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“A child becomes an adult when he realizes that he has a right not only to be right but also to be wrong.”

Thomas Szasz.

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Lenore Skenazy let her 9-year-old son find his way home from downtown NYC using the subway system. When she wrote about it in the New York Sun, many were upset, some wanted her to be charged with child abuse. But there were others who applauded her for trusting her child and felt it was a great parenting gesture. I am with the latter group. There is too much infantalizing going on these days, and not just directed as children. Sometimes it is good to just let go.

Was I worried? Yes, a tinge. But it didn’t strike me as that daring, either. Isn’t New York as safe now as it was in 1963? It’s not like we’re living in downtown Baghdad.

Anyway, for weeks my boy had been begging for me to please leave him somewhere, anywhere, and let him try to figure out how to get home on his own. So on that sunny Sunday I gave him a subway map, a MetroCard, a $20 bill, and several quarters, just in case he had to make a call.

Long story short: My son got home, ecstatic with independence.

Long story longer, and analyzed, to boot: Half the people I’ve told this episode to now want to turn me in for child abuse. As if keeping kids under lock and key and helmet and cell phone and nanny and surveillance is the right way to rear kids. It’s not. It’s debilitating — for us and for them.

The problem with this everything-is-dangerous outlook is that over-protectiveness is a danger in and of itself. A child who thinks he can’t do anything on his own eventually can’t.

I agree. And in that vein, I think its worth quoting what one of the commenters said in response to this story:

This reminds me of a story that Virgin-founder and adventurer Richard Branson told. He had bet with his mother as a child that he could find his way home, so she dropped him on the streets. And sure he found home walking for several kilometers.
And from that on he knew, that when he relies on himself, he can achieve anything. And look what he has done since…

(Link via Boing Boing)

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