January 29, 2015

Parenting Advice From ‘America’s Worst Mom’

There’s something about this headline that grabbed my attention.  It’s not my headline – it is from an article that appeared in the New York Times last week. I had to read on…

The article focuses on Lenore Skenazy (pictured here), a New York City mother of two, who earned the nickname “America’s Worst Mom” after reporting in a newspaper column that she had allowed her younger son, then 9, to ride the subway alone.

The story launched a nationwide debate about how much parents should supervise and do for their kids, and how much kids should be allowed to play freely and have to figure things out on their own.

Ms. Skenazy was heavily criticized at first, but the experience lead her to intensify her “desire to encourage anxious parents to give their children the freedom they need to develop the self-confidence and resilience to cope effectively with life’s many challenges.”

“One result was the publication in 2009 of her book Free Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts With Worry). A second result is the Free Range Kids Project and a 13-part series, starting Thursday on Discovery Life Channel, called “World’s Worst Mom.” I am in no way a fan of reality television (and have never bought cable or satellite TV and so could not watch it anyway!), but I think this is an interesting concept.

I am not going to summarize the whole article – you can read it by clicking here - but I do heartily recommend taking five minutes of your time to digest it, and even talk about it with your spouse, partner or co-parent, about your own parenting styles.

One thing that did stand out for me, though, was this quote by Dr. Peter Gray, a research psychologist at Boston College and the author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life:

When children make up their own games, “children make the rules, negotiate, and figure out what’s fair to keep everyone happy. They develop creativity, empathy and the ability to read the minds of other players, instead of having adults make the rules and solve all the problems.”

Those are among our goals for our students here at Friends’.  These are among the skills that we believe will help children grow into successful functioning adults. While Friends’ doesn’t subscribe to putting 9 year olds on the subway alone, we do prepare our students to be self-reliant by presenting them with problems to figure out and challenges to overcome – in teams and on their own.

Friends’ is an accredited member of the Association of Colorado Independent Schools.  One of our partner schools, Graland Country Day School in Denver, is hosting an evening with Lenore Skenazy on Monday March 9th.  Several of our Friends’ faculty will be in attendance.  (Sadly, I will not be as we have a school Board meeting the same evening.)  My friends at Graland are promising that it will not only be an informative evening, but it will be hilarious as well – they tell me Ms. Skenazy is a funny, entertaining speaker.

If you are interested in attending, you can register here.

What do you think? 

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