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When Did Parenting Styles Change?
Think back to the way you were raised or how your parents talked about the way they were raised. Now, imagine putting those parenting styles into motion in today’s day and age. Chances are they wouldn’t be accepted. Would you let your second grader walk alone to and from school? Probably not. Would you let your kids go out on their bike and tell them to be home before dark without knowing exactly where they were going? Heck no. So how is it that parenting styles have evolved from allowing your children to do those things to thinking, “Wow, how could a parent do that?”
A Generational Change
Children often built independence by roaming outside 50 to even ten years ago. Kids would play outside until dinner or when the street lights came on. They would learn from their mistakes and have fun being active outside. Those numbers have changed drastically, so much so that a 1990 study “One False Move” followed the unsupervised play of British children over generations. It found that the youngest eight-year-olds in the study had 1/9th of the approval from their parents to roam unsupervised than what their parents had when they were eight. During the 1970’s, 80 percent of the seven and eight-year-olds in the study were allowed to go to school without supervision. By 1990 that number dropped to 10 percent.
Times have changed so much so that a Winnipeg mom was visited by Child and Family Services in 2016 after a neighbour reported her for allowing her two children to play in their fenced backyard alone unsupervised.
“I looked at her and said, ‘So you’re telling me I’m not allowed to let my five-year-old and my 10-year-old play out in the yard?’ And she goes, ‘Are they unsupervised?'” Jacqui Kendrick told CBC.
“Children under the age of 12 may be left without direct supervision, but there needs to be some provisions around the safety of the child,” Sandie Stoker, the executive director of Child and Family All Nations Co-ordinated Response Network (ANCR) told CBC. That includes factors like the age of the child, their location, whether there’s a safety plan or supervision plan, the amount of time left unattended and a safe environment.
A South Carolina mom was arrested in 2014 with unlawful conduct towards a child after allowing her 9-year-old daughter to play in a park while she worked at a nearby McDonalds. The daughter had a cell phone just in case. The mother didn’t want her daughter to be stuck inside all McDonalds all day.
Children don’t seem to fight their parents much for the right to roam. Today’s generation is happy being at home playing video games, near the computer or watching television.
The disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz in May of 1979 seemed to make parents think twice about letting their kids roam alone. He talked his mom into letting him walk to the bus stop alone for the first time ever. He never returned.
“It awakened America,” Ernie Allen, president and chief executive officer of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, told CNN. “It was the beginning of a missing children’s movement.”
Weeks after Etan’s disappearance another high profile case of kids going missing took the headlines, this time children in Atlanta started to disappear and were turning up murdered.
News stations and papers around this time started to have more reach with national headlines rather than just locally. With these cases making the headlines, parents were more informed now of the dangers their kids faced being allowed outside alone. Parenting styles rapidly changed, letting little Jimmy walk to school? That just won’t do. Parents had more to worry about than just scrapes and cuts.
Let Kids Be Kids
Yes, it’s true, over the generations the fears of safety have changed but parents must not helicopter their children. By using the helicopter parenting style – where you’re over your child at all times – can be detrimental to their development. It can lead to anxiety and dependence. Just imagine if your mom has always been your safety net and then one day she’s not there to save you from failure.
Parents shouldn’t have to worry about a visit from Child and Family Services like the mom from Winnipeg. Your children should be allowed to go out to the local park or backyard, but they should also be educated on all of the dangers. Taking the time to have those conversations will not only help your children make smarter decisions, but it will also help to make you feel safer as well.