Walking alone leads to child neglect scrutiny

The day before I started kindergarten, my mother walked me and my six-year-old sister to school and back as a practice run. After that, I walked with my sister or with other baby boomer kids. Nobody was escorted to school by a parent.

After school, we might play at school or in the park or explore the ravines. We had to be home for dinner.

The Meitiv children walk in their suburban neighborhood.

The Meitiv children walk in their neighborhood.

Maryland parents are being investigated for neglect after letting their 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter walk home from the park, reports the Washington Post. It’s about a mile to their home in a safe suburb, say Danielle and Alexander Meitiv.

“We wouldn’t have let them do it if we didn’t think they were ready for it,” Danielle said.

On Dec. 20, someone saw the children walking without an adult and called the police, who drove them home and demanded the father produce ID. Raised in the Soviet Union, he refused, but gave in when six patrol cars rolled up at their house. He agreed to go upstairs for his ID, Danielle told Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids.

The officer said—in front of the kids—that if he came down with anything else, “shots would be fired.” She proceeded to follow him upstairs, and when he said she had no right to do so without a warrant, she insisted that she did.

“Don’t you realize how dangerous the world is?” an officer told the father. “Don’t you watch TV?”

Montgomery County Child Protective Services threatened to take the children away if the Meitivs stick to their “free-range” parenting philosophy, writes Danielle.

“The world is actually even safer than when I was a child, and I just want to give them the same freedom and independence that I had — basically an old-fashioned childhood,” she said. “I think it’s absolutely critical for their development — to learn responsibility, to experience the world, to gain confidence and competency.”

“Parenthood is an exercise in risk management,” she said. “Every day, we decide: Are we going to let our kids play football? Are we going to let them do a sleep­over? Are we going to let them climb a tree? We’re not saying parents should abandon all caution. We’re saying parents should pay attention to risks that are dangerous and likely to happen.”

Child abductions are extremely rare, she points out. The children have been taught how to cross streets safely.

“I think what CPS considered neglect, we felt was an essential part of growing up and maturing,” Alexander said. “We feel we’re being bullied into a point of view about child-rearing that we strongly disagree with.”

CPS has demanded entry to the home without a warrant and interviewed the children at school while investigating the Meitivs for neglect. In November, CPS cited the parents for neglect for letting their kids play in the neighborhood park without supervision.

Both scientists, the Meitivs are educated, assertive, articulate and affluent. Call it Parenting While White. They’ve researched child neglect laws, which ban leaving young kids home alone but don’t say they can’t walk or play outside. They can afford a lawyer. And yet, they’re taking a risk by claiming their right to decide what’s best for their children.

Poll: No unsupervised play for pre-teens

Sixty-eight percent of Americans think it should be illegal to let kids 9 and under play unsupervised at a park, according to the new Reason/Rupe poll.

Recently, a South Carolina mother was thrown in jail for dropping off her 9-year-old at a popular playground.
Swing

Forty-three percent of those polled said 12-year-olds shouldn’t be outside without a caregiver, writes Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids on Reason. “They would like to criminalize all pre-teenagers playing outside on their own (and, I guess, arrest their no-good parents).”

Sixty-two percent of Americans agreed that “kids today face more threats to their physical safety,” the poll reported.

In reality, the U.S. crime rate is the lowest it’s been in decades, Skenazy writes. Some neighborhoods may be unsafe, but most are just fine.

“I doubt there has ever been a human culture, anywhere, anytime, that underestimates children’s abilities more than we North Americans do today,” says Boston College psychology professor emeritus Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn.

Safe or stupid?

Since the horror of the Sandy Hook shootings, Americans are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stupidity Syndrome, writes Lenore Skenazy on CNN.

Folks in the throes of PTSS are so traumatized by a tragic event that they immediately demand something – ANYTHING – be done to prevent it from ever occurring again. Even if the chances of it happening are one in a million. Even if the “preventative measures” proposed are wacky, wasteful, ridiculous – or worse.

One of her readers at Free-Range Kids reported that the local school created a new rule for its first-grade Christmas concert:  Parents had to hand in their car keys to the office before entering the auditorium.

Because guns don’t kill people … people with car keys kill people?

Another reader said a day care center has asked parents to slam the door on other parents entering behind them, so that everyone has to enter the security code.

Expect a fellow parent to hold the door open for you just because you’re standing there with a baby in one arm and a briefcase in the other? No way! This is a safe community, and a safe community treats all people, even the ones cradling their own children, as potential psycho-killers!

It’s the mindset that created the TSA. Treat everyone like a homicidal maniac. And never ever use your common sense.

A jogger running by a Kentucky school triggered a lockdown. “Seriously…six or seven different police and fire departments, including ambulances, EMS teams, and K9 units were called out, surrounding neighborhoods were searched, the school was put on lockdown, and everyone just shrugs it off as an unplanned practice drill?”

The international ‘nanny of the month’

Reason’s first global Nanny of the Month award goes to the European Union, which beat out the Danes, who are taxing foods high in saturated fat, and the Aussies in the Northern Territory, who have banned alcohol sales to problem drinkers.

. . . top dishonors go to the European Union’s control freaks who have cracked down on free-range kids, slapping regulations on everything from baby rattlers (which have brand-new noise restrictions) to blowing up balloons (not to be done by tots under age eight!).

A generation of ninnies

Are we raising a generation of nincompoops? asks Beth Harpaz, an AP writer.

Susan Maushart, a mother of three, says her teenage daughter “literally does not know how to use a can opener. Most cans come with pull-tops these days. I see her reaching for a can that requires a can opener, and her shoulders slump and she goes for something else.”

Teenagers are so accustomed to either throwing their clothes on the floor or hanging them on hooks that Maushart says her “kids actually struggle with the mechanics of a clothes hanger.”

. . . “It’s so all laid out for them,” said Maushart, author of the forthcoming book “The Winter of Our Disconnect,” about her efforts to wean her family from its dependence on technology. “Having so much comfort and ease is what has led to this situation — the Velcro sneakers, the Pull-Ups generation. You can pee in your pants and we’ll take care of it for you!”

Harpaz saw a visiting 12-year-old stare helplessly at an ice-cube tray from the freezer, unsure how to get the cubes out and unwilling to try.

Lenore Skenazy, who writes Free-Range Kids, said many parents raise their children to be incompetent.

“There is an onslaught of stuff being sold to us from the second they come out of the womb trying to convince us that they are nincompoops,” she said. “They need to go to Gymboree or they will never hum and clap! To teach them how to walk, you’re supposed to turn your child into a marionette by strapping this thing on them that holds them up because it helps them balance more naturally than 30,000 years of evolution!”

When my preschool daughter wore sneakers with Velcro straps, I wondered whether she’d ever learn to tie a shoelace. She learned, because I taught her. If your kids claim they don’t know how to use a clothes hanger or a can opener, teach them. That’s what parents are supposed to do.

Overparenting is so over

Overparenting has sparked a backlash, claims Time, which sees a “revolution under way, one aimed at rolling back the almost comical overprotectiveness and overinvestment of moms and dads.”

The insurgency goes by many names — slow parenting, simplicity parenting, free-range parenting — but the message is the same: Less is more; hovering is dangerous; failure is fruitful. You really want your children to succeed? Learn when to leave them alone. When you lighten up, they’ll fly higher. We’re often the ones who hold them down.

One third of parents have cut their kids’ extracurricular activities in response to the recession, a CBS poll finds. Parents polled by Time said the recession had improved their relationships with their children. They’ve got less money for extras but more time for essentials.

Hyperparenting went ballistic in the in ’90s, Time says.

From peace and prosperity, there arose fear and anxiety; crime went down, yet parents stopped letting kids out of their sight; the percentage of kids walking or biking to school dropped from 41% in 1969 to 13% in 2001. Death by injury has dropped more than 50% since 1980, yet parents lobbied to take the jungle gyms out of playgrounds, and strollers suddenly needed the warning label “Remove Child Before Folding.” Among 6-to-8-year-olds, free playtime dropped 25% from 1981 to 1997, and homework more than doubled. Bookstores offered Brain Foods for Kids: Over 100 Recipes to Boost Your Child’s Intelligence. The state of Georgia sent every newborn home with the CD Build Your Baby’s Brain Through the Power of Music, after researchers claimed to have discovered that listening to Mozart could temporarily help raise IQ scores by as many as 9 points. By the time the frenzy had reached its peak, colleges were installing “Hi, Mom!” webcams in common areas, and employers like Ernst & Young were creating “parent packs” for recruits to give Mom and Dad, since they were involved in negotiating salary and benefits.

Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids, deserves a lot of credit. Time also calls Carl Honoré’s Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting the “gospel of the slow parenting movement.”

Via Core Knowledge Blog.

Endangered at the mall

A Montana mother was charged with child endangerment for dropping her three children at the mall with two friends.  The two 12-year-old girls, both experienced babysitters, were supposed to supervise their siblings, who were eight, seven and three. But the girls  left the younger kids to try on clothes in the dressing room. Store employees, thinking the kids were much younger, called a security guard, who called the police. After spending thousands of dollars in legal fees, Bridget Kevane accepted a deferred prosecution deal that included parenting classes.

Kevane grew up in Puerto Rico as one of eight children, she writes in Brain Child:

As kids, we were frequently left to our own devices, with the older children often left in charge of the younger ones. In many ways, I raised my youngest sister, walking her around the neighborhood, taking her to the local neighborhood store, and more. My mother was certainly around quite a bit, but many times she was not able to attend to all eight of us, each about a year apart, each with our own separate needs and demands on her time. She, like many mothers, believed in the power of allowing her children to gain independence by depending on themselves.

In the baby boom era, when I grew up, it was normal for young children to play together outside without any supervision. We had no malls, but we’d walk to the park or explore the ravines when we were six, seven or eight years old.  Our family had four kids, including a surprise baby born when we were 14, 13 and 10. Believe me: We older sibs took care of him.

Via Free Range Kids.