Here’s what Psychology Today’s Susan Newman has to say on the smothering issue:Â http://tinyurl.com/dcssf3
here’s what I have to say: I really don’t believe that kids who are overprotected will all end up crippled with incompetence and fear when they grow up. In a way, that’s too bad, because it would probably be great for my book sales: Raise your kids “Free-Range” or forget it! They’ll be living in your guest roomÂ till they’re 60! And they STILL won’t make their beds.
But really, the reason I believe in raising kids Free-Range is this: TheyÂ only get one childhood, and childhood’s magic words are these: “I did it myself.”
As in, “I rode without theÂ training wheels!” Not, “I rode with mommy holding onto the back of my bike in case I fell!”
Equally exhilarating: I made dinner! IÂ found this cool rock on my way to school! I bought aÂ Father’sÂ Day present with the money I got from babysitting!Â
Take away all those opportunities, andÂ kids are deprived. Not deprived of the things we can buy them — lessons and toys and the trophies they get for showing up for soccer. Deprived of adventures andÂ self-confidence andÂ responsibility, theÂ Wonder Bread of childhood — the stuff they grow up on. (Imagine it as whole wheat WonderÂ Bread if that helps.)
Free-Range parents alsoÂ get something out of the deal: A life not slavishlyÂ devoted to doing things 24/7 for their kids. Not that Free Rangers are slackers (well,Â maybe a little bit…). But is it necessary to drive our kids to the bus stop every morning? No. Not for safety’s sake. (Our crime rate is back to what it was in 1970.) NotÂ because thisÂ new generationÂ melts in the rain.Â And not because bus stops have somehow crept further from home.Â SoÂ whyÂ spend every morning there, silently teaching our kids that they couldn’t possibly do this simple thing on their own? Free-Range parents know that not everything in childhood is so dangerous or difficultÂ that it requires constant parental presence.
Some days I walk my younger son to school. (Yes, the boy who took theÂ subway.) Some days I don’t. When we walk together, I find myself saying thingsÂ like, “LOOK UP!Â THAT IS A CAR! WATCH OUT!” I grab his pre-teen hand. A little smothering, if you will.
But on the days he goes by himself, I don’t think thatÂ he’ll feel abandonned or be snatched or forget to look both ways before crossing the street. Free-Range folks believe in their kids’ resourcefulness,Â in the basic decency of most strangers,Â and in their own parenting abilities.Â
How’s that for a radical approach to childrearing?Â “Give your kids some freedom, give themÂ some hugs, and don’t worry so much about the perfect smothering/motheringÂ ratio. The end.”