read.

    To me, it’s like getting your kid physical therapy if he can’t walk. It’s helping them to gain a skill that will greatly support a free-range lifestyle.

    And behavioral services and sensory integration therapies can also help children to cope out in the “big bad world” without being excluded, bullied, or brought home by the cops.

    So it depends what you mean by “actively enriching the child, ensuring the child’s individual needs are addressed and he is able to reach his full potential.” Full potential to do what? To cope in the real world? Or to get into a prestigious school?

  45. Claudia Conway July 24, 2010 at 12:45 am #

    SKL – a good point about what ‘their full potential’ is.

    In some families, it’s ‘Stays out of jail’ and in other families it’s ‘Prestigious education, high ranking job prospects’.

  46. Jenne July 24, 2010 at 1:28 am #

    What a wierd abstract. In most real (not law review) journal articles, the abstract isn’t supposed to be a newspaper opinion piece. There seems to be a real O Tempore O Mores thread here. I am reminded of the Law Review article often cited to ‘prove’ that homosexual parents were not adequate parents.

    Do go and download the draft, though. A good deal of the assertions are either anecdotal or opinion-based– the 3 legal trends they have multiple documented examples for are 1) parental accountability in lead poisioning; 2) maternal accountability in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and 3) –oddly enough– custodial decisions based on child obesity, in that parents who are controlling diet and exercise in their children in order to reduce obesity have better chances of getting custody. (Which, given the obesity-fighting focus of many Free Range Parents on this board, is likely to make for headaches, yes?)

    I did like the commentary where the authors claim (without good citations) that many divorce lawyers push their clients to become overinvolved in their children’s lives in order to provide proof for custody battles, especially for lower class parents: “As one attorney explained, lower income parents tend to be less controlling and monitoring of their children, at least partly because they do not have the resources to become more involved. The attorney explained that she advises her lower income clients to act more like their higher income counterparts, that is, to become more monitoring and involved.”

  47. Rachel Federman July 24, 2010 at 1:51 am #

    Here’s a place where adults *should* step in and play a major role. From yesterday’s NY times

    There’s Only One Way to Stop a Bully
    Published: July 22, 2010

  48. Anthony Hernandez July 24, 2010 at 2:03 am #

    @Rachel, I strongly believe that kids taught to handle their own problems and stand up for themselves and others are the most effective deterrents. Creating a “zero tolerance” policy may seem like a great way to look like you’re doing sometihng but leaves kids unable ot handle conflict or figure out when to get involved or not.

    My instructions to my son are simple: Try to talk and/or retreat from the situation. Fighting is the last option, but IT IS AN OPTION.

    In my experience, most bullies are cowards and one good swift punch in the nose can do more than legions of counselors and cops.

    This extends to adults as well. Logan is Asian and thus smaller than your average corn-fed white kid. It is easy to mistake his age, and that has caused more than one adult to comment about him WHILE HE IS STANDING RIGHT THERE! (Like the lady at the produce store he went to a few blocks away a couple days ago.) I continue to tell him that he has the right to stand up for himself, to say, “Excuse me, I’m right here, if you have something to say, tell me directly.”

    It boils down to independence, self esteem, strength of character, and chutzpah… NONE of which are traits any child can develop when subjected to the rotor wash being spewed by hovering helicopter parents. Logan has all of those, in spades, but he is also extremely polite. I’m walking the fine line of trying to show him that directness and steadfastness and confrontation are not always impolite.

  49. AB July 24, 2010 at 3:01 am #

    @SKL Maybe you aught to explain that the girl that was abducted and killed was more likely killed by someone she knew like a classmate, ex-boyfriend, or even a family friend rather than by a stranger. Seems like most teenagers killed these days are killed by kids from their own school.

  50. SKL July 24, 2010 at 3:21 am #

    AB, the thread was getting heated so I decided to back off. It is tempting to argue, but I think the honest reason most parents are afraid of letting a child walk a half mile is that they don’t trust their own child to observe basic safety rules, such as, actually go to the school and go inside (with all supplies, lunch, clothes intact), cross the street carefully, etc.

    I could go on a tangent about how parents ought to be teaching their kids these skills and giving them practice before KG age, but I didn’t want to sound preachy. Besides, the reality is, some kids will take longer to learn – and who knows this better than their own parents? Who am I to say that someone else’s 5-year-old can be trusted to cross the street alone?

    It just bugs me that people always fall back on the “kids are snatched all the time” argument. This mom actually referred to the walking route as “the walk of death” because she felt she’d be inviting people to kidnap, rape, and murder her child if she let the kid walk. She actually said that. One wonders then, is there an age at which she thinks her child will be less attrative to rapists / murderers patrolling the “death walk”?

    Why not just say “my 5-year-old hasn’t yet mastered the safety skills to go it alone”? Maybe she feels the school has more responsibility if the threat is external versus just her own child’s individual readiness.

  51. Wendy July 24, 2010 at 4:45 am #

    Very, very sad. This “Intensive Parenting” crap is going to harm kids more than help. Yes, I do agree that you should be informed in certain areas of your kid’s life, such as their grades, how they’re getting along with kids at school, etc… but they DON’T need to know absolutely EVER SINGLE detail about EVERYTHING. My opinion is, if you give your kids to know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, and what’s risky and not risky, then they’ll be fine, especially if you tell them this enough so that it becomes instinct. The kids of these “Intensive Parents” won’t get this valuble knowledge, because their parents will decide FOR them what’s right and wrong etc. And, lots of times, what parents think is “evil” is usually harmless (i.e., a man trying to help a lost child find their parents which was mentioned in an earlier post). So, when these kids grow up and get out into the real world, they will most likely be deathly afraid of taking a simple walk down the street, or going to store, because they were brought up with the false knowledge that every single person whom they don’t know is dangerous and is gonna rape or kill them. It amazes me that many GROWN people believe this, including my daughter’s friend’s mother, who refuses to go shopping alone. Her daughter is not allowed to walk to our house, even though she’s 11 and lives just a block away. Everytime my own daughter wants to play with her, I’ve gotta call her mom, set up at time, the whole shebang, when the girl is actually capable of walking to our house alone. There are NOT perverts hiding in every single bush, up in every tree, waiting to snatch her up, as with every other kid out alone. I just wish more people would see things the way I and so many other people on this site do.

  52. Uly July 25, 2010 at 3:41 am #

    SKL, I still don’t get – maybe you asked her – why that woman won’t walk with her child to school. A half a mile walk with mom is safer than a drive of the same distance, and it only takes about 10, 12 minutes, even at the speed of child.

  53. helenquine July 25, 2010 at 4:24 am #

    There was a time when it was basically expected that children would go with the mother. That cultural norm has changed. I personally think that’s a good thing but it does seem to have led to a situation where two people who can no longer get along, and are often feeling acrimonious and vindictive to each other, are put in a situation where their children become the focal point of their differences.

    To try and referee these disputes courts have decided that all decisions have to be about “the best interests of the child” but this ignores the fact that the unit that needs preserving is the family not the child. So instead of looking at arrangements that provide a cohesive and stable foundation for a child to live in (and I’m not talking about insisting parents stay together) they look at individual decisions solely in terms of how they effect the child.

    I wonder if the growth in custody disputes and the somewhat competitive nature of court based custody disputes is partly responsible for the rise in intensive parenting. I tend to think an emphasis on children over all other family members is bad for them and for society.

  54. Michelle the Uber Haus Frau July 25, 2010 at 8:03 am #

    This came to mind when I read the article, can’t believe I never posted this before, maybe I have but just don’t remember…

  55. SKL July 25, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    Uly, that mom’s reason for not walking her kid was that she had an in-home daycare with 8 other children (presumably below school-age). She basically felt that rather than make all KG parents figure out the kids’ transportation, the school should just provide it for all. (No word on when she thought that service should stop.)

    The more I think about it, the more I suspect there is some deeper discontent with the school system, and this complaint is just a symptom. I recall going on a bit of a rant regarding the car seat law. Now that my kids are getting close to the size where I could switch them to a simpler booster seat, I’m thinking I probably won’t do it. What was really bugging me was the law overriding parents’ right to decide these things. Not the car seats per se.

  56. Sky July 28, 2010 at 4:29 am #

    “To anyone who is single but dating a certain someone–you better make sure you two are on the same page with parenting style & that you are marrying someone who won’t resort to nastiness with regards to using the court to meddle in your parenting affairs in the event of a divorce.”

    Or…make sure you’re marrying someone who believes marriage is a life-long commitment. And believe it yourself. Of course, in either case (parenting style or marriage beliefs), you could THINK you are marrying such a person, and s/he could change his/her mind.

    “What really gets me is this–everyone talks about how Obama-care (the recent health care reform) will give the government unprecedented ability to meddle in our affairs, and MAYBE that’s the case–but how come the ones that speak of this almost NEVER speak of how much meddling the government does in people’s parenting affairs, even when there is no abuse or custody battles?”

    Actually, libertarian-leaning types who speak out against government meddling in health care speak out about government meddling in parenting (and everything else) too, and quite often. Heck, even conservative types tend to speak out about government meddling in parenting quite often (though usually against meddling in the form of public schools). It’s just there’s no major NEW government meddling in parenthood legislation happening right NOW. But it’s a typical conservative position to be in favor of parents and not government making the decisions about how your kids should be raised. With the exception of abortion, of course, which they do want the government to decide for parents.

    “If your child qualified for Early Intervention services, it’s because he needs it…I don’t know if it’s the same in all states but where I live, very very few children qualify — only the bottom two percent.”

    My child qualified for EI and was hardly in the bottom 2%. (I think. Because she wasn’t that bad off.) She qualified for speech therapy only. And it benefitted her. Should other people have had to pay for her speech therapy via their taxes instead of me footing the whole bill for my own kid? Probably not. Did I take advantage and did she benefit from it? Yes. Would she have benefited just as much if not more from private therapy? Yes. Would I have chosen to foot the whole bill if I had to pay for it all myself? Maybe. But private therapy is $100-$150/hr, and unless I was seeing major results, no. I probably would have researched and tried to work with her on my own. On the other hand, after 1 year preschool speech therapy and 3/4th s a year in kindergarten, they did dismiss her from the program and say she had met her IEP goals (even though she is still harder to understand than her classmates), so I don’t think they’ll keep you on long unless you are truly badly off. But, in short, if you’re a parent, and your child can benefit from a service, and you’re offered it free of charge, are you really not going to take it?

  57. SKL July 28, 2010 at 5:45 am #

    As far as EI goes, I debated calling them many times. It was hard to tell whether our issues related to being adopted internationally and still adjusting/catching up, or actually lacking the abilities that average kids have. I also felt that my kid was so shy and insecure, the testing would not have been accurate, and the intrusion into her life might do more harm than good. (She went mute for a month and stopped walking when I introduced our nanny.) So I waited and watched, and now I think I was right not to call them in.

    I have no problem with people who “can pay” getting the same free services as people who “can’t pay.” It is refreshing that there are at least a few things that the taxpayers who fund the stuff in the first place actually get to benefit from. It bothers me that many programs shut kids out unless, for example, they are on public assistance. There are lots of people who are on a very tight budget but don’t meet various arbitrary need criteria. As a heavy taxpayer who was born into a lower-working-class family, I would really prefer that the benefits go to all who actually need them. Especially needed educational services, which I suspect save / generate money in the long run.

  58. Virginia Gilbert October 28, 2010 at 10:12 pm #

    This is so scary. I posted a link to your ParentDish article on my Divorce & Parenting page on


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