Zingers Needed

Hi Folks! I know, I know — I should have a million by now: Stunning repostes with which to parry fearmongers, who always have “rigtheousness” on their side, as if THEY care and WE don’t. (E.g., “But even if we save ONE LIFE isn’t it worth it?” — a very hard line to respond to without sounding heartless.) Anyway, the fact is: I could always use some more.

Over the weekend I was being interviewed by a radio talk show host who brought up Jaycee Dugard (of course). I said I hoped that parents would not use this incredibly sad but a literally once-in-18-years story to determine how much independence they give their children, and that it doesn’t make sense to try to make a very unlikely event very unlikely because it already is!

The host cut me off, saying, “We hear about abductions EVERY DAY! Don’t tell me they’re not happening more than ever!” And my statistics — which I am endlessly quoting here — simply fell on deaf ears. Like the fact that a child is 40 times more likely to be killed as a car passenger than by a kidnapper — but we still put them in cars. Like the fact there was more crime against adults and kids in the 70s and 80s than there is today (according to actual Bureau of Justice statistics). Like the fact that even the head of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said, as I quote him in my book, “Our message to parents is you don’t have to feel you have to lock your children in a room.” Kids who make their way in the world are more CONFIDENT and confident kids are SAFER! They stand up for themselves!

Anyway, as I said, those didn’t get me very far, or at least not as far as I’d like. So — any other zingers you can come up with to explain why ferrying our children down the driveway to wait in the car for the school bus doesn’t really make them any safer, and, in fact, turns them into timid kids without much common sense? Any arguments that make people realize raising a Free-Range Kid isn’t, “La-di-dah,” parenting but in fact, as someone here once put it, “Independence training”? Love to hear ’em! Love to use ’em! Thanks very much. — Lenore

103 Responses

  1. “I care enough not to overcare.”

    Meaning that part of being a parent is helping your kids develop as independent, self-reliant people, and if you’re always there thinking for them, they’re going to need you for that when they’re 35. Self-reliance is a way of being — and you develop it as a habit. it doesn’t come out of nowhere. You’re helping your son become a person who can do for himself in a way the overmommied children cannot. Which is what being a mother should be, and was, but no longer is, thanks to those who indulge their fears instead of doing their jobs as parents.

  2. By the way, I’m on deadline for my own column now (have till tomorrow, but still…) Always more satisfying to cheat on your own work with other people’s assignments!

  3. I am not too awesome at this either. But one thing I have said to “well-intentioned” safety concerns is, “It’s interesting you think you care more about my kid than I do.”

    I think my husband said to someone (when they asked if something we did was “safe”) – “So next time you drive your kid somewhere can you guarantee someone won’t t-bone the car and kill your child?” I thought that was a bit gruesome… but then, isn’t it kind of gruesome for someone to HINT about some horrible scenario when I say I let my kids walk to the library?

    I look forward to reading more because I find myself tongue-tied on the issue as well.

  4. Get out of the car, walk the neighborhood and meet your neighbors on your kid’s walking route to school.

    Now Breathe, you’ve got a village aware that your kid is walking by to school.

  5. “Right now, you are worried about whether my child is safe enough with a parent like me. That’s why the world is safe–because people like you outnumber criminals.”

  6. “just one life” … hmmm … apply that to automobile deaths. Maybe we should ban cars.

  7. When someone says something similar to me, my response is always the same “I trust my son enough to let him walk on his own”. This usually stuns the other person into silence.

  8. I used my own term describing overbearing school regs as “A pathological obsession with safety” in a letter to the editor of my hometown paper discussing a FRK issue.

  9. The reason the Jaycee Dugard story is so captivating is not because it is so common, but because it is so rare. It is not “dog bites man”. It is not even “man bites dog”. It is “alien from another solar system bites creature from the black lagoon.” Have you ever in your life heard another story like it? No you have not. That indicates how rare it is. Thinking you can guard your child against something that rare is not reasonable. Work on the possible things (auto safety, running with scissors, lawn darts) before worrying about the magnificently impossible things.

  10. I can’t remember where I heard this but ask the person, “What are the names of my children?” A stranger to your family (aka Washington Bureaucrat) can’t answer that and so you quip, “How can you care more than I do about my children if you don’t even know their names?”

    I suppose if you (Lenore) are doing an interview and the person might have the names of your children you could ask about names & birthdates. If a stranger knows those you probably have good reason to launch an investigation.

  11. If not now, when? What age will they be safe to walk alone? Teenaged and adult women are also occasionally the targets of crime. So are teenaged and adult men. Unless anyone is advocating that nobody, anywhere, ever walk alone, kids have to learn how to do it sometime.

    Oh, and a kid who learns to drive at 16 without ever learning to navigate the same streets on foot? That kid will be a *major* hazard to himself and others, because he’s never really been a pedestrian and won’t understand how pedestrians behave. That’s one way independent walking saves lives–it makes a future driver smarter. You can describe independent walking to school as “early driver’s ed,” if that helps the carlovers to accept its necessity.

  12. I always ask them if they are going to let their kids drive when they are 16 (or even 18 or 20). Talk about some scary statistics!

  13. I did not grow up Free-Range, but rather over protected. Once my little sister and I, (I was in high school at the time and she was in Jr. High) got ourselves home from a Saturday school activity when we couldn’t get a hold of our mom on the phone. We just had a friend drive us home. When we got home the doors were locked and no one was home. It was February in Northern Minnesota. I can’t imagine it was more than 5 or 10 degrees F and that’s a generous estimate. We were both in dresses (it was a formal activity) and neither of us had tights or anything. I had a scarf, and we both had gloves, but neither of us had a hat. (So not cool to wear a hat.) We waited outside for our parents to get home for about an hour. We waited in the back yard, because we were too embarrassed to talk to the neighbors, or have them see us and invite us to stay in their house until our parents got home. Had my mom given us a bit more freedom before that day, we probably would have had a house key. And if we didn’t, we would have at least not been afraid to ask the neighbors, who we had met on several occasions. Possibly we would have been more responsible on our wardrobe choices. So, being over protective almost got me frozen to death in my own back yard with friendly, helpful neighbors only a few feet away. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but still.

    Didn’t Jaycee Dugard’s stepdad see the abduction? So what good does it do to wait in the car watching your kid anyway?

  14. I like to quote Bruce Schneier, who is a recognized “guru” when it comes to all things security:

    I tell people that if it’s in the news, don’t worry about it. The very definition of “news” is “something that hardly ever happens.” It’s when something isn’t in the news, when it’s so common that it’s no longer news — car crashes, domestic violence — that you should start worrying.

    http://www.schneier.com/essay-171.html

  15. Get Ben Franklin on them.
    “He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.”
    But really it’s about teaching kids to be smart and self reliant. You don’t just hand your kid a motorcycle. They ride a trike, then a bike with training wheels, then no training wheels. FreeRangeKids isn’t about throwing kids in shark infested waters. And believe me I won’t make THAT mistake again. Just glad I had Roy Sheider with me at the time.

  16. My wife and I made this child…now we are working on making him/her into an adult.

  17. “But even if we save ONE LIFE isn’t it worth it?”

    “Not if you damage A MILLION in order to save that one.”

  18. “Maybe we should ban cars.” I read a number of transit-oriented websites and blogs, and there is a “sub-class” that advocates “auto-free” living. On the other side of the coin, I have written a brief essay on “why the automobile took over local passenger travel.” The “auto-free” folks can be further divided into bicycle advocates, transit boosters, autos-for-special-use only (e.g. Zipcar) and environmentalists who see car users as enemies of the planet. A common theme is “auto-free” discussion is the “hidden subsidies” that encourage car travel: Free parking, artificially low fuel prices (compared to other countries), roads that receive funding from sources other than fuel taxes. Many years ago, after hearing stories of all the wonderful train and tram services in Germany, I interviewed a German consular official in San Francisco, and he described how German driver licensing is much more rigorous than in the US. He also told me how car inspections are very strict; vehicles aren’t allowed to deteriorate into “clunkers”–if they can’t be brought up to standard economically, they’re scrapped. Here in the US, there have been accusations that our legislators receive pressure from the auto industry to keep licensing standards loose so there will be more drivers, and thus more sales.

  19. More…

    They can’t leave the nest if they don’t learn to fly.

    Yes they might get hurt…but likely not injured.

    The purpose of the helmet is to elevate the risk.

    Don’t worry…she’s a free ranger.

  20. I was a free range kid who lived and worked overseas as an adult. Many thanks to my mom for the independence lessons. Free range kids become free range adults.

  21. Oooh, I want a t-shirt that says “Because free-range kids become free-range adults.”

  22. “How do you afford all that fuel for your helicopter?”

  23. Somekindofmuffin I think has the best one:

    “He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.”

    It’s beautifully succinct and completely accurate and who the heck can dispute Ben Franklin? One of our founding fathers had his head on straight (even straighter than some of the other founding fathers).

  24. I always go with some variation of:

    “I didn’t all of a sudden wake up and let her do anything she wants. There have been years of training, one small step at a time, that allow me to know what she is and is not capable of dealing with.”

    No one advocates allowing a child who is unable to care for themselves to be left alone in dangerous situations.

    But just as a learner driver must have a licenced driver with them until they have mastered enough skills not to be a danger to themselves or others, so I have “co-piloted” with my daughter until she has proved she has enough skills to not be in danger by herself in a variety of situations.

  25. Re: the “We hear stories of abductions EVERY DAY!”, one response could be, “No, we hear the *same* abduction stories every day. The number of abductions isn’t increasing; the number of repetitions are.” Or, “Then you must be listening to irresponsible journalists.”

  26. Lenore,

    First I want to say thank you for finally putting words (and hilarious ones at that) to what I have felt for so long. Great book. Love it. Convinced my town library to order a copy. So again, thank you.

    I have not been a mother all that long, my children are 5 and 2, but I am a clinical psychologist who has the regular opportunity to see the devestating (the only word that really fits) impact that highly regulated parenting is having on our children. I sit everyday with teens and twenty somethings who have no sense of who they are. I am not exaggerating-no sense. They don’t understand their emotions. They don’t know how to entertain themselves. They cannot comment on their likes or dislikes. They do not display any sign of awe or wonderment or questioning of anything. And what I am seeing, more and more, is not the same as the flatness that accompanies depression. This is as if somebody stole their soul. I feel somedays like I am in a science fiction movie. This is what I see as the most dangerous outcome to the kind of parenting you are encouraging us to move away from. Forget how stressed out (I have seen more anxiety than ever before), disconnected (think 5 teenagers standing around together, but all either talking to or texting someone else rather than interacting with each other) and branded (if I see one more pair of sweatpants with JUICY across the butt I am going to throw up) this generation is, lets worry most that they have been robbed of the opportunity to develop. Period. How about that for a media headline “Parents beware: 1 in 2 children will have the essence of their being crushed to nothingness by the age of 12”. Okay, maybe a little extreme, but you get my point. Fear of stranger abduction? Maybe we need to take a closer look at who is really doing the abducting all under the guise of loving, devoted parenting.

    Oh and by the way I began my career doing psych evals for the courts, worked in a prison during my doctoral years, and did my postdoc fellowship on the mental health unit of a maximum security prison (working predominantly with sex offenders). In all of this exposure to the criminal mind, I cannot recall a single person that had been the perp in a crime against a child THEY DID NOT KNOW. Oh wait, there was one. He was accused of abducting and murdering two or three little girls-when did these crimes happen? In the 1930’s.

  27. “My wife and I made this child…now we are working on making him/her into an adult.”

    I like this, and it’s the right idea, but probably not zingy enough. I can’t think of anything better however.😦

    “He’s not just a child, he’s an adult-in-training.”
    “Behaving like an adult comes from training, not age.”
    “The adult fairy doesn’t visit you when you turn 18. You have to learn from experience.”

    These are all pretty meh. But I think there’s probably a good zinger in there somewhere using the “adult-in-training” or the “adult fairy” phrases.

  28. There are some pithy ways to illustrate statistics.

    Specifically to the ‘abductions EVERY DAY’ comment:

    One abduction every day is still a one in a million event in America. Worldwide it’s one in 20 million.

    Math snippet: ~300 days per year times 1M = 300M.
    times 20M = 6B

    This idea comes from something I often see in graffiti on my campus: “If you think you’re one in a million there are 1,600 of you in Asia.”

    My pithy response to unsolicited safety advice is usually simple: ‘Did I ask you for your advice? Mind your own business, please.’

  29. My family first moved to suburban Maryland right after the Lyons sisters went missing. Kids told each other the story of how the girls disappeared, and it reinforced the “don’t take rides from strangers” message that our parents were always teaching us.

    I don’t remember any adult telling me about the Lyons sisters. That story was circulated entirely among children.

    You know what else I don’t remember any adult doing? Telling us to stay inside, or refusing to let children go back to the mall. What they did do was more of what they’d been doing; making sure we understood how to pay attention to our surroundings and our instincts, and how to call attention to ourselves and get to safety if we thought we were in danger.

    So what’s the zinger? Maybe something along the lines of “I’m making sure that my child has survival skills no matter who they’re with or where they are.”

    What I really want, now that I think about it, is the nation to be swept by the catchphrase “You’ve been Skenazyed!”

  30. Whoops–just looked it up. “Lyon sisters,” not “Lyons.”

    The other thing that’s remarkable is the lack of distortion among the children telling the story. What I heard from my peers was remarkably close to the official reports and descriptions.

  31. “My, what a scary world you live in!”

    “Because I don’t want him to grow up an idiot.”

    “Well, my theory is, he’ll grow up to be capable and independent-minded, and your overparented kid can serve him french fries.”

    “Eh, he ain’t made of glass” (in response to: “aren’t you go to go supervise your kid on the swingset, so he doesn’t fall off”)

    “Well maybe YOUR kid is dumb enough to get into windowless vans with strangers…”

    “When you were your kid’s age, did YOUR parents do this crap to YOU?”

  32. There are other non-safety issues too

    climate change. Yes they didn’t get abducted but now their planet is wrecked

    obesity. Millions of non exercising fat kids who live sick lives and die early. Great improvement?

    We haven’t gone down this road as far as you in Australia. Let’s hope we don’t. Walking, cycling, scootering are encouraged here but we worry more about road safety than abductions, although kids always try to travel in groups and in sensible hours, of course.

  33. Well, Lenore, you wrote about this in your book, but I think I wrote this article before your original subway article:

    Is Driving Your Kids Around Safer Than Letting Them Roam Outside on Their Own?

  34. @Megan McMahon – Wow, what a powerful testimony. Thank you for writing.

  35. “The host cut me off, saying, “We hear about abductions EVERY DAY! Don’t tell me they’re not happening more than ever!” ”

    Great opportunity to reiterate again:

    “You’re absolutely right — they ARE in the news, but because they’re so uncommon that they make spectacular headlines! (Start back on stats) …”

    Don’t fall back on “zingers” … Those will always seem like weak excuses. Use objections to strengthen and refocus attention on the facts!

  36. The problem is that your (our) philosophy is based on sound reasoning and rational judgment. Taking into consideration the odds and probability that something might happen and weighing that against the impact of protecting against the worse-case.

    That sort of pragmatism can’t ever win, in the battle for public opinion, against the 24-hour media saturated, knee-jerk reactionary, Pollyanna-esque terror parents out there that can justify hour long car lines to pick up kids from school and cutting down old-growth nut trees because someone might get a nut in the pool that might cause an allergic reaction all in the name of protecting our children.

    What I don’t see if why these people don’t apply the same logic to everything in their lives. If the threshold is that any action is justified because it might save a child from being injured, isn’t the logic (or absurd) conclusion that the best way to protect our kids is not to have them.

    Perhaps the answer to the zinger is to have the quick response of “Has it? Has it really?”. Has the helicoptering and the shuttled transport and the boiled toys and the cut down tree and the destruction of imagination really made our children any safer? Have you considered that all your actions have actually done more harm? Gone will be the innovators, gone will be the inventors, gone will be the type A personalities who make things happen. All we will have is a future of kids who don’t know how to pick their own clothes because their parents have always done it.

    Forgive my rant, and let me leave you with this thought. If all the other parents turn their kids into mindless drone, our free-range kids will have lots of people to work for them when they take over😉

  37. I like the “Because Freerange Kids…” But I’m not sure what a Freerange adult is. I mean, I think I do, but I’m not sure it resonates.

    “Because Freerange Kids become Self Sufficient Adults”?

  38. “Kids who make their way in the world are more CONFIDENT…” and have better self esteem–because it is actually based on achievement and not being patted on the back for nothing.

    I think with a comment like you received from the interviewer I’d just have to counter with grounded statistics: (I can’t remember exactly…is it ) 1 in 1.5 million children are abducted. 1 in 4 children suffer from depression by the time they are a teen. What’s the greater risk?

    Independent, confident kids are at a lower risk for depression!

  39. I see what you mean, Rich. How about “Because Free-Range Kids become Responsible, Adventurous, Creative Adults.” Or “Because All Kids Get Older, but Free-Range Kids Actually Grow Up.”

  40. People pay attention to stories over facts. Only about 7% of the population base their view of the world on analysis over emotion . An example was when a jury couldn’t understand DNA evidence over an old glove.

    Some of my favorite personally written sayings are:
    “Paranoid hypochondriacs scare me.”
    “The # of sides to a story = the # of individuals involved X the # the of people told about it + what really happened.”
    “Don’t tell me what can’t be done after I’ve already accomplished it.”
    “We can be too safe by safely living our lives in bomb shelters but drown when the basement they are in floods during a storm.”

  41. For reaching minds that are closed to new ideas you need to appeal to things they already believe in. In Lenore’s example, when the host won’t consider evidence about how dangerous the world is or isn’t, they are closed to debate on that subject. So you can use that belief can breeze past that and change the subject:
    * The world is a dangerous place, so we’re helping kids prepare for it.
    The first part of that sentence they already believe so it gets them to focus on the second part. There may be problems with the first part, but it’s true enough that you can use it to build common ground. Then the conversation becomes not about how to keep kids safe, but rather about how to best prepare them.

    For minds that are open to debate, I like Mr. Icon’s Bruce Schneier quote.

  42. I’m keeping “because dirt washes and bruises heal but learned helplessness leaves permanent scars” handy for when I get grief for letting my 3yo climb stuff at the park.

    But “good judgement only comes from experience, (and experience often comes from bad judgement)” is also a favourite of mine.

  43. “Wouldn’t it be worth it if saves just one life?”

    My response: Wouldn’t it be worth never letting your kids eat lettuce if it saves just one life? Wouldn’t it be worth never letting your kids ride in a car if it would save just one life? Wouldn’t it be worth never letting your kids go to school if it saves just one life?

    As an aside: Is abduction really the primary fear parents who oppose letting kids walk to school or walk to the bus have? Most parents I know have the primary fear of their children getting hit by a car, especially because traffic has certainly increased dramatically since I was a kid (and in the very same neighborhood I grew up in). For instance, when I took my child to her first day of school, I thought other parents at the bust stop were being overly concerned as they complained about the school bus letting kids off on the opposite side of the road on the return home and having them cross the street. But then I saw what they meant on the return home–three cars in a row blew past the outstretched school bus stop sign at top speed, while the bus driver honked at them and they just kept coming. As far as I can tell – traffic – and NOT abduction – is the real concern of most parents when it comes to not letting kids walk alone. And that HAS, unlike abduction, increased statistically since our childhoods.

  44. The other one I use is “Kids bounce.”

    This is in reference to the fact that a kid can run full speed into a wall, fall down, cry, then get up and be fine. If an adult did that, their own momentum can be enough to kill them. Not kids though, they bounce.

  45. For every kidnapped child, 40 are KILLED in a car accident. Do you stop your kid from getting in a car?

    And the kidnapped child? She was kidnapped by a parent of close relative. You kid is SAFER around strangers than he is around your own family.

    Quick. Send him outside to play… where he’ll be SAFE.

  46. I wish I could edit for spelling😦
    That will teach me to surf without the firefox spelling extension.

  47. “But even if we save ONE LIFE isn’t it worth it?”

    “I bet we could save more lives than that by BANNING CARS.”

  48. “Kids who make their way in the world are more CONFIDENT and confident kids are SAFER! They stand up for themselves!”

    Amen sistah! I tell you as soon as my son could pour a glass of milk, or ask for something from the counter person, I was making him do just that, while under my watchful eye. Self respect and willing to do for himself. He is definitely of his own mind and not a clinger.

    I wish more people realized that they are not in control of everything that happens in their lives OR their children’s. And to allow kids the freedom of discovering that. Confidence and self esteem make happier people, children or adults.

    thanks for your commitment to this issue.

  49. Not a zinger, but what about the guy, I forget his name but he’s well-known, who said he’ll only hire first-generation immigrants because they had very busy parents and so had to learn to think and act for themselves?

    Or something like “I make mistakes too, I don’t think that always being involved means my child will always be safer”

  50. The one I frequently use is “Oh, I’m sorry. Are you his momma(daddy)? No? Well, when your name appears on his birth certificate, you can decide how he lives.” Said jokingly with a smile it doesn’t seem to offend people much but gets the point across.

    Growing up down south, the response was always, “Mind your business, please.” I use it mainly on my children but it has put some others in their place.

    I know they don’t specifically deal with FRK but they’re all I got. Hope they help.

  51. BTW – I love Q’s response about FRK ‘s actually growing up. Priceless!

  52. To make things even more grisly, I believe that even in the news there are more reports of children dying at a parent’s hand than children being kidnapped.

    I don’t suppose that would make you any friends.

    However, I’d say that any host that starts a sentence with “Don’t tell me that…” doesn’t actually want to talk to you. I suppose the only thing you can say to that would be “OK, it’s your show. I won’t tell you that child abductions are happening less than ever. And I won’t tell you that crimes against children and adults have decreased since the 70’s and 80’s. And I certainly won’t tell you that your child is forty times more likely to die in a car than be kidnapped…”

  53. attributed to Jonas Salk: “Good parents give their children roots and wings. Roots to know where home is, wings to fly away and exercise what’s been taught to them.”

    So I always tell them I’m giving my children their wings and teaching them to fly!

  54. Help! How about the fact that I live in a town of 2000 people and we have to walk over to the teacher on the playground so they can hand off my children to me. They are no longer allowed to simply walk to the corner of the playground (all fenced) and to my awaiting car parked on the corner. Did I mention I live in a town of 2000 where the graduating classes number 40-50? Did I mention I usually have two little ones asleep at that time of day in the van taking their nap (7 mths old and 3) and they expect me to take them out , wake them up to get my children. Who by the way have managed to walk to my car safely for years now. I have a 6, 7 and 10 year old at this school and a 14 year old who walked to the car all the years he went too. Yikes. How do I deal with this new principal?

  55. I like to tell people that “my mom told me not to climb on the counter because I would fall off and bite through my lip. Guess what? I did, and I did, and I did. But from then on, when mom told me not to do something, I thought there might be a reason”

    PS – little brother never did climb on that counter.

  56. To point out how unlikely abductions are, I would ask a person to name two abduction cases from the same city in the last 10 years. This is especially easy for me because I can’t even think of ONE actual stranger abduction that happened in my city in the last 10 years. However, I unfortunately can think of dozens and dozens of parents who killed their own children in that same amount of time.

  57. So many good ideas! I’ve found no one buys the statistic that kids are mostly molested/abducted/killed by people they know. Not sure why. So I just shrug and say “I spent 72/38/46 hours in active labor attempting to birth these people. I’m pretty that makes me the one who gets to decide what is safe for them and what isn’t.”

  58. “And if you locked your child in a padded room and made him wear a helmet all day long, he’d be really safe. But then people would think that you were a child abuser.”

    “Isn’t a little creepy to keep kids locked up all the time? You know, like Jaycee Dugard’s kidnapper did?”

    “Forty-five people a year die in Thanksgiving turkey-related accidents. Clearly, we need to ban Thanksgiving.”

  59. Hi Lenore,
    There are so many great comments in here, especially the one from Megan McMahon (the clinical psychologist), that I just had to post about it to my blog – here’s the link if you would like to check it out: http://stoneagetechie.blogspot.com/2009/09/free-range-justification.html

    Thanks as always for your free-range ideas!

  60. Tricia – I solve this problem by leaving my sleeping guys within eyesight but in the locked van. Either way i am a horrible parent, right? : )

    And I usually just stare blankly at someone sticking their nose in my or my kids’ business, so I am no use whatsoever, Lenore. Sorry : )

  61. Now THAT is the quote I want to see on a t-shirt, Q…”All kids get older, but Free-Range Kids actually grow up.” LOVE IT!!!

    I can think of one excellent example of a now-adult kid who would have benefitted immensely from a little less parental protection on the part of her mother, who was a very good friend of mine. (I have no idea what role her father played in her downfall, as he was long since out of the picture by the time I met them.) The first time I met “L” was when she stopped by to visit her mother, “B”, where we worked. “B” was my 50-ish year old supervisor at a crappy job with even crappier pay–waaaaaay less than $20K per year–and had multiple health issues, including insulin-dependent diabetes, failing kidneys and a bad heart. She was also paying insane rent, cooking, cleaning and caring for her elderly, semi-invalid mother, in addition to paying two car loans and car insurance payments every month. “L” on the other hand was my age, pulling down something over $32K per year (“B” told me…she was very proud of her daughter,) while living rent-free with her mother and refusing to even contribute a few bucks every now and then to help buy food or pay their rent or utility bills. “B” drove a beat up old station wagon that guzzled gas and broke down frequently. “L” drove a brand new car and was constantly going out and partying with her friends.

    I can’t tell you how many times I had to walk away from “B” in the middle of a conversation, just because it was the only way I could possibly stop myself from either going off on a rant about her lazy, self-absorbed, spoiled brat of an “adult” daughter, or smacking “B” in the back of the head to try and knock some sense into her. She honestly thought she was helping “L” by never making her lift a finger to do anything for herself.

    If “L” hadn’t already met her fiance and moved in with him by the time “B” passed away about a year and a half ago, I am convinced that she would have had a complete breakdown the moment she realized how much of a burden she’d allowed her mother to carry on her behalf for all those years…or at least, the moment she realized that she was going to have to start doing everything for herself.

    I challenge any helicopter parent to tell me that’s the kind of shock they’d want their over-protected kids to experience if they were to suddenly drop dead one day.

  62. Some of Paul Souders’ zingers are LOL funny.
    “My, what a scary world you live in!”
    “Because I don’t want him to grow up an idiot.”
    “When you were your kid’s age, did YOUR parents do this crap to YOU?”

    As I read these zingers all I could think of was,
    Teaching my kid to be confident is cheaper than the binding him in bubble wrap.

  63. I think Joe has the best zinger: “How do you afford all that fuel for your helicopter?”🙂

  64. To my Christian friends I could say the following (in love of course!):

    Thinking YOU’RE in control is a form of self-idolatry, which definitely violates the First Commandment.

    Or, just to be flip, Doesn’t the Bible say to Free the Captives?

  65. along the same lines as Krista:

    “But even if we save ONE LIFE isn’t it worth it?”

    “But what about the future lives you are making worse (or substitute in “destroying” to make it sound more harsh) by not allowing your children to develop properly? You are sacrificing the future of all of these children just for the safety of possibly one.”

  66. In response to the question “But even if it would save one life, wouldn’t it be worth it?” I simply answer, “No”. You can pick up the conversation after they get their jaw off the ground.

  67. I asked my 15yo daughter about this on the way to school this morning. An oddity for sure, because normally at that time of day we are a good 15 miles apart and getting further, me on my way to work, and her on her way to school.

    But there we were. Her response?

    “Mind your own Business”

    LOL.

    But when I pushed her she said:

    “II didn’t learn to tie my shoes by having someone do it for me, I learned it by having someone SHOW me how to do it, just like you SHOWED me how to be safe before you trusted me to be safe alone.”

  68. In response to “Don’t tell me….”, how about, if you don’t mind me lying, I’m happy to agree with you.

  69. “My job as a PARENT is to teach them to be fully functioning members of society. I don’t worry as much because I am confident that I am doing my job and confident that my children are smart and capable. If you are that worried about your children, maybe its time to re-evaluate how you are teaching them.”

    “I’m a parent, not a warden.”

    In response to the question “But even if it would save one life, wouldn’t it be worth it?” …
    “No, I beleive in the Greatest Amount of Good for the Greatest Amount of People. Smothering millions, and making them incapable or fearful does not benefit society as a whole. One life is not worth the price paid by a society held hostage by fear.”

  70. I have a little mantra from “Playful Parenting” that I have to recite to myself on the playground (this free-range stuff doesn’t come naturally to me): “Timidity is a lot more difficult to heal than a broken arm.”

  71. In general, I go back to basics: “Wow, that was incredibly stupid. I cannot believe you just said something so dumb.”

    In that case, you might have been more specific: “Are you done interrupting me? I don’t think I’m getting paid enough to sit here, be interrupted, and be told that you would rather be ignorant than to get or use the facts available. Bye!”

  72. I’m raising Adults, If you want the end product of your labors to be perpetual children, then carry on as you have been.

  73. Lenore, I think your “frozen chicken” makes a great zinger: should we all be taking precautions to make sure it doesn’t happen to us, or to our children?

    It might be a good idea to gather a few more like that. There are a number of bowling-related injuries reported every year (find the number): should we ban bowling?

    A number of your “comments” focus on cars, and that’s where I always like to take the discussion. Rush Limbaugh–who is a master of entertainment, whatever you think of his politics–did a hysterical and long-running gag of starting a group to ban soccer. It was called Keep Our Own Kids Safe (“kooks”). I would love to see you turn to your interviewer and have a dialogue like this:

    “As long as it saves the life of one child, any restriction is a good idea. Is that right? Well then, I know you’ll support my new proposal to ban all children from riding in cars under any circumstances. There is one exception, because I’m an eminently reasonable woman: you can take a child to the emergency room if necessary. But that’s all. Schools will have to be built within easy walking distance of homes (chaperoned walking, of course). If Mom wants to go shopping, she has to find a baby-sitter rather than take her kids to the store with her. Of course, that would be inconvenient. But IT WOULD SAVE THE LIVES OF INNOCENT CHILDREN. Last I looked, motor vehicles were responsible for about 60% of accidental child deaths. But let’s not talk about statistics. Let’s talk about one sweet, innocent child, who might have grown up to be a doctor or lawyer, and whose mother loved him, and who is dead because parents are allowed to put their children in cars ANY OLD TIME THEY WANT TO, even just for something as frivolous as a playground…are you with me yet? Ready to ban all children in cars yet? Well, why the hell not?”

  74. “Jaycee’s dad was there. So will you shackle your child to you?”

    I know free ranging is hard, but many of the best things people do are hard…

  75. “Why are you _so_ obsessed with abduction? Who’s in your backyard?”

  76. I read this somewhere and it’s not a bad response to the “If it saves ONE kid, isn’t it worth it?” argument:

    “Kids with no street smarts make perfect victims.”

    When I was a kid, I was a complete tomboy and romped around with more boys than girls. This meant skinned knees and ripped fingernails from seeing who could climb the highest on the giant ash tree in the front yard, the occasional bruise from a raucous game of king of the hill, or a bit of torn clothing from football (tackle football, mostly – tag seemed like wimping out). When I was around 10 or 11, one of my aunts came to visit from the Philippines and was horrified to see me running around like a little hoyden. When she tried to tell my dad that I shouldn’t be playing like that with boys because I might get hurt, he said, “Why not? She’s learning how to take care of herself and frankly, I’m more worried about what she’s going to do to any boy who tries to mess with her when she gets older!” My dad wasn’t exactly the best parent, but I’ll always love him for that.

  77. Not exactly a zinger, but some good statistics. I came across this Fact Sheet on the National Safety Council website today.
    http://www.nsc.org/resources/issues/factsheet.aspx

    It’s about using your cell phone while driving…guilty.

    Some of the statistics…

    Cell phone use contributes to an estimated 6 percent of all crashes, which equates to 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries and 2,600 deaths each year. (Harvard Center of Risk Analysis). My note…there’s 2,600 lives (not just one) that could be saved.

    There is no difference in the cognitive distraction between hand-held and hands-free devices. (Simulator studies at the U. of Utah.) My note…this is REALLY scary!

  78. What I didn’t have time to write earlier: The interviewer in question is trying to demonize you and make the argument emotional instead of rational.

    Turn the tables.

    Show that his thinking is perverse, sick and morbid. Insinuate that he obsesses on them because they fascinate him. Question his morality and fitness as a parent or caregiver since he’s so riveted by those events, sad and tragic though they may be.

  79. A response to: “But even if we save ONE LIFE isn’t it worth it?”

    If it means we end up with a million children growing up afraid of everything and with an inability to deal with life on their own, it isn’t worth it at all.

  80. “A life is only saved if it is worth living.”

    “I am sure my children will benefit greatly from your child’s inexperience and timidity.”

    “It’s a shame that the only thing some people have as a claim to fame is their sense of outrage.”

  81. Megan: You might already be familiar with this quote from Alfie Kohn, but if not, I think it would resonate with you:

    START QUOTE:
    A number of years ago, I wrote about an experience I had while addressing the entire student body and faculty of one of the country’s most elite prep schools. I spoke, by coincidence, during the cruelest week in April, when the seniors were receiving their college acceptances and rejections. I talked to them about the implications of the race they had joined. For many of these teenagers, it was no longer necessary for parents to stand behind them with a carrot or a stick: each had come to internalize this quest and see his or her childhood as one long period of getting ready. They were joining clubs without enthusiasm because they thought membership would look impressive. They were ignoring – or perhaps, by now, even forgetting – what they enjoyed doing. They were asking teachers, “Do we need to know this?” and grimly trying to squeeze out another few points on the G.P.A. or the SAT, in the process losing sleep, losing friends, losing perspective. Many of them may have been desperately unhappy, filled with anxiety and self-doubt. Some of them may have had eating disorders, substance abuse problems, even suicidal thoughts. They might have gone into therapy except they had no spare time.*

    None of this was a secret to these students, but what few realized was that the process wouldn’t end once they finally got to college. This straining toward the future, this poisonous assumption that the value of everything is solely a function of its contribution to something that may come later — it would start all over again in September of their first year away from home. They’d scan the catalogue for college courses that promised easy A’s, sign up for new extracurriculars to round out their resumes, and react with gratitude (rather than outrage) when a professor told them exactly what they would have to know for the exam so they could ignore everything else. They’d define themselves as pre-med, pre-law, pre-business — the prefix pre- signifying that nothing they were doing had any intrinsic significance.

    Nor would this mode of existence end at college graduation. The horizon never comes any closer. They would have to struggle for the next set of rewards in order to snag the best residencies, the choicest clerkships, the fast-track positions in the corporate world. Then would follow the most prestigious appointments, partnerships, vice-presidencies, and so on, working harder, nose stuck into the future, ever more frantic. . . until, perhaps, they might wake up one night in a tastefully appointed bedroom to discover that their lives were mostly gone.

    And those are just the successful students.

    These are the sorts of things I said to this prep school audience, sweating profusely by now and sounding, I began to fear, like a TV evangelist. But I felt I also needed to offer a message for the teachers and any parents who were present. If you know from experience what I’m talking about, I said, then your job is to tell these kids what you know and help them understand the costs of this pursuit – rather than propelling them along faster. They need a cautionary view about what is threatening to take over their lives far more than they need another tip about how to burnish a college application or another reminder about the importance of a test.

    When I finally finished speaking, I looked into the audience and saw a well-dressed boy of about 16 signaling me from the balcony. “You’re telling us not to just get in a race for the traditional rewards,” he said. “But what else is there?”

    It takes a lot to render me speechless, but I stood on that stage clutching my microphone for a few moments and just stared. This was probably the most depressing question I have ever been asked. This young man was, I guessed, enviably successful by conventional standards, headed for even greater glories, and there was a large hole where his soul should have been. It was not a question to be answered (although I fumbled my way through a response) so much as an indictment of college prep and the resulting attenuation of values that was far more scathing than any argument I could have offered.
    END QUOTE

  82. Chris M: There’s a legendary classist and classless cheer that was used when the school from the wrong side of the tracks scored against the school from the right side of the tracks:

    “That’s all right, that’s OK,
    you’ll be working for US one day!”

    I don’t think, though, that your typical grown-up FRK would find it very fulfilling to micromanage a bunch of workers who can only do what they’re told, exactly. It might be exhilarating at first, but it would soon become exhausting; your job would consist of constantly putting out fires, and your organization would be barely accomplishing anything.

    Since helicopter parenting seems to be largely a white middle-class suburban phenomenon, I can see kids with less privileged backgrounds taking on an increasing proportion of society’s leadership roles simply because their parents couldn’t afford to stunt their development. I can see plenty of fireworks resulting from this, but it might turn out to be an example of “creative destruction.”

  83. Dot Khan: Seen on a “designated graffiti wall” 35 years ago: “Help! The paranoids are after me!”

    the Rebbetzin: When it comes to sexual abuse, the news coverage is all about strangers and never about domestic cases because it’s just about impossible to do a story about a domestic child sexual abuse incident without revealing the victim’s identity. Also, of course, the real truth (that most kids who are raped or otherwise abused suffered at the hands of those closest to them) is too horrible to contemplate, so we naturally try to shift the blame to The Other. Furthermore, since 70% of CSA is committed by someone in an authority relationship to the child, teaching kids how to protect themselves against abuse conflicts with the goal of teaching themselves to obey authority unquestioningly. Finally, our tendency to demonize child sexual abusers as “monsters” or “creatures” rather than human beings leads us to assume that if someone comes off to us as a human rather than a demon, they must be safe with kids. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  84. Well, I usually reply “SOME time will have to be the FIRST time your kid does such-and-such”, and then I say that the trick is to do it progressively, anticipating probable setbacks (or the ones you are paranoid about – I´m afraid my kids are developing MY fear of heights!!) and telling your kid how to handle them. And so, the sooner you start, the better. For example, as soon as a child starts talking intelligibly, teach them how to communicat to people other than yourself. As simple as teaching them to say “good morning” when they walk in a lift or a shop…
    The thing is, it IS scary. There´s nowhere around it. You have to trust your little, cute, harmless and helpless kid. And trust those around you, which is scarier. And people are just not willing to do their duty as parents because it is hard, tiring, unpleasant and scary. They didn´t sign up for that. All they wanted was to have a cute human pet with which to “experiment parenthood”. But they found themselves with a human being, with no user´s manual, who thinks for himself and has the holy right to – how do you Americans put it? – “life liberty and the pursue of happiness”.

  85. “But even if we save ONE LIFE isn’t it worth it?”

    ~40,000 people die in car accidents every year. We could reduce that number by 50% or more if we reduced the nation speed limit to 30mph. We could reduce it 99% if we lowered the national speed limit to 5mph. That would save 39,600 lives!

    If you don’t support a 5mph speed limit — then you must be supporting 40,000 deaths as a reasonable cost to support your behavior.

  86. Hi Lenore:

    I have loved your writing in The Funny Times for years, but I didn’t realize that you were the person who let her kid ride the subway until the most recent issue of TFT. Thanks a ton for your work there and here at FRK.

    Sorry, I don’t have any good zingers. I’m struggling with letting my kids go free-range. I’m still hovering over my 6 year old all the time. I think I’ll learn, but it may take some time and effort.

    Todd

  87. I always say “If I have to worry about my kid being abducted, then I’m living in the wrong town.”

  88. I blame the Iraq war on Bush’s pandering to people who had a pathological obsession with safety.

    If we raise our kids to put safety above all else, we’ll raise a generation that wants to drive big SUVs and Hummers for safety’s sake, which will mean more carbon in the atmosphere and more young soldiers coming home from the oil wars in body bags.

    If we raise our kids to put their personal safety above all else, we’ll raise a generation that will be silent when the Jews are sent to the gas chambers. It will be a generation that will stay home when people in the south are marching for their civil rights, or when their grandparents are sent to meet the death panels at their local hospitals.

  89. […] are some zingers that I posted for Lenore Skenazy to use. She asked for some for her ammo bag to be used on occasions when people say, “But […]

  90. My kid has a 1 in a million chance of being kidnapped and murdered if I don’t indoctrinate him into hysterical terror and lock him in a closet. He has a 1 in a million chance of being kidnapped and murdered if I do indoctrinate him into hysterical terror and lock him in a closet. If I raise him to be capable, confident, and adventurous he has a far greater chance of success by any measure. Gaming his happiness and success in life against a one in a million chance who’s odds I can’t really influence through personal intervention is like buying him a lottery ticket every day instead of saving for college. What is really more irresponsible?

  91. “But even if we save ONE LIFE isn’t it worth it?”

    “Nope. Because society as we know it would come to a screeching halt.”

  92. I would say that your child only has a child is far more likely to be attacked by someone known and trusted by the parents themselves, as is reflected in these media news stories. So really, you should just never introduce your kids to any family or friends.

    There was a great South Park episode about this where the parents of South Park become obsessed with stranger danger, and then when they find out kids are most often abducted by family, friends, or their own parents, the kids are all kicked out of their homes and out of town in order to “protect them.”

    Love your work, Lenore! i was a free range kid whose parents let her on the Boston MBTA as a kid too, and know I’m an adult whose traveled the world and who feels confident to handle difficult situations.

  93. When my daughter complained about being ‘freed’ a bit(i.e. required to do her own laundry) I told her this story:

    Years ago, three girls went to collage and became roomates. At the end of the first week, they needed to do their laundry. Two of them went and did it, no problem. The other dithered around and finally admitted that she had never done laundry and did not know how.
    Her friends told her that it was simple, just seperate the whites and the colors and throw ’em in the washer with some soap. simple.
    Then they left.
    When they got back the poor girl was in tears, surrounded by piles of laundry. She sobbed that she couldn’t figure out if the red-and-white striped shirt was a ‘white’ or a ‘red’ and that she didn’t know what to do with the blue and yellow dotted skirt.

    I told my daughter that someday something like that will happen to you. I want you to be one of the roommates, not the girl sobbing on the floor.

  94. Ask 50 people if they’ve ever been in any kind of car accident (even if they were passengers, and regardless of who is at fault). If any of them answer “no,” ask them if they know anyone who has (again, even as passengers). How many (each accident counts as one, even if you know four people that were in a given accident)?

    Now, ask if you’ve ever been abducted or personally know someone who was or who had their child/grandchild abducted. How about sexually assaulted/molested? If any answer yes, was it by a stranger…or someone you/they knew?

    I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that there will be far more people that will answer yes to having been in, or knowing someone that was in, a car accident, and those that can answer yes to the abduction and molestation questions will also most likely answer that they/the victim knew the person.

    Chances are, nearly everyone either has been in a car accident or personally knows someone who has. Perhaps some of them even know one or more people who have died in a car accident. As others have asked, should we ban cars, then? If pure numbers don’t get through their skulls, consider a more personal, easily-relatable approach.

  95. alexander.from.OR wrote on Sep 14, 2009 1:01 PM:

    ” I just googled “Student killed while riding bike to school,” with 44,700 results.

    Then I typed “student killed while driving to school,” yielding 694,000 results.

    Finally, I typed, “the value of anecdotal evidence over critical thinking, community involvement and the freedom of choice,” and walked away. ”

    That came from the comments on the Saratogan newspaper site, re: the danger of kids getting to bike to school.

  96. From my husband: “Because my kids deserve a life too”.

  97. the best blog in net:)

  98. “You can have the same abduction in the news for weeks, but that doesn’t make it common. And you hardly ever hear reports about car crashes on TV: does that mean they don’t exist?”

  99. Probably not for most of you, and certainly not to a reporter: but “He’s my third born. I love him a little less” came out of my mouth recently. Sometimes, a stupid question deserves a stupid answer.

  100. I know I”m late… but isn’t the job of a parent to eventually parent themselves out of a job? You’re supposed to raise your kids so they don’t need you anymore.

  101. Lenore,

    When you respond to someone’s accusation, HOW you respond may be more important than what you say.

    I’m thinking a long pause first… followed by a long, hard, look at the accuser would be effective before a slow, carefully stated answer. The first line could start with a statistic that couldn’t be argued with and a question back to the accuser to highlight the truth of what you just said. Then fill in with details.

    You’ve certainly gotten a lot of good material in this group of comments. And I know you already know a lot of great stats. Keep up the good work!

  102. Some friends of mine put it best:

    Doctor’s bills are cheaper than Psychiatrist’s bills.

  103. Give them a blank look, and say

    “So… You make your kids safe by teaching them to be helpless? You honestly believe that making kids into victims makes them safe? Honey, you might wanna go find your brain and stick it back in your head, it’s embarrassing to watch you be this stupid”

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