The Washington Post)
Chantal PanozzoJanuary 3
What happens when your parenting style doesn’t change, but the continent you’re parenting on does?
If you’ve recently repatriated to the United States from Europe, as I have, you might start wondering if how you are mothering will get you arrested. I speak from experience. See, my 7-year-old Swiss-born daughter walks to school in our upscale Chicago suburb. Alone.
Stop the press. Hold the camera. Aim it at something most Americans in the 21st century have apparently never seen before: a first-grader with enough independence to call walking to school alone “pretty great.” In Switzerland, where I became a parent, children as young as 5 walk or ride the public bus to school unaccompanied. There are no parents hovering — or driving their children four blocks to school in a minivan. It’s a culture of free-range parenting — not that a Swiss would ever call it that. Helicopter parenting doesn’t exist in the alpine nation, but rational parenting decisions that teach personal responsibility do.
Even on playgrounds, children resolve problems themselves while parents sit on benches and drink coffee — if the parents are even there. There are no shouts of “Be careful!” or “Let that other boy have a turn.” The only shouts you hear are from children enjoying something many American children will never know: freedom.
We call our country “the land of the free,” yet most children — at least if our suburb is representative — have no freedom at all. Their parents (or nannies) walk or drive them to school, pick them up, and drive them to scheduled activities. There may be the development of piano skills, soccer skills or freestyle strokes (and for some of these kids, it’s all in an evening’s work) — but time for free play and time to develop independence, there is not.