Free-Range vs. Helicopter
Is "Child Neglect" all in the eye of the beholder?
Think back to your childhood. For many, the most vivid memories involve riding bikes to a friend's house or neighborhood park. When the streetlights flickered on, it was our cue that it was time to go home. Parents still allowed their children independence even though cell phones didn't even exist.
It seems that sense of carefree freedom for kids is in the past. When "free-range parent" Danielle Meitiv allowed her 10 year-old and 6 year-old children to walk to school and play at the park unsupervised, the police picked up the children and charged the parents with unsubstantiated child neglect, meaning there was not sufficient evidence to prove that there has been abuse or neglect. (see video)
|ABC News: Free-Range Parenting Debate
While Meitiv felt comfortable letting her children play without supervision, something she likely did herself as a child, when concerned neighbors called the police,her parenting choice became a crime.
Free-Range or Helicopter Parent?
It begs the question, what should we do to let our kids grow up? Where is the line between neglecting our children and grooming responsibility? Is there a line somewhere in the middle or is it more like a teeter totter; you're either a "Free-Range Parent" boarding on neglect or you're a "helicopter Parent" hovering over your child's every move?
Responsibility starts at home at a young age. Children learn the foundations of responsibility when they are entrusted with tasks by their parents and are able to complete them to satisfaction without correction. This builds children's confidence in their own abilities as well as a sense of pride in the results, and parents learn to gage and eventually trust in their child's judgment. Similarly, allowing your child to make age-appropriate choices in their own lives will help him or her develop critical decision-making skills. This can range from picking a bedtime story or choosing their own outfit for the day. By establishing rules and the impending consequences, you reinforce the idea that your child is responsible for his or her actions, and out of that, he or she will develop their earliest senses of right and wrong. Teaching your child to treat others with kindness and empathy will build their personal character, an important attribute of responsibility.
As your child grows, they are able to deal with more mature responsibilities, which will continue to frame and reinforce their initial foundations. Continue to offer structure and guidelines in the form of rules and consequences, both of which may have evolved and changed as your child did. Encourage a good work ethic, whether it is in school, an extracurricular activity, or part-time job. Responsibility depends on hard work, dedication, and commitment, and by helping your child practice these attributes, their sense of responsibility will strengthen. Continue to teach your children to give back by volunteering and helping friends and family whenever possible. This is an extension of learning empathy. Finally, act as an advisor to your older children. Allow them to make their own decisions with the knowledge that they may make the wrong ones at times. This is a critical exercise in building good judgment that will prepare your child for the future. So, If you're going to challenge your children to make decisions which they may fail at, it then becomes the parents responsibility to make sure that the failed task isn't jeopardizing the children's health or safety. That's where neglect enters the conversation.
As safety experts, radKIDS instructors know that there are three components present in a victimization; the offender, the victim and the opportunity. A child alone in a park in a park is an opportunity. If a child's decision making skills fail (or he or she is tricked) then the results can be devastating.
Because your child has participated in radKIDS, he or she already has a valuable tool kit to keep themselves safe in a variety of situations. As your child grows, continue to review these critical lessons so that they are fresh in your child's mind, and ready to be called upon at the appropriate time. This allows your child to react and not be frozen by instinctual fear.
In the ever-unclear business of raising children, parents are constantly exposed to the scrutiny of the choices they make regarding their children. The best thing you can do for your children is teach them responsibility, prepare them for the world around them, and let them experience it as they are ready, just as you did at their age.
As you are helping your child make those good judgments, keep in mind that they are watching everything you do. You are their primary role model, and actions speak louder than words. Your child just might learn and retain more of what you do than anything you might say.
In conclusion, as a parent who has shared education and empowerment with your child, you have truly given your child a gift. By educating, encouraging, and preparing them for the world we live in today, you continue to empower your children with opportunity instead of fear. Whether we are a "free-range", "helicopter" or "somewhere in the middle" style of parent, the greatest gift we can give our children is education grounded in a foundation of self-value and self-worth -- as you have in radKIDS. The opportunity to live with hope, along with the power to recognize, avoid, resist, and if necessary escape harm or violence is a gift that can last a lifetime.
We thank you all for being part of our radKIDS family and we are honored to continue our support for you and your children (free return and practice and our newsletters) Together we can and do make a difference.