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Would You Pay Someone to Ignore Your Children?

Recently, Lenore Skenazy, a mom, author and blogger suggested that we "enrich" our kids by backing off and letting them play, unsupervised. She's charging New York City parents $350 to ignore their kids for them. Can she be serious?

Admit it, it would be so much easier if you could just kick your young kids out of the house, send them out to play at the local park, and go about getting your business done, or just go get a Starbucks — by yourself. 

I’m pretty sure a few of you actually fantasize about this.

But wait, you can’t do that! You can’t commit the cardinal sin of modern parenting —l eave your kids to their own devices, at the mercy of others, unsupervised. Depending on your jurisdiction, there might be an actual law against that.

But, according to parenting pundit, Lenore Skenazy, you absolutely can—and should — do just that (if they are ready). And if you aren’t mom enough to do it yourself, you can pay her to do it for you.

Skenazy is offering an eight week, $350 after-school class, held in New York City's Central Park, in which she promises not to be present; she would be ignoring your kids at a nearby Starbucks.

She says she’s serious.

Skenazy says the class is "almost guaranteed to make the participants, ages 8 and up, happier, healthier, smarter -- and skinnier, to boot."

Comments on her Huffington Post blog, where she revealed her plan, asked if she had plans to franchise it.

Skenazy, an author and blogger, first gained national infamy when the media dubbed her “America’s Worst Mom,” as the result of a column she wrote revealing how she had dropped her then 9 year-old son, Izzy, off at a Bloomingdales — at his urging — and allowed him to find his way home through the New York City subway system all on his own.

Equipped with $20 for emergencies, a metro card, quarters for the pay phone, and a map, Skenazy’s son successfully navigated his way home in 45 minutes. She says he felt “ecstatic with independence” as a result.

Since the media frenzy that followed, Skenazy has continued to regularly poke at the prevalent culture of “helicopter parenting” on her blog and in her book, and call for parents to embrace so-called “free-range” parenting.

She says the concept is based on the premise that rather than treating a kid like an “invalid who needs constant attention and help,” parents should treat them as capable individuals, giving them increasing responsibility and independence as they show they are ready for it.

Skenazy acknowledges that parents are trying to protect their children, but says they are doing so from a place of largely unfounded fears. 

She blames the media, filled with grisly crime shows, and near nightly TV news reports of horrific crimes involving children, for the tightly controlled childhoods that are the result of parents who have been encouraged to believe the world is not as safe as it was when they were kids. She points out that statistics actually reveal that kids are safer today.

Skenazy has a definite point about the debilitating culture of fear and how it affects parenting.

As a writer that follows and blogs about parenting issues, I used to receive keyword alerts for terms like “mom” and “children” to keep current with those topics. At some point a year or more ago I had to cancel many of those filters, especially for the term, “mom,” when I realized that I was becoming increasingly more anxious and depressed as a result of reading the litany of unspeakably horrible stories I would receive in my email daily.

I can’t deny that terrible things happen to kids, but for my sanity, and maybe my family’s, too, I had to turn my focus from protecting my kids with literal and figurative bubble wrap to preparing them to protect themselves.

I can’t say that I’m dropping my kids off at the park solo anytime soon, as Skenazy suggests, but I think I can buy into preparing them, so the very thought of doing such a thing doesn’t mean I feel I have abandoned them, but maybe equipped and empowered them.

What are your thoughts about what Skenazy suggests?

To learn more about Skenazy, and Free Range Parenting, visit her blog here.

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Kirsten Branch September 14, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Yes, the announced and regular gathering of intentionally unsupervised children seems absolutely nuts to me, but what about the quick impulse of a kid, who is young, but has shown themselves responsible and aware, to head off alone to the park with some friends. That was pretty much normal when I was young, but now? Does anybody want to weigh in if they have a kid that they allow to be more "free range?"
Kirsten Branch September 15, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Came across this news items today, related to our topic this week: http://www.click2houston.com/news/Mom-sues-local-police-over-arrest/-/1735978/16528610/-/tsvmg6/-/index.html A mom was arrested for letting her kids (6 and 9) play in their cul de sac. What's your opinion?
ElectraDaddy September 15, 2012 at 08:44 PM
First, I love the words "free range". It sounds like I'm raising chicken or cattle (which could lead to the grammar discussion regarding "raising" or "rearing" kids - but that's for another blog). Second, my kids are still just a tad too young for the situation you described. But, if they continue on their current developmental path, I'd probably let one of them go to the park under the conditions you described. He's laid-back and not the type to stray or get into trouble. My other one is a bit more rowdy and I'd be hesitant about letting him go unsupervised, not out of fear that he'd be kidnapped or something but that he'd get into mischief.
ElectraDaddy September 15, 2012 at 08:48 PM
This just seemed nutty. I wondered if it was a report by a vengeful neighbor looking to make trouble or if there was more to the story - such as maybe kids that age riding motorized scooters. I know some cities have been struggling with whether or not motorized scooters/bicycles fall under the motor vehicle classification. The situation just seemed so whacky I was trying to look for a remotely reasonable explanation - perhaps there's just not one. Crazy. By the way, wonderful blog - as always.
Nicole September 16, 2012 at 09:56 PM
I would be far more wirried about the other kids than my own. I know my kid and how he reacts to other people (He's a momma's boy that HE would never agree to this!) Kids can be mean, and then there is always the possibilty of my child getting hurt like falling off the monkey bars or something else that I would be far more concerned with

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