Abduction used to be parents' biggest worry about letting their children walk or play alone. Now parents fear something else: being charged with neglect.
There have been more and more news stories of police involvement in parenting practices. Remember the mother who let her 9 year old ride the subway in NYC alone? She started a whole “free-range parenting” movement, arguing her kid was fully capable of this responsibility. And she is urging others to let out some more rope with their youngsters, too.
Last year, a couple from Maryland followed her lead and regularly allowed their 10 and six-year-old children to walk home together from the park.
The children usually carry cards saying they were “free-range” children and had their parents’ permission to be out walking this one-mile stretch. Sadly, they didn’t have the card on them when the police officer stopped them for questioning and the family was investigated.
Now in Winnipeg, another mom was reported by a neighbour for allowing her three children to play independently in her fenced-in backyard while she supervised from a window.
With stories like this, it's no wonder parents are concerned.
"Many parents, and society at large, have lost their confidence in where the line of independence and competency is for kids."
Many parents, and society at large, have lost their confidence in where the line of independence and competency is for kids. The general trend over the past decades has been towards the shrinking of responsibilities given to children, limiting their freedom, reducing their independence and reigning in kids.
Our tendency is towards over-protection and over-supervision. This leads to dependent kids without skills and thus they DO need supervision. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Recently, a mom told me that she was trying to be better at giving her kids independence. She decided they were old enough and responsible enough to go together without her to play on the play equipment in the park directly behind their house. Her children are almost nine and seven, meaning they will be going into grades three and four in the fall.
She can see the play structure from her kitchen window, and it’s only about 300 metres way.
Her neighbours saw her waving to her kids from her back deck and they said “are you allowing them to go alone?”
“YES!” she declared.
And so the other parents agreed, it was time they quelled their nerves and allowed their children, too. Now, six kids are playing together in the park, having fun, enjoying their new freedom and feeling very grown up and trusted.
"Our tendency is towards over-protection and over-supervision. This leads to dependent kids without skills and thus they DO need supervision. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy."
Six kids are safer than two. The agreement was that it had to be the buddy system, like swimming. Never leave the park without your buddy and the parents reviewed all the other street safety rules, too.
It took the initiative of one mom to create momentum so that others could feel confident to join in with their children. This group of moms have now set the community standard for age of independence for playing in that park.
Perhaps more kids will join and more families with feel more secure in knowing this is age appropriate. This is how our societal expectations of kids can shift back towards growing their autonomy earlier and overcome our neurosis that is sheltering children from development.
"Don’t let the fear of being investigated prohibit you from allowing your children to flourish."
Don’t let the fear of being investigated prohibit you from allowing your children to flourish. Our protection systems are there to keep kids safe -- not the other way around. Protection services know the best place for children is with their family so long as it’s suitably safe.
If they err on the side of caution and need to check suspicions, that’s okay. It’s sure better than not providing help to a child who needs it.
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For two celebrities who are known for over-sharing, it's remarkable how private they have been about their newborn daughter, North West. They didn't reveal her name until after she was born, and pictures of her have yet to appear online. Kim Kardashian even distributed fake baby photos to her circle of friends to find out which ones were trustworthy and which ones would be likely to leak information to the media. New reports claim that only three people are allowed to visit the baby at a time, and that a security team has been hired just for her. Even family members have to go through security!
This superstar couple went to great lengths to keep their daughter Blue Ivy out of the spotlight when she was born, even bringing their own security to the hospital. Since her birth they've covered her up with a blanket when she goes out, though they have posted a few pictures of her on their own social media places. Beyonce talked about parenting and her friend Gwyneth Paltrow, saying, "I think for us, protecting our daughters is so important and…keeping things on our own terms, so I will still be protective and make sure [Blue Ivy] has a childhood and a great time."
Halle Berry is going through government to protect her kids, appearing at the California Capitol in late June to testify for a bill limiting paparazzi's ability to photograph the children of celebrities and other public figures. She said, "My daughter doesn't want to go to school because she knows `the men' are watching for her."
Pink posted a scathing letter to paparazzi on her blog, telling them to stay away from her newborn baby Willow. This protective mama had her claws out, fiercely saying, "Here's the bottom line: we don't want you to take our little girl's picture. We don't want you to one day follow our little girl home from school. We don't want our little girl's picture in a magazine or on a blog. If you take or publish her picture, it is against our wishes, and without our consent as parents, as people."
These parents wanted to save their baby from paparazzi hoping to be the first to snap her picture by releasing a photo themselves on Facebook. Tatum said, "We didn’t want to go through a tabloid — we just wanted to let it out so paparazzi would stop trying to hound us. You know, here it is, that’s it. Now, let us be," in an interview with "Entertainment Tonight" Canada.
Julia Roberts doesn't want pictures taken of her three children, and can get aggressive about it when it comes to their privacy. In 2007 and 2009 she chased down paparazzi in her car to berate them for hanging around her children's schools.
Until recently, Suri Cruise was almost exclusively photographed in the arms of her mother or father, who are both extremely protective. Given the amount of paparazzi that surrounds all of them, it's pretty understandable.
The bombshell explained that she doesn't want any pictures taken of her child, and has sometimes asked publications to remove images of baby Noah.
Christian Bale is very private about his family, not even wanting the public to know his daughter's name. He said in an interview, "I've absolutely fallen into that cliché of a dad who could just happily talk about my daughter endlessly. But it's not what I'm about in terms of being an actor. I don't want people to know about that."
Erykah Badu keeps her kids far away from the limelight, and is rarely photographed with them.
Gwyneth goes to great lengths to protect her children, not just from the paparazzi but also from poor health. She is very strict about their eating habits, sticking mainly to foods that are non-dairy and gluten-free.
Adele refused to reveal her son's name for a long time, saying in January, "I am not sharing his name at the moment. It is very personal to me. I am enjoying him on my own."
Many people don't even realize that Grammy-winning Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes has a son at all. He rarely talks about him, but once revealed that he is named after the Elton John song, "Rocket Man."
Michael Jackson went to great lengths to keep his children safe and guard their privacy, putting light scarves or masks over their faces when they went out in public to prevent photographers from snapping them. His daughter Paris Jackson, now 15, says, "He was protective. The masks we wore were his idea. He didn’t want anyone to see what we looked like. That way we could have what he didn’t... a normal childhood."