“What if Someone Follows Your Advice and Their Child Is Abducted by a Stranger — Like I Was?”

The Joey yrhhtyfdfy
Salads child abduction video
purporting to help parents become more aware of stranger danger prompted me to write that this kind of scenario is far rarer than he suggests, and parents are already terrified enough. Then I got this troubling and very honest note:

I agree with your views in theory, but when I was 9 years old, I was tricked by a stranger to go with him and then assaulted and left for dead.  (And yes, I had been warned not to go with strangers by my school and my family.)

Skipping the details, as you can imagine, it affected my entire life from then on, as well as my parents and siblings.

My question to you is: yes, as a society we are over-protective.  But if one parent followed your advice and then their child was assaulted, or g-d forbid, killed, how would you feel?

I’m sure you’ve heard, and discounted, this argument before, but I didn’t know if you ever heard from an actual victim, as I know they are rare. But if we can do anything to prevent something like this from happening to another child, shouldn’t we?

First of all, I am so sorry and upset this happened to you. I wish you and your family every bit of joy and optimism that can be yours.

I would feel sad and grief-filled if this happened to another child, whether they were following my advice or not. (And my advice is probably the same as your own parents gave you: You can talk to anyone, you cannot go OFF with anyone.) And I would be very angry…at the criminal.

You’re right: I am always asked how I would feel if MY son had gotten on the subway and “never come home” — which is just a variation on, “What if something bad happened when you thought things would probably be fine?” The thing is: We all know how I’d feel. Stricken. So the question, when asked by the media (not you), isn’t asked out of curiosity. It is asked as a way of implying that I was wrong to not dwell upon the possibility of future grief and remorse before I allow my son  out of my sight. And that if only I engaged in a little more proactive regret, I’d stop letting  him do anything unsupervised.

This implies that when and if anything tragic happens to a child, it is the fault of the parents for not being vigilant enough. It legitimizes blaming the victim and/or the victim’s parents. But I hope you do not blame yourself for what happened to you, or your parents.

What no one ever says is this: “Why would you ever suggest someone drive their kid to your house, or class, or office? What if they got into a car accident on the way and died? How would you feel, knowing you had suggested they drive over?”

I don’t mean to be callous or dismissive. But letting kids go outside, talk to strangers, or get into the car to go to the dentist  — these all come with a bit of risk. Letting kids take that “risk” is not dumb or foolhardy, and it shouldn’t be guilt-inducing, even though, after a tragedy we all tend to second-guess ourselves.

What we tend to do now is second-guess ourselves ahead of time. We imagine the remorse we’d feel, and say, “It’s not worth it.”

That’s why so many parks are empty.

So I don’t know if that helps at all, but my main point is: If a child is, God forbid, hurt when a parent lets him or her go outside, I will mourn. But I will not blame the parent or myself for not being able to predict the rare and unpredictable, any more than I’d blame the parent who drives her kid the three blocks to school fear of predators, and gets sideswiped by a truck. As someone once wrote to this blog: “Most of the bad things that happen to kids are as a result of bad luck. Not bad parenting.”

As I was mulling this over, I got an email from another reader that added a new perspective. It begins:

I watched this [Joey Salads child abduction] video the first time and fell into the trap with the other Facebook sheep, thinking this guy had just opened my eyes to something important. And then I watched it a second time on this blog and read all of these comments and realized you are all so right. This is pure fear-mongering. Unfortunately, my initial knee-jerk reaction of “OMG, that is crazy, my kid would totally do this!” stems from the fact that I was actually attacked and molested by a stranger in public when I was a child, and I have warned my kids about stranger danger because of that. My past has haunted me my whole life and my biggest fear is something similar (or worse) happening to my children. But what does living in fear do for people? Absolutely nothing. And the comments here actually help me to realize that more clearly.

There’s no way to guarantee absolute safety in any situation. But if we can agree not to blame anyone but the criminal, or bad luck, when kids are hurt, that might help at least a tiny bit to mitigate the pain.

I thank you both for your stories, and for the question about foresight and regret, which comes up often. It is indeed a vexing one. – L.

What if someone takes your advice, Lenore, and a stranger takes their child?

Should we imagine the worst case scenario before we let our kids have any independence? 

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74 Responses to “What if Someone Follows Your Advice and Their Child Is Abducted by a Stranger — Like I Was?”

  1. lollipoplover May 6, 2015 at 11:39 am #

    Marlin: I promised I’d never let anything happen to him.
    Dory: Hmm. That’s a funny thing to promise.
    Marlin: What?
    Dory: Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.

    I WISH I could guarantee 100% that nothing bad will ever happen to any of my children. Or their friends. I wish my daughter’s best friend wasn’t losing her dad to cancer and that my childhood friend wasn’t a senseless victim of domestic violence that orphaned her 3 children. But life happens. Even bad stuff. You never know what’s coming your way and the avoidance strategy isn’t effective.

    I would live a life of regret if I didn’t let my children experience a proper childhood. One with friends playing outdoors and adventures. At parks and ball fields and one that includes epic late night manhunt games.
    It’s called childhood. It’s supposed to be the best part of life. Try not to ruin it for your kids.

  2. bob m May 6, 2015 at 11:48 am #

    my parents house burned down when all 6 of us kids lived at home. the 2 youngest were at sleepovers so were spared that experience and nobody was seriously hurt, although my Dad suffered burns on his hands.

    my point – I have read comments from parents who do not allow sleepovers for fear of (insert here)

    here was a case where home was the least safe place for the 2 youngest in the family

    of course the fire was a fluke (only house I ever lived in that burned), so my family never made any real changes to how we lived and we moved on living in a rebuilt house that actually had improvements (shower added to the 3rd bathroom, expanded one of the bedrooms)

    point? life has risk. Love your loved ones. there is no perfect plan, no 100% safe haven

  3. Cindy May 6, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    Your response is so well-stated, Lenore. And kudos to the people who wrote to you for surviving their attacks and being able to respond to you with such thoughtfulness.

  4. Rachel May 6, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

    The first thing I said when I saw that video is that of course the kid would go off with him–there is no way the kid did NOT see him talking to their parent. And if a kid sees a person talking with their parent, they automatically view them as “not a stranger”. It all looked staged anyway.

  5. Parry May 6, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    Nice response. I would also add that not even being home in bed is 100% safe. There have been a couple cases in the last fifteen years or so where a child was abducted from their own beds while parents were at home. At least one that I recall was on the secondfloor of her home. That doesn’t mean I’m going to watch my child sleep, just in case.

  6. Heather H. May 6, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    I had the same thoughts as Rachel. The kids saw the guy talking to the parents and likely saw the head nods in agreement of SOMETHING before the man approached the kids. I also thought the whole thing looked staged. I was molested for several years by my dad’s best friend when I was 5/6/7 years old. I am now raising 4 daughters. I have frequent conversations with them about appropriate behavior (theirs and others) and how to handle situations that are uncomfortable for them. We revisit these conversations as they grow and mature and add more age appropriate information. My girls all have the freedom to live and explore life. Once at Disneyland my youngest daughter (age 6 at the time) walked about 6 feet away from me to the drinking fountain. She needed help reaching and a “grandpa” aged man offered her help. She made eye contact and said “yes please”. He lifted her up and looked around. I also made eye contact, smiled and nodded. He looked a little surprised that I was not freaking out, put her down and went on his way. I am very much aware that MOST people are not out to harm or violate my daughters. It does happen but I am not going to parent as if it will happen. That would be sad.

  7. MichaelF May 6, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    Why do we blame for victim or the messenger? Does it give people closure to do that? I feel bad about any child who is or has been hurt, but often there is little you can do to prevent them all 100% of the time.

    Sometime there is no Why, and that is the hardest thing of all to come to terms with.

  8. Mark Roulo May 6, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

    “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

    I think one difference between the folks who tend to post here in favor of free-range parenting and the folks “on the “other” side” is *NOT* that we aren’t considering the risks. We are! Just like the “other” folks are considering the risks.

    What is different is that we are weighing the *COST* to the kid of leading what we consider an overly constrained/sheltered life as too high. The folks who don’t want their kids ever talking to strangers don’t consider the cost of that caution to be as high as we do.

    So … one reasonable answer is, “If someone follows this advice and gets abducted by a stranger it will be horrible. Just like it will be horrible if anyone gets abducted by a stranger. But … we also consider it horrible if the kids grow up non-free and timid and afraid and have many, many fewer interesting life experiences.” I think the more cautious folks also consider this second bit bad, but not as bad as us.

  9. Kimberly May 6, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

    As others have posted: Life isn’t without risk. In my area, just the other day, an alleged drunk driver ran his car through the yard of an apartment building where a family was gathered, killing a woman and her 14 month daughter. There is just no way to protect yourself 100% of the time with 100% accuracy.

  10. Kimberlie May 6, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    Teaching kids to be constantly afraid does not protect them, we need to empower them to know how to handle situations that arise in life and do their best to defend themselves if God forbid happens. I would rather my child know that it is ok to fight like hell or ask for help from a stranger than to feel helpless. I taught my son that I would never leave a store without him and he should never leave a store without me. If lost in a store he should find a person with the store logo on their name tag and have them page me and he would never ever be in trouble for doing so. In large outdoor events I pointed out tents or shops where he could go ask for help from one of the workers and again he alway knew to not leave the premises with a stranger…. And guess what, it happened a couple of times… And he did just fine.

  11. Kenny Felder May 6, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    Your reply demonstrates your usual trademark combination of sensitivity and common sense, Lenore. (Without of course your trademark humor, which would be inappropriate here.) You speak for me and others.

  12. William May 6, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

    Many more children are killed or injured in car accidents than by stranger abductions. Most car accidents also happen closer to home where people are most comfortable. Somehow, the more common occurrence is considered safer, but the sensationalized abduction news causes irrational fear.

    I’m more inclined to worry about car accidents and obeying the traffic laws, like coming to a full stop at a stop sign or red light. It’s all about risks. You can’t worry about every little thing. I’d rather worry about the things that are more likely to occur than the very unlikely stranger abduction scenario. I’ll still teach the children to watch out for basic dangers, but I’ll make sure they understand that most people are good, and that they’re not likely to be hurt by the vast majority of people out there. I’d be much more worried about them getting into car accidents when they first start driving.

    When I was growing up, the kids played out on the streets after school and we watched out for each other. If one of us saw a car, we’d yell, “Car!” and everyone moved off the street until the car passed, then we’d go right back to playing. We were all pretty much unattended and we went around the block, out of sight from our homes and bicycled 2 miles to the stores or nearby schoolyards and parks on our own. None of us were abducted, and none of us were killed.

    The overly sensationalized news reports of abductions have instilled too much fear into too many people. Stranger abductions are also much rarer than abductions by family members and known family friends. It’s something to be aware of, but not something to spend quite so much time over. If you really care about your children, you’d worry more about when they first learn to drive, than about stranger abductions.

  13. Eric S May 6, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

    Telling your kids “it’s ok to talk to strangers, but never go off with them without telling me first”, isn’t just about telling them. You have to TEACH it to them. They need to understand how and why. A good way is playing it out at home. Make up a scenario, and grill your kids in how to react, and if they react the wrong way, you stop them right away and ask them “why would you do that?” It’s like sports, the only way one gets better at it, is by practicing until it’s second nature.

    I’m sure many here where taught at a very young age to navigate their neighborhood. That by the time we were 8-9 years old, we were independent and very street smart. We didn’t even have to think what we should do, we just did it. It had kept us pretty save all those years. And we are smarter now because of it.

    I feel bad for the woman who wrote that letter. And not to sound insensitive, but bad things just happen. We have very little control of that. But, it doesn’t happen frequently. In fact, most probably have never experienced anything like that their whole lives. They probably don’t know anyone in their circle of friends that has happened to as well. In the vast population of this world, or even just the population of North America, statistically these are rare incidences. We can’t live in fear because of one bad thing that happened to us years ago. Or live in fear because we hear of some bad things happening to some people all over the world.

    We also have to keep in mind, that whether we intend to or not, realize or not, we end up teaching our children these same fears. Which sets them up to fail as they get older. So in sheltering our children, we actually do them more harm. Because they become ill equipped to deal with life as they get older. They become fearful, and very reliant on their parents, well into their teens and 20 something. Some parents even ask themselves, why their kids are so inept, insecure, and fearful in their young adult lives. Duh. lol

  14. Peter Grace May 6, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    Right on Lenore.
    The lack of character in America is amazing. We have really backslid.
    Seems most of my kids are now content to be slaves.
    Most good jobs in my field are now taken by indentured servants on H1B visas.
    Television, the drug of the nation, breeding ignorance and breeding radiation.

    My friend Adam documented our Uniquely American Human Right Self Defense – so hopefully the next generation will be able to defend self protected by the 2nd Amendment.

    Also – on backsliding – I hope people will embrace education and share the above
    On useful writings: https://petergraceonline.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/useful-writings/


  15. Jewellya May 6, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

    I was also groped by a stranger in public. I was 8 or 9. That moment did not scar me quite so much as my mother’s non-reaction when I told her. “You have to watch out for boys, because they’ll do stuff like that”

    was not a boy. was a man.
    I was not responsible.
    boys are NOT inherently dangerous to girls.

    I spent my adolescence equating feminine to slutty. I wore boys and men’s dress clothes and was often mistaken for a lesbian when I barely understood what that was. Even when young men were interested in me as a person, that scared me to death and I had more defense mechanisms than a c-class submarine.

    I have grown passed my past. I know that my mother said what she did because that was all she was able to say. We do not equip parents with the words to help a child put events like this in perspective.

    It is not your fault. You did nothing wrong.
    You’ve learned a lesson that not everybody is a civilized person.
    The good news is that most people try to be decent human beings.
    Don’t be afraid of all people because of what one person did.
    Don’t be afraid to enjoy what you love.
    Don’t be afraid to live your life.

  16. Lindsey Walenga May 6, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    Teaching children to be afraid of strangers because they might get abducted is like teaching them to be afraid of airplanes because they might crash. Sometimes they do crash, and when that happens it’s horrible and tragic. But if you stayed away from airplanes all together you would miss out on seeing some amazing places.

  17. JP Merzetti May 6, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

    Your commentor made me realize all over again that often a big part of the problem is that we seldom hear from the kids themselves.
    Back in the early 1970’s when daycare and early childhood education really took off, and opposing camps began warring over the supposed results – I distinctly remember that I figured one day about a decade later we’d be hearing from the kids themselves. That never really seemed to happen.

    But this particular “what if” question posed above raises the same old issue for me.
    In real life, there can always be a “what if” merely rising from one’s bed, and not proceeding to smartly hide in one’s closet until bedtime that night.
    Life of course, demands far more of us, than this. And so we bravely meet the challenge.

    That helpless shrug that surrenders to what others might think….the inability to calm one’s own fears……or a blind acceptance of anything and everything regardless of what critical examination might provide – are all rather symptoms of disorder, to me.
    Ironically, disorder that most often is decidedly NOT medicated by legal drugs or otherwise.

    The gentleman who made the video promoted his agenda in the usual way, and prompted desired results by use of propaganda and questionable statistics, and it becomes apparent enough.
    But like all good opportunists – when one sees a good thing, one wishes to dip into that gravy train.
    Again, and yet again, value added children.
    Devoid of any ‘risk’ label – they’re worthless to that cause.

    A beloved child is always the very last thing we should want to lose. We would part with all worldly possessions, and no doubt trade our very life to avoid it. All normal and natural, to the good.
    But where are the limits and boundaries to embracing such a human thing, which allow that same invaluable child those things in life which make life itself precious?
    For life is to be lived. In the moment, and in all stages of the game. That is the point.
    Not to be preserved in amber for some rare moment in time when one is deemed to be risk-free.
    When does that ever happen, for any of us? Ever?

    And so, if all the flocks, herds and hounds of hell claiming “what if” are gathered up and sent packing where they no doubt, belong – what then?
    Do we settle down and become relaxed enough to regain and retain common sense?
    A valuable resource I have treasured all my life.
    Learned from my elders as a mere child.
    I don’t believe I would have naturally come to it entirely on my own.

  18. lollipoplover May 6, 2015 at 1:51 pm #

    The danger of teaching don’t talk to strangers is that children are naturally social and curious. You may be able to control their social interactions to limit their chances of publicly interacting with strangers, but online and in social media, they are talking away! Look at your kids instagram account. Do you KNOW all 300 of your child’s followers? I think the statistic is that 1 in 4 children will be solicited by an online predator. So kids are talking to strangers and this avoidance strategy simply does not work. Better to teach life skills.

    OT- but speaking of avoidance strategies that will surely backfire….


  19. Donna May 6, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    Why is it that we accept that living has risks for adults, but not for children?

    While there will always be insensitive people who say “why did she do X” anytime something bad happens, as a general rule, society doesn’t have the mentality of “even one is too many” towards adults. We don’t go looking for anything and everything that could have avoided a tragic outcome and insist that now everyone must avoid doing that thing. We tend to accept that sometimes random, unpredictable, and tragic things happen to good people, but that we shouldn’t seclude ourselves from the world in an effort to avoid them. In fact, we consider doing that a phobia.

  20. Rachel May 6, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    Very well said, Lenore!

  21. Kimberly May 6, 2015 at 2:31 pm #

    I think a huge part of the problem is that we live in a society that expects the victims (or potential) victims to take matters in their own hands in terms of waylaying any potential threat. A lot of people assume that with the advent of laws such as the Rape Shield Laws (in which victims of sexual assault can’t have their sexual history used against them in court as a defense) that we’ve moved into a society that puts the blame on the offender. But that’s simply not true because we have, instead, developed this “protect at all costs” mentality that begins at the earliest ages.

    For example: at my daughter’s school, students are not permitted to wear anything with a sport logo on it. No Niner’s gear, no Shark’s gear, no Raider’s gear (which is barely a team anyway, but I digress). The reasoning is because local gangs have started using jerseys and hats as a way of identifying members of their own gangs and opposing gangs.

    We went shopping the other day and I found this really cute top for her. Her response?: “I can’t wear that. I’ll get dress-coded.” The reason? On the back, up at the neckline, there was a baseball sized cut-out. They’re not allowed to wear anything that shows the back. Really?

    Or how about that kindergartner whose story has gone viral in which the school forced her to put a shirt over the sundress she’d been excited to wear because it had spaghetti straps? Then, added insult to injury, when they also made her wear jeans under the ankle length dress. Like the dad said when he complained, anatomically, at that age, she’s no different than a boy.

    I’m reminded of a line from the show CSI in which they were investigating several swarm attacks on tourists and when they identified one of the shoes as a Doc Martin, Greg commented that he used to wear them in high school. Catherine responded by saying they became the shoe of choice for skin-heads and Neo-Nazis everywhere. That’s when Greg said, “Yeah, they kinda ruined it for everyone.”

    We’ve done the same thing. In our over-zealous need to protect our kids, we’ve begun putting unnecessary restrictions on them. Not just in terms of going out to play, but in the ability to express themselves as the individuals they are. All in an effort to protect them and create a “distraction-free” environment for them to learn in.

    We need to start putting the blame where the blame actually belongs. On the offenders and those who actually create the distractions by acting out. Not by suspending some kid who decided to dye their hair blue or opted to pierce their nose. Not once, in all my years of school, did I find my ability to concentrate hindered because the guy in front of me got a mohawk.

  22. Vince L May 6, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

    I can’t believe how this crap is showing up all over the place! Nice to have a site (here) that can help debunk this stuff like snopes.

  23. Maggie May 6, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

    Not sure how this is any different than:

    “How would you feel if a trusted family member or close family friend molested your child?”

    Because that happens frequently, far more frequently than kidnapping by strangers. As for harm and death, cars, swimming pools, and bathtubs are far more risky yet most people don’t avoid those things.

    People protect kids from unlikely events, like being kidnapped from a park. Instead, they choose more risky behavior, like driving the kid to Uncle Milt’s house with a swimming pool.

    Point this out, and you make people angry.

  24. SKL May 6, 2015 at 3:45 pm #

    I am frequently asked that kind of question too. Some people even go to the extent of saying “well if you don’t care what happens to your kids ….”

    People seem unaware of the other side of the equation – the real benefits of independent movement / self-direction / self-reliance. I really wish someone would publish a compelling report on that.

    I had some incidents happen to me as a child, though not nearly to the extent of being severely assaulted and left for dead. For some years I thought this had harmed me, changed me, etc. Yes, it made a negative difference in a few aspects of my life, but it did not devastate me, and it did not outweigh the benefits I derived from being a free-range kid. I kind of wish I’d grown up in an environment where people acknowledged that stuff like this happens and it’s not the end of the world. (I was raised to believe that sexual purity was so important, it would be better to be killed than raped and left alive.) I mean, absolutely punish the perps, but don’t treat the victims as if they are damaged.

    Now as to the individual who was badly hurt at age 9 – in those days, it would have been really unusual for a 9yo to be kept under constant supervision. Just like, today, we would not keep a 17yo under constant supervision, even though a 17yo is at some risk of being attacked, kidnapped, hurt, even killed. It is considered an acceptable risk today for a 17yo, so I am not sure why it isn’t considered an acceptable risk for a 9yo (for whom the risk is even smaller). I think maybe it goes back to people not seeing the benefits of independence.

    I think we need to fight hard against the tendency to say “what could the parents have done to prevent this” when a child is randomly targeted. What about the kids who are stolen from their own beds? Unfortunately there are a few horrible people in the world and there isn’t much we can do about it. We catch one, and another shows up somewhere else. Nobody knows why.

  25. Michael May 6, 2015 at 3:57 pm #

    It’s interesting that the first writer finishes with:
    “But if we can do anything to prevent something like this from happening to another child, shouldn’t we?”

    You hear this all the time. If we can do something to stop X, shouldn’t we?
    Well, no, not necessarily.
    The issue is the idea of opportunity cost. What are the costs of overprotecting children? What are the costs of making sure no-one drowns? How much money do we spend to prevent a risk? How many other risks do we create to prevent that one risk?

    How much money should we spend to save a life? Well, that depends on how many lives we could save if we spent that money elsewhere, doesn’t it?

  26. SKL May 6, 2015 at 4:18 pm #

    And another take:

    What happens if well-meaning people follow the “kids shouldn’t talk to strangers” rule, when a few words exchanged would have saved a lot of trouble?

    Take the Meitiv children’s latest encounter with the law. An apparently very nice man saw them walking, and thought they were much younger than they were. (He thought the 10yo was about 7yo.) He called 911 saying that he did not want to scare the kids by approaching or talking to them. What if he had just walked up and asked them their ages, and then, whether they knew their way home? Chances are that if he knew the eldest was 10, he would have moseyed along without another worry. Instead, look at the mess those kids got into.

  27. Kat Villavicencio May 6, 2015 at 4:28 pm #

    I believe children can learn responsibility and self-awareness in a much more controlled environment than allowing them to walk unchaperoned from a park more than one mile from their home, crossing a busy street in the process. Ten-year-old children should not have the responsibility for protecting their six-year-old sibling. A ten-year could hardly be expected to protect himself from harm’s way, let alone protecting his younger sibling. You say that we can’t be responsible for every unforeseen worse-case scenario; however, we can predict with almost 100% certainty if our younger children are with us or at home, there is far less risk than them walking alone along a major highway and crossing another street to get to their home. It is a risk I hope other parents are not so willing to take as the parents in question. I think you have written a very controversial (and dangerous) book, to say the least. There may be a lot of younger parents that so desperately want to be “the modern mom” and misconstrue your liberal message as a new way of parenting. I thought this incident was a one-time event, but it seems the parents, as well as you, believe young children can or even should have to be their own protectors. As I have said before, until your children are in college or reach the age of 18, they are your responsibility. Did you consult with a child therapist or child psychiatrist before writing your book? And maybe you don’t realize, but even free-range chickens aren’t really free-range in the true sense of the word. They are all either in larger pens or in fenced-in areas. I would also like to know your definition of what type of responsibility a 6-year old needs to learn that can’t be taught in the home or school. Do you believe small children need to be in a park all alone for several hours or some other similar scenario in order to learn responsibility??

    I also am horrified by your statement “There’s no way to guarantee absolute safety in any situation. But if we can agree not to blame anyone but the criminal, or bad luck, when kids are hurt, that might help at least a tiny bit to mitigate the pain.” What if the child is killed or badly harmed, both of which could have been prevented if parents did what they are supposed to do – parent! I fail to see why we can’t teach young children everything they need to know about responsibility, kindness and respect at home, or taking them to church, or other events. I don’t think as a parent you need to take any risk concerning their lives, even the very tiniest risk when it could be prevented. Maybe it didn’t happen to your son when he took the subway – but it could have, and it could happen in the future. And, yes, I would be worried to death if my 9-yr.old was on the subway alone. My friend’s daughter (adult) moved out of New York just for that reason – lots of crazies on the street. I believe your book might be taken as permission for parents to allow their kids (no matter how young) to roam about unsupervised. Then they wouldn’t blame the perpetrator, but your book for promoting “free-range” children as the parent’s guide du jour.

  28. Anna May 6, 2015 at 4:40 pm #

    I agree with those who say that the risk-obsessed tend to forget the COSTS of risk-avoidance. But another thing interests me: why are we (as a society) currently so risk-obsessed? It’s not that our predecessors were unaware of these same risks, but they would have thought it was unthinkable to eliminate unsupervised play in response to those risks.

    For instance, my dad used to play with his two best friends in the woods when he was 8 or 9 years old, and one of the boys was actually lured off and raped by a stranger, a guy who approached them and told them he was looking for his little boy who was lost. He then suggested my dad and one friend go off in one direction, while he and the other boy looked in the other direction. . . My dad was quite aware of what devastating and permanent effects this had on his friend; also, when he told us about this he expressed vivid awareness that it was just chance that made his friend was the victim while he went unscathed.

    However, as far as I’ve heard, this never led my grandparents to curtail my dad’s freedom, and my dad in his turn was perfectly willing to let my siblings and I play in the woods near our house (though we had a strict buddy system and we were never supposed to go off with an adult, no matter what story they told).

    So why are we so fanatically risk-averse today in comparison to our forebears? Is it simply the fact that modern life has eliminated or drastically decreased so many risks (infant mortality, workplace accidents, etc.) that any and every misfortune has become unthinkable? And does this make us believe misfortune is always a punishment, so the parents ought to blame themselves?

  29. JKP May 6, 2015 at 4:46 pm #

    The problem with the “if it saves even one child” mentality is that it fails to consider the risks/deaths resulting from taking preventative action.

    For instance there are some people who die BECAUSE they were wearing a seat belt. It’s rare, but it happens. Sometimes they’re trapped in the car while it burns, while a passenger without a seat belt was thrown from the car and survived.

    People could wring their hands and lament, “If only they weren’t wearing a seat belt, they would still be alive today.” Then they could insist that seat belts be outlawed because “if it even saves one person” from the same fate, it’s worth it.

    But the risk of dying BECAUSE of your seat belt is much, much lower than the risk of dying if you fail to wear it. So more people will be saved if everyone wears a seat belt, and those rare situations where the seat belt contributed to their death are just rare tragedies.

    I feel like the 115 kids per year kidnapped in “stereotypical kidnappings” in this country is the same type of rare tragedy as someone getting killed because they wore a seat belt.

    But when you look at the increase in obesity, diabetes, anxiety, and suicide because kids are over-supervised and denied the freedom and learning experiences necessary to their normal development, I think that more kids die from those causes than from the stranger kidnapping fear. These over-parented kids are the equivalent of not wearing your seat belt for fear you might be that rare statistic who dies because of it. To finish the metaphor, the “seat belt” for free range kids is the developmentally appropriate freedom to gain the life experiences and confidence to handle oneself in the world.

    We need more study citations showing the risks/deaths from over-supervising children, so we can show that in constantly supervising every child in an attempt to save those 115 children/year, we are actually sacrificing X number of children/year to do so.

  30. lollipoplover May 6, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

    “What if the child is killed or badly harmed, both of which could have been prevented if parents did what they are supposed to do – parent!”

    And what if you were standing right there and they died or were harmed anyway?
    All the *bad* accidents that happened with my kids…I was within a few feet of them, and I still couldn’t prevent it. I have no idea where this new breed of zealot parents like you think that every tragedy is preventable and blameable. Why do you need to shame parents and point your finger of blame at them for being victims of accidents?
    We used to support mourning parents who lost children tragically. Now we vilify them. It’s sick.

  31. Anna May 6, 2015 at 4:51 pm #

    Kat Villavicencio: Surely you don’t quite mean all you’re saying there – do you really want to say parents are responsible for averting every possible risk to life and limb until a child is 18? And then what? They go from zero to 100% responsibility overnight?

    Also, if you have kids, I’m going to give you the credit of not believing that you would honestly prevent your kids from doing anything that presented any danger to their lives until 18. How about climbing trees? Skiing? Swimming? Ice-skating? Climbing stairs? Risking catching germs by going out in public without a mask? And of course, as Lenore always points out, being a passenger in a car? And will you let them learn to bicycle and then to drive when they’re old enough? To literally avoid every risk of death, regardless of its likelihood, is to live no life at all. Your kids would hate your guts and be counting the days until their 18th birthdays. But like I said, I don’t actually believe you treat them like that – do you?

  32. SKL May 6, 2015 at 4:53 pm #

    Right, and when I had some things happen to me, I was horrified, but my reaction wasn’t “I need to stay home from now on.” It never crossed my mind that I needed to hide from the whole world because I now knew that certain specific people were not to be trusted. (I was 12 when the worst of my experiences happened.)

    I KNOW my kids could have something yucky happen to them. In fact, it is pretty likely that at least one of them will, before they are 18. But that doesn’t translate into “don’t let them out of my sight.”

    I know kids can drown in a pool, so I taught mine to swim. Could they still drown, yes, but I’m not going to stop them from swimming.

    I know kids can die in a car, but I will teach mine how to drive when they are old enough. Could they still die despite good training, yes, but I’m not going to stop them from getting their license (unless they do something to make me seriously distrust them).

    So why would it be different with kids walking in their community?

  33. Beth May 6, 2015 at 4:53 pm #

    “I don’t think as a parent you need to take any risk concerning their lives, even the very tiniest risk when it could be prevented.”

    So you don’t ever take the pretty big risk of driving your kids anywhere in the car?

  34. SanityAnyone? May 6, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

    The fear of your child getting hurt is awful. I have relived in nightmares the exact sound of my toddlers’ heads hitting concrete when falling off a picnic bench within arm’s reach and the image of my daughter flying off a bike toward a tree, though there were no serious injuries. I know it can be and is much worse in many cases. This fear could be crippling, but I just can’t let it be. It’s not in their best interest. As your article suggests, bad luck can catch them up whether or not we are near. The best we can do is prepare them and pray or hope they will live long, healthy, happy lives.

  35. Donna May 6, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

    “we can predict with almost 100% certainty if our younger children are with us or at home, there is far less risk than them walking alone along a major highway and crossing another street to get to their home.”

    I can certainly predict that there is less risk to my child of being struck by a car if she is home. But there are other risks there. A home invasion could occur. The house could catch fire. One of the many large trees in our yard could fall and go through the roof. A plane could crash into our house. She could be abducted while I sleep. Heck, a car could go through our house so even that isn’t a 100% lack of risk. All of these things have happened and, if they happened to us, I would wish that my daughter was walking along a major highway or anywhere other than home.

    I make no such predictions as to a decreased risk if I am present. My presence doesn’t stop of car from running onto the sidewalk (as just happened here yesterday on the same road my child crosses to get to school). My presence doesn’t stop a car from running a red light. My weak self is unlikely to be able to stop a man who really wants to abduct my child. My presence may not even be enough to stop her from darting out into the road if she were so inclined for some reason. Depends on how close she is to me. Considering my child burned her arm cooking cupcakes on Monday with me 2 feet away, the only thing that I am actually 100% certain of is that my mere presence doesn’t stop my child from being injured.

    “As I have said before, until your children are in college or reach the age of 18, they are your responsibility.”

    If you are content to allow your children to wait until their 18th birthday to spend their first moment without supervision, go for it. I live in a college town and see the havoc that attitude wreaks every school year.

    You are correct that my children are my responsibility until they are 18. And I have only that many years to teach them everything they need to know in order to be independent people capable of making positive adult decisions. See, THAT is my primary responsibility as a parent. It isn’t just to ensure that they live until 18 at all costs. It is to ensure that at 18 they are capable of being productive members of society. They learn how to be capable adults by spreading their wings and practicing self-reliance and sense of responsibility in increasing amounts as they build to that age, not by being thrown into it at 18.

  36. Anna May 6, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    Good point, Donna: “I make no such predictions as to a decreased risk if I am present. My presence doesn’t stop of car from running onto the sidewalk (as just happened here yesterday on the same road my child crosses to get to school).” And very literally true – I have a friend whose toddler was killed by a drunk driver whose car jumped onto the sidewalk where she was pulling him along in a little red wagon. Thankfully nobody says “How can your forgive yourself for walking him there?” (Or I hope they don’t, anyway – who knows, these days?)

  37. Steve May 6, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    On a TV show years ago they demonstrated “how easy” it was to convince adults to leave a shopping mall with a stranger and go outside and get into his car.

    It was surprisingly easy, and yes, these were adults being tricked… the very people helicopter parents think are the “smart ones,” the ones who will protect small children.

  38. Lin May 6, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

    Great post! I get so angry when parents suggest that THEY couldn’t leave their kids anywhere unsupervised because THEY would be devastated if anything happened. Why would you even have to mention that? If not to suggest that parents who do free range in any shape or form would just go “Ah well” if their child disappeared or got killed and move on? It’s this “I love my child more than you do” mentality which is very popular now.

    I never really saw the link to the advice to women to avoid getting raped before this post though. We’ve had some outrage on social media here recently in Australia because of men in authority telling the media things like “if women walk alone at night, it’s an invitation to would-be attackers” in response to some young women getting raped in public places. Same kind of victim blaming as they try to do with free range parents.

  39. bsolar May 6, 2015 at 6:11 pm #

    @Kat Villavicencio

    As a parent you don’t have only the duty of keeping your children safe. You also have the duty to foster your children’s development into a healthy, responsible and independent adult. Risk is necessary for that, as explained e.g. in this article focusing on play: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201404/risky-play-why-children-love-it-and-need-it

    Basically by going too far into “protection mode” you risk stunting the development of your children by denying them the chance of engaging in enough risky activities they actually need to best develop themselves.

  40. That '70s Mom May 6, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

    This post is fantastic. I’ve had these same thoughts: if something happened to my sons because of my choices, I’d never forgive myself. We’ve all had them, I’m sure. But then one day I heard a story about a family suing a town to ban sledding in the local park b/c their daughter hit a tree and was killed. What’s next, I asked myself? Banning bike riding and skiing? How about all those sports that lead to concussions and other serious injuries? Do we ban those too? No, we don’t, because, despite the risk, engaging in those activities is a normal piece of childhood, just like walking to school or playing alone on a playground….yet the latter two are controversial, despite the unlikelihood of anything bad happening.

    That reality really helped me put things in perspective. Every day we do dangerous things – some more dangerous than others – and taking risks is part of life. It’s what made me quit my job to travel the world for 6 months in my late 20s…and it was the best thing I ever did!. Life is about risk assessment; our job as parents is to teach our children how to responsibly take risks.

    I’m so sad for the people in this story who’ve been victimized, and I applaud them heartily for not blindly giving into fear-mongering. Not sure if i could do the same. Thanks for sharing…

  41. Kimberly May 6, 2015 at 7:32 pm #

    Kat — No one is saying that a six-year-old is equipped or prepared to be kicked out of the house after school and sent to the park alone. As FRPs, we also agree that some 14 and 15 year old’s aren’t capable of that either. But we do believe that there are strength in numbers and the more children out and running around, the safer it is for all children — even the younger ones who might not otherwise get to play unsupervised. FRPs promote allowing children to mature and explore at levels the children are comfortable with as well as waiting until the child has the cognitive functions to do so on their own.

    Think of it another way: My 10-year-old son’s best friend has read Les Miserable AND comprehended most of it, to boot. My son struggled through The Hobbit and prefers to read Captain Underpants. We both, as parents, choose books that will challenge our children while still conforming to their level of understanding and comprehension. FRPing follows the same principles.

    Not only that, but there are some things a parent just can’t provide their children:

    from the University of Illinois http://urbanext.illinois.edu/toddlers/exploring.cfm

    Children learn by exploring their environment. But their exploring should happen in safe places and in ways that help them learn. As you see your child begin to discover her world, keep these ideas in mind:

    Exploring is normal and important for children to do.
    Exploring is one of the first steps in learning about objects and in learning how to solve problems.
    Children are fascinated about how things work, what they look like from the inside, and how they are made.
    Skills like pulling up, standing, crawling, walking, climbing, and running help children explore and test their environment.

    from: Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework http://www.ncca.biz/Aistear/pdfs/PrinciplesThemes_ENG/ExploringThinking_ENG.pdf

    Children use their senses, their minds and their bodies to find out about and make sense of what they see,
    feel and experience in the world around them. They gather information and develop new skills, including
    thinking skills. They form ideas and theories and test these out. They refine their ideas through exploring
    their environment actively and through interacting and communicating with adults and with other children.
    Much of this happens through play and other experiences that allow children to be creative, to take risks, and
    to make discoveries. As they learn, they retest their theories adjusting them to take on board new discoveries
    and new experiences.

    from: naturallearning.org http://www.naturalearning.org/sites/default/files/Benefits%20of%20Connecting%20Children%20with%20Nature_InfoSheet.pdf

    Studies of children in schoolyards found that children engage in more creative forms of play in the green areas. They also played more cooperatively (Bell and Dyment, 2006). Play in nature is especially important for
    developing capacities for creativity, problem-solving, and intellectual development (Kellert, 2005).

    from: Brighthorizons.com http://www.brighthorizons.com/family-resources/e-family-news/2013-children-and-nature/

    …when children are outside and surrounded by nature, they experience an ever-changing and free-flowing environment that stimulates all the senses. Going outside to play fosters children’s intellectual, emotional, social and physical development.

    Interacting with the natural world allows children to learn by doing, and experiment with ideas. In the natural world, children think, question, make suppositions, and thereby develop inquisitive minds.

    When children play outdoors there may be opportunities to interact with new and different playmates. In nature, children can play alone or connect with one another, learn to share, and problem solve. In the natural world, children often collaborate to make up games and rules because there are no prescribed sets of instructions. When exploring outside, school-age children may not be in close proximity to adults, which gives them the opportunity to make up their own rules and solve their own problems, without inhibition.

    from: cleveland.com http://www.cleveland.com/parents/index.ssf/2010/06/unsupervised_play_allows_child.html

    They played “cops and robbers,” ‘house” or “school,” their own reality-based dramas. They also became the characters in fantasies involving queens and dragons, cowboys and horses, flying caped heroes and tall buildings, pirates and sinking ships.

    And as they did this, researchers are telling us now, they were developing “executive functions,” the ability to self-regulate, the measurement of which turns out to be a better indicator of success in school than the results of an IQ test.

    Kids with good self-regulation skills are better able to control their emotions, resist impulsive behavior, and become self-disciplined and self-controlled.

  42. Warren May 6, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

    “I don’t think as a parent you need to take any risk concerning their lives, even the very tiniest risk when it could be prevented.”

    Kat, this is taken directly from your comment. This statement demonstrates your lack of logic, and the fantasy you have about control.

    What you are demanding of parents is impossible to attain.

    You don’t think parents need to take any risk with their kid’s lives? Does that include putting them in a motor vehicle? Just wondering what your opinion is on all these parents risking their kid’s lives on a daily basis.

  43. Buffy May 6, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

    Kat? Could you possibly respond to any of the comments here?

  44. SKL May 6, 2015 at 10:43 pm #

    Speaking of “what ifs”….

    This afternoon I was talking to my kids about the fact that a group of teen boys sometimes cuts through our yard. My 8yo said, in response to my not being upset by their being on our property, “but what if they do something stupid?” When asked to explain, she said, “if they do something stupid and get hurt on our property, we could get sued.”

    Seriously? Where are 8yo kids hearing this stuff?

  45. Liz May 6, 2015 at 10:58 pm #

    Blaming the victim disturbs me. Blaming the parent when someone takes their child exempts the actual criminal. Blaming the parent when a child dies (unless they killed them) is cruel. Why do we do this?
    Nobody says that the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks were to blame, for not keeping them in their houses and “letting” them work somewhere that had already been the site of a terrorist attack.
    Nobody blames the parents of the Sandy Hook shootings for sending their kids to public school. Nobody tells them that it’s their fault for not homeschooling their kids, for letting them out of their sight.
    Those are both very rare situations, and yet nobody blames the parents or the families, because we blame the actual cause- the criminal actions of others that there can be no way to control. Black swan events.
    Horrible things happening to kids while they are out being kids are black swan events too, and the families and parents are victims just as much as the child is.

  46. Warren May 7, 2015 at 12:08 am #

    Most people like Kat, never respond to others that call them out for their statements. They make statements based solely on emotion and self-righteousness, with no facts to back them up. We need to do a better job of identifying these commentors and stop confusing them with facts and reason.

  47. Warren May 7, 2015 at 12:14 am #


    Blaming the victims is the way people make themselves feel superior, and safer. By blaming the victims, parents or whomever, they are proclaiming to the world that it could never happen to them, because they are better than the victims. It is rather sick when you think about it.

    There are some victims that you could logically blame, overdoses, suicides and the like.

  48. Alex R. May 7, 2015 at 12:56 am #

    As I have said before, until your children are in college or reach the age of 18, they are your responsibility.

    Kat, the issue is very simply one of risks versus rewards, and I say this as someone who walked or biked more than a mile home from school starting in second grade – yes, I had my share of adventures – but I’m here to tell the tale, as are all my friends who were raised the same way.

    The risks vs. the rewards exist not just for children or for families, but for our entire society. On one hand, some very tiny percentage of children who run free range experience some sort of horrible fate; those 115 children each year who are abducted by a stranger or the much larger number hurt in bicycling accidents… whatever. On the other hand, a much larger group of children each year discover enormous strengths; social skills, street smarts, navigation skills, confidence, the ability to overcome a bad fall and make it home alone… or continue the game without worries about that minor ache or scratch. I’m talking about the general ability to assess reality and handle one’s self… everything a child can learn independently is available to the free-range kid, and none of this is available to the child who is kept on a short leash by his/her parents.

    The end result of overprotectiveness on the part of parents is a child who does not have any ability to deal with the outside world. No maturity. No confidence. No street smarts or navigation skills. No social skills… Just like a child who is never exposed to disease has a weak immune system, a child who does not encounter the outside world is soft, weak, and easy prey, perhaps for the rest of his/her life, and reality is going to come as a awful shock!

  49. Andrew_M_Garland May 7, 2015 at 1:57 am #

    The comparison to the risks of driving a car is apt. The lifetime risk of driving is about 1% death and 5% hospitalization. But, people accept this risk or don’t think about it. The benefits to personal freedom and accomplishment are worth it to almost all people. Yet, some die or are disabled.

    The same is true for children. Life in a cocoon is boring and stultifying. Constant oversight from ages 6 to 18 tells the child that he (or she) is helpless. Then he is supposed to lead an independent, confident, and fulfilled life. It can’t work that way.

    The well-lived life has some risk. There is no choice in that. The training must begin early.

    The Joey Salads demonstrations are disturbing. One reaction is to watch the kids ever more closely. Consider that no amount of telling children how to react actually trains them to react independently. Watching them makes them feel safe, and so they are unthinking.

    Put them on their own in stages. There will be natural, appropriate fear. They need that independence to say “No, I’m not going with you, I don’t know you.” That refusal requires a feeling of independence which they can’t get by being watched.

    Skipping to young adults, many are selling themselves into debt-slavery by accepting the offer of college loans and the promise (by who?) of great jobs and futures. They don’t have the independence to refuse these “kindly” offers and the lies of schools and government. They have been trained to avoid all risk, and don’t have the personal independence to think for themselves and say no the the nice man telling them what to do.

  50. Erik Sandblom May 7, 2015 at 3:01 am #

    Ms Skenazy, you are so eloquent.

    I often try to convince people with statistics. And a lot of other people do too. But I think we should address people’s fear, because that’s what this is about. If we can talk to people about their fear, maybe they can let go of it. I admit, sometimes I get caught up in the “what-ifs” too.

  51. Raissa Landor May 7, 2015 at 6:51 am #

    Wise words, Lenore.

    It’s all about balance and living life as fully as one can without paralyzing oneself (or one’s children) with the horribles that might happen rather than focusing on common sense limits that free one to enjoy the present.

  52. SKL May 7, 2015 at 9:18 am #

    I just want to add that it’s dangerous to believe nothing can happen to a child if the child is kept home / close to his parents. Actually I’m pretty sure the vast majority of serious incidents happen to children who are close to their parents (or parent-approved caregivers) at the time.

  53. Crystal May 7, 2015 at 9:21 am #

    You answered this very well. And it’s so nice to hear such civility and thoughtfulness on both sides!

  54. Joanne May 7, 2015 at 10:48 am #

    Why is it not okay to blame the victim in stories of rape – she was drunk, she was wearing a short skirt, she blah blah blah, but it is perfectly okay to blame the victim(s) when something happens to a kid? If we’re all excited about rape culture, why aren’t we all excited about kidnapper culture or child molester culture?

  55. DirtyHooker May 7, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

    For a lot of people, there’s something satisfying about blaming the victim. It’s a protective ward. “This terrible thing would never happen to me or my kids because I’m smarter and more cautious. I am safe.”

    It’s a lie they tell themselves, but it makes them feel better, and most of their decision-making centers around making themselves feel better.

  56. Havva May 7, 2015 at 12:42 pm #


    Sadly there was some blame flying around on 9/11. I heard people in the days after asking, why would anyone work in such tall buildings like that? Saying the people who worked there should have known it would be a target. And of course bringing up the prior bombing. And saying they never would have worked in such a building. That was the moment I saw these ‘shouldn’t have done that’/’should have known better’ claims for the disgusting 20/20 hindsight victim blaming that they actually are. That day really striped my illusions of control.

    Oddly, I am a lot happier without trying to maintain the illusion of control.

  57. Havva May 7, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

    I’ll take my own crack at answering the original email. Obviously I don’t share that experience. What I have is the commonplace car accident. I was 9 too. My parents had forgotten the trip I wanted to take. I begged and cajoled, and kept pushing until they said yes. I blamed myself for that accident for years. I re-analyzed that argument about the trip from every angle. Because of course the whole parade of horribles, [watching that man bleed out, medical mishandling (the hospital lost my mom for 2 days, and she was too injured to get help), my dad loosing his license from a clerical error, my sister and I being temporarily disabled] wouldn’t have happened if I had given up on begging for that trip. It’s not the same as being kidnapped and left for dead of course, but it is a sizable taste of awful. And I’m sure if I encouraged someone to let their kid go and it ended tragically I would feel a lot of that again.

    “But if we can do anything to prevent something like this from happening to another child, shouldn’t we?” When my daughter had trouble absorbing oxygen, (possibly due to my resisting a c-section, it seemed like the right choice at the time) and then quit breathing in the night, believe me I was trying everything with half a chance of preventing SIDS. Fans, pacifiers, keeping her room on the chilly side, monitors, the whole 9 yards. “Anything” as you say if it hopes to prevent SIDS. All of that keeping her sleep shallow in the hopes it would keep her alive. I was envisioning her dead at every turn. It was like taking a half dose of the horror I felt in the aftermath of the car accident every single day. And instead of waning the horror grew. Horror is bad enough to live with when you have lived through a horrifying event. But it makes no sense to live with when nothing has happened. I don’t want people who haven’t shared my horrors to share my horrified reactions. It is a grave burden, it sucks the joy out of living. It effects me every time I step into my car. And as hard as it was to forgive myself after the car accident I learned how. I learned that eventually I would be able to forgive myself if something awful happened. I forgave myself for my daughters rough birth. And I tell myself that if anything happens to my daughter I will deal with that guilt then. But there is no way to do all the anythings “to prevent something like this from happening to another child” without inviting in a substantial helping of the horror that comes with actual horrific events. Life hands out enough horror, without dwelling on horrors that don’t belong to us too.

  58. Dianne May 7, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

    One of our major decision to move to Europe largely stemmed from the ability to have my kids go to parks, take buses and trams unaccompanied without me fearing loosing them to the “protective system” that is in the US!!

  59. Dianne May 7, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    Questions: Is there anything being done to legally fight these laws?
    Petitions to sign?
    Any lobbying bring done?
    Maybe the upcoming elections are a good place to start asking these questions in a ‘town hall’ meeting setting?

    Families are being town apart. Children are being traumatized and physically abused and neglected when they are placed in foster care, all causing more harm than good.

  60. DirtyHooker May 7, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

    Joanne: Rape victims are blamed all the time. She was dressed like a slut. She WAS a slut. She drank too much. She was hanging out with the wrong crowd. She was walking too late alone at night.

    In short: She was asking for it.

  61. Christina May 7, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    @Kat – I’m really hoping you did not mean that email the way it came across, because my first reaction was “oh, so you’re the only person in the world with critical thinking skills, while the rest of us will read Lenore’s book or website and immediately send our toddlers out into the world unattended?”. At the age of 10, I was hauling my younger brother all over the place. We regularly did a 3+ mile round trip to the ice cream shop on our bikes. We walked to our local pool (6 blocks away!) with the fee and a note from our mom.

    We can’t teach our children everything they need to know before we give them any independence. That’s not how kids learn. You can tell them pretty much anything you want – if you have kids, then you know they might hear about half of what comes out your mouth. Kids learn by doing. Most of our learning throughout life is experiential. The only way to teach a kid how to be independent is to give them some (developmentally appropriate) space to act independently. Why do we hold our toddlers’ hands when we cross the street, and tell them each time to look both ways? Because there will be a day (long before they are 18) when they want to do it for themselves, and it is our job as parents to let go of that hand and walk beside them.

    Protecting our children from harm is only one part of parenting. Our task is to raise the next generation, to prepare them for adulthood, to give them the tools to seek their own adventures and chase their own dreams, and make their own happiness, and hopefully make the world a little better than they found it. It’s scary and exhilarating and sometimes exhausting, but the glow on my kids’ faces when they master a new task or do something on their own for the first time is priceless. I could never deprive them of that experience out of selfish worry.

  62. SKL May 7, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

    About the rape “blame the victim” discussion, there is a line between discussing possible ways to reduce one’s risk of rape vs. blaming the victim. Different people draw the line in different places. I think it’s a terrible idea to refrain from reporting the *fact* that being sober (or being with a designated sober adult) significantly reduces ones’ risk of many things, including traffic accidents, drowning accidents, foot-in-mouth disease, and yes, unintended sexual contact. Advising our adolescent/adult children of this doesn’t mean we don’t place all blame on the rapist when someone is raped. In the case of alcohol, statistics clearly demonstrate that the risks can be managed. Choosing not to manage the risk of assault in order to avoid hurt feelings is not acceptable IMO.

    Now to the question of why it’s different with child abduction. That’s a good question. I think the answer is that there isn’t any statistics that prove that restricting kids’ independence (beyond what we already do) significantly reduces the risk of stranger kidnapping of young children. We think that most caring parents already provide the level of supervision that is appropriate for their child’s safety, based on how well they know their child. Beyond that, it’s mostly chance, and kids can get hurt whether or not they are supervised.

    The article someone linked indicated that the risk of kids being taken from their own home is about the same as the risk of being taken from a park or wooded area. So, really, it’s pretty random, wouldn’t you say?

  63. tz May 7, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    Happens far more often than strange adults in the park. This is just the most recent, they usually have at least a half dozen per month.

    CPS is the one who adopts kids, and the parents never see them again, and they get abused in the (for profit) foster-care system.

    Your free range kids are more likely to be removed from you, never to be seen again by a judge than a criminal.

    But there have been no national interviews on this problem. The Lakota nation has been decimated by South Dakota’s CPS.

  64. Olga Morris May 7, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

    Let me say this. This is first of all the first time I ever heard about anythign called Free range Parenting. I don’t necessarily believe there is a need for a term like that. As opposed to contained in a cage parenting? Simply my humble opinion. Your website came up on a facebook moms group we belong to in my town and this is of course after some of us also referred to the same video you refer to here. I believe this video aims to show, which is you really DONT KNOW how your child would react if put in that position, no matter how many times you talk Stranger Danger. I believe that taking the purpose of the video, which was to show what can and actually DOES happen to some children in the United States to this day, and mixing it up with talking about letting our kids play outside unsupervised or not, wehther or not we hover as parents or raise them to be independent are TWO entirely different things. It’s no ones assumption that every person with a dog in a park is going to molest our child. It should also be no ones assumption that their child will NEVER make the wrong decision when faced with something as simple as a stranger coming up to them and potentially attempting to lure them. Our children are facing new kinds of dangers. There is a reason they do all kinds of drills at schools, to help them prepare in case of emergency. Why couldn’t you all just take the video and look into yourself and say “Is my child able to know the difference if someone were to come up to them this way?” To the person that commented that of course the child went away with them because they saw the stranger talking to mom so they probably thought it was ok.. You don’t think someone could actually do that knowing it may actually work that way? I may be completely out of place here, but I do believe that being safe and proactive as a parent can go hand in hand with giving children independence and allowing them to learn from their mistakes. There’s just no mistakes to be learned from the unfortunate event that a stranger ever abduct our child. That’s not to say that we will never run that risk, but at least I’d like to know that I’ve done what I can to inform my child to know how to respond in the event this were to happen. In my opinion, my eyes were opened,the information was shared with my children, I will never NOT be on the lookout for anythign that could be harmful to my children, and that doesn’t mean I can’t lead a happy life as a parent. That just means I’m a realist.

  65. Monica May 7, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

    I think people don’t recognize the HUGE harm done by clipping children’s wings. Peter Gray outlines this very clearly. Kids need to play independently, in various groupings, to develop social skills. They need to learn to accept feeling hurt or not being the best, to accommodate people with different abilities, to manage frustration and anger, etc. Sheltered at home or in parent-initiated playdates and classes, they’re missing out.

    And a whole generation will suffer as a result.

  66. Wow... May 7, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

    @Olga Morris, “Free Range” as opposed to “worst mom”.

  67. Donald May 7, 2015 at 11:38 pm #

    It’s ironit that I read this today because at 5 minutes earlier, I was making a drawing to address this very issue!

    In the 1960,s a neuroscientist discovered that the brain is made up from 3 major parts. He called this the triune brain. All 3 of these parts were developed at different times on the evolution scale. The neocortex is the youngest and most intelligent part of the brain. It can look at both sides and weigh up pros and cons in order to make a decision. This is the ONLY part of the brain that can do that. The rest of the brain can look at one side only.

    However this higher level thinking takes longer to do. Therefore during times of stress (or worst first thinking) we temporarily disable the neocortex. This is normal to do this on occasion. When the rational part gets shut down at an abnormally frequent amount of times, it’s quite damaging and the, ‘let’s look at one side only’ becomes normal thinking.

    One side only can be (worst first thinking) but it can also be, ‘Oh! That puppy is so cute! I wonder if this stranger has more of them in his van’? The ‘look at both sides’ part of the brain has become neutered from years of helicopter parenting. The child’s own judgement hasn’t developed. All they know is mommies mantra of, ‘don’t talk to strangers’.

    However the child’s own ‘lets look at one side one’ can override this with the thought, “But that puppy is soooooooooo cute!” Joey Salads video shows that this can happen often. Their mothers also told them about stranger danger but the cute puppy still won out.

    The reptilian complex (survival brain) can call an emergency over ride. That’s good! However the overprotected child hasn’t learned survival. They only remember mommies mantra of ‘don’t talk to strangers’.

    We agree that children should be protected. We disagree on the most effective way to protect them. Instead of asking Lenore, “How would you feel if….” You can ask yourself, How would you feel if you helped disable the the child’s judgement and therefore the thought, ‘But that puppy is soooooooooo cute’ won out?


  68. Warren May 8, 2015 at 1:00 am #


    We have every right to pick apart and discredit this video. There is not one piece of valid information in it. Nothing in this so called experiment is relevant.

    This man was not performing a social service. He is an admitted entertainer. Not a good one, but he thinks of himself as one. This idiot was doing nothing more than cashing in on the irrational fears of so many parents out there. He inflated the abduction numbers, for fear factor and shock. He targeted kids that were under mom’s supervision, he was seen with mom, he never showed the one’s that didn’t fall for his crap, and the list goes on.

    As for children being lured away with puppies. As a dog person, I will concede puppies are a powerful draw. But other than movies, and tv shows, I cannot remember ever hearing of an actual child being lured and abducted by someone using a puppy. And when I think about it, I doubt they actually use a puppy in the park as a lure. Why…………because puppies, or dogs are such a draw. They draw everyone’s attention. And if you were going to snatch a kid, do you really want to be the center of attention, or do you want to be invisible.

    When the rare stranger abduction occurs I highly doubt there is some master plan that has been rehearsed and worked out for days. This is not some Criminal Minds episode. I am sure it is the same with kidnapping as it is with anything else in life. Keep it simple. Grab and run probably is the most used method.

  69. Havva May 8, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

    @ Olga Morris

    “Free range Parenting. … As opposed to contained in a cage parenting? ” Yeah, that’s pretty much the dichotomy. I had a friend who was helicoptered before it was the thing to do. Her parents asked me to “babysit” her when we were both in middle school. I refused to let her parents call it that or pay me. But I came and I stayed with my friend, and lived with their rules for brief episodes. If feels like being in a cage. A body needs to move, a child’s body desperately needs to move. (She was became desperate, like a hint of suicidal desperation, at the prospect of loosing her only readily available physical outlet, a trampoline) Also children have a huge need for independent exploration.

    Once, and only once, another friend and I convinced the helicopter parents to let us take our friend for a walk in her own neighborhood. We went around a circuitous block. It was an enormous thrill to her (again she was in middle school) and she was breathless with excitement when we got back. She had no idea how to navigate. Within a minute of loosing sight of her house, she had no idea where we were or how to get back. We didn’t know her neighborhood and had never walked in it but had no problem finding our way back.. dull walk. We were never allowed to do it again.

  70. VT Mom May 8, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    My kids were raised free range and I will say with absolute certainty that it provided strength of character to survive one of those events that can happen to the most protective of parents. I, along with my youngest daughter (14), his girlfriend and his best friend watched as her brother (15) showed us what the students had been doing for fun earlier in the school day during recreation period. He dove head first into a snow bank. He looked at me and said “mom I can’t move”, he had burst C4 in his neck. Less than 3 years later their father took his own life. I could relate additional events that the most protective parent could not prevent. Bottom line, in my opinion, my kids discovered who they were because they had the opportunity to experience life and the risks inherent to making choices. They were educated about personal safety, including stranger danger along with hunter safety. They attended one of those schools where the dress code restricted emblems of any sort. They witnessed what happened to their over protected classmates when they finally experienced freedom.
    Did my son survive-absolutely. Did we all overcome these many emotional mountains we were forced to climb both up and down-yes.
    Keeping a child over protected leaves them unprepared for the simple risks we all face just being alive and participating in the world.
    My children are adults now and my grandchildren are having some of the same opportunities but danger is still out there and hopefully they too will have the freedom to live and learn through exposure instead of from an enclosure.

  71. Sara May 10, 2015 at 11:57 am #

    Please please please think about this prior to letting your child walk too far in the 50s
    A supposedly a safer time I walked 12 houses on my way to the corner park and was abducted and molested. I am 65 years old and still the thought of this happening to any child brings me to tears. And my poor mother the guilt turned her inside out and created a somewhat well meaning over protective parent. There has to be a balance and for me a ten and six year olds should not walk a mile home look at the risks. Maybe it would be a good idea to explore other other ways to allow children to be more independant. There is no way to relate the horror of just one child being abducted. All the therapy after the fact can’t undue it, is terrorifying for everyone involved. I hope one parent is spared by listening to those of us who have been there.

  72. sigh May 10, 2015 at 9:25 pm #

    Lord Almighty. “Abducted and molested” is less common than getting struck by lightning, and a lot less predictable. Simply walking down a street does not set someone up for abduction. Walking around in a thunderstorm and climbing a tree might set you up for electrocution, though.

    To take a rare tragedy and turn it into some kind of caveat for others is ridiculous.

    In my town, I have heard of exactly no one getting abducted while walking down the street. I’ve lived here 12 years.

    I have, however, heard the very unfortunate story of a young boy who was walking to school with his mother, HAND IN HAND, and a semi truck took a residential corner too tight and the trailer ran over the boy WHILE HIS MOTHER HELD HIS HAND. He is permanently disabled.

    It was rare, it was unfortunate, but look! Parents and children are still walking to school hand in hand.

    Take your brand of “everyone should change their lives because I had an unfortunate and rare experience” elsewhere. I have compassion for your suffering, but not for your insistence that others are in danger.

    There is not constant danger of being abducted randomly as you walk down the street.

    End of story.

  73. sigh May 10, 2015 at 9:28 pm #

    And that’s exactly right, the 50s were a “supposedly safer time.” There was exactly the same ratio of loonies to regular folk as there is today. Wait. I think there’s probably less today, actually. We’ve come so far with teaching children to advocate for themselves, be educated about their bodies and boundaries and saying no, even to adults, that the incidence of victimization is likely lower, and the loonies are being identified more easily because there is less shame for victims.

    But whatever. Life is life, humans are humans, some are aberrant, but no more than there ever were, and possibly less.

  74. Bryce Nesbitt May 13, 2015 at 12:49 am #

    Living in fear has a 100% certain chance of causing mental and physical health effects. Walking to the park has a tiny chance of creating a problem. Learning to be strong as a child, and to handle multiple situations is priceless regardless.