“Some Kids Freeze in Dangerous Situations!” Your Response to this Fear?

Readers siihiffear
— It’s kind of amazing to hear all the reasons we can’t trust our kids to be smart, safe or competent. As Peter Gray puts it in his book, Free To Learn, “I doubt there has ever been a human culture, anywhere, anytime, that underestimates children’s abilities more than we North Americans do today.” More proof:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I stumbled upon your book while reading an article about a woman who was arrested for letting her 7 year old walk to the park alone, and I wholeheartedly agree with re-normalizing childhood. It’s sad that I live in a neighborhood with tons of kids but you never see or hear any of them. It’s also sad that being a normal, non-paranoid parent is practically criminalized!

A 10-Year-Old Goes to the Public Bathroom

I’ve spoken to my sister about how I think kids need freedom on two occasions. The first was when my mother recounted how a fellow grandmother was watching her 10 year old granddaughter. The granddaughter went to the bathroom without telling her grandmother, and the grandmother didn’t notice the girl was missing until the girl came back. When the girl’s mother found out she was furious. My sister agreed that the girl’s mother should have been furious.

I asked, “Why? The kid is 10 years old. She went to the bathroom. Ideally, she should have told the grandmother but it’s not a big deal.” I got the response, “Who knows what could have happened?!”

I agree! What if the girl forgot to wash her hands???? I tried to bring the threat into perspective. The girl was at a community pool inside a gated community. Supposedly, there’s somebody that lives there that’s a registered sex offender. Okay, valid concern. [Lenore here: See this article. Majority of registered sex offenders do not pose a threat to kids.] But a 10 year old *should* know not to go off with strangers and to scream for help and, for Pete’s sake, the man would have to take her out of the club house unnoticed. This is the first time I got the argument, “But some people freeze!” (when presented with an overwhelming threat).

Don’t Trust Your Kids Around Anyone

The second time my sister used this argument, I was telling her how I was proud of my daughter for standing up for herself and setting a clear line with her pediatrician. The doctor poked her in the belly to make her laugh and my daughter giggled but she set a clear line, “Don’t touch my private parts.” The doctor took it in stride and said, “I can see she’s well trained.” It was a proud, reassuring moment to me that my daughter listens to what I teach her and is confident enough to say NO.

My sister said that even if you teach a child what to do you will never know how they will react when actually faced with that danger and “Some kids freeze!” I have no idea the intention behind her saying this except to negate my belief that you can keep kids pretty safe by preparing them for things they might encounter.

I agree you’ll never know for sure how a kid will react until they’re actually faced with that danger, but I wholeheartedly feel that if we identify potential threats to children and prepare them with the knowledge of what to do when faced with that threat then it won’t seem so scary or overwhelming and they’ll be less likely to “freeze.” What is your opinion on this? What is the best response to “Some kids freeze!”?


Lenore here: My best response is to say that what you are doing is the job of all parents:  Preparing your kids for the world. The old saying is, “You can’t prepare the path for your children, so you must prepare your children for the path.” Your sister thinks parents should be there, clearing the path, every day, every place, every second, and what’s more, she believes that if a parent isn’t, the child will be in grave danger.

This outlook is delusional, demoralizing, dumb and unique to this moment in history (parents never had the luxury to do everything for their children until families were small and free time abundant). But that’s hardly the pithiest response, so here I open it up to you brilliant readers! Come up with some retorts that might move the needle!  

We have nothing to fear except our kids freezing in fear?

We have nothing to fear except our kids freezing in fear itself?


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52 Responses to “Some Kids Freeze in Dangerous Situations!” Your Response to this Fear?

  1. stacey September 10, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    This is even more pathetic than what I thought the headline/title was about. I thought it was going to be about how kids did not know how to dress for cold weather. A potentially dangerous, hazardous and insidious phenomena that occurs for nearly half the year, in half the country….Not that most kids are allowed outdoors to notice what the temperature is.

  2. Linda September 10, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    I like the idea of sharing what you are doing. For example:

    “It’s true that some people freeze when faced with scary situations. That’s why when I first allowed my daughter to walk to her friends house, we did some role playing to practice what to do if someone tries to coax her into his car. And how to respond to do if it’s just a neighbor saying Hello. You can do this for any situation you fear they won’t know how to handle. Practice makes everything easier!”

  3. Erica September 10, 2014 at 11:41 am #

    Sure some people freeze in the moment, but that’s why you practice responses to things.

    Think of the news stories that come out occasionally of three year old kids calling 911 because mom was hurt or “sleeping” and wouldn’t wake up (unconscious, but alive). I remember a story of I believe it was a 5 year old that helped deliver their younger sibling as directed by the 911 operator. I would have passed out at that, but young kids are capable of some pretty amazing things.

  4. Papilio September 10, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    @Stacey: Actually, “So get them a sweater!” or so would still be a pretty funny response in this case… 😀

  5. baby-paramedic September 10, 2014 at 11:51 am #

    Ever heard of fight or flight? Well, there is also freeze. People fight, flight or freeze in a response to overwhelming stimuli.
    To help overcome this natural response we do this crazy thing called practice. Ideally with practice when we start experiencing the overwhelming stimuli and start going down the fight/flight/freeze pathway, Brain starts tapping us on the shoulder going “Hey, we have a plan for this, let’s follow this plan, c’mon now”.

    Best predictor for not being overcome in the fight/flight/freeze situation (beyond being in a community care role, eg, fire-fighter, nurse), is to have been in the situation before and gotten through it. Next best thing is to have practiced it. This is partially why we have drills (eg, fire drill).

    So, uh, “she might freeze!” is almost becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy when there is constant hand-holding.

  6. Amanda Matthews September 10, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    Nevermind the people on the sex offender list – the are adults refusing to let a 10 year old go to the bathroom alone are abusing the kid already!

  7. Amanda Matthews September 10, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    *the adults

  8. Miriam September 10, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    Not a quick, pithy comeback, just an observation:

    Wouldn’t it be better for kids to “freeze” in the minor situations while they are still kids than to have them “freeze” in major situations once they are in college or otherwise moving into adult independence? If they freeze while young, in not-too-dangerous situations, parents will be able to help them “thaw” and then the kids learn what to do so they aren’t so likely to freeze the next time.

    For an example of what happens when kids aren’t allowed to learn how to cope on their own while young, see this WAPO article:

  9. M September 10, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

    My response to “some kids freeze” would be, yes they do, so I want to give my kids as much practice as possible at “not freezing” when they are in only slightly dangerous situations, where I still have some control. Some adults freeze too, so you should teach them how to respond while they are young enough that you can protect them when need be. And yes, that means letting them go to the bathroom by themselves. Letting them have to deal with harmless strangers without a parents help. The pediatrician example was great. She was actually in a safe situation, but still got practice standing up for herself.

    I have thought about this topic more in response to physically dangerous situations my kids could get themselves into. They love climbing, jumping and just generally being wild boys. We decided that we wanted them to learn their bodies limitations now, when they are still small enough for us to catch them (figuratively or literally) should they fall. Right now the consequences of a fall would probably not be worse than a broken bone. If we wait until they are teenagers to let them learn their limitations, they could potentially put themselves into a life threatening situation.

  10. Roger the Shrubber September 10, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    When asked why she believed ‘they might freeze’, the frightened parent screamed, ‘Because!’

    I have a strange vision of a stiff 10 year-old girl being carried out of the bathroom over the shoulder of a man, much like a surfboard.

    In her defense, the probability that a child would freeze in response to an abduction is likely greater than the probability of the child being abducted. However, by the rules of statistics, the probability of both occurring is .01 * .0000001 = .00000001 (.000001 %). EVERYBODY PANIC!

  11. Jill September 10, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

    The idea of a little girl telling the doctor not to touch her private parts, when all he or she was doing was poking her playfully in the belly annoyed me greatly.
    An abdomen is not a private part. This kid is going to get a big surprise when it comes time for her first visit with an OB/Gyn.
    I can imagine the screams of outrage even now.

  12. Steve September 10, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

    Good answers have already been given. Everyone agrees that “preparation” is the key to unlock the potential freeze response.

    So…obviously the best way to set-up your child so that he/she WILL freeze is NOT to prepare the child and NOT to give the child any credit for being a human being with certain natural abilities to sense when something doesn’t seem right.

    There are many adults like Jennifer’s sister who have not been prepared for life in our society, people who lack experience in so many simple situations that they keep themselves prisoners of fears based on biased media stories and TV scare-movies. They would much rather fear the Great Unknown, which to them is always bad, than actually read a book like “FREE RANGE KIDS” to gain a broader perspective.

    Jennifer, why not give your sister Lenore’s book? Tell her, “this book explains why I don’t fear for my kids like you do.” Of course, if she doesn’t want to read it, you know what that means.

  13. Jessica September 10, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    I’m really happy to see everyone stating that practice and trainging is the best prevention from frezing. I still remember being in the Navy and reading through a manual about how to clear a gun jam on my system (the MK 15 Phalanx). One of the parts that always stood out to me basically said that the time to read the manual was not when you had a gun jam, but well before. The intent was to be so well-versed in the steps that when the situation happened, the reaction was almost automatic. That’s why we did GQ drills, and impact drills, and mass casualty drills. When I heard one of those alarms go off, I was doing what I needed before I even thought about any of it. Teach your kids, and trust them, and they will surprise yo with their presence of mind and resiliency.

  14. Warren September 10, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

    Tell your sister the plain truth. A good number of adults freeze when faced with a potential or iminent danger. It is human nature. Some run, some fight and some freeze. I believe that a good percentage of people are hardwired for one of the three responses, and no matter what will always react that way. Others, can be trained.

  15. John September 10, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    Regarding allowing your 10 or under child go to a public restroom unaccompanied, I think it would depend upon where you were. If I were a parent, I’m not so sure I would allow my YOUNG child to go to the restroom unaccompanied in a bus station where any weirdo can walk into off the street. But most other places, like restaurants, movie theaters, amusement parks, etc., even airports should not be a problem or places where there is a high volume of people going in and out of the restroom. In this case some rogue weirdo, if there is the very small chance one is around, is less apt to try anything deviant when other people are around.

    Years ago, when I visited Disney World with friends, they wouldn’t even allow their 10-year-old son to go to the restroom unaccompanied citing the danger of perverts in restrooms. This made absolutely no sense at all considering the mens restroom at Disney World would be packed with dads and young sons! But the way we Americans think, there’s usually no perspective when it comes to children. EVERYTHING is dangerous no matter the situation.

  16. Kethrim September 10, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    In First Aid and CPR classes, I was told “you’re only as good as your training”, because in stressful emergency situations, you won’t be able to think as clearly as you can when not stressed, so you fall back on what you’ve been taught and what you’ve practiced. It’s no different for kids- talking through possible situations and practicing with role-play seems like a good way to go!

  17. Thomas Arbs September 10, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    It’s been through already, even adults freeze when they haven’t been prepared for dangerous situations as kids.

    I have another worry from a by-line: in the whole of north America, is there still a public swimming pool without a sex offender registered nearby? If that is a concern for you, where can you withdraw? To the desert? (Mind you, there are other dangers there…)

  18. Michelle September 10, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

    When that little girl is old enough for a visit to an OB/Gyn, I’m sure she’ll have a whole different understanding of appropriate touching than she has now.

    As far as freezing, I almost froze myself last week. I’d gone to rent a Redbox movie in the parking lot of a fast food place. It was later than I’d usually head down there, but not unreasonably late for an adult to be out and about, and there was a delivery truck in the parking lot so I parked in front of the door of the restaurant, then walked around the truck to get to the machine which was standing five feet away. Store employees were unloading, they’d moved a hand truck to let me rent my movie….everything was fine.

    Until I came back around the truck to my car and a man was trying to open my driver’s side door. For a split second, I did freeze because I was scared and I was so mad at that man for making me feel that way (and trying to get into my car, presumably to take my stuff) and I didn’t know what the right thing to do was. Fight or Flight hadn’t quite kicked in yet.

    I was not in danger. I’m sure he was after the tote bag on the passenger seat of my locked car, not me. There were three men on the other side of the truck who probably would have come to my rescue if I’d needed it. The city police station is on the other side of that same parking lot.

    All it took to solve the situation was hitting the lock button on my key fob. The car beeped, the guy looked up, said “Oh, hi there” and walked off.

    When she was younger, my now-teenage daughter had a couple of encounters with adult men that weren’t quite right, and she didn’t know how to handle them, so did nothing.

    At a quilt show, a man grabbed her by both shoulders and moved her from where she was standing because he wanted a picture of a quilt and she was reading the label, blocking his shot. She was furious and bewildered (not because she was in danger, not because he was a pervert, but because it was rude and inappropriate to move her like she was an inanimate object instead of waiting for a clear shot like everyone else does, or asking her to step aside.)

    Another time, we were walking down the street and an old guy sitting on the brick wall outside his yard caught her by her sleeve and turned her to face him so that he could pull her closer and read her t-shirt and ask her about the karate dojo.

    We talked about both incidents later and decided that the quilt show guy deserved to either get smacked or loudly told off, if only to embarrass him and teach him some manners. (If I’d been closer and known what was happening I would’ve given him hell myself.) The old guy probably didn’t mean any harm, but should probably know better than to grab random little girls walking down the street. I’m hoping for his sake that he wouldn’t have done that if she’d been alone, because if my nine-year-old came home from a walk and told me that story I might not have had the same reaction as I did when I was standing there and saw the whole thing.

    Instead of rehearsing or practicing unlikely events, I’ve shared stories of things that have happened to me and how I could’ve handled them better. Like the guy in line behind us at Subway who was obviously sick and kept crowding closer against me and the baby. I could have/should have asked him to please back off a bit instead of just getting more and more upset as I kept scooting away and he kept following me.

    I hope that teaching my kids how to deal with the smaller, less threatening situations in life will help prepare them if there’s ever a big one.

    And, hey, when a strange man did climb the fence into our back yard while they were out there playing, they ran screaming for the house. No freezing involved. Then their mommy went outside and dealt with him.

  19. JP Merzetti September 10, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    Life doesn’t come with a guarantee. Return if unsatisfactory.
    Sue if suspected fraudulent.

    When I was still pretty young, my father delivered this little nugget: there is no such thing as ultimate security. The only thing you can ever really protect, is your word.
    I took that to heart, and got on with it.

    Childhood has endless evolving life passages. That all work their way through the process of ‘living’ a life. Not just surviving it. Every single time I was finally old enough to do something…the ledger lengthened on the right-hand side of experience, know-how, and a rising self-image.
    And the left-hand side diminished….being ‘taken care of.’
    By someone else.

    I just never really understood how people needed to hedge these bets. A kid is not the national wealth inside Fort Knox. (which may be a bit of a well-guarded illusion, anyhow.)
    Fear…of the new, the strange, the unexpected, the different, the other.
    Until experience delivers the confidence that an adrenalin rush requires competent action.
    Alive, awake, alert, aware.
    Nobody really taught me that, as a kid.
    I just went out and learned it. (As did all my friends.)
    Not playdated, organized, supervised.
    We didn’t live our lives inside family cartoons.
    (although they were awful funny, at times)
    We lived kids’ lives.
    That wove seamlessly in and around all the adult lives going on around us.
    This was the natural order of things.
    It worked great. It wasn’t broken. It didn’t need to be fixed.

  20. Karen Hyams September 10, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    The girl needs to have her reaction to being touched in the belly by a doctor re-calibrated. Maybe it’s time for her to learn the word “inappropriate”.

  21. TJ September 10, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

    I recommend checking out the book “Protecting The Gift” by Gaven De Becker. He gives scenarios and recommends teaching kids how to listen to their inner voice/instinct/intuition. How to gage people and situations and then how to handle them versus how we condition our children repeatedly to sit still, listen to adults, do what your told, don’t talk to strangers … etc…

    Instead, Question, Run, assess people by learning to talk to them, eye contact, see the signs ….

  22. mystic_eye September 10, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    Pfft if an Ob/Gyn touches, or does anything without adequate consent then I hope the girl kicks them in the groin and knees them in the face then presses charges. Clearly a girl that expresses her clear desire not to be touched is less likely to be a victim of such a gross lapse of care but just because it’s a doctor, even when it is a valid medical exam for valid medical reasons doesn’t mean it’s not sexual assault if they fail to get consent.

  23. Havva September 10, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    Adults freeze too, and that is just what we are seeing with many parents. Most parents these days know they should let go. But they can’t bring themselves to do it. After so much helicoptering as the gold standard, the live examples of how to build children into functional independent adults are rare.

    Like parents through history we all know we have a job to help our children be safe, and we all want to do it. But we have forgotten how to teach and how to know when a child is as ready as can be, and the community isn’t there to step in and help. This leaves parents operating in a haze of memory trying to feel out a sensible path. Unsure of how, many parents freeze and do nothing to educate and expose children to the world. Instead hiding the children, hoping to keep them from all danger. Others try to move ahead. And just like every child in history, all our children continue to grow up with or without our permission. The 10 year old who went to the bathroom without asking, is growing without permission and will continue to grow.

    As my mom told me, a parent doesn’t actually have 18 years. Parents only have only as long as the child is small enough to stop, and young enough to want to listen. I’ll add that our children don’t freeze too long at the thought of moving away from us. So we can’t afford to freeze when asked to prepare and support them.

  24. Mary September 10, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    The “anything can happen” crowd always drives me crazy. My canned response at is point is to just say “that’s why I don’t kid myself by surrounding myself with the delusion of control over every situation. The more competent my kids are the less likely something terrible will happen to them. How often do navy SEALs become inexplicably lost during a day hike to be found dead 24 hours later from exposure? Pretty much never. Educate, prepare, succeed.”

    I’ve said this to pretty much every family member at this point.

  25. Michelle September 10, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    I think the little girl reacted completely appropriately to her doctor. In response to having her belly poked, she laughed. But she was aware that doctor visits sometimes involve vaginal exams, decided in advance that she didn’t want one, and let the doctor know before it get to that point. That’s excellent.

    You don’t HAVE to allow your doctor to do a vaginal exam. If you want information that can best be obtained by such an exam, then you will want to allow one, but they are by no means required. During my last pregnancy, I had only one, and only because I wanted a pap smear. The only time I have strongly encouraged one of my children to have such an exam was when my daughter had a vaginal inflammation, and nothing was done until she agreed. I would not consider myself a permissive parent, but children need to learn that no one, not even a doctor, gets to touch them without their permission, if only as a basis to be informed and involved in their own health care as an adult.

  26. lollipoplover September 10, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    Some kids DO freeze. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

    Last year, my youngest was biking home from school in a bike line with 4 other kids. She was last. Our entire neighborhood is pedestrian/biker friendly with paths and crosswalks across all of the streets. On the last street, in the crosswalk, she FROZE and abruptly stopped following her sister as a speeding car coming down a hill was slamming it’s brakes on. The driver said to her “You need to watch where you are going” to which she replied “Kids in crosswalks- we have the right of way”.
    Even though she knew she had the right of way, she knows from experience (especially at the Jersey Shore) that not all drivers yield to pedestrians.
    So she froze.
    Probably saved her life, too.

  27. hineata September 10, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    Some adults freeze. Or worse.

    And even with training, you can still fail to react well in a given situation. My first school as a teacher, our poor principal was a classic example. In spite of years of earthquake drills, her first reaction to a moderate shake was to run up and down the corridors screaming (no kids around yet, fortunately). We had to calm her down, and she was embarrassed, but I have not a lot doubt that she would have done the same thing next time, as she was deathly afraid of earthquakes. (Actually, I suppose that at least we adults now knew how she was likely to react, and could send someone immediately to hold her down and prevent her causing mass panic…. 🙂 ).

    So, beyond reasonable prep, which you can get as a child about as well as you can as an adult, why live life worried about how you’ll react to imminent danger?

  28. EricS September 10, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

    It’s like sports and athletes. You have to keep training to be good at the sport. Taking boxing for instance. No one is born to take a punch, or give it. Many boxers today flinched when they first got hit. They were afraid to be hit in the face. Now they enjoy it. They know how to take a punch, as well as give it. And that’s all a matter of conditioning.

    Sure, not everyone is adept at being a boxer, or skier, or hockey player, etc… But just because they can’t excel in them, it doesn’t mean they can’t learn what to do in these sports. It’s basic learning. No different than learning to walk within the first year, or speak within the next 2. Again, these are selective fears people have. It’s irrational. Why do they fear certain things, and not others. By their reasoning ANYTHING can be DANGEROUS.

    Fearful people do not think clearly. It’s a scientific fact. So much, that even if you presented them with irrefutable proof, they will still argue with you. Because it doesn’t quell their own paranoia. Like flinching. It’s an auto response to protect ones self. Yet you CAN condition yourself to flinch less, or not at all.

    Another thing to keep in mind, kids are completely clueless at an early age. As in they’re views aren’t tainted by fear, and irrationality. They see things as they truly are. How they continue to see them is dependent on what they are taught by their parents. You teach them to fear things, that is what they will be. Fearful. You teach them to be confident and vocal, that is what they will be. Everything is learned. What will you teach your kids?

  29. EricS September 10, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

    @lollipoplover: That’s awesome. I don’t she froze from fear. I think she “froze” in her tracks because she realized what can happen if she tries to cross the street, with a speeding car approaching. That’s smart. Plus, she was able to set the driver straight. People who freeze tend to be lost for words as well. lol I commend you for teaching her well.

  30. Kristen McLeod September 10, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    It’s funny, as a mother I have several friends who will privately share the things they do with their children that others would judge in this massive way – like running to the store while said kids are *gasp* at home alone, or leaving them in the car while they run into the bank. I know, and these mothers know, that they could be publicly shamed, condemned, and perhaps worse, if these behaviours got out there. This is a great letter; thanks for sharing.

  31. Merrick September 10, 2014 at 7:04 pm #

    Sometimes adults freeze and are thankful for level headed kids who step up.

    I will never forget the day when my grandfather fell down our front steps. I was a teenager. My mother is normally a powerhouse in an emergency. I once watched her calmly ride herd over hundreds of Cub Scouts and volunteers while a tornado formed behind them, in her line of sight and out of theirs. But the sight of her father facedown in a pool of his own blood (artificially thinned due to a Heart condition) stopped her in her tracks. She just stood there. Meanwhile i jumped into action, grabbing towels for his bleeding, a blanket in case he was in shock and dialing 911 while barking orders at her. If she hadn’t taught me to face such situations, on the assumption that adults would be the prevailing calmer heads, where would we have been. Yes, kids sometimes freeze but theres no reason not to arm them as though they won’t freeze.

  32. Lance Mitaro September 10, 2014 at 7:33 pm #

    “DOn’t trust your kids around anyone.”


  33. lollipoplover September 10, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

    “Your sister thinks parents should be there, clearing the path, every day, every place, every second, and what’s more, she believes that if a parent isn’t, the child will be in grave danger.”

    This describes snow plow parenting. Removing every uncomfortable risk doesn’t prepare children for the real world. There comes a point in time where the child will need to climb over the snow bank or shovel out and they will need skills to do this. Parents need to hand over the proverbial shovel.

    I talk to my kids all the time about hypothetical what-ifs. These aren’t serious talks, mostly made up situations they will never face. I want to hear their reasoning and thought process. They are smart kids and I trust them. As they grow older and face more complicated what-ifs, I hope they can continue to plow through them with their brains, with or without my advise. With life experiences, they gain confidence and self-esteem, characteristics not generally liked by sex offenders and creeps.

    Kids are hardwired already with their own internal alarm systems (thank Mother Nature for our fight or flight response). Why parents want to deactivate this amazing system and replace it with SuperMom Security is beyond me.

  34. Chris Dotson September 10, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

    Adults freeze too, so a child is not safe with one adult. Two adults can freeze, so a child is not safe wih only two adults. Three adults can freeze…

  35. Andy September 11, 2014 at 3:03 am #

    @Jill I just hope the next generation will not grow up to accuse doctors of pedofilia if they try to poke small kids in belly to make them laugh. Sometimes it sounds like some people are teaching kids that any physical contact is inappropriate.

  36. Donald September 11, 2014 at 6:18 am #

    The world is well versed about the dangers of driving under the influence. (DUI) Some people intentionally drink too much alcohol (because it’s entertaining) and then drive with the children in their car!

    How about the dangers of PUI (Parenting Under the Influence) They intentionally watch too much News and CSI (because it’s entertaining) until it affects their parenting. ‘At what age should I wean my son off the apron strings? 5? 12? 17? 25?

    The question, ‘What if they freeze?’ can be answered rationally. However if a parent is PUI they may be unable to comprehend it. They may have so much anxiety that they cannot turn off the ‘What if’ thoughts that keep bombarding them uncontrollably. As a result, the children inherit their anxiety because they don’t become self reliant.

  37. Jill September 11, 2014 at 8:08 am #

    There appears to be a thriving business in writing books about how kids are in danger all the time from “human predators” who skulk around wherever people gather like lions stalking zebras that are drinking at a waterhole.
    There are extra points awarded for working the word “fear” into the title, and giving the cover art a bright red background.
    There have to be predators, right? Scary predators who want to kidnap your child and do horrible things to them that don’t even bear thinking about, because look how many people are on the sex offender registry! The registry only got started around 1991, but look how many people are on it! And all of them are dangerous! They’re all out there, right this minute, salivating over YOUR child.

  38. lsl September 11, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    The one thing no one else has commented on is that the 10 yr old disappeared at a pool, a legitimately dangerous place. Especially with the description of the pool being inside a gated community, where there’s probably no lifeguard. If a kid I was in charge of in such a situation disappeared, I would be searching the bottom of the pool and freaking out. Yes, a 10 yr old should be allowed to use the restroom by themselves, but even as adults, we tell the people we’re with at places like a pool or, say, Comic Con, when we leave the group, so they don’t freak out.

  39. Warren September 11, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    One of the unfortunate things we are facing is that as the generations change guard, the climate of fear could get worse with each generation.

    If each generation is infected with the fears of their parents, and then take them forward to their parenting, along the way adding some of their own………..then their kids do the same as they become parents?

    I really hope I am not around to see what it will be like in a few more generations.

  40. Let Her Eat Dirt September 11, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

    Of course kids will “freeze” if they have never had the chance to do anything on their own or had the opportunity to develop their own sense of judgment! The best way to prepare them for any of these (over-hyped) dangers is to toughen them up at a young age. Let them face small dangers when they are little and they’ll build up the strength and courage to face big dangers when they are older.

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

  41. Kim September 11, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

    Honestly in situations like these I’d resort to petty insults. If your 10 year old child cannot

    – go to the bathroom alone

    – prepare simple food like toast without supervision

    – speak confidently to people other than family and close friends

    – walk a short distance without assistance

    Then your child is disabled. And in this case you’re the one who disabled them.

  42. hineata September 11, 2014 at 11:31 pm #

    @Warren – not to worry, ‘civilisation’ will reach a critical overload point from all the stupid shortly, barbarians of some type will arise to take over, or there’ll be a massive electrical short, and before you know it humanity will be back living in the ‘dark ages’ again. Then we’ll find out all over again that kids are rather capable creatures :-).

    @Lance – at least Henny Penny didn’t freeze :-).

  43. Havva September 12, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    I think we are actually getting close to the tide turning. Unprompted by me a lot of people I know (moms and grandmas) have been posting and discussing free-range issues on facebook. My sister and her neighbors have been discussing what to do about the neighborhood busybody who thinks 10 year olds shouldn’t be allowed to walk down the street. I’ve gotten someone who said it was “never, under any circumstances” okay to leave a kid in a car, to recognize the insanity of hauling a kid across an iced over parking lot in the dead of winter to make a drop off at the dry cleaner’s. He suddenly came to the opinion that the kid wouldn’t really be alone if you can see the car the whole time.

    In a more real life in the wild example, there is a bus stop for elementary school kids near my daughter’s daycare. Three years ago every morning there would be a line of parents and kids stretching a few hundred feet from the curb to the condo lobby, each kid’s hand carefully held until mom deposited the hand on the handrail of the bus. Then the parents stood around engaging in histrionics until the bus was out of sight. Progressively I have seen that let up. The kids got more space, then there were fewer parents. In the winter I saw kids burst out of the lobby alone and skillfully run flying leaps over the snow banks to board the bus. And the first week of school this year I saw a little clot of kids with no apparent parent in tow hanging around and chatting as they waited for the bus. I suppose a parent might have been among the nearby adults waiting for the city bus, but none of the adults there seemed to be concerning themselves in the least with the kids. It looked much like me and my friends waiting for the bus two decades ago.

  44. CrazyCatLady September 12, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    Isl, the reason that no one was concerned about the child at the community pool that probably doesn’t have a lifeguard, is most likely because 99% of those pools are no deeper than 5 feet. A very short 10 year old will not be able to touch the bottom, but most can.

  45. Papilio September 12, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    @hineata: or the keep-the-kids-safe & abstinence-only movements will start fearmongering about sex too, until the part of the population stupid enough to believe that has gone extinct.
    (Sorry, sarky mood…)

  46. Jennifer September 12, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    @Michelle, I was going to clarify what happened at the doctor’s office with my daughter but you hit it on the nail.

    She was okay with the doctor poking her belly. She thought it was funny, but she didn’t want a vaginal exam. She was sitting on the exam table in her underwear in a paper gown with the front open so I think her reaction was appropriate, too.

    After that I explained to her that sometimes the doctor needs to look at every part of her body to make sure it’s okay and that as long as I’m there or her dad is there and she’s okay with it then it’s fine.

  47. Kay September 14, 2014 at 12:19 am #

    I had this very argument thrown at me last week. That what kids are taught to do is thrown out the window when actually confronted with the situation and I believe she used the word, freeze. The thing is, their reaction can’t really be proven either way but I’d hope my kids would have sense enough and do as taught.

  48. oncefallendotcom September 15, 2014 at 9:31 am #

    The only thing we have to fear is…


  49. Sigh September 16, 2014 at 5:01 am #

    Well, duh. It’s how our flight-or-fight sutem works. First, you freeze. It looks like freezing to an outsider, what you’re actually doing is tensing all your muscles. Then you either thaw out and move on, if the ‘threat’ was a squirrell startling you. If not, you fight or run, depending on the situation.

    Sometimes, you only run a step or two. That,s what a startled jump is. Your concious thought is probably to be annnoyed at someone for sneaking up on your. Your subconcious mind thinks ‘baddie approaching, run, are we safe. Yep, danger’s past.’

  50. Sigh September 16, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    Freezing is the CORRECT response to a minor threat though. On a subconcious level, the car is counted as a predator. Nope, not a would be abductor. An honest-to-god predator… like a tiger or something that wants to kill you to eat you.

    Child freezes, car passes by. Child is safe and probably was never conciously scared and certianly was never terrified. Child maybe startled or mildy scared. The difference? Startled is ‘why did you make me jump?’ Scared is ‘argh! That was a horrid dream!’ Terrified is well…how stupid people act about abductions.

    Another reaction that also counts as freezing would be jumping back onto the pavement. As far as your flight-or-fight is concerned, those are exactly the same thing. Just different ways of accomplishing the same thing.

    Bonus: Your muscles are now tensed, ready to act quicker if something really dangerous happens. Plus. tense people are stiff. That makes them HEAVIER. HEAVIER means harder to abduct.

    So freezing is a good thing.

    And if you still think your children are vulnerable…yeah,they’re not nearly as vunerable as you think. This is a family site so I won’t explain it in graphic detail but listen to Pterry.

    All trees are felled at ground level. Or less bowderlised:

    If someone’s hands are above your head, your teeth don’t quite measure up to their legs. Nearly though.

  51. SOA September 18, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

    The truth is some people do have this issue where they can’t stand up for themselves. I see it even in adults all the time. I have heard adults talk about how they allowed themselves to virtually be raped rather than actually speak up and say no and said they just froze.

    I find it absurd but that is because I am SO the opposite of that. I was always raised to speak my mind and my opinion if necessary. My parent’s valued my input and logic. I was allowed to have an opinion and argue my points with my parents.

    I think that most definitely did contribute to learning this always speaking up for myself skill. Some kids are told never to argue with their parents and are not allowed to disagree with their parents or told that adults know everything, point blank and so kids never learn the art of disagreeing with someone or arguing with someone or speaking up.

    So once again free range kids is about making kids self sufficient and that includes the art of speaking up for one self in all situations when needed.

  52. Sigh September 19, 2014 at 4:46 am #

    The other things kids should learn? That ‘older’ doesn’t automatically mean ‘right’. Once, a lower school teacher of mine made some comment about feeding a berry to a dog to check if it was safe to eat, because if animals can eat it, so can we.

    Kiddy me pointed out that this was a useless test because 1)There are bright red berries that birds can eat but we can’t and 2)if I eat chocolate, I might get a bit excited but I’m ultimately going to be fine. A dog…not so much.

    Teacher’s ‘counter’ was to point out that she was older. Yes, she tried to argue a question of fact was proved by her living longer. I had no idea what to say after that.