Underestimating Children

July 16, 2009

I am working my way through a book called Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy.  I will do a more thorough review of it when I actually finish, but this idea keeps bumping around in my brain and I wanted to blog about it to help process my thinking.

Basically the author challenges the widespread notion that “nowadays” are a lot more dangerous for children.  She goes through statistics and examines the origins of our worried, “helicopter parenting” generation.  And she does it with a ton of spunk and humor.

The idea I’m thinking of as I read it is the concept of “underestimating children.”

Skenazy writes, “…If we try to prevent every possible danger or difficulty in our child’s everyday life, that child never gets a chance to grow up.”

“Our kids are more competent than we believe, and they are whole lot safer, too.  We are extremely worried today about exceedingly unlikely disasters.”

“We want our children to become fine, upstanding adults, but in some ways we treat them as long as possible as sweet, silly babies.”

This is a small sampling of the ideas in Free Range Kids and many of Skenazy’s points are encased in laugh-out-loud stories and antecdotes.  But this concept of underestimating children is one that has particularly grabbed my attention.

I can’t help but think (obsessive fan that I am!) of Harry Potter, and how JK Rowling showed exasperation at parents’ concerns that reading her fictional series would cause children to want to become witches.  In The Tales of Beedle The Bard she also pokes fun at such sentiment with a character who re-wrote all the fairy tales to protect the poor children’s imaginations from any fear or gruesome detail.  As if literature isn’t one of THE safest places for children to experience fear and loss and reality!

(I am feeling too lazy to get up and find my copy of Beedle and give an exact quote.  But I remember it being there.)

And I’m reminded of some parenting books I have (especially my favorite, Raising Great Kids) that talks about envisioning your children’s habits and tendencies 30 years into the future and grasping the fact that the job of parent is supposed to be a temporary one where you work yourself out of a job.  The goal is independent children.

Okay, so now that I have all that typed out, the Harry Potter bit seems a bit out of place, but it’s been part of my jumbled brain waves recently and fits in the category of underestimating children.  So I’m leaving it in.

(I’m also wishing that Dave and I were going to the Harry Potter conference in San Fransisco this weekend, so I’ve got HP on the brain.  But that’s another story.)

More to come about the “Free Range Kids” philosphy once I’ve finished the book…

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5 Responses to “Underestimating Children”

  1. Dave Bruno said

    Wait. You mean we’re *not* going to Azkatraz?!

  2. Michelle Dixon said

    I love this Leanne! I have often felt I’m being helicopter mom and have adopted the feeling that raising children today is much tougher but I think both you and the book make a great point! I need to pick up a copy of that book it sounds like. We should talk about this more at the beach on Tuesday 🙂

  3. Natalie said

    I love that theory of looking at children 30 years from now. I’m totally scared of being a helicoptor parent – when it happens. I just don’t want anything to happen to them in this cruel world…and I fear my inadequacies

    • Leanne said

      Thanks for commenting, Natalie! I know that conflicted feeling well. I have more thoughts forming about this topic. Just need to carve out some time to sit down and blog!

  4. […] of children in Anniera before Gnag the Nameless took over. I like children, and am all about not underestimating them, so I liked […]

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