Children: Then and Now

I’ve read this piece several times now. It hits home. Read it now. Go ahead.

Our oldest is six years old. He has never been left on his own in the house for more than thirty seconds. He is allowed to go to the house next door if he tells us about it ahead of time. How do you balance a kid’s need to assert their own identity, to grow and feel secure on their own, with parental fears about safety? I think the author is right, we’ve gone too far on the safety side. It takes a big leap of faith in your child (and yourself!) to start giving them the space that they need. Gaining independece also means they are growing up and that presents mixed feelings to a parent.

Thoughts?

3 thoughts on “Children: Then and Now”

  1. Good article. Just talked about this with someone last weekend. When we were growing up, we all played outside with neighborhood kids from kick the can to football and basketball and parents never around. Now, I see no one outside. Are we any more dangerous of society? I doubt it. But with proliferation of Internet and new media, bad things are just more widely disseminated which makes people more fearful rightfully or wrongly. When you see things like this happening (big news in California so not sure if it is national news or not) http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/04/12/MNJQ1715ML.DTL&hw=huckaby&sn=010&sc=187
    it’s hard not be be paranoid about things. Then you realize why those of us with kids spend all weekend chaffeuring from one activity to another structured activity rather than just letting kids play outside by themselves.

  2. Good lord, that’s awful. I hadn’t heard about that story. Ugh!

    All the evidence is that the world is safer than it used to be. But yet.

    I also wonder about the game theory aspect. Let’s say I think that my kids should have more independence. That means my kids are the only ones roaming the neighborhood. My kids are the ones most at risk, any predator would target them. It’s great to give your kid more freedom, but you really want everyone to do it at once.

  3. It’s weird to hear that some towns have no kids playing outdoors. We live in a town where the clocks are turned back somewhat, I guess. In the summertime, my kids go outside, meet up with the gang of kids from other houses on the block, and do whatever — hide-and-seek, some tag game they invent, dodge ball, etc. Every once-in-a-while a stampede will come into our back door and empty our fridge of Gogurts and Flavorices. Then, back out they go. Just like the good old days. The main difference between now (2009) and then (1977), though, is that we generally know where the kids are at all times. Yards are small, we know our neighbors, and so we can pretty much always either hear them somewhere in the distance, or feel fairly sure someone we know can see or hear them. When I was a kid, the yards and neighborhood were larger, and there’s no way my parents would know where I was. If it were like that, I would be more nervous, I guess.

    The big negative of this is that the neighbors that we find annoying ring our doorbell incessantly. Ding-dong. “Can they play?” “No.” Ding-dong. “How about now?” “Nope, we’re busy.” “After?” “Nope, go away.” Ding-dong… Sometimes a phone call before a play-date can be a lot more convenient, particularly with caller ID.

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