Take Off Your Panic Pants: Applying Reason To Parenting Paranoia
Godless Dad has a saying for when you might not be seeing a situation rationally and you tend to freak out a little more than it warrants: take off your panic pants. I dunno, I think because he’s a red-blooded hetero man, it may just mean he wants to see some rational panties, but it’s pretty effective at bringing people back into the land of calm reason. I think there are a lot of parents out there who need to take off their panic pants and pack them away in the attic. Some parents just don’t seem to see things at all reasonably, and let their parenting style be dominated by fear and paranoia. It drives me crazy, especially when they cast judgment on my parenting style, which is much, much more relaxed.
Here’s a fact that may shock you: the world today, is a vastly more safe place for children. Yes, in spite of Fox News telling us that letting them out of the house will surely end the world, it’s safer for kids today. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some mind-blowing stats that Nancy Grace doesn’t want you to see:
All U.S. homicides: Down 40% 1992 -2005. Juvenile homicide: Down 36% 1993 – 2005 (kids under age 14) Juvenile homicide: Down 60% 1993 – 2005 (age 14 – 17) Forcible rape: Down 28% 1992 – 2006 Sex Abuse Substantiations of Children, 1990 – 2005: Down 51% Physical Abuse Substantiations of Children, 1990 – 2005: Down 46% Juvenile Sex victimization trends, 1993 – 2003: Down 79% – Free Range Kids : www.freerangekids.com/crime-statistics/
The trend continues, as serious crimes, including those committed by and on children, are dropping so fast it’s become quite historically significant.
There are several reasons for this:
2. Adults are more aware. When an offender is on the loose in your area, nowadays, it is next to impossible to miss it. It’ll be on your Facebook feed, Twitter, your front page news, the News Hour on TV and someone is bound to forward you an email.
3. Amber alerts. With the popularity of social media, it is near impossible for anyone to abduct a child and get away with it any longer.
In fact, research suggests, that 99.5% of Americans will not experience any violent crimes in their lifetime. The children who do, tend to be victimized by a family member or friend.
And yet, if you turn on Fox News, or CNN, it appears as though everyone has their fucking panic pants on. Listening to some of the shit parents say just drives me up the wall. Here are a few of these things parents say:
Kids are going to see what you don’t want them to, no matter how hard you try to shelter them from it. It is far better to let them see it with you present, and talk about it. Parents make the mistake of saying, “no, you can’t do that” and creating a reason for the child to sneak behind their back. And they will. If you think your kid won’t, well, I have some magic beans for sale…
Kids don’t become violent from playing too many video games. Put aside the fact that it’s an excellent avenue for aggression release, there are plenty of people who grew up seeing violent things on TV and in video games who are now completely peaceful non-violent people. I am one of them. I can attribute this to my Dad’s intense hippie-non-violent-ghandi-worshipping preaching. It’s up to you, not tech, whether your kids become violent. Instill values in them for fuck’s sake.
Video games train minds to think logically. Especially games with a lot of puzzles like the Zelda series & The Lego games for XBox.
Video games greatly improve hand/eye coordination.
Putting trust in your child to decide how much time to spend on a video game, is going to give them confidence and help them grow independent.
I know of and grew up with lots of kids who had no limits on video games and kids who did have limits. Without fail, the kids with limits were always the kids who ended up playing more video games in the long run. In fact, most of those kids who had limits on how much they played video games are still living at home as adults, playing video games. Teaching them to limit themselves at an early age, I firmly believe, will prevent them from becoming adult shut-ins playing COD day in and day out.
2. Kids should not be allowed to walk to school on their own, or to be out after dark. Yeah, another bullshit rule. Given that all of us grew up in a less safe time and we were all allowed out once in a while til well past dark, and we all walked to school or rode our bikes, it is absolutely unreasonable to say this. Let your children out. Let them play kick the can until after dark in the middle of the summer, let them go trick or treating on their own when they’re 9, 10, 11. Allow them some freedom and room to grow and breath and have their own life. Not letting them do these things will lead to social anxiety, paranoia and a slowed development of their independent self.
3. The intertubes. As children get older, they will be on the internet whether you want them to or not. By the time they are 11 or 12, they will always find a way, whether it’s at the library or school, sneaking your phone or tablet, or getting up in the middle of the night to use the computer. The fact is, you are totally and completely insane if you think you can do anything at all to stop them from finding their way onto the internet. So, you’re faced with a choice: either you keep putting your foot down and force your child to sneak around, which will lead to them seeing and hearing things that might disturb them all by themselves, with no one present to talk them through it or answer their questions. Or, you can let them use the internet and keep it a frequent topic of conversation. Check in on them while they are on the internet and use it with them from time to time, but also trust them to be able to use it on their own. Talk to them openly about the things they may see if they venture out of the kid-friendly areas of the internet and answer their questions about that shit honestly. This does several things:
It creates trust between you and your child, and once a child has that trust, they rarely want to fuck it up. That’s why it was always so much harder to hear your mom or dad say they were disappointed in you, than it was when they were just mad. Trust is an enormously powerful tool in the relationship between kids and their parents.
It prepares your children for the things they may see. Less shock, less trauma and more understanding when they accidentally click a link to a porn page or something similar. ‘Cause it will happen. You can bet on that.
It creates an atmosphere of communication in your home. You can trust, when you do this, that your child will come to you when they’ve seen something that upsets them. You then have the opportunity to diffuse it and explain to them what they saw, why they saw it, and how to avoid it in the future.
It allows your child to become a mature and responsible adult, when they are aware of these things, and how to avoid them or deal with them.
4. Don’t do drugs – while every parent wishes they never have to deal with anything to do with drugs and their children, the fact is, it happens. You can ask the parents of any addict, and not one would say they expected it. The vast majority of parents try their best with their kids and sometimes those kids still end up in trouble. The best way, in my opinion, to reduce the likelihood of that, is to be open as all hell with them, no holy. Talk to them about drugs. Don’t just bark at them not to do it. Tell them that you trust them to make the right choice when presented with the option to try drugs, and then extend the offer that if they absolutely have to try any drug at all, to bring it home and try it. This may sound shocking to you, but this serves two purposes: 1. it gives you the opportunity to talk them out of it and 2. Trying their first couple of beers or their first joint safely at home will ensure they are not out on the road with an intoxicated driver, they will not have their own intoxication taken advantage of, and they will be less visible to the law, and less likely to get in trouble. The fact is, if your kid wants to try it, they will. No matter what the fuck you say.
A child with a healthy self-respect, independence and boundaries, will be able to take care of all of these things on their own. An intelligent child with a profound self-worth will be less likely to fall victim to crime and abuse. In today’s much, much safer world, this type of kid is going to do just fine. So take off your goddamned panic pants, no holy, relax and enjoy it… and fucking let them enjoy it, too.