Parenting 'experts' want to ruin summer. Let's fight back.

kid on a rock
© KM -- What a dangerous thing to do! He might die.

They want you to put your kid in a cage on a couch for two months, but it doesn't have to be like that.

It is only the end of March, but already the flood of articles on 'how to keeps your kids safe this summer' has begun. The advice, which comes from parenting magazines and the American Academy of Pediatrics, includes the usual culprits, like 'Don't drink from the garden hose' and 'Don't overdo the sun exposure at peak hours.' But there are some other real gems taken to the extreme, like avoiding sand (no beach outings!) and 'walking away' from hard, flat play surfaces of all kinds. Best to sit on the couch, in other words?

skenazy video screenshotSkenazy via PragerU/Video screen capture

The only explanation I can think of for such idiotic advice is that everything logical has been stated already, and these groups are in desperate need of page views and fresh content. Vulnerable, paranoid parents are the targeted audience, and they lap this stuff up like a cat with cream. The only problem is, it has a lasting impact on their kids' development and wellbeing, bordering on abusive.

Because of these very real concerns, I am eternally thankful to Lenore Skenazy for delivering the most sarcastic, passive aggressive takedown of these summer-destroying, fun-squelching entities. Skenazy is the founder of Let Grow and author of Free-Range Kids. In a 5-minute video for Prager University, she addresses the various summer-related warnings and points out their absurdity. Take, for example, Dr. Karl Neumann's advice on handling the beach -- something that people, you know, tend to like doing on hot summer days. Neumann, who is a member of the AAP, doesn't think you should go because it is too dangerous.

"Children playing in the sand are more likely to become ill than children merely walking on it. The risk of illness increases with digging in the sand, being 'buried' in it, and digging in wet sand. Dry sand presents problems, too. Discourage children from lying directly on the sand."

And don't even think about letting them go barefoot: "Have children wear lightweight, ventilated, hard-soled footwear that covers the toe."

If that got you steamed, then do check out the video below and share widely. We need to fight back against this culture of fear and overprotection, of treating kids like "delicate morons" (another lovely Skenazy phrase), and work instead to instill confidence and resilience in them, along with a healthy dose of fun.

In years gone by, I've been an advocate of unscheduled summers, with plenty of time left open for free play. But what actually needs to come first is a willingness on the part of the parent to let go, to trust, to remove the shackles of paranoia in order to allow kids to be kids. That's going to be my goal for 2018 -- a summer of real freedom, with almost no rules, where the kids can roam and play as they wish, with minimal oversight. No telling them to get out of trees, to slow down on their bikes, to stop eating watermelon. It's going to be a summer free-for-all, the stuff of great memories.

There should only be two rules at any time of year, Skenazy says: Don't swim alone and don't get into a stranger's car. I'd add don't play near the road, because of my great fear of cars, but then we're set. As for all those so-called 'parenting experts' spewing that inane babble under the guise of advice, I strongly recommend that they get lost... in the woods, of course, where they might benefit from an afternoon spent contemplating the wonders of nature up close.

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