helicopter parents

By coddling our kids, we're doing them more harm than good

latchkey kid

Are there still latchkey kids these days or have they gone undercover in the age of helicopter parenting and our increased paranoia about kids’ safety?

I used to be a latchkey kid.

As a matter of fact, I remember walking to and from school alone, sometimes with friends of the same age, as young as eight years old. I also remember spending many days and evenings on my own over the summers, after school, going to the park, the corner store for candy, riding my bike. All my friends did it too. My parents were working, making a living. I was fine.

While this occurred in the not too distant past, it wasn’t that long ago where kids other than myself and my friends were afforded the responsibility and provided the trust to similarly live their lives. In doing so, they were able to gain confidence in their abilities. This often included walking to and from home to school and back, to the corner store, or somewhere within the vicinity close (or close enough) to home.

Now, it’s considered nothing short of child abuse to allow a kid under the age of 12 or 13 to walk anywhere on their own. Don’t believe me? Just think of Lenore Skenazy who was publicly vilified for allowing her nine-year-old son to take the train alone, or Danielle Meitiv, whose children Rafi and Dvora aged 10 and six respectively, were taken into protective custody by the authorities after being spotted walking a few blocks home from the local park.

Sadly, this event is all too common when it comes to society’s perception of what we should or shouldn’t be allowing our children to do. Despite a long history of children having considerable responsibilities at much younger ages than they do now, we have, strangely, become more worried about our kids’ abilities to fend for themselves in today’s world. 

There was a time where kids were allowed to be kids, which meant going out to play and coming home when dinner was on the table. The delta between this edict and the return time could be as much as three or four hours. Oh, the freedom!

“There was a time where kids were allowed to be kids, which meant going out to play and coming home when dinner was on the table.”

Today, the thought of a child walking home alone, letting themselves into their house and staying put until mom or dad gets home puts some parents into a state of hyperventilation. I’m guilty of hyper-parenting as well but also realize that I’m not doing my children any favours by passing my paranoia on to them. 

As with many parents, I’ve bought into the paranoia about the dangers of life to some degree. Touted on the evening news, online and via social media, one would think that the world is coming to an end, at least in terms of kids’ abilities to be…well…kids. These days, parents face a daily struggle to provide their children with the right balance of protection while still affording them the freedom that they require to become confident, secure adults. It’s a difficult balancing act for sure, and one that’s not easily managed.

Yet, what has changed in our society, really? Has human nature - both good and bad - really gotten worse in the past 30-40 years?  Not much. In fact, there are still the same threats that we had so many years ago, if not more. “The Boogeyman” lived then as he does now; we’re just more aware of him, thanks to Professor Google.

We’ve become a society of incredibly fearful parents, much to the detriment of our kids. As a result, our children are the ones who are suffering, both from lack of experience and from general distrust. The thought of exerting any semblance of independence is quickly followed by waves of anxiety, distress and “stranger danger.”

And so, those who allow their kids any degree of freedom or responsibility are made to feel like they have somehow failed in their roles as parents. How can this be a good thing?

The very things that we hope to see develop within our children are being stifled by our (often) unsubstantiated fears of the unknown. Independence, self-assuredness, fearlessness - these qualities are left to wither and sometimes die due to our hesitance to loosen the apron strings and let our kids experience real life. While we are stalwartly determined to not let our our most precious assets venture too far beyond our purview, we are, at the same time, stifling the very real qualities that we’d hope to see in our children as they move towards adulthood.

This fact alone should give us pause to revisit what we are teaching our kids about the world in which they live. After all - our job as parents is to give them the skills to survive in the real world, to arm them with knowledge and, perhaps most importantly - provide them with confidence. All of these must-have attributes will never be realized if we continue to coddle them and refuse to let them venture beyond our line of sight.

There are still “latchkey kids” out there, walking themselves home from school and letting themselves into the house to wait for their parent or parents to come home. It’s safe to say that these children are likely less afraid, more self-assured and likely more responsible than their coddled counterparts. They’re also, sadly, more likely to be the brunt of our collective pity and their parents the recipients of our collective scorn, as indicated by the reaction to Ms. Skenazy and Ms. Meitiv indicates.

In today’s world, Helicopter Parenting is the the norm, not the exception. In spite of this fact, Latchkey Kids still exist; they’ve just gone undercover, having been forced to operate in the shadows as a result of our over-protective and fearful society. They’re in hiding with no clear indication of when they can come out of the shadows to lead the way for their peers who would likely gain so much more from the shared knowledge than they would lose. Yes, learning to be independent and following the lead of those who bravely do so, often because there’s no other choice, would be inspiring, to say the least.

For these parents who either have no choice or have the choice but have chosen to teach their kids the ropes; for those who send their children out with a key in their backpack and who say a little prayer as they leave their children to make their way in the world, I salute you. For you know  and act upon what all of us “Nervous Nellies” secretly know but chose to ignore: that giving our kids the freedom and responsibility to trust their own judgement and abilities is one of the greatest things we can do to help them grow into highly-confident, well-functioning adults.

Perhaps it’s time that we collectively reconsider the effects of our parental protectiveness and look to another alternative that will ultimately help, rather than hurt our children in the long run.


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Everybody Wins, Nobody Wins

by Samantha on October 21, 2013

boy with trophy

I’m against kids “winning” at all costs.

This refers to the growing trend of letting all kids win and telling them that “everyone’s a winner.”

Everyone is not a winner. That’s why we have the designations of “winners” and “losers.” Someone has to lose. It’s not pretty but that’s life.

And “that’s life,” or “c’est la vie” is the message that I’m trying to teach my kids, but holy moly, it’s really hard to do in this age of political correctness, helicopter parenting and fear of “harming” our kids.

So many parents these days are afraid of what Junior will think when he learns that he is not the best at soccer, or that he did not lead the class with his mark with that recent assignment. Little Emma may be surprised to learn that someone outshone her at the recent spelling bee but trust me when I say that she’ll survive. She will, as will so many other children who don’t come in “first” in a particular race, competition or test. That’s how life is. It’s hard, you don’t always win, but you’ll come through the other side, perhaps even a better person for having competed.

In our latest craze of wanting to shield our kids from the realities of life - that is, that there are winners and losers in the world - we are doing a grave disservice to our children. We are not only delaying the inevitable lessons that they will learn  eventually - that they can’t win at everything - in order to supposedly spare their feelings or cushion the blow that comes with the agony of defeat. By taking this approach to parenting, we are in fact teaching our kids that the world is their oyster and that anything and everything that they desire to do, to have and to want is there for their disposal.

This is wrong, very wrong, and here’s why:

Kids who are taught that they are always winners, in spite of how they really chart in a particular game, exam or otherwise, will be ill-prepared to deal with the realities of the real world when they step outside of the amniotic bubble of home. As a matter of fact, these kids who think that they can do anything are in for a very rude and likely painful awakening. When little Matthew who has been told for years that he is the best speller ever goes into his first job at a corporation and gives his boss a spelling, grammar and typo-ridden document to pass on to a client, he will be summarily slapped down (verbally, of course) and told to clean up his grammatical act. And I know what you’re thinking: but Matthew went to college or university, and surely they must have stopped him in his bad-spelling zeal and marked his papers accordingly, right?


Let’s not ignore the fact that there’s a long history of post-secondary and academic institutions ignoring an academic scholarship student’s grades in favor of having the student in the university or college…winning games, of course.

Children are indeed sensitive and yes, caution and discretion should be used when revealing certain facts to them. This, however, does not preclude the fact that they are thinking beings, quite able to assess certain situations for what they are, and sometimes they’re not good. In other words, in spite of some parents’ best efforts to shield their child from the sad fact that the child is not the best at soccer/hockey/spelling by telling them that they’ve “won,” parents are doing more damage in the long run.

How so?

1) Children will quickly realize that their parents are not being honest with them, which can lead to a whole slew of bad behaviors, resentments and outcomes not the least of which is a lack of trust;

2) These same children will have a skewed sense of reality as a result of being lied to about what is something that seems obvious, even to them. After all - kids are often a lot smarter and in tune with what’s going on than we think.

3) These kids will start to realize that since their parents are lying to them about such events, they’re likely lying to them about other important things as well. The basis of the child-parent relationship will be strained as a result.

It’s understood that most parents want to protect their kids from harm and from the harsh realities of life. It’s also understood that losing is painful, disappointing and demoralizing, especially for children. What is not understood is the pervasive fear of letting kids fail to the point where the children are deluded into thinking that they are always winners and that they can never lose, no matter what they do. In the decision to pretend that a child is always a winner, parents who are doing this are, ironically, setting their kids up for inevitable failure.

You win some, you lose some. An oldie but a goodie. Let’s not forget to remind our kids of this truth before it’s too late.

Do you think that kids should always be allowed to “win” or be given passing grades? Why or why not? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

To read this post on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

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Helicopter Parents vs. Free Range Parents.

Elimination Communication vs. conventional potty training.

Tiger Moms vs. Permissive Moms.

Apparently there’s a war of not only words but ways of life and parents are being made to draw a line in the sand…or  sandbox as the case may be.

Depending on your vantage point, you may be in the right or you may be totally wrong. You are likely doing wonderful things for your child or you are ruining them as human beings forevermore. You just can’t win.

Never  has there been a time in our history where there have been so many  different ways of parenting and, more importantly, so many parents arguing, disagreeing and generally condemning those who choose to raise their children in a different way than their own.

Add to this fact the reality that our multi-ethnic, socially-stratified society adds even more variables to the mix, including culture and ethnicity as well as social economic class, to name a few. Is it any wonder that there are almost as many ways of raising your child as there are children in the world (alright, not quite, but it certainly seems that way)?

Yet, although most of us know this, we stick to our guns, insisting that our way is the right way. Perhaps it’s human nature; perhaps it’s our stubborn belief that we’re right and…well…everyone who doesn’t agree with us is wrong. No more so than in the parenting plane are those who continue to bicker and argue about what is the best way to raise a child. If you’re not with us, you’re against us, end of story.

Though intellectually, we know that this type of rigid, black-and-white viewing of the world is wrong, we can’t help ourselves. Somehow it’s not wrong when it comes to us and our choices on how we raise our kids. Again: we’re right, everyone else is wrong…right?

So the question this week is as follows: Do you think that it’s possible for us to finally all get along? Can conflicting and different parenting styles exist? Is there any hope of us finding common ground and celebrating our similarities as parents instead of our differences? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

VIDEO: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

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