Grandparents Gone Wild (With Worry)

Readers — sbrksfhtha
This is a piece from pleading with grandparents
to listen to reason, hope, joy and the real numbers when it comes to the people they love most: Their grandkids. Some excerpts:

“Anything could have happened. There are predators out there. A school parking lot is the perfect place to pick up two kids, especially when you see them crying and scared.”

That’s Nicole Rodgers, a Canadian mother whose children, 7-year-old Austin and 9-year-old Keirstin, weren’t kidnapped, assaulted, or harmed in any way. Instead, the kids’ Red Cross swim program on Prince Edward Island dropped them off eight minutes early to the parking lot where they usually get picked up—an infraction that merited a formal incident report, along with national news coverage. “They could have been abducted,” Rodgers went on to say. “I might never have seen them again.”

The paranoia goes far beyond a few busybodies, too. Polls have shown that Americans are more distrustful than ever—and that goes double when it comes to their children and grandchildren. “Today, a good parent imagines their child dead. That’s what’s we’ve been trained to do,” says Lenore Skenazy….

It turns out, that perpetual terror doesn’t do anyone any good. Studies show that overprotected kids are bullied more often, can’t solve problems, are less satisfied with their lives, and have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and even obesity. Not to mention, Worst-First thinking drives you crazy….

 A 2014 study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center confirms this; researchers found that even though crime has dropped, Americans are more fearful due to the sheer proliferation of violence we watch on TV.

While I don’t endorse the idea that overprotected kids are stunted for life — or even have a tougher time day to day — I do believe excess worry is a unnecessary, joy-sapping by-product of a culture bent on driving even formerly Free-Range Parents into a pessimistic tailspin.

After more rationality and kindness, the article ends up begging grandparents to please try to keep their fears in perspective. And the only comment so far boils down to “Yes, the odds are one in a million, but who wants to take the chance of your kid getting killed?”

Sigh. – L

The overprotective "instinct" comes from love an extra couple decades of media exposure.

How can overprotection be an “instinct” when those same grandparents raised Free-Range Kids? 

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36 Responses to Grandparents Gone Wild (With Worry)

  1. Miriam September 15, 2014 at 7:54 am #

    Double sigh. My answer to the “Yes, I know it is only one in a million, but I don’t want _____ to be that one”, is: But you get in a car and drive EVERY DAY!!

  2. Christine September 15, 2014 at 8:23 am #

    I usually say this about politicians who are making some of the outrageous laws we see in this country. They were all raised in a “Free Range World”. I wonder what happened to turn them all into lunatics with these laws from wearing helmets when on a bike, to not allowing kids to walk to park, kids playing doctor, kids just being a kid. It is crazy.
    I am a mom and mom-mom and my kids were raised Free Range and I plan to let my grandkids be raised the same.
    The problem is we are taking “childhood” away from these children. No cupcakes, eating salads and tofu in school, no PE, no cartwheels, no fun. There are to many to mention. I just am in awe the way this country has changed and it is sad. I will continue to teach my grandkids the fun in life.

  3. Buffy September 15, 2014 at 8:32 am #

    And of course the first (and currently, only) comment on the full article tears down the entire premise.

  4. Havva September 15, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    I looked at your question “How can overprotection be an “instinct” when those same grandparents raised Free-Range Kids?” And an idea sprang to mind that was more or less confirmed by the one comment on the article. There are just a lot of people who go along with the social standards of the day with out question because it is standard.

    And that is just was that commenter said repeatedly… “Most teachers won’t even…” “These are the expectations of the day,” “taking the same precautions that most families are taking/advised to take”, “just par for the course”.

    The summation of that comment really seems to be: don’t stand out, don’t be different, you can’t be blamed if you did it all the same as everyone else.

  5. BL September 15, 2014 at 8:55 am #

    “The summation of that comment really seems to be: don’t stand out, don’t be different, you can’t be blamed if you did it all the same as everyone else.”

    And these same people will then wonder how past generations could just go along with slavery. Or Hitler.

  6. Coccinelle September 15, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    “How can overprotection be an “instinct” when those same grandparents raised Free-Range Kids? ”

    That’s exactly what I want to know for years! It doesn’t make any sense for me. Normally shifts or changes occur in another generation but now we see it happening with everyone at the same time. It’s scary.

  7. Nicole September 15, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    Can you imagine if I started telling everyone that I won’t let my children leave the house because I am afraid they will be struck by lightening? Yes, of course fresh air is good for them, but lightening happens and we can’t be too careful. Sometimes I let them stand near an open window for a breeze, but only when supervised, just in case. In today’s world of global warming and climate change, you just never know when lightening might strike. It’s too dangerous, too unpredictable. I watch the weather channel every day, several hours a day, and see lightening strike 20 or 30 times, so I know it’s out there, happening. And it doesn’t even have to be stormy out for it to happen. I just can’t take a chance that it’s going to happen to my kids, so we’ve moved into the basement storm shelter full time, just in case… Um, pretty sure they’d lock me up in a nice padded room somewhere.

  8. Jen (P.) September 15, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    My mother has two excuses for her current over-protectiveness despite having raised my brother and me in fairly free range fashion in the 70’s and 80’s. First, she and my dad were young parents and, therefore, “didn’t know any better.” And second, of course, “the world is a much different place” than it was when we were young.

    Pointing out the statistical inaccuracy of the second argument hasn’t had much effect. However, a rather difficult confrontation after she informed me – in front of my somewhat fearful younger child – that I was putting my older daughter at unnecessary risk by leaving her home alone (she was at least 12 at the time) did seem to make a difference. What seemed to persuade her (at least to some degree) was explaining that the benefit to my daughter’s confidence and competence of taking care of herself for awhile outweighed the very tiny risk of something terrible happening while we were gone. For reasons I don’t understand she seemed to think I was blithely ignoring any potential risk and believing that nothing bad could happen. Explaining that I’d weighed the risks and benefits at least got her to back off a bit 😀

  9. K2 September 15, 2014 at 10:33 am #

    I’ve noticed too that in the modern age of helicopter parenting there are a lot of kids that do stupid things if the parent or friend’s parent isn’t hovering or has to go to the bathroom. I’ve found a comfort level and some trust with my own kids, but not necessarily with all the kids in the neighborhood. Some of them really need the hovering.

  10. Margaret Moon September 15, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    I wholeheartedly believe that the answer is, partially, in bold print above. It is the media that has trained the public to believe danger is constantly imminent. And I believe they do it for profit! Sex and violence sells and fear is “titillating.” Almost all of the most popular TV shows are crime dramas. Daytime TV constantly deals with “danger and victimization.” Newspapers and radio follow suit. The public eats it up.. Our government and law enforcement encourage and even accelerate these beliefs to justify their many jobs and government grants, and gain votes. We, the people, are “being had.” Wake up parents, grandparents, and think for yourselves!

  11. BM September 15, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    I’ve had a similar arguement with a grandparent here at work, mainly the ‘world is different’ now reasoning.
    He uses, as an example, a neighbourhood watch letter quoting one incident where a car was seen in a school parking lot, but when staff approached, it drove off. Also, some mystical claims that children are fending off kidnapping attempts every day, but because they arent successful they arent being reported in the news. Combining these 2 ‘facts’, he has come to the conclusion that his grandkids are a heartbeat away from kidnap every second of the day. Nothing will convince him otherwise. i questioned whether the neighborhood watch letter was telling the whole story, or leaving out important details that would clear it up as ‘a misunderstanding’ because that wouldnt be as sensational, but I had to stop as he was turning the arguement back on me that I was the brainwashed one, and he was the only rational person looking at the risks. You cant win.

  12. Donna September 15, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    Nicole – We may not be too far off from that. My daughter and I went to visit my high school best friend a couple weeks ago. She has twins a year younger then mine. The kids kept asking to go outside and she kept telling them no because it was too hot. It wasn’t even a particularly hot evening by August in Georgia standards.

  13. no rest for the weary September 15, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    I’m starting to just get mad again. I was raised by scientists who taught me about statistics and calculated risks. For years, I felt like the only one who had any grip on reality when it came to the actual (instead of imagined) dangers to kids “these days.” Then I found this blog, and Lenore, and thought, “Okay, I can relax a bit, someone is out there as a loud, public voice of reason.”

    But I’m mad again because I am cutting myself off from empathy for the folks who have allowed themselves to be scared silly by the for-profit media all around them. I’m cutting myself off from empathy because I judge, judge, judge these people. I judge the culture. I judge it all and come up with words like “stupid,” “idiotic,” and “unquestioning.”

    I am at once grateful to my parents for raising me to think for myself, be wary of “authority,” and to be able to discern reality from media manipulation — and resentful as hell that I am surrounded by a culture where individuals righteously refuse to acknowledge a reasonable amount of risk is a necessary part of life… and human development.

    We shouldn’t need Lenore. We shouldn’t be the minority. I reject this.

    And I suffer.

  14. marie September 15, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

    The kids kept asking to go outside and she kept telling them no because it was too hot.

    Because kids need constant supervision, kids go outside only when parents are willing to be out there with them. If she was more comfortable visiting with you indoors, she discouraged the kids from going outdoors where the heat-crazed perverts await.

  15. Donna September 15, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    marie – It truly wasn’t a supervision issue. She is much more helicopter than me, but the kids have played outside while we stayed inside on several other visits. She just really believes that children should not play outside when it is too hot (or raining or too muddy or really anytime it is not absolutely perfect circumstances to be outside).

  16. hineata September 15, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    Gosh, I should send this to my mum. We had a totally laidback childhood, and now she thinks the kids will get lost or in trouble just walking up the bush behind her place, where we roamed for days on end while she wasn’t just out of earshot, she was away completely, working. And this in a town that had its share of whack jobs and perverts – if anything the place has cleaned up in the last thirty years.

    Just ridiculous.

  17. Sharon September 15, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    I should send it to my mother-in-law she is convinced that kidnappers are out for her grandchildren and the parents do nothing to prevent it. She is the only one who parents well the rest of us don’t have a clue and we can learn by her example.

  18. Warren September 15, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    The constant 24/7 media news, is the problem. You can explain to the older generations that crime really hasn’t changed, it is just you hear about it now. They respond with, “If it had happened back then, it still would have made the news, and we all would have known.”

    It does not matter that the crime was thousands of miles away. “If it can happen there, it can happen here.

    Then you add in the fact that a lot of people become more fearful as they get older, and you get fearful grandparents.

  19. Sigh September 15, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    No-one wants to take the risk. Nobody. It’s natural to not want your child to die. But there’s a risk to everything we do. But newsflash: There will be times where you HAVE to take the risk. And frankly, the sooner we learn that, the better it will be for all of us.

    On the dangerous ‘school playground’ issue, let’s just think this through for a second. Let’s say For a second that, I WANT to kidnap a particular child at school.

    1)I’m looking for a specific child in a mass of children. That might be a bit tricky
    2)They’re screaming and crying. Someone’s likely to comfort them, right? think they’d notice me.
    3)Again, school. School involves lots. of people.
    4Mmy victim is not alone. These children were together. Were they without direct adult supervision? Sure. Were they alone at any point? No.
    5) If i want those ones in particular, wouldn’t I likely be relying on their routine and therefore be eight minutes late to abduct them?

    So, you’re asking the abductor to somehow magically gain knowledge of the fact that these children were dropped off eight minutes earlier. Then you’re asking said villain to find that child in a mass of children and adults and shove them into his white windowless van. You’re also asking him to make people somehow not notice two crying screaming children. All in eight minutes because you’lll show up at that point to make sure ‘they’re not abducted’. People look at a tantruming toddler in the grocery store after a shorter time than eight minutes. Don’t you think that’s asking rather a lot of the mythical would-be abductee?

    But I understand. We have a pathological need to worry because there aren’t enough real dangers. And cars just seem so mundane somehow, despite the fact that stastically, they ARE riskier than abduction chances.

    Worry about Krabbe’s disease. 1 in 100,000. That’s 100 times more likely than an abductor to affect your child. It’s often fatal, more than can be said for most reasons children go missing. That’s assuming you’re not in a higher-risk group. Once you’ve had one child with Krabbe’s disease, your chances can shoot up to as much as 1 in 4 for your next child to be affected.

    Or how about Ancephaly? The one where baby’s brain and skull doesn’t form properly so parts of the brain are exposed? This too is often (always?) fatal. The odds? 3 in 10,000. If it sounds familair, it’s because it caused the facebook row.

    Or Tay-Sach’s disease? That can be as much as a 1 in 4 chance too.

    Or hell. We’re worrying about potential kinda-sorta-but-not-really problems. What about the thing that can kill 100,000,000 babies per year. Because it’s done so before. Rh incompatibility.

    Look, if you won’t worry about Stastically likely things. at least worry about slightly less unlikely things. Also, get more exercise. Your flight or fight system is bored out of its mind hence the freaking out at nothing.

    Sigh. I really do wish these people would think fbefore they say these things.

  20. Sigh September 15, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    That’s supposed to be 10,000 babies a year, not a million per year.

  21. BL September 15, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    “So, you’re asking the abductor to somehow magically gain knowledge of the fact that these children were dropped off eight minutes earlier. Then you’re asking said villain to find that child in a mass of children and adults and shove them into his white windowless van. You’re also asking him to make people somehow not notice two crying screaming children. All in eight minutes”

    Reminds me of a phrase Lenore used earlier this year: “criminal masterminds who combine rank evil with a love of intensive research”.

    Not a very numerous group of people.

  22. Dan September 15, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

    The hours and hours we spent waiting for my mother to pick us up….

    From the Movie Theater, the Library, the beach (yes even the beach). We arranged to to meet mom at certain place and time on the street next to the beach parking lot. She was ALWAYS late.

    No cell phones. No iPods. (what I wouldn’t have given for an iPod back then) But we usually did have a transistor radio to pass the time.

  23. Jenny Islander September 15, 2014 at 6:08 pm #

    Grandpa up there needs to ask his grandson and granddaughter to switch clothes, because monster wedgie, yo.

  24. Andrea September 15, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

    I’m glad to see this in a grandparents magazine. My own mother and mother-in-law are sick with worry every time the kids are remotely out of sight. Even if I’m there saying “everything’s fine, they go in the neighbor’s yard all the time.” I think Worst First Thinking can hit grandparents of this generation pretty hard — they’ve watched the world change so much, seen so many violent trends spring up in all facets of the media, seen “the kids these days” get tattoos, listen to crazy music and base jump off of buildings. They’ve also watched enough cop and lawyer shows to have their worldviews completely wrecked, and they don’t even realize it. Information was a commodity back in the day, media sources were heavily censored and sanitized, and so many grandparents just feel old and vulnerable in the face of it all. Let’s hope there’s more of this kind of free range outreach for the grandparent generations.

  25. Lance Mitaro September 15, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

    Predator? Oh, I LOVED that movie! Wasn’t that the one with Arnold in it? Get to DA CHOPPAH!

  26. C. S. P. Schofield September 15, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

    Am I the only one who thinks that when these overprotected kids get out on their own it’s going to be like sailors let loose for shore leave in Shanghai? That the number of teens getting tattoos and piercings, doing seriously risky stuff like parkour, and so forth has something to do with having been packed in cotton wool their whole lives?

    We’re raising a while generation of reckless adventurers; which given how things are going isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except they won’t have the experience to gauge risk properly and will die like flies.


  27. Amy September 15, 2014 at 9:20 pm #

    Oooooh they piss me off so much. They didn’t have to drag their kids into every store but sit around in their boredom and dictate how we parent. Ppl either do not have enough kids or haven’t raised any recently and have forgotten. Either way, too much time on their hands. You see the irony.

  28. Let Her Eat Dirt September 15, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

    Your caption is perfect — many of these paranoid grandparents managed to raise their kids without the contemporary obsession with safety, yet now they demand it for this generation.

    I just learned that a friend — an otherwise reasonable person — is freaking out because her 12 year-old’s new bus route drops her off at the bottom of the street rather than in front of the house. If the parents don’t figure out something, the poor kid will have to walk 5, maybe even 8, minutes up a hill by herself past million-dollar homes and manicured lawns. The horror!

    Let Her Eat Dirt
    A dad’s take on raising tough, adventurous girls

  29. Warren September 15, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    One problem is that parents will not confront, the grandparents. Out of either some misplaced respect, or just to not rock the boat, a lot of parents today will do things differently infront of the grandparents.

    Yes they are your parents, but they are not the parents of your child.

    The first time my parents, and then the first time the inlaws tried to tell our kids not to do things because it was not safe or too hot, too cold or whatever. I got up walked out front, turned to look at the house. Then got out my drivers license, and looked at it. Came back in the house and said to them

    Wow, for a minute you had me confused. But I went and checked, and guess what………..this is our house. And like you have all said to us when we were kids, as long as you are under my roof, you will go by my rules.

  30. J.T. Wenting September 15, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

    older man alone with child, and touching the child? PEDOPHILE!

  31. Coasterfreak September 16, 2014 at 10:56 am #

    I meant to share this yesterday, but alas, never got to it.

    I was raised the way most of us were in the 70’s and 80’s — free range before we called it that. I had wonderful, loving, involved parents who understood that it was OK for kids to have some freedom. My parents also never objected to the way I was raising my kids, which was with as much freedom as I had as a kid.

    This past May we were visiting family in upstate NY, where I (and my parents) grew up. My grandparents live about 20 minutes out into the country, in an area that didn’t even have cable TV until about 10 years ago. This is where my mom grew up.

    As we drove down the road she lived on, where there are about 4 houses per mile of road, and has literally not changed at all in the past 50 years save for one “new” house that was built 30 years ago, my mom pointed out a spot roughly half a mile from my grandparent’s house where she used to play in the forest as a kid. After she told us all the things she used to do there, she added, “Of course, I could never be allowed to do that today.” I asked why. She answered, “It’s too dangerous in this day and age! Too many sickos out there!”

    I couldn’t believe it. I started to ask her how many sickos she thought would be waiting out in the woods in a sparsely populated area that hasn’t changed in 50 years just hoping that an unsupervised child would wander past, but I decided to keep my mouth shut as we were there for a funeral and I thought it better to not start an argument.

  32. Puzzled September 16, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    >Am I the only one who thinks that when these overprotected kids get out >on their own it’s going to be like sailors let loose for shore leave in >Shanghai? That the number of teens getting tattoos and piercings, doing >seriously risky stuff like parkour, and so forth has something to do >with having been packed in cotton wool their whole lives?

    I don’t know, but I certainly disagree, at least with the examples given. Tattoos have been common throughout human history as a form of coming of age ritual, as have piercings. As for Parkour – risky? It’s an amazingly low-injury form of exercise, as compared to, say, soccer – the most dangerous sport in existence – or even weight lifting, which is relatively safe. Any form of resistance training that does not involve putting heavy things on top of yourself is generally going to be safer than those that do.

  33. EricS September 16, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    @Miriam: RIGHT ON! lol Shows the lack of common sense as well with parents these days. They pick and choose what to fear, based on THEIR convenience. So whether they realize it or not, it’s more about THEM than their kids.

    Here’s question for the comment ” “Yes, the odds are one in a million, but who wants to take the chance of your kid getting killed?” ” We all know the affects, long and short, of helicoptering and over protecting children. They become inadequate as they traverse through life. Become too dependent, and incapable of fending for themselves when they are older.

    So…the question is, what would these fearful parents rather do?

    1. Ignore the “one in a million” chance and let their kids grow up well prepared for their future life. That in doing so, they give their children that many more odds in becoming successful adults.


    2. Take the much higher chance that their children will grow up ill equipped to face the world, and become dependent on their parents to do everything for them, well into their adult lives. We already see this happening with College students, as well as young adults in their 20s.

    All because the parents need to feel better about themselves. hmmmm.

  34. EricS September 16, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    @CSP: “Am I the only one who thinks that when these overprotected kids get out on their own it’s going to be like sailors let loose for shore leave in Shanghai? That the number of teens getting tattoos and piercings, doing seriously risky stuff like parkour, and so forth has something to do with having been packed in cotton wool their whole lives?”

    I don’t think they would be “reckless adventurers”, as I’m seeing some of them, and reading more of others, it would indicate that they lack the confidence and self-esteem to be any type of “adventurer”. From 18-25, they still rely on mommy and daddy for pretty much everything. They are either spoiled brats, or cowering wimps. Some probably don’t even have a clue why they are fearful. Just that their parents always tell them to be. Stay away from this and that. Don’t do this and that. Stranger danger. You touched a rock…QUICK! Grab the disinfectant.

    The “reckless adventurers” you speak of mostly come from kids who haven’t been sheltered, or over protected, but rather just not allowed to do certain things, but they want to. And like all kids/teens of generations past, when you tell them they can’t do something, they just want to do it more. But they have to want to do it in the first place. Many of these the kids today, don’t. Because their too fearful, or don’t know how to, or too insecure to want to. That all comes from what they learned as toddlers and up.

  35. Kristina September 17, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

    Worrying ourselves silly about statistically insignificant dangers, reducing exercise, increasing pollution – no wonder we have an obesity/heart disease epidemic.

    I am thankful everyday that I understand statistics.

    Even my mom has a hard time relaxing and letting my toddler play in a safe place, but out of sight and around a corner, and she was the most reasonable mother I knew. I do try to empathize, if something were to happen she thinks she would lose a child as well as a grandchild.

  36. Amanda Matthews September 18, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    “How can overprotection be an “instinct” when those same grandparents raised Free-Range Kids? ”

    Because back when they were raising their own kids, they probably had hobbies, friends to talk to, etc. – they were DOING SOMETHING while the kids were out being free-range.

    But now they have nothing better to do than watch the news and hover over grandkids. They don’t feel helpful/productive unless they’re telling you you’re doing it wrong because of what they heard on the news.

    I think a problem in society has arisen. It’s obvious that a problem has come up, where teens no longer really have anything to do outside of the house. They are discouraged or forbidden by law to “hang out” in malls, to skateboard around the neighborhood, etc. as they use to. So instead they stay inside, on their phones and computers, and when someone says “You should go outside!” they are like “…And do what?”

    I don’t know what the elderly use to do for fun, but obviously that has gone away too. I think they are more isolated from their friends, but unlike teens, they don’t all have the internet-savvy to just connect online instead. And with all the “stranger danger” bs, they can’t just go talk to unrelated people. There’s no longer the elderly guy who spends his day playing chess with random people in the park, nor the elderly woman who gives home baked bread out to neighbors.