Help, Daddy! A Grandma Smiled At Me! Will She Kidnap Me?

Hi Free-Rangers!
Just though I’d share this little note I got from Australia this morning. Makes you realize it’s a small world after all: A small,  paranoid, danger-halucinating world.
This is from a lady named Vivienne:

Walking in Ikea.
 
I am a pleasant-enough, smiley grandmoter of 9. A man with his daughter of about 3 or 4 parks her near me as he steps to look at a shelf.
 
I smile as I step past and the child screams.
 
“Don’t leave me Daddy! Someone is going  to steal me!”  I almost pass out with shock.
 
Today,  walking into a ladies toilet, a child passing by asks her Daddy if she can go in.
 
“No,” he says, “someone might take you.”   I don’t even dare suggest that I take her in.
 
 I can’t stand it.
 
It’s as if parents have joined a mad cult. What’s the pay off?
 
I had five free range kids. They’d walk down to the wool shed with lunch for Jim  and a mile to the school bus each morning . They walked to visit Granny three miles over five steep ridges, and they now  live all over the world, which was always my intent for them .
 
Is it that children are now regarded as possessions?
 
Lighten up.
 
#

We’re trying, Viv! — Lenore

57 Responses

  1. Amen! Parents today need to learn that their children have to experience the world,,…. sometimes without them holding their hand

  2. oh how much creative thinking those little frightened minds must be missing. It takes a lot of energy to be that scared all the time! It throws off your instincts too.

  3. Little red riding hood screwed it up for everybody.

  4. My husband took my son into a rest room to change a diaper. He was kind of a pain about potty training, but hated wearing diapers. I was standing outside of the door listening to my son scream horribly, knowing what was going on. I was both very amused and felt very bad for my husband. Some woman is also waiting, and when her husband comes out of the bathroom, she suggests he go in and see if there is a child in trouble in there. I immediately told her what was going on, but she definitely thought someone must be torturing a child or he was kidnapped or something. (Her husband very obviously did not want to go in and confront the guy with the screaming kid.)

  5. It’s so true. We are training kids to be afraid of people all the time. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  6. My (5yo) son wanted to go over to a friend’s house this past Saturday, but he didn’t want to walk there alone, so he went with me while I walked the dog. Well, the friend wasn’t home, so we started walking back. I wanted to go the long way home, but he wanted to go the short way. So I told him to go ahead, he knew the way.
    He said, ‘But I can’t go alone!’
    I asked, ‘Who told you that?’
    He replied, ‘My mommy.’
    I said ‘*I*’m your mommy, and I say you can go alone.’
    He said, ‘Oh!’ and turned around and went.
    Now it turns out that he went to a different friend’s house, but that was fine too. I picked him up later, and I actually got a few minutes to myself (heaven!!).

  7. Wow, I’m so thankful this hasn’t happened to me…. yet? I’m that goofy mom/former preschool teacher who smiles at every kid I see. Sometimes, I even say, “Hi!”

    I’m clearly a menace to society.

  8. I was walking my son-desperately-in-need-of-a-nap in the stroller the other day. I didn’t want to stop moving, lest he wake up. I was also dad-desperately-in-need-of-a-pee, and more than happy to trust the grandmother type who smiled knowingly, but couldn’t get over the fear of her reaction if I actually suggested her walking him for two minutes. So I suffered.

  9. An elderly couple was at a local amusement park with their granddaughter (I’d guess she was 5 or 6). I was just getting on the scrambler that my son had refused to ride (he opted to go for a coke with his grandma). This poor gentleman had already ridden the scrambler twice that day, and did not have another scramble in him. Not thinking, I volunteered, “She can ride with me.” Then, “It’s okay sweetie, my little boy didn’t want to ride, but you may.” Not until AFTER the ride and their effusive gratitude (they didn’t even blink, just gratefully sent her through the gate), did I think about how offensive that might be to some people these days.

  10. I took my 4 yo Niece and 6 yo cousin to a restaurant were you place your order, sit down wait for your number to be called, then go get your order.

    So when our number was called I left them at the table, went and got the food. I had them in sight the whole time. This woman started fussing about them being left alone – asking were their mommy was. To which they replied Home. She said something about irresponsible father – the kids piped up no they are home too. Then they call out Aunt Kimbee this stranger is talking to us and being mean to our Dads.

    I was cracking up when I got to the table. She started to lecture me about how dangerous Houston is and the candy man murdered all those kids. I told her the Candy Man’s victim was his own son not random strangers – that it happened over 30 years ago when I was 5 and he was excuted when I was in University. Please leave us alone.

    Now the kids want to know who the Candy Man was. I tell them a bad man the police put in jail a long time ago.

    When I related the story to my cousin he pointed out the woman probably meant Dean Corll not Timothy O’Bryan (both have been called the “candy man” in Houston press) but neither of them targeted 4 and 5 year old kids in brightly lit restaurants.

  11. Why do we do that? Why we do we want our children to be afraid?

    I just don’t understand it…I want my children to be AWARE of danger..and PREPARED to face it…and I do that by letting them know what can happen…but also that they can handle it.

    The last thing I want is for them to walk around afraid…what good does that do anyone????

  12. Let’s put it this way…yesterday I had my daughter (7 and a half months) in arms, and I put her down on the counter to pay for some items. She grabbed the receipts and started (of course) to eat it. I shrugged and looked at her, saying “need some fiber in your diet?” while I signed the other slip.

    The mom next me looked horrified, while the woman (mom?) behind her said “I like moms like you”.

    It made me feel all Free-Rangey

  13. I like the above mom’s post. My response when my 16 month old puts stuff in his mouth is “It ‘sprobably not the dirtiest things he’s put in his mouth today”. It horrifies a lot of moms, but it is often true.

  14. I had a couple of months when my husband had taken a job in another part of the country and I had care of the kids and getting the house ready to sell, bleah bleah bleah. I didn’t want to change our normal routines much, so I continued to occasionally take them to restaurants and on outings. Both boys were used to going to the men’s room with their daddy. So I started having the then 6 year old “supervise” his 3 year old brother. He LOVED it. He got to help hold him up the sink to wash hands. He helped with his clothes. It made him feel fantastic. The younger one liked the special attention from his big brother.
    Once or twice I had to intervene when things started sounding raucous in the men’s room, but mostly they were great.
    When we were finally all back together my husband was amazed at how mature they were both becoming. That extra responsibility was a huge step forward.

  15. I love this post and all the comments. Thank heavens for sane parents.

  16. Can I trade my insanely fearful MIL for Viv? She sounds like a wonderful influence.

    When my kids eat non-food items, I tell them, “Way to boost that immune system.” or “Grandma always said a person should eat a peck of dirt before they start school.”

  17. Dirt is minerals; bugs are protein.

    It’s silly, but it keeps things appropriately lighthearted.

  18. My six year old niece (she’s graduating kindergarten this week! I’m so excited!) and I went down to the corner store on Friday to get ices for a treat. That’s down half a block, turn the corner, down the block, turn the OTHER corner and walk in the door.

    When we got home she realized her wooden spoon thing was split in half. No, I said, she couldn’t get one from my apartment – they were all dirty. No, I don’t know WHERE the spoons are in her apartment (three family house, every floor is occupied with a member of her family), they seem to have disappeared. Yes, they’re probably in Daddy’s apartment, but no, I don’t want you going in there to fetch one out.

    Finally, frustrated, she asked what she could do.

    “Go down to the store and ask for a new one”

    So she did. Halfway to the corner she ran into some friends of hers. They all asked her if she was SURE she was allowed to cross the street and go to the store alone, and then one of them, an eight year old, popped by to check with me that it was okay. All these kids play outside by themselves (the ones six and up) or by themselves with older siblings (the four and three year olds), and most of them go to the corner store alone – they just wanted to confirm with me that Ana wasn’t breaking any rules. They weren’t even *tattling*, just informing me.

    You know, they say it takes a village to raise a child, but I never expected the village to be MADE OF CHILDREN.

    With all the other kids looking out for her, and the teens on the block, and all their big siblings and older cousins and parents and grandparents peeking out windows to make sure the various children playing are safe, I have no fears for Ana.

  19. I got one. My husband and I were at a restaurant and while we were waiting for our table, a little girl (her family was also waiting for a table)smiled at us. Well, my husband smiled back at her and said hello. The little girl responded and began to chat with us. The little girl’s father suddenly realizes his child is speaking with us and yanks her arm and says “don’t you know how dangerous it is to talk to people you don’t know?”. What?!
    I think we need to let our children know it really does depend on the situation and let children begin to develop their instincts about people and situations.

    of course we want our children to be aware of the dangers but come on……..

  20. I can’t imagine how my life would have turned out if I hadn’t talked to all the strangers I’ve talked to. No wonder the service industry is in shambles…nobody learns how to converse politely with strangers – Ahh!

  21. I love the story about Ana… thanks for sharing! That 8-year-old sounds SO much like my little mother hen. My daughter once told my son to slow down when he was eating because she didn’t want him to choke on his food. My son is 10.5 months younger than she is. LOL Great story.

  22. What I really want to know is when do all these “molly coddling” parents decide that their children are big enough, grown up enough, to be allowed out on their own?

    My daughter was allowed to the corner shop at six (25 years ago) my friend’s children were relunctantly allowed to come home from school on the bus at 16.
    Guess who’s ended up the most independent?

  23. some ppl shouldnt be parents.
    but then again with our legal system
    do you blame parents
    Its an awkward situation.

  24. Here in my country… And I thought that not letting primary school kids ride down their own street was paranoid enough. Imagine the nightmares this poor kid must have…

  25. I just thought of something else too. I find that I often smile and talk to other kids in prams, which is quite acceptable when I have my son with me, but boy have I gotten some odd looks when I am alone. I find myself saying “My boy is 3yo” to try and put them at ease. No wonder my little fellow (having been behind in language until recently) was THE ONE who said “hello” to all the other kids he saw. I am so glad I passed that skill of greeting on to him.

  26. @ Taking a Chance: Maybe you’re raising the next James Bond.🙂

  27. At the risk of ruining everyone’s happy-go-lucky spirit, there ARE sick people in the world. Although we hate to think of it, people DO kidnap, rape, and molest, and kill children everyday. The sick and twisted have targeted our children for their sadistic fantasies. These are often people who appear to be warm and friendly and they take advantage of the very innocence this site tries to encourage. My kids still watch cartoons and play with dolls and their only real sense of meanness is when one won’t share Bakugan cards with the other. However, I DON’T let them take the bus, they DON’T talk to strangers at the park, and I DON’T send them anywhere outside where they are out of my direct line of sight. If that makes me one of the psychotic parents, I’ll accept that. It matters more to me that my kids remain safe than for me to be the savvy 21st century parent. It really IS a jungle out there and we have to be careful of our children. We’re the only protection they’ve got.

  28. ‘It really IS a jungle out there and we have to be careful of our children. We’re the only protection they’ve got.’

    Bull. Children have more than just their parents, they have every kind person out there, the lollypop women who help them across the road, the shopkeepers who give them a cheeky little sweet for free if theyre charmed enough, kindly old folk, older kids etc etc. People spend so much time being paranoid about all the bad people in the world they forget theres a bunch of good people out there too.

    When I was in primary school me and my friends had free run of the town, we would jump off bus shelters and be chased by angry dogs, then return, usually to someone elses house, and have an impromptu sleepover. It was awesome.

    At the same time I had a friend who wasnt allowed past the end of her street, even when she was into double digits, and wasnt all that popular as a result, because who wants to hang with the kid who cant go to the park without mommys permission?

    Nowadays (and im only 23!) youd think there were no kids left, whenever i go out with the dog you never see any, and the playgrounds are like ghost towns. Its like theyre only allowed to emerge when they hit 15 and go off to drink cider in the bushes.

  29. Exactly. What’s the point of being “safe” if you are miserable.

  30. Tana –

    I love amusement parks…free range kids abound!

    I have been touched by this paralyzing fear – not by me, but my daughter. We were at a local amusement park and the ride my daughter wanted to go on was very crowded. There wasn’t any room left, except in her car. A college kid walked over to her and he asked her if he could ride with her. She said no. I was mortified! My husband and I had a talk with her about people at an amusement park were like a big family – not there to hurt you, but to hang out and ride rides with you.

  31. People spend so much time being paranoid about all the bad people in the world they forget theres a bunch of good people out there too.

    This is so true and so sad! I’m one of those awful parents that leaves her kids in the car while I run in for a cup of coffee. I can see them through the window and I’m literally only 15 steps away. Many times I’ve had people tell me “I kept an eye on them for you”. I don’t say “I know, because I was watching you watching them”, I say “Thank you”.

  32. Gemini, see if there are statistics to back up your point. Remember that most children are taken by parents or people that they know.

  33. I think that it is really important to teach children to listen to that “inner voice”… the one that warned me when a neighbor’s priest uncle was too creepy to be alone with. As it turns out, he really *was* too creepy to be alone with.

    If they are friendly but cautious and willing to listen to that voice, they are likely to be ok.

    They aren’t guaranteed to be ok, but no one is – no matter how careful you are.

  34. I grew up in a series of apartment buildings in LA until I was ten. I walked myself about a mile to school, crossing a busy main intersection, by the time I was in 1st grade. I was babysitting my sister by the time I was 8, and letting myself into an empty apartment to wait for my parents to come home from work by the time I was 9. I was quite free range.

    Oh yeah, and I was molested by the “nice old man” next door when I was 5 – several times. He threatened to kill his cute bunny if I told my parents (nice huh?). Eventually I did anyway, and that was an end to that. Another time I had some teenage boys hold a knife to my throat while they teased me about killing the neighbors beagle puppy that I adored. So that should make me a paranoid parent right?

    Guess what. I let my 7 year old son play outside, unsupervised, all the time. He has been allowed to walk 1/2 mile down to a friends house alone without calling to check in (although they knew he was coming, so they would call if he didn’t show up). His favorite place to go is 3 houses down so he can help an “older” (only 55) neighbor with yard work, where he will often be for an hour or more before I see him again. And he goes to a school where they take long walks up and down cliff faces, through areas with rattlesnakes and stinging nettle.

    I’m sure there are those people who would think that means I don’t really care too much what happens to him. They would be so wrong. I love my son more than anything in this world, and if he were to die, I honestly don’t think I could go on. BUT, I made a very conscience decision when he was born to put my own worries and concerns aside, refuse the “bubble wrap” and let him experience life. I’m hoping that he doesn’t have the negative experiences I did, but I’m also aware that to try to protect him from every possible danger would leave him stunted in his emotional growth. I want him to know that there are dangers, but that he can face them and he can rely on himself.

    Oddly enough, it’s my husband, who grew up in a much more “bubble wrap” type of situation, who is the paranoid one where our son is concerned, but even he is starting to loosen up a little. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and plunge into the unknown…

  35. @Gemini, how old are your kids you won’t let out of your sight? My assumption is under 3, but based on the rest of your post, they’re probably teenagers.

    Paranoia about “sickos” doesn’t do you or your kids any good. Take a deep breath, and get real. MOST kidnaps, rapes, and molestations are perpetrated by someone KNOWN to the victim, not a stranger.

  36. I get kids in trouble all the time because I talk to them in concerts and stuff until they’re teasing me and calling me “cucumber face” etc. Then their parents say, “Be quiet!” and make them sit back down, but I’ve never heard a parent get mad at them for talking to a stranger. Just for being too noisy. I think in Utah that’s still okay.

  37. We spent the past weekend visiting my parents in their RV at a KOA. It’s not my favorite way to spend the weekend, though I do enjoy visiting with my parents. Our three-year-old decided that he needed to count the reflectors along the roads, so he and my wife were walking and running around, doing just that. One of the “working campers” (a woman probably in her 50s or 60s) drove a KOA golf cart out to help someone find a site. She stopped by to say hello to our little one, and proceeded to make a “tie” out of some colored ribbon. That made his day, but she said she would be back to feed the trout in the pond, and asked if he would help her.

    Five minutes later, she pulled up and asked if he could ride in her lap in the cart. (We knew that she had also helped check my parents in the day before.) Funny enough, my wife didn’t hesitate to say yes, while I was slightly uneasy about it. We walked over and joined them so we could take photos. He had a wonderful time throwing food in the pond and watching the fish go after it. Then she gave him a ride on the cart around the park. He had a blast, and he talked up a storm, which means he was very comfortable with her. Later she stopped by and gave him a small wooden airplane that she had made. The next morning, she stopped and talked with him for some time, as he was out walking with his mom.

    I suspect that many people would think we were crazy (I know part of me did at the time) for letting him go off with her, despite the fact that she was in our sight the whole time. And, of course, he had no helmet or seat belt while riding the cart. Later that night, we watched some of my parents’ old home videos, including some footage of an uncle pulling out of the driveway in an old model T, and driving down the road. The vehicle was covered in kids hanging on for a ride.

    Later that weekend, we visited the High Desert Museum, near Bend, OR. There is a little play area set up with sand and tunnels, meant to mimic badger tunnels. Our boy was crawling around having a blast, when two other kids came up. They wanted to play in the tunnels, but their mom put a stop to it, because they “would get dirty.” Considering that we had spent the weekend before backpacking, playing in the dirt for three days with no shower, no sink, no running water (and our boy even enjoyed taking a poop in woods), I could only smile at my wife in dismay.

    Why do we do keep from fun? And why, oh why, do I continue to be affected by the fear of abduction with every encounter my kid has with a new adult?

  38. Correction: “Why do we keep kids from having fun?” (A question regarding the mother who didn’t her kids to play in the sand filled tunnels.)

  39. “Gemini, see if there are statistics to back up your point. Remember that most children are taken by parents or people that they know.”

    Not true, not true at all.

    Happily, most children aren’t taken by ANYbody.

    Those children who are reported missing, most of the ones who have been abducted have been taken by their parents. Many are also runaways or “throwaways”, children whose parents *really* don’t care. Or they’re errors – false or double reports.

    And the vast majority of missing children are found safe and sound, very quickly. I just read an article on this, in fact.

  40. Parents are being parents. They want to keep their little miracle by them every second. They want nothing bad to happen to them. It is just over parental control. That is what is needed to change. Sure parents need to keep an eye on their children but they also need to let them grow and look at the world. They just want their little baby to stay with them FOREVER. It is the same story over and over. The parent does not want to let go…

  41. Its a block further to the corner store than it is when my kids walk to school but my husband didn’t want to let them because it was “too far”. But they walked yesterday without incident except the stinkiness of two boys in the hot Texas sun. YAY!

  42. About fifteen years ago in the town where I was living at the time, a jogger (not a child, a 26-year old woman) was assaulted by a stranger and shot dead, in front of witnesses (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/987355.html). Though the newspaper story I was able to pull up doesn’t report this, as I recall it one of those witnesses was a man in a car who pulled up during the attack and offered to let the woman into his car so that she could escape. She declined, presumably because she was panicked and afraid of accepting help from a stranger.

    Obviously those are exceptionally unusual circumstances in which to find oneself, and who knows what they’d do in such a setting? The fault of course lies not with the victim, but with the shooter. That said, it’s a tragic illustration of how not being willing to accept assistance from a stranger — not being able to distinguish between dangerous strangers and helpful strangers — can have (to say the least) serious consequences.

    All friends were strangers once. Teaching our kids how to make friends, that is, how to identify people who can be trusted and welcomed into our lives, seems to me like one of our basic responsibilities as parents.

  43. I live in the north-eastern part of Italy (not a big city), and my children are more in danger of being over-cuddled by strange grannys (they are the most persistent, the rest of the Italian men and women of all ages, however are are force to be reckoned with to).
    You can not go anywhere here without getting attention, compliments, smiles, touching are almost guaranteed and kisses can happen.
    I too a bit of getting used to , but I actually consider it something good, because my children does learn to interact with strangers, smile say ciao and grazie, but they still leave with me……

    What a scary and small world it is if you assume that most strangers are out to hurt you. Learning new ways and different points of views is going to be very diffecault

  44. I’ve had those experiences, sigh.

    On the flip side:

    One day my son and I were driving through Santa Monica, CA. He was about five at the time. We came to a stop light. There was a bus stop right at the corner. A man who was more than a bit worse for wear and who appeared to be homeless was sitting on the bench. My son looked out the window and said, “Hello!” The man looked up, very surprised. He said a soft hello in return. They shared a long smile, and I swear to God, that man started crying. “Thank You Sweetheart. Thank You So Much” he said as we pulled away.

  45. While we may protect our children to some degree by limiting their contact with others, what are we denying them? Some of the most interesting and fascinating people I have ever met would have been unknown to me if my parents or caregivers had denied me opportunites to make acquantinces on my own.

  46. The author of this post was 100% right that people treat children as prized possessions instead of as people.

    Too often we look to our children to be something to help us instead of realizing that we are here to help them. Yes, by all means help them by teaching them how to trust their instincts and how to get out of tricky situations, but don’t teach them to be afraid.

    Kids aren’t figurines that we need to keep on a shelf so they don’t break. And kids aren’t special salad bowls we only pull out on special occasions.

    Kids are people, just like us. Imagine someone putting comparable restrictions on an adult. They’d be sued for violation of their civil liberties. Kids need to be given freedom so they can learn to be self-sufficient adults.

  47. Compared to what I once overheard “someone might take you” sounds pretty tame. I actually heard a parent (or grandparent) in a busy shopping mall say to a child “stay near me or someone will take you”. Now how’s that for instilling fear? I was quite horrified.

    To Gemini, even assuming that our children are in that much danger – and others here have already addressed that – what makes you think you CAN protect them? I think that’s one of the major mommy (and daddy) myths of our time: that we have the ability – if only we try hard enough – to protect our precious little babies from every bad thing that can possibly happen. We don’t. We really don’t. We need to accept that the best we can do is teach them the skills they need and take a deep breath while they go off and … sometimes get hurt.

    I can say this to you with the full confidence of a parent who once had a very close call with her child. I came down to the bottom of my driveway one morning, having had my eyes off my nearly 7 year old for only two minutes while strapping the younger one into a stroller, to find him getting into a stranger’s car. It was awful, the most horrifying thing imaginable. But he got out and he’s safe and it showed that we’d done a terrible job of explaining to him how to tell a safe stranger/behaviour from a dangerous stranger/behaviour (actually it turned out he didn’t even know the correct meaning of the word “stranger”). We’ve corrected – and continue to correct – that oversight and he’s now a little more aware of the possible dangers in the world and how to recognize and deal with them. And two weeks later I told him he could start walking home alone from the school bus stop around the corner. How better to start giving him the practise and confidence in a relatively safe circumstance?

  48. [sarcasm]
    Actually, I have submitted a plan to the House of Commons in the UK, as well as the Congress in the US that essentially provisions each child with their own fully trained special forces operative. That way, when you send out little Timmy to buy milk, any, and I do mean any adult, child, animal, or inanimate object that stands in the way of Timmy accomplishing his mission will be pulverized. Hopefully with the use of tactical missiles strikes to eliminate the risk of collateral damage.

    Of course, everyone knows that a child’s parents are the greatest cause of home-accidents, so children will be removed from their parents in order to safeguard them. We have, for that purpose, began constructing a hermetically sealed facility in the middle of the Atlantic.

    We shall begin processing your children soon!p
    [/sarcasm]

    I think the real solution to this whole problem is just parents spending more time with their children and just trusting your own child’s judgement that you bolster with a few well-placed tips. How else are they going to develop?

  49. I was taught not to talk to strangers, and at 18, in New Orleans at college, someone said “hello” to me on the streetcar and I was so unaccustomed to that behavior that i actually looked at him and said “do I know you?”, and then when he said no I turned away. I’m *still* uncomfortable striking up conversations with random strangers. My 7yo daughter shares none of my discomfort, though… why would I want to pass it onto her?

    How is talking to strangers dangerous anyways? Kids should know that a very few people are not always good, and there are some specific things they should not do: giving out personal information (address, last name), getting into a car with anyone they don’t know, or with *anyone* without permission from a parent. Opening the door for anyone when parents are not home (at certain ages… I expect teenagers to answer the door for their friends, but I do NOT expect my 7 yr old to let a door-to-door sales person in). But how on earth is it “unsafe” to say hello to someone at the park, or ask someone to reach a high-up can in the grocery store? I live in the same world she does, and I seem to be surviving just fine!

  50. I read this yesterday and later came up with some snarky comments when some kid says “you might take me” :

    “Why would I take you? You are expensive and would be too much trouble! You probably don’t eat your veggies, pick on your brother/sister, and still wet the bed. Why would I want the additional trouble?”

    The other night my 2 yr old wanted to walk home from the park. We sent daddy on with the car and the two of us walked home. On the way she said hello to everyone who was sitting out on the front stoop.

    As a few others have noted, I think the fears stem from our fragmented sense of community. We don’t know our neighbors and what is unknown is feared.

  51. This is a little OT, but it’s related to the idea of teaching children to fear everybody.

    When I was a very young kid in the late 60’s/early 70’s, it was somewhat common practice to keep a kid in line in a public place (like a department store) by telling the child, “If you don’t stop that, the lady who works here is going to come over here and make you.” My own mother never did anything so silly — she just expected me to listen to her when she told me something, and mostly it worked, because I wasn’t offered some kind of bogus alternative.

    Anyway, I thought that kind of thing had gone out with the Toni home perm, but imagine my surprise within the last couple of years when I heard a parent pulling that nonsense on her own child.

    Viewed as a one-off thing, it seems relatively benign and isn’t the worst thing a parent can do. But isn’t it just part and parcel of the whole mentality of making your children think every adult is either a dangerous criminal, or an unsavory authority figure who prowls around looking to get you into trouble? Imagine a child who’d been kept in line with “fear of sales ladies” getting lost in the store. Bet he wouldn’t go asking a clerk for help, now would he?

  52. SheWhoPicksUpToys it is like when people tell kids that the cops are going to take them away.

    I was in a pizza place with two younger cousins. The boy was being annoying. I wasn’t in a situation were I could just get up and leave because we were waiting for our ride. (I was 14 or 15).

    I pointed out two officers the only other people in the restaurant and ask what is their job?

    Cousin Protect us

    Me is that a hard job

    Cousin Yes people are mean to them (From TV)

    Me Do you really think they want to listen to you make that noise and me telling you to stop the whole time they are eating lunch?

    Cousin No gets up walks over to the officers and says Sorry for being annoying I’ll stop. (He’s a good kid)

    When I went to the counter to get our Pizza – one of the officers came over and thanked me for not threatening cousin with them. He said almost every day they hear someone threaten some kid with “I’ll have that mean cop take you away”

    My jaw literally dropped. I remember sputtering but then who are they going to ask for help if they are in trouble. Before they left they came over and gave both kids plastic cop badges.

  53. […] Help, Daddy! A Grandma Smiled At Me! Will She Kidnap Me? Hi Free-Rangers! Just though I’d share this little note I got from Australia this morning. Makes you realize […] […]

  54. kids aren’t always going to be with there parents they need to learn how to do kung-fu just kidding they need to learn to fend for themselves.

  55. […] those incidents, it’s easy to understand why this note on the Free Range Kids blog reminded me of myself. I would have totally been the kid afraid of the […]

  56. great post! It’s so bad that some parents are turning their kids asocial and a bit neurotic. I had one friend who lived in a safe neighborhood at the end of a dead-end street. No crime at all nearby. But she wouldn’t open windows, even on nice days, because someone “might reach in and grab one of the kids”. The kids ended up scared of all other people, scared of the dark, scared of anything strange, scared of any changes, and pretty much mal-adapted.

    But heaven forbid we think otherwise or else we’re accused of not “protecting” our kids enough…?!

  57. It’s so true. We are training kids to be afraid of people all the time. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

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