Every day, I see another article about free-range parenting and how it was the “norm” just a few decades ago. I wasn’t a parent in the 70s or 80s – but I was a kid. And it’s true; when I was young, we left the house and didn’t come home until dark. My parents knew my general whereabouts, but didn’t keep tabs on me. We were barefoot the entire summer. We rode in the back of pick-up trucks without seat belts. We chased fireflies at night. We went on adventures, read books and played with friends without parental supervision.
Did our parents take a more lackadaisical approach when raising us or trust more in the “village” for support during this free-range period? Were we exposed to all the same dangers when we were young, but our parents were fortunate enough not to have Google or live news feeds running straight to their cell phones? Were parents not exposed to as much fear mongering? Or maybe parenting was easier because people didn’t have open forums or computer screens to hide behind when broadcasting their hateful messages or bullying? Was ignorance truly bliss just a few decades ago? Why does it seem that raising children is so much more difficult in the world we live in today?
Now, in the information age, it’s hard to hide from the stories of kidnappings, disease “epidemics”, or “how to raise your children” advice columns – even if we want to. Savvy marketing campaigns continuously target parents to spread fear so we will purchase their products. Social media opened the door for criticisms and the Internet created millions of pseudo experts who like to share their opinions on everything. Parenting is exhausting and overwhelming enough without having the everyday notification of something new that will harm our babies.
In my brief five years as a parent and two boys later, I’ve realized a few things that have helped me survive in the toxic parenting jungle:
- Everything is going to be fine. Follow your gut. Every child is different. Ultimately, you know what’s best for your kids. Our parents lived by the same philosophy.
- Everyone will give you conflicting advice. Everyone will also give you unsolicited advice. Learn how to smile and let it go in one ear and out the other.
- Let go of the fear. Fear will prevent you from enjoying parenting. Kids are pretty resilient. They will get hurt, but that’s part of life. Sometimes you’ll have to let them fall, so they’ll know how to get back up.
- Some of the classic parenting methods still ring true today, like letting kids – be kids. Ice cream is awesome for dinner sometimes and it’s a memory that will last forever.
- Kids will be exposed to germs no matter what, so stop carrying around hand sanitizer. The good news is being exposed to germs builds their immune system. No matter how hard you try to prevent illness, it will happen. All you can do is teach them to wash their hands well, and call it a day.
- Kids need to experience independence to build their confidence and problem-solving skills. Hovering over them all the time is not helping them. They may not be able to leave and come back when the street lamps go on, but you can find a nice balance. Our parents had faith in us, so give this same gift to your kids.
- Educate yourself on the important things, like car seat safety and how to change a diaper. Drown out all the fear mongering – this doesn’t help you or your children.
As much as I would like to strap an ankle monitor on my boys and follow them around via GPS their entire lives – I know that’s not possible. All we can do as parents is teach our children how to love, be strong, be kind, stand up to bullies, be responsible, and make wise decisions. As for other parents, we need to get back to a time where we embraced parenthood – together. If we educate our kids and support each other more, maybe the world won’t be so toxic after all.
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