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Free Range Parenting?

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

  1. Knowing the waters are treacherous, I'm going to add some thoughts to the discussion anyway.

    There is no one-solution-fits-all model and it all needs an Aristotelean balance.

    IMHO, some amount of / quantity of / experience with adversity in childhood helps children learn, grow and develop the coping skills needed to deal with the many adversities life will throw at them.

    That's an easy thing to say, but it brings us back to the broader issues I noted: What is the right amount of adversity - what is a healthy amount of challenges and disappointment versus an overwhelming amount that damages the child for life?

    Unfortunately, each child is different and every parent must try and find the right balance that works for their child. Some will flourish under a lot of early challenges while some will do best with very small doses combined with much support until they can handle more - every parent just has to do his or her best trying to find the right mix for their child (which also changes as the child grows and is different for each child even in the same family).

    And that's why it's hard. Sure, most (I think) would agree that children need some amount of adversity and challenges to develop the skills to grow into adults able to cope with life's pressures and problems. Great, the theory is sound; it is applying it in the real world in a customized way to every single child that is challenging.

    And as Lizzie points out, this assumes every parent is able to work through that equation for their child, but if your parents, as Lizzie's mom did, lived a real life "The Grapes of Wrath" and are broken themselves, well then, good luck with them being able to carefully calibrate a set of challenges for their own children.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2017
    AmateisGal likes this.
  2. I'm at a loss for words. In my mind when I think of adversities, challenges, and failures I was not thinking of tragedies on the scale you brought up. No doubt there is a point that if you push past you can do some terrible damage. Not making the cut for a sports team is in a whole different league.

    Death, abuse, torment, violence, and "failures" on the scale you mentioned are not beneficial to anyone and I apologize if what I said earlier was taken to include such.
    vitanola, Edward and Fading Fast like this.
  3. I think this is a good discussion.

    It's really hard to callibrate struggles, as FadingFast suggested. I have young kids, and there is a tendency to want to protect them. My daughter was being bullied in preschool as the "new kid" in her in home daycare. We seriously considered withdrawing her if the situation didn't improve, but the teacher worked with her and the other student. The other student eventually left.

    It's challenging to know when to hold back and when to intervene. I had parents who absolutely had no good measure of this. In eighth grade, I was repeatedly sexually harassed by a fellow student, who was touching my back and bra repeatedly (he sat behind me). It was everyday I was in that class. I told him to stop, every time. I asked to be moved by the teacher, and going to a very rural school with limited resources was told to handle it myself. I then went to my parents, who told me I should ask him out on a date. (My mother was friends with his mother.) Eventually i got so fed up with the behavior that i picked up my very heavy textbook one day and smacked him right in the face, as hard as I could with both hands. I left a mark, and nobody bothered me for a couple of years. Honestly, though, none of that should have happened. I can't believe the teacher didn't see somethibg before I went to him, and my parents should have gone crazy.

    Meanwhile, my parents would get upset if I didn't win every academic prize at the school, and would complain to the school about it, even when I told them (or begged them) to leave it alone.

    It's a delicate balance for kids. If you were raised in a loving, kind, and caring family maybe navigating this is easier, but for many of us who weren't, this is difficult.
    deadlyhandsome likes this.
  4. My first thought is that you and her should collaborate and write a book about her life. You certainly have the literary and investigative skills to pull off something really remarkable, in either a non-fiction or fictionalized incarnation. Pat Conrad and Tobias Wolff are two authors who come to mind when I think of who have taken really hurtful, ugly, and destructive childhood experiences to print. It's never painless, but I think that for them it was cathartic.

    A lot of those coals need to be raked by those who were burned by them: some do it through years of therapy and when that isn't an option, well, people do what they have to do. Sadly, for many, reliving the destruction and hurt for the rest of their lives is all that they will ever know.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2017
    deadlyhandsome likes this.
  5. See, the thing was, at the time I didn't realize there was anything particularly unusual about it. It was simply what life was like. My grandmother came out of a family where her mother got pregnant at 17 and married a drunk, only to kick him out of the house six years later and get a job working in a shoe factory to raise the kids. My grandfather was one of eight kids, and never knew what it was not to have to fight for a place to sleep and something to eat. That was just the way people lived -- and most of the other people in our neighborhood had similar stories. We were all in the same leaking, waterlogged boat.

    In its own way, the fact that we were all in such situations gave our neighborhood a cohesion you don't find in neighborhoods today. There was none of this bourgie superficiality -- "How are you today Mrs. Jones?" "Oh very well Mrs. Smith, and yourself?" We all looked after each other -- we didn't necessarily *like* each other, but we looked after each other, and to get back to the idea of "free range parenting," that's how it worked for the neighborhood kids. Every mother felt free to discipline any kid she saw getting out of line -- "HEY YOU LITTLE S**T, QUIT THAT OR I'M GONNA WARM YA BACKSIDE!" -- and nobody thought anything of it. There was none of this "How dare you speak to my child that way, he was expressing his creativity!" In that sense we were as much a tribe as we were a neighborhood, and all the kids knew they had to not wander too far out of line.
  6. I am constantly reminded by my wife that what we accepted as "normal" in our respective childhoods, really is not.

    I was always told that, "ALL parents argue," but what transpired between mine went above and beyond. After 29 years, they finally divorced, and I suppose the sane alternative to that would have been to never marry in the first place. I really doubt that either of them were able to step back and make an honest and arguably objective of getting married, but who knows if it was home environments or the times (1946) which set that mold. "They did the best that they could," and "..they were only products of their own childhood environments," and all that ...... but the older you get and the more people you meet, the more you realize that so much of it wasn't "normal" within any logical context.

    Thing is, I think that every set of potential parents resolves that they're not going to make the same mistakes that their own parents made. And, sometimes we do just that, and sometimes our own mistakes will be fodder for a therapist's couch in a few decades. And so it goes, Mr. Vonnegut..
    deadlyhandsome likes this.
  7. This may have been covered earlier in the thread and if so I apologize. I think the most important and most damaging trend with today's parenting is not holding their children accountable. When I last coached baseball my assistant was a late 50's career high school teacher. He often commented on the shift in parenting. Now the parents were coming to him with all manner of blame, excuses etc for their little Johnny's performance at school. It was ALWAYS someone else's fault or some externality as the cause. Never little Johnny as the agent. I experienced this when I was a Big Brother (the good kind, not the Orwellian kind) My little bro's Mom was of that type and I saw first hand the damage it wrought.
    scottyrocks and deadlyhandsome like this.
  8. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    While I understand, I think, what people are trying to say about adversity, hardship and rejection (but not failure so much), I'm not so sure about some of the examples. For instance, not making the team (rejection) I suppose can be trying but think of how few kids in school actually play on school teams. That sort of problem would be a joke to most of the kids.

    There is something happening, I think, that amounts to a postponing of adulthood. This isn't new, however. It probably goes back to before WWII, at least in some families. More and more years are being spent in schooling for some, which amounts to a postponing of adulthood--to a degree. College isn't easy, after all, and most have to hustle to find a way to pay for it. Teenagers probably have a harder time finding work than they did fifty years ago, too. When did you last go in a fast food restaurant and find employees of high school and college age? You may where you live but you don't where I live. Some boys used to enter the work force permanently when they were fifteen, and perhaps younger, but only because it was absolutely necessary, not because it was going to teach them something about life in some abstract way.
  9. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    I wanted to add here that, in my own childhood, the one I'm most familiar with, I realize there was an absence of many of the situations that have been mentioned here. Neither I nor my friends went to pre-school or kindergarten, played school sports, failed to make the team or anything like that. I don't think anyone I knew at school played football and I saw most of them at our 50th class reunion three years ago. People who made the team were the exceptions, after all. Likewise, I never had a problem with bullies, although I was more than willing to get in fights with I was little, which resulted in a few trips to the hospital. School in itself was about all I could manage then anyway and that seemed to be my standard of what was normal. I probably thought fighting was normal, too, and maybe that's why I have a high tolerance for pain. Of my friends in my own neighborhood, I was the only one who went to college, although other friends I only knew at school went, too.
  10. Our school didn't amount to much sportswise either -- we didn't have football, soccer was in its infancy, baseball and softball were limited to about four weeks in the spring between the time the ice melted and the mud dried up and the school year ended, and field hockey was only for girls who weren't afraid of getting hit in the mouth with a stick. Basketball was the only sport that mattered, and if you were tall enough or coordinated enough you didn't have to worry about not making the team, the coaches went around begging you to sign up.

    Bullying, however, was a major sport at our school -- there were claques of thuggish boys and vicious girls who'd go after anyone who displayed the slightest sense of difference. I was once very nearly thrown down an abandoned well behind the school by such a mob, but I got loose before they could do it. They did throw another kid down there though, and it took that to get the town to finally spend the money to bulldoze the property and cover it over.

    The majority of kids in my school didn't go to college. Some went into the service, but most just got whatever job they could find and got to work -- there weren't many jobs, with local unemployment around 25 percent, but if you were lucky you could get something.
  11. That's horrible Lizzie... was the kid (from the well) OK?
  12. He was never the same after that. Dropped out of school as soon as he could, took to drinking, and I heard about ten years ago he was killed by a car while walking along the side of the road drunk during a snowstorm. At least a couple of the kids who were responsible for the attack also came to early ends -- one of them drank himself to death, another was stabbed to death by his own brother.

    These kids were mostly seventh and eighth graders at the time of the attack, and they were all savages. I saw a teacher throw one of the boys down a flight of stairs, and slam another one's head thru a wall, but all it did was make them more feral. And the girls could be just as vicious and violent as the boys -- their favorite trick was to corner a victim against a wall and take turns beating her. It got so you didn't dare to go to the basement alone ("basement" being what we called the restrooms.)

    The school system in my town was very bad. It was chronically underfunded, the buildings were old, cold, leaky, and poorly maintained, and the teachers completely demoralized. They were also so poorly paid that some of them worked summers in the poultry-evisceration plant or on the docks, and occasionally one would be arrested for shoplifting food. Eventually the high school lost its accreditation -- and it took that to get people in the town to wake up and realize that spending money on schools wasn't a matter of "unnecessary frills that we didn't need in my day," which was the exact phrase heard every year at budget meeting time.
    vitanola likes this.
  13. That's really sad. I'm sorry for the poor guy.

    Our school had a lot of bullying, but nothing that extreme. More nasty nasty taunting. Like taunting the girl who returned at 21 to finish school (which I admired) for miscarrying a baby at 18 (why she dropped out). A group of girls used to stuff graphic anti-abortion phamplets into her locker, and paper the outside of it with pictures from them too. They called her a murderer and a sinner and accused her of having an abortion. They attacked her once by throwing red paint on her for "blood." She used to go in the art room and cry. She graduated though, some of her attackers didn't.

    The only other really horrid thing happened to my friend. Her mother was scum, and had abandoned her 6 kids (my friend was the youngest) by walking away one day. She never had anything to do with my friend except call and make fake promises about seeing her (she lived a half an hour away). So my friend was raised by her dad, who was working as a prison guard. He broke up a fight one day, got accidentally hit in the head, and ended up in the hospital with an aneurysm. Not expected to live.

    Well, didn't the vultures come out. She missed school for a day after he was admitted, and the school threatened to suspend her over absenteeism because the note she got was signed by hospital staff and the fathers girlfriend. The bullies got wind of this and started taunting her, horrid stuff about how she was going to be an orphan and had a mother who wouldn't even see her. It got physical once.
  14. I've always said that school is the closest thing most law-abiding people will ever come to being in jail. Because just like jail you're stuck with a bunch of psychopaths that you wouldn't want anything to do with given a choice. I wouldn't say that I was bullied, I just knew a lot of jerks, but there were many times I wished that there was such a thing as homeschooling back then.
    Fading Fast likes this.
  15. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    There's a lot of chance involved in the life you live, starting before you're born. It's chance in the sense that you had nothing to do with where you were born, the family you had, the public schools you went to, and so on. Yet most kids turn out okay. I know from my wife, now a retired schoolteacher, that classes vary from one year to the next. They can be nice kids but do poorly academically, they can be discipline problems, the can be mediocre in class but still pass all the tests, and so on. The nature of classes is such that sometimes individual differences are unimportant. You could have a couple of kids who were really good but everyone else not so good, so you essentially have a class that is overall not so good. Also, according to her, where the kids are from doesn't make so much difference. That is, immigrants generally can be as good as any other student. Problems arise when the parents are poorly educated, some to the extent that at they are illiterate in their own language, usually Spanish (and usually haven't learned English either). But I discovered that some do not start learning Spanish until they start school. One would think that after 500 years, everyone south of the border would be speaking Spanish (or Portuguese) at home but that's not the case. I could go on about students who come from somewhere else but my wife never had anything bad to say about them just because they were foreign born.

    They all pick up English fairly quickly and none have any problem with computers.
  16. Some immigrant families want to be American at all costs. My maternal grandparents grew up speaking Polish and only learned English in school. (They were fluent in English despite neither one ever finishing 8th grade. They were both born in the US.)

    They spoke Polish between themselves in the home, as a language to speak above the kids, but my mother and aunt were punished for speaking it. Slaps, the belt, etc. Once I asked my grandmother what a Polish phrase meant and she slapped me and said, "you're an American, you don't speak Polish."

    I'm glad this is changing in our culture, because now, as an adult, I can see the pain my grandmother went through to be considered an American. No one should feel ashamed for sharing their heritage with their kids or grandkids.
    vitanola, Edward and Bamaboots like this.
  17. Yep, I liken my school years to the "jungle".....the good news is that I survived 12 years in the jungle......prepared me for life.
  18. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    College, on the other hand, can be the best years of your life. But I certainly never thought public school was anything like a jungle. I had lots of friends at school, including among the teachers, some of whom I would visit when I was back in my home town.
  19. There is a great Carl Jung story; (I crudely paraphrase) he received a letter from a friend asking for advice. The friends daughter was complaining that she was the source of her problems and the cause of her seeking therapy. Jung's response was "Of course she is right." Parents, I think, are the de facto source of our problems, they are after all our parents.
  20. HadleyH1

    HadleyH1 Practically Family


    I'm sorry to hear you had such a bad time

    My experience was different .... nice times ....nice classmates and teachers..... never knew the meaning of the word bullying.... never ever....

    May be we were made of a different mettle.....you know?

    Anyway, I'm happy I lived through those times . I feel stronger than those poor souls today.:)
    V.C. Brunswick likes this.

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