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I have raised three daughters, now 20, 16 and 14. My children, for the most part, spent the bulk of their early childhood years on about 500-plus acres where they roamed freely. They built forts, played in creeks, sled down rocky slopes, climbed trees, picked wildflowers in their bare feet, rode horses without saddles and even camped out under the stars. These “free-roaming” experiences in nature have helped shape my kids to be self-reliant nature lovers who know the benefit of time spent outdoors and time spent alone.
They took some chances that I am sure I am not aware of as they journeyed from one adventure to another. However, I am grateful for the experiences that they did have and the way these experiences have shaped their thinking as they have matured. They are cautious but not afraid, willing to try new things, respectful of the natural world and quite capable in situations where most adults would tremble.
I strive to give my kids the kind of experience I had growing up. I can remember hours after school spent in the local woods, backyard or outdoors at a neighbor’s house. We roamed our neighborhood freely, interacting with others, riding bikes miles and miles, building snow forts and all the cool stuff you get to do when you are unleashed as a kid — all without a cellphone (oh my!). These are experiences I will never forget and the lessons and skills I learned still shape who I am nearly 40 years later.
Today, there is an increasing movement toward not only parental micromanagement of children but also city authority micromanagement. For some reason, going outdoors has now become “super scary” and kids must stay locked behind closed doors tied to their smartphones and video games.
Recently, two children ages 6 and 10 were picked up by local police and placed in child protective services for a time because they were playing alone at a park two blocks from their home. Gasp! Imagine that … letting kids play alone. On the contrary to what the police suggested, it is a crime not to let them explore and be creative — to feel free.
It is sad that so many children are socializing through text and social media, oblivious to the natural world around them. These kids are often scared of a spider or the sound of branches scraping on the side of the house. They are hypersensitive, unbalanced and incapable of making even the smallest of decisions on their own.
I feel sorry for these kids and the opportunities they are missing. Scared children often translate to scared adults. Adults who are unwilling to take even calculated risks and certainly have no taste for adventures beyond their doorstep.
I am a big fan of fostering some pretty critical life skills in my kids. These include things like responsibility, confidence and competence. My job is to raise my children the best they can by giving them tools to succeed in life. This can’t happen when kids are addicted to their electronics inside a stale and rather boring environment.
So, how did we get to be a society that raises scaredy-cat kids? American journalist Lenore Skenazy has written a book outlining the problems associated with raising kids in a bubble. She addresses the dangers of overprotection, organized activities and mainstream schooling.
Skenazy gives more details in her book, “Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children The Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts With Worry.” She even has a website geared at educating others about the insanity of hyper-parenting.
Skenazy was recently called the world’s worst mom when she gave her 9-year-old son a map, some money and a metro card and sent him alone on a New York subway. In light of the public outcry over this so-called poor judgement call, she started a television show. “The World’s Worst Mom” airs on Discovery,where she visits families with kids who are over-parented. Skenazy hopes to help kids and educate parents about letting go. Some of the stories are frightening. Including a mother who still cuts her 10-year-old son’s food and won’t let him ride a bike. What kind of adult is that kid going to be?
Raising Kids In A Bubble
Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a fine line between being a concerned and responsible parent and keeping your kids on a two-foot leash. My philosophy is that if I have allowed the proper experiences (some good, some bad) for personal growth, set a few boundaries in place and really done my job as a parent (filling the toolbox), my kids will be just fine. Were there times I should have worried a bit more than I did? Probably. However, I would much rather error on this side than suffocate my children with my own fear and anxiety.
If you are a parent raising kids in a bubble, there are a few things you should know. First, this isn’t a healthy environment and your kids will ultimately suffer. Second, keep in mind that media loves hype. They love to convince you that your kids are safer inside and that riding a bike more than one block from your home is going to result in your child being kidnapped. We are a society that thrives on hype … no matter how over-sensationalized it is. Thirdly, if you truly live in a gang-infested area where violence is commonplace … pull out all your resources and move to a place safer for you and your kids.
Do you support the free-range kids movement when raising kids? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the section below: