IN THE PHOTO: Lenore Skenazy rose to fame when she let her nine-year-old son ride the subway alone in New York. She has since focused that attention on promoting a style of parenting in which children are allowed independence and experimentation.
In 2008, a New York mother was criticized for allowing her nine-year-old son
to ride the subway alone. Labelled “America’s worst mom,” Lenore Skenazy, spent time on The Daily Show and CBC and was interviewed by the New York Times and Washington Post among other news outlets as she argued for “free-range kids.”
“I have focused for the last eight years on how we got so afraid for our kids . . . that fascinates me, the fact that somehow we believe that our kids are incapable of doing the same things we did as children and surviving,” Skenazy said.
She’s providing presentations in Kamloops and surrounding areas this month about free-range parenting. Skenazy will speak at Sandman Centre on Jan. 26 at 6:30 p.m. She will also be in Kelowna on Jan. 23, at 7 p.m. at the Rotary Centre for Arts and at Salmon Arm’s Sullivan campus on Jan. 25, at 6:30 p.m.
Skenazy will ask parents questions like why won’t they allow their children to do
the same things they did when they were young?
“We talk about how come that is. There’s something in the culture that has made it almost impossible to raise our kids the way we were raised,” she said. “A lot of it is based on fear.”
Skenazy’s reasoning comes from the 24-hour news cycle, saying it exaggerates the likelihood of child abductions.
“It’s not like I hate the media,” she said. “I just hate what the media feels like it sometimes has to do, which is show us the worst, scariest picture of the world so we’ll keep watching.”
Part of the reason for parental fear also comes from a litigious society, she said.
“When you live in a litigious society, you start thinking like a lawyer. Like, oh my god, I found a dime in my soup and I could’ve choked, and sued the place for a million dollars.”
Marketing plays another role, she said. She used the example of the published list, of 10 of the most dangerous toys for children, noting how ridiculous the reasons were. A popular toy dinosaur was listed as dangerous because the button to activate the toy is set on the “rigid” tail, which could puncture the child.
“You can come up with dangerous for everything — and we do,” she said. “Free-range kids” is a concept Skenazy created to combat the helicopter parent. It’s allowing a child independence and experimentation on their own. I never present myself as a parenting expert . . . but you don’t need to be an expert to raise your kids,” she said. “I can’t get your kid to take a nap or eat his broccoli, but I guess I’m an expert on fear.”
After eight years of talks and spreading her philosophy, she said people have split opinions.
“At first when I started my blog, twice in a row my one was the most controversial of the mommy blogs,” Skenazy said. “It was so radical what I was saying. ‘Maybe we should get a grip on the fact that the stranger danger, for the most part, is a myth. Certainly, it’s presented to us out of proportion with the reality.”
At first, the label of America’s worst mother bothered her and she worried for her children. But as time continued and the attention grew, she became accustomed to it and people began to accept the idea of free-range parenting.
“It’s [become] sort of who I am,” Skenazy said.
Children are happier when they’re left to discover things on their own, she said.
“People feel happy when they have some control over their lives,” Skenazy said.
Presentation reservations can be made online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Carli Berry, Salmon Arm Observer