2 College Presidents Beg Parents to Hover…in a New Way

Hi Folks — Just reading an early copy of an oped to be published in tomorrow’s Washington Post by the president of Northwestern University,Morty Schapiro, and the president of Lewis & Clark College,Barry Glassner, who is author of the book (turned phrase) The Culture of Fear.

Instead of merely telling parents to quit helicoptering when they drop their kids off at college — a tactic that they admit does not work — the dynamic duo do something I call “yuppie jujitsu.” They flip the parents’ own need for hovering into a way for them to let go. In this case, they tell parents that rather than swooping in to help their kids get something “better” —  be it a room, roommate or  grade — they should swoop in to remind their kids, “You can handle this! A little discomfort is good! You’re stretching!” As the presidents write:

…parents can help by gently pushing their children to embrace complexity and diversity and to stretch the limits of their comfort zones. Some of the most important learning we provide is uncomfortable learning — where students take classes in subjects they find intimidating, and live, study and play with classmates from backgrounds very different from their own.

This is so brilliant because it gives parents who, God bless ’em, only want to help, something constructive to do. It makes backing off into an ACTIVE way to HELP their kids. That is pure genius! I’m going to use it myself! The authors conclude with the kind of encouraging praise the parents have perfected themselves:

Having raised smart and accomplished kids, most parents are able, with a little guidance, to recognize the difference between being a constructive partner in their child’s educational journey and being a counterproductive, infantilizing, control freak.

The goal here at Free-Range Kids is to help them realize this before their kids are 18. But it’s great to know that, should we fail, the message awaits at college.

Hey Parents! Drop your kids off and then…

Guest Post: Parents — Reach for the Duct Tape

Hi Readers! Here’s a little list of tips from Vicki Hoefle, author of the brand-new book: Duct Tape Parenting: A Less is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible and Resilient Kids. – L

5 Simple Ways to Let Go and Raise a Resilient Child, by Vicki Hoefle

Hey there Free-Rangers! I want to give a quick kudos to you for encouraging your children to take reasonable risks. It takes courage to foster independence in a world that prefers to hover and hyper-protect. By stepping out of the way and trusting them, you are enabling resiliency, confidence, courage and independence in your kids. Thank you and keep up the radical faith, folks!

If you start to lose a little steam or you begin to hear the chopper blades grind, here are a few things you can do to bring yourself back into the “less is more” parenting mode.

1. Try saying yes. Sometimes, we simply say NO because it’s habit, or it’ll take too long or we’re not sure they can handle it or it will be messy. This is a choice of convenience (for us) over experience (for the kids). Luckily, it’s an easy habit to work on so consider yes before you throw out an automatic no!

2. Ignore the mess. Engaged, thinking, curious kids are messy and they don’t always look perfect, have their stuff together or make the “right choices.” Yep, they might say the wrong thing (and make you blush), forget their homework or wear mismatched clothes. Give yourself permission to stop “tidying up” for them and celebrate independence!

3. Encourage your child to do for himself.  Kids ask for all kinds of help that they really don’t need us for. “Can you get me a drink?” “Can you find my hat?” And so forth. Encouraging kids to do it themselves is vital to them developing self, home and life skills – and it’s a natural confidence booster.  Remember it’s about practice, not perfection, so keep your expectations reasonable.

4. Hang Back vs. Hovering. It’s easy to watch our kids try and succeed but it’s hard to watch when they make mistakes or fail.  If we can hang back, though, we’ll watch our kids solve the problems they create in creative and often surprising ways. Hanging back and observing sends a message that you trust your child to try and yes, to fail is just fine.  This is certainly good for resiliency!

5. Zip the Mouth. Technically, this is easy but mentally, it can be fiercely challenging. (I put duct tape over my bossy mouth!) Some parents talk all day long (without realizing)– correcting, nagging, reminding, chiming in, etc. This “noise” interferes with a child’s decision-making process and puts the thinking on mom or dad’s plate. It’s counter-productive if we want kids to know how to figure things out vs. calling mom or dad for everything, right? Right!

You Can Babysit at 12…But You Must Be Dropped Off at the Babysitting Class by Your Mom

Hi Readers! Let’s call this a “Catch 12”: you are old enough to do something independent, but not allowed to do it independently: 

Dear Free-Range Kids: I’ve got my 11 & 12 year old sons registered to take a babysitting class through our local children’s medical center.  The reminder email stated:

Accompany your child into the building and to the classroom. Please allow 5 minutes to park, find the room, and to check your child in.

Please send a water bottle, lunch and snack with your child. There is no cafeteria available.  (Because clearly, neither I nor my kids would think of this on our own for a class that runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.!)

Class ends promptly at 2 p.m. Please arrive to the classroom by 1:50 p.m. for a summary of the day and to pick up your child. For your child’s safety please let the instructor know if you plan to have someone other than yourself pick up your child from the classroom.

So I replied:

Hi, my kids have been learning how to bus around town this summer.  Are they not allowed to arrive without an adult?  What about leaving on their own?

Thanks, Cheryl

Here’s their response:

Cheryl,

We really appreciate you checking in on this ahead of time. Due to safety concerns, it is our standard practice to ask that a parent or caregiver accompany the child to the class. The instructor checks each student in and confirms an emergency contact number with the adult. We also ask that the instructor see each child leave with a parent, caregiver or designated adult.

I apologize if this causes any scheduling concerns for you. If you’d like to schedule your child for a different class that occurs when you can accompany them, we’d be happy to waive the transfer fee and schedule them in a class with availability. Let me know if you want to do that or if you have any questions.

Thanks again for contacting us with the question. I hope your child enjoys the upcoming class!

And my reply:

I can make it happen, it’s just kind of silly that kids who are to be responsible for little ones aren’t given a chance to be responsible for themselves. It’s also not good for the environment, my time or our gas budget.

Does it make a difference if it’s two siblings that would be traveling together?

I haven’t heard back from them yet.  Isn’t this just ridiculous?!  I won’t stop being a Free-Range Parent, but goodness, sometimes it’s just so dang tiring dealing with friends, family, society, etc. that think I’m crazy for letting my kids do things like walk, bike, and bus around town; for working for neighbors; and you know the rest! ~~Cheryl 

“How a Mother Can Make or Break Their College Student” Oh Really?

Hi Folks! A publicist sent me this infographic titled, “How a Mother Can Make or Break Their College Student.” It’s about a new service called mygofer that apparently ships basic toiletries and food to college students because otherwise they would stink and starve.

“HELP THEM OUT, MOM!” reads the copy. “Clearly they cannot be trusted on his or her own yet.” (The grammar alone is killing me.) “Shop for your busy student and have the items delivered right to their campus.”  The benefits of doing this? “No off-campus shopping = more time for rest, healthful habits and studying.” I leave you to supply your own guffaw. Also: “Send them reminders of home — favorite brands and foods.” Because it’s so hard to find an Oreo once you leave Topeka. And: “More of the money you give them is freed up for fun, not necessities.” Uh…great.

“College is a time for coming of age, making big decisions and becoming independent…and while all that is important, it’s a lot for a student to handle!” (Especially if they have to spend all their beer money on food.)  “Let them know they’re loved by Mom, not snubbed by Mom.”

Because only a mom who snubs her kids would expect them to learn how to buy a bottle of shampoo without her. – L.  (who, speaking of college educations,  can’t figure out how to shrink the graphic to fit quite right, but wanted to give you an idea of it anyway)

Outrage of the Week: Mom Arrested for Letting Her Kids, 11 & 7, Walk to Pizza Shop

Yes, readers, it’s another case of child protective craziness. According to the Manchester, Conn. Patch, a local  mom was charged with “risk of injury to a minor and failure to appear after police say she allowed her seven-year and 11-year old children to walk down to Spruce Street to buy pizza unsupervised.”

And according to reader Bob who sent this to us, Google Maps shows that we are talking about a half-mile walk! In addition to the solidarity of outrage, please post your ideas for how to protest the idea that kids are in danger every time they do something on their own,  even something dumbfoundingly  mundane, which means also protesting any time helicopter parenting becomes the only  “legal” way to raise our kids. – L.

Shh! Don’t tell the cops I let you get this on your own, kids!

You’ll Like This Kid

Hi Folks — I sure liked him! Liked what he’s all about! – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids:  I wanted to share a great interaction we had this past Saturday with a Free-Range Kid.  My son and daughter-in-law were moving from their apartment, and while we were over there packing and taking boxes and furniture down the U-haul truck, a 9-year-old boy and his little sister stopped by and asked if they could help.  The little sister took a couple of small things down to the truck, but quickly lost interest.  Her brother spent 4 hours with us, packing boxes (he emptied an entire closet by himself), carrying lots of stuff down two flights of stairs, helping me tip over the loveseat to get the crumbs out of the bottom, helping us disassemble the lamps, the dinette table, etc.  At first I wouldn’t let him use the packing tape because of the sharp blade needed to cut it, but thinking of you, I showed him how to use it properly, so he was able to put the boxes together without any adult assistance.

He is the son of the building superintendent, so I think his family might not have the resources to send him to camps and summer activities, and because they are immigrants, they might not know that kids are supposed to be locked up “safe” all day.

He didn’t ask to be paid — he was just helping us because he wanted something to do — but I gave him $5, and after a few minutes he turned up with a slice of pizza and an eggroll from the take-out places down the street — very proud of himself for having the wherewithal to get his own supper.  When we left for the day, he kept thanking us for the fun afternoon he had had, working his butt off with the grown-ups!                                                                                                                                                                                         All the best, Bella Englebach

News Flash: Kids LIKE helping out.

Drowning in Self-Esteem: A Pool Story

Hi Readers —  With summer in full gear, let me request you all to teach your children to swim. Free-Range Kids believes in safety and resourcefulness and swimming lessons! – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids:  My family has been spending most of our time at our local swim club.  I’m happy to say it is a Free-Range parent’s dream: five acres of land and multiple pools.  Kids running freely with their friends while parents can have conversations and enjoy the adult swims.

The swim club is still pretty old school but I’ve noticed some changes.  They took out the diving boards two years ago and replaced them with VERY COOL water slides.  Since the slides are in the deep end, kids need to pass the Band Test to ride them.  The Band Test was even made easier this year — just two laps (now it’s the width of the pool, not the length) and tread water for 90 seconds (used to be 3 minutes).  The test is offered every day at 2 pm.  You can take it as many times as you want until you pass.  But… many kids don’t want to take it.  They are too afraid of not passing, so they avoid taking the test and cannot swim in the deep end of the main pool.

Several parents have come up to me with “concerns” because they feel my kids (who all have bands) are excluding their kids when they swim in the deep end without all the kids.  Get your kid to take the Band Test, I tell them.  I cannot believe the conversations I’ve had with parents of older kids (9,10, 11) who think their precious child will be crushed if they fail a Band Test.  I even saw a mom arguing with a lifeguard because she felt her daughter should have passed (she grabbed the wall 10 seconds too soon) because the guard started her stopwatch late.  I don’t know about you, but I’d want to know if my child had the basic survival skills to pass this test. If they didn’t, I’d work with them until they did.

When did the fear of failure take over fear of drowning? – Wilma

Teach your kids to swim…even on land.