Canada's national newspaper has come out in defence of parents choosing to raise independent kids.
Last week, we brought you the infuriating story of Adrian Crook, the Vancouver father who has been ordered by BC’s Ministry of Children and Family Development not to leave his kids alone until they’re at least 10 years old or let them ride the bus without adult supervision, something that Crook had been diligently teaching them to do for the past two years.
This story hit mainstream media instantly. It was picked up by the Free Range Kids blog; discussed in detail on CBC radio; and one of Canada’s national newspapers, The Globe and Mail, responded with a glorious editorial that echoes all of our TreeHugger sentiments about the ruling – leave the parents alone!
“We are becoming a nation of censorious busybodies and scaredy-cats bent on inhibiting not just personal choice but the very notion of parental and child agency. The enterprise is being empowered by overbearing government policy.”
It is such a relief to hear a newspaper taking a stance like this. All too often people are uncomfortable vocalizing opposition to harsh rulings like Crook’s because they somehow fear it will reflect poorly on (or worse, draw attention to) their own parenting choices. Even I struggle with this – embracing many free-range philosophies with my kids but not wanting to broadcast them too loudly for fear of repercussion. The Globe’s editorial is a reminder that it is important to speak out and fight back against this ridiculous creep of fear into our societal mindset before it gets any worse.
“The state should be capable of looking out for kids while maintaining some sense of perspective, and not confusing ‘life’ with ‘neglect.’ It's surely possible to give kids too little supervision. But it's also possible to smother them with too much. Children are not adults; that’s why they need protection. But neither are they infants – hence the problem with infantilizing them…
“A parent or guardian must be given broad leeway to determine the appropriate threshold and to inculcate the qualities and skills that lead to greater independence. A society where children can go outside, unsupervised, and where they are encouraged to do so, is a healthy and safe society.”
I am particularly sensitive to this issue of institutional nosiness after an incident that happened to my cousin recently. She lives in an upscale neighborhood of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and was letting her toddler cry herself to sleep when two police officers showed up on the doorstep, having been alerted by a neighbor. The officers entered the home to inspect the child, who by then was fast asleep. Now my cousin is too afraid to let her baby cry at all for fear of police intervention and is unable to continue with the sleep training that they both so desperately need. Why the ‘concerned’ neighbor did not stop by first to offer assistance or advice, we’ll never know; but there’s something fundamentally wrong with a situation that allows such a complaint to be handled in this damaging way.
When authorities respond to silly complaints without critical analysis, it legitimizes them and encourages other busybodies to insert themselves where they do not belong. This cannot continue. The Globe editors write:
“No one is arguing in favour of truly neglectful parenting or Lord of the Flies-style juvenile anarchy. But government posterior-coverers and the well-meaning people they empower to judge the behaviour of other parents have combined to create an accelerating feedback loop of overprotectiveness.”
Putting an end to this nonsense will benefit everyone – the parents who know exactly what they’re doing and will continue to build independence in their children, the social workers who have more serious problems to tend to, and the kids who will grow up healthy, active, and well-adjusted as a result of their trailblazing childhoods. Give it a generation; trust me, you’ll be able to tell the difference between the free-range kids and the ‘leashed’ kids.