I have children of my own now and I struggle with the idea of letting them
roam as I did. Yet I grew up in dangerous times - as an anecdotal aside once whilst on an adventure, I ran into a group of young and armed militia soldiers. As protection, my friend and I were carrying a cow femur (not sure where we acquired it) and a kitchen knife. I guess we were about 10. The militia, who were by the way a different ethnic group to us, could have caused us some serious problems. But instead we hung out with them for a few hours and they let us play with their AK47s. Man, right now I’m even struggling to believe that happened. I’m still friends with my childhood buddy. I’m going to check in with him and see what he remembers.
I grew up not too far from south-central Los Angeles, California, in the 1970s and early 1980s, and was shot at on two occasions by gangs.
Raised by my grandparents, I was a full 'free-range' child.
Thanks for your reply.
Another time I was hanging out near a chain link fence chatting with a couple of friends when some other guys came by on the other side, talking shit. We talked some shit back, and they threatened to come back with a shotgun. We blew them off, ignored them and continued with our chat. Well, one of them did indeed come back with a shotgun. Fortunately the weapon was loaded with bird shot, so we were only slightly injured.
An 'amusing' story:
My grandpa, who raised me, along with my grandma, listened almost nightly to the police frequencies. We heard a helicopter circling above one night (a not uncommon thing), and the cops were talking about chasing an armed suspect on foot. The 'copter was circling one street over. It's easy to tell because their floodlight constantly points to whatever the action point is below.
Suddenly, from outside, we heard a fully automatic rifle fire a long burst. Seconds later, the 'copter reported that they were taking fire, and so were forced to orbit at a higher altitude.
Crime in Southern California in the 1980s was no fucking joke.
When my grandpa passed in 2003 (grandma in 2000), my dad sold that 850 square foot house for something $500k.
(I wasn't going to make this a political response, but it's sneaking in, so here goes.)
To directly answer your question: I generally support the right of most citizens to carry properly registered weapons if they so choose. At the same time, I've read (can't cite them right now) studies that show carrying a weapon greatly increases the chance that a given criminal conflict will escalate to bloodshed. If I recall correctly, it even makes the bearer statistically more likely to be seriously hurt. If accurate, this invalidates the whole reasoning behind "arming oneself for defense". My personal experiences and observations mirror this finding: statistically speaking, it is almost always safer to not carry than it is to carry.
More to the point: I would personally rather be seriously injured in a criminal conflict than remain uninjured if that required me to kill someone.
(In case you haven't noticed, I'm not a fragile snowflake, quite the opposite.)
Of course I'll state the obvious: in both of the incidents I reported above, things would very likely have been worse if any of the people on the receiving end of violence had been armed.
So...why do I support the right to bear arms? It's not really about the 2nd amendment for me. I just tend to default to freedom unless there's a very compelling reason not to.
Guns are here in the United States, and no matter what, they aren't leaving. The only way for gun regulation to have a material impact on gun violence is to somehow get rid of most of them, which isn't going to happen.
There have been and are now many countries with many guns that don't have anything like the levels of violence that we experience in the US.
Guns aren't the fundamental problem. In my opinion, the most fundamental problem we have as a society is that we're extremely afraid. Inappropriately afraid. This problem isn't only in US, but it seems to be especially concentrated here.
There's a million nuances that I must gloss over in order to complete this reply in a reasonable amount of time. I'm very much not emotionally tied to my thoughts on this issue, as so many people are, and I'm quite open having my opinions modified with strong evidence based arguments.
See my other post for a substantive reply.
I watched MacGyver quite a bit as a teenager, it was fun.
But...how does MacGyver the TV show relate to violence in southern California? Thanks. (:
[Edit: just joking, see response above]
edit: found your answer.
Just a personal note, I found it irritating that the author felt the need to write “Intensive parenting is a way for especially affluent white mothers to make sure their children are maintaining their advantaged position in society.” I am pretty sure the mothers just want their kids to have the best lives they can, as do all parents regardless of the color of their skin. I don't think they approach it from the view that they are participants in some great racial struggle. Of course they want their kids to do as well or better than them, all parents do, or should. Seemed like a pointless, finger wagging thing to say.
Class struggle was a common point of analysis, and still is, though intersectionality tends to emphasize racial and gender struggles.
For a mainstream news source, The nytimes leans heavily left and often will analyze social phenomena through the framework of group identity and power structures.
I have three kids under five years old, and man it goes fast. My philosophy has evolved to this: they’re their own people, not extensions of our own ego, and in the limited time we have influence over them we can help them develop core habits that will be useful throughout their lives.
- The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
I got the above from an HN comment on the topic of raising kids. I noted it in my personal wiki and this changed the way I think about this topic.
Gibran's The Prophet was published in 1923 so it is now (2019) in the public domain in the USA.
So true. I feel like a large portion of all the conflict that arises between parents and children stems from a failure to understand this.
Well said. This is basically the philosophy my wife and I developed for our now 11 year old. The temptation to hover and guide at every step is strong, but our ultimate goal is to release a fully functioning human into the world. We really can't change the core of who he is, but we can help him develop habits that work for him. We need to help him develop the tools, but he needs to succeed and/or fail on his own more and more as he gets older. Our role becomes one of reinforcement and guidance.
I guess especially affluent mother of color don't do this? NYT conflating race and class to divide people again.
But, I do think it may have that unintended effect.
> Asians are now white.
> Don't believe me? A recent MSNBC news headline announced a "Plunge in Minority University Enrollment" at the University of California, with UC Berkeley reporting that "minority admissions had declined 61 percent." Actually, the total percentage of racial minority students at Berkeley, Asians included, fell from 57% to 49%. If you exclude the burgeoning group of people who decline to state their race, the minority percentage fell only three percentage points, from 61% to 58%.
The Asian American point is a very interesting thing I too have been following the past few years.
I'm a little confused. Are you disagreeing with me? If so, I'm still not clear in what way.
Edit: In case my original point wasn't clear, here it is restated. When people talk about "white, affluent people" as some type of special group, when they really just mean affluent people, it connotes that white people are more likely to be affluent, which can become a self-fulfilling prophecy (see: impostor syndrome).
And, yes, white people today are more likely to be affluent for a host of reasons. But I think it does a disservice to all of us to interject that at times when it's completely irrelevant.
In 1970, failure was a job on the assembly line at Ford in Detroit. Until 1974, the auto companies didn't require a high school diploma. Union job, good pay. Now it's homelessness and drug addiction.
Crippling student debt, insane healthcare costs, soaring housing prices in major cities. People are anxious and things are more competitive. All while worker productivity continues to increase with stagnant wages.
If you look at adjusted median household income over the past 20 years its either stayed roughly the same or declined. Median home prices dipped during the recession, but have already outpaced median wage growth again.
We don't want our kids to be subject to this, so we push them to be better than their competition. Being the top 50% isn't often a comfortable life anymore so we're pushing them to squeeze into the top 10-20%.
The wealth gap in this country is squeezing all the joy out of life for every penny its worth.
It could be that the very slight decline in spending for the lower quintiles is from getting help that isn't counted (free preschool for example) or from products being more affordable (measuring money is not equivalent to measuring the value gotten) or from more people being able to avoid childcare expenses by being home.
It could be that the major increase in spending for the top quintile is wasted. Maybe the kid wants to own a horse. All sorts electronic things eat up money while delivering little value.
Amount spent per child might be flat or even still even be slightly rising for these groups (though obviously nothing like the booming spending of the wealthy).
> The wealth gap in this country is squeezing all the joy out of life for every penny its worth.
Every capitalist society needs a periodical wealth tax, otherwise the natural accumulation of wealth results in such a gap.
Even if you are are born in a eastern european village you might survive a world war and end up in a comfortable American middle upper class lifestyle).
You can’t guarantee anything in life, all you can do is do your best for your kid and let them fly as well as they can.
And, agreed about the wealth tax :)
I think it's helpful to look at it this way: The job of a parent is to put themselves out of a job.
- George Carlin
I think the larger point may be that some so-called “helicopter parents” might never work towards this, to the detriment of their children’s mental health - and their long-term family relationships.
> my opinion in this matter is somewhat informed.
Good deal...and so is mine.
> > The job of a parent is to put themselves out of a job.
> Are you a parent? You're never out of a job :).
Context matters. You and the person you're replying to are talking about different things, and if you didn't realize that, I'd be fairly surprised, given your experience.
The person you're replying to is talking (roughly) about getting their children on their feet and self supporting. You're talking about other kinds of support.
My wife on the other hand... I hate to use the word "coddled", but I am absolutely astounded at how many basic tasks and life skills were never taught to her. She never learned that you can't dump all of your clothes in the washing machine and set it on hot. She never learned that not watering the yard will quickly kill all of the grass. When I was talking about scheduling a prostate exam, she asked if I could schedule hers too, and I had to explain that women don't have prostates (when she was a kid, she was horrified the first time she had her period because no one explained what that was either).
She doesn't want to get a job because she says she won't have enough vacation time for visiting family, so she's currently living off my income (we don't have children). Her brother finished his PhD over a year ago but has not applied to any jobs and lives in the basement playing video games. I love my wife a lot, but it somehow slipped my attention before we got married that her parents failed her in a big way by doing absolutely everything for her and her siblings. It's translated into a lack of basic adult skills, and I often feel like I'm not a husband in the relationship, but a parent. When I eventually have kids of my own, "figure it out yourself" is going to be a common refrain, because "I'll take care of it" apparently results in a disaster.
Are we over-parenting? Absolutely. But if I let my kids go free-range and they have a hard time as adults, the same exact people who accuse us of over-parenting will be right there accusing us of under-parenting. The same childless people who sneer at us for keeping our kids challenged and engaged are the ones who sneer at us when we give the kids an hour of screen time at the end of the day or when one of our children has an age-appropriate temper-tantrum. We parents are damned if we do and damned if we don't.
If your life is micro managed down to the minute you won't learn the self discipline to do things without an authority figure looming over you.
Learning to solve disputes amicably between each other without requiring an authority figure is very important and helps kids make friends.
Learning to test your own limits and push your own abilities in unsupervised activities will improve their confidence more than in a structured sanitized program where everyone gets participation trophies.
Helicopter parents won't be around forever. I've seen many young adults completely melt down and go off the rails when they leave their home and go to college because they never learned real self discipline. They simply can't handle the vacuum that opens up in their lives without the micromanagement.
Every kid is different though, some need more structure and some need more autonomy to mature into responsible adults.
Absolutely. And it's not a new thing, just different reasons. My dad, who was born in the 1920s, came from a puritan Christian background (Plymouth Brethren). We asked a few friends of his to speak at his funeral, and one talked about how, when he got to university, he discovered he enjoyed alcoholic drinks. However, because control had always come from outside - The Church - he had no internal limits and would regularly drink until he passed out. Even in his later life my mum would need to tug his sleeve during parties when he was starting to go from merry to drunk.
Having said that, it's very difficult to get the sweet spot between giving kids leeway and leaving them open to turning feral. A colleague's kid recently got drawn into a gang and was arrested for credit card fraud despite attentive parenting.
Yes yes yes. When you fix everything for them, all they learn is "go talk to whoever is in power when I have a problem." They don't learn proper boundaries, how to negotiate, etc.
I'm also paying more than double than before Obamacare.
If by "anything" you mean "any upper middle class knowledge work career."
Let them hang out with some poor kids and get into fights, then they'll really be prepared for anything.
> Our findings offer support for a relationship between the time children spend in less-structured and structured activities and the development of self-directed executive function. When considering our entire participant sample, children who spent more time in less-structured activities displayed better self-directed control, even after controlling for age, verbal ability, and household income. By contrast, children who spent more time in structured activities exhibited poorer self-directed EF, controlling for the same factors.
> "Middle-class children in America are so overscheduled that they have almost no 'nothing time.' They have no time to call on their own resources and be creative. Creativity is making something out of nothing, and it takes time for that to happen," says Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D., a developmental and clinical psychologist and professor at The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. "In our efforts to produce Renaissance children who are competitive in all areas, we squelch creativity."
> Early-childhood-education specialist Peggy Patten, M.A., agrees and notes that children today have many wonderful opportunities, but they need time to explore things in depth. When they are involved in too many different things, they sacrifice breadth for depth.
As a new parent I plan to provide a healthy balance between experiences/activities and boredom/self direction.
>My kids need to be prepared for anything.
I think your overall approach sounds good. My only concern would to make sure that you're not doing everything for them. Because kids need to learn how to push and strive for stuff by themselves. You can't prepare your kid for everything...
I consider myself to be relatively successful, financially and otherwise. For example, I make significantly north of what you would consider a good salary even in the silicon valley (I do want to retire early), doing an interesting job that very few in the world have the opportunity to do, and have meaningful (and fun!) relationships to people. And I attribute a lot of this to the fact that I was able to be my own person and follow my own activities and passions in my childhood.
My parents were fairly mundane German parents in that they did raise me, set limits, instilled morals, sent me to school and all that, so they were by no means anti-authoritative. But in my free time after school and on weekends for example, I was freely able to choose how to spend my own time. By that I don't mean that I was able to do whatever I want, but that, within the limits of what was considered acceptable behavior by my parents, I was pretty much completely free-ranging.
On my own, I played inside and outside, I met with friends, sometimes I would just play video games for days, sometimes I would watch TV, and sometimes I would lock (not literally) myself in my room for days and tinker with computers or read technical stuff. I grew up discovering the world and having a great social life, with several deep-seated passions on top that shaped the life that I now have in my 30s.
On the other hand, I saw plenty of people growing up for which it was painfully obvious that what they did was out of some sort of obligation instilled by their parents, and it really wasn't a guarantee for success. You are never going to outpace someone who does what they do because they really like to do it, and if you could, to what end?
In my case, I am almost certain that your parenting would have make me hate the interests you force instead of thrive in them. But then I do realize that people are different. Some people, given the free time to do whatever they please, chose it to fill basically all of their life with World of Warcraft, so the correct answer for some person may not be the correct one for another one.
In my case, though, I will take my childhood as a successful model and will make sure that while my child grows up to be a well-adjusted, moral and (sufficiently) disciplined person, they have the ability to grow into their own.
I think good parenting is just stability during the early years, and honest advice for the last few. Beyond the top 10 schools in the country, having decent enough grades and ACT should get you into a pretty decent college to start a pretty good career. By college, you certainly understand what is at stake if you get all Cs versus all As, because you are surrounded by peers and the only way to compete with them is through your own agency and discipline, that's something that took me a while to learn and my grades suffered initially.
When I was able to ride my bike well, my dad printed out a street map of our town to give to me and I explored the shit out of everywhere that I could. Naturally, the first thing I did was ride to the municipal pool across town, but it turns out you can't go very far very quickly on a single speed kids bike. That 10-minute car ride to the pool must have been close to an hour on my bike, so I never really rode that far again!
This pressure has always been present, especially for moms. Today it's magnified by social media. If you admit to any uncertainty or weakness, you will be attacked. As a result, people go overboard in the other direction, showing off their perfection and the accomplishments of their (always) gifted children. This in turn makes the rest of us feel like we're failures.
But oddly enough the pressure is inconsistent. If someone's kid flunks out of college or can't get a good job, it's attributed to "bad parenting." But when a bunch of CEO's trigger an economic meltdown, nobody mentions the possibility of "bad parenting."
I had some pretty seriously bad experiences and set backs that were probably unnecessary, and that I now understand many parents would have intervened to prevent. I would gladly trade being street smart in my twenties for having spent more of my life the way I get to spend it now.
We were moderately more interventionist with my stepson, but he doesn’t want to be an engineer or an academic, and we’re not trying to make him. I think one of the toughest things about parenting late teens/young adults is that whatever experience or skills that I have don’t necessarily have any bearing on their preferences or goals. My parents didn’t really understand what I needed for my career because it wasn’t part of their experience, and I don’t assume I will understand how best to achieve the goals of young people interested in fields that aren’t like mine. I try to figure it out collaboratively, and often refer young people to others who are more experienced in the desired area.
I hear people talking about class in this conversation, in the sense that people might need to be prepared for different things. The things is, you’re starting from where you are, not where someone else is. And who’s goal is it to be downwardly mobile? Who wants to spend their youth learning things the hard way by being isolated, unprepared, and having bad shit happen to them for no reason? A comment down thread remarked that if you “hang out with some poor kids and get into fights, then they'll really be prepared for anything.” This won’t prepare them for “anything”, it will prepare them for fighting with poor kids, and then probably being interfered with by the state.
One of my favorite younger friends had an upbringing more the like the kind you have given your kids. He was home schooled, studied Jujitsu, went to U. Chicago, and last I heard from him, was working in fintech in New York. He once managed a fighting retreat from a gang-initiation/mugging in south Chicago. This after being home schooled in a small university town. That’s certainly better then I could have ever done, no thanks to my free range parenting.
I sometimes have a sensation of class dysphoria. A construction boss once told me: “You’re kind of daydreamer. You should get a job using your mind.” It wasn’t a compliment, and that was my last day on the job. My parents (and most of my grandparents) were college educated professionals of the middle or upper-middle classes. I am now told I look like a convincingly San Francisco programmer shaped object, but I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere. If I drink too much I get a Texas accent. I don’t complain about the cops anymore (my spouse told a black friend I don’t like to deal with cops, and the friend assumed I was black; I’m not). I had to ask what the foie gras was at the office Christmas party. I thought it was cheese.
I have seen a lack of autonomy and initiative in some of the young people I have met here. My spouse recently supervised a high-school intern who had wealthy (even by valley standards, I believe) and very involved parents. She was congenial, intelligent and highly achieving but it seemed to me that she had a peculiar inability to consult her own genuine preferences, or synthesize her own opinions or plans. I find this condition rather alien, and I suspect that it is what people are concerned with when they complain about over parenting. I think it is possible and desirable to provide structure and generous assistance to young adults without telling them what to want out of life. Obviously, this is value statement, and I reservedly respect values differences in this area. The intern’s parents seemed to believe that there are better and worse life goals, and the the correct goals for their daughter to have were to attend an ivy, and then enter a class appropriate engineering or design career. It’s not at all clear to me that if that had done everything the same except for telling her what goals to have, that she would have more natural initiative. Maybe she would have, or maybe she’ll learn that after she already has high status college degree she doesn’t really want. In the worst case, is figuring that out when your 25 really so bad? I guess I’ll never know, but it sure sounds better then what I was doing at that age.
This isn't quite what I mean. I don't think they should have been stricter, or more authoritarian or punitive (although they were those things at times). Nor do I think this is usually all people mean when they talk about "helicopter parents". Rather, I wish they had been more available to help me when I had problems that were beyond my own interpersonal abilities to solve, or that involved other adults and authority figures that did not have my best interests at heart.
When my stepson had problems in school, I went to the school, talked to the teachers, negotiated on his behalf, nagged him to finish his homework, and even helped him do it. My parents weren't always available that way; they were busy, and I think they kind wrongly assumed that other adults would be sane, fair, and reasonable.
In public school, college admissions, even early jobs that one holds as a minor, there are all sorts of situations that are really difficult to handle as teenager, and I think it's often a good thing when parents help with that kind of stuff. This might sound overbearing or entitled on the part of the parents, but I think it can and should be done, in moderation, with a humble and respectful attitude. Lot's of the authority figures in my life at that age truly did not give a fuck about what happened to me, beyond their own trifling convenience. I needed someone on my side, and that's what I'm talking about.
Wow. My parents never bothered with any of that. I did all the college applications myself, my parents never even reviewed them. (went Ivy league)
They f__k you up, your mum and dad / They may not mean to, but they do / They fill you with the faults they had / And add some extra, just for you.
But they were f__ked up in their turn / By fools in old-style hats and coats, / Who half the time were soppy-stern / And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man. / It deepens like a coastal shelf. / Get out as early as you can, / And don’t have any kids yourself.
That the resulting parenting is in some ways almost the polar opposite of OP's approach does not mean that it's the better answer in general, though, but given that my child is likely to have inherited a significant share of my traits, it's probably the better answer for them.
I think intensive parenting is an arms race, more or less. I don't know if it "works" but I think it's increasingly common mainly due to a feedback loop of parental anxiety.
I don't think it has a thing to do with race, though.
- Child does go to specific play groups, 1-2x/wk.
- Child does have to sit still and have a book read to them, several times per day.
- Child does have to treat the cat right.
- Child does go out to eat with us- and has to behave correctly in the restaurant.
On the other hand, child is supplied with several kinds of blocks, toy buses & trains, dolls, stuffed animals, and other bits for an imaginative play; maybe 70% of child's waking life is undirected play; 10-20% of that is parent by the side.
Child is naturally athletic & enjoys music and we plan to take them to games & orchestra - probably enroll in kid gym?.
The notion we're aiming towards is autonomy & judgement, with adequate exposure to make good decisions. Child will be administratively exposed to many things; but this mass scheduling of life and running hither and yon constantly is for the birds. Child needs to be able to put their feet up and dream languorously, thinking thoughts that aren't poured into them.
Also, in our experience, individual sports/activities, such as, dance, figure skating, gymnastics seemed to teach [our kids] a lot about personal responsibility. In the individual sports/activities, it seemed their coaches/instructors really made it a point to enforce/promote individual personal responsibility more than team based sports/activities. In hindsight, this is unsurprising, I guess. I say in hindsight, because at the time I was mildly concerned they were missing out on not being interested team sports.
Don't forget clubs too. FIRST Robotics was a big win for my girls.
And most importantly, good modeling by parents and other family.
We raised two girls in the Pacific Northwest of USA. Many of the families participating in same extra activities as us (e.g, gymnastics, figure skating, dance, ballet, gifted programs, swimming, SAT training) were immigrant families.
We spent a lot of money but the result was worth it and the ride was fun as hell. However, I was raised free-range in a poor single-parent household and that worked out too.
Now, you could say they learned "discipline" from the piano lessons. But how do we know? I don't see any relationship between who took the most piano and who became a doctor, etc. My view of piano lessons, and other enrichement, is that they are sort of homeopathy for parents' anxiety about their kids' future. Even when there is nothing to do for someone's medical condition, lots of people will turn to quack treatments out of anxiety, and these quack treatments involve a host of immeasurable concepts like "toxins" proposed to imitate the kind of causation we know of for better-known treatments. Same with piano lessons: your parents are too anxious about you to sit on their hands, so they make you practice piano and tell themselves, and each other, that you're learning "focus," some magic property that will stay in your brain one day even when they're not around. I don't buy it. Nobody made their kids take piano because they read a bunch of studies proving it makes your kid choose to go to med school or whatever; they clung to it automatically because they wanted to believe in it.
The how is the important part!
Step 1: Draw two overlapping circles.
Step 2: Draw the rest of the fucking owl.
I'm now of the opinion that behavior is driven by genetics to a considerable extent. Self disciplined parents with perfect control of their emotions will have self disciplined kids with perfect control of their emotions. These are also the people for whom all parenting methods work. For everybody else... good luck.
children sleeping with parents is not monitoring them, but it is related to attachment theory (i think that is the term) where children who are very close to the parents in the beginning are actually more independent when they are older.
in other words parents and children sleeping together is enabling free range parenting.
babies sleeping alone in a room instead are more likely to develop anxieties that later make them much more dependent on parental support.
watching TV together with the children is not needed to enhance the learning, but to protect the children from violence and many other things that passes as childrens TV nowadays. (tom and jerry is almost harmless in that regard. i am looking at power rangers and many others that i consider just unacceptable for kids to watch. heck even lion king shocked me when i saw it the first time. the cruelty displayed in that story is not something i want to subject my kids to. i'd rather let them run unsupervised into the forest, where they may stumble and get hurt, but won't be traumatized by an unrealistic and cruel story)
My wife would barely let the kids play in the front yard despite us living in signficantly wealthier, lower-crime neighborhoods.
I wasn't home, and my wife swears she doesn't remember the incident, though younger sibling has offered corroborating evidence.
But the kids fail to learn to cope with failure in the small things, and by the time they're a teen the parents can no longer protect them from the consequences of failing. They have learned no coping skills, and cannot handle it.
I believe it is the government's place to ensure a bare minimum of responsibility and accountability when it comes to parenting and the welfare of children as it helps provide a benefit to others in society who will undoubtedly interact with this person you're raising as well a protection to the child themselves.
How do you feel about "lock em in the closet until they are an adult" style?