Outrage of the Day: Dad Faces Legal Action for Not Walking 7 y.o. to Bus Stop

Hi Readers! Here’s today’s story from across the pond (thank you, Virtual Linguist, for sending it along): A father who lets his 7 year old daughter walk to and from the school bus stop has been threatened by the authorities who say they may report him to child protective services. And just how far away is the bus stop?

20 yards.

The girl has to cross what the dad calls a country lane on the way. He thinks it’s very safe. He thinks his daughter is capable of handling it. But apparently, the local county council does not. And while it was busy chastising him, it added that the girl was seen not wearing a sweater (or “jumper” as they call it over there) on a chilly day — further proof of gross parental negligence.

So I guess it is time to arrest all of us whose kids (like mine, this morning) don’t take a jacket even though we think they should.

And incidentally: as my post below this one was all about how the news only reports the most unusual events, let’s keep this weird one in perspective, too. While it seems to represent a trend toward institutionalizing overprotection, it’s not like most parents are being arrested for letting their kids walk to school.

(Possibly because most parents are DRIVING them. But that’s another story.) — L.

79 Responses

  1. Classic line:

    When I was a child I would go anywhere during the school holidays. I would be out at eight in the morning and not back until teatime.

    ‘Admittedly I would not let the kids do that now because times are different.”

    Yeah, times are different. They’re safer.

  2. It would seem from the comments that there’s a strong conviciton among the readers that “things” are much more dangerous than thery used to.
    Thaa would make it seem like a spin-off movement to Free-range-kids ought to be happening in the UK to “start setting the record straight”.

  3. Today the Mount Vernon School Corporation in Fortville, Indiana banned all pre-high school students from congregating around the concession area during Mount Vernon’s Friday night football games in the wake of a Homecoming incident involving a student in possession of an unloaded pellet gun.

    As a parent of a seventh-grader who attends Mount Vernon Middle School, I look to Friday night football games as a safe and secure environment for my daughter. I appreciate the diligence of the on-site law enforcement and most especially applaud them for handling the pellet gun incident discreetly and professionally. That being said, imprisoning students in the bleachers for the entirety of a football game is a knee-jerk reaction that creates more problems than it solves.

    In their notification to parents, Mount Vernon school officials said they “have a concern about the large number of adolescents present at our football games who don’t seem interested in watching the game, but most interested in socializing with friends in the concession area.”

    Kids are more interested in hanging out with friends at high school sporting events than watching the event itself? Stop the presses! In related news, the sky is blue.

    That first time a mother or father says to a child at a social event that she can go hang out with her friends isn’t just an everyday occurrence; it’s an adolescent rite of passage. Earning a student’s trust begins with you trusting the student, and this new policy does nothing but foster an atmosphere of resentment by holding everyone accountable for the actions of one misguided individual. I entrust the Mount Vernon School Corporation to be my daughter’s teacher and mentor, not her warden.

  4. You know, I have this odd philosophy:

    – If my son is cold, he will seek warmth.
    – If he is hot, he will seek cool.
    – If he is hungry, he will seek food.
    – If he is thirsty, he will seek drink.
    – If he is frightened, he will seek comfort
    – If he needs help, he will ask for it.
    – If he is in danger, he will respond to it.
    – If he makes mistakes, he will learn from them.

    In short, I believe that 3.5 billion years of evolution have created a brain with all of the instincts it needs to survive. All that needs to happen is to teach that brain how to apply those instincts in the context of the child’s surroundings.

    For me to deny my child the ability or opportunity to learn to use and apply his evolved instincts in the context of his surroundings would short-circuit the very things designed to ensure hs survival and would thus be an affront to the billions of years of trial and error required to get us to this point, as well as a huge affront to my son himself.

    Don’t believe in evolution? No problem. If some big daddy in the sky created us all 6,000 years ago, then said big daddy also created our brains. Not letting our children use said brains would therefore be a huge insult to the big daddy you claim to love and obey.

    Either way, overprotection is in many ways the ultimate insult.

    Yesterday, the missus and I sat and sipped tea while Logan was hundreds of yards away in a large building in downtown San Francisco at a video arcade. He blew the $10 I gave him, came and sipped tea, then walked off a couple hundred yards in a different direction to a nearby playground while the adults sipped more tea. We watched through the window as he did the meandering walk of all boys engrossed in their surroundings as he stopped to look at things, climb things, etc.

    The ear-to-ear grin on his face was all the validation we needed.

    I’m not claiming to be perfect. But damn it, I think all free-range parents are doing a far better job than the guy I saw yesterday morning who had his kid ON A LEASH!

  5. @ Brian, I call it the One Asshole Rule. One asshole f***s it up for the rest of us by being, well, an asshole. Aided and abetted, of course, by a bunch of brainless dolts who think the One Asshole is somehow represetative of society at large. Ignoring, of course, the fact that any scientist will tell you that relying on one data point does not a valid sample make.

    Besides, what prevents a kid from bringing a loaded real gun and wiping out a section of the bleachers? That alone proves how asinine some people can be!

  6. Really miss the edit-button when I see the typos left in my last comment.

  7. My BF has an 8 year old son. BF has a terrible habit of doing many things for the son, like putting out his clothes for school every night. The son does not have to dress himself or even think for himself. The other day BF looked at son and was upset because son was supposed to be ready to go and he had no socks on. Son said “I didn’t know I needed socks. You didn’t put any out for me so I didn’t know I needed any”

    This is what parents aspire to these days? Don’t let them do anything at all so that at the age of 8 they still can’t figure out what to wear in the cold?!?!

  8. I registered on the site just to leave a comment. I can’t believe all the comments defending the government’s actions.

  9. Well, you have to put this in context. The UK, sadly, is far more down the path to the all-encompassing nanny state than we are. Much of the ridiculous helicopter parenting here is driven by media and peer pressure, not government busybody tampering.

    Although, the total lack of common sense that seems to be a job requirement for school administrators is clearly moving in that direction.

    Remember, the UK is also the country where you will be prosecuted for defending yourself or your property.

  10. @Bill: I don’t know what your (clearly underlying) issues are with the UK, but the idea that “social democratic” goverment ideas (what you label the “nanny”-state) and not giving over the right to the individual to shoot whoever seems a threat to yourself or your property, is correlated with less freedom for kids, is simply false.
    Scandinavian countries have a super-tight welfare system, “state feminism” and the children there are more free than anywhere else in the Wester World.

  11. the bus driver who drops off my 1st and 2nd grader won’t let them off the bus if there isn’t an adult waiting at the bus stop.

  12. 20 yards? A country lane? Sounds like my bus stop when I was 7. If anyone had suggested that my sister and I or anyone else in neighbourhood couldn’t handle it, they would have been laughed out of the county.

  13. My principal called my parents when he saw me come to school with a t shirt on a chilly day. He did his best to push my parents to copter, and they did attempt to copter me to wear something

    Winds calmed down somehow when they realized that I go to school with a t shirt for the whole year, no matter rain or snow, yet i am never sick or ill (i guess due to getting more immune or something ?)

    It’s Jr. high school i am talking about, 7-8 years ago.

    I guess today’s schools would land the parents in court for me deciding for myself what to wear. What the heck ?

  14. Guess I’m really negligent. My seven year old girls roam between my house and my exes house all the time. About two blocks with a residential street to cross.

  15. Ash: it’s becoming apparent that vitamin D is at least or more important than C for preventing illness, and the best way to get vitamin D is with sunlight on the skin. That’s my theory, anyway.

    Unfortunately getting sunburnt is a good way to get skin cancer, so some care is required.

  16. That’s just ridiculous. A 7 year old can easily handle that much responsibility.

    Anthony, I want to comment on the kid on a leash thing. What age and what situation are we talking about? I consider a leash acceptable on very few occasions with very young toddlers. It’s better than keeping the cooped up in a stroller, which restrains them even more, yet is entirely acceptable for young toddlers.

    We went to the county fair the other day, and my 19 month old was on a leash when she wasn’t in her stroller. She’s very much a runner, and a moment’s distraction would otherwise leave me searching for her. She’s fast and inquisitive, but I don’t want to make her sit all day in the stroller.

    First time she’s been on a leash and she loved it. Walking around the block, going shopping, and so forth in places where there aren’t so many people or distractions, I just rely on my eyes. But in a crowded, noisy situation, a loosely held leash gives her more freedom and makes the day more fun for all concerned.

  17. @Carey They had problems with me going too lightly dressed on a cold day, fearing that i will get cold. It was not on a day with sun

  18. @Stephanie, I’m guessing 2 or 3 years old. In the park on a Sunday with relatively few people about and the main drag closed to traffic for walkers/skaters/bikers. This particular leash was maybe 4 feet long. (Not that I advocate those 25′ fishing-reel leashes for a kid, but still.)

    Given that most of us seem to agree that the danger is overblown and that the vast majority of people are basically decent and helpful, my suggestion is to do your best to keep an eye on your kid but acknowledge the fact that she could disappear at any moment. Emphasize the importance of sticking close and teach her what to do (ask for help, don’t panic, stay where you are, etc.).

    Then… accept the fact that she may turn up missing and that the odds of a successul reunion within minutes are way higher than 99%. If she gets lost and hates it, she will keep a much closer eye on you and will not let it happen again. If she remembers her trainig and calmly resolves the situation, she will end up with an extremely valuable lesson and huge dose of empowerment to boot.

  19. “A sweater is something a child wears when the mother is cold.” can’t remember who said it first…. I find my kids are way more hot blooded than I am. It just is.

    For the entire story: OMFG.

  20. Oy. Glad I don’t live there. My 7-year-old daughter walks, albeit with a group of girls, a block home after school. Crosses a street (not a country lane, but not particularly busy). Has done this since grade one. Loves it. Next year I’m planning on letting her stop at the little corner market for a treat before coming home sometimes. Should I be prepared to be cuffed?

  21. @Anthony, @Stephanie, a fan of leashes here in concept though I wasn’t able to get one to work for/with my son. My mom used one on my brother when, many years ago, she traveled with me (5) and him (2) to Europe and was making extensive use of public transport, managing suitcases, dealing with jetlag, etc. But beyond that they seem to me a useful tool that’s an improvement over clinging to the toddler’s arm even in settings where crowds and immediate disappearance aren’t a concern.

    As a say to my mom, my son’s not a linear thinker. Do you have any idea how much more time it takes me to walk the 1-mile r/t through our neighborhood to pick up our CSA veggies if I take him along, than if I don’t? This isn’t a story about shorter toddler legs, it’s a story about someone (not me!) who needs to stop to inspect every rock and stick en route. Some days I have the time and patience for that, others, not so much.

    Parent sanity matters! Now as I say, a leash hasn’t worked for us; our go-to solution has turned out to be his tricycle, that he loves to ride and that has a handle I can push when progress is insufficient for my schedule (which varies widely from “all the time in the world” to “need to get home 10 minutes ago!”).

    Also, I’m now dealing with a post-surgery broken-bone recovery that leaves me, at a casual glance, unafflicted and mobile, but in a pinch (chasing down an errant toddler, keeping said toddler from dashing into the road while we wait for a bus, or for that matter, pushing a tricycle) woefully slow and incapable. Things aren’t always what they seem, and I’m for assuming parents willing to take their kids out into a park for fun are capable and have made good choices reflecting their and their kids’ abilities.

    As for the original article: On the one hand, oh for goodness sake. But on the other, the picture of dad and daughter standing by the bus stop doesn’t look like any “country lane” I’ve ever seen, so I wonder if we have the whole story here.

  22. @Lynn, what’s stopping you? My kid is 8.5 years old and he can go to school, home from school, to the stores a block from his school, stop at the Walgreens on his way home, go to his choice of 2-3 corner stores, the produce store, his martial arts classes, etc. on his lonesome. He can also go to the big playground in the park near us, having proven his competence crossing the one busy street between home and fun (at a light that is still a bit tricky because of bushes and parked cars).

    Next time he asks for a burrito, I’ll be dispatching him to the taqueria that is 3.5 blocks further than his martial arts. When winter sets in, I will allow him to go to the Boys/Girls Club, another expansion of his range. All of this in the middle of an urban neighborhood. A very safe one, judging by the number and types of police reports, but urban nonetheless. Then, next summer, I will let him go all the way to summer camp and back on his own (roughly 40 blocks each way, most of it through Golden Gate Park on a bike path).

    My criteria are his comfort level and demonstrating responsibility at each step of the way before I loosen the rains one more step.

    With a cell phone that has a built-in GPS, my

  23. Actually, this article encourages me. Why? Because the parent has stated they intend to keep on doing what they think is right, and screw the others who meddle in his business.

    That is PRECISELY the response that EVERY such person in his position should take. By assuming a CYA modus de operandi (did I spell that correctly?) and cow-towing to the expectations of the helicopter nazis, this chilling environment is only enabled further.

    Instead, resist and fight, just like this man has stated he will do.

  24. Shocking – really – the child looks as though she’s standing in her own driveway. At our bus stop, kids older than kindergarten can stand alone (some of the buses / school districts have rules for parents walking kindergartners) – and…. I can tell you that many times – I don’t care where they are, my kids will remove sweaters, jackets, etc. – my middle schooler would often ski in just her long sleeves and bib overalls on occasion – prompting people to marvel at how she never seems cold – maybe because she’s an athlete, etc. Same kid would only wear short-sleeved shirts in the classroom during the winter while the other kids wore sweaters. Sounds like this family may be singled out for some reason ….. it happens. Someone doesn’t like a family arrangement (I was a single mother with a boyfriend for a while – prompting whispers and closer looks at my parenting from some of my more “conservative” peers).

  25. I bet this is because the managers of the bus driver aren’t prepared to tell him not to help the girl across the road, but don’t want him to be doing it. It’s not about actual concern for the girl, but about not having to be responsible for making decisions of their own.

  26. Re: leashes.
    In general, I don’t like seeing kids on leashes like dogs. That being said, if I were to take a small kid (2-ish) on a voyage that had large crowds, and I had a kid that tended to run (I do), I might employ one. My thinking on them has expanded in the last few years as I’ve been raising a grandchild who is a wanderer and I am just simply not as fast as I used to be, between being out of shape and dealing with invisible health issues. He’s never been on one, and we’ve made it to 4 and a half, but I can now see the benefit in certain situations.

    One very disturbing experience I had with a leashed child occurred in college. I was at the playground with my two kids, who were about 2 and 4. There was a woman who was a student in my department there with her kids, the youngest just younger than my youngest. He was On. A. Leash. At the playground. Her older two kids ran around and climbed and all that good stuff. The little one; leashed the whole time. With maybe a foot and a half of lead. At. The. Playground. When I asked her why, she said, “Well, he runs!” Ummmm Yeay! It’s a PLAYGROUND!!! That left a very bad taste.

    This past weekend we were at a large music festival in central Michigan. They have a kid area, and a building in said area where you can grab a festival band (kids under 5 are not ticketed, so no bands at the gate), put it on the kid, and sharpies with which to write your name and cell number/campsite on the band. Yeah, my wanderer wandered, he was there dancing and running with another little guy, then POOF! I hung around for about 10 minutes, because we’d already practiced finding our seats with our large group of friends, and I knew he could find us. Then came the announcement that he was at the information building. A nice lady had asked if he needed any help, he said he needed a ‘red guy’ (volunteers all wear red shirts), she helped him find a red-shirt, and when my friend who’d heard the announcement (I’d actually gone to the kid’s area to see if he’d wandered back to the big slide or the sand hill) got to the information building, there he was, happy as a clam, drawing pictures and ‘helping’ hand out schedules.

  27. @ Anthony – Lots of people use those kiddie leashes for young toddlers in public places. I had a fairly easy-going child so I never needed one. However, I have good friends who used one for their son (under 2), otherwise they had to hold him or tie him in a stroller (couldn’t just put him in a stroller without a 5-pt harness or he’d climb out while it was moving). He absolutely would not stay with them. It had nothing to do with fear of him being snatched. It had to do with fear of him running off and hitting the street before they could catch up to him or him running off and disappearing and them having to waste time tracking him down. The fear of a 18 mo who bolts getting into the street and getting hit by a car is absolutely NOT overblown. The hassle of spending 2 hours, probably while panicked, hunting down your 2 year old at a street fair is NOT overblown.

  28. I use leashes because they seem more free range for my kids than the alternatives.

    I have young twins and if I didn’t have leashes I’d have to have them strapped in whenever I took them out because I can’t run in two directions at once and they can’t be relied upon to stay out of danger. Even when I’m just taking one out I like the leash because the alternative is getting her to hold my hand almost the whole time if I have anything at all I need to do. That seems much more limiting on her personal freedom (plus, bad for shoulder injuries). Don’t know how long we’ll use them for. It will depend on how they mature and what our environment is like, not some arbitary age.

    To me the whole pro/anti leash thing is yet another of those judgmental parenting wars – like the cry-it-out or not folks or the make-em-kiss-their-grandmas or not. Do what works for your family and stop expecting everybody else to do it the same way as you.

  29. I think this was my favorite comment

    “You should not be letting a 7 year old go to school by themselves!
    The Father is a lazy so & so
    Take her to school and pick her up from school.
    I hate these lazy parents
    If you want kids treat them with respect!!!!
    – Ratty, Harrow, 13/9/2010 5:48

    I had a run-in with an older lady at the store who stopped to coo at my 9-month old son. As she was talking to him in his stroller, she made the comment that she bet I had already told him not to talk to strangers. I responded that I never had and I never will. She flipped out a little, insisting that I had to teach my son not to talk to strangers because what if someone… to which I replied that’s why I’m going to teach him not to go off with strangers. I also pointed out that she was a stranger and that I was talking to her. She said, but you’re an adult and I replied and that’s what I’m raising my son to be.
    This poster talks about respecting children, but how can that be if we’re constantly molly-coddling them and questioning their judgment? At age 6 I wanted my training wheels off my bike and when my dad said he didn’t think I was ready, I went into the garage and took them off myself then proceeded to ride all over the neighborhood on my own. And as young as age 7 or 8, I would walk home from school when I had stayed late and missed the bus, a distance that started at about a mile, then slowly grew to almost two once I got to High school. In the winter I would regularly go to school with soaking wet hair (never got sick) and when we had out “Indian Summers” where the temperature broke about 40 degrees or so, half the school would show up in shorts and sandals. It wasn’t a big deal.
    And on a semi-side note, can someone please tell me what is the deal with socks? Is it that it’s impossible to be warm without socks? Do they protect against predators, broken glass and bacteria? I’m just trying to understand…

  30. Yeah, I didn’t get the socks and sweater comments. The kid looks old enough to me to decide if she is cold and wants a sweater and socks. A kid who isn’t forced into a power struggle over coats and socks is simply NOT going to intentionally go to school uncomfortably cold. However, a kid who is forced into a power struggle over sweaters and socks will ALWAYS choose to freeze if the chance arises.

  31. people would stop me and tut tut about my kids not wearing shoes. It does get cold in winter in australia, but it doesnt snow or anything.. I just happened to have two kids who love going around with out shoes. One of them has out grown it and now wears shoes most of the time… I just laugh…. I often have shoes in my handbag, in the car, in the bottom of the strolller etc.. I say I have their shoes, just not on their feet 🙂

  32. I love Montessori Toddler environments. The children may choose to not put on a coat – which is available at their height. Even in the relative mildness of a southern winter, they quickly decide they are cold and opt for a coat.

    It is a major lesson for parents that children can learn what their bodies are telling them – food, potty, and even temperature needs.

    Once parents understand it, they find it so liberating. Children find it so empowering.

  33. I hate to think what they would have said to my Mom. We lived in Texas, Mom was a Canadian. So just to start with she didn’t think jackets were required for the low 70’s.

    Add to the fact that I have a skin condition that can be irritated by heat, the fabric of jackets, and I’m a furnace and always have been.

    Even today I don’t wear a jacket till the low 40’s and only if it a wet cold.

  34. Twenty YARDS???? That’s SIXTY FEET! Most people’s backyards are bigger than that!!!!!!

    This isn’t just insane, it’s almost inconceivably stupid.

  35. In my sons school newletters we get a monthly reminder not to drop our children off on the playground before 8:50am, as there is no supervision before that time, and it is illegal to leave any child under the age of 12 unsupervised. So I thought, you have got to be kidding, it can’t be illegal to leave a child unsupervised at a playground. So I called the police, who directed me to Child and Family Services, who told me that it was true. I live in Canada, by the way.

  36. @Sherri, screw what CPS and the cops say. Find the actual law on the books. Then, if it really is a law, work to change it! The cops told me they would tell me whch penal code my son violated doing his own laundry. They never got back to me. Why? Because there is no such law on the books in California!

  37. Far as I’m concerned if they are old enough to go to school they are old enough to get themselves there and back if its a reasonable distance.

    I just loved that leash – it was a great handle when getting across a road fast, it stopped numerous face plants, kept him out of trouble and meant I didn’t have to take that @#$%$# stroller! It also left us both free to use our hands. That said – I only needed it with one child – the other preferred to stay close and hold hands. It was only needed for a short time too – just until we got him trained up about traffic and being findable 🙂

    viv in nz

  38. Also the other side of the pond:

    Oh boy! Was I lucky no to end up in the slammer! After all, some of my kids walked as much as 3-400 yards to and from the school bus stop and my youngest regularly walked oooh, at least 120 to her stop. She now walks for 20 minutes to the train station, collecting classmates as she goes.

    And now that the school that my youngest attends has officially okayed but NOT mandated the change from winter summer uniform, even tho the temps are no higher than they were two weeks back, all the girls at my daughter’s school are going off every morning with bare, goose-bumpy legs. Obviously preferable to being the only one still in winter uniform.

    Could see the entire parent body in prison . . . .

  39. @Anthony, I want to make sure I read that right…you got in trouble for letting your son do his own laundry? Wow. I still remember a convo with my aunt where she was freaking out about her oldest going to college and how was she going to fend for herself when she didn’t know how to cook or even run a washing machine. Can I ask how old your son was, and who ratted you out?

  40. @Robyn, yes, at a pay laundry one block from home. 8.5 years old, and some ninny probably saw him and called 911. Three cars responded and 2 female officers walked him home and tried to lecture me.

  41. “Yeah, times are different. They’re safer.”

    Well of course things are different now you big silly, it’s because of all these SAFETY measures we’ve implemented. If we just went back to the old days where children could walk 20 yards to a bus stop, then the rates of abduction and murder would obviously skyrocket, that’s just plain to see.

    (end sarcasm)

  42. Nice Post.

  43. *Some* school officials still have their heads:

    “Normally, after two years of experience with transportation and getting home safely and walking with parents or their guardians, children are normally prepared to do some of that on their own,”


  44. Scott, don’t joke, some people say that seriously. *sighs*

  45. BBC Radio 4 covered this this morning on the Today Show. I only caught a smattering but the gist I got was that the Council had backed down and would be taking no further action. However the mother said that because of all the publicity they would now have to be at the bus stop to meet her for the foreseeable future anyway.

  46. The Daily Mail is reknowned for sensationalist journalism, but even at the end of this article, there is a light of sanity.

    I like the style of the article which is of the ‘how daft can the council be’ variety, rather than the ‘how could the parents be so irresponsible.’

    Also, the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) guidelines mentioned in the article state that a child should not be out alone under the age of 8. That means that OVER the age of 8, it should be expected as a matter of course. And under the age of 8 it is a matter for parental decision.

    And the council have backed down.

  47. Well, I’d let my kids do that and they are half her age.

    The thing about the coat and socks – my kids also have a high tolerance for “chilly.” I just make sure they have what they need to get warm if they decide they’ve had enough cold. From everything I’ve read, there is no danger in cool temperatures for a healthy child – assuming it’s not freezing. I may look kinda bad being in a jacket while they run barefoot and half naked in our backyard, but there’s no substantive reason to take away their personal choice in the matter.

    The leash issue. I understand the reason people use them. But personally I put extra effort into getting my kids to be aware and to self-regulate. It is certainly not easy. But I feel that physically leading a kid around turns off his natural instincts and his learning, to some extent. It also merely postpones the inevitable. I think I’d rather teach my kids these lessons at 1.5 or 2 versus waiting until they are bolder, louder, faster, and harder to carry away from a situation.

    I have 2 kids who are 3 months apart in age, so I know how hard it can be to take tots into the public. I remember one time when my kids were 1.5 and we went to a department store (no cart, no stroller) to buy shoes. On the way out I decided to buy a little patio set that was on sale. Thus both of my hands were fully occupied. Normally, my kids were pretty good about following closely when I asked them to. However, on this day, one kid couldn’t seem to resist the vases on display. The other kid decided to check out another aisle. At that point I put both kids in time out right there on the floor and asked for assistance getting the stuff out to the car. It was a good learning experience for me as I was able to plan better after that.

  48. After further thought about my last comment, I have to admit I get a LOT of “looks” because I don’t clench onto my 3yos’ hands when we are out & about. (I also let them dress themselves and tie their own shoes if they want to, and yes, it shows.) As long as they are acting as they should, they are allowed to meander around a little. The “looks” imply that I must be a lazy and careless parent, which is kinda funny, because if you could look into my brain at those times, you’d see it paying extremely close attention to every factor that could possibly affect either of my little ragamuffins, predicting the movement of every person and car within sight, and coming up with ways to encourage care without issuing commands. Now, maybe the effect is the same as if I were a lazy parent, I don’t know. My kids are at an age when one sometimes wonders whether they have any brains at all, so it’s hard to measure impacts.

  49. Here’s a link to a message board on a UK website talking about it.


    What gets me is the fact that (according to one of the posters) the NSPCC are apparently saying that children under 8 should be accompanied everywhere.

  50. […] Outrage of the Day: Dad Faces Legal Action for No&#… […]

  51. @ tommynomad — that news item read like something out of The Onion. They must be pulling our leg. The quote from the mother:
    “Just talking about it brings tears to my eyes. Like, how could [the bus driver] do that?”

    I can just see The Onion headline:
    “For The First Time Since Records Have Been Kept: Neurotic Mothering Taken Seriously ”

    Didn’t Lenore also have a link to an article she wrote about some trivial misunderstanding with a bus driver dropping a child at the end of her street instead of directly in front of her house? With a mother apparently suffering from an anxiety disorder similar to the mother in the story in the link above, i.e., making a mountain of a molehill? What’s going on here?

    Could it be that the Media poised and ready, with space earmarked, for the horror stories we all knew were going to happen at the beginning of the school year –cause there’s a pedophile behind every bush and a mad bomber behind every tree — that didn’t happen, had to satisfy themselves with these “What if” stories??

    And . . . could it be these mothers are shaping up their “pain and suffering” stories?

  52. Must be a British thing… every time there are pictures published of Suri Cruise (without a coat) hordes of people comment how bad it is that their parents are all well covered while the “poor child” is walking around just in a t-shirt.

    As for walking to school (or the bus stop)… when I went to primary school I had to walk about two miles into the next town to go to school. I was 7 years old and we all walked in small groups. None of us was killed or abducted. My mother always said (and still says it today): “You have two healthy legs, you can walk!”

  53. @SKL — “My kids are at an age when one sometimes wonders whether they have any brains at all, so it’s hard to measure impacts.” — This is a great line. I’ve got little ones, too, and often feel the same way.

    I fully think this is another one of those situations that depends on the kids and is up to the parents to decide. I just started letting my son walk home from the bus by himself — he’s 5. My daughter, who is 3.5 would easily be able to walk the same two-block stretch by herself now.

    I never see any statistics on this sight about child neglect. They’re probably there, I just always see folks quoting safety. Is it purely helicopterish-attitudes, or is there a higher incidence these days of child neglect that causes folks to be hyper-paranoid and question a parent’s decisions?

  54. re: leashes… my sis and I have decided upon a solution for her little ones… the youngest will be 2 next month and the other two just turned 4 and 6… the 6 year old we don’t usually have an issue with, but he does show behaviors for ADHD and they walk EVERYWHERE so sometimes it gets to be an issue.. what my sis does is if it’s a distance the youngest is in a stroller most of the time just b/c he gets too tired… but when he wants to walk he gets a “handle”.. and the other two have them available as well.. I basically took some funky patterned ribbon and put a loop on each end, sis loops it around the stroller handles, or grocery cart, diaper bag, or whatever.. and if they are having issues with staying reasonably close they have to hold the handle… USUALLY they stick to what they are supposed to be doing, but this way they aren’t really on a leash and sis can still push the stroller or whatever without them pulling or pushing it side to side when she’s trying to steer, or have her hands free if she needs to..

  55. I use a leash occasionally for ease of transport. When we take the bus it is the easiest way to keep track of my littlest one along with her siblings and all there gear. I am not even really afraid she will run in the street or in front of the bus, but she does run, and this keeps her close and my hands free to carry stuff or help other kids. I won’t use it for much longer she is almost 2 and is getting much better at walking nicely.

  56. On the original article, all I can say is UGH. Stories like this make me fear for where society is headed, but I’m glad to hear the father is fighting for his right to raise his child the way he sees fit.

    As for not wearing a sweater on a chilly day, geez, I let my nearly three-year-old wear his flip flops when it was 50 degrees out. He was insisting, to a point where he was about to have a meltdown, and I decided it wasn’t a battle I wanted to fight. Plus, that’s how you learn what footwear is appropriate for what weather. If it had been 30 degrees below zero, I would’ve fought that battle, no question.

    What’s funny is that I told a friend of mine about this. She said, “Well, you brought an extra pair of shoes along for when his feet got cold, right?” Nope, I didn’t. it didn’t even occur to me to bring another pair considering we were only going to the store.

  57. On leashes, I bought one when my son started walking, but thankfully he’s (usually) cooperative, so I never used it. Plus, I figured the short length probably would cause more problems than solve.

    I don’t have a particular opinion on leashes either way – if it works for you, great – but I once read a blog posting where the mother kept her kids on leashes at all times….even in the backyard. I think that’s going too far, personally.

  58. It’s nice to know Westerners are raising a generation of children who can’t cross the street.

  59. I do not mind leashes. What I DO really mind is 4, 5 or 6 year olds in strollers. Seriously.

    I sometimes wonder if we all stand a chance here? If the law requires us to constantly watch our kids until they are 8, 9 or even 12?

    Here in Michigan, there is a LAW that you cannot leave a kid in a car without supervision. That means you can go to jail if you get some stuff from the dry cleaners and leave you kid(s) in the car… How does that promote a better family life ?

    I am in shock what this world has come to with regards to overprotecting kids, and how laws and policies replace common sense.

  60. Basically, it seems to me that we’ve just rescaled age expectations, and part of that is perpetual schooling. What was considered normal responsibility at age 4 (walking alone) in our generation is not considered normal responsibility until age 8. While it was typical for young adults of my generation to be completed with college by 21, the average is now 25. While it was typical in my generation to have your first summer or after-school job at 14, 15, or 16, it is now more typical at 18, 19, or 20. While it was typical to marry at 25, 26, or 27, it is now more typical to marry at 29, 30, or 31. We’re really just extending infancy and thereafter every stage of development, and my generation did everything later than my parent’s generation on average. At some point, however, the extention must stop, or there will be no productive citizens under the age of 35, and we’ll have to change the Constitution to not allow a President or Congressmen under the age of 55.

  61. Hey, get used to leashes. It’s only a matter of time before there’s an under-4 leash law for children.

  62. Sky, you are probably right about that leash law! Ugh!!

  63. I love this site and the free-range ethos, but my God, can you STOP with the Daily Mail links?! The reason the stories are shocking is because the Mail is a “shock, horror, Oh my God, what is our world coming to?! Everything will give you cancer, and while we’re at it, what about those foreigners? Don’t we all hate them?” Tabloid.

    I suppose without hard proof I can’t say that they make all their stories up, but you know, for the most part, they are either exaggerated, or just plain untrue.
    A typical Mail headline goes something like “Lazy, single mother immigrants on benefits will give you cancer!”

    I’m not saying that this couldn’t happen in England, just that it’s kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel if you want to take the Mail’s word that it did. I’d bet my life that there’s MUCH more to it than the Mail’s reported.

    (Reposted because I put it in the wrong place before.)

  64. “However the mother said that because of all the publicity they would now have to be at the bus stop to meet her for the foreseeable future anyway.”

    Oh that is a very interesting update. Presumably the idea is now that everyone in the country has been informed at what time and location there is an unattended little girl, some of those who have heard the news will be the abductors and therefore it really is no longer safe.

    Could be. I certainly would not want to rent a billboard announcing regular locations and times where my kids could be found unattended.

    Perhaps the media could have reported on the story without identifying the specific intersection and publishing a photo of the girl.

  65. With my sister’s permission I used a monkey backpack with a long tale, while babysitting my niece for a good part of the summer.

    Early in the summer my niece got the soap from the zoo bathroom on my hands. This resulted the top layer of skin being removed. The results looked like a chemical burn. I was stopped 3 or 4 times by zoo staff offering me 1st aid and one couple that were doctors who offered 1st aid are referals to a charity that could help me get medical care. (I explained that I have a genetic skin condition and knew how to treat it)

    Because of this I couldn’t hold my niece’s hand in crowded situations. We used George only when I would have otherwise been holding her hand. To this day George is my car because she likes to play with him while we drive.

    Oh and the whole soap removes a layer of skin thing is why I carry antibacterial gel in my purse. So FYI the person next to at the sink in the bathroom using antibacterial gel after rinsing hands under running water might have the same problem.

    I really don’t need another lecture about how I’m creating superbugs or I’m disgusting because I don’t use soap in public bathrooms. I have a soap I use at home, but it has ruined more purses/backpacks than I care to count. The gel stuff does not explode as often, and doesn’t stain so bad when it does.

  66. Had to comment on the leash thing. I am very much against the idea of kids on leashes. My almost-4-year-old was a runner when she was a toddler too. I gripped her hand/wrist/forearm whenever we were in public and a viable danger was near (busy road, crowded fairgrounds, etc). She began to hate that. She would fight me and hit at my hand to let go. Embarassing? Yes. Annoying? Incredibly. But I held on and I explained to her every time that she could walk by herself when she learned to not run off. It took a long while, but she eventually figured out that she hated being restrained more than she did restraining herself. 🙂

    That being said – I recently saw something that made me add an exception to my no leashes EVER rule: at the airport, there was a mom travelling alone with 5 small children – a set of triplets and a pair of twins, all on leashes. That is a very sound and logical reason to have your children on leashes. But if you and your S.O. cannot, between the two of you, control one child, you seriously need to reevaluate your methods.

    In my opinion, leashes should only be used in extreme cases. A parent with an injury that restricts their response time, or multiple wee ones like the lady in the airport, situations like that. Otherwise, it just seems lazy to me. (And I mean no offense whatsoever to those who utilize them. Just my own personal opinon.)

    Bottom line, all of us here are doing what we think is best and right for our children. If you feel a leash is right for you, then so be it. They’re YOUR children, I don’t have to live your life with them. But please don’t get mad if I can’t resist snickering and rolling my eyes at you. 🙂

  67. Scott – I saw some comments by others suggesting that now would be abductors would know where to go to find a victim, but the mother seemed to me to be more concerned about her daughter simply being hassled and subject to more attention than she might like (I inferred this from the way she was talking, not anything she actually said).

  68. Jen C – I hate the “It’s lazy” reproach to parents who do something that isn’t the way you’d do it. It’s mean, judgmental, self-serving and lacking in intellectual rigor. You don’t get points for being a worn out parent. If a particular approach is easier on the parents then so much the better.

    The questions that are important for parents when deciding what they’re going to do are how does it fit into the family’s lifestyle, the child’s development and the environment they all live in. There are many paths to most destinations.

  69. I noticed the story too and was expecting it to turn up here.

    I agree the Daily Mail links are grating. Ironically, The Mail is one of the main carriers of ‘free range’ stories, usually under the guise of ‘political correctness/social services interference/nanny state gone mad!!!’ pieces.

    But who has brought about this ‘interference’ and ‘nanny state’? Who has constantly carped about ‘menaces to our children’ and ‘parents who can’t bring up their children properly’, who has constantly shrieked about how more must be done about the ‘increase in paedophiles’?

    Take a bow, the Daily Mail.

  70. I would like to second Lucy’s objection to the Daily Mail – a lot of us Brits know that the Daily Mail makes pretty good chip wrap and that’s kind of it. Their stories are geared to make the reader think what they want them to think. Bugger the facts, a more dramatic story is what is most important. You were supposed to be outraged.

    I’m not saying they’re always like this – I have known them publish a really factually accurate story before, the problem is it’s impossible to tell which are accurate and which are not when you don’t know the facts yourself.

  71. Between the age of 6 to 11 years, I lived in England, and I walked to school. Since we lived in town, there were no buses for the primary school level.

    How far did I walk? Across town. By myself. Way more then 20 yards. I crossed at least one, very busy, street. And I started this at the age of 6. Since we lived close to the town center, and a park, I remember taking lots of walks, to where I pleased, I just had to inform my parents before I left.

    These days I am back in the States, and live BEHIND the school, all of a 20 yard walk. My children are not allowed to walk to, or from, school, by themselves. We have a bus which runs through our neighborhood to pick up/drop off the kids.

    Times have changed.

  72. In this version of the story (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8001444/Girl-cannot-walk-to-bus-stop-alone.html) the dad himself says:

    “When I was a child I would go anywhere during the school holidays. I would be out at eight in the morning and not back until teatime…Admittedly I would not let the kids do that now because times are different.”

    Even the reader who posted before me said “times have changed.”

    But have they? Really? Or is it just us — somehow we’ve started to believe that whatever can go wrong will.

    I’m sad for us. I really am.

  73. Hi. I am a fan of this blog, I love the common sense. We are currently going to be moving from the country into the city. I was imagining them walking to the corner store and to school and then part-time jobs, UNTIL today. While shopping in my local walmart I looked up and saw the huge bulletin board with all the missing children on it! HELP! My nerve just disappears and I don’t want them to walk around the block where I can’t see them. Ah, the fear is still there.

  74. Kat: Take a closer look at that bulletin board. I’ve done it (insert joke about “bulletin bored”). You’ll find that nearly all of the missing children are suspected to have been kidnapped by estranged family members. You’ll also find that the kids who weren’t kidnapped by family members generally went missing in their teens; runaways and throwaways are a big factor here.

  75. I’d take a leash over being strapped in a stroller or stuck walking with my arm held up the whole time. At least with a leash you can still explore and use your hands.

  76. Why not simply teach the children to be aware of their surroundings and to stay close, combined with, say, keeping an eye on them? What radical concepts :-).

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