Port: When it comes to parenting, less is more
Two things happened in the last week which got me thinking about parenting.
First I saw “It,” a film adaptation of the classic Stephen King novel about a killer clown taken down by a group of plucky kids.
The book version of the story was set in the late 1950’s. The film moved that timeline forward to the 1980’s. But in both versions the heroes, the kids, are living the sort of childhood few children today would recognize. They’re allowed to roam and romp around the fictional Derry, Maine, with little oversight from adults, a far cry from today’s helicopter parenting.
The second was a kerfuffle over Frank Giaccio, an enterprising 11-year-old with a lawn care business, getting a chance to mow the White House grass. For most this was a heartwarming story about a kid with some hustle, but to some it sent dangerous signals about child labor.
“Not sending a great signal on child labor, minimum wage and occupational safety,” former New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse wrote on Twitter.
“What this kid wants to do is noble, but sorry, I’m mindful of problems,” he added.
Mr. Greenhouse has apparently never visited rural America, including farms right here in North Dakota, where kids work hard right alongside their parents on machinery far more complex and dangerous than lawn mowers. It’s a staple of life, a rite of passage, we here in fly-over country are proud of.
Which brings me to my point: We’re coddling the kids.
I know that makes me sound like a get-off-my-lawn curmudgeon, but it’s true.
It needn’t be.
“There’s Never Been a Safer Time to be a Kid in America,” a Washington Post article declared in 2015, going on to note that child mortality rates have fallen 50 percent since 1990. It also pointed out that rates of homicides, abductions, and traffic fatalities for children had also fallen precipitously.
We perceive the world as a more dangerous place for kids when, in reality, it’s far safer than it was during our childhoods. This false perception results in parents giving their kids less autonomy, to their detriment.
Parents who try to embrace reality and take a more laissez faire approach with their kids? They’re often shamed by peers and, in extreme cases, even targeted by bureaucrats.
A quick internet search dredges up dozens of stories about parents who end up in the crosshairs of social workers and child protective services for things like letting their kids go to a playground alone. Or walk home from school by themselves.
This has got to stop.
Let your kids run and play. Let them scrape knees and get bruises. Let them be responsible for themselves. And stop caring so much what the helicopter parents think.
Their sneers and condescension matter less than your kid’s well-being.
Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.
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