October 08, 2009

A Fearful Society- Rearing Children in a Scary World

It is the morning after and my body aches, but mostly in a good way. A few nicks and scrapes and the odd bruise are my stalwart companions following three hours of basketball and a short conversation with the boys.

We reviewed the usual topics of work, women and children. The usual complaints were voiced and harrumphs were issued over one and all. It was good night but one that made me a little sad and here is why.

We live in a fearful society. The monsters of our childhood have come out from under our beds and closets and now patrol our neighborhoods. The murderers, rapists and pedophiles are everywhere, or so we seem to fear. The childhood that I had is not the one that my children are experiencing.

I walked to school and to the store to pick up a pack of gum or some candy. During the summer we rode our bikes and ran around unsupervised all day long. The routine didn't vary much during the school year. Class ended, homework completed and we were out on the street.

But that is not what happens anymore. Fear rules the day. We drive our children to school and arrange playdates. The kids are monitored in ways that our parents didn't. Perhaps if cellphones existed when we were young they would have used them or maybe not.

In the schools our children are often taught that the only way to resolve conflict is through words and that fighting can never be tolerated. Yet the reality is that sometimes words are not enough. Sometimes there comes a moment where your child has to set aside their vocabulary of restraint and take off the gloves. It is not the preferred choice or what we want, but sometimes that is just how it has to be.

Out in public visits to the restrooms are monitored because it only takes a moment for the monster to act. Sometimes when I am in the men's room mothers open the door and engage in a running dialogue with their sons. Occasionally they come in, terrified of what might happen if they don't.

Halloween approaches. We'll take the kids trick or treating and then force them to wait to eat their candy. Not because it is after bedtime but because we fear what might be in there.

I stand back and watch my kids do their thing. I ask questions about their day and eagerly await their answers. How do I teach them to be independent. How do I help them become streetwise when we drive them everywhere.

Fear shouldn't run our lives. It shouldn't prevent our children from living the lives they deserve, yet sometimes I feel like it does.

Balance is what I am seeking. A middle of the road approach that combines the practical with the sensible. I am not sure if I have found it yet, but if I do you'll be among the first to know.

7 comments:

Jacob Da Jew said...

great post. middle balance is always good...how to educate kids to be mindful and not fearful...

good points.

Kelly @ The Miller Mix said...

I had this discussion recently. My husband says we have to teach our son to retaliate in multiple ways, including physical. I believed that violence is never the answer; but then I thought about the pedophiles and the bullies ... and I agreed that we have to give him ALL the tools he might need.

I am still not sure how to loosen the apron strings. He's only 8 so I think I have some more years to think about it.

the Rebbetzin said...

Fear does NOT have to rule! Check out freerangekids.wordpress.com and then turn off CNN.

Jack said...

Jacob,

That balance is the hard part.

Hi Kelly,

Violence shouldn't be the first response, but it has to be an option. It is an unfortunate reality that we have to help our children with.

Reb,

I am going to check that link out.

Kol Ra'ash Gadol said...

Actually, I still believe that violence is never appropriate retaliation - because that too, is taking fear too far. Want to know the statistics on stranger abduction? Extremely small; how about pedophilia- mostly done by family members,and usually there's more confusion about it so the kid wouldn't think to fight back because of the role confusion; how about numbers of cases of poisonings or razors by strangers in Halloween candy - zero, not one recorded case of it. Of cases total, there are actually three, and all of them were by family members that put the poison or razors in the treats *after the kid got home!*

I don't know why media likes to keep us scared, but it 's good reason to ignore television news and screaming headlines. IN fact, the time we live in, is about the safest for kids it's ever been in history. Go send your kid out on her bike, and don't worry - if she needs to fight back, it's almost certainly against someone close to her size.

Kol Ra'ash Gadol said...

p.s. I love freerangekids!

Jack said...

Actually, I still believe that violence is never appropriate retaliation - because that too, is taking fear too far

Without context there is no way to appropriately respond to that.

We're agreement about how safe it is not in reality.