Jaycee Dugard’s Take on Overprotective Parents

Hi Folks! I am inspired by what a reader named Allison sent me on Facebook. You may be, too. — L

Dear Free-Range Kids: I’m reading Jaycee Dugard’s book “A Stolen Life.” and in it, she says:

It still scares me, the fact that I can’t protect my daughters from everything. What mother wouldn’t want to protect their child from the dangers of the world? But I have to choose to believe they will both be okay and realize that sometimes when we shelter our children too much, we are really protecting ourselves.

I don’t think anyone would ever question Jaycee for being overprotective of her children, given what she went through for 18 years, so this paragraph just really states so eloquently what many of us feel every day. — Allison

I am also struck by the fact that she frames it as a choice: She could appease her own fear by seriously constricting her daughters’ childhood, or she can live with that uneasy feeling  for the sake of letting those girls enjoy what she never got to. Kudos to a brave and generous mom.  — L.

51 Responses

  1. Now that’s bravery. And here I was a bundle of nerves yesterday because the boy and a friend were exploring the right of way near the railroad tracks (after appropriate warnings about train safety, of course). This kind of puts it in perspective, doesn’t it?

  2. Sorry for the OT, but not sure how to send you another news story http://www.vancouversun.com/entertainment/Missing+year+found+Vancouver+police/5264165/story.html
    It’s from my city, and I applaude the boy for making it home on his own with no problem.

  3. “…sometimes when we shelter our children too much, we are really protecting ourselves.” That is the one of the main things all over protective parents need to really think about. Whether it’s consciously or subconsciously, over protectiveness/sheltering is really only for the benefit of the parent. I commend Jaycee for surviving and overcoming all those years, and especially adjusting, along with her daughters, to her old-new life. And realizing what she has, eg. her quote above. Many parents can learn from her, IMO she would be the epitome of a heli-parent and no one would blame her. Yet, she isn’t that over protective mother one would expect her to be. She thinks clearly, with logic and common sense, and she’s adapting. She has learned that is the only way to over come her fears. If she can do it, everyone can.

  4. Beautifully put. She’s a very strong woman for overcoming that fear. No one would blame her if she couldn’t.

  5. That’s simply awesome.

  6. Agree with Pentamom- Awesome.

  7. Off-topic (as always) but check this out:


    I’m not going to get myself into the “how illegal should marijuana be, if at all” debate, but shouldn’t cases of abuse and neglect center around, uh, whether or not you’ve abused or neglected your child? Even if you go to prison you typically get to choose who looks after your kid! (I think?)

  8. Proof that despite what she went through that she is stronger than the monster that took her. What an amazing example for everyone.

  9. WOW. This moved me.

  10. Yeah, really. It’s one thing for those of us who have never experienced a truly fearful situation to make an effort to raise our children without fear, but for someone with her life experiences to be able to recognize her own misgivings and not give in to them truly shows her strength of character.

  11. That gave me shivers…extremely impressive mom.

  12. I think that people who have gone through hardships and come out ok are more likely to think this way than people who have never done so. Helicopter parents try to shelter themselves and their children from any negative feelings whatsoever because they are unable to cope with them. And they are unable to cope with them because they’ve never had them or been taught how to deal with them. It is a viscous cycle. Unfortunately, suffering and hardship are necessary and important parts of life, and they teach us invaluable lessons about our own resiliency, giving us strength to get through difficult situations. To not allow our children to face fear and disappointment and to not teach them to handle problems independently is dangerous. Think about the guy who has never known anything but success who gets laid off, comes home and blows his whole family away because he has no coping skills.

  13. in the context of what she was saying she was fearing more the media then any predators but the spirit is still the same.

    besides, she spent 15 years since her eldest was born being overprotective of them from a dangerous psychopath, i think she is relieved that not everyone out there is dangerous like he painted them to be to her.

    i highly recommend her book, or the interview she did with diane sawyer. jaycee dugard is someone beyond the norm….a real life hero who is now using her horrible experiences to help others like herself with a foundation she has set up.

  14. You may have already seen it, but I wrote Why Our Parents Put Us To Shame. It sparked a lot of discussion about this very topic. In fact, that’s how I was referred to you.

    People are definitely on both sides of the fence here. I did get caught in the crossfire a little…

  15. Wonder if suffering a real tragedy would change the overprotective moms at all. There’s a phrase I’ve heard quite a bit recently that I think really applies to so many of the overprotective mothers: First world problems.

    I’d be curious to see some data (surveys?) on parenting styles– how does our own upbringing, income level, and difficulty in life affect our perspectives as parents? The most anxious parents I know are the ones who have never faced the slightest real hardship in their lives, not as children and certainly not as adults. It’s a small sample size, but in comparison, I grew up with real worries like not having enough food for the week or not having running water (in a wealthy, bedroom community, no less). Well, that, and I can perform risk analysis.

    On a similar note, my local playground in town was shut down because arsenic was found from the treated wood. Except the levels of arsenic are within acceptable levels (to everyone except parents whose feelings aren’t affected by science) and the only elevated levels are about 6 inches into the dirt, under the structure and under the layer of woodchips. But “to be safe” the Imagination Station has been shut down, meaning the best play area is closed. (Luckily, there are others, but not quite as awesome or as conveniently located as the Imagination Station.) -_-

  16. Wow. chills. She is one brave woman.

  17. That’s just amazing. She’s gone through something so terrible, but she knows raising her kids isn’t all about her feelings.

  18. Wow Uly! I guess this isn’t surprising given that it’s frowned upon even to have a drink during get togethers when children are present anymore

  19. Jaycee Dugard’s quote is powerful.

    Print it out and keep it with you.

    Then when a helicopter fearmonger calls you to account for what he views as unsafe parenting, just whip out Jaycee’s quote and read it to him – in a kind, gentle, way, of course. And if he still questions you, ask if he knows who Jaycee is and what she went through for 18 years. And you can also point out that when she was spirited away, her parent was present and unable to prevent it.

    Of course, if all else fails suggest they read Lenore’s book.

  20. What incredible strength and a sensible approach. I write about some of our own free range issues here: http://jrwhale.blogspot.com/2011/08/panic-or-not.html

  21. whelp… in a nutshell, Jaycee Dugard’s case, like many others, shows how much of the child protection “industry” works, by contrast… you have a great number of profiteers, both in terms of some social or political agenda and financially, who will tirelessly proclaim and brainwash the public into believing that danger constantly lurks around every corner and that “anything” can happen at any time, and then you have the victims themselves who, you will find, often have much more level-headed things to say, most notably they don’t often wish to engage in large-scale public fear-mongering. But alas, actual victims are rarely listened to. They are not talked with, just talked about, and are drowned out by public figures, self-appointed do-gooders, and lawmakers, all of whom of dubitable competence, and their headless chicken approach and hidden agendas whenever another atrocious crime against a child is committed. Which then, among other things, routinely results in another (bad) law named after a victim, which will do anything, except actually protect other children.

  22. Props to Ms. Dugard for not being a helicopter mom when few would blame her if she was. Hopefully, she and her daughters will have a good life to come.

  23. Honesty!

    That’s the only word that comes to mind reading this. She’s speaking the truth, despite the pain inherent in the words.

  24. She is a total inspiration.

  25. What an amazing woman. I have so much respect for Ms. Dugard, and seeing how far she has come since her rescue is nothing short of inspiring. I hope to be as considerate and compassionate a mother as she is.

  26. “Kim, on August 20, 2011 at 00:44 said:

    I think that people who have gone through hardships and come out ok are more likely to think this way than people who have never done so. ”

    I have to disagree with you, Kim. I saw my 5 year old brother hit and killed by a car when I was 14 years old. It affected me very badly. I didn’t even attempt to drive a car until after I was 30. People presumed it was because I was afraid of being hurt in an accident, when in fact, I was terrified of hurting someone else.

    My heart was in my throat everytime my kids walked off to school – and we lived on the edge of the playground, they didnt’ even cross a street.

    I watched them like a hawk, and worried myself silly over stranger danger.

    It didn’t do one bit of good. My child ended up being harmed anyway, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I was so focused on one danger I completely missed another.

    My fusting and over protectiveness may have even caused it to happen.

    I learned the hard way. My youngest child was the beneficiary – I was able to let go of the controls after I realized, like being on a Disney ride, they were just there for looks – I really wasn’t controlling my children’s fate or the universe.

    When the unthinkable happens all you can do is deal with it – because you aren’t gonna think of the unthinkable 100% of the time.

    What will be will be. What’s gonna happen will happen. The only thing you control is how well you respond to it.

  27. Whoa, Kim. Sorry. I just reread your statement. Erase, erase,erase!

    You are right. Coming out “alright” from a bad experience is very different from NOT coming out alright of one.

    I don’t even think of bad experiences I came out of alright…it’s the bad ones you DON’T come out of that stay with you.

    Speaking of coming out of a bad experience –

    They freed the West Memphis Three today. Not rightly, justice did not prevail – they accepted Alford pleas – but they will walk out of prison today.

  28. I stand in awe of this woman. If she freaked the hell out and never let her girls from her sight, not a soul could blame her, after all that she went through.

    She has made the conscious choice to not freak out, to remember that what happened to her is something so rare. I can’t do anything but stand up and applaud that kind of backbone.

  29. I’m going to have to give this book to my best friend. She told me today that she’s planning on driving her 11-year-old, sixth grade daughter to the (very nearby) bus stop. When I asked her why, she said it was because her daughter would be out of her sight and “anything could happen to her.” She told me that two children had been abducted in our city in the last year, but when I questioned her about the details, she couldn’t say where she’d heard about it other than that someone had told her so. I was so frustrated, I didn’t even know how to continue the conversation.

  30. That being driven to the bus stop thing is the most bizarre bit of hyperparenting. I walked to the bus stop every day in my two years in junior high and nothing happened to me.

  31. Yikes w/ the bus stop. Please forgive my “uphill both ways” moment, but when I was 6, I had to walk two miles down the mountain at dawn to get to the bus stop- with wolves, bears, cougars, and worse…people in the woods, haha.

  32. Sure, we’re all against overprotecting our children. Let’s note, though, that we can’t all necessarily assume what she means by that. Would she send a 7-year-old out for the day and simply expect him back by dinner>
    As I recall, Lenore started this project with a 9-year-old, yet some people on this list seem to think it’s a great idea to send 5-year-olds to kindergarten alone through the streets and hope for the best.
    Yes, stranger abduction is rare, and could happen to anyone. But there’s a vast difference between driving a junior high kid to the bus stop and sending a child who hasn’t lost her baby teeth out into the world with saints, priests and sinners.

  33. As (former GE CEO) Jack Welch would say, “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.”
    Three, four, five- and six-year-olds have a competitive advantage against other kids in the playground, so there’s no need for the helicopters to mediate every interaction with another child to make sure their precious never shares a toy without getting a “thank you” back.
    Teenagers might have a prayer of successfully physically competing against an adult. But even 7- and 8-year-olds don’t have a prayer if somebody takes it into their head to take their stuff.
    Would you throw your kid in a shark tank so he can be prepared for the next time it happens? Then why let your 7-year-old walk the streets alone just so they can be prepared to defend themselves when it’s needed at 14? They might not make it to 14.

  34. vzwriter– You’re right– there is a difference between a 5 and an 11 year old. And I can’t recall anyone here advocating sending a kindergartner very far without an older sibling. (To the yard or next door to a neighbors, maybe). However, not that long ago 5 year olds DID walk to school, sometimes a mile or more, by themselves and, as they get closer to school, with other kids (as all kids converge on the same spot.)

    Being free range is not to be confused with being free-for-all, no boundaries, willy-nilly, children on the loose. It’s a conscious choice to allow children increased independence, based on their ability and weighing real safety issues (as opposed to hyper-inflated fears.) It’s not sending kindergartners by themselves on the first day of school… but maybe your first grader shows exemplary skills and you give them some slack on the leash, meeting them halfway or stopping just in sight of the school.

    No one’s advocating sending unprepared children of any age into the world here. It’s NOT age that’s important, but rather the ability of the child. And some 5 year olds may get familiar enough to walk to school on their old (or the bus stop) at some point in the school year– and I think that location of the school, obstacles to overcome and preparedness of the child are far more important than mere age.

  35. vzwriter: what do you think that children need to defend themselves against on the street? If not being able to defend oneself on the streets is a criteria, then most women should be at home! Not that a parent present could really stop a determined evil-doer, especially if that parent is a mother.

    Seriously, your straw-man arguments are showing that you don’t understand what being free-range is even advocating. You only send a child out who you think is capable of the challenge. You wouldn’t sit your teenager in the front seat of the car, hand them the keys and say “you’ll figure it out” anymore than we here are advocating pushing a young child out the door and driving away while calling “You’ll find your way home eventually! See you there!” It’s about teaching the child in steps until they are ready to ride the bike alone, or walk to school alone, or other place in what really is a relatively safe world we live in.

  36. […] Original post: Jaycee Dugard’s Take on Overprotective Parents […]

  37. […] Jaycee Dugard’s Take on Overprotective Parents • from Lenore at Free-Range Kids […]

  38. Exactly@ socalledauthor.

    It is Free Range Kids, not “Feral Kids”

    As I commented on the last post (about babied in strollers outside shops). It starts with being a free range parent. Not over baby proofing or extended baby proofing into the preschool years. Wear a bike helmet, but take the training wheels off. Start small and TEACH children, let them grow in their capabilities. Not underestimating kids or over estimating risk.

    It’s not “throwing them in a shark tank” its letting them go to the beach.

    I live in nyc and have a 7 year old and 10 year old. There’s not great place to ride a bike in my neighborhood, but my 7 year old rides his bike alone when we are in the country (small towns) visiting his grandparents and uncle. His sister (10) prefers to go with adults (she is not as coordinated and still falls frequently on her bike). It’s not age, but ability and comfort level. However, she goes across the street in nyc to mail letters and get groceries or pick up pizza. She enjoys ordering and eating in diners wither her friends. She’ll start walking a few blocks to my office from school this year (and is excited to do it) and next year she’ll take the subway to school with other 11 year old friends (after some trial runs).

  39. (Con’t hit send too soon)

    The point is it Free Range doesn’t START at age 9 (in Lenore’s case) or 11 (in mine) when the kid gets on the subway solo or otherwise goes “out on their own”

  40. vzwriter – I was a Free Range Child, ranging over large chunks of farms, ranches and wilderness. The key to my survival is that before I was turned loose my father made sure I could find my way home from anywhere I was likely to wander, knew how to respond to various animal threats (bears, bulls, farm dogs), knew basic first aid, knew basic outdoor survival, and knew how to get help.

    He didn’t keep me confined to the house until I was 10 and then toss me out 15 miles in the wilderness for a walk-back. He took me with him fishing and hunting from the time I could toddle, teaching me continually … so when I was 10 and he drove me and some other kids 15 miles into the woods and dumped us out for a walk-back, we were ready for a 5-hour hike back to town.

  41. My free range 9 year old reached a biking milestone today – his very first road rash. He and his dad and his brother were on the bike trail today. Some preschooler was getting his kicks throwing stones onto the trail. The 9 year old swerved to avoid the rocks and wiped out into the rail. By the time dad caught up with him he had gotten up, given the kid a piece of his mind, and gotten back on his bike, Even though it hurt like blazes (and his leg does look like heck) he got right back on and kept going. He needed some attention and sympathy when he got home, but he sat up extra straight when I told him how proud he was that he had handled it himself.

    Yesterday, we were at a local lake and a thunderstorm moved in, so we had to make a dash for the cars. My sons ran ahead to the parking lot with their two friends. My sons’ friends were afraid of the approaching storm, so they unzipped the back window of our convertible, and climbed in with their friends to wait in the car so that their friends wouldn’t be scared. They did this all on their own, while I was helping another friend manage her 4 kids while she got her stuff together. That was a wonderful case of a bunch of moms actually helping each other. One mom was pushing a cart full of beach stuff. Her five year old and my friend’s five year old were holding hands next to her. My friend’s fourth grader was in charge of holding onto his one year old sister. I carried some stuff for her and shepherded her 3 year old. This whole entourage was a wonderful display of kids looking out for each other, moms helping each other, rather than criticizing each other, and everyone getting to the cars before the hail started. I praised my kids mightily for having both the foresight to break into the car and the kindness to keep their nervous friends from being afraid.

    Free range kids rock.

  42. Thought Lenore might find this interesting. I watch the Lifetime show “Dance moms” because I love trashy reality tv and as an ex competition dancer myself I find it interesting. Anyway, this week the group dance was called “Where have all the children gone?” The little girls dressed all in white and did an eerie dance to a creepy poem about children disapeering. Abby Miller the choreographer said the dance was about all the kids who committed suicide from bullying or who ended up on milk cartons.

    Here is a link to the dance.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR9B77SNO9c

    I found it very age inappropriate and just downright disturbing. However it won overall top scoring number at the competition.

  43. Oh, I remember, and she implied that children disappearing is an epidemic.

    But that show is SOOOOO scripted. Who knows what any of them really thinks on any subject?

  44. @Socalledauthor: “if not being able to defend oneself on the street is a criteria, most women should be at home”? I get that you’re responding to @vswriter (who, agreed, is off base), but, um, what?

    No offense, but I don’t know very many helpless women.

  45. @FrancesfromCanada–No, women are not helpless, but we are often not the best at being able to defend ourselves against attackers, particularly male attackers, who generally have greater physical strength. My point is simply that there are many people, often women, that are just as defenseless as children, but as a society we only pick one group, call them homogeneous and say that they must stay at home to be safe. (Though, historically, women were supposed to stay at home, in the feminine sphere, because it was safer for their delicate sensibilities.) All children are not helpless simply because of age just as all women are not helpless just because of gender. I probably didn’t express that as clearly as I could.

  46. Uly: Yep it is super scripted. As a former dance teacher and competitive dancer I know how much most of what they are saying or doing for the show is total bs unless things have changed completely in the last 15 which I doubt. I enjoy watching the little girls dance since they are super talented.

  47. Teenagers might have a prayer of successfully physically competing against an adult. But even 7- and 8-year-olds don’t have a prayer if somebody takes it into their head to take their stuff.
    Would you throw your kid in a shark tank so he can be prepared for the next time it happens? Then why let your 7-year-old walk the streets alone just so they can be prepared to defend themselves when it’s needed at 14? They might not make it to 14.

    The argument that you can’t have a child walking around by themselves because they can’t physically defend themselves against an attacker is, while theoretically true, a very disturbing line of thought.

    What you’re telling me is that I need to be able to rely on the strength of my arm as the basic means of keeping myself safe while outside in public. You know, rather than the lawfulness of the society I live in, the basic decency of the average human being (who would help me should I be assaulted), and the rarity of the sort of people who would commit violent crimes against total strangers.

    I’m a 21 year old female. I’m not fat but I don’t have much muscle tone. I’m taller than average but I’m not particularly large. I have no self defense training. I cannot run particularly fast or far. Should a stronger woman, or a man of average adult male strength attack me, they would have the advantage in that fight on a purely physical basis. The only two advantages I have are the length of heavy steel chain I wear as a belt, and a vicious streak a mile wide in a violent situation. If somebody tries to kill or rape me, I am willing to fight to the death, but it is perfectly conceivable that a single attacker would be able to overpower me to the point that I can’t fight back or run. Two attackers would easily be able to overcome me. Along the line of thinking you’re employing for children, I should always be accompanied in public because if someone stronger decides to attack/abduct/kill/rape me, they have a good chance of succeeding. Moreover, what you’re suggesting is that any given individual should be prepared to be able to physically overpower, to the point of escaping from, the average adult male (as a benchmark), if they are to feel safe from other people. If society really has degenerated to the point where I need to be prepared to physically struggle with others in order to live my life unmolested… we need some serious reform right now. And more police.

    Are we lawless animals, where the right of conquest applies to our everyday social interactions? Where the physically weakest of us scurry and cringe and submit to any terrorism that the stronger choose to lay down upon our heads?

    I refuse to believe we are. If I scurry and hide and cringe and fear, the Bad Thing has already happened to me. I’m already cripplingly afraid, from an assault that hasn’t actually happened yet. The terrorists have already won, without even having to strike.

    That is not the world I live in.

  48. I don’t know if the girls are that talented. As I said on the TWOP forum about the show, with the amount of practice and classes they’ve stated they put in (and I suspect the girls aren’t being fed their lines, at least not as much as the adults), anybody would be technically proficient. But I love seeing how the kids are so close to each other, in comparison to the drama-fest that is the adults. (Manufactured or not, that’s what it is.)

  49. Oh Uly you post on TWOP. I have been reading that forum for Dance Moms. I find the discussion on there great. I have not registered to post anything on there yet. I do know the girls are talented. I coached a junior age competitive team and they were not as good as those girls and my girls still won first at nationals. They never learned all those technical and difficult turns like these girls can do.

    The girls are extremely talented. They can do stuff that I could not do at my most advanced dancing level in high school and again, I won dance competitions too. So they are talented. The problem is Abby has them learning numbers too quickly and they need to work more on precision and uniformity.

    Anyway, enough off topic discussion on that.

  50. Uly: actually one more thing. Dancing is not something ANYONE can do. As a dance teacher, believe me, not true. We had kids that had parents like Vivi’s mom who wanted their kids to be good dancers, but they just did not have it. It did not matter how many privates or practices they did. They would never have it. They could be decent with enough practice, but never great. Some kids have no rhythm, some kids don’t have any natural flexibility or turnout. Some kids have no equilibrium so they can do good turns. So kids have no stage presence.

  51. Vivi’s “problem” (such as it is – and this is MY last OT comment on the subject too!) is that she clearly doesn’t want to dance. Period. If she wanted to, that could probably overcome her lack of natural gifts, at least, it could if she was taking four hours of private classes every day in addition to the group classes….

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