Monday, October 4, 2010

free range or caged?

I was lucky enough to score a leftover ticket to go and see Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids yesterday afternoon with a friend.

Lenore let her nine year old son catch the subway home from the handbag department at Bloomingdales in New York after he had begged his parents to let him. She gave him a subway map, a ticket and some extra money. He arrived home safe and sound and happy.

After writing this in her newspaper column Lenore was met with a huge media backlash. She was interviewed by many people who were amazed that she could do such an irresponsible thing and labeled the "worst Mom in America."

Free Range Kids is all about letting your kids be kids and bringing them up to be safe and independent adults.

Today (mostly but not limited to the US) children are worried about and cotton wool balled so much that they do not learn to experience the world around them. Lenore gave a few reasons for this.

Media - We have news on 24/7. There used to be 30 mins of news each day on television. The media needs to fill up the time slot so we hear about every single child kidnapping or choking or accident of any kind. We watch shows like CSI which show us brutality that does not actually happen that much in reality.  These images play on our anxiety and convince us to keep children indoors so that we can watch more television.

Litigation - A popular childrens toy recently almost made a child choke. This toy had been out since 1994 and had no previous problems. Because of this almost choking the makers were so scared of being sued that they discontinued the line.

Experts - Everyone is an expert nowadays and everyone has written a book or brought out some new product to tell you that you are raising your child the WRONG way and that your fetus/infant/child/teenager is going to die or be seriously maimed by your negligence = fear.

There were so many baffling and funny stories that she told that asked the question who is the crazy one; The parent who trusts that the world is not full of murderers and molesters and lets their kid ride their bike to the library or the one who is so paranoid about everyone being a predator that they don't let their child out of their sight for a second?

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Lenore is not saying that we don't care about safety or just let our kids wander the streets for their whole lives and she certainly is not so naive to think that there are no predators or kidnappers out there but she believes in equipping children with the knowledge and experience so that they can go out into the world and be safe and helping parents to not be reduced to quivering wrecks every time they think of their children doing something all by themselves.

It was a really amazing talk.

She has a book. I don't think you can get it in Australia so easily but it's on Amazon.

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