Is this woman the “worst mum” in the world?

By Monique Talbot – Shesaid Publisher

Google the name “Lenore Skenazy” and see what you get. 88,500 references to one woman who dared to let her 9 year old son take the subway home from downtown Manahattan to their home, only problem was he was ALONE! In the US she has been dubbed ”America’s worst mom” after making that fateful yet planned decision in 2008 to let her kid experience life in NYC but himself. This was not some crazy thought she had, hey why don’t I abandon my 9 year old son in downtown New York and see if he can find his own way home. People even suggested as she had two sons at home, maybe she thought she could afford to lose one of them? No. This was a carefully thought out and discussed experience that her husband and she had been debating since their 9 year old son asked them to let him do it. He wasn’t killed, snatched, tortured or even touched by anyone as he made his way successfully home via the subway and a bus, the whole journey taking less than hour.

Is she a bad mummy? Is she crazy for letting her son have a little freedom? Well plenty of people think so. Skenazy, a columnist and author, started a movement called Free Range Kids, urging parents to teach their children independence and social skills by loosening the reins. ”Why do we behave as if ordinary life is dangerous and treat our children as invalids?” she will ask an audience at the Sydney Opera House for the Festival of Dangerous Ideas on Sunday.

”But we treat each excursion of our child’s as possibly the last these days. You can almost see the headlines on the news and when you do, you say it’s not worth it and you scuttle your plans to let them walk to school alone or let them go to the pool with a friend.” ”Walking to school is so simple, it gets kids alert for the day, it keeps them fit and it frees you up in the morning but anything that makes parent’s lives easier is supposedly selfish,” she says. She says many people think she is just too lazy to drive her kids to school whilst she is urging all of us that are obsessed with being the best parent we can, to loosen the reigns a little and see how it feels.

”Over parenting is equated to good parenting but by keeping our children from the ‘everydayness’ of life we’ve taken away the chance of them noticing something on their own or interacting with someone on their own.” She regularly let’s her kids play outside alone and walk to school unaccompanied. Wow how daring of her.

It is entirely possible that you may not agree with everything Skenazy says but some of it is resonating with people across the globe as they post discussions on her website she says simply, all she is trying to do is to encourage us to cut back on the over parenting and help us raise safe, self-reliant children. She wants us to stop “Helicopter parenting” – parents that hover over kids the whole time so that they don’t come into any harm.

Skenazy, argues that parents think like lawyers and focus on the “what if” or the worst case scenario, despite the remoteness of that event actually happening. She thinks our opinion on the risks to our children and our safety have been distorted by the proliferation of too many gruesome crime shows like CSI, and NYPD Blues, NCIS and that in reality our children are in no more danger these days than they were during our own childhood. In fact, Australia’s own crime rate has been decreasing over the past decade supporting her idea the world is not such a scary place.

Danger is everywhere but “it is our job to keep our children safe” says Skenazy.

So does she have a point? Have we gone too far in our protection of our children to the detriment of their development or is she just plain crazy? You be the judge…