Are helicopter parents insecure bullies

Lenore Skenazy: is this really the worst mother in the world?

Wrapped in cotton wool, funned and pampered until they come of age - it's not the children who need this, but increasingly today's parents who cannot live without 24-hour surveillance of their children. In the case of animals this would not be appropriate to the species, in the case of humans it means "overprotected" by helicopter parents. How should children develop into independent personalities in the process? We need "free running" children, demands Lenore Skenazy, once reviled as the "worst mother in the world", and re-educates the parents.

It started with an experiment. The journalist Lenore Skenazy sent her then nine-year-old son Izzy alone on the New York subway five years ago. Exposed in the city and armed with a map, ticket, telephone coins and $ 20 for emergencies, he was home three quarters of an hour later. It was his own idea, by the way.

Free-range kids master challenges

The column she wrote about it at the time triggered a shock wave. Outrage over the "worst mother in the world" on all TV channels was the result with accusations of abusing the child. Other reader reactions were numerous memories of their own childhood, of learning to be independent, of tests of courage and of games without parental control.

Today Skenazy formulates an educational concept from it as an alternative to the generally prevailing overprotection by the helicopter parents: "Free-range kids" is the name of her approach with which she wants to tear the cotton wool packaging around the children. Accordingly, your program is also called "Bubble Wrap Kids". Bubble wraps means bubble wrap.

Play like before

She is not a teacher, the New Yorker emphasizes, but similar to the "super nanny" she coaches families. However, the focus is not on the children, but on the parents. "Slow parenting" is what she calls it, back to the good old days, when children were still allowed to play alone, not educational games, but simply being outside, jumping, dawdling, dreaming, romping, climbing. When children were allowed to fall and come home with bruises or grit their teeth so that mom and dad wouldn't notice.

Parents sense danger everywhere

Parents, on the other hand, now live in constant worry that something could happen to their children and that there are dangers lurking everywhere from kidnappers, bacteria, pedophiles, unhealthy food, animals, bullies, cars, according to Skenazy.

She does not get stuck in nostalgia, she transfers these experiences into modern times and into the urban jungle. Parents who chauffeur their children everywhere from birth to graduation and then also look for an apprenticeship, apartment and university for them are anathema to her. In her opinion, the next generation is far less competent in everyday matters and life than any generation before. Solving problems on their own, enduring phases of boredom or exertion, is alien to them. This is supported by facts such as the fact that fewer and fewer children can ride a bike or swim.

Time-consuming learning to be independent

Every child killed represents a tragedy. However, Skenazy's concept does not mean neglect, because the preparation and support for self-employment is time-consuming and needs strong nerves, security also plays a major role for you. Just practicing how to get across the street safely, explaining to the children again and again, and looking in all directions, takes time and patience. Children have to know boundaries, they have to know that they can talk to strangers but not go with them.

The challenges that she poses to families in her program push parents to their limits. "Teach your children to behave smart and safe instead of neurotically wrapping them in cotton." In this context, she calls every year in May for a "Let's take our children to the park ... and let's leave them there" day. Difficult for parents who have to practice letting go, fun for the kids.

She justifies her arguments with statistics. According to this, 25 times more children die in accidents in cars of people who are worried about them than from kidnappers. Statistically speaking, a child would have to be outside for 650,000 years to be kidnapped, she reveals in an interview with the magazine "Nido".

The media stir up parents' panic

Perceptions have shifted, with news and TV series criminalizing the environment and fueling panic, while the actual crime rate has fallen. Her appeal: stop "worst-first thinking", that is, always accept the worst.

Children's life outside the cage

On her website, Skenazy writes: Like chickens, children deserve a life outside of cages. An overprotected life makes us wither and crushes us. Plus, it's boring for everyone involved.

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