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Letting kids learn to fly free

Letting kids learn to fly free

15.05.2015 From our online archive
In his latest Taking a break column Dan Franch reflects on the phenomenon of helicopter parenting and how he wants his children to be able to fly free.

by Dan Franch

I got an unexpected phone call from our 8-year-old earlier this week. The school bus broke down at the end of the day and he was stranded at the school. I wasn't able to pick him up, so he came up with a solution.

When that fell through he called me back to say he had another plan. He'd take a bus into the center and then another one home. He was more resolved and assured me that everything was under control.

Sure, there was a helpful parent going part of the way, which made his journey easier. That's also the reason he was able to call since he doesn't have a phone. Again, he's only 8.

Some might argue that such a situation is the exact reason to give a child a phone. I say such a situation is the exact reason to teach a child not to fear “Stranger Danger” and instead gather the gumption to ask for help from a responsible looking adult nearby. That's just what my son did. Luckily, we weren't in America.

There have been a handful of incidents in the US over the last year concerning parents getting in trouble for letting their kids walk home from school alone, play at the park alone, or pretty much do anything alone outside. This helicopter parenting puts a crimp in my free-range parenting style. Children are being grounded before they get a chance to take off.

As a kid, my friends and I often walked to the store alone or biked to the park alone. Outdoors was where we could hang out on our own and make our own rules. It would have been strange and uninviting to see an adult around.

Not anymore.

It's almost a 1-to-1 ratio of kids to adults at the parks here in Luxembourg. Thus, there's little chance for kids to be free.

“Taka-taka-taka” says Gloria in the sitcom Modern Family when trying to say the word helicopter. In modern times that hovering noise is the sound of parents drowning out the liberating laughter and confidence-inducing independence of kids trying to find some space to fly.