by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
“Parenting isn’t about minimizing risk to your children,” a mother in Arizona once wrote to me. “It’s about eliminating risk.”
This pernicious notion doesn’t only infect the minds of parents. It also drives school and government officials, including child protective services, to impose draconian rules that punish parents who make slight slip-ups or even those who do something completely safe but that violates the rules of safetyism.
The end result is parenting made much more difficult. Safetyism probably also drives down the birthrate both by terrifying parents and would-be parents and by making parenting so much more laborious and time-consuming than it should be.
Lenore Skenazy has spent years inveighing against this mindset and documenting the absurdities and atrocities committed in the name of “child safety.” Last week, she published her year-end worst-of list. Some highlights (lowlights).
* A Nevada mother let her 8- and 10-year-old sons play at the end of their dead-end street. That’s when “a neighbor called 911 to report two unsupervised children.” Firefighters arrived at the scene and thankfully didn’t take any action against the mother.
*An Ohio mother left her 10-year-old and 2-year-old in a motel room so she could work a shift at a pizza place. To “protect” those children, the police arrested her and locked her in jail.
Playing on the sidewalk without supervision is safe. Leaving your 2-year-old under a 10-year-old’s care in a motel room is probably to be avoided, but it’s not gross negligence, either.What’s consistent across these two cases is that the more unneighborly neighbors and unsympathetic police or child protective services officials punish parents for taking their eyes off their children, the harder it becomes for parents or children to have lives.