How Do You Tell A Total Helicopter to Back Off?

Okay, Readers. Let’s help this mom out!

Dear Free-Range Kids:  Finding this blog several years ago validated my desire to back off and let my kids be kids. At that time, I was mostly associating with “helicopter parents” and feeling inadequate for not wanting to micromanage my children’s every waking moment. And yet, one helicopter parent I continue to associate with is really starting to get on my nerves, to the point where I don’t know how to respond any more.

My 9-year-old son is good friends with a boy in our neighborhood, who lives only a couple of blocks away in our quiet suburban town.  The mom and I are friendly, but not friends. Today the kids played at her house after school.  And today was the second time she flat-out refused to allow my son to walk home from her house by himself.  Even after I told her that’s what I wanted him to do — and in spite of the fact that that’s what he enjoys doing.  So she had another woman who was visiting her drive him home!  TWO BLOCKS.

I am flabbergasted and what I really want to say is,  “How dare you completely disregard MY wishes for MY child?”  But alienating her would not be a good thing!

A bit of back story for this specific instance:  In recent weeks there have been several break-ins in the neighborhood, but all at night, when no one is home.  And, unfortunately, someone was robbed at gunpoint in front of their house on the next block over.  But again, this was late at night, well after dark.  All of these incidents are extremely unusual for our quiet town.  And really: Who the hell is going to hold up at 9-year-old?  Even ignorant thieves know the kid won’t have a watch or money.  And the “bad guys” are not abducting children in broad daylight.  They’re committing crimes of opportunity under cover of darkness.  Moreover, the last time this mom refused to allow my son to walk home alone was at 11 in the morning on a beautiful, sunny Saturday in May, when there hadn’t been any crime in our neighborhood for at least a dozen years.

So here’s the question:  what do I say to her NEXT time? I need to formulate a rational, civilized response to keep the peace.  Otherwise, I’m going to go crazy on her ass!!!  Yeah, I’m kidding.

Sort of.

130 Responses

  1. Tell her to BTFU! Someone who that blatantly disregards your wishes is no friend and has already alienated herself.

  2. i think she’s worried about your free-range-ness infecting her own kid, and that you’ll end up embarrassing her into a corner where she has to explain her weird behaviour to her own son.

    if you want to keep up the arrangements for your son’s benefit and for the benefit of the other boy, don’t freeze her out. a shy animal needs a lot of coaxing, and she could turn into a loyal free-ranger. takes a lot of work though to coax a shy animal out of a hole though ;-)

  3. “I’m trying to foster my child’s sense of competency by allowing him to walk a few blocks on his own. If it makes you feel better, please call me as he’s leaving your house.”

    Or something along those lines, but don’t cave too much! It might also help to point out that she, herself has probably walked further distances with no incident.

    good luck!

  4. Tell her that you don’t feel safe having your son go to someone’s house when that person doesn’t listen to or respect your care instructions.

    Or point out that since most car accidents happen within a few miles from home, statistically he’s more in danger in her car than he is walking home by himself.

    Or just forget about it, because she’s choosing to inconvenience herself, and just talk to your son about why you think it’s unnecessary.

  5. Ugh. I don’t know if I’d wait until next time. I have big problems with the idea that she felt it was safer for a stranger (to you and your child) to drive your child than for him to walk two blocks in broad daylight. I know you don’t want to alienate her, but I don’t think you are going to get through to her with it a ration, well thought out argument. I think she needs to be told, flat out, that he is your child and you have determined that it’s safe for him to walk home, and that if she can’t respect that, your son won’t be able to play at her house. I’d assure her that it’s not what you want and that you value the boys friendship, but ultimately, you can’t have another parent contradict you like that.

  6. Surprise her. Next time your son is due over at her place for a “play date”, have him walk over by himself. He’ll show up at her door safe and sound–living proof that walking the two blocks from his house to hers was not a fatal undertaking. er–so to speak.

  7. I’m thinking that she’s going to be a tough nut to crack. She probably will never agree with you. I like the “kids need exercise and fresh air” approach, because um, it’s true!!

    I get raised eyebrows all the time about this same situation…most helicopters are satisfied with the phoning you as the child is leaving (as mentioned above) to ease their worried minds.

    Good luck!

  8. For the record, I was mugged three times before I was 10 years old. Granted, I lived in Chicago and not the best neighborhood, but I was a free ranged kid and it happened. I’m relatively new to motherhood and want to embrace a free ranged lifestyle for my kids, but I have to say: If something were to happen to another kid after they left my house, I would…deep down…feel horrible for the rest of my life. I imagine she feels the same and that your son is her responsibility until he shows up at your doorstep.

    I think in this case, you’re not going to change her and instead you should consider discussing with your son what’s happening so that he can respect her and your decisions.

  9. Start small. Tell her that you want your son to get the exercise and you want him to walk home. If she feels uncomfortable about it, she is welcome to walk with him. And keep reminding her that your son is allowed to walk home on his own. At some point she might even realize that your neighborhood is safe enough for children to walk two blocks on their own.

  10. Turn the tables on her. If her son comes over, send him home (with your son walking with him) 10 minutes early with a note pinned to his jacket saying, “Respect my parenting decisions, and I’ll respect yours.” If she freaks and says they can’t play any more, it’s on her. Kids will figure out who’s crazy.

  11. Building on harmonyl’s idea, I would say walk down to pick him up next time and then, when you get there, tell him to run along home while you ask for a recipe/date of school event/chat with the kid’s mom for the 4 minutes needed to give him a head-start.

  12. I agree that this situation is very annoying, but I’m not sure it’s worth starting a war over. I encourage my kids to walk in the neighborhood, but if one of their friend’s parents really wanted to give them a ride, I would have no objection to that, either. I’m sure what really bothers you is the REASON she wants to give him a ride. But there’s no way her attitude is going to change overnight, despite all the logical arguments you can provide. I say continue to be a good example, but don’t be so rigid about getting your way that you cost your son a good friend.

  13. You told her that you wanted your son to walk home like a big boy, and she refused. She doesn’t trust your judgment and she’s given you reason not to trust hers.

    Would it be too much to not allow your boy to play there anymore. Sure, it’s no fun for your kid, but he can invite his friend over to his house. Would alienating her really be that bad?

  14. Ask her flat out the problem she has with letting your son walk home by himself. If she mentions kidnapping, then bring up not only the car accident stats, but also the fact that neither you nor your son knew the person who eventually drove him home which in your view is worse.

    Also tell your son to say “I’m sorry, my mom told me I could walk home” and have him just leave the house. What’s she going to do – restrain him?

  15. If the mother is not willing to follow through with your wishes for your child, then perhaps, sadly, your son should not be able to play at her house. PERIOD. if they go to the same school, then the boys will see each other there. or the boys could play at your house and even if you don’t agree, you’ll respect her crazy helicopter ways and walk her son home.

    when adults don’t respect my authority for my children, then they are not allowed responsibility for them no matter how ‘nice or normal’ they may be.

    good luck!

  16. Wow, I’m really impressed with the suggestions here. I think it is best to choose an option that still makes it clear what you want, without being overly combative. I like Emily’s suggestion. If she continues to be disrespectful of your expressed wishes, I think you will need to draw the line firmly and make it a condition of playdates. But I think it would be wise to get your son’s input on this, because it may affect his friendship with the other boy in a negative way, and he should have a say.

  17. I would be LIVID if someone sent my child home in another adult’s car. NOT because of stranger danger but because there are so many bad drivers (and because it was expressly against my instructions). I would probably have already flipped out on her, but assuming I was at the point where you are, I’d make it a condition of future play dates that she let me parent my own damn son.

  18. So, that’s my letter. Thanks Lenore. Some really great ideas here. Will’s idea definitely made me LOL! And believe me when I say I’ve thought of doing something along those lines already.

    One point of clarification: The person who ended up driving my kid home is another woman we know who also has children the same ages as ours. She was not a stranger to me. But, ultimately, I guess I was “disrespected” in front of her, wasn’t I.

    I think Becky and Melissa have come pretty close to type of response I had in mind. But I’ll have to ponder it some more, and maybe bounce it off some other Free Range friends!

    Keep the ideas coming. All suggestions are welcome!

  19. And yes, Annika, thanks. You totally get me!

  20. Great question, I think most of need to know how to deal better with helicopters. Just to stir the pot a little….I would ask the friend: “Since most abductions and “other incidents” with kids tend to happen at the hand of someone they are familiar with, a friend or family member, are they really safer being driven home two blocks by a friend of hers?”

  21. yes to the person who said ‘ask the mum to ring you as your son is leaving.’

    that might reassure her that you are to expect him home in 5 mins – you could even say to her that you will walk and meet him half way or whatever (you could lie, or do it) – say he needs the exercise, its teaching him a little self reliance, uses less gas, etc etc.

  22. I’d be livid that this woman put my child in someone else’s car without my permission. She was waaaaaaaaaayyyyyy out of line. The bottom line is that she should be honoring your wishes for your own child. if she can’t do that, your child shouldn’t be allowed in her home because she isn’t trustworthy.

  23. I have used the “this is training for something bigger” explanation with some success. For example, in our province children are legally able to babysit at the age of 12. I have explained to other concerned parents that I wouldn’t expect my child to just babysit at someone else’s house starting on their twelfth birthday – I need to start training them to be able to stay home alone for gradually increasing periods starting around the age of 9 or 10.

    Similarly, in my town, kids are expected to take public transit to middle school and beyond. I explain that I want my child to start learning to make her own way home over short distances starting now so she’s fully comfortable with it by the time she’s 12.

    I have found that helicopter parents can really buy into the idea of easing a child into independence. Once they’ve accepted the central thesis of your argument they’re unlikely to quibble over whether two blocks is really too far for a 9-year-old.

  24. I am repeatedly taken aback by the hostile tone of responses here. I get it that we want other people to respect our parenting decisions, but believe me we are not going to make any converts if we approach everyone who disagrees with us on any one point as it they were the enemy. I thought the reason this Mom was asking for suggestions was how to handle this and still stay friendly with the other mom. Her own impulses tell her how to become enemies. That’s easy, but would it really be better for the boys in the long run? There were a couple of nice ones. I would suggest you follow those.

    If you haver trouble with people who disagree with your parenting approach now, don’t think it is going to get any better as your kids get older. Learn to be diplomatic now.

  25. Well said Rebecca. I’m thinking I might just ask her if she realizes she’s disrespecting me and my choices for my child when she does this? And asking her how she would feel if the shoe were on the other foot? Say, if I just decided to send her kid walking home alone, rather than wait for her to come pick him up. I can only imagine her reaction.

    And you’re right, I really don’t want to bring the boys in to the middle of this nonsense. It’s not their problem she’s a total TWIT!

  26. In my opinion, if you’re letting your son go over to play at a friend’s house, you have to be respectful of that parent’s choices. If she doesn’t feel comfortable letting your son walk home, then he can’t walk home. I’d have a brief discussion with her detailing your reasons for wanting your son to walk home. And, if that doesn’t work, you either need to stop letting your son go to their house to play, or accept it. I don’t think she should put him in a car with other people, but I do think you should respect her wishes and go pick him up. Why don’t you just have him walk over to play and then pick him up? He gets the responsible experience of walking, but respects the other Mom’s wishes. Not everyone parents the same way and that’s alright. Perhaps after seeing that he arrives in fine shape several times, she’ll realize that two blocks is no problem.

  27. PS — I’d say point her to this website if she wants some research to back up your ideas, but that’s probably not a good idea after reading some of the comments! And one other note, I wouldn’t ever say “disrespect” in a discussion with her. That’s a hostile word and would get someone worked up even if your intent was to keep the peace. Good luck!

  28. I’d say just let him walk there and if she wants to drive him home then let her. She’ll learn eventually that walking the few blocks between houses is safe – he makes it TO her house every time, right?

    Not everyone is going to agree with or support your free-rangeness but it’s not worth your son losing a friend over. If it’s really that important to you then don’t let him play at her house anymore.

    Some of the comments here are downright hostile. In the interest of “keeping the peace” you should ignore a good many of them.

  29. Totally agree that the hostile responses to this situation are silly. This other mother is trying to keep a child safe. We can disagree with her rationale and/methods, but her motivation seems pretty well-intentioned.

    I don’t think I’d get my panties in a bunch over one situation. This child can have plenty of other opportunities to be independent. If the other mother isn’t insisting the author do anything and isn’t throwing the inconvenience back to her, then what’s the problem? Maybe the author is overthinking the implications of this particular situation a bit too much just as the other mother is overthinking the danger.

  30. I was in a very similar boat. Jeff nailed it on the head when he mentioned that the mom will have the explain herself on why she won’t let *her* son walk 2 blocks by himself. And her answer will make him scratch his head.

    Give her a copy of Free Range Kids and let Lenore do the amazing job of arguing your case for you. It worked for me!!

  31. I would add to in addition to her calling you as the child leaves, have the child call her when he gets home so she can stop worrying.

  32. I like Emily’s response. It is fair for the other mother to feel responsible for your son while he is in her care. Emily’s response allows you to acknowledge both your approach and hers.

  33. There are all kinds of people in the world. Kids learn this and adapt extremely well to other people’s quirks, needs, and differing expectations. If this woman was asking your son to take off his shoes inside, but you didn’t have that rule at home, would you demand that she let him walk around shod indoors because ‘that’s how we do it at our house’ or would you respect her wishes, her way of doing things, as is the polite and human thing to do? I don’t know, I just feel like this is not something worth starting a war over – if your son is old enough to walk home alone he’s also old enough to understand that some parents do things differently, and why. I can’t help but think that wanting to micromanage how your child gets home – walking or riding in a friend’s car – is just another form of ‘helicoptering’.

  34. You have a better chance of hitting the lottery than having your child become the next Nancy Grace promo. Statistically speaking, the helicopter parent is far more likely to molest the child than a stranger. Maybe then she’ll do what they did in that South Park episode “Child abduction is not funny.”

  35. “I prefer not to have my child get into a car with a stranger. Please, next time, have him walk home.” That’s something even a helicopter parent would understand!

  36. I understand people saying the responses sound hostile, but we are talking about a mother completely disregarding another mother’s wishes for her own child. Like one person noted, how would she feel if I’mTheMom sent her son home alone? She would be LIVID and no doubt would not hesitate to call and chew it out in the name of safety? Why is this any different? I absolutely ABHOR other parents assuming they know better than me and making sure I know it.

  37. I agree with Desiree and Emily: you are going over-board and not respecting this mother’s sense of responsibility for your son while he is in her care. Count yourself lucky that she feels that way about your boy regardless of your distant relationship with her. Your insistence on your way being the right way is rigid and completely unnecessary. Loosen up a little and let your son continue his friendship without making a mountain out of every molehill.

  38. The next time they suggested playing at his house, I would say he could go there only if he walked home (on his own) afterward. Otherwise they could play somewhere else.

    That really is a lot of nerve.

    One thing we used to do in the neighborhood when I was much younger was: the host kid would walk the guest kid halfway home. Would that kind of compromise work?

  39. Here’s an old-school suggestion: give the boys a set of walkie-talkies. They can usually reach two blocks, depending on the neighborhood. They’ll have fun playing with them, and it’ll mean that they can walk back and forth between houses independently (your preference) without being incommunicado (her preference).

  40. Ditto on the idea of having heli-mom call as he is leaving the house. That may serve to alleviate her anxiety by giving you the head’s up. It’s not the worst idea, if you are trying to keep the peace. Then she can rest easy knowing she contacted you and had your explicit permission to let him go. Sometimes breaking that constant chain of supervision is hard for certain people. She is likely worrying about the “what ifs” – but if you reassure her on the phone that you will be on the lookout for him, maybe she’ll chill.

    A little.

  41. I’m with those that say let this one slide, or let him walk there alone and pick him up.

    BUT if you are really against it… you could drill into your son that he is not to get into a car with anyone unless that person can tell him an agreed-upon password that lets him know that this person is authorized by you to take him somewhere in a car. Tell him to make a big fuss about how this is a safety precaution. If she calls and asks for the password, use Emily’s line of “I’m trying to foster independence.”

    That puts your son into a difficult position, though, so unless he is so dead set on walking by himself from this particular friend’s house that he is willing to stand up to an adult about this, I would go with my original advice: let it slide, give him other walking opportunities and and hope that over time, she will come around to your point of view.

    I’ve been in the same situation and to me it has not been worth alienating other parents and risking my son’s friendships over. Some of the other parents have over time come around to letting not just my kid walk, but theirs also. Others haven’t. That’s life.

  42. This must really, REALLY irk you, I have never heard you swear, and twice!

    Arrange to have the boys play at your house. There is no reasoning with crazy.

  43. I love the walkie-talkie idea! It’s better than the heli-mom calling and standing on the sidewalk as he goes home and giving you second-by-second updates on what is going on with him… ;)

  44. You know this points to another whole problem in our society, one many of us can relate to (especially chicks). Girls are brought up to believe anger is bad and confronting someone is bad. Nice girls push their feelings deep down and then bitch about it later. This is pretty much the basis of many toxic relationships, and most women I know have at least one toxic friendship. My high school years were rife with them

    What about just a frank, honest, calm conversation. “So…why do you have a problem with my son walking home by himself, when I don’t?” You can reiterate that you’ve calculated the risk/gain scenario and think he should be fine. Try and get her to talk to you about it – she might have a genuine reason why she doesn’t think the world is safe or she might just be a fruitcake. The calmer and more rational you can be about it, the stronger your stance. (I know that’s easy to say on a computer from the other side of the world).

    The other thing is to ask your son what he wants. Is it important to him? Or is peaceful relations more important?

  45. I have a sister-in-law very similar. Give her a taste of her helicopter medicine! Next time he spends time with her children at their home, stop by and visit. Bring cookies or something and mention how proud you are of your son’s healthy walking habbits and how terrible it is that some children are simply driven everywhere. Then say oops. Tell her you have to run – walk – home and to make sure he does too. Thank her and compliment something she’s wearing. I call it the sandwich. Sweet – Bitchy – Sweet.

  46. I think the other mom sounds highly annoying, but at the same time, I’d let your son make the call. Seeing as it’s going to be hard for a 9-year-old to resist the mom’s demand that he have a ride home, ask him if he’d rather stop playing w/ his friend or keep playing w/ his friend and get the unwanted ride home.

    I agree w/ the other posters that the mom should really be deferring to your instructions, but if your son has a great time w/ the other kid, it would be a shame to deny him hours of fun because he has to ride in the annoying lady’s car for five minutes every week or two.

  47. @ Aly

    ROFL! Love that, “the sandwich”!

  48. Given that in the state of things today you could (even if you wouldn’t) sue and probably win if something happened to your child on his way home, I think you have to accept that until your child is in your custody again, other parents have a certain amount of right to “defend themselves” against any harm coming to your child while under their care. Still, it’s annoying.

    My best suggestion is to ask her the simple question, “what would make you comfortable with my son walking home? It’s what both he and I prefer, and I would like him to have that opportunity.”

    You might suggest that she call before he leaves, and perhaps you could even call her back when he arrives. Goofy, but it might help her get over it, and after a few times doing this phone ping-pong and everything being fine, she might chill out about it. Maybe you walking to pick him up, or her walking with him to drop him off a few times as a “dry run” might convince her that the route is very safe.

    Ultimately though, I think your best bet is to open a conversation with her about it. Don’t simply tell her what you want, ask her how you can help her be comfortable with it. The most effective way I have found for getting people to behave rationally is to treat them as though they already are, and go from there. She may just be absolutely obsessed with safety to a degree that she can’t even allow this very minor bit of free-ranging, and in that case honestly I think you just have to suck it up if you want your child to maintain this friendship, but hopefully there’s some middle ground the two of you can reach.

    Good luck!

  49. I think the only truly horrible thing the other mother did is sending him home in the third woman’s car without your permission (even though you knew that woman). That was out of line in a way that *her* driving your son home wouldn’t have been, IMO (because you agreed to put your son in her care, so to speak). So I’d tell her you felt really uncomfortable that she did that, and use that as a way to start a discussion of how to get your son home. Then ask her why she doesn’t feel safe to let your son walk home alone, and what system you could put in place to alleviate her fears (this is where the phone suggestion might come in handy). That way you’re working *with* her towards a solution, but she still gets the message that she was out of line.

  50. Here’s to sticking him in the car — #1 cause of death for that age range. (With a stranger to him, nonetheless.)

    Approach it from a philosophical standpoint: at what distance would she not feel this is unwise? 1.5 blocks, 1 block, next door? 2 blocks, but only if he were within view the entire way? That 2 blocks would be fine but for the recent criminal activity? Would she let her son do it? There are many things I permit my child to do but forbid another child, simply due to the fact that I don’t want to risk the 1 in 100 million chance that I’ll be paraded around on CNN as a Horrible, Degenerate Caretaker.

  51. The one thing I wouldn’t do is put your son in the position of trying to make a stand and leave on his own. When I was in my early teens, my family was quite poor and didn’t have a car, and it was my responsibility to get myself around on the city bus. I can’t tell you how many times I stood on the sidewalk after a school event or at the doorway of a friend’s house, nearly in tears as I argued with someone else’s parent that I needed to take the bus home and couldn’t accept a ride. Even though I caved in more often than not, I ended up being banned from a few homes for being “disrespectful,” when really I was just trying to do what I was supposed to do.

  52. I can appreciate “keep it civil” type of responses, but to me–and I don’t think I’m being over-sensitive–no one is allowed to override my parenting philosophies, unless they are caring for them themselves. That is, when I have someone babysit my children, I basically give them carte blanche to do it however they please, especially if they’re watching many kids at once–there’s no way they’re going to remember every parents’ preferences.

    But otherwise, someone telling me how to parent my child is absolutely unacceptable, and I don’t see it as necessary to be nice about it if they’re not being so.

    And that includes the fact that the writer’s son would lose the other boy as a friend. To allow your parenting authority to be eroded for a reason such as this is tantamount to emotional blackmail.

    To wit: someone in my family may bless our children with a lot of love & clothes etc, which obviously benefits them, but if they are harsh & disrespectful to my wife (some of them have been before), I would send them home. It would be wrong to expect my wife to put up with that abuse because her children benefit from that person’s presence in their lives.

    I’ve said it before–principles come first with me, even before relationships & benefits. The principle that how someone parents their child is absolutely up to them overrides everything else, period, 100%.

    If it can be handled without hostility–great, but if not, stick with the principle first.

    LRH

  53. Wow talk about disrespectful – many of the replies epitomize this!
    – “Hell mom”?
    – You can’t reason with “crazy”?
    – You could sue?
    – nasty notes pinned to a child’s jacket?

    Judgmental much?

    I do feel responsible for kids at my house and safely getting them home. I would never put a child in any car, including my own without their parent’s permission. But I also would never feel comfortable letting a child walk home unless parent knew the child was on his way. Furthermore, I don’t think my children are old enough to walk home from friends houses. I’m sure that makes me a “helicopter parent” – worthy of the contempt of this board without further investigation or compassion.

    Are we all so angry that we can’t have a dialogue any more? If you want somebody to respect your parenting style, then you need to respect people who parent differently from you. You can model respectful behavior even if you aren’t on the receiving end of it. (hint, calling somebody crazy doesn’t help). You can also gently insist on being treated respectfully.

    My advice, don’t do anything until you can dial way back on the anger and judgmental attitude.

    Peace

  54. As a free range parent, I will expect my children to walk far greater distances than I will ever allow a child who is not my own to walk away from my home. Today’s world is too letigious for me to roll the dice on some parent freaking out and suing me for allowing their child to walk home. Nothing even has to happen to the kid for them to call social services. It sucks, but that is the world we live in.

  55. Sorry if I’m repeating anyone else’s suggestions. My son has just got in (5.15pm) from getting the bus to the local park after school, playing football and then walking home. He is happy laughing and very pleased with himself (he was worrying about the bus and what to do etc). I think of the suggestions I’ve read you’ve all made excellent points, but this whole mothers judging mothers business is really a difficult situation, especially when you just want to live your life in your community and not get bothered. I would maybe let my boy walk over to the kids house first, setting the precident in action (apparently they speak louder than words), this is not a woman who is going to change overnight, and I eckong she will dig her heels in even more if you are too forceful. Maybe suggest the boys meet at a local park and let your son go there on his own. Interestingly I was on the phone to my friend in the UK the other night and she was complaining that her 12 year old won’t walk to school on his own because he is so fearful about what will happen to him, she admits she created this problem. Good Luck, and keep trying!!!

  56. What about saying he is doing his “walking 2 blocks alone” badge for the Scouts?

  57. To me, the concept of “free range” is mostly about teaching respect and independence. I’d first ask your son about his preferences, and if he wants to walk, then I’d explore options.

    One of the best things we can teach our children is how to treat others with respect and find ways to compromise that work for all of us. In my very safe and rural neighborhood, NO ONE walks to family gatherings. People will drive their SUV literally two houses down the street. But it’s not our job to judge that, we have the choice to walk! And we do!

    I’d probably walk the two blocks myself to pick him up, then let him head off first while I chatted with the mom about how great it is for him to develop independence and how lovely it is to be out in the fresh air, etc. This takes the feeling of responsibility off her shoulders and after doing that once or twice, you can have her call when he leaves. I would probably also let him walk TO the house, as others have suggested.

  58. The tone I hear on this site is similar in some ways to what I encountered on “Attachment Parenting” lists. Somehow it’s okay to be rabidly and righteously respectful of our children’s rights but somehow not okay to respect other adults and meet them with as much connection and compassion as we’d offer our children.

    What might happen if one said, “Gee, you seem really worried about this, tell me your concerns,” and LISTEN before you try to persuade, defend, shame, blame or otherwise drive a wedge between you? After you’ve listened, rather than countering every point, simply ask, “Could I tell you my point of view? We might not agree, but I know we both have our children’s best interests at heart.” Tell her your thinking, then listen again to her reaction to your statements and agree to disagree for now if you have to. At least you’ve maintained a relationship and built respect instead of tearing it down.

    Someone once told me that real change only happens in the context of a strong relationship. I have experienced over and over the truth of this statement, but it does require that we have the skills to make and keep relationships.

  59. To Jane, I agree that there has been a great deal of unpleasant, hostile and disrespectful advice given. However, I think that the “hell-mom” was meant to be HELI-mom, short for HELICOPTER. Of course it was the overall disrespectful tone of some of the messages that easily led to that misunderstanding.

    To avoid that in the future could we all agree not to shorten helicopter in that way? Better yet, how about if we stop labeling people based on one snippet on information about a tiny fraction of their lives?

    Or could I ask this question of those who have such utterly condemning attitudes? If I want to be a Free Range Mom, with all rights and responsibilities, is it absolutely necessary in your eyes I that I completely condemn anyone who does not immediately conform to my standard at that moment?

    Lenore, I would particularly like your perspective on this.

  60. I have to chime in here b/c I totally agree with Rebecca, Cindy and some of the other posters. I’ve only been reading this site for about six months. While I’ve gotten a lot of insights from comments, the harsh criticism and all-or-nothing attitude of many have given me pause. But, I was finally able to snag a copy of Lenore’s book (not so easy to find where I live) and I’m so happy. Her book provides such a balanced approach to free-range parenting. She gives ideas for people who want to take baby steps and people who want to go all out. AND, more importantly for me, she acknowledges her own tendancies to helicopter parent her boys. Plus, her two little guys have great hair.

  61. Kindly let her know you do not approve of your child riding in cars with strangers and you prefer he walk home. I agree that having her call you when he leaves is a good way to reassure her your son can make it home the two blocks.

  62. Sorry. I know it’s unrelated, but I didn’t know where to send this. I thought it was an interesting initiative.
    In Pamplona (Spain), they are “disguising” the white strips of the street crossings as wolves or crocodiles, so that small children take more care when they cross. You know, they see a menacing figure with sharp teeth when they step off the sidewalk, and think it twice before they run off.
    The way people drive in this country, it’s bound to be more effective than the Japanese style (children raising their arms when they want to cross, and cars automatically stopping).

    As for suggestions, I’m with Emily or Christi. Find alternatives (her calling you as soon as he leaves her house, or you “picking” him up a couple of times and letting him head off while you start some small talk). I’ve found people take more confidence when they see free-range in action, rather than just reasoned.
    And don’t judge her too harshly. We can all relate with the sense of extra responsibility towards little guests. I mean, I’m more confortable when my children fall down and scrape their knees, than when the same thing happens to some friend who’s over to play. Dunno why, but there you are.

  63. As far as respecting the host parent goes, it sounded like she was very disrespectful in disregarding the other parent’s rules. Then again, I wasn’t there to hear exactly how clear the free-range mom was about her kid walking home. And I agree that it makes sense to discuss in advance how they can kind of meet half-way. Calling the mom to say the boy is on his way home is a good idea – I got the impression that the woman had called, but maybe not. Walking the boy halfway home for a few times should ease Ms. Helicopter’s worries. That should really be enough. How about buying her a copy of FRK?

    I hope she checked to make sure the 9-year-old was placed in a car restraint consistent with state law when she sent him in someone else’s car. Nowadays, many 9-year-olds are small enough to need a booster. Given that, it’s pretty amazing that someone would arrange car transportation for someone else’s kid without their involvement.

    I can kind of relate to this, though. My kids’ ex-nanny used to baby the kids way too much when she started. I pushed and pushed to get her to meet me halfway on most things. She will now say “I learned so much from you” about what kids are capable of, but she really isn’t in my camp yet. She now comes on Saturday mornings and takes my kids to swim lessons. Last weekend both girls needed to go potty urgently after getting out of the pool. Nanny wouldn’t let them go into separate stalls because she felt they were not old enough for that yet (they are 3.5 and 4). So a very unpleasant scene ensued. I told her that I let them go into separate stalls and I got that judgmental look. Ugh. Nanny knows that they have been completely independent at home for over 2 years and have plenty of experience with public restrooms. Some people just don’t get it.

  64. I’m voting for the “whoa, there, chill out a bit” team. If you expect others to respect your childrearing decisions, you have to be prepared to respect theirs. I don’t think that means you have to agree with them, but you do have to respect their rights as parents (or caretaker of your son when he’s visiting). When your son is at someone else’s house, he should abide by their rules — that’s just common decency.

    I think you should explain to your son that some parents are overly protective, and work on her over time. I’ve found it to be very effective to simply start having conversations about “what were you allowed to do at this age” ? And pointing out how few years your kids have before they’ll be driving for heaven’s sake — similar to the “training for bigger things” comment above… “gosh, in 7 years he’ll be driving a car anywhere he wants. I really want him to start by learning to walk 2 blocks first…”

  65. When I was a kid, the general rule was: If you’re at someone else’s house, you abide by their parent;s rules. Sometimes that was a pain if the parents in question were stricter than mine. Sometimes it was great–when the parents involved allowed their kids to watch TV shows that were banned at my house, or eat sugar cereals that my Mom refused to buy us.

    I’ve been really annoyed in the past when a Mom has dropped a kid off for a play date an given me a list of forbidden activities, food items, etc. that she expects me to abide by while her child is in my home–even if this would mean a disruption of our normal routine.

    If we’re going to let our kids visit other homes, they will be exposed to different parenting styles and lifestyles. And that’s mostly a good thing.

  66. I think a few people hit in on the head so I’ll just reiterate…

    People do things differently – one thing you should be teaching your son is that you can’t make everyone do everything just like you. Therefore, I’d let him walk to the neighbor’s house, then let her bring him home. After all, it’s honestly not a big deal since she’s not trying to tell you how to change your life to be like hers and, like someone else mentioned, she’s probably looking out for that one in a million chance she’ll be to blame if anything happens to your son on her watch.

    It may be annoying, but the other mom is well meaning and you can simply let your son know that it’s that particular person’s way of handling things, but you don’t handle them that way. I think you actually have the ideal helicopter situation – the one that only insists when your son is under her watch. No real harm. Just show him what makes America great – being able to accept other points of view (or at least trying to…).

    Best of luck to you.

  67. I agree with Jane. There is way too much anger going on here. I do let my 9 year old walk home short distances and many of his friends do the same. I always call the other parent and let them know when their child is leaving and always ask for a phone call when my son leaves someone else’s house. I enjoy reading Lenore’s blog but honestly some of the messages posted are way to extreme for me.

  68. I am a helicopter parent who reads this blog to try to become less helicopterish. This weekend I let my 7-year old hang out of my cousin’s house with her kids, even though I knew my cuz would just let them play outside unattended (which I never do). I have a parent in the hospital so I had little childcare choice, but I figured this would force me to let go a bit (when you have only one child, IMO, it is easy to helicopter). And I am glad I did it. Baby steps!

    I live in Pittsburgh where over the past few weeks, we have had a number of child luring attempts during the day. Knowing that, I would not feel comfortable letting a kid walk home alone, and I think this mom should respect the helicopter mom’s feelings, especially since there have been some crimes in her area.

    I think it is funny that my friends give me so much grief about being overprotective, but I would never consider telling any of them that I think it is irresponsible to let their 2 year old climb up playground equipment when they are not watching or to let their 3 year old play in the street, even though it is a dead-end, knowing that cars turn around.

    We are free to raise our kids as we wish. The mom can tell the helicopter mom that she wants her kid to walk home alone, but if helicopter mom does not feel comfortable, then the mom should probably just let it go or end the friendship; I just don’t think she will change the H-mom’s mind. I would, however, probably say something to the H-mom about my kid getting a in car with someone without my prior knowledge. If it is that important for H-mom to not let the kid walk home alone, then H-mom should walk the kid or H-mom should drive the kid.

  69. Perhaps you could point out that it wastes precious natural resources to fire up a car to drive four blocks (there and back), and that the environmentally conscious approach is to conserve when possible, and to instill that habit in the next generation.

    Depending on the other mom’s politics, you could also throw in something about how driving perpetuates the United States’ dependence on foreign oil, funding foreign extremism, patriotism through walking, etc. :)

  70. If you want to keep the peace then say nothing. She isn’t demanding that you go pick up your son, she is bringing your son home. Let it go. She is not comfortable letting your son walk home so consider it a favor to her to let her bring your kid home. There are many situations in the past and future where your wishes for you kid will not be respected. Pick your battles…this may not be one of them!

  71. I’m for relaxing a little and talking to the other mom. You might be able to come to an agreement. Being too confrontational can make other people stubborn. Talk about your reasons for wanting your son to walk and listen to her reasons why she’d rather he not walk home. You may be able to address her concerns sufficiently.

    I like the phone call when he’s on his way idea. It’s a nice balance.

  72. I say cut her off. Yes, the children are friends, but what you have to remember is, what is your child learning in that house of helicopter parenting. I can say with most confidence, based on your info about the other mom, that she is circumventing what your teaching your child with what she wants to teach hers and yours. Your kid can easily get messed up.

    I would talk to her first though and see if you can resolve this. Say you want your child growing up a certain way, with certain values, and learning the ways of the real world so that he will be prepared to deal with the future as he grows up. Sheltering him won’t allow him to learn. Learn like we did growing up. So if she can’t respect your wishes, then he will not be allowed to go over her house anymore to play with her kid. This is about the child, not the parent. That she has her way of raising her kids, you have yours.

    You ladies aren’t friends to begin with, so what’s the worry? Especially when your child’s well being (mentally and emotionally) are at stake. I can’t see a conflict of interest here. I’m sure there are plenty of parents like minded as you in your neighborhood. Make friends with them, as they will have a more positive influence on your child. The kids will still be friends, after all they go to the same school, no? Just keep thinking in your head…this is about my son and how he grows up, not about what some other mother feels or thinks.

  73. I have no advice except maybe buy a copy of Free Range Kids and drop it off at her house. I agree it is not worth it to become confrontational.

    I live 1/2 block from my kids’ school. My daughter has a friend whose father objects to letting her walk to my house from school with my daughter. 1/2 block! They are in 5th grade!!

    I joke around with the father about it. He occasionally shows signs of loosening up.

  74. I agree with those who say, “Back off.” If this situation is for some reason intolerable (I can’t think why — no one is being hurt and you’re not being inconvenienced in any way) just keep in mind that that should you decide to forbid your child from playing there, you are simply refusing someone’s hospitality on behalf of your child, not winning a moral battle or something.

    A friendly word or two about how it is perfectly fine with you and you like to encourage independence in your child would be in order, but should she not be flexible in that matter, then it is not up to you to dictate how she offers hospitality to your child when it is not any inconvenience to you or actual detriment to him — it is only your role to politely accept or politely refuse to allow your child to play there.

    “I say cut her off. Yes, the children are friends, but what you have to remember is, what is your child learning in that house of helicopter parenting.”

    That not everyone has to do things “my way” to be my friend, maybe? The child will not be harmed because someone else’s parent likes to drive him home. If the child is old enough to play at other kids’ houses, he’s old enough to understand that different people do things differently. He will not learn terrible, irreversible lessons from people who choose to do things differently (even wrongly), not at this degree of difference.

    “Especially when your child’s well being (mentally and emotionally) are at stake. ”

    This is waaaaaaay over the top. There are things that go on in other’s people’s homes that might affect a child’s mental or emotional well being. Having to follow a few more restrictive rules or being “babied” excessively are not among them. If this was the kid’s regular babysitter or you were talking about *moving in with* this family, that would be one thing. A child is not damaged by being exposed to other kids’ helicopter parents.

  75. Honestly, I’d be more worried about her sending your child home with a stranger (I’m assuming you didn’t know the woman) than about refusing to let him walk. That would be something I would have immediately talked to her about.

  76. Why is the mom even involved? When it’s time to go, the kid can put on his coat and walk out the door! When I was that age my friends parents did not keep tabs all the comings and goings except to kick visitors out when the home was going to eat supper.

  77. Interesting that your neighbor would send your son home with a stranger to him and you.

    Most likely the heli-mom is thinking, if something happens to your son on his walk home, that she doesn’t want it on her conscience.

    So it’s not only fear for your son’s safety, it’s fear of a guilty conscience and damage to her reputation. What if there had been a traffic accident with the stranger-driver?

    Your instructions were to let your son walk home. She clearly can’t deal with it.

    I suggest you walk to her house and pick up your son so that you two walk home together.

    Set an example for the neighborhood.

  78. PS. you don’t need to say a word. Let your actions speak for themselves.

  79. Count me as one who is surprised by the tone of many ot these comments. If a mom decided to drive my son two blocks instead of letting him walk, even after I said it was ok, my response would be “Boy, that was stupid.” But it would certainly not be “How DARE she disrespect me as a parent!!” Give me a break; why take it so personally? This lady didn’t want him to walk because she genuinely is uncomfortable with the idea. It may be out of ignorance but it is not out of disrespect.

    I tend to look at helicopter parents much like people with other phobias. If you knew someone who was extremely germ-phobic, for example, you could explain until you are blue in the face that his fears are irrational but it probably won’t make a difference. People with irrational fears over children’s safety are not going to let go of those fears easily, especially when it seems that the rest of the world backs up those fears. We should try to have more compassion and less outrage.

    And let’s not turn ourselves into a bunch of irrational fanatics. Those making a fuss over getting a ride from a “stranger” – please stop it, we all should know better than that. And the same for those who brought up car accidents. Yes, car accidents are far more common than abductions, but I think a person can drive two blocks in a residential neighborhood without a fatal accident. Simply put, it may have been stupid, but no actual harm was done by this mother sending the boy home the way she did.

  80. “A friendly word or two about how it is perfectly fine with you and you like to encourage independence in your child would be in order, but should she not be flexible in that matter, then it is not up to you to dictate how she offers hospitality to your child when it is not any inconvenience to you or actual detriment to him — it is only your role to politely accept or politely refuse to allow your child to play there.

    You don’t know that though. The helicopter parents I know are SO ADAMANT about how they raise their kids. That they also do with other friends kids. I can almost guarantee though, that while under her care the other mother’s child is being taught the same things the heli-mother is teaching her own kid. Even as far as the heli-mom telling the kid what his mother is doing is wrong. Now what do you think will happen when a child is hearing two different things from two different adults? Confusion. And by the sounds of it, the son spends a lot of time at the other house. I reckon enough to have things ingrained in his head. But you are right, and it’s what I’ve said, either respect the FR mom’s wishes (which is just to let the child walk home on his own), if the heli-mom can’t, then she should make it easy on both of them and not allow the son to come over anymore. The son not going over to play won’t do any damage to the child. The son continued to be allowed to go over, but is being “reverse” taught while there will cause confusion for the child. At that age, kids still are accustomed to listening to adults.

    “That not everyone has to do things “my way” to be my friend, maybe? The child will not be harmed because someone else’s parent likes to drive him home. If the child is old enough to play at other kids’ houses, he’s old enough to understand that different people do things differently. He will not learn terrible, irreversible lessons from people who choose to do things differently (even wrongly), not at this degree of difference.”

    Again, he’s their enough to learn something from the mother. A heli-mother at that. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least that the heli-mother has big objections to how the other mother is raising her child. And like all heli-mothers I know, have a holier than thou attitude, that they feel it’s their responsibility to correct what the free-range mom is doing. The FR mom is teaching her child it’s ok to walk home, to mind your surroundings, and don’t go with strangers no matter what, go straight home. The heli-mom on the other hand is teaching the child that it’s NOT safe to be walking home, because someone can take them away, the world is not safe. As a 9 year old boy, do you not think this would be confusing. All he wants to do is play with his friend and then go home afterwards. He doesn’t fear and paranoia instilled in him.

    “This is waaaaaaay over the top. There are things that go on in other’s people’s homes that might affect a child’s mental or emotional well being. Having to follow a few more restrictive rules or being “babied” excessively are not among them. If this was the kid’s regular babysitter or you were talking about *moving in with* this family, that would be one thing. A child is not damaged by being exposed to other kids’ helicopter parents.”

    If the heli-mom is doing it to her own kids, which she I’m sure she does, she is doing it to other kids that walks into her home. She is watching over the kids, and therefore has a sense of responsibility towards them. And what does every mother do? They are motherly. But what does a heli-mom do and what does a free-range mom do? Two different things. Nothing wrong with rules IN the house, but leaving the house is another thing.

    The point being is the heli-mother should have enough respect for the free-range mom, to follow her wishes. Just as much as she would expect the same respect from any other parent looking after her own child. If the FR mom wants, and is good with her child walking home by himself, then the heli-mom should respect that. If she can’t and has a hard time doing that, then she should voice out that if she insists on her son walking home by himself, than she will no longer feel comfortable having him over. Done. No one is forcing anyone to do anything, it’s their choice. But once you make that choice, you have stick with it, and live with it.

    Now I don’t object to the “if your in someone else’s home you abide by their rules”. Sure, I completely agree. But when your leaving, your leaving. Your stepping out of the house, and walking home, as your mother expects you to (taking into consideration the FR mom and her child are both cool with this). This is a the FR mom’s wishes. By the heli-mom not respecting this, and more so, sending the child home with someone the FR mom doesn’t know, the heli-mom is doing pretty much what she is afraid of. Especially if you take into account that most abductions, molestations, abuse, etc… are done by some the family knows, NOT a total stranger.

  81. @KarenW: The heli-mom didn’t drive the child home. She had someone else do it. If SHE had driven him home, that would be different. I’d think she was loopy, but wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. But if she had someone else drive him home, and I didn’t know that person, I would be livid. As I mentioned above, the heli-mom is so paranoid to let the child walk home on his own (which no doubt his more than capable of), but yet she gives the responsibility of taking the child home to someone else? Without letting the mother know? That’s hypocritical, irresponsible, and dumb. If I was responsible for a child in my care, I would never pass the buck off to someone else. NEVER. It’s MY responsibility, no one elses. At the very least, I would have called the kid’s mom and tell her that I’m tied up, and take her child home, and don’t feel comfortable letting him walk on his own. That I have a friend who can drive him home. If the mom is cool with that, great. If the mother insists her child walk home on her own, either I let him, or drive him myself. That’s the respect I’m speaking of.

  82. Slightly different view here. When I encounter a situation where my kid is playing at another person’s house, I just let the parent escort or have her escorted home if that’s what they feel is approrpiate. I don’t fight it. Since my child is coming from THAT PERSON’S house, I feel like it’s only polite of me to let the parent do what she’s comfortable doing. I mean, if I’m going to let my kid play at someone else’s house, I expect her to follow that house’s rules, and if a kid plays at my house, I expect that kid to follow my house’s rules. Our house rule is I DON’T escort children home from my house, so if your child comes and plays at my house, either you come and pick him or her up and walk her home, or s/he goes back home alone. But if my kid goes to YOUR house – well, your house rules apply.

    I explain to my daughter that while I think she’s perfectly capable of walking alone, people have different opinions and different levels of comfort, and she needs to be tolerant of that and respectful to adults even when she disagrees with them. So when it comes to these types of parents, I let her walk down to her friends’ houses alone, knowing she will get escorted home. I don’t feel it’s worth bickering over, and even if I think it’s unnecessary or silly, those moms are being hospitable and letting my kid play at their houses, so it only seems polite to be hospitable in return by not arguing with them over whether or not they should have my daughter escorted home. If my daughter doesn’t want to be escorted home, she can always choose NOT to play at those houses with those friends.

  83. I am in total agreement with Christi, on October 26, 2010 at 06:55 on this. I don’t think it is fair to ask another adult (especially one you aren’t paying) to conform to your particular parenting philosophies when they have charge of your child. There are exceptions of course, allergies, that sort of thing, and another parent should, out of common courtesy, respect the child if it says ‘my parent’s don’t let me do that’.

    In cases such as this then, the parent should call you to confirm what the child says. If they make a habit of pawning the child off on a third party without your permissions, then of course you should drop the association.

    If you really want to change her mind though, Christi’s suggestion is the best way to go. That way the other mom sees ‘Free Range’ in action, but since you are there she can do nothing about it. After she watches it a few times, she will be much more likely to give it a try herself. (And with no hard feelings between the friends’ parents :-) )

  84. The mom in question commented here, and specified that she did in fact know the person who drove the child home, it was a mutual acquaintance and parent of other friends of her child, who happened to be visiting. So the whole aspect of asking some stranger to drive the child home is NOT part of the equation.

  85. Sure, the heli-mom is influencing the other mom’s kid. But so what? This is, what, a couple hours a week at most? Kids simply aren’t so fragile that being told something by some other kid’s parent that is different from what their own parents say, is going to deeply confuse or mess them up. Certainly not kids who are old enough to go visit other people and walk home from their houses alone.

  86. “I don’t think it is fair to ask another adult (especially one you aren’t paying) to conform to your particular parenting philosophies when they have charge of your child”

    So then when your child is at your neighbour’s house, you shouldn’t ask that neighbour to conform to your philosophy of allowing your kid to leave her house and walk away unaccompanied.

    I’m all for letting my kid walk about freely, but if she’s at someone else’s house, and the adult of that house doesn’t want her to leave unaccompanied, then she needs to respect that adult’s decision. And if she doesn’t like it, she needs to make a free decision between doing something she doesn’t like (being escorted home from said house) or not doing something she does like (playing at said house.)

    The inconvenience is not on my end. If a mom escorts (or has a mutually known person escort) my child home, that’s her inconvenience, not mine. The only reason for me to react with grand irritation is because I suspect my own parenting is being judged. But if I just let that water roll off my back, there’s no problem.

  87. I think if the kids are friends, I wouldn’t let the other mom’s parenting style get in the way. As long as you trust your child to be at the house then give that mom some time to warm up to being a Free-Range parent! It doesn’t happen overnight.

    I like the idea I read on here about walking to the friend’s house and then allowing your son to walk/run home ahead of you.

  88. How about talk to the mother instead of us…we don’t know her reasoning for her choices, only she does. Maybe she’s had some experience which causes her to silly decision but you wouldn’t know unless you talked with her. I know it’s irritating for you and your son but filling in the gaps with assumptions is a waste of your time and doesn’t make anything better.

  89. It doesn’t take much to influence a child, and at 9 years old, they are old enough to be able to be able to walk home on their own, old enough to do a lot of things on their own, but they are still pretty impressionable. And we don’t know what the heli-mom is actually telling the other mom’s kid. But there is a good chance, based on other stubborn heli-moms I’ve known, that she is circumventing anything the son’s mom is trying to instill in her child. THAT is disrespectful. That’s “so what”. I didn’t see the author’s post here that said she knew the person the heli-mom got to drive her son home. But if it’s a “mutual acquaintance”, then she didn’t know that person very well. Again, statistically, most of the time time it’s someone we know that does the harm. Not a total stranger. And the question in hand isn’t the fact that acquaintance drove her son home, but the heli-mom got her to drive him home with consulting the mother first. If I’m looking after someone else’s child, and I plan on passing the responsibility of seeing the boy home to someone else, for whatever reason, I will make sure that I inform the mother first and get her input. If the mother says to let him walk home on his own, regardless of how I feel I would either let him (as the mother wishes), or take him home myself. I wouldn’t rely on someone else to. Not their responsibility, it’s mine.

    What it all boils down to is not who’s right or who’s wrong, which parenting is better, or even how I feel. It’s about respecting the other parents wishes. I’m sure the FR mom would respect heli-mom’s wishes if it were reversed. Why can’t the heli-mom do the same? If she really has an issue with the boy walking home on his own, then she should pack up the kids, and start walking him home. Sky said it, it’s not the inconvenience of the FR mom, so it would probably be no issue for her. But the judging on the heli-mom’s side is unacceptable. Which she is doing by taking matters of someone else’s child into her own hands, including passing him off to someone else to take home. That’s a double standard there.

  90. Wow, amazing. I remember parents of other kids like this when I was a kid; I don’t even have words for how much I hated them. One woman refused to take me home and leave me there by myself–I was like 11 or 12–when she was supposed to, because no one else was home. I’d been staying home alone in the afternoons since I was 6 or so.

    I think both Emily and jeffg are right–this woman is afraid that if her son realizes the comparative freedom that his friend has, he’ll stand up to her.

    When I was this boy’s age, I was running around the neighborhood and the woods at all hours of day and night with a pack of neighborhood boys. As long as we were home for dinner and homework got done, my parents never stopped us.

  91. [...] How Do You Tell A Total Helicopter to Back Off? Okay, Readers. Let’s help this mom out! Dear Free-Range Kids:  Finding this blog several years ago validated my [...] [...]

  92. So, AS THE LETTER WRITER, I have to say I’m a bit surprised by some of these answers. I guess I am not from the “turn the other cheek” camp. And I guess I didn’t equate being a “free range” parent with being a doormat. So, I am to allow her to continue to disregard my wishes for my child because SHE has a hard time with them? I don’t think so.

    Let’s be very clear about a few things. I have never, ever disrespected her in this way. I have never questioned or second guessed the decisions she’s made for her children, no matter how ridiculous I’ve thought some of them were. I have always been friendly, supportive, and respectful of her desires and wishes and opinions. When she’s insisted that she knows what my child needs better than I do, I’ve just laughed it off and humored her in her neuroses. I have never been confrontational. That’s why I’ve come here, to look for ideas about how to tell her NICELY to back off.

    There is no question that I will talk to her about this, in some way or another, sooner rather than later. I have made it very clear that I would like my son to walk home, on his own, on more than one occasion. In my book, once should have been enough. I shouldn’t have had to humor her this second time around. It’s not my job to make this woman comfortable with my parenting decisions. It’s her job to respect them and honor them to the best of her ability at all times—whether or not she agrees with them. Just as I have done for her in all the 10 years we have been acquainted. It’s not as if I’m asking her to break any of the rules of her household. I’m not demanding that she let my child jump on her beds or play with her sharp knives. I’m asking her to let him walk out of her house by himself!

    Further, I can see absolutely no reason to involve the children in this nonsense. They’re just a couple of kids who want to play together, and don’t need to be aware of the parental “politics” involved. There are plenty of opportunities for them to see that different people do things differently every day. And if I don’t stand up for myself and insist my wishes for my children be honored, what kind of example would that set for them anyway?

    As for the third party who ended up driving him the two blocks (I can’t believe I’m the only one who finds that utterly insane), she is also a woman I have known for years, who I am friendly with–in the same way I am friendly with the Helicopter mom. Although I know the other mom to be less of a helicopter parent, I can only imagine she was probably stuck between a rock and hard place when asked if she could drop my son off “on her way,” even though she wasn’t headed in our direction. I know of several other friendly acquaintances who have indicated they think the Helicopter mom’s behavior is sometimes over the top (one who is a good friend of hers), but I don’t think anyone ever says anything to her. They respect her right to parent her children how she sees fit.

    And yes, I was speaking to the Helicopter mom on the phone when it was time for my son to come home, telling her to just please send him, and was on the line when she asked the other mom to give him a ride (and don’t even get me started on the nerve of asking for a favor on my behalf that I had not even asked for—and generally wouldn’t because I don’t want to inconvenience people).

    That said, all of the other nonsense is completely beside the point. The point is this woman has disrespected me in this way TWICE now. And I suppose if I feel disrespected, then there’s not much arguing with feelings. There have been lots of little things this woman has done that I have shrugged off over the years for the sake of my kids. I WILL NOT shrug this off.

  93. “That said, all of the other nonsense is completely beside the point”

    Then your issue isn’t really about your kid walking home. It’s about your disagreement with another adult and looking for suggestions about how to handle that. You obviously find her annoying on many levels (enough to gossip about her with others) and your contempt for her and her parenting is pretty clear. This issue doesn’t really sound too much like a free-range issue. It sounds like a control issue. You both are insisting upon it. For the kids’ sake, I hope you can really keep them out of it, but that seems highly unlikely from what I’m reading.

  94. It would bother me but I probably wouldn’t say anything. I’m not going to embarrass my kid over a two block ride. He can take a walk afterwards.

  95. Wow, guess I was wrong to expect get helpful suggestions here? Now I’m gossiping behind her back and will probably bring the kids in to it. Yeah, that EXACTLY what I said. Guess it’s true what they say about people bringing their own “bagage” to any given situation.

  96. Well, Eric, I think we’ll have to agree to disagree. I fully agree 9 is old enough to walk a couple of blocks, and I also think it’s old enough to be occasionally exposed to the imperfect parenting practices of other people without being damaged, assuming they are not actively abusive or dangerous.

  97. Wow. Anger and judgment everywhere.
    To I’mTheMom. If you want to insist on your child walking home, there is no easy way. There is going to be a confrontation and you should be prepared for the possibility that is will end badly. Be prepared for how you will react if that happens. That said, if it’s important to you, it’s probably worth a go, and there are some excellent suggestions above about ‘easing’ into it.
    For me, I’d probably let it go. I’m quite happy to fight the good fight, but I’m not sure this one would be important enough for me. I try to ‘choose my battles’. I’d probably put my kid’s friendship with the other boy as the main priority.
    Good luck. :)

  98. I couldn’t agree more with Cathy. From what “The Mom” says, there are probably many more issues over which I would confront this helicopter mum. But I don’t think there is any nice way to do it. I mean, you can try to tell her as politely as you can that what she does makes it really uncomfortable for you. That it’s very rude when she contradicts your parenting decisions, maximum in front of the children and in front of other adults. And if she continues this way, your kids will have to meet unmanaged and in a neutral place, or not at all.
    But really, you can’t expect her to take that happily.
    I guess it’s a little bit like telling a co-worker that he’s got a problem with his deodorant. It’s just an embarrasing situation for everyone.

  99. I’mTheMom is the one in the right here, so why attack her? The issue of her son leaving someone else’s house isn’t an issue of “house rules” for the other house. Because if he’s LEAVING, then he’s NOT THERE. If he’s not there, he doesn’t have to abide by their rules, especially when his moms rules are different. I would have given her some leeway if she had only heard that he was supposed to walk home from the child himself, but, having heard it from the mom, she has no excuse whatsoever for her actions. This is something they need to talk about. The other mom will likely feel attacked, but she needs to know that she started it by disrespecting I’mTheMom’s specific request to her.

  100. I’mTheMom:

    I think you’re upset because a “helpful suggestion” to you would be everyone agreeing with you. People have been giving helpful suggestions…many of them. You just aren’t hearing what you wanted to hear. You are actually trying to be a helicopter parent yourself. Not only will your children be raised your way, every other person in the world must do it your way even when you are not in the area. As soon as your children are out of your sight they will be influenced by all sorts of people. YOU CANNOT control those other people. They will go against your teachings! They might allow things that you don’t allow. They might not allow things that you would. It is not a disrespect to you. It is LIFE! This is a minor disturbance! She is driving your kid home, not sacrificing babies to the devil!!

    Here are your choices…and they will always be the same when you can’t control the behavior of other people (whether it be parents who swear in front of your kids, parents who serve candies when you don’t approve, parents who allow movies you don’t approve of etc…):

    1. Let it go
    2. Forbid your kid from going there (that only works for a few more years though – your kid will defy your control soon enough)

    There you go – helpful suggestions!

  101. WOW! Just WOW!

    I came here looking for helpful suggestions about HOW TO DISCUSS MY CONCERNS AND FEELINGS WITH THE OTHER MOM! There’s been some of that, but mostly there’s been attacks and hostility and misrepresentations of what is was I actually said.

    So, hey, thanks! Really. Thanks ever so much. I hope none of you ever have your parenting decisions second guessed by someone who has decided they don’t agree with you–as if it’s even their place to agree or disagree to begin with.

    Peace out!!

  102. I agree with Facie who said: “I would, however, probably say something to the H-mom about my kid getting a in car with someone without my prior knowledge. If it is that important for H-mom to not let the kid walk home alone, then H-mom should walk the kid or H-mom should drive the kid”

    You can’t change the Helicopter parent’s view of the “danger” of walking home, but they should also respect that you left your child with THEM and not with someone else.

    I would treat it as a learning experience for your child, by saying something like “Some parents just parent differently, and we have to respect that – even if it means you can’t walk home when *I* know you can.”

    I’m sorry that many of the people got angry about this and didnt’ respond in a useful way.

  103. I’d say you choose your actions according to what you want to obtain.
    If free-range parenting is a kind of personal “politics of identity”, you can be as rude as you wish to this mother, and isolate yourself and your child from the that family.
    If you, on the other hand, see free-ranging as a movement that should spread and that you’d like to promote to other parents, then you need to tread more carefully.
    You can go to her house, (when you’re calm) and say that you understand her concern, and that of course you worry too,but that you’ve had to rationalize some of your fears in order not to feel crippeled. But you’re still so worried about the future of your child, and his ability to cope, and also about global warming, that you must insist he walk.

    Unfortunately this advice comes from having had the direct experience of NOT being able to spread the idea of free-ranging while my kids were younger, because I tended to ridicule Italian mothers- ending up labelled as “that weird foregn mom”. Dialogue is always the best answer, although it takes a lot of zen.

  104. I think everyone that has ever *made* a parenting decision has had it questioned by someone who decided they don’t agree with it.

    I think that there must be some more history behind this. I understand that. Some people could make a suggestion, and I wouldn’t blink. Some could make the same suggestion, and it would get my hackles and defenses up.

    I don’t remember seeing anyone recommend that you ask your son how *he* would like to handle it. It is decidedly UN-Free-Range to decide for your son that he is not going to be friends with this kid because his mother works your nerves. Talk to your kid. He’s 9. He knows how important this kids friendship is to him, and he might be quite willing to let the H-Mom drive him home (while inwardly rolling his eyes) to keep the peace between himself and his friend. He might have some ideas or suggestions that you haven’t thought of. The goal here is not to get every other Mom to bend to your will. It’s to raise a young man that has the tools as an adult to diplomatically deal with all sorts of different people and situations. Give him some control over how you handle this.

  105. Doesn’t all of this hand wringing about whether the kid walks home or gets a ride kind of seem like “micromanaging?” Seems to me the “Free Range” approach would be to know this isn’t a big deal either way.

  106. Yes, you are right.

  107. I’m the Mom:

    You were clear with this woman about your wishes.
    Your son’s desire to walk home alone was also clear.
    The other mother twice acted in precise opposition to your wishes for your child.
    If she had twice given your child a food to which she knew he was allergic (let’s assume not dangerously), I doubt you’d be getting the “lighten up” message as much from some here.

    My favourite suggestion is from whomever said: ask her to call you so *you* can pick him up. Then walk over, tell your son you want to chat with her for a bit, and tell him to run along.

    Then be very calm and very clear when you tell her that your son likes her son, and that you’re grateful they’ve become friends. Assure her that your son *must* follow her rules while he’s in her house, and that he knows that. But be clear: the moment it’s time to go, he is on his own, and that’s how you want it. Tell her that you (rightly) consider car travel much more dangerous than walking, and that you do not let anyone endanger your children: “as a mother I’m sure you understand.” Ask her to call you when it’s time for him to leave, if she likes.

  108. Thank you. Additionally, in keeping with my free-range approach, I will be leaving the 12- and 7-year-old home alone to go retrieve him. Of which, I am sure, she will not approve.

  109. I am a little confused. My son is still very young, so we have not yet had to confront a similar situation with another parent, although I like some of the ideas that people have suggested.

    But in what way would alienating the other mom put the boys’ relationship in danger? At the age of 9 years, I believe a child is old enough to choose his or her friends and playmates, and that a parent shouldn’t interfere with that choice unless there is a real need to (I can’t think of one off the top of my head…).

    Have other parents actually experienced a situation where their children lost a friend because they alienated that friend’s mom or dad?

  110. I’mTheMom. I hope you are still watching this thread, although it’s pretty much resolved now it seems.

    I agree 100% with you that all of the “lighten up” posts are not the correct approach here. Those who stated how helicoper parents not only tend to be so restrictive with their own childrens’ ability to play etc but tend to do the same with others, that is correct. Too many times, they aren’t content to have their own children practically 8 inches away at all times, they pester others to do the same. You are right to take issue with such interference.

    Some have stated “when you leave your kids with someone else you should respect that they will do things differently” etc. I agree, in general anway, but as someone else stated, that doesn’t apply with this situation where your child is leaving. Where it regards your child’s behavior and level of freedom while being watched by this person, by all means–they should respect what this person asks. However, that has nothing to do with your child walking home.

    It appears free-range means different things to different people. To me, it means giving my children the same sort of playful freedoms of adventure I & others from times gone by enjoyed, and also it concerns the right to parent my children however I feel without someone else preaching at me. That goes for how much freedom I grant my child with play, but also with how I discipline them. I allow lots of freedom of play, but I allow very little whining and boo-hooing and tantrums, I come down strong on those very quick & decisively–and I would not stand for someone telling me I am wrong, unless it was a friend whose wisdom I respected.

    Parental authority is under attack these days in many ways, and free-range, to me, is as much about fighting against that intrusiveness–where it regards my right to discipline for tantrums and whining OR for granting my children lots of license fo play–as it is anything else.

    LRH

  111. Free Range! Enforced by a different kind of helicopter mom.

    I guess most actual, “Free Range” parents don’t post on blogs about how much they don’t get involved with micromanaging their kids.

    Is it ironic that I posted. Yes.

  112. Just as you want her to respect your opinions and feelings, you have to respect hers. She’s not comfortable with letting him walk home from her house. You are comfortable letting him walk to her house. You can either agree to disagree and let her drive him home, or not let him go over to her house.

    If you want her to respect your opinions, don’t you show that by respecting hers?

  113. Friends in the neighborhood are gold. I wouldn’t alienate her.

    On the other hand, I would loudly protest about her putting my kid in a car with someone I don’t know. NOT okay. REALLY NOT!

    I think I would talk to her and see if we could come to some compromise. The most likely one for me is that he walks home alone, but you call to let her know when he’s home. This seems entirely reasonable to me. He still gets to walk, and she gets to know he’s safe. (And I agree with the posters who say that she probably feels that her responsibility for him doesn’t end until he’s safely home.)

    If she can’t compromise, then she can’t. It doesn’t mean she’s an idiot, it simply means she’s made a different calculation on the cost-benefit scale than you have. I would never cut off an otherwise-acceptable local playmate simply because his mom wants me to come pick up my kid after the play date. I’d just walk over and get him. It’s two blocks – maybe five minutes round-trip? Not worth losing the playmate just to make a point.

  114. Woman With Kids. I disagree, the original poster does not have to respect the person’s opinion, especially if it’s being applied vs simply being expressed tastefully.

    It’s simple: the “friend” isn’t comfortable, but it’s not her child and is not under her care anymore once the poster’s child is now on the way home (again, while the child is THERE is a different deal altogether), so her opinion is completely irrelevant and deserving of–well, nothing, I’d say, nothing at all, especially (again) if it’s actually being applied vs simply being expressed.

    The whole “she has her opinion, you have hers, if you want her to respect yours you have to respect hers,” that applies when it concerns the original poster not judging her “friend” with how she parents her kids–that is, adult A parents their children (little As) a certain way, adult B parents their children (little Bs) a different way–both A & B should respect the differences. And if A watches the little b’s for B, or vice versa, they parent their own way not the parent’s way, but only while the child is there–once the child is gone, that’s it. And, neither adult A nor B are obligated to respect differing opinions about how they parent their own children.

    So: again, the original poster is under no obligation to respect the differing opinion of her “friend,” especially when this friend is putting this difference into action–with the child no longer under her care–against the poster’s wishes.

    LRH

  115. Larry Harrison, will you marry me?

    So, you have completely and effectively dissected the crux of the situation (and apparently have tip top reading comprehension skills), now can you please provide advice for the best possible, least confrontational, most respectful way to have a conversation with her about this?!

    Thanks.

  116. “And the “bad guys” are not abducting children in broad daylight. ”

    Yeah right. Got any stats to back that up?

  117. @RFT, check the US Department of Justice, then compare that against car accident statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Authority. While you’re at it, compare the car stats to car/bicycle stats.

    Also… and I know this may be a bit of a reach for you… you may want to consider that many of us on this board are intelligent enough to get the real facts and that we agree on the fundamentals even if we sometimes vehemently disagree on how to implement them.

    I’d keep going but you’re probably missing a Glenn Beck shows so I’ll let you go.

  118. I’mTheMom. “Will you marry me?” How flattering. My response would be (a) I’d have to see a photo at larrytxeast@gmail.com (I’m not Christian Bale myself, but I like to know) and (b) my current wife probably will object, so even then you’d be a backup plan at best, in the event my wife turns into an alien & travels to Mars with her green sister. HA HA.

    As for “how to have a respectful conversation?”

    Let me try. I don’t know how much help I will be able to provide, but let me try.

    I would try & be respectful initially anyway, where it regards everything else. That is, express appreciation that she lets your 2 kids play together at her place, and explain how good that is for the kids to have someone their own age to play with, in a known-safe-close-convenient environment, & how that enables you to have a break and do your adult things also.

    Very important: express, also, full support for how she disciplines your own child while there if he, say, hits the other child or goes exploring in her toolshed upsetting her husband, stepping all over her pretty flowers, etc. In true “John Rosemond style,” let this friend know that if something like that happens, she has your full support to deal out whatever punishment she deems necessary (so long as sodomy & burying alive aren’t part of it, obviously). Make sure your child knows this, too, that you won’t be interceding on his behalf & thus enable his disobedience.

    With that out of the way (and if this is already a done deal, good), now comes the sticky part.

    By all means, express appreciation that she seems to care about your son’s welfare and perhaps feels some sort of responsibility, it’s just that he’s no longer her authority–or responsibility–once he (literally) hits the road. Explain to her what free-ranging is about, in terms of giving children a chance to grow and have the sort of childhood we have years ago, and how this really is a feasible–and wonderful–goal for both your child’s betterment as well as society as a whole, and most of all, how you passionately believe in that and really are firm–not ugly, not stuck-up, but firm–in your disposition that this is what you want done at every possible opportunity.

    And that, as such, he not has your support with regards to walking home, but that this is explicitly what you want to have happen. Finally, since you are the parent, and since–at this point–he’s no longer under her care, your wishes should be respected even if they seem peculiar or even reckless to her.

    Clarify, while you’re at it, if she is the type that demands her children stay inside & not play outside, then again, that’s her house and her rules (doesn’t sound like she does that, but you do want to clarify that you’re not trying to override how she manages her home & thus how, by extension, she’d manage your child while he’s her responsibility).

    If she won’t comply?

    Then you have to decide if this issue is important to shred up the arrangement altogether. It may be, I’m not going to say that “it’s not worth it” or “you should respect her opinion” because you shouldn’t respect her opinion in that realm (again, you should respect how she raises her kids even if you hideously disagree with it and should give her full authority to discipline your child while he is under her care).

    It’s just that, at some point, you don’t want to burn bridges with someone just because they don’t see everything the way you do. At the same time, I am a strong believer that while I do appreciate & even respectfully welcome help & feedback from close friends & even well-meaning, non-judgmental/snotty strangers, I do not welcome out & out criticism and attempts at overriding or circumventing how I parent my children. If this is a “hostile” type of situation, I totally support your taking a stand and–yes–blowing the bridge up to tiny bits if you aren’t being respected as the parent in charge in this very specific scenario (while he’s walking home).

    I hope that helps, please don’t sue me–or withdraw your marriage proposal (ha ha!)–if it doesn’t work out.

    LRH

  119. LOL! OK then, if we can’t get married (my husband would probably object as well), then I designate you my new BFF. Thanks. So, basically, kill her with kindness before I get around to telling it like it is?

    BTW, do you think RFT has any idea what blog they’re reading?

  120. Well I don’t know if it’s called killing with kindness before telling it like it is–maybe that’s what it is. I just consider it acknowledging what you can in the positive before dropping the negative because, often-times, if you start out with the negative, you aren’t given an opportunity to bring up the points on which you’re NOT hostile, and the receiving party is left with an unbalanced view (that is, they don’t realize there are areas where you agree with them or aren’t being argumentive).

    As for RTF–beats me. Maybe they do but they’re just not in agreement & looking to critique, I don’t know.

    LRH

  121. “Also… and I know this may be a bit of a reach for you… you may want to consider that many of us on this board are intelligent enough to get the real facts and that we agree on the fundamentals even if we sometimes vehemently disagree on how to implement them.”

    Can I say there are many here who are ignorant as well?

    ““And the “bad guys” are not abducting children in broad daylight. ”

    This is just a lie, a myth from a parent (Lady who wrote this article) who doesn’t know what she is talking about.

  122. I was going to say the same thing as Christine on 10/28. I know you don’t want to involve your boy, but I think this is the best way to go: Pose the entire situation to your son and have him come up with multiple solutions to the situation. Having him pick the best solution will work his problem-solving skills, and you’ll know what he really wants out of the situation and how he feels about it. (You would, of course, have the final say and could give him additional ideas to his own.)

  123. Is my mike on?

  124. I would have gone ballistic on her about letting a stranger drive my son home no matter how far away we lived. First off, there’s new booster seat laws here and the driver could face harsh fines and the child be immediately apprehended if they are not in a booster seat. (yah, more fear mongering. a 9 year old in a booster seat… ugh!)

    but really, a STRANGER taking my child? Isn’t that child abduction? Forcing your child into a stranger’s car?

    Yah, I would have hit the roof and more. If she was that concerned, I could have walked halfway there and she could have met me, ffs, if she was that freaked out.

    Go ballistic.

  125. Hello all, as this thread is a little old and I’m late to the party I probably won’t hear much. Isn’t the point of being a free range parent NOT controlling those things that go on while your child is outside of your immediate control. It sounds like this parent is unhappy that she left her child in the care of someone else who did the most natural thing they could think of and treated their child as their own. That just happened to be wildly incongruous with how the freeranger wanted it.

  126. Maybe you just let her do things her way (it won’t hurt him) on the return from play when she’s in the “control tower”, but let him walk “TO” the house when you’re in the control tower. Not worth making a huge thing out of it

  127. Oh wait. I just read your words more carefully: Another person drove him? Someone you don’t know or approve of? OOPS! She blew it there. That is not okay. You’ll just have to say, “I don’t want my child riding in cars of people I don’t know, and I require that he walk home. He can call me when he leaves your house, and I’ll keep an eye out for him. Please do not put my son in the car of someone I don’t know. Thank you….”

  128. What’s your son want to do?

  129. Maybe just have your son walk to her house to start the hanging out might be an option? You two son’t have t agree and it sounds like you each have different values. I learn a lot from other parents. So, maybe just witnessing how you are and how your son is will have impact but I guess you have t odecide if a more direct confrontation is worth it. How did your kid feel about the incidenct? cis

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