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A friend recommended Let Grow to me at a birthday I attended with my husband and nine year old son. The party was across the lawn from our home. My child wanted to retrieve a game from our house. I handed him the keys without hesitation. "Go get it," I said. He headed for the door, but my son was thwarted by his dad who screamed, "What are you doing? You can't open the door by yourself."
Rather than let our child walk five seconds through suburbia alone, my husband followed him, waited as he got the game, and escorted him back to the party not once taking his eyes off of him.
This scene left a few party goers perplexed. They were an older crowd. Probably they had raised their kids with what's considered nowadays as complete abandon. We were on the other end of the spectrum- We were Helicopter Parents!
Founder of Let Grow Lenore Skenazy was a mom in the same boat back in 2008. At the time she was living in Manhattan when her nine year old son asked if he could ride the train by himself. She let him ride the subway solo, and nothing happened. She wrote about it in her blog. The result, a media firestorm. Lenore was labeled, "The Worst Mom in America" and was interviewed by countless news outlets including The Today Show and MSNBC about her controversial parenting style.
It dawned on her a gravitational shift had occurred, kids had lost their independence.
Lenore states, "What we're seeing now with kids with less freedom is more anxiety and depression. Kids want their parents to believe in them." So the message you're sending to your child when you make all of their decisions, and don't allow room for failure is that they can't handle life."
So while we try to protect our kids, we're actually making matters worse by not allowing them to explore the world around them and learn from their own mistakes. Through error we learn problem solving, coping skills, and humility. By the time helicopter kids enter college, they are easily overwhelmed. They instantly feel like failures because they haven't mastered necessary life skills.
Let Grow is a non-profit promoting childhood independence and resilience. It grew out of The Free Range Kids Movement. Lenore co-founded Let Grow in 2018 with Daniel Shuchman, Dr. Peter Gray and Prof. Jonathan Haidt. Their mission is to make it "easy, normal and legal" to give kids back their independence.
According to Lenore, "Mother nature put the drive to play into children, all animals learn through play. Kids learn empathy, how to read people, skills they don't learn necessarily learn through a structured game like a sport."
So Let Grow encourages playgroups where adults are present, but not supervising . At each site there are a few open ended toys like cardboard boxes, jacks, old tires and chalk left around for kids to come up with their own games, be creative, take charge, and play like the good ol' 1980's!
How Let Grow Works!
The Let Grow website has meet-ups for like minded parents, a newsletter with articles and tips on raising free range kids, and updated information on states that permit free range parenting. Utah passed the nation’s first Free-Range Parenting Law in March of 2018, and Ithaca New York followed by passing a Proclamation later that year declaring its support for kids out and about.
The Let Grow Project also inspires independence in kids at school. Teachers send kids home to do something on their own. Students K-8, can a walk dog, or borrow something from a neighbor, later on kids compare notes. According to Lenore, "This transforms the parent as much as the kid. Culture paints what terrible things can happen if your kid isn't supervised at all times. Parents are hardwired to worry. Making it into homework gives parents the push that they need."
Helicopter Parents Mean Well
While it's easy to judge an overprotective parent, Lenore points out, "There's a lot of pressure on parents. It's not your fault. It's society that expects parents to have a God like presence over their kids."
Keeping Kids Safe
Let Grow is about safety, but safety in terms of teaching kids how and who to ask for help. Ms. Skenazy concludes, "Proving yourself worthy of your parents trust, and proving you're capable of being responsible."
Glossary of Parenting Styles
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