Quit Coddling Your Kids

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 3, 2008 · 132 comments

in Fatherhood, Relationships & Family

I look around at young people these days, and I honestly fear for the future of my country. People are becoming less and less resilient and more and more clueless on how to survive in the real world. We live in a society of namby pamby men and women who whine when they don’t get what they want and think they are entitled to all the comforts the world has to offer. What do I blame it on? Bad parenting.

Baby Boomer parents developed a parenting philosophy that was soft on discipline and heavy on spoiling their children. Because many Boomer couples were both working, they wanted to make sure their children liked them to make up for the lack of time they were spending with their children. Generation X parents are even worse about coddling their kids. To many many Gen X parents, children are just an accessory you get to dress up with ironic t-shirts and fauxhawks.

In an effort to stop the wussification of yet another generation of children, here are six ways young fathers can raise strong, resilient, and independent children.

1. Give them some independence

Several weeks ago there was a large brouhaha over a NY journalist having allowed her 9 year old son to ride the subway home all by himself. Some people chastised the mother for putting her son in danger, while others wrote in to applaud her decision and to share their own stories of taking solo adventures as a child. I, of course, side with the latter. Kids can’t venture a half a mile from their homes these days without parents worrying for their safety. I live in a quiet suburban neighborhood adjacent to a middle school. Every day, SUVs line up down the street to pick up their kids because heaven forbid they would walk the mile home by themselves. They could be snatched!

This culture of obsessive over-protectiveness is bred by the media. As the 24 hour news networks and Satan’s minion, Nancy Grace, regurgitate stories of abduction over and over and over again, it begins to seem like the world outside your suburban castle is a very dangerous place indeed. Yet the reality is very different from how the media spins it. According to Newsweek:

Nationwide, stranger abductions are extremely rare; there’s a one-in-a-million chance a child will be taken by a stranger, according to the Justice Department. And 90 percent of sexual abuse cases are committed by someone the child knows. Mortality rates from all causes, including disease and accidents, for American children are lower now than they were 25 years ago. According to Child Trends, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research group, between 1980 and 2003 death rates dropped by 44 percent for children ages five to 14 and 32 percent for teens aged 15 to 19.

Don’t coddle your kids by keeping them under lock and key and only letting them out if you can keep a constant eye on them. You’re squelching their development and sense of independence. Teach your kids how to stay out of trouble and away from strangers, and then turn them loose to ride their bikes, roam the neighborhoods, run errands, and walk to school by themselves.

2. Let them do unsafe things

“Helicopter parents” not only worry about their child being abducted, they wring their hands over letting their children do anything mildly unsafe. Everything today is childproof and fun proof. Have you been to a playground lately? Did you notice what was missing? Teeter-totters, merry-go-rounds, and sometimes even swings are going extinct, replaced by plastic coated, low to the ground, snooze inducing apparatuses. Some playgrounds even have signs that say “no running.” I kid you not. While these changes are often pushed by city managers worried about liability, parents are equally at fault in trying to clear any dangers from the path of their children. They fail to understand that while sticking kids in a protective bubble may keep them in safe in the short-term, it leaves them more vulnerable in the long run. Some lessons in safety must be learned from trial and error. If children don’t learn to deal with dangerous tools and situations growing up, when they finally leave the nest, they will be lacking in the skills necessary to negotiate the real world.

For more on this check out Gever Tulley’s lecture on “5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kid Do:”

3. Don’t be their best friend

I recently read an interview with Billy Ray Cyrus in which he was asked how he keeps his daughter Miley from turning into another Hollywood train wreck (this was before the topless pictures in Vanity Fair episode). He responded by saying, “I always try to be her best friend.” While many parents applaud such a philosophy, it is fundamentally the wrong way to raise a child. Parents want to believe they can be their child’s best friend because they enjoy such a healthy, close relationship. The reality is that parents want to be their child’s best friend because they’re afraid of their kid not liking them. But parenting is not a popularity contest. Being a true parent means that sometimes you have to lay down the rules, and oftentimes your kid is not going to like it. While “tough love” may be painful for both child and parent in the short term, it greatly benefits both in the long term. Kids don’t need a best friend, they need an authority figure. Deep down, they do want someone to lay down the rules and give them some structure. They want guidance. Best friends are equals, parents and children are not. If you insist on being your kid’s best friend, a situation will inevitably arise where you do finally try to reign them in and make them respect you. But it will be too late; they’ll feel free to toss your advice aside like they would for any friend.

4. Don’t automatically take their side

My mom works at an elementary school. One day, one of the students was causing all manner of trouble: disrespecting the teachers, throwing tantrums, and antagonizing the other children. It got to the point where the girl’s parents actually had to be called to come take the child home. When the mom arrived, she gave the teachers the stink eye, turned to her kid and said, “Awww, you’ve been having a tough day, haven’t you Sweetie? Let’s go buy you a toy.”

While it’s natural to think the best of your children, don’t be overly defensive when others criticize them. Teachers and friends typically do not have ulterior motives when sharing a story of your child’s misbehavior. As outside observers, they may have valuable insight into something about your kid that you have overlooked and need to address. Your child needs to earn your trust, just as anyone else does. Don’t give it to them automatically.

5. Make them work for what they get

Many young people today are swimming in debt up to their ears. They feel entitled to the things it took their parents 30 years to acquire. Such a problem exists because many young people have never had to earn the things they’ve enjoyed. They expect the good things in life to naturally flow into their lives.

If children are not given responsibilities and work as a young age, it’s harder to instill the ethic when they’re older. You’re doing your child a great disservice if you buy every stinking thing they want. Sure, it’s easier to just buy them the $10.00 toy just to shut their tantrum up. But all you’re doing is conditioning them to the idea that if you whine enough, you’ll get what you want.

By encouraging your children to work for what they get, you’ll be teaching them valuable skills that they will carry with them the rest of their life. Not only will they develop an appreciation for work, they’ll learn valuable money management skills, responsibility, and initiative.

During the early 1900′s kids were working 60 hours a week in factories and coal mines. While it was a deplorable situation, it shows that kids are capable of taking on far greater tasks than parents today are willing to give them. They may no longer have to break slate, but they can at least clean the bathroom and mow the lawn.

6. Don’t praise them indiscriminately

“If everyone is special, then no one is” -The Incredibles

One year, I volunteered at an after-school program at an elementary school. At the end of the summer we had an awards ceremony for the kids. The very PC director (no Pilgrim or Indian crafts on Thanksgiving!) insisted that every kid, whether they deserved one or not, had to receive an award, lest anyone should feel left out. So we were forced to think of awards even for the kids who had consistently misbehaved and caused trouble. Upon such students we ended up bestowing the “High Energy Award.” What a crock.

What’s the point of an award if everyone gets one? What’s the point in striving to be your best, if everyone is equally rewarded? Praise then loses all of its meaning, even for those who really deserve it.Every parent believes their kid is special; that’s natural. But if you heap enormous and unwarranted praise on your kids, it’s going to end up debilitating them. Praising your child indiscriminately sends the message that praise is not earned, it is something one is naturally entitled too. It will end up dissolving their competitive drive. These children grow up believing they can do anything and everything well. Thus, they become restless at every job, quit, go to culinary school, then getting a masters in philosophy, and then think they’d like to try to enter the space program.

The reality is that there are certain things we are good at, and certain things we are not. If you praise your kids for everything, they’ll have a harder time honing in on their true talents and abilities. Instead of praising them indiscriminately, center your praise on specific achievements. For example, say, “You did a great job on your math test.” Not, “You are so smart and wonderful!”

{ 132 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Jamie September 3, 2008 at 5:32 pm

I am wondering if the guy that wrote this even has children!! Some people can’t let their children wonder around their neighborhood for the fact of how bad it is. I believe that all children should be cuddled!! Not overly cuddled to where they dont do anything for theirselves but to know that their parents love them and want them to succeed. Not all parents are what the article says. I cuddle my child but also discipline him and i teach and encourage him to be independent….as long as he knows that when he needs me i am there. Never take sides stay nuetral and get both stories. How does a child learn how to ride a bike without having first training wheels to learn balance? So why take away the training wheels? I agee with some parts of this article but i mostly disagree its all who the parent is and how THEY want to raise their child!!!!

102 Jasmine September 13, 2008 at 11:59 pm

I’m sorry for being about 3 months late in commenting – but I really have to say something about this article.

I find the article very Western-centric – it suscribes to the Western style of bringing children up. It makes an assumption that all parents are indulgently so when there are many cultures which are completely opposite, such as Eastern and Asian cultures. Perhaps the article should clarify that this article only applies to the indulgent (Western?) parents, and perhaps, to the parents who scarcely indulge (Eastern?) – they should learn to indulge their children a little as well.

The article should emphasize on a balance between discipline and coddling, not merely or simply to ‘stop coddling’, because some parents really don’t coddle.

I am only seventeen, and my siblings and cousins (aged 7-12) are brought up in this same manner. Our parents from the Babyboomer era are admittedly work-centric, but their fresh memories of the harsh childhood they had imparted a lot of frugal values to their us. Being Asian also meant a lot of community-based values such as humility, discipline, obedience, with the use of corporal punishment (and what perhaps may constitute as “child abuse” in US). I walked to my own preschool and cooked my own meals before I went to grade school. My parents never bought me anything as a gift and never celebrated birthdays; even with being a top student my parents never praised me, they focused on all the ‘areas for improvement’ aka shortcomings; they were figures of authority and left me independent to fight my own fights. My parents never defended me before my teachers (in China, many teachers possess so much power and authority they can humiliate parents unjustly.) Despite the fact that it may have contributed to my resilience today, I still wish my parents coddled me more.

Anyhow, I think the article should emphasize more upon how the right balance of discipline and coddling should be achieved, instead of making the assumption that coddling is pervasive or sending the impression that coddling is necessarily bad.

103 Reya November 1, 2008 at 2:09 am

What exactly is riding a subway alone at 9 years old going to teach a child? And by god, I do hope that by “5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kid Do” you mean “5 Dangerous Things You Should TEACH your kid to do.” Keeping them under supervision isn’t coddling them or unnecessarily shielding them. It’s taking a proper precaution against very real dangers. Give them freedom, give them responsibility, but BE THERE in case it was a really fucking dumb idea.

I love the abduction statistics. /sarcasm, in case you lot were coddled too much to get the insinuation. Try citing them to someone who’s kid has (or has almost) disappeared. Telling your audience (which is obviously impressionable parents who don’t have their own set morals, guidelines and regulations) the equivalent of “It won’t happen to your kids, so it’s okay to be a lazy fuck and let them roam,” is complete bullshit.

Don’t just let them play with bbguns. Take them to a Gun Safety course. Teach them the morals of not randomly shooting wildlife (versus hunting) just because they hold the tool in their hands.

They’re kids. You don’t have to unleash them out in the world to learn what needs to be done when facing it. They need your examples and instruction and opportunities to take it on with you back in their corner.

And for all of you “Well, I don’t have kids yet, but I agree! OH and here is what I think parents should do,” shut the fuck up. You lost credibility the INSTANT you admitted NO experience. “I babysat” or “I raised my younger siblings” can also take a seat. There is NOTHING that will compare to your own flesh and blood, and EVERYTHING changes once it is reality and not mere hypothesis. I know it sounds like I’m saying you don’t have an opinion, but that’s not my point. My point is, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

104 jon miller November 10, 2008 at 10:31 am

its so true, its like an immunity. the adults that were raised with challenges seem to have so much more character and independence, they seem so much more prepared then the ones that were spoiled rotten and cottled. when i say immunity i mean the best way to learn is trial and error, doing things on your own, not being a puppet, they have to learn to think for themselves. i think kids are ten times smarter and capable then what we give them credit for, i think todays mentality is very limiting to what they could be achieving. ps. i have three kids.

105 Daniel November 10, 2008 at 11:13 pm

I think some of the critics fail the reading comprehension tests. “give your kids independence” does not equal “let them aimlessly roam the streets” The example Brett uses is specifically related to transportation, getting from one place to another.
When I was little, I used to walk to school. Lots of other kids were walking or driving at the same time, there were people about, it was SAFE. Same with the subway, its packed full of people, if the kid is smart and has been taught not to go with strangers, he will be fine. Why? Because there are people around. People tend not to stand by and watch some guy grab a kid off a train platform.
I was not allowed to ‘roam the streets;. I could walk places with a friend, or do something productive (often improving my mind).
The key is discipline and structure. Your kid should know better than to roam the streets aimlessly looking for trouble. They should only be on the streets with purpose. That is what my mother taught me and it is what I will teach my children.
Humans learn by mistakes. If you do not let your child do anything where they may be hurt in some way, thenthey will not be equipped to deal with the real world. Consequence HAS to attach to actions, and children need to be raised to realise this.
The key with all these things is discipline and common sense, things that need to be instilled in your child from an early age.

106 DJ November 25, 2008 at 12:10 pm

I love this article. I actually employ a lot of the things on here already with my 10 yr old. My problem is #2. I have a hard time with this one. My kid one day wanted to ride his scooter without his helmet (he was about 5 at the time. I made him put on his helmet. I’m glad I did, he was turning into our driveway and the back flew out. He fell right on his head. My main thing is around the house. He has a habit of running up and down the stairs with socks on (stairs are hardwood and slippery). Here is where I can’t let him do an unsafe thing. He could really injure himself should he fall. I tell him to slow down. But I don’t baby him. He rides his bike to school and comes home alone for a couple of hours. He goes to the park, over friends house to play football, etc. We even take him and his friend to a local pizza, game place and leave them. I told him last year, no more allowance. It is now called “commission”. He does what he’s supposed to do, he gets his full commission. He’s only done that once or twice.

It is hard as a parent to do these things stated in the article. You always want your childrent to have better than you did as a kid. But the do have to learn. My kid wanted to stay inside on a nice day. I made he and his buddy get up and go outside and called his friends parents to make them stay out of their house as well.

Anyway, great article. Old school values are still relevant today.

107 Veronica December 24, 2008 at 9:10 am

My daughter asked for a pocket knife at 10. My immediate reaction was “No way! She’ll cut her finger off!” I waited until 11, and gave in. She has yet to cut herself.

108 Vanesha March 2, 2009 at 11:04 am

Thanks~ Love this article. I totally agree with all of your points and as a mother of five, I strive to parent this way almost exactly. Of course I don’t do everything right, but I know what it takes, and with God’s guidance, I really try. It’s easier to let them be, and give them what they want, but in the long run like you said, they aren’t learning anything. I make it very clear to my kids that I am not their friend, I am their mother and I’m so glad you point that out because so many parents today are caught up in wanting their kids to like them.. thinking that’s going to get their kids somewhere in life. Kids need a parent, I could care less if my kids like me, they will LOVE me for it later.
Thanks again for this article. I wish all parents, grandparents, soon to be parents, and all people who have an influence on children should read this apply it to their lives. It will make a difference.

109 K Rispin April 27, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Great blog, I will be adding it to my own blogroll. It is great to see such a ground swell of support for getting back to basic parenting and putting a stop to soft touch parenting.

Good on you!

110 lakshmi manu May 29, 2009 at 4:56 am

this is a great article….but i feel there should be a balance between being a parent and being a best friend to ur child…this is the only topic which me and my husband always debate about.
from my childhood experience,(i used to be very scared of my parents,bcas even when i told them the truth, i used to be punished rather than appreciated for being truthful) i felt that my daughter should not be subjected to the same treatment.
so i balance my roles both as a best friend and as a parent. when my daughter needs someone to confide her secrets and apprehensions, i play the role of a best friend and listen to her and share a lot of secrets….
when she needs to be guided in the right way, i become a parent…
Believe me, this works…..

111 Leo DaPinchi June 18, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Hear Hear!
Whatever happened to good old fashioned beatings?! If you screw up you pay the piper. It worked for thousands of years. This 12 second animation is what I’m talking about! lol! Timeout indeed!

112 Katrina July 16, 2009 at 8:27 pm

I totally agree! Kids these days feel like they are entitled to everything without having to work for it…. It’s a shame!

113 Kevin M July 26, 2009 at 11:35 pm

I totally agree with ever thing Brett has put forth in this article. As a 20 year old raised in and around this parenting style (ie. coddling… not how I was raised) I can actually remember being around kids who were spoiled, I honestly couldn’t stand them or believe the way they would talk to their parents!

I currently enjoy a very healthy relationship with my parents based on mutual respect. I think that my parents did a bang up job in raising me, they seem to have struck a good balance between, keeping me in line and safe while allowing me enough space to learn on my own. I here people I grow up with saying all the time how much they hate their parents and I could never really understand it, but it’s the modern parenting style… let everything go and keep them safe on a tight leash, instead of discipline and freedom to experience life.

As far as disciplining your children goes IMO hitting is only a last resort. Period. You can discipline effectively with out ever striking you child. I’ve been through my whole life only having been hit once. As I said before its only in very extreme cases where a sharp slap is not only permisable but is nessessary, and thats safety.

The only time I was ever hit, and I fully commend my father for doing, it was as a last resort. When I was very young, 3 or 4 I would try to run into the street, my father try several time to get me to stop but I wouldn’t listen, one sharp slap on the behind later and little me stayed out of the road. Once again the only time violence is acceptable is if it will prevent something more harmful from occuring.

The other thing parents these days don’t seem to realize is that if you yell at your kids all the time they are doing to tune you out, plain and simple. Pick your battles and yell only when the situation needs it, if you use it sparingly you can really scare the crap out of your kids, because it’s unexpected. It’s always more effective to go with the more dramatic aproach. Quiet intensity, think about any movie you’ve seen with a really effective villain. All you do instead of yelling is pause and stare at your kids… then in a lowered voice with a lot of intensity tell them the consequences they’ll face if they don’t stop the behavior. I used to use this all the time as a camp leader, it’s much more effective than yelling, try it out… it’ll save your voice and is much more subtle particulary in public than yelling.

The modern parent just doesn’t know how to stike a balance, they either praise there children for everything they do, or flip out at them over everything they do wrong… it just isn’t healthy.

Also I feel it’s extreemly important that kids learn the value of a hard earned dollar at a young age. Had my first job at the tender age of 10 (I time kept hockey), It’ll grow hair on their chast and make them feel like a real man. 10 might be a bit extreme but I wanted to make some money, so my parents helped me get one. But a child over the age of 14 with out a job IMO is a bumb.. ok maybe thats a bit extreme but it’s not going to kill them to work 1 or 2 shifts a week at the local super market. Plus they’ll apreciate being able to spend their own money, far more rewarding than spending dad’s. The other thing that is good for learning about money is getting your kids to pay for stuff they really want but don’t need once they start working or if they don’t have the money ethier agree to pay half or loan it to them (this method taught me to stay out of debt right quick.) My experience with this method is as follows, when I was 12 or 13 one of my friends at school wanted to start a band so my dad rented me a bass and amp and got me some lessons. I practiced and liked it so I wanted to get my own bass, so my dad took me down to the local music store and I tried some out and picked one I liked (if you don’t know instruments are expensive) so I didn’t have the funs to by it. So we worked out an agreement that he would pay half and loan me the rest. This worked well, through this experience I got the money thing.

All this is just my opinion and yes I’m only 20 but I thought I’d give the perspective of someone who has grown up resently with this problem. So take it for what it is. YMMV.

114 Russ Monto July 31, 2009 at 8:53 am

Great article!I see how much more I need to do to become the parent I want to be.I also see some things that I’m doing right (but thought were wrong) like setting limits and not always being their best friend.Maybe there is hope for me yet as a dad.

115 Family Matters August 14, 2009 at 8:21 am

Although I like your general attitude of toughening up the kids and letting them face real life from a young age, I do have some reservations:
1. Consider that perhaps the reduction in crimes against children might be a result of parents being more protective today. I agree kids today live a restrictive life, but it may actually be safer.
2. There’s a limit to the level of danger kids can be exposed to, because sometimes, you can’t just say “Oops, let’s try that again”. I agree kids today are being told not to run or jump, which is too much, but the main point about allowing our kids to do things should be to make them sensible about danger and then let them loose.
3. I totally agree with this point. I always tell my kids “A family is NOT a democracy. There’s parents and there’s kids. It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is”
4. Again, I agree (buying a toy to appease? God forbid!), but in your example, maybe the system could listen to what the girl was trying to communicate, not just see her as a disturbance.
5. Talking about 60-hour workweeks is a bit much, but the point is valid. However, implementation can be complicated. We gave our kids 5-cent coins for emotional stretches (doing things that are hard for them) and for helping others, which seemed to work for a while.
6. Praise must be genuine and relative. If a child has difficulty sitting down, reward him for sitting down longer than usual. Then, it’s relative to what he can do and it’s real, so both giver and receiver believe it.
Thank you for writing this. It’s great!

116 Jake September 20, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Pretty good article, and it might apply to alot of people.

The problem, of course, is when this stuff DOESN’T apply and parents get caught up in it and can’t see the forest for the trees. When I was younger, my parents used to do this alot. They got wrapped up in “teaching me a lesson” when I had already learned the lesson and I now needed help.

Most of these points I agree with. Just keep in mind that they are means to an end. You do these things so your kid can grow up a healthy and happy adult. Parenting rules, regardless of what they are, should never be an end in of themselves.

117 James S. October 15, 2009 at 12:29 am

I can’t say I fully agree with everything you said (mostly the thing about the 9 year old on the subway) because the world today is so different than it was years ago. Living in a safe neighborhood, it is good to let your kid ride bikes with his friends around the neighborhood because it gives freedom and stuff. I was coddled a bit too much by my mother, but she had good reason (her brother died tradgically when they were kids) and I understood that. I know the public school system coddled me and had a more negative impact on my than my parents (giving awards for everything, for example). My parents were my parents, NOT my best friend and that is the way it should me. Every other kid I knew who had the best-friend parent was severely screwed up, and didn’t know how to function in life at all.

I see a generation of emerging “adults” who are still children in every sense of the word. They can’t care for themselves and they can’t think for themselves. It’s sickening.

GREAT article!

118 Joe November 6, 2009 at 3:15 pm

I have to say I LOVE this article. It is the truth that children are being coddled way to much. My son had a graduation ceremony from the 5th Grade…. Did you get that? The 5th Grade! I have always felt that ceremonies like that cheapen the real ones like high school and college graduations. I went to a competition because my girls are on the color guard. Their squad frankly sucked and some other schools did a lot better so needless to say my girls squad got a trophy for some stupid crap that equated to just for showing up. I told them both, they were not deserving of any trophy because they LOST! They tried to do well but in the end, they were no contest for the other teams. I used that as a tool to explain the idea that if everyone gets a prize then why try to win. Parents please, stop trying to treat your children as little porcelain dolls and teach them how to be CONSTRUCTIVE members of society. Let them fail, praise their successes but above all, be honest.

119 walter daniels February 7, 2010 at 4:51 pm

From reading the article, and the comments, I question the child raising qualities of many of them. Coddling is never allowing a child to experience failure (i.e.reality), not making sure they know they are loved. The original author has a strange definition of “Friendship,” as evidenced by the article. Friends do not “coddle” friends, they let them make mistakes, and help repair the damage later, if the person is determined to make them.
Much of the criticism of Miley Cyrus is just plain stupid. She and her father *trusted* the photographer, who turned out to have the wrong kind of values. She (the photog) had East coast (New York) values, not MidWwestern ones. NY values say teens in suggestive poses are okay, MW values do not. As far as the female idiot who saw a suggestive “pole dance,” in someone trying to keep her balance on a moving cart, deserves just as much respect as her complaint. One of the purposes of Teenage is to make carefully allowed mistakes, *and learn from them.* Such as wearing clothes that are a little too “adult,” or daring. Generally, teenagers aren’t as aware as they could be, of how they actually look. How you think you look and how you actually appear, are often different. It isn’t until you see it in a picture that you can see the difference, in how you think you look and the reality. Teenagers rarely choose to look like streetwalkers, because they can’t see how it looks. The exceptions are the ones who want to be “adult.” Rarely do teenagers know how they want to dress in life.
I was one, of the rare few. Until my back injury, I preferred comfortable, clean casual. Meaning a T-shirt or Polo Shirt and clean jeans. Some prefer “dressing up,” which is fine. So did I, for the right occasions, but unlike some, I don’t demand total conformance.
I’ve helped raise two young women and an adopted granddaughter, with openly expressed affection, and good values. Like many of the teenagers I meet, they are some of the real, best and brightest. They’ve experienced what it is to be genuinely loved, so they are less likely to fall for the, “If you loved me. . .,” line. They’ve been allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, just as they’ve had good guidance.

120 Dave April 30, 2010 at 11:06 pm

This is great stuff! I’ve been using this philosophy for 18 years now and have never taken a class. It just seemed like common sense to me. In consequence my neighbors rave over my children (I’ve got four) and their good manners and respectful attitudes. When we are out having dinner, people stop at our table to compliment our kids. It is and amazing feeling when a total stranger tells you how marvelous your kids are.

They respect others because they have learned to respect themselves. I look forward to their future as strong and responsible adults. They are allowed to make mistakes and are expected to face the consequences and make it right as best they can. I help as needed but helping doesn’t mean I do it for them. Mistakes are rarely repeated.

I especially appreciated the point made about picky eaters. At our table their are only two choices…eat or don’t eat. It won’t kill them to miss a meal. My wife and I promote a ‘try it before you knock it’ program at home. And it works. My six year old daughter’s favorite vegetable is spinach. My thirteen year old son will eat anything that can’t escape from him! In turn, we also support any peculiar flavors that they may choose for themselves…the six year old’s favorite food is pickle pizza…..yes, I said pickle pizza.

I think you could include one more rule though…..

For goodness sake, let your kids get dirty. Not only is it great fun, it is vital to developing a strong immune system. Apart from the basics of a shower a day, wash up before you eat and after you use the bathroom, I’ve never swabbed my kids down with anti-microbial anything and they are never sick. On the contrary, our doctor says their rate of illness is very low relative to other kids he sees. So get those kids out and into the mud, folks, it is good for mind and body.

121 Joe Newman May 26, 2010 at 2:15 pm

This site rocks. What over-protective and over-indulgent parenting is communicating to our children is our lack of faith in them. When we give them independence and allow them to experience the natural consequences of their choices we are giving them real love and trust. You’d love my new book about raising strong children – Raising Lions @ Raisinglions.com

122 Tanya July 4, 2010 at 10:58 am

If you live in a safe neighborhood, it’s probably okay to let your kids walk to school on their own. However, when I was in elementary school, five of my classmates were kidnapped while walking to school despite the fact that they walked together as a group. Not all kids grow up in safe environments. Some of us had to face the harsh realities of life earlier on. Sorry to break it to you, but life is not all rainbows and butterflies. You cannot automatically trust that people around you are trustworthy. As an adult, I’ve dealt with creeps and perverts DAILY. I can’t even imagine what a young child, who is far more vulnerable, would face. In the story you mention about the woman letting her 9 year old ride the subway alone, I can tell you that if her child were kidnapped, no one would be praising her attempt at making her child independent.

I guess by your standards I was coddled. I was driven everywhere even during my teen years. I didn’t start handling my own transportation until I went away to college and I could get from point A to point B just fine.

As a toddler, my mom rush to my side if I fell and ask me if I was okay. Other parents would criticize her for “coddling” me. Today, my mom and I are very close. She was a disciplinarian first and my best friend second. It is possible to do both, but it is difficult to balance. She set much higher standards for me compared to other parents and never praised me unless I truly earned it. She would never hesitate to tell me if I were terrible at something and never sugarcoated anything.

I didn’t have a job as a teenager and was never given an allowance. I was expected to do chores without being asked and to do them for free. Strangely enough, my friends who had jobs and allowances grew up very spoiled because they often spent this money on themselves rather than on helping their parents pay bills. They tend to focus on what THEY want or need, rather than on what their family needs. This can breed a very “it’s-all-about-me” mentality if parents are not careful.

My mom was very protective in some ways, but she had reason to be. Burglaries were common in my neighborhood and she taught me to fight. I’ve witnessed my friends being killed and my pets being shot at all before third grade. You know what the funny thing is? Even after facing some horrific tragedies, I never needed therapy. I coped with life just fine and can solve all of my own problems as an adult.

I know many adults who were raised with your proposed method of parenting and although they are resilient (at least on the surface), I found many (NOT ALL) of them to be a bit emotionally-wounded. They have lots of mommy or daddy issues for some reason. There’s this extreme coldness between them and their parents to the point where they think that it is not necessary for them to help out their parents when they need it. They have such little loyalty to their family.

123 F.C September 20, 2012 at 7:40 am

What the hell. When I was 7-8 I got bored of waiting for my dad to come get me from the after school activities so I asked if I could start walking home instead of staying there. Sure I could. A good healthy 20 minute walk every day. I was even allowed to go down to the corner shop when I was 4. Of course under supervision, but I didn’t know that. I was so young that I don’t even remember it happening.

124 SSS November 8, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Mothers these days are so whiny…”but I HAVE to coddle Billy, otherwise he’ll get abducted! You just don’t understaaand!”

Please, get over yourselves you whiny cows. Hopefully your kids will repay your shitty overprotective parenting someday by leaving your ass soaking in a dirty diaper in a nursing home.

125 CJtheDJ January 25, 2013 at 2:22 am


I know im a little late, but i LOVE your comment haha

The first few comments on this post are just sad…

Jaimie and Jasmine….maybe one day you will see how coddling children (not cuddling you freakin idiot) will destroy any potential your child really was born with.

I completely agree that the MEDIA has a big hand in this “stranger danger” bullcrap….yea weird and sick things happen every once in a while, but when the media blows it up saying, “IS YOUR CHILD IN DANGER????!!” yea, parents are gonna freak. One chidl was abducted, therefore everyone’s child is in danger of being abducted…how does this make sense?

There’s no point to comment, but I guarantee you my children will have common sense, street smarts, feel independent, and be confident because my parenting style parallels the ideals here…

126 Héctor Muñoz January 27, 2013 at 11:03 pm

I was in Scouting for many years and got to see how Scouting has been affected by this trend, at least in Mexico and the US.

When I was a Cub Scout I always heard stories of older Scouts and Rovers doing all kind of incredible adventures, getting dirty, climbing mountains, hunting a rabbit, breaking a bone, even the oldest Rovers hitchhiking across the country to make a two week expedition to follow Hernan Cortez’s route.

When I grew older I lived some adventures but I notticed Scouting turning a bit over concerned with coddling boys every year.

When I served as an Scouter in my mid twenties I was some of the few who actually took 24 boys to camp in the woods and made them carry their bags for miles, clean their tents, cook their meals and learn how to have proper adventures and be responsible for themselves.

Sometimes things went wrong and a patrol ruined their meal or lost their tent, a boy cried, went lost for an afternoon or suffered some injury.

Once the whole troop told me our camping was their worst ever (lots of things went wrong and a patrol wanted to disband) and yet they were excited to recreate it a year after because it was an experience that made them feel strong afterwards: it forced them to take out the best of themselves and depend on it.

The last time I was in contact with a local troop I learned boys aren’t allowed to camp on sites that were not fenced, guarded by the police and in close range of all services. Most of their activities could be easily held on a classroom. The boys were winy, unmotivated, asocial and very sacastic.

I remember my Scouting mates and me were scared and anxious at the same time to build a camp o the trees, ten feet over the ground. We hardly slept because it was the most uncomfortable camp and the tent tilted about ten degrees but we felt as the kings of the world in the morning.

127 Rey Reyes February 3, 2013 at 10:51 am

Some of you people are exhibiting the same acquiesing and cowardly behavior that the blog addresses. You sit here in your perfect world with your first world problems, never having seen how tough many folks have it in other countries and you think your life has problems. Try serving in Afghanistan and see how people live there. There’s a scary reminder what life could be like and may be when this great country falls after developing a bunch of soft and spineless progeny. I hope you’re happy with the inferior children you put out these days (specifically Jaime and Jasmine).

128 Fami March 9, 2013 at 10:58 pm

So, I agree with some things on the list, but not most. I also wonder if the author has children. I disagree that we should play russian roulette with our childrens’ safety – especially when it comes to letting them roam free and unsupervised. Just because MOST children will probably not be abducted while riding their bikes around town, some will. And if it were your child who went missing, or god forbid whose body was found a couple of days later… I’d really love to ask you then if you felt the same way about giving kids “freedom.” You have opposing beliefs, as you think parents should guide their child and give them structure, but when a kid is out with a bunch of other idiot kids with no parents around, there is no guidance or structure there. They will be peer-pressured into doing whatever their friends do, and it doesn’t matter if their dad is the most permissive hippie on earth or the most rigid baby boomer a-hole… their advice will fly out the window. Just look at shows like “To catch a predator”… or better yet, log onto your local sex offender registry and just check out the people within a mile of your house and what they did. Then expand your search to 5 miles, and 10 miles. Believe me, no matter what kind of area you live in, you will be shocked at the number of horrific perverts out there (who not only carried out these crimes, but were caught and convicted – this doesn’t even take into account the vast majority of those who get away with it.) I don’t care what some clueless person tells me I’m doing wrong or what numbers they try to throw at me. I know what the real world is like and it’s disgusting. My children will grow up one day and when they’re older they’ll be mentally and emotionally mature enough to handle the realities of this world – but at 5, 10, even 15 years old, they should NOT be “hardened” – They should be kids, they should be learning, they should be guided and instructed and prepared for THE FUTURE when they’re adults and in those situations. Then they’ll go out with a good head start and be mature enough to handle adult situations like adults.

129 Julie April 19, 2013 at 1:32 am

I agree with the gist of this article, and I am a supporter of free-range children. I would say that the main reason I don’t let my children roam freely more often is not primarily because of their safety (we live in a small town with essentially no crime), but because other parents expect you to hover and will call the cops if you have let your children out of your sight. That really scares me. Even my own mom, who wasn’t even home when I got home from school and so let me wander about pretty freely–when I let my 6-year-old ride his bike to her house for the first time alone (and she lives less than a mile from us, and there is *very* little traffic), she was freaked out. She still is, even though he is now 8 and has made that trip hundreds of times.

Of course it would be horrible if anything did happen to him, but it is also horrible and much more likely if he grows up with no sense of liberty or confidence in himself.

I just read a book about young Albert Einstein to my sons, and apparently his parents started letting him wander independently around Munich when he was just 4. And somehow nobody called CPS.

130 Brenda April 27, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I couldn’t agree more. Coddling children is fine to a certain point but it’s important to give them opportunities to work out their own issues and develop their own sense of pride and accomplishment.
As long as their safety and health is not in danger then let them make mistakes and sometimes, we have to let them be uncomfortable so they learn that being uncomfortable won’t kill them and it will make it easier for them to face challenges as adults. Kudos.

131 Tyler the Great :D June 23, 2013 at 6:33 pm

I wanted to give you a high five for this article and the insight it provides! I agree that many parents are afraid to allow their children to learn and experience things on their own. It’s fine and dandy to let your child know that you are there for them, but for most parents this is a crutch for their child, staunching their independence and keeping them from thinking things through because they know mom and dad will just bail them out if they fail. It seems funny to me that in trying to keep kids from failing, people are effectively staunching a child’s ability to cope with failure and rise above it instead of quitting because they don’t know any better. Having had the privelege to work with many kids in many different age groups from many different backgrounds and parenting situations I know just how true this article and its message is. Thanks for your views!

132 James August 29, 2013 at 9:27 am

I know I’m pretty late on this article, in fact when it was written I was not yet a father. But this may be one of the most relevant and spot-on articles regarding parenting I have read in the short 4 years since my first of 2 sons was born.

My better-half and I differ on this much of the time, but that’s because of our vastly different upbringings. She was very sheltered, while my parents had a rule that if your school grades were good, you didn’t even have a curfew! And I grew up in the ’90′s. But, over time, she has learned to trust my judgment, and by extension, our son’s. Letting your kids experience the world is INVALUABLE to them growing into responsible people. “But he might cut himself”. We’ll put a band-aid on it. “He might fall”. It’ll only hurt for a while. It was only recently that I finally got my wife to let my son run free in the courtyard in front of our house while we stayed inside. The point is, you need to let your kids do some discovering on their own.

I also notice the first couple of comments on the article. Again, I know I’m 5 years late, however, trust me, their kids are the ones who will grow into the spoiled, whiny, entitled brats they are.

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