This helicopter parenting is really taking off
I was travelling interstate a couple of weeks back and rang home to speak to Max and our nine-year-old twins. “The boys aren’t here,” said Max, “they’re playing tennis up at the courts with some mates.”
What the? I’m away for two days and my babies are wandering out in the wicked world alone?!
Guess what? They were fine. In fact, better than fine: I think they actually blossomed that week I was away, because their dad showed enough confidence in them to loosen the reins. It’s a conundrum, though, isn’t it?
In a recent survey of 1400 people on AdelaideNow, more than 80 per cent of respondents said children under the age of 12 should not be left home alone; more than 85 per cent said children should be at least 12 before they’re allowed to spend time with friends at the park, movies or shops without adult supervision.
I honestly can’t believe those figures – particularly the idea that 80 per cent of parents don’t leave responsible primary school-aged children while they, say, duck to the shops for half an hour.
Remember back when we were kids? Every day after school we’d be off on our deadly treadlies quicker than mum could yell “Be home in time for dinner”.
Makes you feel sorry for today’s kids, shadowed every second from the school crossing to the couch – more likely to be enrolled in an “organised activity” than enjoying the simple pleasure of climbing a tree.
Thursday’s Channel 7 News featured a GPS tracking device that lets parents keep a watch on their kids via iPad; it issues alerts if they stray from designated areas.
GPS tracking certainly takes “helicopter parenting” to a whole new weird level, but I bet they sell like hotcakes.
And while we parents are wrung out from constant hovering, we’re breeding sedentary (often overweight) children who are much more at home in front of the computer than out playing with neighbourhood kids.
Respected child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg says we’re raising a “marshmallow generation”.
A tradesman mate of mine laments the result: a constant struggle to find teenage apprentices with a bit of fibre and steel – kids who can take telling and handle a bit of hard work. (He’s no grumpy tradie either. He’s a fair and gentle man.)
Not to say I don’t sympathise with protective parents.
The 24-hour news cycle means we’re confronted with awful stories of abduction and worse; cars seem more threatening, somehow – faster, louder and more recklessly driven.
Realistically however, the likelihood of something happening is miniscule. And while that doesn’t make the prospect any less terrifying, we have to be careful our kids don’t pay a price for our paranoia.
And what is the law anyway?
The Weekend Australian recently catalogued cases where parents have either been charged or reprimanded for leaving children in cars unattended or letting them walk home from school without parental supervision.
In one incident, a Brisbane mum was hauled before the court for leaving two children, aged 10 and three, in the car while she popped into Bunnings for five minutes. A concerned bystander phoned the police.
As a mum who happily leaves the kids in the car (no, never when it’s hot), I’d argue the bystander could just have easily a) asked the kids if they were OK; b) watched over them until their parent returned; or c) minded their own business.
Guidelines listed off the Parenting SA website say there is no actual law that states when children can be left alone, however parents can be charged with an offence “if children are left in a dangerous situation”.
Common sense, surely.
We all know when our kids are ready for new challenges. We just need to take a deep breath, warn them of the dangers, and let them take the leap.
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