Australian Police Chide Parents Who Let their Children Walk Outside

Hi Readers! Down in Australia I’m sort of happy to say a tempest is brewing over whether it is up to parents or police to decide when a child is “old enough” to walk around outside. According to this story  on the home page of the Sydney Morning Herald:

Officers told a Hornsby mother it was ”inappropriate” for her 10-year-old daughter to catch a bus unaccompanied, and warned a Manly father whose seven-year-old son walked alone to a local shop that while they would not alert DOCS [Dept. of Community Services], they would file a report.

Really? File a report to say a child was suspiciously…fine? Tell another parent that her  child is doing something “inappropriate” by…being competent?

Are these officers doing anyone an ounce of good? Don’t they realize that if they have nothing to do but warn parents about their perfectly poised offspring,  there probably isn’t a whole lot of crime going on for anyone to worry about?

And of course the bigger issue is, as always: Who decides what is “safe enough” when it comes to our kids? Free-Range Kids would rather not leave it up to   power-drunk, horror-hallucinating, infantilizing  busybodies with badges. – L.

If a 6-y.o. Can Really Walk Around the Neighborhood…

Hi Readers! I gathered together a few of the 341 responses to  the other day’s post, “As Recently as 1979 a First Grader Could…,”to remind us of what kids are capable of (when we don’t give in to the fear-mongering media). Enjoy! – L

Jackie: When I lived in Panama, 6 year olds would scale a coconut tree (no side branches) with a machete, cut down a head of coconuts, slide down using their bare feet as brakes, and whack the heck out of a coconut with their machete until it was cleaned of the outer coat and had a nice, perfectly round little hole that I could drink the milk out of.  The first time I saw that, I was horrified.  The twentieth, thirtieth time I saw it, I realized we Americans are a bunch of namby-pambies.

Sherry B:  I have heard of child abductions.  Who hasn’t with Nancy Grace and all the news channels sensationalizing them?  I also hear of car accidents and drownings, which happen way too frequently and take away the lives of so many more children.  I’m just trying to be a rational parent here.

Let me tell you a story of my Mother-In-Law (who just loves her CNN news).  We spent the last week on an incredible vacation at the lake. Our house was on the water and the kids (and their friends they invited) were in heaven with fishing, swimming, boating, and dives off the floating dock. Playing outside all day, campfires every night, both kids and adults were in heaven.

Grandmom called EVERY DAY of our vacation.  She wanted to tell us DON’T LET THE KIDS GO IN THE LAKE.  Why?!  Because 3 people died of a brain-eating amoeba that was found in lakes in Louisiana, Florida, and Virginia.  It was all over the news. So, all lakes are dangerous now.  See how spreading The Fear works?

Thankfully (for my children’s sake), we ignored her (though we did remind them to close their mouths in the water) and enjoyed old fashioned fun without the side of irrational fear.

derekmunson: this post made me realize that our shih-tzu puppy has more free range than our kids — and we live in coyote country! maybe it’s time to loosen the leash.

 

Notice It Wasn’t, “Wednesday Is Negligent Parents Day”

Hi Readers! This is from the blog, “Free-Range Kids in Film,” by Michael Alves. How I remember this commercial! — L. 

“Anthony” Prince Pasta commercial. Not sure when this was filmed, but it seems like it is the late 60s or early 70s. It shows a school-age boy, Anthony, running home through the streets of the North End of Boston to get his dinner. He is alone. The streets are crowded, but he gets home safely. According to the article below, this spot ran for 13 years. I bet no one felt it was strange that a boy would be out by himself back then. — Michael Alves

And I’ll bet no one called the police if he didn’t run home. — L.

As Recently as 1979, A First Grader Could…

Hi Folks! Just saw this wonderful child development reprint,  courtesy of writer Christine Whitley on a blog called ChicagoNow. She reprinted it from a series of books published in 1979, just one generation or so ago, called, “Your ___-Year-Old.” Each book provided a little checklist of  the milestones the average blank-year-old would have reached.

So, for a six-year-old, in addition to having a couple of permanent teeth and knowing left from right, the book asks:

Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend’s home?

What a reality check! Can we all pause to remember that the very thing that terrifies so many parents today — a simple walk around the neighborhood — was not something reserved for kids age 10 or 12 or 15 just a generation ago? It was something that first graders did. And presumably those first graders got some practice as kindergarteners!

So when parents gasp at the idea of their kids crossing the street, walking to school, or playing at the playground unsupervised (!), kindly remind them that this is not a mission to Mars we’re talking about, it is a mission the average 6-year-old could handle with aplomb back in 1979.

You might even add that this was back when the crime rate was higher then than it is today. Or just shut up about the crime rate and let it sink in that they are treating their whatever-year-old as less competent than a first grader. — Lenore

Can’t Argue with Success

Hi Readers! First of all, thank you SO MUCH for the fantastic suggestions on how to help parents get over the fear of BLAME, in the post below this one.  Here’s one response that I wanted to highlight because I hear you: We need success stories here, too. Enjoy this one! L.

Dear Free-Range Kids:  *Other* parents’ ability to let go of that worry have encouraged me to do the same. A recent example: My 13-yo son is attending band camp, 2 miles from our home, for an hour a day M-F. Problem is, I tutor 2 days a week and am not available to get him there on those 2 days. A friend called and said her son (a friend of my son’s) was going to camp as well, but she babysits little ‘uns and the strain of getting them all out the door for 2 there-and-back trips was a bit much, and would my son want to walk with her son?

I wouldn’t have sent him on his own, because the guilt would have killed me! But with someone else? Why not try?

They have been walking it for almost 3 weeks now. A female friend has joined them, and then another girl came along 1 day, but her father followed them in the family minivan all the way there, and then home again later. (I don’t know whether to be amused or insulted!)

Funny thing is, the friend who “instigated” this venture has an older daughter who also went on foot 4 years ago, but Mom is taking flak for *making* her son do it, because he’s in a WHEELCHAIR. As if that makes him incapable. He’s traveling with 2 or 3 other people, never by himself, and she’s getting guilt-tripped because he’s in a WHEELCHAIR, and how could she MAKE him do it?! And get this, the other kids had to start riding their bikes to keep up with him (he does NOT have a motorized chair, BTW).

Last cool thing: Mom had to drop off a form and did it at the end of the day’s session so she could just give him a ride home. His response was, “Thanks, Mom, but I need to catch up with my friends.” How can you argue with THAT success? — A Mom in Illinois

Cops Collar 12 y.o. for “Walking Alone” in Downtown Toronto

Hi Folks — Now that the notion, “How could anyone let their kids walk alone outside?” is back in heavy rotation,  here is the blog post of a mom whose 12 year old son was brought home to her by the cops. He wasn’t  in any trouble. He was simply scooped up because the cops didn’t think a middle schooler should be walking, by daylight, in an urban area. It freaked them out.

I always worry when people in power are scared of non-scary, formerly normal childhood activities.

As this boy was picked up in pretty much the same area that I’ve been staying in while I film my “Free-Range” reality show in Toronto, I can attest that it is not a scary nabe. It is bustling. But even if it weren’t, since when do police pick up boys who are doing just fine, walking home? From the blog post:

“I just wanted to walk home” he said dejectedly. “He’s not in any kind of trouble” the first officer said cheerfully. But then more sternly added “but he was walking on the downtown streets”. “We live downtown” I said, becoming confused. “Where is his school?” asked the second officer. “He’s in a camp this week, at the Jewish Community Centre – it’s at Spadina and Bloor”, I said wondering why two policemen would think a kid was in school in the middle of July. “Well ma’am, we picked him up at Yonge and Adelaide” he says, looking all strong and concerned. “Yes, I said, he was walking home, is that a problem?”. “He was walking…. alone…… downtown……….!!!” the officer gritted his teeth at my stupidity and spat out. “He’s 12”, he added as if this would make it all clear. “Do you not see the issue” he spurted? “So are you trying to tell me that because my child was getting exercise, being environmental and increasing his geographical skills, rather than sitting in the basement playing a video game, or hanging out in a mall, or sitting in a fast food restaurant filling his gutty wuts with hydrogenated trans sugar chemical slop, you were worried about him? Do you realize that at 12 he is old enough to babysit?” I asked.

Her fight is our fight: The fight against irrational fear, and a Worst-First mentality that assumes if a child is outside, he is likely to get in terrible trouble. When, in fact, the opposite is true. A child outside is a great thing for a city, a family, a kid. — Lenore

Afraid of Your Kids Crossing the Street?

Me too. Traffic is scary. But we do have to teach our kids this crucial skill, and then we have to let them master it in the real world. To remember just how much children are capable of, street-wise, check out this 11-year-old in Libya. — L.