Heights parents, should you worry less about your children?

On one of my recent drives, my ears perked at the topic on BBC’s “World Have Your Say” hosted by Ros Atkins. The globally conscious segment of the British Broadcasting Corporation gives guest speakers all across the world the opportunity to express viewpoints that range from politically correct to radical (by the standards of mainstream media). The subject of the show was child-rearing.

Pundits were discussing the problem of today’s parents officiously criticizing each other’s child-disciplinary measures. Mr. Atkins introduced one mother and editor of the New York Sun who was in hot water after she revealed in a recent column that she had allowed her nine-year-old son to ride the New York City subway alone.

As a current pre-school teacher, I listened as the flustered mother explained that she had been reprimanded for lax parenting by permitting her son to take a short ride by himself. In her defense, she emphasized that the route was one which her son was already familiar with. The issue, however, was not negligence on her part, but overreaction to the previously ordinary occurrence of children roaming cities independently, an experience which she felt was unjust to deny a child. The mother argued that such paranoia over children’s whereabouts stems from fear caused by child abduction cases being overplayed in the media.

I began to speculate on whether liberal Heights parents might let their children have the same freedom this woman afforded her son by allowing them to take the rapid transit, for example, to Tower City mall. The editor and mom made the valid point that New York City’s criminal statistics are equal to where they were in 1963. This means that, technically, it is logical to allow modern children old-fashioned liberties. Another British commentator opined that overall, societies today are the safest that they ever have been. She also commended the mother on her bravery to run the risk of chastisement and surrender to the unpredictable, yet unlikely, catastrophes which befall even highly watchful parents.

The two ladies spoke about the benefits of children of being allowed to develop life skills by dealing with strangers and learning to navigate urban areas. The scolded American mother expressed disbelief that such an innocuous journey taken by a child could earn her the reputation as “America’s worst mom.” The professional mothers on the BBC talk show agreed that it is unhealthy to suspect all strangers of being potential kidnappers. Parents cannot, and are not, expected to anticipate and prevent every chance pitfall in their children’s lives. I agree with the general consensus of the show. Children today are more physically restricted than ever.

Heights parents might ask themselves whether repetitious media coverage of child abduction scenarios might mislead them into holding their children back too much. Heights parents should relax and consider that they may be providing enough protection for their children simply by providing them with common sense through education and structured activities. It is much riskier to underestimate children’s street smarts. Assuming that they cannot manage simple tasks alone in the world prevents them from learning what they can do.

Suphie Wesner is a linguistics and French language graduate of Cleveland State University and a Shaker Heights High School alumna. She plans to pursue graduate school in journalism in the future and currently enjoys her position as an assistant teacher at True Sisters Day Care Center.

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Volume 1, Issue 4, Posted 3:14 PM, 06.01.2008