It’s hard being a parent in 2015. Or rather, it’s hard being a parent under the microscope of other parents in 2015.
How much should we spend on this birthday present so Jack’s dad doesn’t think we’re cheap?
Quick, take this picture and post it on Facebook so they know we are fun and well-adjusted.
Sophie’s mom brought organic snacks to the holiday party. She must think we let our kid eat garbage. Heaven forbid the class have Doritos and Capri Sun.
The desire to look like the perfect parent at every backyard barbecue, social media site and PTA meeting is enough to give any parent an ulcer.
Lenore Skenazy, Katie Slivovsky and Amy Hill are sick of the competitive, and sometimes narrow, views of what being a good parent means. So they’re changing them.
Free range, helipad, safety first. Which kind of parent are you? Read about these parenting trends, and then take the quiz!
When Lenore Skenazy was a 5-year-old kid in the Chicago suburbs, she walked to school by herself. She had to cross exactly one street, with the help of a 10-year-old crossing guard, to get there.
She felt independent, confident and responsible. So did the crossing guard, who would one day become her husband. Skenazy also rode her bike around her neighborhood and sat in the car to wait for her mother to finish running errands. She even played kickball in the street without any parental supervision.
If it had been written back then, in the ’60s, this anecdote wouldn’t have turned any heads. Today, it could be reasonable cause for a mother’s arrest for negligence. And that is exactly what Skenazy says is her point.
Now, as the creator and spokesperson for Free Range Kids, she advocates for a parenting style that she says wholly rejects the idea that kids are in constant danger. Her goal, which she hopes to achieve through public speaking events, her book called Free Range Kids and her new reality TV show, World’s Worst Mom, is to reinvent society’s perception of stranger danger to give children their childhoods back.
She hasn’t shied away from the controversy surrounding her ideas.
She found herself in the spotlight after writing an article about letting her then 9-year-old son ride the subway alone. After receiving very passionate reactions from parents who both agreed and disagreed with her, she began a seven-year campaign against parental fear.
This idea that is constantly pushed down our throats that anyone and everyone our kids meet is out to get them is just wrong. It’s the 24-hour news cycle, society, the fear of blame, that tell us to always fear the worst possible scenario. That is an ideology that is hurting communities and causing our children not to enjoy the same things we did as kids, she says.
The free range kids movement advocates a simple message for parents to tell their children: You are allowed to talk to anyone, but you don’t go off with anyone.
Skenazy says the most ironic thing about parents who disagree with the free range kids movement is that most parents today were raised in a free range lifestyle, without seat belts and without the lack of trust in humanity that society has today.
To the many parents’ belief that the world is more dangerous than the one in which they grew up, Skenazy says it’s the fear that’s grown, not the danger.
There is no 100 percent guarantee of safety, she says. But there’s never been such a thing as that.
The free range mom
Amy Hill’s first concern is safety. She did let her 9-year-old supervise her 6-year-old every day when they walked home from school, but not until she had gone over routes with them and timed how long the walk would take, so she would know when to worry.
In her neighborhood, she says she believes kids are given the freedom to roam. But she also says there are ways you can prevent harm to your children without stifling their independence.
Although Hill, a representative of Safe Kids Chicago, says she doesn’t view herself as an overprotective mother, she still believes in taking safety precautions with her kids.
Do I wrap my kids in bubble wrap? Hill says. No, but I do want to take precautions for their safety. You certainly shouldn’t live in fear, but you also can’t live like nothing is ever going to happen to you either.
Safe Kids Chicago advocates for preventing unintentional injury and making families aware of risks in their everyday lives that can be lessened by things such as wearing a seat belt and child proofing your home. According to the Safe Kids Worldwide organization’s 2015 research, 2,200 children die each year because of an injury in the home and more than 10,000 children are seen in emergency rooms every day.
And although Hill recognizes that there is absolutely no way to prevent all harm for your child, she says all she can do is try and hope that you’re doing the right things.
And maybe the safety first parents are doing a good job because, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, there has been a 60 percent decrease in child deaths related to unintentional injury from 1987-2013.
We want to empower parents, through information and tips, so they don’t have to be afraid, Hill says.
We have more information now than we used to about how to prevent harm and we should take advantage of that. Parents have the ability to make their child’s lives safer and that’s on them.
The safety first mom
When Katie Slivovsky’s children were growing up, they chose their own electives, made their own personal finance decisions and picked their own friends.
Even when the electives included hockeysomething she, a nature-loving museum director, had no interest ineven when the financial decisions were as significant as buying a car, and even when her son told her the friend he had chosen smoked pot.
She has never been the type of mother who hovers over her children, and she never wanted to be that parent either. She had very few hard-and-fast rulesdon’t drink and drive and never have unprotected sex.
Sometimes, it’s hard for her not to hover, but she has always told herself that she can’t tell her kids no just to make herself feel better.
It’s uncomfortable at times to let my kids take risks, but I’m willing to let them make mistakes and get a few bumps and bruises if it means they get to be who they are and live adventurous lives, she says.
Slivovsky is a Chicago mom of two who, like a lot of modern day parents, ran into parents who couldn’t understand her particular parenting style.
She was bothered enough to label itshe’s a helipad parent. She has since written articles and is developing a website to reach out to fellow helipads.
I don’t have the attention span, desire or skills to hover over my child’s every move like a helicopter parent, Slivovsky says. I prefer to be a safe place for them to land in times of trouble. That’s what a helipad parent is.
Slivovsky says she’s excited to offer parents like her a voice and validation that other parents feel the same way.
One of the best feelings is to get to follow your kids wherever their lives take them, she says. I never intended to be the perfect parent. I knew that I would make mistakes, and my kids would, too. But that’s OK with me. I just want to enrich the conversation about the spectrum of what being a good parent means.
The helipad mom
Which parenting style best describes you? Pick the answer that most illustrates your decisions in different dilemmas.
1. Your 9-year-old lives five blocks from school. Do you let her walk home alone?
A. Yeah, absolutely! It’s not that far, and hey, I walked all over the place at her age.
B. Yes, but I make sure she has a way to reach me if she has problems.
C. Over my dead body. I pick her up myself and walk with her home. Either that or I have a family member walk with her. The buddy system is very important to me.
2. Your son wants to play hockey for his school team. Do you let him do it?
A. Hey, whatever he wants. Go Blackhawks!
B. Well, it’s really not my thing. But as long as he plays safely and enjoys it, I’ll be in the crowd, foam finger and all.
C. Hockey is a recipe for a trip to the emergency room. I might let him play, but if I do, you better believe he’s going to be wearing every inch of padding I can find. And the coach will know that I’m watching.
3. Its yet another school night. Do you check your kids homework?
A. No way. I have done my fair share of homework in my day. She’ll figure it out. It’s called learning, right?
B. Not really, but if they are struggling with something, I’ll try my best to help.
C. Always. Education is very important.
4. Your 10-year-old son just got a new skateboard for his birthday. What are the rules?
A. Rules? Heck, he’s a kid. I let him play. If he gets a little scraped up, it’s just another story to tell.
B. He can ride it on our street if there aren’t any cars coming. As long as he knows to be safe and responsible, I let him be.
C. He can ride in the driveway. With pads and a helmet on. And not after dark.
5. The dreaded teen years are quickly approaching. Whats the most important thing to teach your child?
A. Follow your heart? Do whatever makes you happy? Their life is their life; they decide what lessons to learn.
B. Don’t make any mistakes you can’t fix. They should live their life, but know I am always here in times of trouble.
C. There is a never-ending list of things to teach my child, and I will never stop trying to help them. Where do I start?
View the next slide to see your results!
Take the quiz
Mostly AsFree Range Parent
You believe in letting kids be kids. You don’t get in the way of what they want to do, and you let them find their own way.
Mostly BsHelipad Parent
You believe in letting your kids follow their own paths in life, but you are always there as a safe place in times of trouble.
Mostly CsSafety First Parent
Some might call you a helicopter mom, or maybe even a worrywart, but you know it’s just because you care. Better safe than sorry.