Common-sense Parenting?

Six months ago, “tiger parenting” was the big fad. Now it’s “free-range” parenting:

(SHANNON PROUDFOOT, POSTMEDIA NEWS) Lenore Skenazy held her breath through the first Take Our Children to the Park and Leave Them There Day, terrified something awful would happen during the event she created, but convinced modern parents needed to relax and back off.

Now, with the second annual event this weekend, the New York-based founder of the Free-Range Kids movement senses a groundswell of people heeding her call to arms —and sanity.

“It’s about liberation,” she says. “It’s about liberating children from the bubble-wrap and liberating parents from their dread, not to mention from making parenting a 24/7 security-guard job, which we’ve kind of turned it into.”

Whether it’s called Free-Range Kids, slow parenting or just common sense, there’s a growing backlash against the “helicopter parenting” compulsion to micromanage a child’s life from sandbox to university.

I’m a firm believer in giving kids space to play outside. When I take Anna to our local park, I sit quietly on one of the benches and let her run around the playground and interact with her friends. I don’t micromanage her schedule—she has preschool, speech therapy, and gymnastics classes that take up a total of three and a half hours a week. The rest of the time is open for her to learn, play, and explore. But she’s only five, so except for her two hours a week of preschool she’s always within sight of me, my wife or my mother-in-law.

That’s not hovering, that’s common sense.

As she gets older, she’ll get more responsibility. She’s starting Kindergarten in the fall, and her school is within walking distance. I’ll walk her over on nice days and recede into the background as soon as I know she’s there safely. As she gets older, she’ll walk or ride a bike there herself, like I did when I was a kid. But I’ll still watch from a distance the first few times to make sure she does ok.

That’s not helicopter parenting. It’s not dropping your kid, via parachute, into a minefield either. It’s common sense.

There has to be a middle ground somewhere in the vast gulf between Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Lord of the Flies. Somewhere between a schedule packed with school, organized sports, music lessons, ballet lessons, and social events timed out to the second, and an unsupervised free-for-all in an abandoned lot filled with rusty nails and broken glass.

That middle ground is common-sense parenting.

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