Mom Orders Bickering Kids Out of Car — Ruining Them for Life?

Yowza. A mom fed up with her bickering daughters, age 10 and 12, ordered them out of the car in the downtown district of an upscale suburb, White Plains, New York. Then zkyribyfzf
she drove off.
They were three miles from home.

One kid made it home on her own. The other was picked up by a Good Samaritan who found her outside, upset. Now the mom has been arrested. There’s a temporary order of protection against her. And, of course, at least one psychologist has already been found and quoted by the press, warning of the deep and lasting scars that mom has inflicted on her kids.

 Now, listen, I have no doubt that those kids will remember this incident for the rest of their lives. I have no doubt the mom will remember it, too. But can we give kids – and parents – a little bit of credit for resilience? The idea that a bad day, even a scary awful day, means a child is scarred for life just means that every day in every way we could be ruining our kids forever. God forbid we do or say something stupid, the gig is up. Our kids are damaged goods, the human equivalent of those dented cans of pineapple you get at the 99-store. (Or at least that I get at the 99-cent store. Is this why no one comes for dinner?)

 Naturally, I do not think that this mom handled her kids in a truly optimal way. But most of us have days when we don’t. That doesn’t make us criminal parents. It makes us human parents. And kids are built to live with humans, not Robo-Mamas.

 It was not physical abuse, which I don’t condone. It was not even particularly dangerous, though parents who never let their kids out of their sight will argue otherwise. What it was was a dramatic gesture – a wigged out one, indeed – but I could see myself, some day, doing something just about as dramatic. One night I was so mad my tween-age son hadn’t taken out the garbage after being asked 18 times (at least) that I said, “I’m going to scream.” And then I did. Bloody murder.

He cried hysterically for about a half hour after that, he was so shaken. So was I.

Tonight I’m sure the White Plains mom is shaken to the core. I’m sure the kids are too, especially if they think now mommy is going to Sing Sing all because they were fighting in the back seat about who was hogging the arm rest or breathing too loud. But I’m also sure that this alone is no reason to lock the mom up. The kids will be okay after some hugs, an apology from mom and also an apology from the girls for being annoying enough to drive mom up the wall.

 I know, I know. Kids are supposed to be blameless. Parents are supposed to be in perfect control all the time. And it is so fun to point fingers when they’re not.

But let’s just say no one’s perfect, and dropping your kids off in a suburban shopping district and expecting them to deal is not the same as driving them into the Mojave and leaving them with a half-filled bottle of Vitamin Water.

We all have our moments. Let’s assume children and parents both can get over them, maybe even learn from them, and then go on to live decent lives. — Lenore


139 Responses to Mom Orders Bickering Kids Out of Car — Ruining Them for Life?

  1. Jessica April 22, 2009 at 11:21 am #

    Amen! You bring so much common sense to the table, thank you. Kids grow up healthier when they know adults can make mistakes and when they interact with adults who are big enough to apologize when they do. I loved your story about screaming, that was hilarious.

  2. Valerie April 22, 2009 at 11:41 am #

    That’s scary. Arresting the mom and filing a protective order? Total overreaction.

  3. Somer April 22, 2009 at 11:45 am #

    My mom would have done the same thing in a heartbeat….though she would have done it on about day 3 of a 2 week driving trip through the Dakotas.

    If I was a 10 year old and mad at my mom…I would have looked at the first concerned stranger and burst into tears too, Likely would have gotten some ice cream out of it as well.

    I have threatened my kids similarly and they usually clam up as soon as I pull the car over, all 2 times it has EVER gotten that far. I do yell now and then (I am a single parent and have PMS), but after we all calm down we talk, we apologize, we all agree we are human.

    I think part of “free range parenting” is enforcing those limits such as respect for others as well as themselves. and for petes sake, I think more kids SHOULD have the tar scared out of them if they are misbehaving.

  4. Stephanie @ Faithful Follower of Christ April 22, 2009 at 11:46 am #

    Arrested? Ridiculous! I agree, this probably wasn’t the best way to handle this, but I don’t see that she did anything that directly endangered her children. Three miles is a little far to walk for children that age, but it wouldn’t have hurt them any to walk home as long as they knew how to get there.

  5. Sandy April 22, 2009 at 12:01 pm #

    Hey I think this mom wasn’t that far off. I firmly remember my parents tossing us 4 kids out of the car on the side of the freeway somewheres between Connecticut and the Rockies. We were traveling across country and I am sure we were doing out fair share of bickering in the back seat. We were shocked yet a little excited by the adventure and quickly started making grand plans to live like the Box Car Children. Of coarse my parents did a circle at the next exit and picked us up (bummer huh?) Do I remember the experience? yeh Was I traumatized for life? no, I actually credit my folks for their guts.

  6. Jason April 22, 2009 at 12:02 pm #

    When I was about 10 my mom once left me at a grocery store when I didn’t listen and wandered off to look at some magazines. About a half hour later I realized that she hadn’t come found me like usual and freaked out. I walked home, where my mother was calmly putting away her groceries.

    I am not scared, and I managed to not wander off again after that. It’s terrifying that a mother would be arrested for this

  7. Aelfie April 22, 2009 at 12:05 pm #

    I’ve done this. Now granted it wasn’t my kid and we were only a half mile from home…

    His Mom applauded me for coming up with a creative idea to make a point.

    And he never mouthed off at me in the car again….=)

  8. Catherine April 22, 2009 at 12:13 pm #

    My dad always used to threaten to do that to us when we were kids – along with saying he would “laugh all the way to the hospital” if we persisted in doing something dangerous after a warning to stop doing it.

  9. Alexis April 22, 2009 at 12:15 pm #

    I am really worried that people can get arrested for disciplining their child in this way. I think she was well within her rights. I agree, they will all remember it forever. Had she not been arrested, the kids would remember it and know not to reenact whatever they were doing in the future. Instead all of the fear and panic in society reacted and she was punished for expecting her kids to walk three miles. This is outrageous and I wish I knew how to make my voice heard by authorities. Not only is society afraid of the idea of free range kids, but they punish it by law now. That feels so wrong to me.

  10. Stacy April 22, 2009 at 12:17 pm #

    My mom also made it abundantly clear to us that should we not behave in stores we’d be left behind, or in cars we’d be forced to get out and walk. It was not an idle threat, and we were perfectly capable at that age of walking the 3 miles home. And we did NOT carry cell phones. It’s a punishment that would ABSOLUTELY come with forewarning and knowledge on our part that we were endangering our cushy ride. But we routinely biked/walked significantly farther than that for entertainment. Arrested? Yeesh. Good grief. And heaven knows as a 10 yr old I wouldn’t be taking any Good Samaritan up on a ride unless I knew them from church/school/my block.

  11. Maya April 22, 2009 at 12:36 pm #

    I’ve had to do this with my older boys – never at a place where I knew my kid wasn’t comfortable, and perfectly capable of, getting home alone. Sometimes kids need to know that it is possible to push too hard, and that bad behavior does have consequences. And there’s nothing like a little walk to cool off a bad temper!

  12. nancy April 22, 2009 at 12:41 pm #

    It would have been nice if the girls had worked together in order to get home (forming an alliance against the common enemy – Mean Old Mom). If they had we probably never would have heard about them at all, and their lives would return to normal. The miles is NOT that far. Are there no public buses in the suburbs??

  13. LaDonna April 22, 2009 at 1:14 pm #

    Great article. Great comments. I agree. Kids are resilient. Parents are resilient.

  14. Alison April 22, 2009 at 2:51 pm #

    Amen, to your post and all the comments.

  15. Debs April 22, 2009 at 2:58 pm #

    I’m sure those children will remember that day, but I very much doubt it has scarred them for life. I think, what is more likely to have that effect is their mother being arrested for just being a normal mum.

    I’m not saying this mum did the “correct” thing, but it seems no-one, especially a parent, is allowed to make a mistake anymore without the authorities chalking it up as some kind of abuse.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be left alone to raise our kids in peace?

  16. Beth April 22, 2009 at 7:07 pm #

    I think it is going to be much more traumatic to have your mother arrested and kept away from you than to be put out of the car.

  17. Amy April 22, 2009 at 7:20 pm #

    What are we teaching the kids by arresting mom? I think that this is going to give the kids ‘power’ that they do not deserve or need when they decide to fight in the back seat next time. Why should they listen to their mother when she tells them to stop if they think that mom can go to jail if she tries to discipline them? Now, I am not saying that letting them out of the car was good discipline, but it most definitely was not a criminal act!

  18. Brian April 22, 2009 at 8:10 pm #

    As children we had the same threat and all it took seriously. Dad only had to pull over and we all piped down.

    I don’t think the mother did anything wrong and surely there are worse examples of parenting that get completely overlooked in our society.

    The only thing that I wished I read is that the kids should have stuck together. I would have no problem dumping the kids out fo the car, but our kids know that they are to stick together and not to separate. It is the one of the reasons we have confidence in letting them out of our site.

  19. Suzie April 22, 2009 at 8:20 pm #

    I frequently drop my kids at the entrance to our development and tell them they have to walk home (about .5 miles) when they misbehave. On the other hand, in our old neighborhood, we lived on the same BLOCK as my kid’s elementary school and the principal called and yelled at me because it was “too dangerous” to let them walk that distance by themselves.

    This was WAY over the line for anyone to interfere with that mom’s disciplining of her children. They’re children. They’re not made of glass.

  20. The Mother April 22, 2009 at 8:38 pm #

    I’ve done it. Yep.

    Not three miles from home, but two miles. In our own neighborhood, which they walk all the time.

    It doesn’t always have anything to do with being “out of control.”

    Kids stuck in cars will find reasons to bicker at each other. It’s annoying, unsettling and unsafe for the driver and anyone else in the car.

    And there’s no real solution. Worse, failure to control the situation makes you a weak parent, and they’ll just keep doing it again. And again.

    I have stopped the car on the side of the road and waited. Sometimes that worked.

    And I have stopped the car and shooed them out.

    That makes a real impression.

    And no one is scarred for life. Except maybe me, from listening to all that bickering.
    They all got home safely.

  21. Bungalow Babe April 22, 2009 at 8:55 pm #

    As someone who believes in the core idea behind Free Range Parenting, I must say that I find this story deeply disturbing and am frankly surprised by the comments of readers.

    Kicking your kids out of a car at the age of 8 and 10…or any age unless they are posing a mortal threat, is completely screwed up. The issue is not trying to assess the damage done to the young kids.

    The issue is the act itself.

    The idea that, hey, we all survived bumps and bruises and are better for it is not entirely sound.

    There are a lot of traumatic situations that many of us would have been better off without.

    There actually is a middle ground of sanity between being a helicopter parent and being a lunatic who throws her young kids out of the car for…which crime exactly? Oh yeah…bickering.

    Raising your kids without hysteria is not the same as condoning bad parenting.

    Yeah…I would say that meting out a punishment that entails having a young child wend their way home for several miles is pretty indefensible.

  22. Bungalow Babe April 22, 2009 at 8:57 pm #

    Ooops, sorry, meant ages 10 and 12.

    But while I’m at it, I think it is hostile and screwed up at any age. I wouldn’t do it to my 20 and 24 year olds either.

  23. solinox April 22, 2009 at 9:05 pm #

    My parents never threatened to kick us out of the car…but they did pull over to administer beatings. Actually, pulling over only happened once; after that, he only had to threaten and we would shut up.

    I wonder about the 3 miles…but while it seems wrong in my current neighborhood, it would have been perfectly okay in the rural neighborhood I grew up in. My kids don’t range that far yet because of busy main roads; I went that far and farther at that age.

    Had I done something like this in an appropriate area, I would have been more upset if my kids split up on the way home than I would have been worried about something happening to them.

    Incidentally, regarding finding your way around, our local Orientation and Mobility for the Blind teacher expects our THREE YEAR OLD to know how to get to the grocery store (someplace he walks with his blind daddy frequently) and how to get back home. It’s part of his training in being blind. And people don’t expect this of their sighted kids? Sheesh.

  24. Jen April 22, 2009 at 9:34 pm #

    I have to say I’m with Bungalow Babe that this woman’s behaviour, while definitely NOT criminal, was off. Parents aren’t perfect and kids should be held accountable for their actions and realize those actions have real immediate consequences; however I’m not convinced this was the best way to handle it. IF there was a ‘best way’ in this case.

    Other than drop you kids off on the side of the road, what CAN you do?

  25. Nyura April 22, 2009 at 9:45 pm #

    Jeez, I guess I got off lucky — one night in our small but urban town I put my 11 & 10 kids out and told them to walk home (2 miles, along the well-known route to school) if they didn’t stop fighting (son had also just called daughter a b*^$!). Daughter got back in car, angry son refused and took off walking. I drove around the next corner and waited. And waited, and waited. Then went off looking for him, and eventually (stupidly, as it turned out) called our small-town police for to help look for him. Instead of showing up to help look, 3 (yes THREE!!) cruisers showed up to where daughter and I were waiting, to make a report and threaten me with a citation for neglect. Not a single cop offered to help look. Then I got a call on the cell from a Cub Scout parent who’d picked son up on his walk — he was 2/3 of the way home already, and had walked past 6 different open and familiar stores he could have gone in for help if he’d wanted. He’d cut through an alley instead of going to the end of the block, which is why we “lost” him.

    Yes, I could have made a better decision, but he wasn’t in danger and was perfectly competent to handle the situation. I have lost faith in our police as a helping organization — they have so little to do (it’s that safe a town) that multiple cars always show up for the tiniest call — need a police report for a scratch on your car? Three cop cars roll up to your door. If it was that dangerous a decision on my part, why did they all need to stand around berating me instead of looking for the poor, neglected, cold (foul-mouthed) boy??

  26. Sarah April 22, 2009 at 9:45 pm #

    I wonder why the girls split up? I don’t think the kids will be scarred for life and the mom shouldn’t be court ordered to stay away from them, but I do wonder if something else is going on for the girls to not feel like they should stick together.

  27. Clare Hitchens April 22, 2009 at 10:36 pm #

    I think I would have circled back to check on a 10-year old three miles from home, but I certainly don’t think mom should be arrested. We don’t know how familiar the girls were with the area and she probably thought they would stick together.

    I’ve only done this once, and it was with my 18-year-old son. I was driving him to work and he started mouthing at me and swearing. I just pulled over and said, “Get out.” He couldn’t believe it. He had to walk a mile or so to work but he survived.

  28. Nikki April 22, 2009 at 10:55 pm #

    I had a friend in grade school whose mom did the same thing. I’ll never forget it – and I bet he hasn’t either.

  29. Paula April 22, 2009 at 11:18 pm #

    When I was young, my sister and I were fighting in the car (as we always did)… When we were asked to stop, we didn’t (as we never did)… My mother picked up a shady looking hitchiker and seated him IN BETWEEN us in the back seat!! Let me tell you we NEVER fought in the car again!! My sister and I still talk about that day, it really had an impact! My mother laughs at the memory of 2 sour faces in the rear-view miror….

    Point is, I suppose we wouldn’t do something like that today, but no one died and it was a good way to get her point across!! Those were the good days!… lol

  30. Lori April 22, 2009 at 11:36 pm #

    Yes, I’ve stopped and ordered my child out of the car. More than once. And, I wanted to drive off. But, I was usually on a busy thoroughfare, so I didn’t dare get very far. Once I was actually on an interstate and it wasn’t until after she got out that I realized I couldn’t go anywhere, so we stayed put until she calmed down and got back in the car. But, it worked. She eventually calmed down and we went on our merry way.

    I still remember the time my dad left me at a nursing home because I was fighting over which seat to sit in when we were done caroling there. I was probably about 14 and he came back eventually – after taking my siblings to carol at another house (where they all got a box of Reese’s cups and I didn’t, yes I still remember). But, I didn’t fight quite so much in the car again.

    Three miles away alone might be a bit much, depending on the area, how well they knew it, and whether or not they were used to being left on their own. But criminal? No way.

  31. Ilona April 22, 2009 at 11:59 pm #

    Hey there! I just looked up your blog because the Dr. Phil episode with you in it just aired where I live, in the Netherlands.
    Me and my friends were absolutely amazed by what we saw on that show and we were even more shocked when we read your blog.
    In the Netherlands, even in big cities like Amsterdam, you can see kids run around in the streets and in the parks and climbing trees, all by themselves. Of course parents worry over here, but nothing like the weird paranoia regarding child predators you have in the U.S.A.
    Why is is that so many American parent seem unable to see the difference between a real risk and something they’ve probably only seen on tv?
    The world outside isn’t infested with molesters, not in Amsterdam, and not in America. I really wonder why people allow themselves to get so hysterical!

  32. denise April 23, 2009 at 12:17 am #


    I have to say it again…we need to be worried…our behavior is going to be criminalized if we aren’t careful, and while we may be free range parents now, we could be cell block parents soon.

  33. Marvin Merton April 23, 2009 at 1:12 am #

    Wow! At that age, we would wander much farther away from home, albeit usually on bikes. However, walking that far was not uncommon. Last summer, my then two-year-old put in about two miles a day on hiking trails, so, I don’t see this distance as extreme for kids of that age. And, heck, I know how far my dad rode on his bike to deliver newspapers at an even younger age.

    Unless there is a much bigger history of concern with this mother, arresting her definitely seems like a an overreaction. OK. So, I added nothing new with that statement. Still…

  34. korenobaka April 23, 2009 at 1:15 am #

    Is this really that much worse than having a wild uncontrolled arm come back from the front seat smacking whoever might be in the way? (my sister was evil and always managed to sit in the seat that was harder to smack before she started stuff)

    Ok, dropping your kids by the side of the road in a public place 3 miles from home is “a little” extreme, but no harm no foul and you know what? Those kids will most certainly think twice next time.

    The “justice” system (and extreme child “protection” folks, too) needs to get over itself.

  35. Mim April 23, 2009 at 1:24 am #

    This poor mom!! My parents did this when my sister and I wouldn’t stop bickering in the car. We were left at a rest stop along Route 80 in PA for almost a half an hour – and not only was the incident NOT permanently and emotionally scarring, I barely even remembered it until reading this article. And this was PA in the early 90s, not the halcyon days of the 1950s that everyone remembers. And we were FINE. We also didn’t fight in the car for a long time after that.

    Many kids of my generation (including many of my friends!!) were the first to grow up with helicopter parents who didn’t ever give them the opportunity to gain independence and a sense of self-reliance. You know where a lot of these 20-somethings are right now? Living at home, with their parents, at 25 years old with a BA. They’re useless members of society and are unable to even support themselves. They’ve been taken care of for their whole lives…how will they ever learn???

  36. MO Dad April 23, 2009 at 2:09 am #

    If these girls are “scarred for life” it’s because of the outrageous over-reaction by the authorities, media, and other “experts” regarding what is otherwise a normal family conflict, not because their mom dropped them off during the day in an affluent area 3 miles from their $2M home. It’s sad and even scary to think that these girls are being forcibly separated from their mother and put in who-knows-what sort of situation. As pissed as they were at mom that one day, I imagine they’d want nothing more than to be safely at home with her today.

  37. sylvia_rachel April 23, 2009 at 2:28 am #

    On the one hand, 6 km seems like a long way to walk, and we don’t know (based on the reports I’ve read so far) whether the kids had bus fare, whether they knew how to get home, whether they had a cell phone, or whether they had ever been out on their own before. If none of the above, well, I can understand why they’d freak out — though in that case if I were going to criticize their mother it would be as much for not teaching them how to get home on their own as for “abandoning” them.

    And I definitely don’t think she chose a *good* method of solving the problem.

    On the other hand … seriously, you’re ten and twelve years old and you can’t figure out a way to get home from a busy shopping district? You can’t look for a map, find a bus stop, work together to figure out a route, ask for help from a shopkeeper or bus driver, hail a taxi (to be paid by mum on arrival home — that’s the sort of revenge tactic that would’ve appealed to me at their age…), phone another trusted adult for a lift? (No cell phone? Find a pay phone! No change for the pay phone? Reverse the charges! These are useful things for kids to know.) I’m also pretty shocked that the elder sister left the younger one: I’d’ve been in BIG TROUBLE for doing that at that age (and, yes, I was often in sole charge of my four-years-younger sibling when I was twelve — even ten or eleven — and nobody rang the police to have my mum arrested). I suppose she reckoned once their mum had “abandoned” them, all bets were off …

    Was this a good way to handle the bickering? No. Had she adequately prepared her kids to get home on their own? Obviously not. But criminal? Don’t be ridiculous.

  38. sylvia_rachel April 23, 2009 at 2:29 am #

    Oh — and as for trauma: how is seeing your mum arrested and taken away from you less traumatic than having to make your way home from 6 km away? Good grief.

  39. Alexis April 23, 2009 at 2:40 am #

    I absolutely don’t think she should have been arrested, but I just wanted to say that I live near White Plains, and the downtown area is a little creepy/seedy. I wouldn’t leave my kids there alone.

  40. Ducker April 23, 2009 at 2:51 am #

    Just a thought here….Why did one of the kids got up home and the other one hitched a ride? why didnt both girls either walked home or hitched?

    Now as for trauma….I think smaller things can traumatize a kid, not mentioning this sort of parental beaviour

  41. Stepan April 23, 2009 at 3:03 am #

    I’m with Bungalow Babe on this one, too. I definitely don’t see it warranting an arrest, but there are better ways of handling this than losing control and kicking the kids out of the car.

    BTW, I don’t know if White Planes, NY is anything like Texas. But here there most definitely is NO public transportation in most suburbs (and if there happens to be, not likely to be taken by children of lawyers from “crusty neighborhoods”).

    Disclaimer: I grew up in Europe and frequently used subways and other public transportation before turning 10. Heck, I later occasionally hitchhiked to school and was once giving a ride by one of my teachers (kind of embarrassing, actually).

  42. Dmitriy April 23, 2009 at 3:04 am #

    Well, the question is, now that we all agree that arresting this mother was wrong, can anything be done to help them?

  43. anglicanmum April 23, 2009 at 3:11 am #

    My Mum did this to us once at about the same age (only about a mile from home, though). She met us at the door with a big hug and a smile, tension gone as we’d all cooled off by then. I still remember it, not scarred at all.

    Three miles seems quite far in the context of kids that are totally inexperienced at being out on their own (if that’s what they were). But in the context of kids with experience of free range play it shouldn’t be too dramatic.

  44. LisaS April 23, 2009 at 3:42 am #

    That article is unbelievable, from the “other mom” who recommends ipods, video games, and driving a minivan to the psychologist at the end asking us to imagine the emotional scars the girl will have …

    that said, I don’t think this mom made a good choice, but that’s partially because I got pulled over and questioned in a Dallas suburb for taking my son out of the car on the shoulder of a busy road to TALK to him about hitting his toddler sister with the middle seat belt. (that worked out well in the end, since my kid got almost as much of a lecture from the police officer as I did.) But since that little episode, I pull over and sit on the hood until they both roll windows down and tell me they’re ready to behave. This works especially well if I’m hurrying to get somewhere for one of their activities, which is most of my driving.

  45. CLT April 23, 2009 at 4:10 am #

    We don’t even know that the mother “lost control”. You can be fed up and still react calmly, and I consider this a perfectly reasonable thing to do IF the kids know the area- give them some time to cool off. I would be mad at them for splitting up, though. Of course, when we were kids, we used to beg our parents to let us out of the car a mile or so from home so we could hike through the woods to get there.

  46. CLT April 23, 2009 at 4:14 am #

    That said, the comments that do surprise me are the ones about people whose parents left them at rest stops or on the interstate. I would definitely draw the line before that.

  47. Jenni April 23, 2009 at 5:06 am #

    Wow. You make good points. I do think that my mom had threatened to do that to me when I was a kid, but I never would have thought she would be arrested for it.

  48. Jennifer April 23, 2009 at 5:33 am #

    @Bungalow Babe: I can’t say I’d ever do this. It was never done to me. (My parents preferred the Stop it or We’re Going Home-and they would!)
    However, I think calling it “traumatic” is reactionary. These were not small children, they were 10 and 12. It was near their home (3 miles is a bit of a hike, but still in the neighborhood.)
    The issue is really whether the mother should be criminalized. I say NO. I may not ever do this, neither would you BungalowBabe, but to involve the police and press charges? This wasn’t flinging them into traffic. A lot of kids have a 3 mile walk to school and back, or at least they used to. Maybe the tactic strikes us as a bit, as Lenore says, Dramatic (and perhaps immature), it should not be criminalized!

    This can only undermine this mother forever more. These girls will never let their mother forget this, and will probably use the incident to keep doing whatever they darn well please. All mom’s threats are empty now; she is defanged and chastized. It is a shame that kids can pretty much throw their parents in jail for tough love discipline. Unless we are talking about real physical danger or gross neglect, the authorities need to stay out of it!

    But America’s lost all common sense. They can’t even distinguish a “bad idea” from a “grossly criminal act of abuse”. But that’s the effect of paranoia, we don’t think for ourselves. Everything is dangerous and arrest-worthy, simply because of the “what-ifs”.

    What’s next, parents being arrested because they made their kids go outside and play due to being too rowdy indoors? “Well, how could mom just coldly kick them out for simply bickering?! What if something happened??” and so forth.

  49. Somer April 23, 2009 at 5:33 am #

    IS there anything WE can do to support this family (though they never mention a second parent).

    I think if a decent person with a psychology degree offered to testify for this mom stating that these kids will be fine and why, that it might help.

    What about calling the White Plains PD?

    I think with all of the “slash and flash” press this will get, our best defense (as free range parents) would be to stand loud and proud on the side of this family.

    Is there anyone in that area that could organize a rally of like-minded people? (alas I live 1200 miles away).

    I remember the first time I “lost Mom”, was at badlands national park on vacation. I went to climb on th landscape, mom went to the gift shop, dad took the car to go get gas. Mom told me to stay close….I didn’t. I learned a lesson that day and I was far from “scarred for life”.

    I think we need to help this woman somehow.

  50. Lola April 23, 2009 at 6:15 am #

    There was a similar case here in Spain not so long ago. There was this mum of a 13 yo boy who smacked him on the head (not too hard, just enough to push his head forward unwillingly), with the bad luck that he hit his nose on the bathroom basin and it bled. She took him to the ER just in case, and the doctors there warned the authorities. They took her into custody and an idiot of a judge sentenced her to a year away from her kid.
    Now, this was an uneducated, deaf woman raising a difficult child who was appalled at the perspective of losing his mother. In fact, he declared before the judge that he didn´t understand why he was being punished if it was his mother who misbehaved. In fact, he said he deserved the smack on the head because he had got back from school too late, refused to do his homework or any of his house chores, and insulted his mother for making him clean his teeth properly. At that point, she cracked. And, seeing what happened, looked for medical care. To me, that is NOT child abuse.

  51. Lola April 23, 2009 at 6:24 am #

    Mind you, I don´t think this mother´s threats are going to be empty after this, as many of you think. Only she will have to tell her kids “The policemen were right, I think I´ll take you to Social Services, where you´ll be much better off.”

  52. Andrea April 23, 2009 at 6:29 am #

    A sane interpretation of today’s news!

  53. Bungalow Babe April 23, 2009 at 6:39 am #

    Hmmm, I decided to check back on this forum and am really interested in seeing the responses, especially as I constitute a minority opinion.

    As someone who lived in Westchester County for many years and was just in White Plains last week, I feel compelled to report that downtown White Plains is seedy indeed. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that there is a HUGE difference between ALLOWING your kid to wander if they so wish and FORCING them out of your car at the age of 10 and 12 to fend their way home in an area not known for its public transportation system.

    The additional fact that the mom drove off with the 12 year old in tow, leaving the little one behind practically gives me hives. Unless that kid is the Bad Seed, there is no way to justify it. If I was the citizen who found a crying child of that age who then explained that their mom had abandoned them roadside, you bet that I would call the cops.

    Some of the writers seem incensed also that the authorities might wish to limit the extent of the punishment they feel free to mete out as if being a parent gives you unlimited right to do to your child what you wish.

    I know I do not have to explain the problem with that way of thinking.

    The idea of Free Range Parenting is to restore FREEDOM to our kids…not to condone irresponsible, mean, negligent or otherwise messed-up adult behavior.

    There really is a difference between taking a principled stand against arbitrary laws that simply increase parent hysteria and do nothing to increase safety and then flat-out denying that there are parameters of acceptable parental behavior.

    And it is just plain weird to excuse away this kind of stuff by detailing all the stupid, bad or ill-informed things our parents did to us that we “survived.”

    As someone who has given her kids a world-wide ranging area permit (have a son living in Europe, a daughter who recently returned from S Africa and a younger child who is a seasoned international traveler himself) I must take a stand against this attitude.

    Also, I have to say that I am really struck by the number of people who find kids bickering in the car such an egregious act that it would warrant a “lesson” such as roadside abandonment.

    Again, unless your kid truly is the Bad Seed or is posing a clear and present danger to you or anyone else in your vehicle or is simply the most foul-mouthed creature known to inhabit God’s Green Earth (yay, Earth Day!!) there are surely more grown-up ways to discipline your kids.

    Give your kids permission to explore the world but do not make the mistake of excusing away crappy parental behavior with a One Size Fits All shrug of the shoulders and the hearty assertion that kids are resilient.

  54. Jennifer April 23, 2009 at 6:54 am #

    Again, not saying I would do it. Not saying I would approve wholeheartedly if a relative did this. In fact, I would be taken aback a little. It doesn’t strike me as mature either. My brother and I fought and bickered constantly (I mean, REALLY!) and our parents never did this.

    I can’t attest to White Plains or its seediness.

    But, I still stand firm that this isn’t a matter to be arrested for. Now, if the kids had been dropped off on a highway, or some other place where it were exceedingly dangerous or illegal for pedestrians, that would be different.

    In this case, it’s highly dependent on circumstance. If the kids had been younger, if they had been tossed out onto a highway, or if they had been left off miles and miles from home…well, I wouldn’t be so forgiving.

    As far as bickering warranting that punishment, we don’t really know the history here. Perhaps this was just the straw, and these girls are just at each other’s throats constantly. Maybe it got physical. Maybe the dumping was a misguided attempt to force them to cooperate. I don’t know.

    But arrests, courts and media circus?? Really? Couldn’t the mom’s friends and family just talk some sense into her?

  55. twister886 April 23, 2009 at 7:18 am #

    Wow… that was interesting. Thanks for the info!

  56. Kaylie April 23, 2009 at 7:27 am #

    My parents used to do that all the time when my sisters and I would fight in the car. They’d wait till we were close enough to our house, of course, but still. Looking back, I view it as a fond childhood memory, quite frankly. It was extremely effective in resolving the argument, that’s for certain.
    I think it’s sad people feel the need to cram their children up inside the house all day long. Kids who are so overprotected have low self-esteem and have a harder time getting out of the house when they get older. My parents let me go several blocks out from our house when I got old enough. We (my sisters and I) were allowed to do what we pleased, as long as we were back for meals. I had a lot of adventures and unique experiences that I know I wouldn’t have had if I had been cooped up inside, with video games and tv. I enjoyed both sources of entertainment, of course, but my life didn’t revolve around them.
    I’m happy to say my parents were loose about control over us, while still making incredibly clear how we were expected to behave and what we stood for. As a result, I respected them, and didn’t resent them. I have never gotten into any serious trouble, as a result. Their balanced way of bringing me up, a combination of discipline and freedom, has helped me grow up into a very independant and well equipted person (not flattering myself here, I’m flattering them).
    I’m really quite worried about how these cloistered children will turn out when they get older. A lot of people my age are already proving frustrating to interact with, and it’s not their fault entirely, but their upbrining. Fear of something going wrong is no excuse for stiffling a child’s freedom. My father spent the first five years of his life with free roam of a very dangerous neighborhood. While it wasn’t wise to let him go wherever he pleased, he’s still alive and well. His chances of something going wrong were much higher than that of a child in some pleasant suburb or rural area. Anything can happen, but the chances are so low in that situation, it isn’t worth the price of smothering your child and inhibiting their independance.

  57. ES April 23, 2009 at 7:28 am #

    Bet your son doesn’t hesitate to take out the trash these days. My “tween” son doesn’t back talk me anymore. He did, I was fed up, and he had to walk around the neighborhood picking up trash while his friends were out playing. He learned a lesson and I got in a mile walk. I’ll use the discipline again if I have to, it worked! And, it had the blessing…the seal of approval…. of a child psychologist!

  58. Lee April 23, 2009 at 7:33 am #


  59. Celina April 23, 2009 at 7:38 am #

    As someone who doesn’t yet have kids but is interested in free range parenting, I’m wondering what an alternative to putting the kids out of the car would have been? I know that when my brother and I were kids and would fight in the back seat of the car, my mom couldn’t get us to listen to her for anything–calmly talking to us about consequences would not have worked. That being said, what are some ways that parents can get kids’ attention in a situation like this, and what alternatives for punishment/rewarding good behavior are there?
    Just curious what you all have to say… Thanks!

  60. Dmitriy April 23, 2009 at 7:40 am #

    Plexiglas wall and really a good sound system? 😉

  61. Vinh Tran April 23, 2009 at 9:17 am #

    Thanks for making so much sense. What is up with this world where every parents who discipline their kids suddenly get locked up? If I get kids like that I would have done the same thing too. Kids need to learn the hard way, sometimes you need to be assertive, with your action, not words.

  62. Lara Starr April 23, 2009 at 9:20 am #

    I was driving my 9-year-old son home from school when we heard a discussion of this event on the radio.

    I asked him what he thought of the punishment and he said, “Well, I think the mom means business. And it’s not really fair, but it’s not the worst punishment either. It would depend if they had to go up a lot of hills, and if they got tired and thirsty they could knock on someone’s door and ask for a drink of water.”

    (I think he was influenced by our unseasonably hot weather in the Bay Area)

    My first thought was that I’d do it in a heartbeat if the kid was really mouthing off. We live about 3.5 miles from school, and have walked it several times. When was a kid we frequently walked even farther home to my friend’s house – and that was for fun, not for punishment right in the heart of Los Angeles.

    I daresay if a 10-12 year old should be able to find their way home from within a 3-mile radius.

  63. Been There April 23, 2009 at 9:45 am #

    Wow. Lenore’s comment of “It was not physical abuse, which I don’t condone.” truly too my breath away. Mental abuse can be just as damaging as physical.

    And in this case, yes it is abuse. I suffered similar mental abuse from my mother and it is something that stays with you. I was “lucky” enough to be picked up by a neighbor — but all this did was add additional shame to the whole situation. This was just one of the many mentally abusive things my mother thought was fine to do.

    In the end, I grew to up be a fairly together guy … but let me tell you, I know better than to leave my kids in my mother’s care.

  64. Anita April 23, 2009 at 10:03 am #

    Okay, they were TEN and TWELVE. They could be left alone in the house, why is it they cannot be left alone outside??? I do think this Mom over-reacted. I would probably not have done that…after all, she was aiming to abandon them at that particular momentary lapse in judgment…but hey, I would have probably screamed at them so loud, which is worse? It is the continuous emotional abuse that is damaging…we have no idea if this Mom is always over reacting or this was an isolated freak out. Let’s all just keep the judgment to ourselves. (Spoken by a Mom of two girls, trusty me, you’ll want to muzzle sometimes!)
    What worries me – is that one kid “made it home” fine and the other didn’t…so why didn’t they help each other? The older sister really should have made sure her younger sister came with her back home!

  65. Michelle - Nathan's Mom April 23, 2009 at 10:15 am #

    First, the girls separating – what the heck? I’d be further disciplining my older child about that one.

    Second, at 10 & 12 they are plenty old enough for this punishment. We need to stop treating our tweens as babies or when they become adults (18) and get their first jobs, they are in for a rude awakening.

    I’ve had young employees (under 25) practically expect me to babysit their work, hold their hands and allow them to whine when it doesn’t go their way. Not happening.

    If we want to raise confident, strong adults, we need to start early. This mom did nothing wrong.

  66. Noël H. April 23, 2009 at 10:20 am #

    I find it chilling that the mother was arrested for this and that CPS is now involved with their knee-jerk, no-contact-with-the-kids solution. Doesn’t this serve only to make a regrettable incident infinitely more traumatic for the girls and family?

    What exactly was the crime anyway? Is leaving a 10 or 12 year old alone in a public shopping center a crime? What about all the preteens at the mall?

    I am more disgusted with the police and CPS than I am the mother in this situation. This recalls the recent Motherlode blog in the NY Times about whether you would ever ask the police to intercede with a problem child. I have to say that the days of the stern but wise police officer seem long gone. The police are much more adversarial now – involving them in any way is sure to result in charges.

  67. Kathy April 23, 2009 at 10:51 am #

    These children WILL be scarred—from having social workers interfering with their family. They will be scarred forever by not being able to see their mother and by being told that she did the wrong thing by punishing them. The mother will be scarred for life, too: she will never again trust her own instincts. Every time she tries to cope with bad behavior, she will wonder if someone is watching and waiting to turn her in. Her children will immediately pick on up this hesitation and use it to their advantage. I am so sick of do-gooders who think they can do a better job. Why are people so anxious to try to get other people into trouble? Why do so many people want to see other people punished when nothing bad has happened? If two children aged ten and twelve can’t walk three miles, there is something seriously wrong with them.

    Incidentally, the one thing that really bothered me about this story is that the children didn’t stick together. The 12-year-old should have been in serious trouble for coming home without the 10-year-old.

  68. Nicola April 23, 2009 at 2:29 pm #

    Damned shame. Really.

    I do not agree with what this mother did, but at the same time, my issue is that they arrested her for doing it. What is the crime? Negligence? There are times I leave my 7 and 8 year old at home alone for two to three hours before my husband gets home because of the nature of the work I do. So do I now get arrested because I taught my kids the appropriate way to handle any phone calls/door knocking and taught them from 4 and 5 how to make their own lunches, or taught them how to use the microwave so that if they need to make dinner they can? Am I suddenly a negligent parent because I make my kids wash their own clothes and fold them on occasion? I mean, really, they know how to use the appliances… this is a slippery slope.

    In this particular situation, we don’t know the whole story, or how much these girls had been at it before then… and with the way kids are now – rude, “grown,” and disrespectful in many instances – I can’t say I fault the mother for thinking up such a solution if she’d tried all else.

    3-miles is NOT far, either. Good grief, my kids and I put in 3 miles on a slow day when we go on our walks – it’s ridiculous to call that any sort of distance unless you’re completely not doing anything walking-related except going from your car to your front door.

    As it’s been said many times, the girls split up… now that leads me to believe that this action was done on a whim and that the mother may very well have never left her kids alone – since they didn’t even have the common sense to stay together and not hitch a ride. I think I’m more upset by the mother not educating her kids than by her dropping them off and expecting them to walk alone. And 10 and 12??? If you can’t find your way home by then… oy, I feel so sorry for the majority of kids in this country. I was walking home from my bus stop in first grade BY MYSELF and it was 8 blocks from my house and across several streets. By 12 I was EVERYWHERE and had the smarts to protect myself.

    The mother’s “crime” is not educating her kids before leaving them. This type of crime deserves nothing more than the cops educating HER on making sure they understand what to do when left alone.

    Sad. Really sad. I have an idea… lets just hand all our offspring off to the cops and the government, since they apparently know how better to raise them. *mutter*

  69. ebohlman April 23, 2009 at 4:04 pm #

    Kaylie: You’ve raised a very important point with your observation that many people your age are “frustrating to interact with.” The ability to interact with others in situations that aren’t super-structured is something that has to be learned through experience; it can’t simply be taught. There’s a recent tendency in society to poo-poo social skills, but it’s based on confusing social skills with adolescent popularity (which isn’t really that important in the long run), and on certain stereotypes of Asians and of people with Asperger’s (in both cases, the stereotype is that social skills and technical skills are mutually exclusive).

    But the ability to interact well with others is becoming increasingly important. If there’s a job that can be done without much unstructured interaction, either it’s a very menial, low-paying one or it’s one that can be done more cheaply by someone in the developing world. It’s also important to realize that having good social skills does not require one to be gregarious or extroverted; in fact the two most important social skills are being a good listener and knowing when to shut up.

    The real danger is that we’re raising a generation that doesn’t know how to resolve everyday conflicts without turning to an authority figure.

  70. sauer kraut April 23, 2009 at 8:46 pm #

    Dumping misbehaving kids out of the car should not be a crime.

    Dumping two pre-teens out of the car in White Plains is.

    What the heck was she thinking?

    As for Nicola’s comments… we’ve heard your story before. I’m surprised you didn’t include the “it snowed all day and the walk was uphill both way.” The world is a much more dangerous place today than when you were a kid back in the 50’s.

  71. gayle April 23, 2009 at 9:28 pm #

    that lady should of known better! yes they get on your nerves and i’ve threatned but she of all people, an Attorney should know better! as these days are and she just leaves them, how ignorant of her to have called the police!!!!!!!!!! omg! idiot! she wasn’t worried about the child when she left her! anyone could of picked that child up! maybe this will teach that woman a lesson. she doesn’t look all high and mighty now, does she, lmao!

  72. gayle April 23, 2009 at 9:32 pm #


  73. Paqua April 23, 2009 at 9:54 pm #

    I had just arrived in japan as a single mom with 2 children – 14 and 12. After only 1 week, I mustered the courage to take a drive. The kids started arguing in the car and I told them if they did not stop I would drop them off at the train station (which I thought was only 1 stop from our home). Wrong! They did not stop the bickering so I dropped them off at the train station and told them I would pick them up at the next stop. Little did I know the train went all the way to downtown Tokyo and back before the “next” stop. I waited at the station for a very frantic hour or more, ready to call the Japanese police, before I finally saw them. A real bonding experience for them – no Japanese language, they did not even have train map!!! A nightmare for me! Pretty stupid on my part — thankfully it turned out okay. They survived and learned to depend on each other. I’m not saying this mom did right, I would never have done this in the United States. Would I do it again — not in a million years!

  74. Celeste April 23, 2009 at 10:21 pm #

    When I was 18 years old, I was driving my litte sisters home, and one of the bratty 15 year olds refused to put her seatbelt on. Didn’t matter how many warnings I gave her, didn’t matter what threats I made, nope, not wearing her seatbelt. I finally pulled over in the neighborhood next to ours, less than half a mile from home, dragged her out of the car and made her walk the rest of the way. Was it traumatic? Maybe a little… at least enough that in the future, when I told her to put her seatbelt on, she did. I make no apology for the action – she knew how to get home, and she was endangering not only herself, but the other passengers in the car. So… in certain circumstances I think ‘get out and walk’ is perfectly acceptable. But only as a dramatic gesture in a controlled/known environment.

  75. Casey April 23, 2009 at 10:33 pm #

    My youngest is too young to boot out of the car for misbehavior. What does work for me is pulling the car over to a safe area like a parking lot or side street and turning off the engine. Eventually they realize we’re not moving and they’re going to be stuck in bickering-in-the-hot-car hell until they get quiet. It’s a pain, but it’s safer than driving down the highway in a rolling cage match.

    My brother recently had a local TV crew (not CPS, not the police, but a reporter and photographer) show up at his house because a neighbor had reported them for child abuse. Their crime? My SIL had let my 2-year old nephew have a twenty-minute tantrum on the grass in their backyard while she watched him from the porch and took care of her three-month old.

    My guess is that soon we’ll have people turning in parents if their children have a sunburn or diaper rash.

  76. Christopher Byrne April 23, 2009 at 11:00 pm #

    Arresting the mom was stupid. So, too, was putting the kids out of the car. Only because the punishment doesn’t really fit the crime. The kids would be upset and feel abandoned, and that seems like an excessive punishment.

    Still, mom is human and she reacted in the moment.

    However, I think getting home and curtailing privileges might be more effective. Also, refusing to be put in the situation again might be more helpful. Mom is not a chauffeur, and as the driver her rules apply. If kids can’t respect the rules, they don’t get driven. Period.

    If kids bicker and won’t stop, turning the car around and going home would work as well. Not as dramatic a solution, but depending on the kids, abandoning them is not the solution. Even if they know where they are, knowingly exposing children to risk and fear, however slight in reality from an adult perspective, is never a good idea.

    Better to keep control of both the kids–and the punishment.

  77. John Doe April 23, 2009 at 11:18 pm #

    This is absolutely stupid. I HAVE DONE THAT. 3 miles sounds a bit far, but our kids routinely walk a mile in our neighborhood to a friend’s house. If you would let the kid walk to school or the store, then this is no different. If the story was, kids walk three miles to the library to study, she would be applauded. This is yet another example of the wussification of our society. I guess should could have/should have, just spanked them and got it over with ?

  78. Anna April 23, 2009 at 11:18 pm #

    I’m wondering when TPTB will decide to dispense with parents altogether. I’m sure it will happen at some point – we’re clearly moving in that direction. Clearly they don’t really feel we are up to the task of parenting our own kids and we have no recourse if they want to intervene. Some days I kinda sympathize with survivalists and hermits who just want to escape from the madness of the “nanny” society.

  79. K April 24, 2009 at 12:40 am #

    Assuming that the children had been warned… “if you do … again, I will…”, and that they knew their way home, and that they had done that sort of thing independently volunarily previously – I think that this woman’s actions are fine. Whether this is neglect/abuse really depends on the expectations that her children had going into it.

    My 8 and 6 year old fight incessantly in the car sometimes, and for now my only tool is to stop and wait for them to quiet down – but, of course, sometimes you just can’t. And, it still leaves them in control of when we are able to move again. I would not put them out of the car at their current ages – but, I could definitely see putting them out when older.

    Three miles is probably farther than I would do – but, it’s less than an hour walking.

    The girls should be in trouble for separating and the police and CPS should be embarassed and spend their time with true neglect and abuse.

  80. Valkraider April 24, 2009 at 12:50 am #

    “The world is a much more dangerous place today than when you were a kid back in the 50’s.”

    Actually, it is not.

    Well – at least criminally….

    You are much more likely to die in an automobile accident now than you were in the 50’s. But that is just because we are always in them anymore… No one walks or bikes…

    There is not really much statistical difference in crime. It just seems that way because we have 24 hour news networks and internet sites which have to fill the time somehow, and sensationalist “if it bleeds it leads” reporting are the low hanging fruit.

    Back in 1950 none of us would have even heard about an incident in a town we didn’t live in. It might make a small local paper and thats it. Now we have it broadcast across the universe for days on end…

  81. Brigit April 24, 2009 at 1:28 am #

    If you read some of the other articles about this story you will see that she circled the block and that the 12 y/o ran after her and was then allowed back in. Someone picked the 10 y/o up and took her for ice cream and called the police. But seroiusly my almost 4 y/o has been taking mile to 2 mile walks with me since she was 2.

  82. Sunny1 April 24, 2009 at 1:31 am #

    I think the important thing here is THIS CHILD doesnt seem to have been up to the task and the mother knew it, which is why she, herself, called the police. so it doesnt matter how old the child is, if the child is not able (parents fault, yes, a 10yo should know what to do) to be dropped off in a given area and find the way home w/o a stranger’s ice cream then the mother was wrong. just throwing our kids to the wolves is not something we should do. Even if we are upset we have to restrain ourselves in all kinds of situations. It’s one thing to kick the kids out as an effective deterent which i agree with, it’s another to recklessly throw them out when they dont know the first thing about getting home. Children should have the tools to fend for themselves before its appropriate to just drop them off somewhere. THESE KIDS DIDNT EVEN KNOW THE BASIC STAY TOGETHER RULE!!!!!

  83. Peregrine April 24, 2009 at 3:32 am #

    Geez Louise! This was blown so out of proportion. Look, I lived in NYC for 15 years, and I saw plenty of kids under 15 (some as young as 8) taking the subway or the bus to school. I am sure that the mother in this story did not leave her children in a bad neighborhood or a dangerous location. Also, why did only one find her way home? Probably because they were still bickering and stupidly decided to separate.

    Ultimately, this comes down to someone who was fed up. I, too, had a similar experience in that the kids wouldn’t stop fighting as we were headed to the mall, and I just turned around to go back to the house with them. No toys or TV in the room; so, sending them there alone means something. Not everyone has that “Kid Whisperer” talent; so, let’s give her some slack.

    By the way, I do not believe that kids are blameless. We teach them right from wrong, and they understand when they have misbehaved or crossed the line. Part of educating them is teaching them accountability with responsibility. I learned it early on from my parents, and kids would benefit from that now, too.

  84. BonnieBelle April 24, 2009 at 3:44 am #

    My mom did this to my brother and I one evening on the way home from soccer practice. We were maybe a mile from the house, and I walked home in my soccer cleats. The end. No big deal. We never fought (in the car) like that again. I was 13.

    I don’t think she did anything wrong. I might have even reacted in the same way, given the same situation. I’ve walked or biked more than three miles, in rural and suburban areas, many times, throughout my life. This is ridiculous.

  85. hatlady April 24, 2009 at 4:09 am #

    The law and courts can’t do everything and the ones that think they should are the ones who don’t have children. As a parent, our duty is to teach them that when they are told to stop, stop. If parents can’t do that then we all need to turn our children over to the law and let them raise them without them killing any of them. I think it is wrong for them to put the mother in jail. It lets the children know that basicly they can get away with anything. Now days you cant discipline children. All you do now is give them money, buy them clothes, feed them, make sure they have a place to sleep and give them everything else they want while the law tells you what you can and can’t do to your child. Some of us need to just shut up and let people raise their children without interference.

  86. ed pacht April 24, 2009 at 5:11 am #

    I admire that mother. I believe that was an appropriate remedy. If girls 10 and 12 are not capable of walking 3 mile home, they have not been properly raised. At 13 and 10 my kid brother and I would walk or ride our bikes for much greater distances than that, and it was an essential part of our growing up.

    What kind of helpless basket cases are we raising today? Kids are so full of fears. Anything at all unusual is “scary”, and to be avoided. Frankly, overprotection is one of the most egregious forms of child abuse that can be found.


  87. Tina April 24, 2009 at 6:16 am #

    What I find more disturbing is that somehow the 12 year old and the 10 year old got separated. The younger ending up with a “good samaritan”. Why didn’t the 12 year old stay with the younger sibling?

    I, too don’t think the mother’s actions were that great, but certainly nothing to be arrested for.

  88. J Roberts April 24, 2009 at 9:13 am #

    People keep talking about how bad the children were and got on the mother’s nerve.

    Consider how this “well-educated professional” punished them – maybe that should give everyone a hint at why the children are “out of control”, “bickering”, etc.. We learn from our environment.

  89. Kelly April 24, 2009 at 10:53 pm #

    My sister and I never really fought in the car when we were younger, mostly because she fell asleep for any ride longer than 10 minutes. However, the rare times we did, our mom only had to make the threat of kicking us out. We both knew she would really do it, and that is entirely the point. Punishment doesn’t work if you know it won’t be enforced.

    As to this instance, I don’t really know the area, but it seems to be rather sketchy. Still, that isn’t to say the kids didn’t know how to get home or where to go if they truly felt unsafe. The mom probably would’ve done better to have done this closer to home, especially if this was the first time. But I really can’t find fault with her, even though it probably wasn’t her best moment. Her car, her rules. The two girls should know, understand, and respect this. Also, they are much more likely to be traumatized by the police and following media storm than anything their mother ever did. I know that would’ve scared me the most.

    Regardless, they should’ve known to stay together. That little piece of wisdom should have been repeated from birth, and the fact that they didn’t says a lot about them. The oldest should know to stick with her sister, just as the youngest should know not to run off. That alone would’ve gotten both my sister and me grounded for at least a few weeks. But I seriously doubt that CPS worries about that.

    I suppose the thing that truly gets me with this situation is CPS themselves. My mom is a teacher and has called our local version numerous times about children from her own school. Children, I might add, that are very obviously abused and neglected. CPS doesn’t bother with them, which makes me wonder why they involved themselves with this.

  90. Stepan April 24, 2009 at 11:23 pm #

    ed says:
    I admire that mother. I believe that was an appropriate remedy. If girls 10 and 12 are not capable of walking 3 mile home, they have not been properly raised.
    Huh? Who, pray tell, is supposed to do the raising?

    I agree that a 10/12 year old ought to be capable of making their way home. But using this punishment (kicking them out of the car) is not going to encourage self-sufficiency and free-rangingnes in those kids.

    Being out there on your own should be a reward, not a punishment.

  91. Jewell April 25, 2009 at 1:24 am #

    This is ridicules. I can believe the comments of parents supporting this mom actions, not to mention saying that you’ve done this too. Good use of showing your everlasting power over someone else. It’s noting to champion. We might as well have someone commenting that they beat their children to a bunch of applause for ya’ll. Sure kids can walk, they can find their way home, kids aren’t stupid, but this is ridicules and only instills in your child that your the one with no sense.

  92. HeatherJ April 25, 2009 at 1:37 am #

    When I first heard this story, I thought, good for her! How many times have we lost it or almost lost it with our kids? No one is perfect and we all make bad decisions and have bad days. One “expert” on the Today show said the mom should have pulled over and she should have gotten out of the car and let the girls stay in the ‘safety of the car’. What exactly does that teach the children? Also, if outside the car was so unsafe, why would it be ok for the mother to stand outside? I get very tired and upset with people (media) thinking that everything is so extrememly dangerous for kids. They can’t be further than 2 feet away, or god forbid, something horrible will happen to them! I just hope this poor woman and her family get through this unscathed, because if some judge determines that she needs to spend time in jail for this, none of us will be safe or forgiven for being human.

  93. Judy April 25, 2009 at 3:00 am #

    My mom did exactly this to my twin sister and I when we were that age. We were fighting in the back seat and she warned us again and again that she’d make us walk home, but we didn’t believe her. About a mile from home she pulled over, ordered us out, and took off. We walked home, picking flowers on the way, and gave them to her on the front step. We still talk about it today with humor. We weren’t scarred for life. Now I’ve got my own twins and when they are old enough, I would do the exact same thing.

  94. Nina April 25, 2009 at 3:04 am #

    My grandmother did this to my mom and her sisters (admittedly, that was years ago) once – they wouldn’t stop bickering, she told them if they didn’t stop, they could walk home, and when they still didn’t stop, she pulled over and kicked them out of the car. What did this teach my mom and her sisters? That their mom meant business, and if she said “cut it out,” then they had better cut it out. In other words, it teaches your kids that there are consequences for their actions. That is an extremely valuable lesson.

  95. K Rispin April 26, 2009 at 12:31 am #

    I do this to my kids now! not in the middle of nowhere but if I am close to home, I will toss them out on their ear. I have only had to do it twice.

    First time they were a bit young to just disappear, so I drove ahead of them while they walked on the sidewalk crying. Last time I just kept on going and they made it home and they came in all apologetic.

  96. Sierra April 26, 2009 at 5:03 am #

    While I don’t imagine I would ever leave my kids on the side of the road, I’ve certainly pulled over and refused to drive any further until they calm down.

    I just posted a story on my blog about a fight my daughter and I had recently in which I *threw socks at her*. Definitely not a shining parenting moment, but as I said in my post, I think we came through it OK, and possibly even a bit better.

    Here’s the story of the Sock Wars:

  97. April 26, 2009 at 8:31 am #

    My mom did this to me and my brother and I’ve never forgiven her for it. I was 11. He was nine. She came to pick us up at a movie and it wasn’t out yet, and she drove away in a snit. Out of the movie we come, and no mother. We called and she told us to find our own way home. It was about 4 miles. I have a terrible sense of direction. It was humiliating, scary at that age, and incredibly mean.

    It typifies how unstable she was, too, in regards to being there for us.

    If you have to DUMP your kids on the side of the road for god knows who to show up and offer them a ‘ride’ you don’t give a shit what happens to them. Nor do you know how to control them. When I tell my children to be quiet in the car, they do. Or they have consquences like extra work and no laptops or phone calls for the rest of the night.

    It’s not rocket science people. It’s called cause and effect. You don’t need to dump them out of the car like a jackass with zero patience.

  98. K Rispin April 26, 2009 at 8:59 am #

    I love how some people seem to think that “a good talking to will solve everything” or “If they were raised properly, they wouldn’t bicker”

    Kids are little buggers these days because all we have in our quiver of behaviour modification tools is talk. News flash for ya folks kids don’t get talk. You need higher order thinking skills to process talk and the frontal lobe in kids just ain’t working well enough to yammer them into enlightenment. You have about 10 seconds to say what you need to and then you have lost them. My cat has better higher order processing skills than my kids.

    The greatest lessons I ever learned as a kid were from what my parents did not what they said. Unfortunately we live in a world where people like to hear themselves talk and rarely listen.

    Quick parenting tip: Less talking more walking… actions always speak louder than words.

  99. Bungalow Babe April 26, 2009 at 2:52 pm #

    What is coming out of most of the comments here is not a celebration of the joys of a free-range childhood but hatred of children.

    When I read a post containing such sentiments as “kids are little buggers these days,” and “my cat has better higher order processing skills than my kids,” my heart sinks.

    The writer of words such as these has contempt, not love for her children.

    Naturally such a person would champion Madlyn Primoff.

    I thought that this forum was for people who want to nurture children.

    Instead, some of the writers it has attracted seem filled with rage at the very thought that there are morally and psychologically sound parameters of parental behavior.

    They seem outraged at the notion that there is a limit to their parental power and that there are consequences to the abuse of such power.

    Let’s toss out the “spare the rod, spoil the child” ethic in favor of some good old patience, tolerance and love of kids.

  100. Jeanie April 26, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

    Your post along with The Mother and Parenting with Duck Tape, inspired me to tell the story on my blog about the day I kicked my 4 year old out of the car due to whining and made him follow the car home. We lived on long dirt road on an island. I felt no guilt and from that day all I had to say is “do you want to walk home?”

  101. K Rispin April 26, 2009 at 10:39 pm #

    “What is coming out of most of the comments here is not a celebration of the joys of a free-range childhood but hatred of children.”

    No disrespect intended but… Give me a break. Free range is about living in the real world and consequences for actions. If a parent has to orchestrate some of that in the form of “Get out and Walk” so be it.

    “When I read a post containing such sentiments as “kids are little buggers these days,” and “my cat has better higher order processing skills than my kids,” my heart sinks.”

    You will notice that I did not say “All kids are little buggers” Most kids are great including mine but I will guarantee that the ones who are never heard the word “no” in their entire lives and their parents have never laid down the law in the form of an action.

    Oh… and I have a REALLY smart cat.

  102. BMS April 27, 2009 at 6:52 am #

    My kids were once fighting in the back seat of the car, at a point where pulling over was not an option. They kept escalating and escalating their argument until it got completely out of control. Hubby and I made the executive decision to let them work it out. Eventually, Kid #1 bit the other one, who proceeded to give Kid #1 a bloody nose.

    Now, I guess I could be a bad mother for letting them get to this point without saying in a syrupy sweet voice “Now boys, let’s be nice”. But they both learned a valuable lesson. When we got home, we attended to various wounds and sent them both to their rooms for the rest of the day, except for meals and bathroom. I know, they are only supposed to have time out for 5 minutes, followed by rainbows and sunshine. Bad mommy.

    But all you have to do is remind them that they once got to that point, and they back off. Kids need the point driven home to them sometimes.

  103. jenni April 27, 2009 at 6:52 am #

    What a thread on Canadian Parents Online have said about this “incident”…

  104. Mrs. Olsen April 27, 2009 at 10:28 am #

    What could possibly be the other side of this story, and a parenting disaster that I see to often (and hope to avoid) is the constant idle threats. I could just imagine this mother repeating : “If you two don’t stop fighting, you’re walking home” “If you two don’t stop whining….don’t stop teasing…don’t stop whatever then you’re walking home”. And most of the time, parents say this crap and don’t do anything. I don’t know if that was the conversation that led up to the “dropoff” but I say kudos if she followed up with her [*possible] threat.

  105. Renaye April 29, 2009 at 1:10 am #

    I have three daughters, and yes, sometimes they drive me nuts. they have to learn to work out differences. But in this day and age, the last thing I would do is put them out of a car, and drive off. Here’s my rule, and it works well for us: Always keep your promises, good and bad. If I promise to make cupcakes for one of my kids, and wind up having to bake until 2am because I forgot, so be it. If I tell my children that certain things will happen if they misbehave, I follow through with the same attention to detail that I spend on doing the good things. And I make this clear to my kids. Do they fight? Of course they do, but when things hit “critical mass”, all I have to do is speak softly, and they listen. Why? Because as their parent, I keep my promises to them, good and bad. Kudos to this thread, by the way……

  106. liz April 29, 2009 at 1:28 am #

    My mom’s best punishment when we bickered was to make us sit facing a full-length mirror and hold hands, while she went about her business elsewhere in the house. Nothing made us forget so fast what we’d been fighting about. And when we didn’t have an audience in the form of mom and dad, bickering wasn’t nearly as much fun.

  107. Serena April 29, 2009 at 2:18 am #

    Bravo to this wonderful Mother! Kids can drive you batty at the best of times, but in a car, where to scream sounds like a fog horn at close range it’s diabolical and dangerous. Children without intelligent and fair discipline is a world gone mad. Children without some form of independence = a form of abuse. Is there no one out there in White Plains who will start a support campaign for this poor woman? I agree that these girls are now far more traumatized by the fact that she is in prison. They will be feeling guilty, surrounded by people who are telling them it’s not their fault and their Mother is akin to an axe murderer! Get this lady out from behind bars and back in the arms of her girls ASAP!!!

  108. LilMomma April 29, 2009 at 6:46 am #

    I think it’s funny that this mom is getting arrested for making her kids walk a distance that some kids have to walk to to school, in an upscale neighborhood, yet parents who have repeatedly abused their children in so many more horrific ways keep getting them back to do it over and over again.
    Wow, so the kids had to WALK! geez, God forbid they had to work their little muscles instead of lazying around fighting with each other all day. How horrible, how awful, poor babies!
    Give me a break! If it’d been me I would have done the same thing except I would have made them carry groceries the entire way back or in 3-legged-race style. Made it truly unforgettable.

  109. Raye70 April 29, 2009 at 7:25 am #

    What a joke! School districts condone children Kindergarten age old enough to walk to and from school if they are within a mile of the school yet a parent cannot dictate whether her children are old enough to walk home a few miles after behaving badly. What the heck has society come down to?

  110. Mother in Charge April 29, 2009 at 8:07 am #

    Re: White Plains Mom

    My son was 16 and bigger than I. He was in a rage because I could not afford contact lenses and continued to berate me for a few miles on a highway.
    I was afraid this destraction would cause me to drive poorly and have an accident. I told him I would pull over and he would have to get out if he didn’t stop.
    He wouldn’t. I did. He refused to leave the car and finally said he wouldn’t talk anymore. If he had continued I would have driven to the nearest shopping area and gotten out of the car and called the police to report an enraged teenager. Tough? He had a serious problem with anger. I was determined not to be a victim. Don’t tell me it was the way he was raised;
    He has to this day a serious problem with anger. No therapy has been helpful because he won’t address it..

  111. Mother in Charge April 29, 2009 at 8:17 am #

    BTW – I would not have done this had he been 12 or 10. I knew he couldn’t handle that. But I sympathize with the White Plains Mom because I have ‘been there’.
    I think this was a desparate decision and maybe based on what she knew about her kids. It also sounds like the 12 yr old was mad at the 10 yr old and just left her.

  112. Vanessa Corey April 29, 2009 at 5:19 pm #

    I agree with many others here. I am in my 40s and many parents of my childhood era would have jerked the car to a stop and ushered us out for a taste of the real world and a whole host of life lessons to include: realistic consequences of behavior; the relative importance of other people; independence; the value of cars and favors and people with powers we didn’t have; physical exercise; not taking anything for granted; ect. The only thing I might have done differently from this woman is perhaps ensure the children’s safety somehow from predators. One child perhaps rode home with a stranger? leaving the other child alone to face other predators. Perhaps these particular children were not adequately prepared by their parents to avoid such predatory threats. It would have been helpful for the mother to somehow survey her children’s progress while yet making them walk home. I have done that before myself with a very unruly and angry charge. It did the trick. Never had to do it again.

    Parents and society should seek to teach children that their behaviors have realistic consequences as well as teach them realistic independence. When I was a child in 70s, children were brutally physically abused and most people refused to interfere, even the authorities. While I am glad to see that modern society has finally taken far more active concern in the issue of child abuse, these days, that concern often goes way too far. The pendulum seems to have swung too far in the opposite direction. Children SHOULD learn that if they are not going to respect others, then others CAN in fact refuse to continue certain services, favors, or products rendered. Future adults SHOULD learn that disruptive behavior may get them thrown out, fined, or some other negative consequence that actually MATTERS to the offending behaver. Children SHOULD learn by experience that 3 miles is NOT too long a way to walk. Children SHOULD be taught to know how to get home from 3 miles away and SHOULD be taught by experience to be confident in their ability to do so. Society has become very lazy, unrealistic, and silly….and is teaching those very same ridiculous handicaps to its future adults on an alarming scale.

  113. Debra April 29, 2009 at 6:58 pm #

    After reading this article I can see that this country has some MAJOR issues with discipline. To arrest a mother who makes her children get out of the car because they are arguing and the children are three miles from home and one is 12 and the other 10 is outrageous. First of all the psychologist who said they are scarred for life needs a psychologist him or herself. Scarred is going a bit far don’t you think. I can see scarred if they were physically abused but three miles from home and one made it. I mean both could have made it. Come on. Children today only want a BIG SYMPATHY ACT. And there are people out there who will give it in a heart beat. I know children who are literally scarred and they were never made to walk three miles to home. Walking never killed no one. These children are in for a rude awaking when they do hit the real world. And what happens if they get taken from the mom and she put in jail and the foster parents molest them. Then they will know the true meaning behind scarred. Then they will wish and want mom back but it may be too late. Children today have life way to easy for them. A 12 year old should be able to get herself and her sister home but then a 12 year old should know when to keep her mouth shut when told to. Had it been me I would of pulled over and popped both in the mouth and said SHUT UP.

  114. The Reticulator April 29, 2009 at 7:35 pm #

    BTW, if you want to see a good movie in which a parent does the kick-the-kid-out-of-the-car thing, watch Vosvrashcheniye. It’s a Russian movie from 2003. It proves nothing about parenting — it’s a movie. But there is some Free-Ranging in it, and some not so free ranging. It also also has great scenery and some of the best child actors you’ll ever see.

  115. Gigi April 29, 2009 at 7:41 pm #

    Kids nowadays can even say they want to sue their parents. They are just want to do things on their own and just refused for negotiation and co-operation. At 12, he/she should know what is right and wrong… How come they are so rebelious? What is the influence? Are they that innocence? Is throwing tantrum and vent anger is an act of innocence? Kids they like to do it.

    The mum is so stress out with those kids and now she has to face the blame of forming “scared”. What is this!

    I think this is to start with nurture and nature. A bird would want her little one to fly, she will throw them out of the nest. This is the way that bird learn how to fly. If the mother birth never do it, will the little bird learn how to fly?

    And nowadays those psychology thinking is forming lots of doting parents.. and what is the theory that create so many doting parents? It is the thinking that parents must not use hard way. Always talk and talk.. and for some kids they just won’t listen. Poor mum and dad. Too soft.

    Can you imagine a 7 year old kid want to sue her parents for reprimanding? This is outrageous!


  116. Arline Hunter April 30, 2009 at 12:05 am #

    I wonder how many here would be giving kudos if you changed the details of the case and a husband threw his nagging wife out of the car and made her walk 6 miles (let’s up it to make up for age) home?

    Would you be backslapping in that case? Or would the feminist lion roar in all of you?

    And in the above case she would be an ADULT.

    Misusing power like that is sick. You turn the car around and drive the kids home and then issue out a punishment/seperation for the kids. Only a sick, twisted mother would throw her kids out on the side of the road.

  117. Arline Hunter April 30, 2009 at 12:07 am #

    I also want to say it is too funny people here are coming down on the 12 yr old (a child) for leaving her sister, yet think it is all good and well the MOTHER (and adult, an adult in CHARGE of her children) left her kids. You people are expecting more from the child than her MOTHER.

    Guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, lol.

  118. SparksFly April 30, 2009 at 12:58 am #

    There are kids that age and younger who walk 3 miles to school and back every day. Not as many as in my day, but there are still some who do….I think spoiled, little rich kids should be FORCED to walk three miles somewhere at least once in their lives…

  119. mommawiggle April 30, 2009 at 3:35 am #

    I have threatened my kids several times I was going to make them walk home if they didn’t stop arguing. They are only 4 and 6. Even if they were older, I would never actually do it!
    If you need a breather, pull over and let the kids out of the car for a minute, or better yet, step out yourself.
    I’m a stay-at-home mom, I’ve felt at the breaking point. I can understand why she did it, but in this day and age, there is so much more to consider! There seems to be a boogyman around every corner!

  120. Jenn April 30, 2009 at 4:19 am #

    I’m not a parent, but I KNOW that is no way for parents to be disciplining kids. Especially since they got separated and they were pretty young, they were pretty far from their home and ANYTHING could have happened to them.

    Sorry, but I think the mom deserves what she got. I see little kids outside unsupervised all the time in my neighborhood, especially these young girls on my street (who stand out because quite honestly they are brats). But parents should definitely be more careful with young kids and not let them be so “free” to do whatever they want, as even in a neighborhood that is seemingly safe, you never know who could be living in the area.

  121. emelyn April 30, 2009 at 5:11 am #

    This was wrong of the mother to do. She should have just let her found another alternative. This could of turned out to be a dangerous situation because obviously the world is not a perfect place. The mother should of found another way to handle her children and not as she did because they could have been kidnapped, lost, murdered or even rapped.This was an awful decision that she made,and a caring mother would not let her children go through that.They are 10 and 12 years old she obviously did not see the consequences to her act but I think the mother should be taught a lesson for her absurd behavior Arresting her might have been a bit exaggereated but she needs to shown that what she did was wrong and there are more effective ways of controlling your children than kicking them out of your car.

  122. Dmitriy April 30, 2009 at 5:28 am #

    I wonder. Do people actually read other comments before posting? Guess not.

  123. K Rispin April 30, 2009 at 5:44 am #

    I am sure this argument has been used but… it all comes down to what could have happened. Statistically speaking, the risk of your child being harmed in a car accident is greater than being harmed by a stranger. So statistically speaking Madlyn Primoff was acting in her children’s best interest and protecting their wellbeing by putting them out on the street.

    My children are at greater risk of getting mauled by a bear or a cougar than being harmed by a stranger but that does not mean I do not let them out to play. If I did they would be grossly over weight, out of shape and addicted to some electronic device. This again, puts them at risk for serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke or diabetes.

    Statistically speaking, Madlyn Primoff is not a criminal she is a good parent. It is our bizarre culture of fear that made her into the media monster that she has become.

  124. The Reticulator April 30, 2009 at 8:58 am #

    Whether or not it was the wrong thing to do, parents need to be allowed to make mistakes like this. If neighbors want to give her a hard time about it, that’s one thing. That’s what it means when they say “It takes a village.” But having the government arrest her for something like this is just another example of a government that’s jealous over the issue of who is going to raise the children. Governments make lots of mistakes in child-rearing, too, on a much grander scale.

    And really, one can’t judge on the basis of a newspaper article. There are lots of nuances of the situation that will never come through in even the best newspaper account.

  125. Mrs. M May 9, 2009 at 12:17 am #


  126. bequirox May 21, 2009 at 6:08 am #

    When my oldest sister was about 3, she started throwing a tantrum in the grocery store when my parents wouldn’t buy her a gum ball. They left her kicking and screaming on the floor and continued their shopping while a crowd gathered around my sister. And guess what? She was ok and *BONUS* she never threw a tantrum like that again.

    I was also kicked out of the car once. About a mile from home on a hot day. I survived.

    When another sister called my mom a dirty word, she got dish soap in her mouth. OK, she wasn’t able to use Dawn after that. But she’s ok.

    Quit over reacting, people! Kids are bouncy!

  127. Ben May 21, 2009 at 7:33 pm #

    Mom could’ve reacted better. Threatening to leave them should’ve been enough to shut the bickering kids up, but arresting her over it, is a total overreaction. She did nothing that’s against the law. The one kid even showed that she could do something most kids can’t nowadays: actually find her home from 3 miles away.

    It’s skills like this that really help kids when they actually do get lost in a real situation.

  128. Brenda June 10, 2009 at 3:49 am #

    You mean we can’t leave them in the Mojave for 40 minutes with a bottle of water? Oh man, I’m going to jail aren’t I?

    That poor woman, I’ve SO been there.

  129. John August 17, 2009 at 9:40 pm #

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  130. Claire October 13, 2009 at 6:15 am #

    Three miles is really nothing. Five miles would’ve been too far IMO, but a couple of literate, able-bodied kids can certainly navigate their way through a three-mile stretch of suburbia. My brothers and I used to roam at least that far by that age.

    In a filthy prostitute-ridden beach town in Southern Italy.

    Granted, our mother was clinically depressed at the time, and if she’d been in her right mind she would have DIED if she’d known what we were up to, but the point is, we prided ourselves on our resourcefulness, and I wouldn’t trade those memories for all the Xbox games on earth.

    (But, holy cow we did some crazy stuff. ha!)

    And yeah, kids have fewer privileges in the family than the adults do. That’s what makes growing up and assuming the responsibilities of adulthood so alluring; you can’t get kicked out of a car you’re making the payments on. LOL.

  131. Aussie mum July 31, 2010 at 1:33 pm #

    Your kidding, thats pushing things a bit far. I have made my kids walk home on many occasions because of their bickering. I dont see any problem with it as they know not to talk to strangers and also know the way home. They dont like the uphill walk so behave with no bickering for a day or two after that – at least around me anyway. I used to walk almost twice that far to and from school at that age everyday!

  132. zaq blue June 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    luckey dat the kids survived. Could have resulted in a ghastly tragedy.

  133. Errol Flynn August 31, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    This reminds me of a friend that my father had over thirty years ago. He often went camping or sailing with his three children. When he remarried and went sailing with his new wife and three step kids for a week they got tired of the kids’ behaviour, so when they got back to their local beach, as soon as the kids jumped off the boat he and his wife sailed off again for another week saying something like “bye, see you in a week” and let the kids walk home.


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