Daily Mail is not known for itsÂ stunningÂ objectivity and calm. And yet, most of this Free-Range Kids story by Lauren Libbert is great — except for the scourge of modern journalism, the inevitable “Yin/Yang.”
So while the reporter describes two Free-Range families, along with a third that I would consider a bitÂ beleaguered, the “expert” she quotes to provide the yang argument against Free-Ranging is way off. He confuses Free-Range Parents with parents who completely ignore their children and their safety.
What really kills me is when an objective truth — school age kids CAN play pretty safely without direct adult supervision, as they haveÂ done throughout the ages, throughout the world — is presented as if it’s just an opinion, with an equally valid opinion denying it.
And of course the last two lines of this story represent the worst-first thinking the news media seem compelled to do anytime they mention Free-Ranging. This is simply an “I told you so!” clause to be invoked should anyone be daft enough to consider letting their kids to do anything, ever, on their own. Boy am I sick of it.
Anyway, since the article is about our movement, I figured I could reprint it. The boldface within the story is mine.- L
Mums who let children aged just SEVEN walk alone to school: ‘Hands-off’ parenting is suddenly back in vogue – but does it foster independence or just put kids at risk?
‘Free-range’ parents allow children to play outdoors and travel alone
Solicitor and mother-of-two Belinda Goldman, 47, from London, is a fan
She had a free-range childhood herself and says ‘children are robust’
By LAUREN LIBBERT FOR THE DAILY MAIL
16 November 2015
As soon as she was seven, Isobel Goldman was allowed to walk the ten minutes to her school bus stop alone, crossing two minor roads and one main road without any parental supervision.
Isobel, now ten, is also allowed to go with friends to the woods near where she lives in North London and take her eight-year-old brother Jacob with her, provided they are back home at an agreed time, usually within the hour.
Their mother Belinda Goldman, 47, is neither too busy nor too lazy to accompany her children, but instead subscribes to the philosophy known as ‘free-range parenting’, which believes that freedom to play outdoors and travel alone fosters independence.
‘I was never a panicky mum and always felt sceptical of hyper-cautious advice, getting rid of my stairgates quickly and teaching my children to come down on their bottom,’ says Belinda, a solicitor, who had a free-range childhood herself.
‘I’ve always felt children are robust and have to learn to assess risk themselves.’
Belinda’s ‘hands-off’ approach means that she trusts Jacob to cycle the mile and a quarter to school ahead of her, leaving him to cross roads on his bike out of her eyeline so that when she arrives at the school, he is often already in class.
The children are dab hands in the kitchen, too, often rustling up a breakfast of toast and scrambled eggs, having been taught the rudiments of cooking by Belinda. Sharp knives and hot pans hold no fear for them.
‘We’ve become over-protective of our children,’ says Belinda.
Isobel Is also allowed to go with friends to the woods near where she lives and take her brother with her
‘I have a strict routine at home and am disciplined at making sure Isobel and Jacob do their homework and go to bed at a certain time. But that doesn’t take away from the fact I want them to learn to navigate the world. I don’t believe in keeping them on a short leash. I want them to experience as much freedom as possible.
‘Isobel is proud of what she can do on her own and so is Jacob. They feel confident making decisions and trust their own judgment far more than other children they know.’
Belinda is part of a growing worldwide movement of people who believe today’s ‘helicopter parents’ panic needlessly about every possible danger and are depriving their children of an independent, adventurous childhood.
L enore Skenazy, a mother of two who caused controversy in 2007 by letting her nine-year-old son Izzy ride the subway alone in New York, is the founder of the free-range movement in America and her internet blog, freerangekids.com, has had more than half-a-million hits per month, many of them, she claims, from this side of the pond.
Michelle Thorne is one of those British disciples.
The 40-year-old mother-of-three chose to live in the rural village of Baildon in West Yorkshire so she could raise her three adventure-seeking boys – Dominic, nine, Alexander, seven and Mathew, six – as free-range children, allowing them to play in the woods and stream at the back of their house where they can be out of sight for hours.
‘I’ll give them something to eat then off they’ll go on an adventure,’ says Michelle, who runs her own PR business. ‘I know where they are even if I can’t see them. Inevitably, they’ll come back soaking wet and filthy but having had loads of fun.’
Dominic has walked to school on his own since he was seven and none of the boys do play dates; instead Michelle lets them visit friends within a half-mile of home and asks them to be in at 5.30pm for tea. ‘Sometimes, their parents will call to let me know they’re there, but I’m not worried,’ says Michelle.
‘As a free-range parent, I’m constantly assessing the risk and believe you have to give your children their freedom bit by bit – otherwise how are they going to develop into trustworthy teenagers?’
While Michelle may be liberal with their free time, she will discipline her boys if they abuse her trust.
‘When they break something in the house, they have to earn money to get it fixed, and if they’re late home, I’ll cut playtime short the next time, explaining they have to earn my trust back,’ she says.
Her husband, David, 46, a chartered surveyor, like her wants their boys to grow into responsible men.
‘Our boys are confident, independent and already making good judgments,’ says Michelle. ‘I’m not going to closet my children on the basis of a worst-case scenario.
‘I’m more worried about what they’re watching on YouTube than anything in the woods.’
Dr Ellie Lee, director of the Centre For Parenting Culture Studies at the University of Kent, points out Michelle’s type of parenting is not new. ‘Free-range parenting is actually what used to be called ‘bringing up kids’ – it was just kids playing without their mum and dad around,‘ says Dr Lee. ‘But nowadays, being a helicopter parent and “cotton wooling” your children is culturally sanctioned, and if you don’t do it, you’re perceived to be a bad parent. Ultimately, we’re becoming so risk-averse we’re restricting freedom.’
Certainly, parents who are known to leave their children without supervision can expect fierce criticism. Singer Rachel Stevens was recently lambasted for leaving her 18-month-old and four-year-old in the car while she ran some errands.
But are there limits to the freedom you can give a child? Can a seven-year-old really be trusted to cross the street safely? Is this too much independence too soon?
While in this country there is no legal age when a child can be left alone, the NSPCC does advise that under-12s should not be left at home alone for long periods. Child psychologist Dr Richard Woolfson believes young children can be easily distracted and don’t have the skills to evaluate all forms of risk.
‘If you give children too much responsibility too early they may feel uncomfortable and disorientated and their self-esteem could suffer,’ he says. ‘Eight or ten year-olds need parents to help and support them. A parent’s job is to guide and encourage, not take a complete step back.’
While he too harps back to the good old days where children played out on the streets, he admits society has changed. ‘The level of abductions may not have altered significantly over the years but in the past there were fewer cars in the street,’ he says, adding that the risk of exploitation has increased tremendously with the onset of social media.
‘Children can be befriended online and encouraged to make contact outside the home. These are dangers we cannot ignore. We don’t have to hover over them but we shouldn’t let them roam free either – there needs to be a middle ground.’
While Samia Dar, 38, doesn’t let her children play alone where she lives in Essex, she practises free-range parenting in a slightly different way, empowering her children by allowing them to make their own decisions.
Her son Hashim, 11, chooses his own bedtime and study time, and her daughter Malika, five, and son Haseeb, four, decide everything from the clothes they wear and what they eat for tea to the toys they buy.
‘Instead of nagging Hashim about homework, I tell him when he does it is up to him and I will be looking at his report at the end of each term,’ says Samia, an accountant married to Harun, 40, a solicitor.
‘I sometimes see him doing it at 11pm the night before it’s due but I stay tight-lipped; the consequences are his.’ She does the same with her younger children, allowing them to choose what they eat for supper, even if it means having to prepare three meals. It might be a hassle, she admits, but she doesn’t have to contend with daily battles over food.
The consequences of Samia’s parenting are, she believes, confident, assertive children.
‘I don’t want sheep – I want shepherds; a child who doesn’t wait for someone to tell them what to do.
‘Every human has an instinct – even a newborn knows when it’s full and will stop drinking – all you have to do is develop that.
‘I’ll take my little ones to the toy shop, give them a limit of Â£5 and let them choose what they want, even if it’s something I know is useless or will break. If they don’t enjoy it, they’ll know to spend their money better next time.’
While admirable in some respects, Dr Woolfson is sceptical about this hands-off approach.
‘It’s good to encourage decision-making, but there’s a big difference between consulting with your child and letting them decide everything they do,’ he says.
‘Some children are too young to handle it and isn’t that what we, as parents, are meant to do?’
So the argument rages on. As adults, we tend to learn through our errors, but a mistake for a child left to cross a road alone could cost them their life.
With freedom comes the risk of a heavy price tag – and it is not one any parent will want to pay.
I like the caveat about childrens’ self-esteem suffering.
Self-esteem without accomplishment is worth a bucket of cold . . . well, I’ll keep it family-friendly.
There a kind of pornographic interest in the idea of children being hurt, molested, kidnapped. “Children can be befriended online…” “.. .a mistake for a child left to cross a road alone could cost them their life.” Reporters love to remind us those awful possibilities.
The fact that befriending kids online DOES happen and is usually harmless is not what the reporter means. The implication is that the child will be abducted by those perverted befrienders.
The fact that kids can get hurt crossing the street ignores the fact that adults are hurt the same way.
The reporter wants those awful images of children abducted and hurt to stay with us…not the images of kids pretending to be Harry Potter in the Forbidden Forest.
‘…allowing them to choose what they eat for supper, even if it means having to prepare three meals. It might be a hassle, she admits, but she doesnâ€™t have to contend with daily battles over food.
The consequences of Samiaâ€™s parenting are, she believes, confident, assertive children.’
This is how to raise entitled children, not responsible ones. They are assertive in demanding to get what they want and are confident that someone will be there to cater to their every demand. This mother is delusional.
Okay, about the mother who lets her kids choose EVERYTHING, including what they eat, to the point that she’ll make three different meals at the same time……..I think she’s missed something here. She’s already got her kids being accountable for their other choices (i.e., the child who procrastinates on his homework has to do it at the last minute, stay up late, go to school tired the next day, and possibly still get a bad grade, or even a zero if it doesn’t get done, and the child who spends his money foolishly at the toy store ends up with a toy that breaks), but with the food thing, she’s missed the point. Sure, you can let your kids choose what they eat, AS LONG AS THEY MAKE IT, AND CLEAN UP AFTERWARDS. When I was a kid, my parents weren’t exactly consistent about food–sometimes, if they made something my brother or I didn’t like, they’d still make us eat it, sometimes they’d say it’s that or nothing (but be okay if we chose nothing), and other times, they told us we could make ourselves a PBJ……and when we got older, that became “Make yourself something else, anything else, but clean up afterwards.” Later on, family dinners stopped being a regular thing, because of my various after-school and evening activities in high school, and even more so after I went vegetarian in early grade twelve, so “fend for yourself” became the default, and family dinners were mostly for special occasions. But, my point is, my brother and I were responsible for our choices–our parents weren’t short-order cooks.
What is this nonsense about free-range kids having their self-esteem hurt when they try and fail? Are they honestly claiming that self-esteem is built by not trying at all? Or that those who fail cannot try again?
I appreciate the short-order-cook’s mom intentions, but her kids are going to have a nasty surprise when they wake up to a world that won’t do their bidding.
And screw self-esteem. The most successful, best people I know are ones who were raised by parents who didn’t give a rip about it. The ones who hop from job to be job and relationship to relationship were raised by parents who insisted they could no wrong, all in the name of self-esteem!
“As adults, we tend to learn through our errors, but a mistake for a child left to cross a road alone could cost them their life.”
I can’t believe what I’m reading! In what way a child does not learn through their errors? How a “mistake” done by an adult while crossing a road can’t cost them their life? Are they implying that only kids make mistakes? Oh no they don’t, it’s right there in the first sentence, sigh.
“If you give children too much responsibility too early they may feel uncomfortable and disorientated and their self-esteem could suffer,â€™ he says.”
The same could be said about making them listen to Nickelback.
This sounds like a lazy tween who doesn’t want to do household chores wrote it.
Like walking to school the same way every single day makes kids disoriented? Kids who learn they care capable of their activities of daily living BUILD self-esteem, even if they do it badly. My youngest is prouder of her english muffin pizzas she cooked for the family last night than the good grade she got on her social studies test. “It’s the little things” applies greatly to self-esteem. Relying on adults to do everything for you
I think there are right and wrong ways to impart self-esteem to kids. Teaching kids that they’re perfect, and they can do no wrong, and everything they do is wonderful, is obviously the wrong way, but there are plenty of ways to teach self-esteem without creating conceited brats in the process:
-Encouraging kids to push through fears and try new things (for example, with a child who’s nervous to go onstage at a first dance recital, or attend a sleepover for the first time).
-Praising kids’ efforts, and telling them what they can do to improve (“Great try on your cartwheel, Jenny. Now, if you straighten your legs next time, it’ll be perfect.”)
-Teaching kids not to bend to peer pressure, or let bullies define their self-worth.
-Encouraging and teaching kids to do age-appropriate tasks for themselves, like a five-year-old making a PBJ, but not a full meal.
Anyway, you get the idea, but my point is, I agree that over-inflating kids’ egos is a bad idea, but at the same time, we shouldn’t abandon the idea of self-esteem entirely; just teach kids that self-esteem ultimately comes from themselves, and not from others. It’s not a bad lesson to learn either, because if kids learn that other people can make them feel good about themselves, they’ll learn that other people can also make them feel badly about themselves, and come home devastated the first time a mean kid makes fun of their hair/clothes/glasses/braces/body type/whatever. If you teach them that self-esteem is something they cultivate on their own, they’ll be less affected by things like that–not that I’m condoning victim-blaming, but kids with good self-esteem (the real kind) are less likely to be targets of long-term bullying.
The first Mum is me 🙂
The crossing-the-road thing is actually something that just came up today, with my friend and neighbor’s six-year-old grandson. Earlier on this blog, I told the story of our ten-year-old recently beginning to walk to and from school on her own, and then getting the wonderful opportunity to stop on her way and take our friend’s six-year-old grandson along with her.
Well, this morning I went on break early and got to walk to school with my daughter and the little boy, and discovered some behavior that concerned me. It was fine that he was running up ahead of us a bit; this was something my own girls did at this age and my only rule was that, until I was confident in their ability to safely cross the street on their own, they had to stop at each street and wait till I said it was okay to cross.
The little boy did wait for us at the one busy intersection, but when we got to the side-street that we had to cross right before the school, he just darted across without waiting, and my daughter said this was what he did every morning; she told him to wait but he didn’t listen to her. So I told him that if he wanted to keep walking to school with my daughter, he needed to stop at every street and wait until she said it was okay to cross. He made some comment about how he needed to listen to his mom and his grandma, but he didn’t need to listen to my daughter’s mom, and I said, “Okay, I’ll talk to your grandma today.” Then he said, “No, I’ll listen to you!” So I reinforced what I’d just said, but I did also message his grandma so she’d be aware of the situation.
I’m really concerned that he’s been behaving this way for a while now, but my daughter’d never mentioned it till today. She seemed to be under the impression that as long as she’d TOLD him what he should do, it was on him if he didn’t listen and just ran across the street anyway. This IS her very first experience of being responsible for anyone other than herself, so I’ve realized that I need to take time this weekend to explain that she really is responsible for this little boy’s safety, so if he’s not listening to her and is just running across the street, she has a responsibility to tell us so we can make sure that he’s safe.
On the one hand, I don’t have a problem with anyone deciding that their six-year-old can walk to school on their own. But on the other hand, this little boy’s mom does NOT feel like he’s ready to walk on his own yet, presumably because she doesn’t want him crossing streets by himself. And I’d feel horrible if something happened to him — because I care about his wellbeing, but also because I fear how it could affect my daughter if he was hit by a car while in her care.
And about the “I don’t need to listen to you because you’re not my parent”-thing, this is such a touchy issue when it comes to free-ranging, because on the one hand, I know we don’t want to return to the days of children feeling they always have to submit to adults, especially when intrusive adults are telling them things that contradict their parents’ instructions, such as trying to prohibit them from doing what their parents have allowed — but on the other hand, it’s hard to apply the free-range philosophy of everyone looking out for the kids in the community when kids feel they don’t need to listen.
“I think there are right and wrong ways to impart self-esteem to kids.”
But that’s the problem, we CAN’T give our kids self-esteem, They need to build this on their own. The key word is SELF. No amount of parenting, free range or helicopter, can ever change this. It’s just that Free Range parenting provides more opportunities to learn and feel capable and confident and therefore impart self-esteem.
You can build your kids up with words but when it comes down to it, how they feel about themselves and their own competencies comes down to their unique experiences and reality. I can tell my daughter she is the best soccer player I’ve ever seen, but she will watch Carli Lloyd play in the World Cup and realize these are just words and not reality. I can also encourage her to train and play soccer with her friends to improve her skills and praise her efforts as she progresses. But she will face setbacks, make mistakes and learn from them, and these experiences are so much more meaningful and important to self-esteem than cheerleader mom telling her she’s the best out there.
I cringe when people use “free range” and “hands off” interchangeably as this reporter does. There is a common misconception that free range parents do not offer guidance and restrictions, and have no concern for safety. I often find myself defending against this notion.
But the parents here nicely articulate that they are not hands off. They offer freedom to their children thoughtfully and judiciously.
Consider that “You’re not my mother” is the instinct that keeps kids safe from the rare actual predatory adult, and don’t be too harsh about quashing it. But getting permission to be the boss from the kid’s parents? No problem there, that brings you under the umbrella of “good adult”.
I should have said, “They offer freedom *and responsibility* to their children thoughtfully and judiciously.”
@lollipoplover, Excellent observations!
“Self-esteem? The self esteem movement failed. Studies have shown that high self esteem has no effect on good grades, success or violent behaviour. As a matter of fact extremely violent and aggressive people think very highly of themselves. Who would have thunk it, sociopaths have high self esteem.”
Three meals? No freaking way. Come help grocery shop and you can have input into what we eat during the week. Don’t help, and you get what I cook. Period.
A couple points: I hate to be crass (nah, I love it sometimes) but while FR parenting used to be parenting, we also used to call helicopter parents anal, domineering, and much worse terms than helicopter.
To the point about befriending a child online. I wish I had the confidence to talk to a strange kid online. Not because I want them for nefarious purposes, but on the few instances when I do get to talk to kids I always feel better for it. Their enthusiasm about their hobbies, schools, friends and other topics always comes through. Even when I’ve tried to counsel a sad kid, there’s something about the way they see the world that’s not as jaded as an adult…and helping to cheer up such a kid makes me feel a hundred times better. When I hear adults (parents) hush their kid who was excited about his yellow belt test, math test, or whatever and see that kid’s face fall…I want to punch the parent. I’d much rather hear about the kid’s test than your new car or whatever.
I thought about going on omegle and trying to make a friend, but I’m an introvert and sorta paranoid about what would happen if the wrong sort of parent caught a grown man talking to their kid. So, I don’t risk it. (wrong sort refers to the kind that instantly assert that a grown man talking to a kid he doesn’t know must have bad things in mind)
Reziac said, “Consider that ‘Youâ€™re not my mother’ is the instinct that keeps kids safe from the rare actual predatory adult, and donâ€™t be too harsh about quashing it. But getting permission to be the boss from the kidâ€™s parents? No problem there, that brings you under the umbrella of ‘good adult’.”
Absolutely! I have no desire to quash it. And I understand that younger minds sometimes apply our advice differently than we intended it. For example, before sending our daughter off to walk to school on her own, we’d instructed her to never get in a car with anyone, or follow anyone or go into their house. So one day when she went by for the little boy, his mom had decided to drive him because it was really cold, and she offered our daughter a ride, too, but our daughter said no even though she was really cold because she knew she wasn’t supposed to get into cars with people.
So I told her it’d be okay to ride with this particular mom if she ever offered her a ride again. It’s hard because there are certain people that I’d have no trouble with my daughter riding with — but since I also really love it that she’s friendly with EVERYONE, I’ve really reinforced the idea that there’s no problem with chatting with strangers — you just don’t get into cars with them or follow them anywhere. And once she’s been chatting with various people along her route day after day after day — kind homeless or elderly folks out searching for metal, people waiting at the bus stop and so on, I’m sure they’re friends to her and not just strangers, but I still wouldn’t want her going off with anyone we didn’t know really well.
Someone needs to tell Samia that she is not raising her children in a free range manner. She is raising them in a permissive manner. Her children are young enough that they should want to please adults, but she is not teaching them that. Instead she is allowing them to make too many of their own decisions, and I wonder what happens when they go to school or what will happen when they are in jobs and they must deal with someone telling them what to do. I was a teacher for 29 years, and my experience has been that children who were allowed to make too many of their own decisions have a hard time adjusting to school.
It seems like Samia and the expert are confusing Free Range Parenting with permissive parenting. I think of Atticus, a fictional character from To Kill a Mockingbird, as a free range parent. His kids were on a leash, but it was a long one. They were free range, yet they knew there were rules and expectations and they were not always allowed to make their own decisions.
Lollipoplover, you’re right. That was a bad choice of words on my part; I should have said “foster self-esteem in kids,” or “teach kids to develop self-esteem,” rather than “impart self-esteem to kids,” because you hit the nail squarely on the head–you can’t just give self-esteem to kids; you have to teach them to develop it for themselves, the same way you’d teach them to use scissors or ride a bicycle. But, you shouldn’t just throw them out in the world and let them figure it out for themselves either, any more than you’d just leave the scissors or the bicycle out for them to master independently.
â€œWith freedom comes the risk of a heavy price tag â€“ and it is not one any parent will want to pay.â€
This is a perfect example of black and white thinking. It says that if you do â€œAâ€ than your child is perfectly safe. If you do â€œBâ€ then your child is at risk. Reality is different. Life is not that simple. It’s not risk free. If your child does â€œAâ€ or â€œBâ€ then there is a risk.
This completely ignores that bubble wrapping children is a danger in itself.
@Alanna- I think it is the expectations/rules and consequences aspect of free range parenting that is often overlooked in this discussion. I allow my children many freedoms compared to other parents, but that’s because they’ve proven to me with responsible behavior they are capable of following directions consistently. Giving them permission to make all of their own decisions without care for the consequences is not free range parenting. It’s allowing your kid to be a narcissist and their decisions get to rule our household.
We have a (homemade)sign in my kitchen:
“Welcome to Mom’s Kitchen.
Today’s Special: Shut up and Eat it.
Serving Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.
Have a great day.”
My kids make their own breakfast, pack their own lunches (saves on wasted food), and I usually cook dinner. I always make one thing that everyone likes (pasta or salad). We prepare good homemade meals and eat as a family. I’ve also taught each of my kids how to make some of their favorite quick and healthy meals and snacks. All of my kids are very different with their food tastes but we can come together as a family with most meals (we do lots of soups right now) and be gracious to enjoy a meal together. Permitting your children to dictate every meal to avoid food battles is really the best solution for any method of parenting.
Yesterday I had my six-year-old walk ahead of me from school (in the rain and and dark) to see if she knew how to get home by herself. (Usually we go one stop on the subway). She said, “Taking the train is easier. Tomorrow I’ll duck under the turnstyle, because I don’t have a card, and go to school and back home by myself. I’m a big girl.” I told her, maybe in a couple years. By the way, her kindergarten class read “Pippi Longstocking” and had a Pippi Day. Pippi the ultimate free-range kid I think.
I had a free-range childhood and I still envied Pippi Longstocking – I thought she had the absolutely best life with all her animals!
“…..he says, adding that the risk of exploitation has increased tremendously with the onset of social media.”
Does Dr. Woolfson not understand that children abducted and/or sexually exploited by a person they met on the internet is still very rare? Does he not understand that there are more critical factors involved with the few kids who are naÃ¯ve enough to physically meet somebody they met online much more so than them having more independence? Like poor training from their parents or most likely an abusive household they’re living in right now?
As far as I’m concerned, the advent of social media is just one more convenient excuse helicopter parents use nowadays to helicopter their kids.
My 5yo (and very free-range) daughter skipped breakfast the other day in favour of cartoons. My husband had cooked up bacon, eggs, mushrooms, and baked beans. We enjoyed a meal, while she chose to watch TV.
When she finally surfaced she demanded that we cooked her some breakfast (at the time that she chose). She was offered cold leftovers (not entirely unpleasant) or the option of making her own breakfast (she is capable of making a sandwich for herself). I also threw in the option of learning how to cook for herself.
She can now cook her own baked beans, and clean up after herself. I taught her how to do it safely, and she has made them for herself (and for us) four times this week alone.
I agree with the other parents, the free-range consequence of wanting a different meal (or meal time) is having to make your own meal… not demanding that a parent does it for you. She definitely missed the point there.
The other two parents did a great job of explaining what it really means though.
â€œSelf-esteem? The self esteem movement failed. Studies have shown that high self esteem has no effect on good grades, success or violent behaviour. As a matter of fact extremely violent and aggressive people think very highly of themselves. Who would have thunk it, sociopaths have high self esteem.â€
I disagree. Or rather my definition of self esteem is different than yours. For example narcism is linked to low self esteem. However as narcism goes up, aggression usually follows.
The term ‘self esteem’ has been used missused just like the term ‘success’. For example sales use the term success often. “If you want success then buy a BMW”.
You dare challenge the wisdom of the great George Carlin?
Just today I took the train to my mother’s place instead of the car, as is usually my habit. I sat next to a lovely young man of about ten, who was making the trip alone for the first time to spend the weekend with his grandparents. He started the conversation with me by offering to share his chippies. This isn’t a particularly long distance train, only about 80km maybe, but still takes an hour plus, and it was nice filling the time with conversation.
Amazingly, when I left the train at my stop, I left this friendly young man on the train. No abduction occurred….he just looked like he was going to carry on chatting to the lady in the seat across the aisle.
And my own ‘children’ are at home alone, my husband being off to Malaysia for his own family stuff. While they’re certainly old enough, at 19,16 and 14 to be left for the few days I will be away, they didn’t magically become capable just because Boy reached his majority. Step by step by step….
Oh, and I must say it though, while we all share some ideas in common here, I just could not deal with children choosing what they’re eating. Some things were my choice. Except now, of course, when they’ll eat whatever they drum up….none of my business currently 🙂
The aim of any parent is to get their children to the stage where they can decide everything they do. You know, adulthood. You get there by slowly giving them increasingly more freedom appropriate for their age, not by hovering over them until (and beyond) they are 18 or 21. Does the Daily Mail have an article about how helicopter parenting *harms* children?
“…but a mistake for a child left to cross a road alone could cost them their life.” Yeah! Better not to teach them at all! …Wait, what?
‘We donâ€™t have to hover over them but we shouldnâ€™t let them roam free either’ – uhm… so, when can they ‘roam free’ exactly, is what I want to know? Just before going to university maybe?
Nice work, Belinda. I love it that you describe your kids as “robust”- I really don’t think we can go wrong by starting out from the position that kids are indeed durable little creatures. I am scratching my head by Samia’s assertion that preparing three separate meals for her kids is somehow a free range thing to do? No it isn’t, and it’s ridiculous that the article would even take such an assertion seriously.
I’m further scratching my head over the “expert” claiming that “too much responsibility” could cause a child’s self esteem to whither. Really? Self esteem is what he’s worrying about in that case? It’s like he just reached for the first buzz word he could find. I know that, when I struggled to master skills as a child, self esteem is the one thing that didn’t suffer- I may have felt frustrated or sometimes, even scared, but self esteem didn’t even come into play.
I believe our family doctor put it best.
Nature had a grand plan for humans. Starting out in life full of energy, and wonder. While at the same time keeping our bones somewhat softer, as to prevent serious injury while learning and exploring. Then comes nature’s punchline. We get old and brittle just to find out that we can’t do the same crap anymore. Not only do kids bounce, but they bounce back as well.
I have a huge issue with Samia too and her flagrant use of ‘choice.’ When I had my son 25 years ago, I bought Dr. Spock’s book thinking this was the gold standard of advice. When the health nurse came for her visit, she told me he was outdated and I should try Penelope Leach. So, I went out and bought one of her books. She pumped choice so much it was ridiculous…. and then several years later, I see her on a talk show absolutely condemning the fact that she was one of the people most responsible was “over-choice-ing” parents of my generation. Bottom line, she hyped too much choice in their lives and now says that is regrettable. So, I see where the over-use of choices has stemmed from. Also, I would never let a child choose their own bedtime …. I’m with Warren, you eat what I make (albeit there was some leeway on our home for this) To me, all that choice isn’t choice anymore… it’s entitlement.
You’d think it would be a matter of glaring common sense that it doesn’t make sense to let a child make choices until the child understands the difference between good choices and bad choices. And how are they going to understand that, unless someone older and (developmentally) smarter than they are guides them in the right direction as part of the learning process?
Once they learn what good choices are, and what happens when you make bad ones, and how to tell the difference, then it’s time to let them make choices. And that happens over time — it’s not when they’re two (except in very, very trivial matters) and if it waits until they’re 13 or 16 or 18, they won’t actually have learned how to do it for themselves before it becomes high risk, not to mention a pain in the neck for everyone else to do their thinking for them.
Three meals? Three???? That’s not free range. That’s lazy. That’s not wanting to have to deal with a petulant child being forced to eat peas or starve. That is most certainly NOT teaching a child that they have to learn to work within a family unit and that they don’t always get their own way. Even if the kid does prepare their own meal – what will happen when they’re at a friends house and the friends mom makes one meal and horror – there are peas on the plate that they’ve never had to eat before? Learning to get along with others and exist in a community are a big part of the learning to eat what is given to you thing.
And not enforcing homework? Also lazy. It’s not the sole job of the teacher to enforce consequences! No kid on earth wants to do homework every night – but it still has to be done. A consequence at the end of the term if the child gets bad marks is not immediate enough, especially in young ones. there is little connection between not studying for the spelling test and then getting a poor grade months later. Parents, teachers and students work as a team to educate the child – not the child in isolation.
Free range is about empowering kids but this… this seems as if the parents are expecting the kids to raise themselves. We all must learn to fit into our society, to behave appropriately in different settings, to be gracious to hosts when meals are presented that are different than what we may prefer, to do our work because it must be done … And parents must be there to guide and assist. Just not sure that this family is achieving that part.
>>Three meals? Three???? Thatâ€™s not free range. Thatâ€™s lazy. Thatâ€™s not wanting to have to deal with a petulant child being forced to eat peas or starve. That is most certainly NOT teaching a child that they have to learn to work within a family unit and that they donâ€™t always get their own way. Even if the kid does prepare their own meal â€“ what will happen when theyâ€™re at a friends house and the friends mom makes one meal and horror â€“ there are peas on the plate that theyâ€™ve never had to eat before? Learning to get along with others and exist in a community are a big part of the learning to eat what is given to you thing.<>And not enforcing homework? Also lazy. Itâ€™s not the sole job of the teacher to enforce consequences! No kid on earth wants to do homework every night â€“ but it still has to be done. A consequence at the end of the term if the child gets bad marks is not immediate enough, especially in young ones. there is little connection between not studying for the spelling test and then getting a poor grade months later. Parents, teachers and students work as a team to educate the child â€“ not the child in isolation.<<
Right. Well, that's a good point–the natural consequences of slacking off on schoolwork can be both too far off to make a difference to the child, and too severe for the parent to want their child to experience. So, it's possible to enforce consequences that are more immediate, but still natural. For example, "Jimmy, if you don't finish your homework tonight, you'll have to stay in at recess tomorrow/miss your Cub Scout field trip on Saturday/whatever, because school comes first, and the homework has to get done." For really little kids, or for kids who just can't even see as far ahead as "tomorrow" or "Saturday" for whatever reason, you can even do a point system/sticker chart/whatever, where the kids earn points toward rewards, and not doing their homework will lose them a step towards their reward. My point is, there are middle options between being completely hands off and letting the child fail in school, or standing over the child and essentially doing the homework for them.
P.S., My response to the comment about accommodating kids’ food likes and dislikes got eaten. I meant to say, adults are allowed to have food preferences, if they express them politely, so I think kids should be too. It’s possible to say, “No thank you, Friend’s Mom, I’d rather not have any peas,” without kicking up a fuss. Obviously, everyday meals at home are different, but here, Friend’s Mom has some options–she can either not give the visiting child peas (and also not give her own child peas, if they protest that it’s not fair), or give an easy alternative, like raw baby carrots or something, if she has something like that on hand. As for the “getting along with others and functioning in a community” thing, I can do that just fine, but I don’t eat everything that’s given to me, without question. I’m vegan, so when I attend food-based gatherings, I accommodate myself by either eating before or after, bringing my own food (if it’s a potluck or a barbecue or something), or I just don’t go. My Amnesty group is having a potluck next week, and I’m thinking of making vegan chili and brownies or something, for the group, so I’ll have something to eat if nothing else there is vegan (because some people get “vegan” and “vegetarian” mixed up). I also have food preferences that have nothing to do with veganism–I don’t like applesauce, vegan cheese or mayonnaise (I didn’t like mayonnaise before I went vegan, and I tried Daiya cheese once and hated it), and I like rice and tomato sauce separately, but not together. I can, and have, declined these foods in the past, without being labelled as a “brat,” so I think kids should be extended the same courtesy.
One little warning about food preferences:
There were a number of things I didn’t like to eat as a child, but my parents made me eat them.
More than 20 years later, I was on my own and having some medical problems which resulted in my getting a full-scale allergy test.
The list of foods I was allergic to looked very familiar to me – all the stuff I didn’t like as a child.
So I wasn’t just being ornery. But since the symptoms weren’t drastic, my parents didn’t suspect anything (even though my mother was a nurse).
“â€˜If you give children too much responsibility too early they may feel uncomfortable and disorientated and their self-esteem could suffer,â€™”
I could see this, but not within the range of FR parenting – he’s talking about neglect IMO.
>>One little warning about food preferences:
There were a number of things I didnâ€™t like to eat as a child, but my parents made me eat them.
More than 20 years later, I was on my own and having some medical problems which resulted in my getting a full-scale allergy test.
The list of foods I was allergic to looked very familiar to me â€“ all the stuff I didnâ€™t like as a child.
So I wasnâ€™t just being ornery. But since the symptoms werenâ€™t drastic, my parents didnâ€™t suspect anything (even though my mother was a nurse).<<
Ooh, BL, good point. I didn't even think of that, but I think Kimberley went through something similar–disliked certain foods as a child because they made her "itchy," and that's how her parents found out she was allergic to peanuts, shellfish, and a few other things as well. Kimberley tells the story better, though.
“â€œâ€˜If you give children too much responsibility too early they may feel uncomfortable and disorientated and their self-esteem could suffer,â€™â€
I could see this, but not within the range of FR parenting â€“ heâ€™s talking about neglect IMO.”
Proper parenting is about giving children the responsibility they seek and can handle, not pushing them to take more than they’re ready for or capable of.
Just to clarify. I agree with what you have said. With regards to my example, on the day after she had learned to make baked beans she wanted to have them instead of the dinner that I had made. She quickly learnt that there is a time and a place to be able to make or assist in the making of a meal – and her making her own meal is never going to be in place of the one that I made. However if she chooses to make baked beans on toast for breakfast instead of the vegemite on toast that I am going to make for her… well by all means.
The consequence for us is she is more aware of the effort involved in making meals, and I have noticed on several occasions lately that I have come inside late from gardening to find that ingredients for a meal lined up on the bench waiting for me (the other night she chose most of the ingredients and was heavily involved in the making of a very nice pasta dish which the whole family ate… it works both ways).
(Having said that all that, I so have two children that eat everything on there plate, like everything, and even push themselves with no pushing from me to try new foods… E.g. They are both currently learning to like mushrooms, they do this because they know that both my husband and I never used to like mushrooms but we taught ourselves to like them. They ask a lot of questions and marvel at their own experiences as they are slowly coming to like them. “Oh look Mum, I am eating a mushroom and it is yummy…”etc…. But that is a whole other conversation).
It seems to me like Samia started doing the individualized meal plan as a sort of consolation prize to her kids for not being allowed out on their own. I’ve heard this is often the case- parents who give their kids limited outside freedom will allow said kids to rule the roost, so to speak, in the house, while parents who turn their kids loose on the regular will be more authoritative indoors. I’m not sure quite how I feel about food. I know that food was a fraught issue in my childhood home and having my eating controlled did me no favors. But this trend of throwing snack foods at kids as soon as they squeak, never letting them feel true hunger, doesn’t strike me as ideal either.
@olympia You may be right, but Samia says in the article that she will make 3 different meals for dinner so that ‘she doesnâ€™t have to contend with daily battles over food.’ There is nothing ‘free-range’ about this. She is accommodating her children to avoid conflict. She is catering to her children’s every preference and justifying it as empowerment. A poor strategy as her children will find that they are empowered to get their way by creating conflict. She has allowed it to work in her household, but her children will be ill prepared to deal with others who will refuse to cater to their every preferences.
For shit’s sake. Allowing your kids to tell you what you’re going to make for their dinner is not free-range parenting. Three separate meals?!
Ahh…the old “middle ground” argument, which in this instance manifests thusly: Things are safer today than they were 20 years ago, but some people raise their children as if the opposite were true. So, goes this argument, the answer must be to allow more independence than today, but not as much as twenty years ago. That’s like one person saying that 2+2=4, another saying 2+2=6, and me deciding that, well, the correct answer must be somewhere around 5. Argh!