Teaching Kids Fear (And Calling it “Empowerment!”)

Folks eneddrsins
— Got this note today and had to share, so it’s not just ME going, “I am so sick of people amping up fear so as to tamp it down with some product or program!” While I haven’t seen or heard of this program, the way the writer describes it, it sounds excessive. – L. 
Dear Free-Range Kids: Are you familiar with the program radKIDS? It is a safety course for children that is extremely popular with the local moms where I live. I have not sent my children, but I have had the opportunity to eavesdrop on the class as it occurs at the same time as my son’s gymnastics lesson.
Some of it, I can ALMOST see… how to talk to a bully on the bus, who to tell if someone is bothering a child. (Although why parents aren’t just having these conversations at home instead of paying someone to do it, I have no idea.) However, some of the “stranger danger” safety measures seem completely beyond insane. Many of the children in this class are 8-12 years old (I’ve asked the instructor) and yet they’re told to hold hands in crowded places NO MATTER WHAT.
Granted, I subscribe to Free-Range Parenting or I wouldn’t even know about you, but it’s not even physically possible for me to hold my kids’ hands all the time (I’ve got 4 under 9 years old) unless I get some kind of additional prosthetic limbs. And more importantly, I wouldn’t want to. As our one nod to “safety,” we’ve recently invested in some really high-powered Motorola walkie talkies and let our kids roam freely whenever they want. Our six year old has Type I diabetes, hence we like him to be able to call home if there’s an emergency  (and he and his siblings are 2 miles away in the woods, as they usually are). And to be honest, we mostly got them because we could never find the kids at all when it was time for soccer practice or dinner!
Anyway, they have spent the last FOUR weeks talking about stranger abductions at radKIDS. I was appalled. It is never-ending fear-mongering. Although I’m thrilled to give kids a sense of confidence and empowerment, I fear these children are leaving class thinking every human who “hasn’t been invited over for dinner” is a true danger to them. (That is the instructor’s definition of a stranger.)
Just wondering if you’ve crossed paths with the program at all and if you have any Free-Rangers who have sent their children. My friends think I’m nuts and negligent for thinking this course is over the top and that I just let my kids “wander around without any supervision” all the time.  Such is the life of a Free-Range Parent, I guess. I doubt these parents hear from their kids’ teachers how “delightfully independent and capable” their children are like we do, so I’ll put up with the snarky comments and keep on keepin’ on. - Carrie
I want YOU to worry more…about creepy guys like ME.

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59 Responses to Teaching Kids Fear (And Calling it “Empowerment!”)

  1. hineata May 31, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    OOOOkay….I love the ‘Move Over Stranger Danger’ heading on the newsreel. Since when were strangers our problem? A few of the kids I’ve taught would have been safer approaching random strangers and going off with them than remaining in their own homes, and I’m sure we all know of situations like that.

    We don’t have this radKids thing here, to my knowledge, but I did have to do some damage control after a ‘safety expert’ came to teach my Girl Guides self defence a few months ago. Nothing wrong with knowing a few techniques, but she seemed to be getting them to anticipate that all men (and teenage boys – can’t forget them!) that were walking on the same footpath as them, and, God forbid, going in the same direction, were an automatic danger. Instead of, say, just people out walking somewhere.

    How long will it be before the male of the species is forbidden to walk our streets?

  2. anonymous this time May 31, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

    Statistically, it’s the ones who HAVE been invited over for dinner that are most likely to harm your child.


    What a different life we’d live if we went by statistical probability rather than anecdotal anomalies… wait! It would kind of be like life in the 70’s! Except with better hair.

  3. Beth May 31, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    I can think of so many people I and my family interact with every day, starting with the people I work with, plus librarians, store clerks, school staff, and so on, who I’ve never had over for dinner. I would hate to think my children would treat any of these people rudely or be frightened of them.

  4. carriem May 31, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    Have you looked at the website? It claims in 2009 3500 child abductions were foiled by: and it lists the techniques. 3500 foiled child abductions in one year? I can not imagine that could be accurate in any way!

  5. lollipoplover May 31, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    “Empowerment” is just another word for shaking mom and dad out of their money.

    You can’t buy self-esteem for your children or develop it in one of these courses. Kids develop a sense of self by demonstrating that they are capable and trustworthy. My kids would think I was punishing them if I ever put them in such a class (“When can we go play outside? NEVER! You need to learn skills to thwart kidnapping attacks first!”)

  6. AB May 31, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    Isn’t this the site I sent to FRK because there was an article criticizing the free range movement? Anyway some of the kids on the site look unhappy, pasty faced, and overweight.

  7. Warren May 31, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    This organization is a danger to kids everywhere. Their program will steal their childhood.

    Their site has links to the FBI National Sex Offender Registry, go figure. And is associated with the same organization that recently told a mom her grade 7 son did the right thing by not helping an elderly lady.

  8. Yan Seiner June 1, 2013 at 12:06 am #

    Hold hands with a 12 year old…. Wow.

    My (current) 12 year old outweighs my wife by 15 lbs and is doing double swim workouts training for sectionals in August. My daughter, when she was 12, raced a double triathlon (a total of 1 mile open water swim, 6 mile run, and 30 mile bike).

    The world is full of kids like these. Just look around and see the kids in the youth leagues that don’t have parents hovering over them.

    I’m supposed to hold the hands of these kids? I don’t think they’d let me. 🙂

  9. bmommyx2 June 1, 2013 at 2:12 am #

    Personally I don’t buy into this whole “Stranger Danger” Philosophy. I think danger from strangers is rare & what is more common is kids who are in danger from people they know & trust & that their parents know & trust. I don’t want my kids to be afraid of everyone. I try to teach my oldest son (my youngest is too little) to pay attention & trust his instincts and to talk to me & ask questons. I try to talk about things as they come up, but try not to scare him either. I know I will have to deal with this more later as he is on his own more and as he gets older. Just this afternoon I stopped to get the kids an early dinner at a pizza place & they have video games there. My son wanted to play while I sat with my little one & finished eating. I gave him some money & let him go by himself. I didn’t give him enough money to be gone too long. I kept an ear out for any problems & I reminded him to come straight back when he was don’t & not to go anywhere else. I sent him to the counter by himself with instruction on how to get change. If I don’t loosen the strings how will he learn. I think our world is going to be in trouble when the Helicopter children are in charge.

  10. Cindy June 1, 2013 at 7:39 am #

    Along the lines of “stranger danger”; my oldest was down at the beach for a week to watch my parent’s dogs. He is turning 19, solid, fun, nice young adult. He is also tall and has a beard, nicely trimmed not scraggly but felt worried about being his friendly self at the beach and talking with any of the young kids. ( he has talk Sunday school for years and regularly helps young actors in his theatre group). He explain..”Mom, I am a man, alone with a beard”. How very sad for my son and the world that we think this way!

  11. Emily June 1, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    Carrie, if you’re reading this, I want you to know that I think you made the right decision in enrolling your son in gymnastics instead of Rad Kids. Gymnastics exercises every muscle in the body, and teaches persistence, courage, and all of those other good things, and Rad Kids just teaches paranoia. Also, since gymnastics is a predominantly “female” sport (just because it seems to attract more girls than boys), good on you for not forcing your son into stereotypical gender roles by allowing him to pick the activity HE wants to do, instead of forcing him to choose only from the traditionally “male” activities. I think that, if your son sticks with gymnastics, he’ll get all of the obvious benefits of physical fitness, discipline, fun, etc., but he’ll also learn how to treat women well, from being around girls so much of the time in gymnastics class. I know he’s only six now, but it’s never too early to learn these things.

  12. Andrew June 1, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    Actually there are places where the male of our species are forbidden to walk around. There are parks in which men can’t be in the same part of a public park where kids are playing. But that’s ok, most modern kids don’t play outside in parks any more.

  13. JJ June 1, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    The irony is that schools have eliminated driver’s Ed, which would
    surely save lives, but are paying for programs like this one, that prevents dangers that are statistically almost insignificant.

    Also “empowering our children with instinctual options they need to recognize, avoid, and if necessary, respond to potential danger.” What does that sentence even mean? They need an editor…

  14. Jenna K. June 1, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    I have six kids ages ten and under. My older kids hold their younger siblings’ hands when we all go places together, and mostly that’s to keep them from running off in the parking lot and getting hit by a car. I certainly couldn’t hold all their hands, especially not while carrying the baby’s car seat.

  15. Leah June 1, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    I am here for the first time because I read an article recently by John Stossel, who for the most part, agree with.

    First, I don’t think you are the worst parent in the world for sending your child on a subway, even if I might not do that myself.

    And I also think that causing our children to fear everything and everybody isn’t right. I bet I could learn a lot from you and will be exploring your website more!

    But I have to ask if you are simply ignoring certain things like the fact that kidnapping really is on the rise-even from strangers, and yes, illegal immigrants who kidnap girls, take them over the border and sell them into sex-slavery.

    Arizona isn’t considered the kidnapping state of America for nothing, and it’s happening more and more in other states as well.

    We don’t live in an era where there is a moral consensus about right and wrong, and unlike previous eras where most criminals would leave women and children alone, they are now targeted much more than in times past.

    How do you reconcile that?

    There are full-grown women in our city who are stalked, jumped, raped and beaten-by strangers, and we are far from the worse city in the nation. If that is what strangers do to full-grown women, then how can our children , who are more vulnerable, withstand that kind of treatment?

    I am normally not a controversial person, but these things really do happen, and really are happening more and more.

    I’m not making them up. This is part of the sad reality that we are living in, and to wish that things were different, doesn’t make them so.

    Your thoughts?

  16. Yan Seiner June 1, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    @Leah: Statistics, please? Crime is down, pretty much across the spectrum, in spite of high unemployment and a recession.

    You say: “kidnapping really is on the rise” – please provide statistics from a legitimate (eg government or similar) source.

    You say: “illegal immigrants who kidnap girls, take them over the border and sell them into sex-slavery”. Again, statistics, please.

    You say: “There are full-grown women in our city who are stalked, jumped, raped and beaten-by strangers”. Once again, statistics, over time.

    Not newspaper headlines, not political speeches, but real statistics.

    You will see that those crimes are either nearly non-existent (as in the illegals selling girls into slavery, at least in the US) or have dropped significantly (as in the attacks on women).

    There are a lot of organizations that exaggerate statistics (as the one that I saw that said 94% of all women have been raped), or that there are “millions” of child abductions, or that there are “tens of millions” of defensive gun uses per year, or that copyright piracy costs US$58.5 Billion a year. Each of those is from an organization that profits from selling something to address that fear, so it’s to their benefit to exaggerate the danger. (That last one is interesting in itself as its source has been thoroughly traced and debunked thanks to the internet, but the various RIAA/MPAA organizations continue to use it, and, interestingly enough, it continues to grow with the retelling. BUt hey, it’s a big number and it has a decimal place so it must be right.)

  17. Yan Seiner June 1, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    @Leah: You also say “We don’t live in an era where there is a moral consensus about right and wrong, and unlike previous eras where most criminals would leave women and children alone, they are now targeted much more than in times past.”

    What time in the past would that be? I don’t know of any time when that would hold true. Please provide statistics to back those views.

  18. Shelly Stow June 1, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    This is a good resource when dealing with the fear of kidnapping by strangers for a nefarious sexual purpose–or any purpose, for that matter; it is from the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Crimes Against Children: Abductions.

    “Although abductors can vary in age, race, or physicality, the FBI assesses with high confidence that the majority of child abductors involved in FBI child abduction cases, CARD team deployments, and AMBER Alerts have a relationship with the child victim. Moreover, despite media reporting, the FBI confidently assesses that the majority of child abductions are committed by persons with a relationship to the child they abduct.”

  19. Tsu Dho Nimh June 1, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    @Leah … you said “Arizona isn’t considered the kidnapping state of America for nothing, and it’s happening more and more in other states as well.”

    I live in Phoenix, and the bulk of the “kidnappings” are people holding illegal aliens hostage until they cough up money. Ask the cops.

    You said, “illegal immigrants who kidnap girls, take them over the border and sell them into sex-slavery.” Citation please?

    Before you freak out about “these modern times”, check the crime history for the Victorian era.

  20. Arianne June 1, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    Ok, a little off topic, but Lenore, thanks so much for the twitter link to Jen Hatmaker…I’ve been devouring her blog since I followed the link and I DIG her! Did you happen to catch this post?


    (Ok, I guess a blog post called “Brave Moms Raise Brave Kids” isn’t so off topic for this particular FRK post. 🙂

  21. Puzzled June 1, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    Leah – if the criminals are attacking full-grown women, what purpose is there in insisting that mothers hold their children’s hands? That said, I expect that everything you’ve said is mistaken. Additionally, it’s the kind of moralizing that tends to go with an agenda, not facts. I for one am sick of hearing about the past, where there was supposedly a universal consensus on morality – and also slavery, sexism, marital rape. It puts me in mind of a sign that used to be on the wall at Cato – it said something along the lines of “since the founding, rights and individual liberties have continually declined in the US.” Clarence Thomas spoke there once, looked at the sign, and said – as the descendant of slaves, who today is a Supreme Court justice, I don’t think that is accurate.

    What I wanted to say about the article: we live in an age where empiricism and science are universally praised, yet:
    We double down on the food guide pyramid as obesity and diabetes skyrocket
    We watch our children become more helpless and less able to defend themselves, and continue to do the same things to them, only more so
    We worry about our children’s self-esteem, and respond by providing them with less opportunities to do anything meaningful

    My colleagues worry at times about the self-esteem of our students. My more conservative-minded colleagues worry about the same thing, but phrase it differently – they don’t talk about self-esteem, but self-reliance and how kids don’t go into the woods and shoot anymore. Yet, my suggestions to actually do something about it are laughed off, or disposed of with “we don’t have time/resources/etc.” I suggest that we allow our students to do more real, meaningful projects. Teachers respond that they don’t want to be in the school supervising at all hours – then think me absurd when I say that students can do things without supervision – and that making mistakes is a useful lesson. It seems we’d rather they fail after school, when they have no support system to teach them how to manage.

    Oh my god, though – what about the power tools they have to work with? (I’ve heard the same thing about handsaws, too.) We’re teaching high school – our students can join the military either now or in a year or two. A 16 year old can buy a rifle. We wont trust them with a saw – I worked with a saw when I was 12. I worked with power tools when I was 16. (It didn’t help, I still suck at them, but no one thought I’d lose an arm.)

    So, project-based learning turns out to be highly supervised and structured, with an adult telling them what the next step is. Assessments turn out to be “use this half hour to sand this piece of wood.” Grades are 100s. The resulting guitar looks nice, but so what?

    So, now we have special classes, where experts can tell our students what they are supposed to fear. The fear industry is maturing, just as education has. Now it too can be totally unmoored from reality.

  22. Maggie June 1, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    Whether or not a person has been invited over for dinner is a very poor measure or whether or not they’re close friends of a family. A lot of families simply don’t entertain anymore. (We had a New Year’s day brunch at our home 3 years ago, and not a single person who attended has reciprocated the invitation in ANY way.) OTOH, we have gone to barbeques where we had never met the host before we got there- we were there as friends of a firend, and that was okay with the hosts, but we didn’t and still don’t really know them. My husband and I have also on at least one occasion brought perfect strangers back to our home to eat a meal with us. We’ve never had the local children’s librarian over for dinner, but we sure do spend a lot of time with her both at the library and elsewhere in the community, and my daughter was perfectly correct in thinking it was okay to accept a ride home from her on a rainy day. OTOH, my children have specific instructions NOT to accept a ride from my BIL. Not because he’s a child molester, but because he has a history of drunken driving. It’s all about actual risks vs. perceived risks.

  23. Maggie June 1, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    The majority (76%) of kidnappings in the US are committed by a family member or an acquaintance. http://www.parents.com/kids/safety/stranger-safety/child-abduction-facts/ From this same source, out of every 10,000 children reported missing, only 1 is not found alive.
    As for your concerns about crime rates in AZ, violent crime rates for AZ are lower than the national average, and have been declining in recent years. http://www.cityrating.com/crime-statistics/arizona/#.UapCsNh-5Iw

  24. Arianne June 1, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    Leah, all I can say about your comment is to consider this: what if every car accident was covered with the kind of emotionally raw, constant, in-your-face coverage given to kidnapping incidents? “A Closer Look at the Scene of Tragedy,” “Inside the Experience of First Responders: What They Saw,” “What the Victims Were Doing Right Before the Moment that Changed Their Lives” (All of these are inspired by actual articles about the Cleveland kidnappings). Would we not very possibly be absolute nervous wrecks about ever taking to the road? I dare say, some would even find it reasonable to swear off getting into cars altogether, but of course it’s not reasonable. You have to live life, and sometimes, you have to decide that a certain level of safety is “safe enough.”

    Of course kidnappings, beatings, rapes, etc. *do* happen. No one here is in denial or saying that they don’t. But just because something *does* happen does NOT mean that it is reasonable to do everything in your power to keep it from happening, because sometimes that costs too much. In the case of “stranger danger” type stuff, of course we should be wary and teach our kids reasonable measures (don’t go anywhere with strangers, stay with a group, etc.), but to do everything in your power (keeping kids inside, never taking your eyes off them, etc.) to stop if from happening means forfeiting truly important chances for your child to learn important life and social skills, problem solving, etc., (not to mention quality of life, which *is* important, and worth considering in a conversation about safety’s place in our lives).

    And the bottom line is, at a point, measures to be careful become not just a manner of diminishing returns, but actually makes them *less* safe. A little girl who learns her way around her block independently (learning about directions, how to talk to neighbors and read people, etc.) might just be a little better prepared to recognize a threat on, say, a dark college campus or the proverbial dark alley, though, of course, there are no guarantees. Not only that, but she will be better prepared to handle her own problems with confidence, think on her feet, and be resourceful and resilient (skinned knees, for example, are a great way to start learning that a little pain isn’t the end of the world, and that you are capable of handling challenges).

    That’s basically the point of FRK…not to act like nothing bad ever happens, but just to point out that letting fear of bad things happening singularly rule your life is a very poor idea, and even that smaller bad things happening can actually be a good thing, if that makes sense.

  25. Arianne June 1, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    not just a *matter* of diminishing returns…sorry!

  26. Leah June 1, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    Thank you all for your input. What I am basically hearing is that I have allowed the media to dupe me:) You might be right!

    There are areas, (our city included) where violent crime is on the rise, even if the national average is lower.

    15 years ago, burglary and rape were very rare, and now both are a regular occurrence in our city, so it is definitely dependent upon where you live.

    Also, our local paper is conservative and reports pretty accurately what is going on in our area, so no, I am not mistaken about that, @Puzzled, but definitely could use a bit of good brainwashing in regards to other media sources, apparently!

    And thank you, @Maggie, for that link and information. I also checked our city’s ratings there and it confirmed what I said above.

    My friend lived in AZ, and perhaps she, too, has bought into the fear-promoting media about her own state.

    As I said before, this was my first visit to this site, (and way of thinking.) I have no problem learning, so it would be equally kind for others to provide (like @Maggie) links that would refute my media-induced statements.

    I am especially interested in knowing more about crime history against women and children in all eras. @Tsu Dho Nimh.

    My relatives of the late 40’s and 50’s tell me about how much safer it was for women and children- (They tell me that women and children were hardly ever touched or hurt even among gangsters. It was just “something you didn’t do!” as they say.)

    Are there any historical resources that someone knows of that I could read to verify one way or the other? Unless there are some wonderful historians out there who are doing this kind of research with verifiable facts and evidence, I am afraid that many of us will continue to fall prey to trumped-up stats because little else is being offered!

    Now to Lenore, I can’t wait to read more! I think you have a lot of valuable things to say at this site. I have heard of your book before, and may be buying it soon!

  27. GW June 1, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    “Also “empowering our children with instinctual options they need to recognize, avoid, and if necessary, respond to potential danger.” What does that sentence even mean? They need an editor…”

    Yeah, cause recognition and avoidance totally aren’t responses, right? 😉

  28. Yan Seiner June 1, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    As for the 40s and 50s – rape was not something you talked about and if you did, you were labeled a slut and you deserved it. I think it was the 70s or even the 80s when courts finally prohibited smearing the victim of rape to show that she deserved it and that even if it was rape, it was no big deal because she was a loose woman. Really.

    And maybe the world was safe(r) if you were white and rich.

    Certainly if you were of Japanese descent, the US Gov’t took your property and hauled you off to concentration camps in the 40s. Not so safe for them.

    Do you want me to get started on the treatment of black children in the South in those idyllic 40s and 50s?

    Women were barred from many kinds of work, given demeaning jobs, and called “honey” in the workplace. Pretty idyllic to me. But then I’m a guy. (that was sarcasm, BTW).

    Violence against women and children was not talked about, that’s all. There was no “code of honor”; it was more like “tell anyone and next time it will be worse”.

  29. Yan Seiner June 1, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    @Leah: You say for example: “our local paper is conservative and reports pretty accurately what is going on in our area, so no, I am not mistaken about that,”. The conservative media has a huge stake in portraying our society as failing and being morally corrupt, and blaming it on the liberals, and pushing their conservative agenda. (Not to say that the liberal media doesn’t have its own bias.)

    Go to the FBI website and read through this data:


    That should give you the data you need to make the comparisons yourself, without a political bias. (And yes, our government statistics, by and large, are accurate and bias free. It’s the interpretation that’s always suspect.)

  30. Crystal June 1, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    Leah, I am impressed that you are taking the time to listen to different perspectives than your original instead of merely brushing them off or branding us as terrible people. Bravo!

  31. Donna June 1, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    “15 years ago, burglary and rape were very rare, and now both are a regular occurrence in our city, so it is definitely dependent upon where you live. ”

    Were they truly rare or just less reported? Do we simply have a lot more expensive stuff in our houses now that require a police report to get insurance to cover in case of a burglary? Are women more willing to report rape now?

    Just about every house I’ve ever lived in (a bunch because my family has always moved alot) has been burglarized at least once. We’ve called the police twice – once because the mother of the juvenile perpetrator asked us to and once, the most recent burglary, because insurance companies require police reports before they fork over thousands of dollars to cover the large amount of very portable electronics we now have in our houses. The 6-8 burglaries of my childhood were never reported because we didn’t have anything worth much of anything stolen and didn’t make an insurance claim.

    As Yan said, rape has had a very checkered past in dealing with victims. Even with advent Rape Shield laws in the 80’s (I think), rape victims continued to be treated pretty poorly and continue to be today.

    Stranger rape is extremely rare. In my 10 years as a public defender, our office has never had a stranger rape case. It happens, but the vast majority of rapes are acquaintance/date rapes. It has been in our lifetime that acquaintance/date rape has even really begun to be considered something to take seriously legally. Before then it was largely treated as “boys will be boys.” It has just been within the last 10-15 years that spousal rape has even been considered a crime and it is still rarely prosecuted.

  32. Donna June 1, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    @Leah: You also say “We don’t live in an era where there is a moral consensus about right and wrong, and unlike previous eras where most criminals would leave women and children alone, they are now targeted much more than in times past.”

    When was there a moral consensus about right and wrong?

    Most criminals do leave women and children alone still today. That is why we have so many reports of people stealing cars with children in them quickly ditching the kid. They don’t want to go there. It is why rapists and child molesters are generally kept in specific places in prisons for their own safety. Only rapists, wife-beaters and child molesters are interested in harming women and children and they make up a very small percentage of “criminals.”

  33. AB June 1, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    I always seem to find online news reports and documentaries saying opposite things, and I used to point these out to my grandmother (who thought because she was older she “knew better”). Like I saw a documentary on sex slavery where it was reported that girls and young women are being smuggled illegally into the US and other “first world” countries. The host of the show even interviewed some women who luckily escaped, and some of them even went on to say they came to the US with their parents legally so the parents could secretly pimp them out and forced them into doing child pornography. When I tried to tell my grandmother the facts, she would brush me off and say that she knew “real life” because of her age and the news on TV was “real life” while documentaries are “sensationalism”. I guess it matter where you get your news resources.

  34. Lisa June 1, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

    I do think it’s ridiculous to encourage 12 year olds to hold hands with their parents like that class indicates. I also like the idea of giving children more independence overall.

    Here’s where I struggle though, I myself have two daughters with classic autism and both are markedly delayed in milestones. As with many children with autism, their understanding and respect for danger at many levels is quite low, consequently require constant vigilance. Just this past Mother’s Day a 9 year old girl with autism disappeared and was found on May 15, drowned in a nearby creek – Mikaela Lynch. That same week there were 2 other cases of autistic children wandering away – both were found dead, Drew and Owen. All were non-verbal, like my two girls. As special needs parents these are our greatest fears. I know myself how easy it is for my children to wander if we’re at a mall or anywhere – they don’t understand the concept of stay here or stand still. We will undoubtedly be installing an alarm system in our home so that we would know if one of the girls gets out without our knowledge. As it is I have one who knows how to undo the deadbolt but can’t reach the chain lock on the front door. It is a frightening place to be always worrying and trying to prevent unsafe situations for them. These are real issues that many, many, many parents of special needs kids face every single day. Many have had “near misses” already with the wandering and consider themselves lucky not to have a dreadful ending.

    I recognize this is quite different than “stranger danger,” which I don’t hardly know how to even approach with my daughters – they have no real concept of what a stranger is. This is something we have to work on with them to help them set healthy boundaries.

    With 1 in 88 children (and that number is going higher I understand) diagnosed with autism in the US now, I wonder how many of your hovering parents are parents like me, who would give anything to allow more independence and yet must provide a safe environment for their child/children.

    Just some thoughts to consider.

  35. Arianne June 2, 2013 at 12:03 am #

    I second Crystal’s comment: Leah, your open mindedness and willingness to discuss ideas new to you is commendable. It would serve us all well to have that kind of outlook.

  36. hineata June 2, 2013 at 2:21 am #

    @Lisa – my, you have a lot to deal with! My heart goes out to you. 1 in 88 is also a high number of children on the autistic spectrum – I would imagine, though, that most of them would be at the high-functioning end of the spectrum? I do not have a lot of experience in this area, having only worked with a handful of children diagnosed with ASD, and most of those were both high-functioning and verbal.

    I would imagine, though, that groups such as rad-kids, described above, have far more dealings with neuro-typical kids than with those with special needs. From my experiences with parents of children with a variety of special needs, they have uniformly been like yourself, thoughtful about their parenting, and in particular ways of providing their kids with both a safe environment, and with maximum independence within that environment. In other words, they have been realistic about the issues their children face.

    Rad-kids,by contrast, seems concerned with emphasising dangers where there are few. In other words, dealing in ‘unreality’ (no such word, I am sure, but I like it anyway!).

  37. Papilio June 2, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    But ARE there really more children with highfunctioning autism, or is being shy and introvert more and more seen as abnormal in a society that likes you to be outgoing and a people person and happy to work in teams, etc?

  38. Puzzled June 2, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    While I’m not sure, I think a large portion of the rise in autism is a product of diagnosis, as Papilio suggests. But I do think there has probably been some impact of an increasingly polluted world. However, autistic kid, like all kids, should, in my opinion, be seen as individuals. Sure, some might need more protection, while others would do best with being taught how to manuever in this world. What if Temple Grandin’s parents had helicoptered her? She describes in her new book just how free-range she was raised, and how it helped her to learn to succeed.

  39. Natalie June 2, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

    I think people are confusing two very different issues. Child kidnapping is rare. Women (and teenagers) being sexually assaulted and raped is more common than people would like to admit. 1 in 5 is the latest statistic I’ve heard. 1 in 3 in the military.

    One issue is not much of a concern, the other is.

  40. Lisa June 2, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    Actually the rise in autism is more on the lower functioning side, rather than the higher functioning side. Even Temple Grandin indicates this as well. Don’t lull yourself into thinking it’s just “better” or more prevalent diagnosis. You wouldn’t believe what we had to go through to get a diagnosis, even with the amazingly clear symptoms we had. Getting a diagnosis is really, really tough.

    When you have children who like mine are without an ability to communicate even by 4-1/2, who choose to eat anything (including grass, mulch, stones, etc.) we’re not talking about being “shy,” we’re talking about a completely different way of understanding and processing the world around them – in ways that makes it hard to do what other kids can do easily at their age. And yes, I agree that autism is very individual and it looks different in every situation (i have triplets, 2 have autism, each of those 3 girls are completely different.).

    Before the girls were diagnosed though, when we were just looking at delays and excusing them as issues of being triplets, being preemies, etc. I actually had convinced myself that their delays were because I was protecting them too much – was not encouraging enough independence. I have since realized this was in error. There is a definite reason for the delay. Will they be independent? Oh I think so, but it may take longer than it would for other higher functioning kiddos and certainly longer than neurotypical children.

    I guess what I’m saying is don’t assume that all “hovering” parents are just uptight parents. I’m still working with one of my daughters to help her sit at a dining table and eat without falling out of the chair due to a lack of attention. She gets to flailing around and gets distracted by things (not so much a problem at home, but in a restaurant it’s tough, so much new stuff to capture her attention – sitting itself becomes work for her.)

    I’m sorry, I ramble. I just want to remind you that it’s not always hovering by choice.

  41. lollipoplover June 2, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    I looked through this site to see if it was offered in my area and was horrified to see that it in many parts of my state, it’s offered by the local police departments. While I want my kids to contact the police in an emergency, I don’t want my police perpetuating myths of constant danger to our youth. There are better ways to reach out to the community than fearmongering.

  42. TaraK June 2, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    So my twelve year old should not have taken his three younger siblings (nine, eight and six) to the park I gather? I was actually proud of him! The youngest called me on my cell…oh yeah, I wasn’t home at the time of this excursion, the oldest had her use the house phone to call and ask permission!

    In other words, my FRK oldest child was free-ranging the youngest and having her practice phone skills by calling me! He gathered up his sibs, made sure everyone had shoes and socks on and took them all to the park a couple blocks away.

  43. Donald June 2, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    It sounds to me like a typical comb-over. Many classes, seminars, and personal development books don’t have a lot of substance to them. (like hair on a bald man) Therefore they spread out the material they have to make it look as though they have more.

    Teaching children how to be afraid? They call that empowerment?

  44. Puzzled June 2, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    Lisa – I didn’t mean to belittle the difficulties faced by the parents of autistic children. I’m just speaking from my experience of, in a typical year, teaching 3-6 autistic children, among my other students. Yes, naturally, my students are high-functioning, so that may color my experience. My point is only that my students vary tremendously. Some will never live independently, many will.

    When we talk about hovering parents, though, I don’t think any of us are speaking about the way we treat autistic children. If anything, I think one way of describing what we mean is parents who apply techniques that should be for special-needs children to other children. I don’t think that when people comment on newspapers and so on that parents should never let their children out of sight, that 12 year olds need hand-holding, or when parents are arrested or letting 10 year olds walk to the park, that it’s all secretly about autistic kids and never mentioned.

  45. Warren June 2, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    My son falls on the spectrum. Very high functioning, but still on the spectrum.

    Parents of special needs parents have to take a deep breath when other parents are talking. We talk in general, about kids without special needs. Please try to keep in mind that when these discussions are taking place, they do not include special needs. We know that what applies to most kids, does not apply nor do we expect to apply to kids with special needs.

  46. maggie2 June 2, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

    Leah, spend a day going through any newspaper archive website, like Genealogy Bank or Newspaper Archive. You’ll find out that life (and the crime that goes with it) is not much different 150 years ago then it is today. People were murdered, children were abducted, and men still raped the defenseless. But, because of the lack of instant media, only the people in the immediate vicinity knew about it. They didn’t hear these stories constantly, every day, from every corner of the globe.

  47. librarian June 2, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” (H.L. Mencken)

  48. Tsu Dho Nimh June 3, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    @Leah … I am, unfortunately, a 7 hour drive away from my library that has all the memoirs and history books.

    Try Google books for e-copies of sociology and reformist books – especially those written between about 1850 and 1920, such as William Booth’s “In Darkest England and the Way Out (1890)”

    Some of them are as sensationalized as the “All Crime All the Time” TV channels, seeing the menace of white slavery everywhere, some were produced to appeal to the prurient interests (in the guise of a warning to tourists about which places to avoid, the author of one book lays out a guide to the sleazy spots of New York in vivid detail) but others are well-reasoned analyses.

    The memoirs by early feminists, and Margaret Sanger, have a lot of detail.

    What you probably didn’t have 15 years ago (1998) was the Internet, where you can see instant uploads of Turkish rioters and see news videos of ghastly crimes that happened 5 states over 24×7 … 15 years ago you would have had some edited news commentary and the newspaper. If it wasn’t local, it tended to be omitted or way down the page in small type. And later it might show up in a weekly magazine.

    Now, every time there is news about “X” … all instances of “X” get dragged out and run around the track again as if they were fresh events.

  49. Tsu Dho Nimh June 3, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    Leah … I just remembered a good source.

    Samual Sewall’s journals of life in Colonial Massachusetts. He records all the bastard babies, wife beatings, brawls, rapes, bestiality and murders … it’s an astounding number considering the small and presumedly more “moral” population.

  50. Elsie June 3, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    Leah, as mentioned before, Google Books is a great resource. Limit your search to the 19th century, and then type in search terms such as medical journals, prostitution, homicide, suicide, criminal journals, farming or electrical accidents, whatever you like. Just now I found several records on the criminally insane, infanticide, and county criminal annals. Check out this one (it’s been reprinted and is currently available from Barnes and Noble as well):


    Several years ago when I was volunteering at a library, I was fortunate enough to browse one of only two existing copies of records from the state’s mental hospital in the 19th century. It was fascinating how people were treated, what constituted mental illness, and how very alike the people in those records were to people I either knew or knew of today.

    I always think people would be surprised to see how much the “old days” are like the days we have now, and not just in crime. Not long ago I read about a new and wonderful food that would cure all sorts of maladies from stress to typhoid and that no child would never go hungry again. The food was the banana, and the article from a health journal circa 1890. Not unlike health news we read today…

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  54. Natalie June 4, 2013 at 8:08 am #

    Hi Tsu Dho Nimh,
    I’m not surprised. Corporal punishment was the norm for kids and wives. Domestic abuse was a “private issue” to be handled by the (surprise, surprise) man of the house. And where there is less law enforcement there will generally be more crime.
    People talk about the good old days… Yeah sure. Just as long as you weren’t black, or Jewish, or Asian, or female, or disabled.

  55. Natalie June 4, 2013 at 8:12 am #

    Hi Elsie, Didn’t people used to take small amounts of radium for health? I don’t know where I read that. Or maybe not radium but another radioactive compound.
    Reminds me of the health crazes of today, followed by study showing that it causes cancer.

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