My column of a few weeks back in which I described real-life parenting scenarios that qualified the parents in question for a diagnosis of “just plain nuts” was a big hit. Since it ran, readers have sent me numerous examples of parents who indeed seem to qualify as JPN and be in need, therefore, of You Ought to be Ashamed of Yourself Therapy.
From a big city in the Midwest comes an example sent to me by the director of a private school where a kindergarten teacher told a 5-year-old girl that she was not allowed to sing her favorite nursery rhyme out loud any old time she pleased. Not a day went by before the child’s mother confronted said director, demanding that permission be granted. Seems the mother thinks that because she is paying for her child’s education (as opposed to people whose kids are in public school, who are also paying for their children’s education, albeit more, let us say, paradoxically) she is entitled to direct the director of the school to create an individualized set of policies for her little precious.
This is another example of the sort of thing that causes school principals, directors, headmasters and administrators all over the USA to tell me — always after they have closed their office doors — that “dealing with our students would not be a problem if it weren’t for their parents.”
My second example of “just plain nuts” parenting is somewhat indirect, because in this case the parents in question are not nuts, but someone is, for sure. On Dec. 20 of last year, two parents in Maryland allowed their 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter to walk home from a local park — a one-mile walk. The parents are believers in the “new” free-range child movement (which really isn’t new at all, as the reader will soon see). The kids were spotted by local parenting vigilantes who promptly performed their civic duty and called the police. Some anonymous busybody also notified Child Protective Services (aka the Parenting Gestapo) who threatened to take the children into custody if the parents do not submit to an intrusive investigation and promise, in writing, to not allow the children to be unsupervised for even a few minutes while the investigation is ongoing.
This is nuts. First, according to legal experts I’ve consulted, investigations of this sort are quite possibly unconstitutional (see the Fourth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments). The problem is that there’s no advocacy group waiting in the wings to take these cases on, and most parents so violated do not have the money to hire attorneys. Where is the ACLU when we need them?
Despite the plethora of Amber Alerts — many if not most of which are baseless — and despite the media’s obsession with the issue, there’s no good evidence that children today are in greater “stranger danger” than kids were 60 years ago, when at age seven I was walking a mile or more to school, the library, stores, parks and the barber shop. And I wasn’t holding my older sibling’s hand because I was an only child at the time.
It’s just amazing that I’m still around to tell the tale.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions at his website, www.parentguru.com.