Parenting Advice From ‘America’s Worst Mom’

Helicopter parenting? Lenore Skenazy, America’s worst mom for sending her 9-year-old by the subway alone? Overprotective parents tend to shield their children. Yet, according to Peter Gray, a research psychologist at Boston College, ‘‘the actual rate of strangers’ abducting or molesting children is very small.’’ ‘‘It’s more likely to happen at the hands of a relative or family friend. ‘‘Students are prepared academically, but they’re not prepared to deal with day-to-day life, which comes from a lack of opportunity to deal with ordinary problems,’’ Dr. Gray said. Ms. Skenazy, screened by Discovery Life Channel, tries to give parents the confidence to loosen the reins on their kids, and give the kids the wings they need. 

Read an excerpt of the article written by JANE E. BRODY:

Lenore Skenazy, a New York City mother of two, earned the sobriquet ‘‘America’s Worst Mom’’ after reporting in a newspaper column that she’d allowed her younger son, then 9, to ride the subway alone. The damning criticism she endured, including a threat of arrest for child endangerment, intensified her desire to encourage anxious parents to give their children the freedom they need to develop the self-confidence and resilience to cope effectively with life’s challenges. One result was the publication in 2009 of her book ‘‘Free Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry).’’ A second result is the Free Range Kids Project and a 13-part series, starting on Thursday on the Discovery Life Channel, ‘‘World’s Worst Mom’’ In it, Ms. Skenazy, to whom the title applies, intervenes to rescue bubble-wrapped kids from their overprotective parents by guiding the children safely through a sequence of once-forbidden activities and showing their anxious parents how well the children perform and how proud they are of what they accomplished. The term ‘‘helicopter parents’’ applies to far more than those who hover relentlessly over their children’s academic and musical development. As depicted in the series’ first episode, it applies to 10-year-old Sam’s very loving mother who wouldn’t let him ride a bike (‘‘she’s afraid I’ll fall and get hurt’’), cut up his own meat (‘‘Mom thinks I’ll cut my fingers off’’), or play ‘‘rough sports’’ like skating. The plea from a stressed-out, thwarted Sam: ‘‘I just want to do things by myself.’’ In an interview, Ms. Skenazy said, ‘‘Having been brainwashed by all the stories we hear, there’s a prevailing fear that any time you’re not directly supervising your child, you’re putting the child in danger.’’ The widespread publicity now given to crimes has created an exaggerated fear of the dangers children face if left to navigate and play on their own. Yet, according to Peter Gray, a research psychologist at Boston College, ‘‘the actual rate of strangers’ abducting or molesting children is very small.’’ ‘‘It’s more likely to happen at the hands of a relative or family friend,’’ Dr. Gray said. ‘‘The statistics show no increase in childhood dangers. If anything, there’s been a decrease.’’ Experts say there is no more crime against children by strangers today — and probably significantly less — than when I was growing up in the 1940s and ’50s, a time when I walked to school alone and played outdoors with friends unsupervised by adults. In 1979 when my own sons were offered the opportunity to attend private school to escape their crime-ridden public middle school, they said, ‘‘What would we learn about life in private school?’’ So they stuck out those three years and emerged street smart and confident in their ability to cope, lessons far more valuable than any they might have acquired in a safer school. ‘‘The world is not perfect — it never was — but we used to trust our children in it, and they learned to be resourceful,’’ Ms. Skenazy said. ‘‘The message these anxious parents are giving to their children is ‘I love you, but I don’t believe in you. I don’t believe you’re as competent as I am.’’’ ...Read more

Sex ed, European style

How different is the western world? Pamela Druckerman's article answers this keen question in one major field: parenting. The articles shows the essential difference between American parents and European parents, especially in the matter of Sex Education. While sexual intercourse is dramatised in America, it is normalised in Europe. Contrary to what most sexologists advice, American parents try and avoid the "sex ed talk" until they feel their children are completely ready. Whereas in Europe parents have lots of age appropriate talks with their children to keep them aware. Through the article and her book, Duckerman concludes that "if you treat teenagers as if they’re responsible, they can live up to that".


Read an excerpt of the article written by Pamela Druckerman-

One of the many problems with parenting is that kids keep changing. Just when you’re used to one stage, they zoom into another. I realized this was happening again recently, when my 8-year-old asked me about babies. She knows they grow in a mother’s belly, but how do they get in there to begin with? I wasn’t sure how much to reveal, so I stalled. ‘‘I’ll tell you soon,’’ I said, adding, ‘‘it involves penises.’’ I didn’t want to shock her or shatter her innocence. Like any good American, I’d assumed that one day (many years hence) we’d have that stilted conversation in which I’d reveal the strange mechanics of sex, and she’d tell me that she already knew all about it. Since I live in France, I decide to investigate how Europeans approach this. Do parents give their kids the birds-and-bees talk, too? Is the subject any less awkward here? Is there some savoir-faire to help me navigate this next phase and beyond? I begin my research at a Parisian science museum with an exhibition, Zizi sexuel l’expo, (its English title is Sex — Wot’s the Big Deal?) to teach 9- to 14-year-olds about sexuality. There’s advice about kissing. (Do turn your head sideways, ‘‘especially if you’ve got a big nose.’’ Don’t do the ‘‘coffee grinder,’’ where you spin your tongue in the other person’s mouth.) In the puberty section, I’m asked to identify a smell (it’s armpit) and step on a pedal that makes small white balls — representing sperm — fly out of a pretend penis. There’s also a whole section on how complicated love is. One sign explains that ‘‘loving someone sometimes makes you happy and sometimes makes you really sad. .... read more.