Our kids are in danger. Their egos need protecting.
And “parenting” sounds so negative, we should really be more like friends.
These modern mantras have been seeping into parents’ heads for the last several decades as the country’s case of mean world syndrome — our alarmist belief the world is out to get us and our kids — continues to worsen.
But there might be hope.
Parents who let their children roam free will no longer be considered neglectful monsters, says a new directive from Maryland state officials.
The move comes in the wake of a nationally discussed case involving Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, Maryland parents who encourage their 10- and 6-year-old kids to walk home alone from the local park at night.
Twice the kids have been picked up by local police and held for several hours, before CPS intervened with an inquiry of their own.
According to “The Washington Post,” the parents were cleared on appeal last month in one neglect case and are still waiting on the other. They say they intend to file a lawsuit.
Though the new directive doesn’t address the Meitivs’ case directly, its update over a 2014 directive drills to the heart of whether parents should be held responsible just for leaving kids unattended.
“Children playing outside or walking unsupervised does not meet the criteria for a CPS response absent specific information supporting the conclusion that the child has been harmed or is at substantial risk of harm if they continue to be unsupervised,” the report reads.
In other words, CPS won’t do anything unless there’s an immediate threat.
Back to the basics
The updated guidelines reflect a return to once-popular parenting ideals that put freedoms ahead of structure.
Old-school practices are now winning favour with psychologists, who suggest that:
- Participation trophies may be misguided, as they can actually make kids with low self-esteem feel worse about themselves.
- Sometimes being the child’s friend is the exact wrong thing to do, because it undermines your future credibility as the authority figure.
- You should let your kids get dirty once in a while, since our immune systems were built to handle germ-ridden messes.
- If you hover over your kids at all times, you’re bound to alienate them. And you can’t make up for it by offering more love and support.
Parents who stray from this advice aren’t necessarily to blame.
Scholars say that “mean world syndrome” is the result of people just acting from the information they receive. News cycles are driven by attention-grabbing stories about kidnapping and murder, so even if the actual overall trend is that kids are getting safer nationwide, the media narrative depicts a violent, untrustworthy America.
The key to escaping that fear is realising just how deep the irrationality goes.
Data on child mortality show there has never been a safer time to be a kid, whether death comes at the hands of disease or crime. Hallucinations of kids getting scooped up at the playground or contracting a fatal illness from eating dirt seldom come true, the research is finding.
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