Monday, April 8, 2019

Utah Passes the Country’s First “Free-Range Parenting Bill”

“A preoccupation with safety has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery—without making it safer.” - Hanna Rosin, The Overprotected Kid

What could go wrong? For one thing  kids whose lives are micro-managed by helicopter parents from cradle through their first job interview never learn to manage risks on their own.

Helicopter parents have been around at least since the dawning of the Millennials but I first reported on them  4 years ago. The post discussed pushback in Wales where some concerned parents built a park called “The Land” filled with junk where kids were still allowed to wander freely, build stuff and *gasp!* build fires.

lead“Today, these playgrounds are so out of sync with affluent and middle-class parenting norms that when I showed fellow parents back home a video of kids crouched in the dark lighting fires, the most common sentence I heard from them was ‘This is insane.’”

As I observed at the time,

Of course, what’s considered “insane” today was part of a normal childhood just a generation or so ago. It was called “play” not “play dates.” It was how kids learned about the world, how to overcome both physical and mental obstacles, stretch their imagination, explore the unknown, solve seemingly impossible problems; and they did it all in the real world where they would reside for the rest of their lives, not the virtual world of video games.

free range kids

The post was really about the Meitiv kids who were picked up by police in Silver Spring, Maryland at the behest of CPS for walking home from a neighborhood park – alone. Apparently in Maryland walking home without the accompaniment of a parental unit is illegal.  

It’s hard to absorb how much childhood norms have shifted in just one generation. Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the ’70s—walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap—are now routine.

No kidding. But this type of overprotection naturally led to the next level, Growing Up By Proxy, in which the helicopter lands and morphs into a bulldozer to clear the landscape of any obstacles in the kids path.

Helicopter parenting, the practice of hovering anxiously near one’s children, monitoring their every activity, is so 20th century. Some affluent mothers and fathers now are more like snowplows: machines chugging ahead, clearing any obstacles in their child’s path to success, so they don’t have to encounter failure, frustration or lost opportunities. – NYT

But take heart: someone is asking the big questions, like:

What kind of society are we when we need laws to protect parents who raise their children the way most of us were raised?

I think we all know the answer to that, the kind where many things that were once taken for granted now have to be authorized by the state. So Utah did just that.

For parents in Utah, it is now legal for their children to walk or bike to and from school without an accompanying adult. They can also let their kids play outside unsupervised, and be allowed to stay at home unattended.

These newfound freedoms are the result of the “Free-Range Parenting Bill,” unanimously passed by the Utah legislature and recently signed into law by Utah governor, Gary R. Herbert. Utah’s law is said to be the first of its kind in the nation.

State officials and lawmakers told the Washington Post that authorities in Utah were “not in the business” of arresting parents who allowed their children to roam freely, but lawmakers felt compelled to pass the legislation after Child Protective Service in other states opened criminal cases against parents who did.

Yes we have come a long way baby; maybe it’s time to take a breath along with a few steps back. Oh, wait, that makes us regressive doesn’t it? And that’s a baaad thing. Because progressive, good; regressive, bad.

Of course the Progs are the ones who are always collapsing and baying at the moon, not us.

It is a sad commentary on American life when we need laws to protect parents from prosecution for letting their kids walk, play, or stay at home unsupervised. But if that’s what it takes, call your legislators. Maybe kids will once again learn how to be independent and discover that they really don’t need Big Government to provide for all their basic needs (and wants). And then they too will want to MAGA.

free range