Free book on Free Range kids

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80 Responses to “Free book on Free Range kids”

  1. gevertulley says:

    I couldn’t agree more. In fact I recently spoke at TED about trusting kids: http://www.tinkeringschool.com/blog/2009/ted-2009/

    One of the things that I have learned from teaching Tinkering School is that kids have a great, and well-developed, sense of self-preservation. In the right context, you can hand a seven year-old a box-cutter and they will instantly treat it with respect.

    The whole notion that kids are fragile, and must be treated like porcelain dolls, is a mindset that methodically robs children of their childhood and stunts their development.

  2. Ito Kagehisa says:

    Insightful, ZZMIke, yes; the Bullies will indeed take over, if they haven’t already.

    Incidentally, in my parents’ childhood, it did not cause fear and anger if a student brought a gun to school. He was simply told to leave it in the coatroom. In little farming communities (with one-room schoolhouses) in the 1930s, male children often were taught to shoot as soon as they were physically strong enough to handle a gun. I wonder if there were more or less schoolroom shootings, per capita, than today?

  3. atrick says:

    I worry about overprotecting my kids so when my 10 year old wanted to run something up to the neighbors house a couple of blocks away we said OK. He’s 10, it’s not far so off he goes. He came back to the house a minute later and said there were some teens in a van yelling at him, we said no big deal just go. He was almost to the neighbors house when these teens pull up next to him slide open the door and take aim at him with a fake gun (looked real enough). He ran to the door of a police officer who lived nearby and he was able to apprehend them. It’s fortunate that they were caught so that we found out what was going on, they were doing the same thing to members of a HS cross country team that runs through our (safe, suburban) neighborhood.

  4. FutureNerd says:

    #30 John Mark Ockerbloom,
    #37 dragonfrog,
    #46 – 49 Jack–

    Remember to separate the odds of getting hit by a car as a pedestrian vs. in an accident as a passenger. Here are some overall stats from http://tinyurl.com/crash2000

    These are for the USA for 2000-2001:
    Passengers killed ~20,000
    Passengers injured ~3,000,000
    People outside killed ~6,000
    People outside injured ~140,000

    Also I’ve heard most car accidents happen close to home, so… walk to the soccer field.

  5. Zig says:

    It saddens me when I see how many kids these days seem to have no freedom to explore the world about them.

    When I grew up I went on far ranging expeditions on my bike…heck, even went on long trip (for a young tyke) on my big wheel to find the local streets with the best hills which I then wiped out on.

    I explored the woods out back and tromped through the swampy bits. Then when a bit older explored all over the huge tract of watershed property a mile away including swimming out to the island in the middle of the reservoir.

    One of my fondest childhood memories was on a snow day getting together with my friends to build what amounted to a luge track up and around a very steep hillside. No broken bones, but plenty of bruises.

    Also had a knife as an x-mas present when a kid…which I promptly cut myself with learning that knives are tools to be respected.

    I wonder if my young nieces and nephew will have anything like these experiences. Their parents have a mindset that the world is full on predatory towards their kids — both mother nature and the human race.

  6. Akillian says:

    Just curious here…it seems like the comments so far are focused on letting kids be kids, which I agree with (I have two of them), but we live in a time where there are real dangers posed to children other than their ability or lack thereof to refrain from falling off walls. Comparisons to my swell childhood in the 50s or 80s _don’t count_. Population density, demographics, everything has changed.

    I let my kids play with fire, and use sharp knives. Their best friend is a 200 lb beast of an English Mastiff. They do not, however, go wandering about the neighborhood alone. So I’m curious if anyone thinks there is a real danger to kids at all? Or if it’s just the kids fault when he’s abducted or assaulted.

  7. andrewslayman says:

    Thank you, John, for writing a book about this. Attempting to protect kids from the 1 in 1,000,000 risks while doing nothing about the 4 in 5 ones is insane. Letting kids get fat eating junk food while playing video games, fail to learn reading writing and ‘rithmetic because of lousy schools, etc. are complete failures of adult responsibility to children. They also hurt society in the long run, as societies cannot thrive without healthy, well-educated citizens.

    Also, and completely separately, I cannot comment on BB from my Firefox/Ubuntu box. I have to move to Windows to do so. Please pass on to the programmers and have them contact me if they need more information.

  8. atrick says:

    I worry about overprotecting my kids so when my 10 year old wanted to run something up to the neighbors house a couple of blocks away we said OK. He’s 10, it’s not far so off he goes. He came back to the house a minute later and said there were some teens in a van yelling at him, we said no big deal just go. He was almost to the neighbors house when these teens pull up next to him slide open the door and take aim at him with a fake gun (looked real enough). He ran to the door of a police officer who lived nearby and he was able to apprehend them. It’s fortunate that they were caught so that we found out what was going on, they were doing the same thing to members of a HS cross country team that runs through our (safe, suburban) neighborhood.

  9. Chalky says:

    We live in a culture of fear. A stranger will abduct your child, a cyberstalker will seduce him, your mild-mannered neighbor is actually a serial murderer and child molester, and that man with the beard and turban is a terrorist.

    Perhaps worse than fear, however, is the modern expectation of perfection, and the willingness to litigate to back it up. If my child doesn’t get into Harvard Law, someone is to blame. My child is suffering with a cold? Intolerable–make him better this instant! If my child falls off that swing, I’ll prove you didn’t design the playground with the appropriate engineering controls to prevent every possible injury!

    There are many real dangers out there, but I think you need a realistic perspective–which it sound like this book tries to encourage. Thanks for the recommendation, Cory. Even if we can’t change the greater society, at least I want to do what I can to raise my own kids with more resilience.

    My 3-year-old has no fear. In many ways that’s good, but for now, I do have to watch to make sure he doesn’t jump off the top of the swingset, or run out into the street–because he’s already shown he will do those things if given the chance. As he gets older, I hope he retains that confidence, just tempered with better judgment.

    Of course, there’s the quip that good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment.

  10. Felix Mitchell says:

    I’ve only got through the first couple of chapters and there are so many good ideas here. I really like the quotation saying that when a playground ladder has all the rungs the same distance apart, it means children don’t have to think about how they climb up it. That’s so right!

    I remember enjoying the challenge of climbing trees and uneven surfaces a lot as a kid. Seeing how you could move your body, balance and shift from one point to another.

    I also like these points:

    When people rely on safety standards it makes them complacent about achieving actual safety.

    Children playfighting and teasing each other prepares them for real life and teaches them to interprete facial expressions.

    Hehe.

  11. heydemann3 says:

    @13-
    Yes there are real dangers out there. The severity of them does depend on where you live, there are plenty of good reasons to keep your kids inside alot if there are shootings in your area. Follow the statistics for stranger abductions of children and they haven’t changed very much. Non-custodial parents are behind the vast majority of kidnappings.
    Learning that a skinned knee won’t kill you, that you can fail and then learn, that stupidity has it’s consequences-that actions have consequences-are still things kids can learn on their own, even if you’re in the park on a bench, not yelling “watch out!” every 2 minutes.

  12. Anonymous says:

    #23 Said everything I wanted to. It’s all about balance, people.

  13. Francesco Fondi says:

    Great book! Should be handed out to every new family…

    I grow up creating fireworks at home, hacking things, getting hurt in garden (and of course I played videogames everyday!). I fear the next step will the sanitization of the online experience of kids that will not be able to understand that the world behind the monitor is not Disneyland…

  14. Kay the Complainer says:

    So I’m curious if anyone thinks there is a real danger to kids at all? Or if it’s just the kids fault when he’s abducted or assaulted.

    Sure, kids are in danger of being abducted or assaulted by a stranger – except it’s a vanishingly small danger compared to say, riding in a car, or playing baseball.

    Crime rates have fallen since my own magical 1980′s childhood, and yet I was able to roam the neighbourhood on bicycle and play in the park with my sister and friends without constant supervision. I don’t think the current over-protective parenting style has anything to do with us living in a more “dangerous” society, and everything with us living in a more fearful society.

  15. dragonfrog says:

    FirstBakingBook, I disagree with your idea that [over]protective parents make any significant difference to the opportunities for abduction.

    I suggest you try this – take a long walk, keeping in the back of your mind that what you would really like for dinner is a nice kid drumstick, and look out for opportunities to bag a good roaster. I assure you, you will find opportunities aplenty, as does every would-be child abductor.

    The reason child abductions by a stranger are so rare as to be essentially nonexistent, is that would-be abductors of strange kids are so rare as to be essentially nonexistent.

  16. TroofSeeker says:

    I was 8 and me baby brudder was 5 when I took him to a matinee. Afterwards, he said the big guy sitting next to him was putting his hand in my brudder’s pants. It didn’t get reported. I don’t think human nature has changed much in the last 50 years, tho society has.

    When my youngest was 4, his 6-year-old friend made my son suck his dick. I convinced that boy that I was very, very close to killing him, and if I ever saw him again, I probably would. Haven’t seen him since…

    My wife thinks society is more dangerous. I think it’s just that more of it is reported, but less abuse occurs. Kids know now that they can report abuse. I could not have reported it when I got physically punished, but I wouldn’t have, because I knew I deserved it. I probably still deserve a good whipping. d8^)

  17. deanj says:

    I’m wishing the book had more suggestions for how to raise your children to combat this. Even being aware of the issue it can be difficult to not get wrapped up in the latest child in danger horror story.

    Our 2.5 year old is out of the stroller and walks every where we do. At the local park we let him roam and climb.

    As an infant we’d split his time between “the baby swings” and riding on the big swings in Pop’s lap. When he expressed interest in a solo trip on the big swings we gave it a try. He was scared a few moments but now looks down on the baby swings.

    We have him help pick up his toys (“It’s okay to make a mess but you have to clean up” is the mantra.) He helps to set the table and wash dishes. Most of it is more work than doing it yourself but he enjoys the interaction/activity and we’re laying the groundwork for a well-rounded adult.

    We still are a long way from solo trips out but you can’t just flip a switch one day and decide your kid is going free-range. I figure you have to lay the ground work.

    I know college aged kids who have never washed their own clothes. That won’t be our kids. Hopefully they’ll be able to wash their clothes, clean a gun, make friends, raise their own food, prepare a meal, etc. etc. etc. =)

  18. frowelishnu says:

    My daughter will be 6 in three days and I’m willing to let her be independent any place we go that doesn’t have traffic (we don’t frequent the shooting ranges or Mt. Everest much).
    I’m actually scared of traffic in general. We walk a lot and I’ve had a few close calls with people who just will not stop at stop signs or even lights.
    I think I was about 7 before leaving the house on my own and coming back in a set amount of hours (usually by the next meal time or dark).
    I’ll probably do the same for her but am worried about traffic in general.

  19. Cory Doctorow says:

    @9 Robulus for the win!

  20. Anonymous says:

    #49 – Not even any playground equipment?

    No wonder the Harry Potter books are so popular. The kid lives in a closet under the stairs for ten years and it’s only by unusual circumstances he finally gets to have fun.

  21. Anonymous says:

    This is good – it’s important that parents make the right balance between not being risk averse and at the same time not being neglectful. It’s not an easy balance to strike.

    I think parents, metaphor for life, should aim to be there with a plaster after they come off the swing but to still catch them if they fall down the stairs.

    Being caring (up to a point) is the whole point of parenting. Let your children live and be there if they get hurt.

  22. WeightedCompanionCube says:

    Andrewslayman:

    Also, and completely separately, I cannot comment on BB from my Firefox/Ubuntu box. I have to move to Windows to do so. Please pass on to the programmers and have them contact me if they need more information.

    Works for me. Firefox is Firefox, no matter what you run it on. Do you have NoScript installed? Look for a blue S with a No symbol over it. If so, you need to allow scripts from boingboing.net

  23. zuzu says:

    …change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. ^_^

  24. wingbatwu says:

    I think the overprotective part comes from having few kids, or even only one.

    Considering that poeple increasingly decide to become parents later in life and may spend a lot of money on medical technology or adoption to get one child, that one kid becomes more like an investment they don’t want to lose.

  25. Carole says:

    In my neck of the woods, grade 8 students go through firearms safety training, a hunting course, and learn some winter survival skills. Then they’re taken on a bison hunt for a week during the winter. Rather than telling them guns are bad, you’re teaching them the usefulness of firearms and how to use them safely. What a switch! Mind you, we are surrounded by wilderness here in the far north.

  26. atomburke says:

    another take can be found from Richard Louv in his book
    Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder

    http://richardlouv.com/

    happy reading!

  27. Dave says:

    Kids need to get out! I love it!

    So many kids just sit around plaing Shooting games all day.

    Go out and play!
    Have some fun!

  28. Hal says:

    I wonder how old the “free range kids” meme is? Anxiety about overprotective parents or overprotected kids “are my kids eating enough mud?” is just more anxiety.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe1a1wHxTyo

  29. 13strong says:

    “One of the top items on their list was that American playgrounds actually have fun play equipment.”

    I imagine it varies wildly depending on where you live, but I was in the park this weekend and the play park there was AMAZING (Brighton, UK).

    Much better than the metal climbing frames, leg-snapping roundabouts and wobbly slides of my youth. It would be hard to describe the cornucopia of inventive, exciting playthings in modern British playgrounds (I’ve seen a fair few of such play parks in the last 10 years), but they’re pretty great, and where I am, extremely well-used by more than just glue-huffing adolescents.

  30. 13strong says:

    @ WYNNETH:

    What’s emo culture got to do with this?

  31. Anonymous says:

    Being laid up all summer with a cast, shooting out your first window with a BB gun and having a fire cracker go off in your hand are rights of passage.

    My latest conspiracy theory: Who is funding these ultra-safety, bicycle helmet, anti-smoking campaigns? Who has the most to gain from fewer insurance claims?

    -Crack Pot

  32. wolfiesma says:

    We only have one child but it’s not for some investment purpose as you suggest, Wingbat. Having just one makes me feel like I can prevent a few painful injuries, which imho, is a good thing. But it’s not for the money dummy, it’s for the love. ;)

    The cover picture is a little disconcerting since it appears that the child is swinging upside down over a guillotine. My gut reaction is, “NOT SAFE.” But I try not to develop strong opinions on how anybody else raises their kids. It seems a little irrelevant, but probably makes sense on some evo-devo-psycho level. I like kittens.

  33. 13strong says:

    #26 HAL:

    And round and round we go.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Cory, I have a question and a topic for you. I met a British family last summer living in the US, and they were trying to decide whether to move back to Britain or stay here. One of the top items on their list was that American playgrounds actually have fun play equipment. They said that all of the playgrounds in their home town in England were bare grassy fields with maybe a basketball hoops, and that their kids really love the climbing toys and swings and other fun stuff we have here. Can you tell us to what extent playground equipment has disappeared in England? When you go to a park, is there any play equipment? Is it regional, or all over the country?

    The book sounds great. I’d love to read it. One thing I would like to throw in is that some of this is inappropriate understanding of risk. Human beings have a very poor ability to evaluate risk, and parents now are overestimating risks such as stranger danger, and underestimating risks such as a high sugar, high fat diet. It is very appropriate to protect children from risk, and the truth is that in past generations when children “ran wild” there were a lot of deaths of kids on railroad tracks and in unsupervised swimming holes, etc. We need to give kids healthy experiences and let them explore and be responsible for themselves, without allowing them to, say, run across the freeway or pick up and smoke discarded cigarette butts like I did in my childhood.

  35. Ito Kagehisa says:

    Ah, Heinlein’s list! I cannot write a (good) sonnet. The form is difficult. I have also never had opportunity to test my capabilities at planning invasions.

    “… Specialisation is for insects!” — RAH

  36. carbonplanet says:

    The novel “Rash” by Pete Hautman is amazing. I just finished it yesterday. It’s something like a Fahrenheit 451 that deals with safety. If you’re interested in free-range and the growing obsession with safe kids, this book might interest you.

  37. John Mark Ockerbloom says:

    Re: dangers. The book quotes unofficial statistics stating that the number of primary-school age children murdered by strangers in the UK pretty consistently averages around 2 per year. (It generally varies from 0-4, with no overall trend.)

    The book doesn’t directly quote traffic death stats (unless I missed them in the notes), but they’re online, and the contrast is pretty striking. According to Road Crashes Great Britain, 2007 was one of the safest years on record for traffic in the UK, but still 35 kids ages 5-9 (which is a narrower age range than the one used above for murder stats) were killed in road accidents in the UK that year. Traffic, then, is a much bigger risk than strangers.

  38. mum23 says:

    I currently live in Switzerland. The Swiss have a completely different attitude to kids. They are encouraged from the first year of school to walk there and back on their own or with peers. It is very common to see 5/6 yo kids walking along the streets by themselves. Swiss drivers are absolutely paranoid about stopping at pedestrian crossings. Little kids on their own usually wear a v shaped reflective vest to make them visible in low light conditions.

    Kids playgrounds (even in schools) have really fun equipment, stuff I have not seen except maybe in the Netherlands. Lots of high climbing and climbing frames made of rope that spin, hammock swings teetering spinning discs, etc.Most playgrounds also include piles of natural rock. It certainly makes you feel it is a safe society when kids can roam free on the streets or on public transport.

  39. KanedaJones says:

    I feel sad when I think about how wise people who believe things like whats in this book are few and far between.. or at least appear so.

    never met a useful adult who wasnt given the chance to work stuff out for themselves BUT still had rules to follow. I wonder how much the free-range kid movement uses rules..

  40. Anonymous says:

    I’m from Sweden. At my university we have a exchange program with the University of Califonia, St Barbara (I think). I noticed that the american exchange students are much more wild than the Swedish students of the same age.

    Like prisoners just released..

  41. StRevAlex says:

    Part of the current American pathology is a terrible obsession with overprotecting children. Scheduling their lives for every minute, watching them constantly, censoring their Internet access. I feel so sorry for these poor little automatons who are having their privacy and sense of reality robbed from them by inches. Books like this are heartening signs that there are still some bulwarks against the idiocies of our Modern World.

  42. ZZMike says:

    First example: Chemistry sets. I had one when I was kid. It even had (cue scary music) potassium ferricyanide!!!

    As Atrick knows, the world today is a bit more dangerous than it was in our parent’s childhood time. There are other kids with guns, and sometimes they go in packs (and have the same intelligence level).

    But we do go too far sometimes. Schools have banned “tag” because some kids might get “left out”. They’ve banned contact games becauses some kids might get hurt. The problem with doing that is that we raise a generation of sissies, of people who won’t “get involved”. Which means the Bullies will take over.

    Heinlein’s list!! That wasn’t easy to find, but:

    The list has one main point:

    “Specialization is for insects.”

    Well, that, and maybe for quantum physicists.

    Let’s arrange them into Big and Small:

    Bigger:
    plan an invasion
    conn a ship
    take orders,
    give orders,

    Smaller:
    change a diaper
    butcher a hog,
    design a building,
    write a sonnet,
    balance accounts,
    build a wall,
    set a bone,
    comfort the dying,
    cooperate,
    act alone,
    solve equations,
    analyze a new problem,
    pitch manure,
    program a computer,
    cook a tasty meal,
    fight efficiently,
    die gallantly.

    I don’t know if he ever wrote a sonnet, but I don’t doubt he could have.

    All of the Bigger things he learned in the Navy.

  43. Teller says:

    Every Wednesday in the summer, the head of our school would fill a bus with boys – ages 8 to 11. He’d drive us to an L.A. beach town at 9 A.M., give us each 50 cents and tell us to be back at the bus at 4 P.M. Then he’d nap on the beach.

    Never a lost or hurt kid. Occasional police action for stealing stuff. Incomprehensible today. Not the stealing part.

  44. dragonfrog says:

    @13 – The dangers haven’t changed. What’s changed is the media hysteria about them, and its effects on you vs. on your parents.

  45. Halloween Jack says:

    I think that the question re: cycling is, what makes more sense to keep your child safe from: the unlikely chance that your child will be abducted by a stranger or hit by a car*, or the much, much more likely chance that they will be disabled or killed by heart disease and/or diabetes?

    *Which would be less if there were far fewer SUVs on the road.

  46. Jack says:

    #13 POSTED BY AKILLIAN:
    There are real dangers out there. But the reality is most children will be harmed physically/mentally by people they know rather than magical “strangers” that we’ve raised kids historically to fear.

    I’m 40 right now. And looking back on my own personal life and the life of my family, practically all of the bad things that happened to family members and friends over the years came from friends and families. Families who “stick” together by keeping secrets and “dealing with problems on their own.” Friends to betray trust. The list goes on.

    I literally know nobody who was playing in the street and grabbed by a stranger ever. It’s statistically about as likely to happen to your child as them getting hit by a car.

    “Strangers” and sharks are two things people are raised to fear, yet most people will never be affected by either.

    Also, in my experience parents often project their worst fears onto their children and us the umbrella of “protection” to justify their actions.

    More to the point: Do you deny the thousands of years of human growth that occurred before parents decided to be paranoid about their children around the 1960s and such? For that matter, in the years since children have been “protected”, autism rates are up and other childhood maladies have increased.

    I always admired The Little Rascals when I was a kid and even as an adult. Here’s a bunch of unsupervised kids running around, getting into mischief and enjoying themselves. And they always were able to “woo” the poor little rich kid who saw them play, had an overprotective parent but yet were drawn to their play/actions.

  47. Anonymous says:

    I have noticed another related trend, Parents insisting that all adults moderate their behavior for the good of the children. In my neighborhood several families let their children play in the street. Now I am a kid of the late 70′s and early 80′s and my mother did let me roam the neighborhood but I knew not to play in the street. So instead of teaching their children how to navigate a sometimes dangerous world, these parents put up a stop sign and make cars stop for their children. I think it is far more useful, if harder, to teach children the rules of the road and how to avoid and handle dangerous situation. Instead these partents teach their children that the rest of the world should accomodate them. We all know that this is not how the world works.

  48. TroofSeeker says:

    Honesty compels me to admit that I did a whole of stuff I never wanted my boys to do. Growing up right downtown, we’d sneak into closed shops (tho we never stole much), I’d take a shortcut running across the freeway, crazy bicycle stunts, busted 6 times for curfew, 8 jails (+ juvie), burned down the field across from the school in third grade, demolished the interior of several empty homes, shot at, chased by gangs and bullies, etc. The first time I was picked up by cops I was 4.
    So… I can’t recommend raising children “free range”. But cut the kids some slack. Let ‘em skin their knees.

  49. chixon says:

    Or, if you prefer a humorous, more entertaining version of this book, just read some works by Patrick F. McManus.

  50. Anonymous says:

    Actually responding to Jack above, my parents never let me have toy guns, but they did let me shoot .22s at the range. I think because my father saw combat he didn’t want me to mistake a gun for a toy, but had no problem with me learning to use real weapons safely.

    As far as walking to school alone – my parents told me don’t talk to strangers, run away from adults bothering me, ask for help if one does, etc. It worked fine. Most kids who are assaulted or killed are done so by someone they know – not by strangers. So really you shouldn’t be worrying too much about strangers as much as your own relatives. But you don’t worry about them do you?

  51. Anonymous says:

    What “statutory schooling”? Going to school isn’t statutory in the UK or the US, thank goodness!

  52. Felix Mitchell says:

    Troofseeker:

    Free-range for most parents doesn’t mean feral, no disrespect to you. Kids obviously need boundaries sometimes, the important thing is to assess risk realistically and reduce boundaries over time.

    IMHO, non-free-range parents think of 18 (or some other age) as when maturity magically appears. Until then, children have to be protected, and after then they’ll be OK. They care more about their parental responability to keep a child safe than to allow them to learn how to be safe.

    No parent wants to be the one who thought a little risk was OK, and pays for it with their child’s life.

    There is a third way though; it’s not just a binary of safe-dumb and unsafe-learning. You can allow your kids to be in situations where they still learn things from small dangers but aren’t risking life and limb.

  53. dragonfrog says:

    Jacl @34

    I literally know nobody who was playing in the street and grabbed by a stranger ever. It’s statistically about as likely to happen to your child as them getting hit by a car.

    Actually, being hit by a car is far more likely to happen. Cars are a huge danger, one of the most likely things to harm or kill an otherwise healthy person of any age.

    Abduction by a stranger is more in the ‘struck by lightning’ or ‘mauled by a cougar in an urban park’ region.

  54. wolfiesma says:

    The point of parenthood is to teach your kids how to live. Just. live. No undue risk, no lack of adventure. No need to broadcast any better method of doing it, either. A good first step is throwing out all the parenting books. (hehehe)

  55. mjfgates says:

    I’ve gotten panicked at by more people for letting my kids start walking places when they’re about nine… principals, police, random neighbors… I’ll have to buy this book in hardback, so it hurts more when I throw it at them.

  56. shedside says:

    As a parent of a toddler, I can say with confidence that overprotectiveness comes at least partly from the crushing judgement of other parents. It’s a strong peer pressure, manifested in small ways: a glare when your child rushes past occupied swings in the playground; apologies and embarrassment when their child doesn’t want to share in the toyshop. And then, if something genuinely bad were to happen — like it did for the McCanns — the parents are assumed by everyone to be directly responsible.

  57. slackerboy says:

    I usually don’t post on things, but having 2 kids I felt the need to add my .02$. I agree with the general consensus here that things have swung too far to the safety side of things. I’d add a collary on giving free range to kids and that is each kid develops at different rates. So whereas my oldest may have handle certain things at 8, my younger could not necessarily handle the same things at the same age. As a parent it’s part of my job to recognize that and not put my kid into a situation that could be harmful to them or others. Running around the neighbor may not be be a problem for my 8 year old, but for some other 8 year old it could be a big problem; not just for the kid, but other people as well. Not saying kids shouldn’t be allowed to try things out that are potentially harmful and fail (I know I did and still have all my limbs). But it would be foolish to give a kid and gun and just say have at it.

  58. Akillian says:

    @ #62,

    fewer SUVs? Oh puhlease. how about fewer jerks drag racing down my street in their little pickups or tricked out honda civics? i get violently ill at this SUV excuse.

    “much, much more likely chance” – what does that even mean?

  59. mlc says:

    The ad in the RSS feed is offering me a way to “filter out inappropriate online content with powerful parental controls.”

    In the ad, there’s an exclamation mark at the end, but I just can’t bring myself to put one at the end of such a sentence.

  60. TroofSeeker says:

    Even as a child I noticed that the kids with the more restrictive parents were wilder when they “got loose”.
    I have a lot of nephew and neices. The one with the most tatoos and piercings was the one with the most over-protective (and religious) parents. He’s got the most DUI’s, too, and run-ins with the law.
    Our job as parents is to prepare them to cope with life in our society. It’s foolish and harmful to try to shelter them from it. Immunity is developed thru exposure.

  61. Akillian says:

    @ #63,

    Yes indeed. My wife and I were discussing this yesterday and came to the same conclusion about our 2 kids. When a child is ready for something, like a new experience or responsibility, and they know that they have support from their parents they ask for it.

    Another observation was whether this free range movement is paired with the ‘hands off’ approach to parenting we are seeing. The rush to individuate and maturate the kid prematurely out of their childhood so that the parents don’t really have anything to do. Contrary to what some people may think parenting does accomplish something and is a highly nuanced job.

  62. wynneth says:

    Too many comments to read them all, but I have one simple thing to say:

    EMO

    ‘Nuff said.

    When I was a kid the point of the merry go round was to see how fast we could get it going and how many kids flew off at that speed. As a parent, it’s a careful balance between sensing and protecting from actual danger, and preparing for real life. I try to see that line as an area between the sitcom father of elder years (aka RED on that 70s show), “he’ll only try it once I guarantee” and the sitcom dad of the early 90s (aka Cliff Huxtable, Jason Seaver, etc). Let the kids fall, let them get banged up, but for goodness sake don’t put your eye out and scream at possible kidnappers.

  63. Anonymous says:

    I grew up in the 50′s. There are diffences today:
    1. Behavior that was unpermissible is tolerated and excused, like bothering children.
    2. Any problem gets broadcasted worldwide, thus amplified.
    3. Parents are under continual attack by well meaning government officials.
    4. The legal profession is allowed(by judges) to pursue any excuse for $, no matter how absurd.

  64. Jack says:

    I’ve agreed with past posts so don’t want to repeat myself, but I have noticed something very perverse when it comes to children’s toys/games: While toy guns have now been re-colored and reshaped beyond recognition to obscure the fact they are guns, the toy guns that come with action figures and even in video games are our of control.

    For example, when I was a kid and first started collecting Star Wars figures in 1978 only the characters that needed to have guns had a single gun. That’s it. Flash forward to now, and I dare anyone to buy any Star Wars that doesn’t have a gun or a weapon. Heck, even generic action figures come with more armament than I ever remember from back when I was a kid.

    Ditto with video games. I have a relative who taught her child not to play with even toy guns. Yet he had EVERY damned weapon imaginable in Quake and Unreal.

    I’m very happy I grew up with a realistic looking toy gun and toys that accurately reflected the world they were based in.

    Looking at toy aisle nowadays I wonder how any kid could have fun.

  65. Hockeyrink says:

    Post #11:
    Gever, when you gonna start taking applications for this year?!?

    My kid’s been pestering me to death since you asked for a 9-11 year old girl to fill a spot at the MAKER FAIRE lecture in ’08, and she shot up her hand…

  66. Hockeyrink says:

    Gever:

    Whups, nevermind… I see you did that just 5 days ago.

    Sorry! :-)

  67. frankiez says:

    Thanks Cory: this book is on top op my analog reading list.
    Since I was 10 I was thinking about how much more freedom my father had in his childhood.

    I remember reading an issue of Whole Earth dedicated to kids who growup without ever touching/eating ground or sand…

    Sounds strange but the only developed country where this problem is non existent is Japan.

    On toy guns: I’m 100% antiwar and guns but not allowing kids to play with guns is plain wrong. Just take a look to which countries got a problem with binge drinking: the very same countries that stop teenagers from event tasting a glass of sparkling wine at New Year Eve…

  68. elix says:

    *piles onto the reading stack*

    I always have to shake my head when I see kids aged five or six in those leash harnesses. In my experience, their parents are too ditsy to actually focus on keeping an eye on their kid all the time, or they never instilled the lesson in their kids that they shouldn’t run off on their own constantly. (I’ve seen many a kid doing exactly this, as well; I guess those are the ones who don’t care or are too lazy to get a harness.)

    My parents didn’t put me on a leash when I was five. Hell, I ran on a seawall while looking behind me like an idiot, fell face-first over the edge and landed five feet down on my back, like I deserved for such carelessness. I landed on some relatively-flat rocks and got a gouge between my left eye and left temple requiring five stitches. It didn’t kill me, and it taught me a good lesson: Don’t fucking run without looking where you’re going.

  69. jennybean42 says:

    @40 YES!
    I battle with this a LOT!
    The playgroup gave me grief for not cutting the boy’s grapes in half because he might choke on them while he was eating them (He’s three, not 18 months)

    I looked at them all and said, “Isn’t that what his TEETH are for???”
    But it’s like there is this cult of overprotective mommies calling you a bad parent all the time for wanting your child to die some horrible death.

    @Gever I can’t wait for you to write the “50 dangerous things you should let your child do” book you mentioned last year at TED so I can preach it.

  70. xaxa says:

    @10, 27: “That thing” is a cycle stand (a Sheffield Stand). I doubt it would fall over, they’re stuck really far into the ground to prevent bike theft.
    (In fact, I think I locked my bike to that stand earlier this week. I recognise the area.)

    It’s probably chosen because when I was the age of that kid, lots of places in the UK removed various public play equipment because it was “unsafe” (e.g. metal climbing frames). But kids still love climbing on stuff.

  71. gollux says:

    Having been raised free range and then going to school with peers who weren’t, my observation is that children raised in an overprotective environment don’t have a very good sense of self preservation.

    I was ranging on a thousand acre tract inhabited by cougar and wild-cat with a couple half breed dogs for company. My dad instilled in us kids the need to watch out for each other, use of the brain we were born with and to recognize danger and the necessity of not physically impairing ourselves so we couldn’t get back home.

    I kind of miss that childhood. The freakish paranoia that we live with today makes “land of the free” a total lie. The children across the street only come out of the house to get into a car. 20 years ago, children were all over the neighborhood playing, interacting, fighting, riding bikes. It’s no wonder that diabetic, mentally deranged children have become the norm in the last decade in this country.

  72. Akillian says:

    All very interesting. It occurs to me that the use of “overprotective” is being overused. I know overprotective parents and it appears to an observer as a neurosis. It is their way of life. But I usually think of this in terms of the controlling parent who has to be in charge of everything their kid does at all times. A parent by nature is protective. As a father I have made the best risk assessment I can about our neighborhood and established very simple rules about how my kids interact with that and my wife and I discuss these things with our kids so they know where we’re coming from. Controlling parents don’t do this. And they are also more likely to restrict behavioural aspects of their kids in addition to those being discussed here.

    Abductions are one thing. There are other things I still consider to be verbotten. Most states allow you to access the sex offender registration through State Police websites. Sex offenders are repeat offenders. It need not be a physical assault either. Just saying is all. And yes, by some age (very soon) I love to think that my son and daughter (if ever in that situation) would be able to handle themselves accordingly. But then I’m all for the legal right to carry swords adn bows around ;)

  73. Jack says:

    #37 POSTED BY DRAGONFROG:
    Actually, being hit by a car is far more likely to happen. Cars are a huge danger, one of the most likely things to harm or kill an otherwise healthy person of any age.

    Abduction by a stranger is more in the ‘struck by lightning’ or ‘mauled by a cougar in an urban park’ region.
    Correct you are. My analogy was off.

  74. Jack says:

    #37 POSTED BY DRAGONFROG:

    Actually, being hit by a car is far more likely to happen. Cars are a huge danger, one of the most likely things to harm or kill an otherwise healthy person of any age.

    Abduction by a stranger is more in the ‘struck by lightning’ or ‘mauled by a cougar in an urban park’ region.

    Correct you are. My analogy was off.

  75. Jack says:

    #37 POSTED BY DRAGONFROG:

    Actually, being hit by a car is far more likely to happen. Cars are a huge danger, one of the most likely things to harm or kill an otherwise healthy person of any age. Abduction by a stranger is more in the ‘struck by lightning’ or ‘mauled by a cougar in an urban park’ region.

    Correct you are. My analogy was off.

  76. pshaffer says:

    I grew up in the 50′s and for those of you who grew up later, you can’t really appreciate exactly how spot on this is. Most days in the summer when I was 8 on, I never saw my parents. I had free run of the city and used it very productively. The whole society has gone nuts.

    I really feel that the overprotectionism in our society will produce children afraid to take reasonable gambles.

  77. jamesleetn says:

    When I was a kid our playground was the woods around my house and jungle gyms were the trees we climbed.

    I actually fell out of one, broke my arm, recovered, and became a happy & productive adult with kids of my own.

    Let kids be kids and we’ll end up with a better world.

    This BS of suing kindergartens because your little Johnny was punched out by someone’s little Sally does much more harm than good.

    Left alone kids eventually work things out for themselves and become better for it.

  78. robulus says:

    I grew up in the late 1800′s and spent all my youth reaching for very high things on top of tall stacks of chairs, bungee jumping in third world countries and deliberately opening vulnerable ports on windows firewall.

    By the age of eight I’d had 40% of my bone mass replaced with steel plate. It taught me to respect gravity, first world safety standards and dedicated hardware based firewall solutions.

    Kids today all shoot up crack heroin and play rape simulation video games because they didn’t get enough life threatening injuries prior to adolescence, the over-privileged molly-coddled snot-nosed little bastards.

    Also, please get them the hell off my lawn.

  79. firstbakingbook says:

    While I agree with the general sentiment of this thread, I think you are all much too confident about the statistics. You can’t directly compare traffic accidents and abductions to argue for free-range kids, because the opportunity rate for abduction affects the rate of abduction. If parents were less obsessive, the abduction rate would likely go up, because there would be more opportunities.

    I expect traffic accidents would still lead, but it’s not something you can actually prove with the available data. Be careful how you construct your arguments.

  80. Spikeles says:

    That thing the kid is hanging onto in the picture looks dangerous, he could seriously hurt himself if it fell over, were are the parents?!

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