Here’s a question for you, folks:
weekend, the weather was amazing up here, in Montreal. We went to the park. While the kids were playing, we got to talking with another set of parents.
After a while, my oldest, 5 Â½, asked if she could go home by herself. We were almost done with the conversation, the park is 200m (600 ft) from home, and the backdoor was not locked, so she could get in the house. We said yes.
She took the sidewalk (I like her to cross the street at intersections when she is by herself), and we followed less than 3 minutes later, but we took the alley. When we got home, she was not there, so I double-backed, taking the sidewalk, and found her less than a block away from home.
A woman had asked her if she was ok and had called the police to report a â€œlost childâ€. My daughter was not lost, and was not in distress. However, I realized I hadnâ€™t prepped her for a situation like this. She didnâ€™t want to be rude by just leaving, and she had stayed put, not followed that stranger anywhere. She knows our phone number, but because the person didnâ€™t ask for it, she didnâ€™t think about tell the person to just call us.
When the police got there, I just told them she was ok, and they left. I feel really comfortable with our decision to let her walk home, but I realized I need to be better prepared. We are printing â€œFree-Range Kidâ€ cards and told my daughter what to do it something like this happens again (tell the people mom is waiting at home, to tell them sheâ€™s not lost and show them the card, and to ask them to call us if they insist). Any other ideas?
I’d just make sure the child knows to say that her parents know where she is and are expecting her. And now,Â chime in! – L.
“However, I realized I hadnâ€™t prepped her for a situation like this. She didnâ€™t want to be rude by just leaving, and she had stayed put, not followed that stranger anywhere.”
A half a block? Couldn’t she just point and say “I live there, and I’m walking home”?
Remember block parents?
When I was in kindergarten or first grade (six), I was walking the mile to school and I decided it was too cold outside to be reasonable. I was mad at my mom for making me walk, when other kids on our block got rides to school.
I decided to get my mom in trouble and make a point. I looked for a house with the block parent sign in the window and fell down on the sidewalk (perhaps with the back of my hand to my forehead). I wanted to seem like I had passed out from the cold. Or something.
The woman in the house came out and got me, brought me inside, and called my mother, who told the lady to put me back on the sidewalk and tell me to hurry up to get to school.
The police were not called.
My daughter was pretty strong-willed, so a busybody wouldn’t have been able to keep her from doing what she wanted to do without physically restraining her. She also was pretty good at critical thinking, from a very early age. This problem would never have come up for us.
Montreal Mom, I think this event was the preparation for the busybody! It was a real-life experience you can talk about, and it ended well, unlike so many stories we read about here!
You can tell your daughter that she should resist being delayed if she doesn’t need any help. You can tell her to ask the person to call you if they have a concern. You can tell her that if she needs help, to find someone decent and tell them everything she can think of to get the help she needs. You can tell her that if she does not need help and encounters a busybody, she shouldn’t stop, answer questions, or ever, ever go anywhere with them.
My daughter went through something similar last year when she was about the same age. She was walking home from a park district program 2 blocks from home. A woman who lives on the next block was concerned and tried to stop my daughter from walking home. I was standing in my front yard with my other kids, watching the interaction from a distance. The woman spoke to my daughter and followed her for a house or two, and it looked like she was about to get on her phone. For a second I thought I would have to intervene. My daughter walked the rest of the way home, but the woman from the next block drove up to our house a few minutes later. When my daughter saw her drive up, she eyed the woman with obvious suspicion and ran into the house. When I saw my daughter’s reaction to the woman, I knew that her instincts about people were coming along pretty well. A moment of pride. My conversation with the woman was polite enough, she said, “I was concerned about your daughter.” I said, “Thanks for your concern, she’s fine. My name is ChicagoDad. Have a nice day”. And that’s all that happened.
No extra advice here, but I did prep my kids for staying in the car while I go in the store. They like to listen to the radio. I started letting them do this at about age 9. My advice to them was, if someone came to ask them if they were okay, they should say they are fine, grab the keys and go into the store and find me. Kids in our area walk to school from the first day on, so there should be no problem with them walking across a parking lot, as long as they look for cars backing out.
And I did the preparation because a guy here DID confront kids in a car, and bullied them to getting out and going with him to find their mom in the store. It was summer, but the AC had been on. They were 9 and 13. Mom ended up calling the police. The guy claimed he was a firefighter…that was how he bullied the kids out of the car, and had been drinking. The police arrested him. They did not charge the mother, but warned her to tell the kids to not go with strangers. Public backlash was bad for the mom.
Amen, preach it.
She is 5, that is why she didn’t point and keep walking. Lots of great suggestions here, but I think the only way she will learn is by practice, not by memorising a heap of possible scenarios.
My 6yo recently learned to ride her bike, and I just had a baby. So I regularly walk the 3 kids to the supermarket (1km, or about 20minutes of walking at a 4yo pace). My 6yo knows the way, she could get there and back on her own, what she doesn’t yet know is how to recover if she gets lost… that takes practise.
However she is getting more and more practice as she demonstrates competance, she always rides ahead of us (waiting patiently at each intersection or turn = +1 trust points), and I have recently begun letting her tackle some of the intersections on her own. One near our house is particularly tricky, riding a bike and turning right (which is like turning left in the US). To obey the road rules she needs to ride through a cross-section, and then turn across it. Meaning that she has to look out for traffic from 4-directions, and know how to react if a car is coming. Then she has to ride to the top of a small hill, and turn across it (being responsible enough to ride all the way to the top so that she has the best visibility when crossing the road).
It won’t happen all at once, but it will happen, the same goes for the 5.5yo in this story.
I think it is a non-story, it is all practice practice practice, and discussions about how to tackle it all.
A few years ago I was at home while my baby and toddler napped and my older 3 kids (about 9,7 and 7) played at the park about a block from home around a corner. My husband was out of town. One of my 7 year olds came home and told me that her older sister had hurt herself and needed me to come to the park. Because the baby and toddler were napping I didn’t know what to do as I didn’t want to leave them alone. My kids tend to over exaggerate so I told her to go back to the park and see if her sister really needed me to come or tell her to come home for me to care for her here.
As I paced the driveway waiting for her to come back a car pulled up and out jumped a couple of moms (one who I sort of knew as she lived on the other end of the street) with my daughter.
Apparently she had fallen from the monkey bars and winded herself so she laid there for a minute and one of the moms saw her from her window and ran to help. She tried to carry her home (being about 6 inches at most taller than my girl). The other mom saw this as she drove by and gave them a ride.
On the one hand I was upset that my daughter had got in the car with a women she only sort of knew in passing (she played at the park with her kids sometimes and had seen me talk to her) and that she had let this tiny women try to carry her home as it was clear that she wasn’t badly injured although I am sure being winded scared her at first, and on the other hand I was very grateful for the motherly care and help from other families in the neighbourhood and I felt my daughter had good instincts to trust these women when she needed help. They were very kind and concerned, offered to come watch the other kids if I needed to take her to the urgent care. No judgement was made that I had not come racing or that my kids were at the park alone (most kids are around here from a fairly early age).
This is what neighbourhoods should be. And in our neighbourhood most families are but there are still some people who are so judgemental when we don’t hover at all times and they cause such fear and stress.
“Apparently she had fallen from the monkey bars and winded herself so she laid there for a minute and one of the moms saw her from her window and ran to help. She tried to carry her home (being about 6 inches at most taller than my girl). The other mom saw this as she drove by and gave them a ride”
While appreciating the help, I’m not sure carrying your girl was the best thing. I knocked the wind out of myself several times as a child, and, while it was scary, I knew after the first time or so that normal breathing would come back soon if I just stayed where I was and breathed the best I could.
I remember one time my dad’s sister’s family was visiting us and I went off to the school playground with my slightly older cousin. Although the school was right next to our house, the playground was on the opposite side and not visible from the house. My cousin and I were the only ones at the playground. I fell off some piece of playground equipment, knocked my wind out, and lay there gasping. My cousin ran back to the house and told my father and his father (who were firing up the backyard BBQ grill) that something had happened to me and “it looks like BL is dying” (!).
So Dad and Uncle came running over, by which time I was had recovered a good bit, enough for everyone to realize that I just needed to sit there a while and catch my breath.
Having “What if” conversations these days should prepare kids for unlikely scenarios (bad strangers) as well as the more likely (bad samaritans). You can’t possibly prep for every situation, but telling children that they can and should be assertive (“I am NOT lost”) and do not have to obey adults who think they can tell *lost* children what to do.
Two years ago, my youngest had a spectacular bike crash that left her bloody and mangled about a 1/2 mile from our house. She was biking home from school with my oldest daughter and her friend and the two older girls left the 7 year-old to get help (why one didn’t stay with her was a point of discussion later). Our elderly neighbor was driving by and stopped to clean her up. This grandma put on bandages and encouraged her to ride her bike the rest of the way home. My daughter was enamored by her first aid kit she kept in the car and asked her if she was ever a nurse (she wasn’t, but she had many grandchildren).
Our kids are going to interact with both good and bad samaritans in their lives. Not every choice is perfect, especially in emergencies, but talking about following your gut instincts and what if’s will make them more confident and capable of handling whatever busybody (or helpful neighbor with great first aid!) that comes their way.
Some children – especially those who have been trained up old-school to be respectful and deferential to adults – will have a very difficult time asserting themselves in that situation. At age 5, adults are still very much authority figures in a child’s life.
Thinking back to when I was 5, I knew better than to get in a car or enter the house of someone I didn’t know, but I would’ve been very afraid of getting in trouble at home for disrespecting an adult neighbor lady (who was clearly not a “bad guy”) by turning my back and walking away from her.
So if that’s the case here – again, thinking back to when I was 5 – it would’ve been helpful for me to know a phrase like, “My parents are expecting me. I live over there.” It would also have been helpful for my parents to tell me flat-out that, “If WE are expecting you to do something, and a neighbor or other adult tries to get you to do something else, you will NEVER, EVER get in trouble for obeying us over them.”
It’s like preparing them for future discrimination based solely on their age or size. That some adults in this world have *Unsupervised Child Anxiety* and feel better calling 911 to remedy this irrational feeling. Calling the police about a not-lost child and detaining them without their parent’s permission is not a normal response and never should be. Teach your children well.
Cell phones make it so much easier for people to call the police on each other, fortunately and unfortunately. There are many irrationally fearful people in our country (see our presidental race!) about very bad things happening to our children. I want my kids to have free range experiences that they are legally entitled to experience without having to worry about someone calling the police. To do that, you almost need to teach your kids to be a little squirrelly and arm them with a bunch of one-lines they can practice saying with confidence.
“She didnâ€™t want to be rude by just leaving..”
Please teach your daughter that HER right to leave is more important than manners, always. She has every right to leave and this is not rude, it’s smart. I want my kids to be respectful of adults and elders, but they can be rude as all hell if someone tries to detain them for no good reason when they know they are not lost. I want my girls (and boy) to be smart, not obedient. Respect authority…within reason. Never be afraid to assert yourself, but it does take practice.
Did those Free-Range Kids bracelets ever catch on? If so, do they actually achieve the desired effect?
And another bump in the road:
“Free-Range Parenting: The Unintended Consequences” – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-patterson/free-range-parenting-the_b_9788224.html
Teach your children that they are NOT obligated to say anything to nosy strangers. If they are worried about seeming rude, they can say (politely) “my parents know where I am and I do not need any help,” and walk away.
They are also not obligated to speak to the police or get into a patrol car. They can say the same to Mr./Ms. Police Officer – and the cops can call home to confirm that (without traumatizing your kids with a trip in the back of the car).
Parents: you are NOT obligated to speak to the police if they come to your home (with or without kids) and you should NOT let the police or CPS into your home without a warrant from a judge.
The only way we will STOP the trend of criminalizing parenting is by speaking up and refusing to go along with the insanity.
To the JR of April 28, 2016 at 11:43 am # “And another bump in the road:”
Looks like there are two of us here with the same screen name.
How do you propose we differentiate ourselves?
Well said, Danielle!
Kids need to know what their rights are in order to have the ability to exercise them – same goes for parents
Educate, advocate and stand up for your rights! (“your” in the collective sense referring to parents and children) – by supporting each other, we can stop the madness of treating parents and children as if they are incapable
What should be a crime is when CPS and Authorities (PD) fail to disclose parents & children’s rights when attempting to question them
I read the link to the HuffPo. The author either completely misunderstands what free-range parenting means, or he is creating a straw man argument by misrepresenting free-range altogether. He claims that free-range parenting means buying your child everything they want, all the way through their young-adult years, and making them so dependent on your constant support and largess that they quit college and ‘fail to launch.’ In essence, he equates free-range parenting with creating an entitlement mindset, when nothing could be further from the truth.
@JR–That Huffington Post article about the “unintended consequences of free-range parenting” is terrible. They have “free-ranging” confused with “spoiling,” and “giving kids everything they want,” and they use the terms interchangeably, so of course free-ranging looks like a bad idea, if that article is all you have to go on.
The author of that article is not describing “free-range” parenting. In fact I don’t think he has a clue as to what it truly is. He seems to make the same mistake most people make in their understanding of “free-range” kids. It does not mean a home without rules. It does not mean allowing your kids to consume as much candy and sweets as they want. It does not mean looking the other way when your 13-year-old son is out drinking beer and smoking dope with his friends. In fact, the more you helicopter your kids, the more likely they could indulge in these type of vices! The concept behind “free-ranging” parenting is basically not micromanaging your kids. Trusting that they will do just fine on their own in certain situations, but the author seems to be confusing “free-range” parenting with PERMISSIVE parenting. Huge difference!
From the HuffPo article:
“Free-range parenting exists when a childâ€™s needs are provided in-excess of typical freedoms and entitlements (in either scope or sequence), typically both.”
That’s from the first paragraph…The author doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.
I couldn’t read anymore after that line.
“The author either completely misunderstands what free-range parenting means, or he is creating a straw man argument by misrepresenting free-range altogether. He claims that free-range parenting means buying your child everything they want, all the way through their young-adult years, and making them so dependent on your constant support and largess that they quit college and â€˜fail to launch.â€™”
A false alternative: parents either indulgently coddle kids or else goose-step them about like a drill sergeant. The idea that kids can actually do things themselves, hopefully with some instruction and modelling from parents, is left out of the picture.
But then the author of the article is an assistant principal, so why would he understand that?
Got that right! I imagine that he encountered the parent of an entitled brat child sent to his office one day, and the parent said, “Oh, we’re free range. We let Hunter make his own choices about what he wants to do.” And the principal instantly equated FR with permissiveness, and didn’t bother to look any further.
Ah well. Shall we respectfully educate him? His HuffPo bio page says he’s the AP at Corona Del Mar HS in Newport Beach, CA. I went to the school’s webpage and found his email address, which is…
“The children have been so doted on, so defended, so parented from the watchtower, all while having full access to the social capital of an adult. Make no mistake about it, intellectually they are capable, but the delivery mechanism for long term survival is absent. The return home from college is the first true evidence of the unintended consequences of free-range parenting.”
Just echoing everyone else here, but yeah, he’s got it completely backwards. This describes the helicopter parent, the one who wants their child to never have a negative emotion and so gives them everything they want without making them responsible for anything. Free-range parenting is about giving your child more freedom and responsibility as they prove themselves capable (and maybe pushing them a bit when they grouse and you know they can do it). He’s conflating free-range with…I can’t think of the word…maybe free-rein? Those relationships where the parents let the kids be in charge perhaps?
“But then the author of the article is an assistant principal, so why would he understand that?”
He also listed Tennis Enthusiast. It all makes sense now…
“Nevermind that hot chocolate and ice cream as a cornerstone in her diet can lead to health issues: teeth, weight, skin, addiction.”
There are worse things in life to become addicted to chocolate in all it’s lovely forms. I say this as a proud lover of hot chocolate and ice cream (just had mint chocolate chip last night!) and someone who is running a half marathon with my son this weekend. My teeth are flossed daily and my coat is shiny, too!
What is the parallel universe I’m missing here about food indulgences (which an active lifestyle can enjoy) and raising capable, responsible kids? Permitting freedom and being permissive are not one in the same. This is the worst critical parenting article I’ve seen in a long time.
I’m just joining the head-scratching over the HuffPo article.
I’ve disliked Huffington post for a long time…that article seals it for me. It’s like that author has written an article about spoiled children, & decided to throw “free range” in there just for the hell of it. Made absolutely no sense.
This parent has it all sorted out.
You’re confident in your parenting decision, but just hit a snag.
The idea on how to prepare your kid for the next encounter with a samaritan/busybody sounds fine.
I’ve got nothing useful to add.
Cards are a great idea!
>Now our college freshmen are finding the opposite. They have more freedom at home than at college.
So tighten up that home because the colleges have gone mad!
>Access to highly educated advocates who can get them into full classes and mirco-engineer a successful resume.
Common activities for free-range parents?
>Access to excused absences in lieu of test-taking.
Ah, this rant is really all about having met some free-range parents who also oppose Common Core and opt-out of exams. Got it.
Yeah, that assistant principal is a bit off in regards to “free-range parenting.” On the other hand, Newport Beach is an affluent community. While it’s not necessarily Beverly Hills, it’s generally considered to be one of California’s richer zip codes. For those of you who watch television, “The OC” took place in Newport Beach. So there’s a certain “reality-bending” that comes from living in a community like that.
To take a line from his article:
There’s the part that’s missing from the parents’ supposed free-range philosophy, in my opinion. The kid makes the decisions and the kid accepts the consequences.
You want to party all night? That’s your decision. When you are too tired the next day to take your exams, you face the consequences. The parents, though, step in at this point and say, “Oh, my child is too sick to take the test. Can they take it at another time with no penalty?” The parent is the one protecting the child and keeping them from accepting responsibility. That’s not “free-range.”
A half a block? Couldnâ€™t she just point and say â€œI live there, and Iâ€™m walking homeâ€?
She probably did. I imagine the good Samaritan ignored her.
Excellent advice. Even the most assertive kids can get tripped up by an “authority figure.” It is worth practicing.
One thing that helped mine was to say, “Maybe you don’t realize that I’m six years old” or whatever – a lot of adults aren’t very good at judging ages.
To the extent that that Patterson guy is talking about free range parenting at all (seems more like afluenza to me), he is addressing a very unique subsection of free range parenting – free range parenting of the rich.
I lived in and near Newport Beach for several years. My daughter was born there. I know exactly where this high school is.
This is an area populated largely by the 1%. Where flying out of the local airport requires special departure procedures that include a very steep initial assent and then cutting back the engines to coast over Newport Beach lest the noise of the planes disturb the residents (seriously). The original Real Housewives show was in Newport Beach.
I imagine that everything he says is true. It was certainly my experience living there. It is also something outside of reality for 99% of the population of the country. For most of us, occasionally indulging our kids in ice cream doesn’t result in Spring Break in Cabo because Spring Break in Cabo is not part of our kids’ realities. Life is simply different when you have the financial ability to provide everything the heart desires and more. Blaming free range parenting on the results of endless supplies of money is ridiculous and shows a complete lack of insight into the life of the general population.
I’ve been wondering about this. We let our 7yo daughter go to the shop around the corner (literally about 50m away), which she loves doing, and she did recently tell me that someone was worried to see her there on her own. I’m pleased to say she just told them that she only came from just around the corner and that was the end of that. The shopkeepers recognise her and are happy to help (it may help that they are not British!) and she is so proud of herself every time she gets something.
I’d love her in the next year or so to start going to and navigating around the supermarket that is only about 200m away and across the main road (with a crossing) but I am worried that the staff might have been trained or advised to ‘report’ unaccompanied kids under a certain age as possible neglect victims or something, which seems all too plausible these days. I guess I might want to check with a store manager whether there will be any issues with her going in store without me; shouldn’t have to, but I know I’ve never seen kids under about 12 in there alone, so it would stand out and might be remarked upon.
I regularly let my 4yo go to the bakery to buy bread, while I finish up the shopping. She is within eyesight, and given the regularity she has learned where to find me, and how to handle a variety of things. I am quite proud of her.
Generally I am waiting in the checkout line when I hand her the money and send her off. Today the lady behind me began chatting with me about it…. She must have thought it was the first time I had done it, as she was so encouraging. She reassured me that my daughter would be fine (I knew that, but I wasn’t going to dismiss the kindness of a nice lady).
It was lovely to get such encouragement, and nice to have a chat with a stranger in a supermarket line.
It’s awful that we even have to prepare our children for this but it’s a sad reality in this culture of ours. My girls are 14 and 11 and have the freedom at this age to go pretty much wherever they want during the day. My 11 year old decided to walk down the street to WalMart yesterday in the middle of the afternoon, in our quiet family friendly neighborhood. This is a walk that she makes all the time but for some reason some busybody called the police on her yesterday just for walking through the parking lot alone. She told me that she was just walking along minding her own business when a police officer drove up to her and began blatantly harassing her. I was shocked when I got home and heard the story.
She said that he told her that somebody had reported the fact that she walked alone and he told her that she didn’t need to be. He wanted to know her name and age (she told him 12 even though she’s still a couple of months away.) He asked where she lived and who she lived with and then accused her of being a runaway! He told her to wait while he put her name in the system so that he could see if she had run away, and told her that she was lying when she told him that she certainly had not! She told me that she was upset and crying at that point but when nothing came up he still wouldn’t let her leave. He began pressuring her to get into the car so that he could drive her home, and make sure she really hadn’t run away. She told him that she doesn’t feel comfortable getting into a car with a stranger. He kept telling her that he wasn’t going to hurt her and that she wasn’t in trouble but wouldn’t stop trying to convince her to get into the car. He told her that he could drive her to me at my work, which is the opposite direction so further for her to walk home. I was SO proud of her because even though she was so rattled she flat refused to get into the car. She kept telling him that she wanted to be alone and to just walk home and he told her that she was too young to be out on her own. Since she refused to get into the car he told her that he’d be following her home. She finally walked away and he tailed her about halfway before finally going away.
I don’t know what was going on in this situation but I can only assume that he was trying to ‘help’ her. She cried the whole way home and cried the entire time she was telling me about it. She was terrified by what he did to her and furious at being treated like a criminal because she decided to walk to the store. I’ve spent years preparing my kids for the fact that something like this could happen but it’s still extremely jarring to go through it.
I’m glad that she had the willpower and the presence of mind to stand her ground about not getting in the car and the thing I told her to do differently next time is to get on the phone with me asap and let me talk to whoever is harassing her in the way. There’s no reason that she should be stuck to handle a situation like that on her own even though she obviously did a great job of it.
We talked about what she did right and what she could do next time so that she’s better prepared, and I’m glad to see that she’s out and about again today instead of hiding inside in the fear that something like this could happen again.
It’s so odd to think people feel a need to protect others yet our country is in such turmoil in a general way. My parents told me to not stop and talk to strangers… It was at one time known as stranger danger. It is not rude to turn, not speak and move away from any stranger. Regardless of how “nice” they can appear to be. No child should stop and respond to a stranger who is asking questions. We were taught common sense actions at one time. Turn and walk (or run) away from strangers. Stopping gives them a moment to snatch a child. It is NOT rude to not respond. Now as for responding to police. Yes the child should stop and reply in kind about how their parent is waiting for them. If the police are in doubt they could call… Or even walk with them kindly and non intrusively. more concern and less invasion would be much more appropriate in these instances for sure. A lost child looks lost typically.
A little training now will go a long way. Good Samaritan stalkers are everywhere and the world is a dangerous place (because they can wield real power, as this blog often shows). If I train my son to deal with them now, I hope that someday he’ll grow up to be an anti-PC here like this man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4CizzE-zZo
(fixed typo) …. grow up to be a strong anti-PC hero like this man. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4CizzE-zZo
“She told me that she was upset and crying at that point but when nothing came up he still wouldnâ€™t let her leave. He began pressuring her to get into the car so that he could drive her home, and make sure she really hadnâ€™t run away.”
This is a fairly blatant civil-rights violation.
That HuffPost article was insane! I did my best to educate him in my comment, but I should have linked this site. Wow I’m just amazed that some one could be so off on a concept. How hard is it to do a little research when you’re writing an article for the HuffPost?!? That seems like it should be standard practice.