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Are we paranoid parents who need to loosen the chain?

      Let's face it, these days, most parents have jobs or are looking for one. With so many of us caught up in the daily struggle of work life balance, should we loosen the chains on our kids?

     I must admit that author Lenore Skenazy is starting to influence my parenting decisions, even though she's on the hot seat these days and in some circles considered America's worst mom.

  Skenazy is the mom who wrote a column in The New York Sun in 2008 about how she let her 9-year-old son ride the New York City subway system by himself. As Parentdish.com notes she also is a champion of what might be called children's liberation -- giving kids longer leashes and, ultimately, less fear-driven lives. Her book "Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts" is creating a stir.  As Parentdish notes, In an often fearful society, such ideas are sometimes regarded as heresy.

     Here's what Skenazy said that really made sense to me: Children should be taught to talk to strangers -- to an extent. Children may need help if they're really in danger and should know how to turn to other people for help.

"It's like we think the neighbors are psychotic pedophiles," Skenazy said. "But there's a network of humanity out there we're sealing our kids off from."

     For those parents who work and have had to let their kids walk home from the bus stop and let themselves in the home, there's validity in teaching them how to handle a threatening situation. Maybe the old line, "don't talk to strangers" isn't good enough.  I heard a mom on the radio this morning talking about how she insists her kids give their own orders to the waiter at the restaurant. She wants them to interact with adult strangers and use common sense.  Overprotecting children doesn't really keep them safe anyway, Skenazy said. "It keeps them from growing up."

       I find myself rethinking my paranoid mom approach. Maybe this "don't talk to strangers" is over the top. Maybe I do need to teach my kids how to navigate more on their own. I don't know that I'm as brave as Skenazy and would allow my kids on the subway alone. But I do thinkit's pretty great that her son could do it if he found himself in a situation that required it.

       Working parents are going to need to rely on our child more to be independent sooner. We will need them to get off to school by themselves.My kids are at the age where they are asking for more independence and it's scary. But I think I'm going to take more of Skenazy's approach to heart. Maybe I will let them go to the movies or walk home from the bus stop alone and trust that I've taught them properly how to handle an adult interaction. 

      What are your thoughts? Do we need to stop hovering over our kids, or does our creepy society still force us to hover?

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