Guest Post: Watching Your Children without Smothering Them

Watching Your Children without Smothering Them

by Brian Jones, The Ronin Blogger

The world is not as safe as it once was, there’s no doubt about it. This has caused many people to become what has been called a “helicopter parent.” If you are not familiar with the term, helicopter parenting refers to parents who “hover” over their kids by needing to constantly be aware of what their kids are doing, where they are, why they’re doing it and how they’re doing it. It doesn’t sound so bad on paper, but some studies suggest it can have some serious ramifications in the long-term.

The antithesis to helicopter parenting is “free-range parenting.” This is a new parenting style that is based on essentially relinquishing control of your kids and letting them venture into the world alone and unsupervised. The parenting style first got international attention when a mother let her nine year old ride the New York subway alone and then defended her decision passionately. It harkens back to the days when boys and girls would leave the house for five hours only to return around dinnertime.

The argument can definitely be made that while free-range parenting has its advantages when it comes to childhood development, it also comes with its own slew of issues. After all, the world is not the same as it once was when many modern parents were kids themselves. Social and cultural norms have changed and the threat of danger has increased, as well.

So what are parents to do?

The answer, it seems, is to meet somewhere in the middle. It’s possible to encourage independence while still ensuring that your kids are safe.

Let’s look at a situation where a child might be home alone for a short period. A home security system can actually help with this sort of thing, especially when it comes to latch-key kids. Many systems have features that can be used to alert parents if anyone comes or goes. Instructing your children on the importance of front-door etiquette – not letting in strangers, not divulging who is home, conversational deflections, etc. – this is also an indispensable tool to pass on during their formative years.

A lot of parents get their kids cellphones, as well. This allows parents to have a line of communication with their kids and, depending on the type of phone, there are GPS features and apps as well that allow you to keep a careful watch without needing to be present. And, while the intent for measures like these is to take a step back and let your child grow, at least with a phone you can check up on them whenever you need to.

There are lots of places you can go to explore options like these. You can visit a security site to get more information about security systems and your cellphone provider, too, is bound to have something on their website about family plans.

Taking a step back and giving your child some room to breathe doesn’t need to be a bad thing. In the end, your child will grow up to be more confident and independent because you haven’t been smothering them, but they will also be safe and secure because you have been keeping a watchful eye on them as well as providing them with the mental tools necessary to watch out for themselves.

So don’t be a helicopter parent or a free-range parent; you can have the best of both worlds in order to bring out the best in your child.

No Comments

  1. Shannon Stabbert -  May 29, 2013 - 4:20 am

    Facts fundamentally disagree with the first statement. We are experiencing historically low crime rates, lowest since WWII. Violent crime rates keep declining, food safety is better, warning labels and recalls are more effective, cars are safer, helmets are the norm, childbirth is safer than ever, childhood illnesses are more easily treatable, cell phones for emergencies are everywhere… so how exactly is the world “not as safe as it once was?” When exactly was this idyllic time you reference?

    This seems like needless fear mongering to me. I’d say it’s articles and news stories like this with unfounded blanket statements about how much more dangerous the world is that creates “helicopter parents” more than anything. Are there different dangers today (the perils of the Internet for one) than when we were kids? Sure. But that doesn’t mean the world is chock full of danger now. There’s lots of stuff we DON’T have to be as worried about (lead poisoning, car accidents, polio, whooping cough…).

  2. Shannon Stabbert -  May 29, 2013 - 4:24 am

    I should add that I completely agree with the core of this post, about finding a happy middle ground where your child is free to explore and discover and try and fail on their own, but still have guidelines and responsibilities and rules. I just get really irritated by “the world is going to hell” type rhetoric to support a point.

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