The Unfortunate Results of Overprotective Parenting

“Hey mom and dad, can I start walking the dog on the dirt road to do an extra chore and get a little more allowance?”

It was a perfectly reasonable question from my son, who is turning 7 in a couple of weeks. We live in a small suburban town where both my wife and I grew up. We are friendly with most of the neighbors, with one glaring exception. In order to walk the dog, he’d have to cross one quiet side street in front of our house and then walk on a dirt road with only one house on it. He’d be out of sight for a bit but still within shouting distance. In my mind it was a win-win because he’d learn the value of hard work and taking initiative, and he’d be getting some exercise to boot.

Which is why it’s ridiculously unfortunate we had to tell him no.

Why? Because as my wife pointed out, “I’m fine with it, but we can’t do it because someone will see him alone and call the cops. We’ll end up battling Child Protective Services just for letting him walk the dog by himself.”

I wanted to argue with her and tell her she was being silly, but I couldn’t. Because unfortunately, this is where we’re at when it comes to overprotective parenting in 2015.

Don’t believe me? Just ask the single working mom who was arrested for letting her 9-year-old play at a nearby park while she worked because she couldn’t afford childcare. Or Tammy Cooper, the Texas mom arrested after a neighbor told police she was neglecting her kids simply because they were outside on scooters. If you need something more recent, there’s the Maryland couple charged with “unsubstantiated child neglect” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) after doing nothing more than allowing their two children, 10 and 6, to walk home one mile from the park unsupervised.

Yet letting kids fire Uzis which results in a tragic death? Totally allowed and the parents are free from legal blame. Have fun trying to figure out that “logic.” But I digress.

As a child of the 80s/early 90s who grew up with the freedom to ride bikes around town unsupervised until the streetlights came flickering to life, I’m mystified as to where we went wrong and deviated so far off course. But then I read the online comments from said overprotective parents, and the answer is suddenly very apparent.

It’s all about fear and misinformation.

Without fail, when discussing this with other parents who disagree, I’ll see someone write “Well times have changed and the world isn’t as safe as it was back then.” Ironically, they’re not all wrong. Times have changed and the level of safety is not the same as it was in the supposed good old days. Want to know why? Because the world is a safer place in 2015.

Yes, that’s right. Statistically speaking, the data shows we are living in a much safer world than 20+ years ago.

Between 1993 and 2012, violent crime in the US declined by 48%, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports. Homicides fell by 51% and forcible rape was down by more than one-third. Furthermore, crimes against children specifically have declined since 2003. According to the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center, physical assault against children ages 2-17 was down 33%, while instances of attempted and completed rape declined by 43% between 2003-2011.

And if you want to focus on kidnappings, the Polly Klaas Foundation – a national nonprofit dedicated to the recovery of missing children – found there are only 100 stereotypical “stranger abductions” each year, in which a child is plucked off the street by an unknown person. There is a higher chance of kids being abducted by family members or acquaintances, according to the foundation’s website.

In fact, if you’re really worried about the safety of kids, you shouldn’t let them ride in a car. Or swim in a pool. Because more children die in car accidents and drownings than are kidnapped by strangers.

I used to simply shake my head at the overprotective parents of the world and go on raising my kids the way my wife and I think is best. But this incident has made me realize that’s not always possible.

We’ve moved beyond good Samaritans rescuing babies left in hot cars and scooping up toddlers who have found their way out of houses and are playing near traffic. Those kinds of things are not the problem, and are in fact expected as members of the human race. Too many kids are suffering real, terrible abuse and that must never be allowed to continue. However, the irrational fear of the way other people parent and the willingness to alert the authorities simply for disagreeing with a parenting style other than their own, is also a genuine concern.

The Maryland parents know their kids best and know they’re capable of walking to the park alone, just as I know my son can handle walking the dog by himself. But the bottom line is that no longer matters, because the way other people parent is now directly impacting my ability to raise my children how I see fit. Because if parents 300 miles from me can be charged simply for letting their kids walk to and from the park, it is not a stretch to think the same thing could happen if my son walks the dog alone.

Unfortunately, our lives could be turned instantly upside down with one phone call from someone who simply disagrees with how we parent. That’s not right, and that scares me. It should scare all of us.

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3 thoughts on “The Unfortunate Results of Overprotective Parenting

  1. As a kid of the 70s/80s the things we used to be allowed to do compared to what is acceptable today… wow.. it’s a huge gap.

    We had a trail, in the woods, we carved out with lawnmowers and axes to ride out BMXs. Nobody knew but the neighborhood kids it was there. We stayed out and about all day and night, shouting distance to someones mom or dad if not our own a friends. We were left in the car at the supermarket for an hour jumping around and causing hell.

    Now? If you pay at the pump with the kid in the car people wonder why they’re not strapped to your back or something. It’s crazy. I hate thinking my daughter who is only 3 now will have to grow up here in NY in a land of overprotective BS.

    People blame technology on lazy kids, but the lazy parents plugging them in are just as bad. They don’t want to (or can’t due to work) stay around baking pies and watching over kids like the 70s/80s generations did. A new world.
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  2. I couldn’t agree with you more!

    its sad how much children’s freedoms and independence have been stifled by others… i should be able to decide what the right thing to do is for my child, instead i’m having to think and rethink the choices i’m making for him and with him to encompass what the ‘other’ parents might say… i am waiting for the day someone calls the police or cps on us… it will happen, i’m sure of it, because i want him to have some freedom and some choice in his life, not live in a plastic bubble!

    I also agree with the above poster – technology isn’t bad, but if a child can’t go outside to play for fear for their ‘safety’ what else are they supposed to do but plug in?

    its sad…

  3. Honestly even when you are an overly protective parent, if the Division of Social Services want to remove your children from your home, it’s done. My son lived in Boone County, Mo with wife, and their three children. Someone from the Buchanan County, Mo area was calling the hotline on my son/wife at the very least three times a week. It was reported to the hotline that my son and his wife were selling drugs out of their home. My son has two special needs children, his oldest being Autistic and his youngest a preemie that has conquered major hurdles in his young life, but still suffering from physical and occupational delays. On one occasion when DSS went out to investigate a complaint they went to the school and pulled their oldest child out of the class with only the principal and the Social worker present, interrogated a special needs child about something that she had never been exposed to. Being autistic, she becomes very upset and tends to have crying meltdowns when her routine is thrown off course. When they pulled her from the classroom, she was in the middle of her very favorite subject which is Art. When the child was returned to the classroom, Art was over and she immediately started acting out and crying loudly. Her teacher unable to console her, took her to the school secretary so that she could call her mother and have her calm her down over the phone. At that point my daughter in law and son went to the school to bring her home for the day. When they arrived at the elementary school, the middle child was also in the office crying and upset. My son immediately signed all three children out for the day, and went home to contact a lawyer. I spoke to the oldest and middle child later in the afternoon. The oldest was still very upset, and repeated over and over, I don’t know what drugs are grandma. The middle child told me that they asked her if mom or dad ever got medicine from her grandparents. ( My daughter in law’s family lives in Boone County.) She then said, I told them the truth grandma My daddy got some green and orange medicine from grandma. Had the social worker had made a few calls, she would have know that my son had received DayTime and NightTime capsules from the grandmother. Neither one of the grandparents had any prescription medications that are green or orange in color. My grandchildren were removed from my sons home on that basis. The DSS office had sent out numerous investigative case worker out to their home, to the school, and even to the place of employment where they worked. Even though they never found any such activity going on in their home. The removal from the home was done unlawfully in my opinion as well. My son and his wife received a phone call from the court house on late Friday afternoon that they needed to be in family court on Monday 9am. My son had legal custody of the children at that point. Not knowing exactly why they needed to be in court, they went. In the courtroom, the judge assigned them public defenders; they both had separate public defenders my son’t was not even present in the courthouse. So when the proceeding commenced the judge spoke to my daughter in law and her lawyer, skipped over my son due to his lawyer not being present, and went right on with the lawyer for DSS. The judge ordered the children be removed from the home. The following Thursday they were finally served with the subpoena to be in court on Monday. The Child Protection Agency in that county in a joke. The Case Managers do not perform their jobs correctly, and I know that a couple of them have purger-red themselves under oath. My grandchildren have been in the foster care system for over a year now, with really no justifiable reason. In this day in age, if you swat your child on the butt someone is yelling abuse. The system removes children from parents homes for false allegations, for parent smoking marijuana while not in the presence of their child, or unsubstantiated hotline reports. Then turn around and place the child in a foster home where the child ultimately losses their life, and law enforcement and the DSS don’t see their system is corrupt. The oldest child was placed in a home for children with behavior needs because the Child Protection Agency said she was a danger to herself and others. Yet on a locked ward, where there is staff around the clock yet she has managed to get her hands on scissors to cut her hair, she is completely bald on one side of her head. The middle child, Laura is very intelligent, but she tends to have anger issues. Her foster mother is in her 60’s and is used to having teenage foster children, not an 8 year old. Her first day with her new foster mother, she was in car accident in which the parents were never informed. Laura’s foster mother’s Adult son came to visit one weekend and were shooting a .38 out in the front yard. Laura got scared, because again she has never been exposed to guns, and ran out the back door and into the woods behind the house. The foster mother chased her down and according to Laura slammed her on the ground which hurt her arm. The parents have requested she be removed from this home, and it has yet to take place. And the youngest of the three whose vocabulary is very limited has learned to swear every other sentence. Honestly the way that the system works, if you aren’t a total freak about your children and their whereabouts/and every move you risk the chance that your children end up like my sons.

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