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Helicopter Parenting, Free Range Parenting and Other Useless Labels

on 7 May, 2015

Empty playground swing with children playing in the background concept for child protection, abduction or loneliness

I’m ready to get back to blogging and have been stewing over a piece of news I read several months ago.  Although I’m weighing in a bit late, parenting style is once again in the media hot seat. What a shocker. Because we all know that the media knows best when it comes to weighing in on parenting choices.

This time it is a Maryland couple, Danielle and Rafi Meitiv who have allowed their appropriately dressed and seemingly well cared for 10 year old and 6 year old to walk in the neighborhood….ALONE without parental supervision.  Yes, that’s right, it seems to be a matter of debate whether children should be permitted to walk to the playground without an adult in the great State of Maryland or whether by allowing them to do so the parents are guilty of “neglect.”

The Meitivs were questioned repeatedly with multiple interviews by Child Protective Services who released a finding of “unsubstantiated” neglect.  The family is now appealing.  “Unsubstantiated” neglect, are you kidding me?  That sounds like some Orwellian double speak to me.  I don’t think that CPS has to travel far in Maryland (read Baltimore) to find substantiated neglect.

The original “incident” of unsupervised walking and play was several months ago, then just two weeks ago the family was in the news again when the police picked up the children on their way to the park after receiving a call from a “concerned citizen.” The police held the children for hours without notifying the parents.  The police claim they were complying with CPS protocol but one wonders what protocol could prevent the police calling the parents to at least inform them of where their children are (a simple phone call people!).   It was only after the mother called 911 that CPS had the decency to call and tell them.

There is so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to begin. First, ARE YOU KIDDING ME???  Really, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Let me say some states, including Maryland, have Unattended Minor laws on the books, including my own state of North Carolina.  These provisions, for the most part, relate to children being left unattended in dwellings or motor vehicles.  The North Carolina provision can be found in the Fire Code stating that a child under the age of 8 should not left unattended in a dwelling because of the dangers associated with fire.  In light of a recent tragic case in Louisiana of the two beautiful little souls (aged 4 and 3) that died in a house fire while their mother was getting her hair done, these provisions make some sense.  The North Carolina provision allows for parental judgment regarding the child’s maturity, etc.

Fire is a real and identifiable risk, especially if small children are involved.  On the other hand, there is nothing inherently risky with walking our city streets to get to a local playground. Especially if these children have been taught (as they appear to have been) the route so they don’t get lost, how to cross the road safely, etc.

Someone has labeled these parents “Free Range” parents and the media has picked up on it.  Free Range parenting means parents who allow their children to roam unattended lumping this in with those free range chickens or eggs that we purchase in the store.  This terminology is disturbing on so many levels.  What do they have Don Draper coming up with copy now?

I don’t know about most of you but at a fairly young age, certainly younger than 10, I was allowed to walk/ride my bike to our neighborhood park.  I was allowed to wrap my ice skates around my neck by the laces and trudge to the pond to go ice skating with my friends.  No judgments, no problems.  I took my bike to the town swimming pool where I had a season pass.  I learned to be a confident young woman with a can do spirit that served me well when I traveled alone to foreign countries in my twenties.  I learned to trust myself, trust my instincts through experiences.  I learned to speak up for myself, to ask questions of adults because I had to, and no one was there to help me.  If I had my parents hovering over me, locking me inside because of all the “dangers” outside, would I be the person I am today?  I doubt it.  I can hear the naysayers now–“But that was a different time, there are so many predators out there waiting to scoop up our children off the streets.”

Children are more likely to be injured in a car accident with a parent at the wheel, than they are likely to be a victim of stranger violence.  Motor vehicle fatalities are the number one cause of death of children aged 2 to 14, yet we still get into our cars every day with little or no fear.

The question we have to ask ourselves is whether we give want to live in a society where we are governed by our fears and hysteria over unsubstantiated stranger danger or do we want to live in a society and raise our children with freedom, faith, hope and trust.


One Response to “Helicopter Parenting, Free Range Parenting and Other Useless Labels”

  1. Emily says:

    Great, timely post. Read this news story and thought it was ridiculous how these parents were being vilified.

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