Are unsupervised kids the new norm?

A few years ago, there were a lot of reports of helicopter parenting. You know, where parents “hover” over their kids on the playground, afraid little Johnny or Emily might fall. These parents held their kid’s hands and never let them wander away without adult supervision. I am afraid that parents in my city have gone the other way.

I don’t considered myself an overprotective mother. I let my kids do lots of things. They both help with the cooking and yes even on the stove. They are able to go into the backyard (and sometimes even the front yard) without me present. When they were little and we went to the park, I would stay close enough to make sure they were safe but far enough to let them explore on their own. I would never give my two-year-old free run of the park, just so I am not a “helicopter” parent though I saw others doing that.

Of course, now that the kids are older, I still believe they need some supervision at the park. I like to keep an eye on them but with more distance than when they were two years old. However, it seems not all parents believe the same thing. Many of the parents I see at playgrounds are chatting with other parents or talking or playing games on their phones. Rarely do they even glance at their children. It seems they are the exact opposite of the “helicopter” parent.

At 5 and 7, I feel my kids still need some guidance. At this age, they are continuing to learn how to play with others and how to share the equipment. Heck, what child at this age always makes good decisions? They need supervision.

Let me give you an example. This incident has stuck with me for the past few weeks and inspired this topic. In March, a group of us took our kids to the park. In addition to my kids, there were five other boys between the ages of 5 and 7. When we arrived, the boys were playing in the sand volleyball court with a football with two other 6-year-olds. fightingWithin minutes after our arrival, one of the boys was crying about being hit and having his face pushed down in the sand. The other parents gave the kids warnings about being too rough, and the kids went back to playing. Jase joined them. I watched him chase the boy with the football. Lexie wanted to swing so I went to go push her. The other moms were either talking or looking after younger children. No one was watching the boys.

A little later, after the two 6-year-olds left, the other moms sat down at a table. I sat so I could see the boys. They were no longer playing with the football. Jase was off to one side, and the other boys seem to be doing a little pushing and rough-housing. Jase then turned and walked on to the sand. One of the boys rushed over and shoved him to the ground hard.

I immediately jumped up and walked over, telling the other boys that shoving Jase like that wasn’t going to be tolerated. The other moms joined in, asking what happened and then admonishing their kids for being rough.

Now looking back, I wished I had spoken up when I first saw the shoving and hitting. I had been torn about speaking up on what I considered bad behavior and what others might deem “boys being boys.”  We don’t let Lexie and Jase play like that, but I know that at least two of the boys come from a household where such stuff is tolerated. I know the mom doesn’t allow hitting and pushing but wrestling and rough-housing are the norms she says because she has three boys. It is like she expects them to be like this while neither of my two are used to being that physical with each other.

We left the park right after this incident. It was already past the time we said we would leave, but later I felt like the others might assume I left just because of that incident. I sort of felt like a child who didn’t like how things were going and packed up my toys and went home.

Jase said they were just playing and that it wasn’t done to be mean. I don’t know if that is true or not but I don’t like the rough play and told him that. Now Jase has been playing with the two boys from the “boys will be boys” home for over a year and we have never had a problem with them. However the other three boys are new to the mix. I can already tell that I don’t like how one boy plays. He has hit and pushed Jase as we walk home. The other day, I saw him twisting Jase’s arm and put a stop to it. This boy’s mom yells at him, but you can see it has no effect at all on him. I have learned that he is on medication for ADD, but that doesn’t justify his behavior. All I can say is that I watch this boy whenever he is near my kids and next time we go to the park, I will be keeping a closer eye on their play. Whether the other parents join me or not, I will have to wait and see. But as far as I am concerned these boys need more supervision than they are getting. After all they are still learning how to behave.

2 thoughts on “Are unsupervised kids the new norm?

  1. Joan Lindgren says:

    I think most children need to learn how to behave in various situations. It’s the parent’s responsibility to provide this. Put down the cell phone games and interact with the children. While talking to other Moms you can still watch your children. Talk to the children about what kind of behavior is expected in different situations.

  2. Jennifer says:

    All.Children need supervision in the playground. I work in a playground and the kids are not safe. There are fights, kids breaking rules such as swinging on trees, running in the gated grass area destroying the gardening, scaling the walls, climbing over fences, taking toys from other children, pushing,.bullying and these kids are 100% alone while parents and nannies sit and chat, read books or even take naps. Children from ages 3 and up to 12. Teens run around in park when they arent even allowed in and knock.children down it seems to be the norm. Unbelievable.

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