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Free Range Parenting?

Discussion in 'The Front Parlor' started by LizzieMaine, Jun 15, 2015.

  1. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    How did I miss this thread? I walked to school, both grade school (two blocks away) and junior high school (two blocks further on up the street). For grade school I actually came home for lunch. Don't remember about junior high school. Anyway, I was basically a free range boy but my mother was an invalid, so it was really a case of no real supervision one way or the other. I don't remember ever being injured when playing, riding bikes or whatnot but I got hurt in fights a lot. These days that's a "federal case." But I never really got out of the habit of roaming far from home. I've never hiked the Appalachian Trail end to end but it's too late for that now.

    We (my friends and I) were warned about strangers and there were times I felt very uncomfortable around strangers, like in the library or in the changing room at the city swimming pool. If I was visiting with a friend at his house and was there after dark, his mother would tell me to "turn the back porch light on when I got home." The back door of our house was just about visible from their house and that way they could be assured that I got home safely.

    We see a fair number of kids out where I live now but we live in one of those suburban neighborhoods that somehow seem a lot more crowded and cramped than where I grew up. I think the lots are smaller and there are more woods. I don't recall my son doing much running around after he started school but he never had a "gang" of friends in the neighborhood the way I did when I was his age. But he was close to some of his cousins, same as I was. Curiously, he lives on the other side of the country now.
  2. While not the worst helicopter parents, we were more involved than I think healthy. My kids grew up loved and protected, but they lost out on some needed skills. They don't know how to be bored; life is supposed to constantly entertain them. They don't know how to find or make things to do for themselves. They lack confidence to go out in the world because they were never on their own when young. They don't know how to deal with mean people, failure, setbacks, or difficulties since they always had their parents immediately to hand. My wife was very protective, but I feel she denied them the lessons learned by being on their own more even if that ask included them getting in a little trouble. Kids need to do hard things on their own. As my kids went away from home to college the problems really appeared. We raised a generation in a protective bubble and they lack the skills needed to succeed in the world. Now most will acquire the skills, but we could have done better preparing them.

    Just an observation of my own family and not a criticism if you feel differently.
  3. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    I understand what you are saying completely but there's another way to look at it.

    Only a few generations ago, kids were never really "on their own" when they were young. They were part of the work force at home, in a manner of speaking, until they could somehow manage to leave. That was the day of the extended family, all living relatively close together and often as not, with three generations under the same roof, there being no real alternatives for most people of ordinary means (pre-Social Security, that is). In some cases, they may have been expected to stay at home to inherit the family farm or the family business. That probably still happens, of course, for those in those situations.

    In other words, they weren't people learning to go out on their own. They were people who were expected to pick up such useful skills as they might need directly from their parents. That was also true in town, when a man pursued a trade downstairs in the shop, assisted by his wife and children. Formal schooling beyond learning your letters and your numbers was not common. My own father, for instance, didn't finish grade school.

    Naturally, there were plenty to left home at the earliest opportunity, especially in larger families. They were the ones who went West and settled the rest of the country. I was one of those who left home at the earliest opportunity, right after high school, only I went North.
    deadlyhandsome likes this.
  4. I agree with your historical perspective. However, since we cannot go back and recreate those past times we need to prepare our children for the realities of the day. My children were not working on the family farm or trying for an apprenticeship in town. They needed to be equipped for the realities of the world today and I'm of the opinion that when parents highly manage their children they are cheating them out of experiences they need to thrive. So many kids become "adults" without ever having had real responsibilities. They have not faced failures and setbacks. They also expect to be entertained rather than to work hard and make their own fun.

    Gross overstatements to be sure, but again this is only from my limited experiences about my children.
  5. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    The past is never past. But not everyone is facing the same future. Some have a paved road with lots of help along the way. Others have a "tough row to hoe." Not sure how kids (high school, lets say) can have more responsibility these days and I have my doubts about the entertainment part. Some children's lives have always been closely managed, others much less so. It's undoubtedly a reflection of the socio-economic status of the parents.

    On the other hand, it is probably true that older people are more resilient in the face of difficulties and loss, emotionally speaking. But it doesn't follow that a childhood of loss and difficulty is somehow good and then, too, few children grow up in the same world their parents did.
  6. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    I grew up on a farm, and as far as "free-range" went, I explored the farm to my heart's content. It was my playground, and is possibly why I have no problem being on my own and entertaining myself as that's largely what I did during my childhood. I didn't have friends over very often because back then, it was a "big deal" to drive the 10 miles from town to our farm, so people just didn't do it. There were times my brothers and I hung out and played together, but more often than not, I did my own thing.

    When my kids were younger, my stepsons spent the summers playing with the neighborhood kids and being out all day long. Sometimes my daughter (she was about five years younger than them) would tag along when she was older, but more often than not, she was in the house with me. She's turned out the same as me in that she is quite happy entertaining herself. She does chores around the house and has participated in a few extracurricular activities over the years - softball, private art lessons - but not very many. She's simply not interested. She's a good kid who likes to have all her ducks in a row and is pretty responsible. I've only had *one* incident when she got into trouble at school - she skipped class because she wasn't feeling good - and that was this year, her senior year. I didn't even get that upset with her because goodness, that's pretty tame compared to a lot of other teens!

    She starts her first job this week, and I know that will help her a bunch in numerous different ways.

    I do worry that she's not emotionally resilient enough because when things get tough, she just wants to quit - but we've been working on that this year. I think if she had been involved in more activities like sports, etc., she may have learned emotional resiliency sooner. But I'm confident she'll get there in the end.
    deadlyhandsome likes this.
  7. I think I'm just going to have to disagree with you here and leave it at that. I'm a believer in the value of struggle and even failure and letting children make their own way through life with the parents keeping a gentle hand on the reigns.
  8. HadleyH1

    HadleyH1 Practically Family

    I grew up with "helicopter parents"

    Well, rather helicopter mother, my father was fine.

    Totally and absolutely helicopter mother, no doubt about it. o_O
  9. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    Struggle and failure are overrated as good things.
  10. I respectfully disagree. Character is forged in adversity. I don't propose taking it to the extremes, but I do believe that children need to know that failures happen and life goes on. If the first time a person experiences a setback or some hardship is when they are an adult that are ill prepared to cope.

    My perspective based on my life's experiences. I understand that yours may differ. Like with so much in life, there are no demonstrable rights and wrongs here; only opinions.
    scottyrocks likes this.
  11. My parents were both depression era kids who had had it very hard growing up. For them, the fact that I had a roof over my head, food on the table and clothes on my back meant I was a "lucky" kid. I always had chores to do and, no, I didn't get paid to do them - again, remember, I was lucky to have the roof, food, clothes. I was expected to do well in school and absolutely not bother my parents day to day. All of this just was - it wasn't debated, questioned or discussed - they were the only rules I knew and I followed them.

    Because of that, I learned really early on and throughout my childhood to solve my own problems and figure things out for myself. I moved out at 17, worked while I attended and paid for college and never lived with my parents again. My upbringing wasn't fun - I have absolutely no desire to ever be a child again - but also have absolutely no doubt that my upbringing prepared me well for the difficulties of life.

    That's is not a argument for how to raise a child; it's just a description of how I was raised and some of the benefits and challenges. And to be fair, it wasn't a bad childhood - I wasn't abused or beaten, when a few big problems did come up (and once I convinced my parents they were big), they helped out with sincerity - they just didn't believe any of the modern stuff about being regularly engaged with your kid, making childhood fun, solving the kid's problems, etc.

    To them, and my mom is still alive today and she's said this, they didn't feel any need for a kid to absorb their lives. She said they felt they owed me the basics - and I got those - but not some coddling or fawning. In truth, I think (1) they didn't have the interest or patience to do more and (2) they believed (maybe subconsciously) "raise him tough since life is tough and he'll be a better adult."

    One anecdote. I went to Rutgers College - part of a big bureaucratic state university - and had no trouble adjusting to the challenges a bureaucratic institution has as there was no handholding at Rutgers - in the '80s anyway (don't know how it works today). But many kids struggled and many dropped out as they couldn't adjust to the "learn to survive on your own" approach. Many survived but had a challenging freshman year. Me, I sailed along already well acclimated to having to figure it out on my own and work my way around inside a not-caring bureaucracy - I was well prepared for that.
    deadlyhandsome likes this.
  12. Thank you Fading Fast. All any of us can do is relate to the world through our own experiences.

    My upbringing was full of kindness and love, but I fought my own battles, I had chores, I delivered newspapers (remember those?) beginning at age ten, and I worked part time jobs through high school. I was cut from the basketball team because I wasn't good enough and I never received a trophy for just trying. I paid my own way through college and learned to sacrifice immediate gratification for long term goals.

    My parents were also products of the Great Depression and there was steel in them. They were also kind and supportive. I remember my childhood fondly, but I also remember it was full of difficult things. I wouldn't have had it any other way.

    I won't disparage others for believing differently, but from my window out onto the world this is how I see things. I think my grown children would also admit that some more hard experiences earlier in life would have better prepared them for the realities of life.
    Desert dog likes this.
  13. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    It might be a matter of expectations. Some go into a situation expecting one thing and it turns out to be totally different. That generally applied to everything. While that might somehow make your tougher, it could just as easily make you bitter and resentful and I've met my share of people like that. Of course, struggle or failure may have nothing to do with that.

    There is also the matter of what experiences or life's lessons your parents have to pass along to you, more so for some generations than others, I imagine. Although my father and I both served in the army, we had scarcely any other experiences in common. That is to say, he could offer me no advice about much of anything that I was going out to do. Even so, there was never any mention of the difficulties of life and I never thought there needed to be. It was already obvious. My mother was an invalid, for example, and my father had to work two jobs to make ends meet, although I don't see how that made me a better person. Yet I never felt I lacked anything. I still don't think failure is ever a good thing; instead, it's shameful in a way. But that's only about failure. There's a lot more you have to face or put up with in life, sooner or later. Most of the bad things you have to deal with are not your fault. If your employer goes out of business and there are zero other job opportunities where you live (and you don't have the bus fare out of town), that's a tough situation and it's not your fault. And it isn't God's punishment, either.
    deadlyhandsome likes this.
  15. Sorry about my technological error.

    I don't want to belabor this issue, and I respect other's points of view. I also don't blame God or providence or the fates for what goes wrong.

    I'll stick to me guns when I say that some failures have made me stronger. Trying and not succeeding is a part of life. Better you learn how to cope with that when it's not making a sports team or having your teenage affections unrequited. These failures are small and allowed me to develop coping skills and a positive attitude that pushed me forward with a commitment to do better next time. I'm not advocating for parents to cause failures or hardships; life naturally provides plenty. It's sort of like the life of Abraham Lincoln. He wrote at length on how his repeated failures in life, and they were many and substantial, forged him into the man he became. He attributed his future success to his past failures.

    I understand that not everyone will raise to the occasion. I understand that some will be crushed under the weight of their failures. I agree that parents need to be involved enough in their children's lives to know when they need to step in and take action. I also know that it is natural for me to want to shield my children from harm and hurt, including emotional hurt. I just think that I my own life and in the early part of the lives of my children some failures were good. For me, I have no doubts about it.

    I respect your differing viewpoint. I'll now return to the safer waters of vintage fedoras, but I appreciate the insights provided by others here.
    Bamaboots and Desert dog like this.
  16. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    I hope you never told your children that the "F" they got in school was really good for them.
  17. No need to make things personal. You can disagree with me without making recriminations. I don't agree with your view, but I can respect it.
    Bamaboots and Fading Fast like this.
  18. I think one of the problems in discussing parenting is we all have such different lenses. What is a Challenge to some (such as being cut from a team) represents a totally different Challenge than others have faced (such as watching a parent die). Without having the same set of parameters it makes it very difficult to have a discussion.

    I teach in a college that serves a lot of first-generation college students, at a time when the numbers of 18 year olds who lack a parent who's never taken a college class are dwindling. The students need some help transitioning to adulthood, and I consider that my job. I don't mind dealing with parents. Overall, though, I find I deal with a lot fewer adulting issues with my students than I ever expected. Most of them get it.

    Let's keep it friendly here, gentlemen and ladies.
    Edward and deadlyhandsome like this.
  19. Message received. Thank you.
  20. I think it depends on the older person -- my mother lost her parents when she was forty-three years old, and the trauma of that experience continues to haunt her thirty-five years later. We literally cannot have a coversation without her raking up all the old coals from that time of her life and the trauma that it caused her, and if she hasn't gotten over it now she's never going to.

    Ma had adversity from the day she was born -- her parents were poor, as in earning about $400 a year at the time of her birth, she lost the hearing in one ear due to an infection they couldn't afford to treat, she got married at twenty to a useless excuse of a man who cheated on her on the way to the ceremony and who fornicated his way across North Africa while in the service. When he got home, he kept it up, and their first baby was accidentally killed by the doctor who botched the delivery.

    And it just went downhill from there. My father got a fifteen-year-old girl pregnant and was run out of town at gunpoint by her father, and forced to lay low for a year. He came home and promptly infected my mother with the clap. Finally, after the unplanned birth of my sister she threw him out of the house and got a divorce. A few years later she tried remarrying, only to end up with a violent, abusive man who did unspeakable things in the seven months she was married to him. She threw him out too, and tried to carry on as best she could raising now three kids alone. And then her brother and her parents all died within the space of a little less than two years.

    Adversity didn't make her a better, stronger person. It made her a damaged, deeply traumatized person who carries scars that will never heal. I kid around sometimes about her because her anger sometimes comes out in ways that are, frankly, quite funny in an unintentionally funny way, but the fact of the matter is she is and will always be the single most damaged, broken human being I've ever known. That's what too much adversity can do. And part of the reason I received absolutely no childhood guidance from her whatsoever after the age of about six was because she was simply no longer capable of providing any.
    ChiTownScion and deadlyhandsome like this.

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