Okay, so no one who knows me could ever accuse me of being an overprotective parent. But I am so tired of them. One woman I know refuses to let her eight year old son go on field trips because she doesn't feel safe about him going on a school bus on the highway "In case the bus crashes." Right. Everywhere you look there are parents at playgrounds hovering over their kids and monitoring their play. And if they do (God forbid) get into a row with another kid, the parent referees the fight!
I laughed my head off when this maybe nine year old boy came up to me at the playground today, practically in tears, and told me that Sausage, age 4, "won't leave me alone and keeps shouting at me." What was I meant to say, apart from, "you sad sad individual. I feel so sorry that you can't defend yourself against a four year old." Well I would have said that, but I would probably have been arrested for child abuse. It's getting so I am scared to invite a child from my kids' school to my house for a 'playdate' because I fear some overprotective parent will stay for the date (and believe me, they do).
This sad trend of coddling kids was brought home by Ms. Skenazy, a columnist for The New York Sun, who recently wrote about letting her nine year old son take the subway home on his own. She got lots of nice comments about how normal she was being, and that when we were kids travelling on our own was fine. Obviously she also got many parents saying she was neglectful and should be roasted in hell.
Let's take a reality check. The cold, hard reality is that things are not more dangerous for children these days. There is not a paedophile behind every tree. The dangers to children these days are mostly generated by the media who whip every abduction story into a wild hysterical outburst on the evil state of society today.
And when a child does go missing or is abducted, the media blame the parents. The situation is totally out of control.
Trevor Butterworth, a spokesman for the research center STATS.org, said, ‘The statistics show that [a child's death via abduction] is an incredibly rare event, and you can't protect people from very rare events. It would be like trying to create a shield against being struck by lightning.’ ”
Justice Department data actually show the number of children abducted by strangers has been going down over the years. So why not let your kids travel home from school by themselves? Why indeed?
Yeah, I did used to walk home from school in London and take the subway around the city on my own from maybe eight or nine, and why not? Even these days I would say it is no more dangerous, depending of course that the bus/subway route is relatively safe.
Kids are becoming more and more afraid that the world is a dangerous place. Maybe it is. But you need to learn ways to survive it. You can't have mummy and daddy on the end of a cell phone every time you get into trouble, the modern day equivalent of hanging at the end of an umbilical cord.
And it all adds up to a heap of trouble once these kids get to college. Psychology Today reports that:
By all accounts, psychological distress is rampant on college campuses. It takes a variety of forms, including anxiety and depression—which are increasingly regarded as two faces of the same coin—binge drinking and substance abuse, self-mutilation and other forms of disconnection. The mental state of students is now so precarious for so many that, says Steven Hyman, provost of Harvard University and former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, "it is interfering with the core mission of the university."
"Children need to be gently encouraged to take risks and learn that nothing terrible happens," says Michael Liebowitz, clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and head of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at New York State Psychiatric Institute. "They need gradual exposure to find that the world is not dangerous. Having overprotective parents is a risk factor for anxiety disorders because children do not have opportunities to master their innate shyness and become more comfortable in the world."
So what I say is, okay, maybe traffic is worse than when we were kids, but as for the rest of it, well, I simply don't buy it. And I don't understand why kids need to be protected from reality.
What do you say? Do you think there are more dangers for kids today or not?
Who am I? Displaced Londoner now living in the States with my two little girlies and long suffering husband. Co-author of hilarious parenting book Cocktails at Naptime www.cocktailsatnaptime.com
My mom's an Austrian, my dad's a Brit, which makes me a Britaustrian, or possibly an Austrish?