The real risks of parent shaming

When we look at why parents have a hard time keeping kids active there are several obstacles that come up over and over again.

Screens keep them indoors for hours on end. Unpredictable weather: too cold or too hot or too rainy.

And fear. Fear of strangers and of injury.

A close cousin of fear – and another player in this game – is shame.

One of the reasons that kids are kept indoors, or in cars, or in programs every available moment is that we’re all afraid of being called out. Nobody wants to be yelled at, or worse investigated, for letting their kids walk to school on their own or playing outside unsupervised.

A recent article in the Walrus, Shame on Parent Shaming, examined how parents are shamed by others who disapprove of their choices, particularly when it comes to raising kids who are in the slightest bit free range.

The article quotes a Birmingham prison physician who wrote about the “toxic cult of sentimentality” in which “bystanders love kids so much their feelings curdle into a “sentimental wrath” – or a self-righteous hatred – turning them from protectors into vigilantes.”

Yet the fear that motivates this concern has no basis in reality.

According to the Walrus article, the chances of a stranger abducting your child is 2 in 41,342.

And although parents may be fearful to let kids walk to school (the Walrus article quotes the percentage of Canadian children allowed to walk to school has fallen from around 50 percent to about 15 since the 1970s) due to “stranger danger” they are much more likely to get into a car accident on the drive to school.

“Indeed, car crashes are among the leading causes of child death in Canada. But the spectre of an abduction – which is highly improbable – is more psychologically ‘available’ than the more likely, if mundane, possibility of an accident.”

How can we turn around this culture of fear and shame? How can we support like-minded parents to give our kids reasonable independence? This is the conversation we need to be having now. Tell us what you think in the comments below or on Facebook.

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