Stealing from Kids, Part II

Hi Readers — I thought this was an interesting comment on the post about doing “everything” for our kids (and taking away the opportunity for them to learn how to do stuff themselves). “NT” is shorthand for “neurotypical” — i.e., a child without neurological difficulties. — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: I see moms like this at my daughter’s school, where the lockers for the special-needs preschool kids are right across from the NT second-graders.

While the preschooler’s parents and TAs diligently work with our kids to
remind them of how to take off boots,  jackets, put mittens in pockets
themselves, there’s another group of moms doing all this stuff for their
much-older children while they stand there like lumps of wax, arms out
expectantly. It’s amazing to me that we have higher expectations of our
three-year-old kids with special needs (mostly autism) than many mothers of
second-graders do.

I’m hoping that one of these days, one of those mothers will glance over
towards us and maybe wonder why we’re working so hard to teach our kids to
be independent, and decide that maybe it’s time for her children to do the
same. To me, it looks like they’re working just as hard to handicap their NT
kids as we are to teach our autistic kids to learn basic skills. — Michelle

Stealing from Kids

Hi Readers! This gem of an essay was found on page 4 of a newsletter from the Brookwood Elementary in Leawood, KS. Kudos to the anonymous author! – L.

Are You Stealing from Your Children? by Anonymous

I watched the other day as a parent came into the building with her (very capable) child. As the child stood idly by, mom carefully put everything in his locker neatly, reminding him that he had his lunch on top there, easily retrievable, and hanging up his coat for him as well.

The child, looking bored, leaned up against the lockers as his mom loosened his boots, took them off, put them in the locker, and tied on the school shoes. Mom then took the gloves and coat off, reminding the child that the gloves were now carefully placed in the pockets, and stored them in he locker. XOXOXO, and he’s off to… you might think Kindergarten but no — several grades up! Even Kindergarten would be a stretch at this point in the year.

When children have no need to do things for themselves, what do you think will happen over time? When children know their parents will do everything for them, what message did the parent send? And when their peers see this happening, do they see the child as independent and a “can do,” capable person? They may see incapable, they may see lazy, or they may think that the parent is being fooled.

What I see is a parent stealing an opportunity from a child – an opportunity for an independent, shared relationship going forward. If you are doing something for your child that s/he could do for himself (and it’s not “just this one time”), give that some thought…who really needs to have that done, the child or you?

A Glass of Sprite

Hi Readers! I loved this letter from a guy named Brad. You may, too. — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids:  I happened to rabbit-hole into your blog tonight, and read it for about 2 hours, fascinated by the psychotic parents out there. I’m 27 and was raised Free-Range. I was allowed to run amok, largely unattended, for extended periods of time. I got into all sorts of trouble and suffered many life-threatening injuries such as skinned knees, bruises of various sizes, bloody noses, and twisted ankles. One time I was attacked by a clearly homicidal rose bush. And I even broke my arm when I made the unwise decision to jump off the tailgate of a parked pickup truck and tumble down a hill. My broken arm shaped the rest of my life.

First of all, I was 10 years old. I was playing unsupervised outside in the summer with my band of heathen friends, a group of about five boys in my neighborhood. I don’t even remember what we were doing, or why I was climbing on the truck, much less why I jumped off it. I realized something was wrong when my arm was really hurting a different kind of hurt than I was used to. I got on my bike and rode home one-handed. I told my mom what happened when I got home and she sat me on the couch and got me a Sprite.

Soft drinks were a special treat when I was a kid and so Sprite was my mother’s first line of defense if something was wrong. Bad day at school? Sprite. Cold/flu? Sprite. And, apparently, broken arm=Sprite. I sat there watching TV and sipping sullenly, but when my arm was still hurting after an hour, we went to the ER. X-ray later, I was diagnosed with a fracture of both the humerus and radius, a cast was applied, and I was to follow up with my regular doctor in two weeks.

I learned a lot in the six weeks I was in a cast. I learned that I was far more capable one-handed than I has previously thought. I learned that a bent wire hanger was the perfect scratching implement for under-cast itches. I learned that I had way more friends than I thought, judging by the sheer number of signatures my cast acquired. I learned that broken bones suck, but life goes on. My parents didn’t freak out, so I didn’t freak out. I really think it was the first time my little brain followed the whole decision-action-consequence-adaptation continuum from inception to resolution.

I’ve since grown up to be a paramedic. I love what I do. It’s fulfilling in a truly indescribable way, but I’ve noticed something that troubles me. I make a lot of calls for “panic attacks” that don’t stem from a medical disorder, like clinical depression or schizophrenia. They’re panic attacks born from the inability to deal with life. There’s a college near where I work, and we make calls there all the time for kids that don’t know how to deal with the stress from being away from controlling parents. These are kids that crumble at the slightest bump in the road. They make a C on a term paper, their boyfriend/girlfriend breaks up with them, they don’t like their roommate, whatever. They panic, hyperventilate, and sob uncontrollably. They don’t sit on the couch and drink a Sprite because no one ever taught them how.

I like the Free-Range philosophy. It’s promoting a way to make kids self-reliant. Teaching them to fish, so to speak. That way, when they leave the nest and forge their own path they have the tools they need. My parents let me face life head on when I was a kid. They let me fall, but they helped me dust myself off and get back up. I’m a stronger adult because of it.

My mom always used to say “If you cry when you burn the toast, what to you do when the house burns down?” That stuck with me.

So did the Sprite.

Sincerely, Brad

Things go better with...a little self-reliance.