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Are today’s youths coddled?

By on May 28, 2015

We were at the park, and a young boy played with my kids for over an hour. I kept looking for any sign of a parent. He was alone. Within minutes, I knew way too much about him. It bothered me, yet I remember similar freedom when I was a kid.

My youngest kids haven’t even taken a bike ride around our block alone, and haven’t asked to do it. Guess what? I wouldn’t let them do it, anyway. You can accuse me of raising my kids in a bubble, but it’s a different world than when I was young. Some claim it’s a safer world. I didn’t live with school metal detectors, security or police at school, Internet predators, lockdowns from online school threats, or the sheer hectic pace of daily life. We have greater awareness and knowledge. I can look online, for example, and see where all the sex offenders in my city live. If an ounce of prevention or technology can help me protect my kids, I’ll use it.

Are we becoming wimps? That’s what one reader, Darlene, asked when she heard some local schools were letting kids out early because of hot weather. “When I went to school, we were never sent home because it was too hot,” she comments. “No air conditioner there, either — you just got on with life.”

Many people share her opinion and believe they were made of tougher stuff when they were kids. Another reader, Russ, says jokingly: “Global warming. It’s hotter now than when we were kids.” But let’s face it: Many classrooms are packed, and some schools can’t leave doors and windows open for safety reasons. It gets so hot that it’s unhealthy. Some schools don’t allow bottled water for fear the bottles contain alcohol. Let’s not forget potential lawsuits, too. Seriously, when is it too hot in a classroom? 97 F? 107 F? Toughen them up with a little heatstroke?

People love to share that they walked two miles to school in blizzards, and had more responsibilities and independence. It’s a badge of honor that they survived broken arms and bruises, and they’re disgusted that kids today are spoiled. Some changes weren’t sparked by fear, safety or legal issues. It’s not wrong to want your children to have it easier than you had it. Didn’t you have some things easier than your parents did? Why would I want them to have a tougher time? Some people are quick to judge the methods some parents take to safeguard children. OK, maybe you survived and are fine, but how many others weren’t so lucky?

I want my kids to be prepared for the world. I won’t micromanage their every move. But what is so terrible about letting school out because of the heat? What is wrong with monitoring our kids? Is it fear of them being too dependent later or lacking life skills? Or is not doing so an excuse for passive parenting?

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to raising kids. But you won’t see my young children alone at the park telling strangers their life stories. I refuse to feel guilty about it. It’s smart, active parenting and common sense. Besides, you give a kid an inch and he’ll take a yard. Too much independence too soon, and how do you rein them in as teens?

If I do my job right, they’ll be able to make sound decisions on their own later. What is your take on free-range kids? How free is acceptable? In what ways do you think parenting has gone too far in coddling kids?

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