Boy Ticketed for Climbing a Tree — But This is NOT Our “Outrage of the Week”

So here’s the story, as reported in The Daily Mail: A 9-year-old boy from Germany visits his five cousins in England. They go to a park, the boy climbs a tree, a neighbor complains that the kids are being rowdy, the tree-climber gets a ticket.

It’s crazy to ticket a boy for climing a tree. But I have to say, while I would normally make this an “Outrage of the Week!” the boy’s dad  blew it for me by saying that now his son will be too scared to come back to England.

The whole problem with the world today (since you asked) is seen here twice. What is it? OVER-REACTING! The police over-reacted to a boy in a tree by giving him a ticket, for gosh sakes. But the dad is over-reacting, too, as if this one weird incident is going to traumatize his son for life. Let’s give a little credit to human resiliency, shall we? This will be a strange memory and possibly, in time,  a treasured family story. It’s not a plane crash.


Remembering that kids are resilient is KEY to raising a Free-Range Kid. If every sad, scary, or just plain screwed up event is seen as permanently scarring — or cause for a law suit — there’s no way we could let children do anything on their own. We’d have to HELICOPTER around, making sure everything is perfectly fine, all the time.

The world is not perfectly fine. We are babies, and we treat our kids like babies, when we insist it has to be. For the dad and the policeman I have one suggestion: 

Go climb a tree! — Lenore

23 Responses

  1. Gah! We were in Germany when our kids were 9 and 11 or so and visited an old lady who actually asked them to climb her cherry tree and pick the cherries. Unfortunately the wasps had been first.

  2. Seriously, I have the best photos of my kids climbing trees on our recent camping trip. I was the mother at the foot of the tree (camera in hand) calling out to them to get higher, telling them not to worry, that bending branch would hold them…….funny! Needless to say, we have great photos, my kids had a ball and now they eye up every tree in an effort to find the best one to climb.

    I, like many other children (now adults), fell down the stairs and broke my arm in a few places. Did it make me scared of the stairs………NOT AT ALL. I’ve climbed them successfully for the past 33 years of my life and will continue to do so. Something tells me, the tree climbing experience will not affect this boys love or curiosity of England. For goodness sakes.

    Lastly, to the ‘concerned’ neighbour who reported this extreme act of FUN. May I politely suggest that you close your curtains and remain safe whilst the rest of us wild and crazy folk enjoy life to the fullest!!!!!!!!

  3. This is the first I have heard of these blue tickets. Seems the neighbour and the police haven’t got anything better to do.

    But dad seems to have over reacted too.

  4. If something that mild traumatizes him for life, poor kid has a lot of other problems. Certainly the father has one if he thinks it’s that big of a deal.

    I want my kids climbing trees. I expect to occasionally have consequences. Best way to learn to deal with adversity is to face it, small ways first. If you’re told you should crumble and be traumatized so easily, that’s what you’re going to do.

  5. Everyone knows that climbing trees leads to confidence, confidence leads to self assurance and self assurance leads to happiness. And happy people lead to world peace and global kindness.

    We. Can’t. Have. That.

    Can we?

  6. OMG Lenore … don’t you know how DANGEROUS helicopters can be? 😉

  7. What a study in over-reactions. The neighbor overreacted. Sheesh, kids deserve to be able to play outside, especially in public areas! (Reminds me of a situation in Alexandria, VA with a man who’d bought a townhouse in a new development and began objecting to the playing fields of the schools nearby. Claimed too much noise. Boo-hoo. At least one lawsuit over that.)

    The scarier story out of the UK (also in the Mail) is that of a father beaten into a coma after having words with a neighbor about his kids playing outside in their own yard. The neighbor’s son and some friends showed up and beat him and beat him.

    Violence because kids are outside playing and being normal??

    Lot of people seem to be losing their minds.

  8. TWo things to point out – the use of the term “ticket” is misleading. The boy was given a “stop and account” form. It’s a form police and PCSOs are required to provide to someone they’ve stopped that provides the person stopped with details about the officer and the reason they were spoken to. It is supposed to be a form that makes the PCSO accountable for his/her actions in stopping someone. It’s not any sort of sanction against the person it’s given to.

    Secondly the PCSO isn’t a police officer. A PCSO is a volunteer Police Community Support Officer – this is a volunteer position it is not the same thing as a Police Constable.

    Having said all that – it’s still a matter of someone in a uniform telling kids off for playing in a park. And that sucks.

  9. Le sigh; the kid wasn’t given a ticket, as the article quite clearly states. The kid was given a talking-to, and then the not-quite-police-officer (A PCSO does not have police powers; they’re basically there to handle calls like the neighbour’s) hands him a form that basically says “You were warned.”

    As annoying as I find PCSOs in theory to be, in practise, it seems like this one did what most Free-Rangers would want a police-ish officer to do, namely judge that the situation didn’t warrant any serious action and move on. Sadly, the bureaucracy required him to give the kid some pointless paperwork, but if the kid’s going to be traumatized by pointless paperwork, well, they’d better find a long-term care facility for him now, because modern life will be completely impossible.

  10. What, you mean every tiny thing we do to our kids DOESN’T scar them for life?

    Isn’t that the take home message from all of this over protectiveness? Surround your child with pillows and build him his own little force field, ’cause that’s the only way he’ll survive to be an adult with all of his precious little egos intact.

  11. Gah, sniped by Helen! Thanks for clarifying things. 🙂

  12. Man oh man Lenore, you’re good!!! That’s exactly right. It’s what we’re supposed to train our children out of right? The whole, “well, if you can’t play my way then we can’t play at all” mentality.

    Your blog is such a breath of sanity for me!

  13. Thanks for this reminder that we need to relax and trust our kids’ abilities to handle obnoxious authority figures just like we trust their abilities to go climb a tree.

  14. All our kids’ worst accidents have happened at the dinner table (a broken arm and a chopped off finger).
    We still eat dinner.
    Every night.

  15. Seems like everyone involved needs to get a sense of proportion.

  16. I was ticketed for jaywalking once. It was 4am downtown and there was NO traffic anywhere, except my dad’s car. He was dropping me off. I was a teen and was terrifed to be approached by the officer but my dad was cracking up. Seriously, even the cop started laughing because my dad couldn’t stop. I was not traumatized and it’s a story told often in my family. I’m known as the criminal or the black sheep of the family, haha. Sounds like this dad needs to take a lesson from my dad that life is not that serious. Lighten up!

  17. “Remembering that kids are resilient is KEY to raising a Free-Range Kid.”

    This is precisely true. I also remember the few times in my childhood when some authority did some silly thing like this and my parents objected. They didn’t do it often and they didn’t coddle me as if what happened was some TRAUMA (obviously there are traumatic things that happen to kids – a PCSO telling you to get out of a tree, not so much).

    Having parents stick up for me, while not making a huge drama out of it, taught me a lot; namely, 1. that my parents noticed what happened in my life, 2. they trusted me to be OK even when I was treated unfairly, and 3. there WERE injustices out there so watch out and raise your voice when they happen!

    Like most parents I hate to see my kids treated unfairly. However I believe if I was to make a big siren noise about it every time I’d be teaching my kids a series of not so great lessons.

  18. Let me get this straight:

    * Grouchy neighbor is bothered by noisy kids in a tree in a park and calls the police
    * A “community police” officer tells the kids it would be better to play farther away from the grouch’s; he’s required to leave them with a form that states he talked with them, in case they want to bring it up with his supervisors.
    * The kid’s father makes a big deal out of this in an UK tabloid article, feels his son is traumatized for life
    * The Mail writes a sensational article about a German kid receiving a “blue warning ticket” whilst on holidays
    * Lenore scans the headline and posts an outraged article about “boy getting ticketed for climbing on a tree”
    * I feel compelled to comment on this

    It seems the only person not overreacting was the volunteer cop.

    BTW, I used to climb tall trees too as a kid. And, when in company of my buddies, we could be obnoxious to people passing by from our safety up high. No one called the cops on us, AFAIK, though.

  19. I’ll admit, I didn’t read the article linked. But I’m gathering from the comments here that this seems to be an instance where Lenore either needs to read more carefully or is intentionally trying to misrepresent things in order to garner outrage and further the Free Range Cause. And this is not the first post which after looking through the comments it’s seemed that way. If the reason is needing to read more carefully, I’m not sure what to say other than please read more carefully. If the reason is that this is an intentional tactic, I think a different tactic should be employed. Misrepresenting and overreacting to things like this isn’t going to further this cause. When you do that, you’re basically just acting like the helicopter parents you preach against.

  20. More head-shaking silliness from “the adults in charge.” What has happened to our supposed adults? I had a co-worker who went on vacation to a seaside hotel in the U.S. and complained bitterly to management that the kids below were making too much noise to sleep.

    The devil is in the details, of course: The “kids” were college-age students playing beach volleyball on the beach adjacent to the hotel. It was the middle of the day. The kids were NOT drinking alcohol.

    Yet my co-worker complained to hotel management because the noise was prohibiting him and his wife from taking a mid-day nap.

    My colleagues were both amused and flabberagasted as our co-worker related this tale to us with a deep sense of outrage. For the record, the hotel owner laughed him away, pointing out that “beach volleyball is often played on a beach.”

    P.S. – No, my co-worker did not get his much sought-after refund or reduction in rate.

  21. Now THAT is comedy. You’re totally right, though. Its a sad and sorted state of affairs.

  22. Just when I thought I’ve heard it all! Wow, what to do, what to do. . .

  23. Sadly enough, we must keep in mind where this took place – the UK, where the socialist nanny state is in charge and common sense doesn’t apply. We can do nothing to change the laws or customs of other countries, but we can make sure that such displays of ridiculousness don’t occur here in America. And, given the overbearing laws in England, I don’t blame the kid for not wanting to go back. It’s confusing to a kid when the laws are so arbitrary and capricious that he is criminalized for doing something perfectly normal in his own country, let alone any civilized society.

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