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Would You Pay Someone to Ignore Your Children?

Recently, Lenore Skenazy, a mom, author and blogger suggested that we "enrich" our kids by backing off and letting them play, unsupervised. She's charging New York City parents $350 to ignore their kids for them. Can she be serious?

Would You Pay Someone to Ignore Your Children?

Admit it, it would be so much easier if you could just kick your young kids out of the house, send them out to play at the local park, and go about getting your business done, or just go get a Starbucks — by yourself. 

I’m pretty sure a few of you actually fantasize about this.

But wait, you can’t do that! You can’t commit the cardinal sin of modern parenting —l eave your kids to their own devices, at the mercy of others, unsupervised. Depending on your jurisdiction, there might be an actual law against that.

But, according to parenting pundit, Lenore Skenazy, you absolutely can—and should — do just that (if they are ready). And if you aren’t mom enough to do it yourself, you can pay her to do it for you.

Skenazy is offering an eight week, $350 after-school class, held in New York City's Central Park, in which she promises not to be present; she would be ignoring your kids at a nearby Starbucks.

She says she’s serious.

Skenazy says the class is "almost guaranteed to make the participants, ages 8 and up, happier, healthier, smarter -- and skinnier, to boot."

Comments on her Huffington Post blog, where she revealed her plan, asked if she had plans to franchise it.

Skenazy, an author and blogger, first gained national infamy when the media dubbed her “America’s Worst Mom,” as the result of a column she wrote revealing how she had dropped her then 9 year-old son, Izzy, off at a Bloomingdales — at his urging — and allowed him to find his way home through the New York City subway system all on his own.

Equipped with $20 for emergencies, a metro card, quarters for the pay phone, and a map, Skenazy’s son successfully navigated his way home in 45 minutes. She says he felt “ecstatic with independence” as a result.

Since the media frenzy that followed, Skenazy has continued to regularly poke at the prevalent culture of “helicopter parenting” on her blog and in her book, and call for parents to embrace so-called “free-range” parenting.

She says the concept is based on the premise that rather than treating a kid like an “invalid who needs constant attention and help,” parents should treat them as capable individuals, giving them increasing responsibility and independence as they show they are ready for it.

Skenazy acknowledges that parents are trying to protect their children, but says they are doing so from a place of largely unfounded fears. 

She blames the media, filled with grisly crime shows, and near nightly TV news reports of horrific crimes involving children, for the tightly controlled childhoods that are the result of parents who have been encouraged to believe the world is not as safe as it was when they were kids. She points out that statistics actually reveal that kids are safer today.

Skenazy has a definite point about the debilitating culture of fear and how it affects parenting.

As a writer that follows and blogs about parenting issues, I used to receive keyword alerts for terms like “mom” and “children” to keep current with those topics. At some point a year or more ago I had to cancel many of those filters, especially for the term, “mom,” when I realized that I was becoming increasingly more anxious and depressed as a result of reading the litany of unspeakably horrible stories I would receive in my email daily.

I can’t deny that terrible things happen to kids, but for my sanity, and maybe my family’s, too, I had to turn my focus from protecting my kids with literal and figurative bubble wrap to preparing them to protect themselves.

I can’t say that I’m dropping my kids off at the park solo anytime soon, as Skenazy suggests, but I think I can buy into preparing them, so the very thought of doing such a thing doesn’t mean I feel I have abandoned them, but maybe equipped and empowered them.

What are your thoughts about what Skenazy suggests?

To learn more about Skenazy, and Free Range Parenting, visit her blog here.

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