My son is pretty independent for a four and a half year old. I think education about what to do in social situations is 100 times more effective as a safety measure than keeping your child in a proverbial bubble. We’ve gone over his full name, address, parents’ names, and we’re practicing the phone number now. We’ve discussed how if you’re lost, you should certainly find a person in a uniform or a mother or father with children and ask for help. Above all else, I told him to never, ever, under any circumstances go anywhere with a stranger in a car (unless it’s a police officer). Scream! Yell! Run toward a crowd of people! Make a lot of noise!

I guess it’s for this reason that I’m comfortable with him swinging on his swing set while I watch him closely out the window for a few minutes at a time. I have friends who were shocked to discover this. I love being outside with my kids, and 95% of the time I’m right there, but I also sometimes need to dart in the house to preheat the oven, grab a ringing phone, or stir the soup. He knows the rules and boundaries, and I trust him to follow them. I remember playing outside alone for much longer periods of time at the same age.

But, wait for it– times have changed! You can’t do that anymore! It’s a dangerous world now!

Have things really changed? In some ways, yes, but not necessarily in the ways you might think. In fact, violent crimes against youth have decreased by 77% since 1994. That’s a HUGE reduction! This report, from the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, details the categories and incidences recorded, and they’re all…down. Significantly. There are a million different sociological theories about why this has happened, but the bottom line is that statistically, our kids are safer than we were. In an age of instant news spreading like wildfire, and with more graphic fictional crime shows on television, perhaps we simply hear about crimes, real or on sitcoms, more now.

However, trusting her child to be self-reliant earned Lenore Skenazy , leader of the “Free Range Kids” movement (and author of the book by the same name) the moniker of “World’s Worst Mom.” How did this happen?  Watch and learn:

So what do you think? Is Lenore Skenazy the “World’s Worst Mom?” Personally, I don’t think so. I see self-reliance as the single greatest gift we can give our children as parents. I don’t think it’s our job to protect them from everything in the world, because frankly, that’s not realistic, but instead to teach them what to do and give them chances to practice being independent. What are your thoughts? Would you let your 9 year old, with lots of prior experience and instruction, take the subway home alone in NYC?

Using the jack-o-lantern saw all by himself to carve a pumpkin. And yes, he still has all 10 fingers :)

Using the jack-o-lantern saw all by himself to carve a pumpkin. And yes, he still has all 10 fingers 🙂