I made an observation at the playground when my son was very young. Namely, parents seem to hover.
The problem with this is that it seems to me that kids aren’t allowed to learn a very basic life skill at the playground: Conflict resolution. If two kids have a beef at the monkey bars, there’s always a parent or two coming in to mediate or, more likely, to separate the kids and force them to play at opposite ends of the playground.
That’s kind of the type of thing that Lenore Skenazy has been talking about for a while now.
Skenazy is a Big Apple colunmist and blogger who made waves in 2007 by letting her then-9-year-old son take the subway and bus home on his own. She peddled the experience into a book, Free Range Kids, and a blog by the same title.
“Amid the cacophony of terrifying Amber Alerts and safety tips for every holiday,” Salon.com said in its review, “Skenazy is a chipper alternative, arguing that raising children in the United States now isn’t more dangerous than it was when today’s generation of parents were young. And back then, it was reasonably safe, too. So why does shooing the kids outside and telling them to have fun and be home by dark seem irresponsible to so many middle-class parents today?”
We’ve taken up similar issues here in the past. Admittedly, I’ve tended to err on the side of smothering my own son, relying more on that gene that says I should protect him. And, personally, I would not have let my 9-year-old ride the subway home alone.
But that’s just me, and I am likely very much guilty of the type of over-parenting Skenazy warns about.
Nonetheless, there is a lesson in it all, regardless of your personal feelings on it: Sometimes you do have to let the reins loose a bit.
Perhaps it is a matter of degrees. And I at least give myself credit for letting him work out his playground scuffles.
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