Debilitating Fear and the Iron Dome

cartoon courtesy of

This morning on Here and Now, a radio show on NPR, invited guest speaker Lenore Skenazy, reality show host, to talk about issues in extreme helicopter parenting. In her show, World’s Worst Mom, Skenazy addresses a new level of fear in parents:  one young mother is so afraid that her children might get raped or kidnapped by strangers that she does not allow her 13 year old son to go to the men’s restroom alone at a mall.  She takes him with her into the women’s restroom.  She and her mother call her husband a “dummy” for letting their son go to the restroom alone.  She tells her children not to talk to strangers, because “strangers will kill you.”

Six years ago, Skenazy let her then-9 year old son to take the New York subway by himself.  Criticized as “America’s Worst Mom,” Skenazy blogged and eventually wrote a book about helicopter parenting and the need to give children a little more independence.  On the show, Skenazy talked about the different sources of fear, such as the media, traumatic personal experiences, and even the parents’ parents’ fear for the safety of their grandchildren.  There is so much news coverage about child abductions, rape, emotional abuse, that it is not very surprising that parents are now debilitated by fear for the safety of their children.

I admit it is difficult to ignore these news stories.  For instance, last week, I read about the story of Etan Patz, a little boy who went missing after he went to school alone for the first time, 30 years ago.  He was 6 years old.

“That was the last time I saw him. I watched him walk one block away,” Julie Patz testified at the murder trial of store clerk Pedro Hernandez, who’s accused of killing Etan. “I turned around and went back upstairs and that was the last time.”

I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that might happen to my daughter and resolved to take her to school myself until she is old enough to drive.  That resolve lasted about 2 days.

Fear can be helpful in parenting, such as making sure my child wears a helmet even when she rides her bike in my driveway, away from the street.  However, there is a point where fear is so debilitating, preventing parents from letting their children develop properly, causing their children serious emotional harm.  It is difficult to know when to stop and let go, there’s no doubt about that. There is no perfect way to be a parent.  We all have our own beliefs and strategies.  But we must remind ourselves that children don’t stay children forever, and they need to learn how to do things for themselves.



Belgian Lawmakers Grant Children the Right to Die

The lower house of the Belgian Parliament have adopted a bill that extends the right to euthanasia to minors. Belgium was already one of the very few countries where euthanasia is legal, but until now it has only been applicable for adults.

Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002 for those in “constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated.” Until now, minors had to wait for nature to take its course or for them to turn 18.

Parliament voted 86 to 44 to amend the euthanasia law so that it would apply to minors, but only under certain additional conditions. Circumstances include parental consent and the requirement that the minor exhibit a “capacity for discernment” as determined by a psychiatrist or a psychologist.

Before the legislation can go into effect, King Philippe must agree with and sign it.

There is widespread support in Belgium for the bill in the largely liberal country. However, it has also sparked vehement dissent from some. Dissenters argue that the legislation is too harsh and final, and an abandonment of children. Conversely, supporters of the legislation argue that children should have a choice and parents should not be forced to watch their terminally ill children suffer as they approach their inevitable death.

With adoption of the bill, Belgium will join the Netherlands in allowing euthanasia for children. The Netherlands has allowed child euthanasia since 2002 with parental consent. Since its adoption, only five children have utilized the Netherlands’ law.

Put the Phone Down!

My teenage brother seems to be addicted to his phone. He single handedly, increased my parent’s cell phone bill by $100 last month because he went over their data plan. I remember growing up when we were at the dinner table my younger sister would be texting away and my mom relentlessly tried to get the phone out of her grasp.

Children today are addicted to their phones and they certainly are not the only ones. It is difficult to remember the last time I went to dinner with a friend and neither of us checked our phones. Technology is leading our children to not know how to communicate with others. Just last week I was in a meeting with someone who said he was uncomfortable networking because he grew up communicating via text and social media. He felt incapable of communicating and networking in person.

I don’t mean to sound like my Nana when she would tell me about how when she was a kid she had to walk hundreds of miles through hurricanes, sharknados, hail, and whatever else can fall from the sky on her way to school. This is a real issue. Communication is not obsolete in the business world. Once these children are adults they will need to know how to interview, network, and have day to day conversations in the work place. Communication purely through texting and social media is stunting their growth. So, kids, please put the phone down! You will need to know how to communicate someday soon.