Why my child will be your child’s boss

Saws. The kind you buy at the hardware store to cut wood. That’s what the play-group teacher dumped on the ground for 3- and 4-year-old kids to play with. Knowing that doing this, in the U.S. would result in the teacher being, at minimum, fired and most likely charged with child endangerment, I had visions of emergency room trips and severed limbs dancing through my mind.

But this happened not in the U.S. but in Switzerland, where they believe children are capable of handling saws at age 3 and where kindergarten teachers counsel parents to let their 4- and 5-year-olds walk to school alone. “Children have pride when they can walk by themselves,” the head of the Münchenstein, Switzerland, Kindergartens said last week at a parents meeting, reminding those in attendance that after the first few weeks of school children should be walking with friends, not mom.

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34 thoughts on “Why my child will be your child’s boss

  1. It’s a foul libel to suggest that American children are being walked to school by their parents.

    They’re being *driven* to school by their parents :-).

  2. Ha! You’re absolutely right.

    We have no car, so my children must suffer!!!

  3. Not only driven the less than a mile any of the elementary schools are from anyone in my neighborhood. The moms in my area all park in front of MY house and the fire hydrant when they drop their kids off because heaven forbid they walk an extra 15 feet.

    1. Where we lived in PA, the law was that kids had to have sidewalk all the way between their house and the school or they were bused. If your street had no sidewalk on it, the bus would pick you up at the end of your driveway.

      So, it was an utter nightmare to get stuck behind a school bus as it went and stopped at every driveway on a street. 12 year olds stood out there with their moms. Or worse. 12 year olds sat in the passenger seat of the running SUV so precious didn’t get cold and mommy didn’t let him out of her sight.

  4. Boys had pocket knives. Everyone rode bikes to school. Kids started babysitting other children at 11- or 12-years-old.

    Yep. I rode my bike the two miles to school, along with my 2nd-grade sister. I started babysitting at 11. I had already been sewing doll clothes and selling them door-to-door for a few years.

  5. Excuse me, Whitey? It’s fine to let your five-year-old walk to school in a nice neighborhood with friendly folks waving from lace-curtained windows behind their white picket fences, but here on Planet Reality there are drunk drivers out at 8 a.m., pedophiles cruising the park and every kind of other terror waiting to prey upon my children. I really do believe in teaching kids to be self-reliant and I’d love for mine to take a mile walk in fresh air every morning. But I’d also like them to come home with their lunchboxes instead of in body bags or permanently traumatized by a freak. Stop assuming we’re all lazy fat asses feeding our kids Cheetos and soda for breakfast and buying them Hoverounds. Some of us are just trying to make it in a marginal neighborhood, and yeah, that means I drive them to the bus stop and I watch them get on.

    1. Whitey? Nice.

      If you living in a crime riddled neighborhood, by all means do what you’re doing as far as getting your kids to school. But, don’t yell at the teacher when they get a bad grade.

      And I never once mentioned laziness or Cheetos and soda. You did that all on your own.

      But Cheetos? Yum.

    2. Is it possible where you live to safely walk your children to the bus stop? That could be one more small step along the path of teaching self-reliance to one’s children. I greatly respect you teaching your children self-reliance.

      BTW, I once lived in a high crime-ridden area of Detroit. Yes, there were challenges, and I did have to keep my eyes open and wits about me. Maybe I understand at least part of what you face.

    3. I can understand keeping an eye out depending on the neighborhood, however, in general, most victims of violent crime (and this includes children, sadly) know their attackers, who are either family members, close friends, teachers, coaches, or even well-known community figures as we’ve seen in the Sandusky case.

  6. Wow. Alyssa, please take some courses in social discourse and learn how to think critically and respond appropriately. After your response here today, forget about my kid being your kid’s boss…YOU probably won’t even make it through the door with that kind of attitude and approach (because I can spot it a mile away). Evil HR Lady is not insisting or even suggesting that you send your children out into the world unprotected. She merely suggests that some parents take it over the top and shield their children from EVERYTHING, and that other countries take a different (and novel) approach to raising children. Shame on you for slapping a racial label on something that has N-O-T-H-I-N-G to do with race. You owe the Evil HR Lady an effuse apology.

    1. You’re very kind! It’s funny how defensive people get about their parenting decisions. My life has been a lot easier since I decided that if I felt defensive about my choices maybe I was making the wrong ones. When you’re confident that you’re doing the best you can in your circumstances, it doesn’t really matter what other people think.

      1. Which reminds me of a story. The Swiss believe that your neck must be kept warm or you will DIE A TERRIBLE DEATH!!!11!!!!!11! This is a very serious thing.

        So, I was on the tram with my sleeping 3 year old. It was probably 45 degrees out and he was wearing a coat but no scarf. An old lady sat next to me and started telling me that he was going to get sick and die and how horrible it was that he had no scarf on!

        I just said, “He’s fine.” She continued, detailing allt he horrible things that would happen because he wasn’t wearing a scar. “He’s fine,” I said, “he’s warm.”

        She reached over and touched his face and said in shocked tones, “He is warm!” then she paused and said, “My kids always sweated in the winter. Maybe they didn’t need scarves.”

        She had spent so much time worrying about what other people thought of her parenting choices that she had completely ignored the fact that her poor kids were over dressed!

        Every parent has different kids and different circumstances. Do what’s best for your kids.

  7. Actually, that wasn’t directed at Suzanne, it was at Anonymous and the gold digger who appear to be viewing America and Americans through a narrowly focused and myopic lens, whilst snugly insulated with a thick downy layer of smugness borne of privilege. It is easy to poke fun at America – it’s such a big target, with its wide, SUV-pampered behind! – and I am by no means particularly patriotic, but Anonymous & the gold digger seemed to be taking a rather cheap shot from expensive seats.

    1. I was Anonymous earlier (posted from different software), and I said nothing about fatness or SUVs (or Cheetos, which makes me sad now), so I think Suzanne’s earlier point that you’re fighting a fight that isn’t happening here is still true.

      However, I will more seriously add that the rise in driving kids to school in the US correlates to fear of crime rather than changes in actual crime in most locales, since crime has actually been dropping and was higher during the earlier era where walking was more countenanced. It’s a cultural shift that’s based on many complicated factors, including the cultural tendency to blame victims when anything goes wrong and to prioritize risk prevention of all kinds over gaining skills, as Suzanne says.

      I do agree that one style of culture doesn’t generally just relocate into another country without problems–you build infrastructure on the culture that you have, which then preserves it. But the notion that people are driving kids to school because otherwise the kids at serious criminal risk just isn’t borne out by the facts in most places.

      1. “…the rise in driving kids to school in the US correlates to fear of crime rather than changes in actual crime in most locales, since crime has actually been dropping and was higher during the earlier era where walking was more countenanced.”

        Hmmm. If crime was higher when people were walking, and is lower now that people are driving, I wonder if there is a correlation? Potential victims are less accessible in a car than when walking to and from school.

        1. That would make sense if only crime against children had dropped. Crime in all areas has dropped.

          1. Tell that to the parents of children who were snatched at their driveways, waiting for the school bus. You don’t hear much about it now, because parents wait with their kids until they’re safely on the school bus.

            1. But that’s like saying don’t let your kids outside because a couple have been struck by lightning. There are dangers in the world, everywhere; there always will be. You need to be able to calculate reasonable risks and balance them against the need for kids to not to grow up swaddled in padded protective gear at all times.

    2. Doesn’t really matter to whom it was directed. You were rude and, worse, your rudeness was based on your assumption that these individuals are white, live in prosperous circumstances, and don’t have to worry about the things you have to worry about. Unless you know them and their lives, that seems pretty narrowly focused and myopic on your part. Perhaps you would enjoy the exchange of ideas more if you found a blog that supports your views.

    3. Alyssa,

      I actually think it’s worse that you directed it at my commenters instead of me. My life is an open book and my picture is available so you know I’m white. My blog is honest about living in Switzerland and that I accompanied my husband here, so you know he’s got a pretty good job, so clearly I’m not close to poverty.

      However, my commenters haven’t made that knowledge about themselves available here. Gold digger has a blog, but I doubt you’ve read it before jumping to conclusions. Anon you couldn’t have possibly known anything about.

      And for the record, I spent my first 6 years in Jonesborough Arkansas, which isn’t exactly a high class place to live. Then I lived in downtown SLC, in a really bad area. We were eligible or free or reduced price lunches until I was 14.

      So, I was probably walking to school in a much higher crime rate area than many kids who are being driven live in now. I did get flashed twice while walking by myself. The second time (i was 14), I just laughed at the guy and said, “Really?” and kept walking.

  8. I absolutely loved this article — forwarded it to everyone I know. Today I saw a study about how the over-use of antibacterial products on kids (rubbing them down with Purel, etc.) has led to an increase in allergies among kids — the products, meant to protect them, are interfering with the development of their immune systems. Seems like a perfect parallel with this.

    1. Thank you! You’re so kind.

      And I think that’s a perfect parallel. We try so hard to protect against everything that we end up making it worse.

      1. I think we’re really not good at considering or emotionally understanding the risks of interventions, especially interventions we’re accustomed to. You can see that playing out now in the area of medical procedures, too, as some fields are cautiously admitting that there’s not sufficient benefit for most people to have quite a few common tests, and many people are furious at what they perceive as the threat of losing important health care.

        I’m no libertarian–I actually like many interventions, including regulations of many kinds–but I think we could do a better job of assessing the effects in both directions.

    2. Have you tried to find a hand soap that isn’t antibacterial? It’s nearly impossible!

      1. Kimberely, you made me LOL. Your point is so true! Whatever happened to plain old Lava soap? 🙂

  9. I was a Girl Scout as a kid. We had pocketknives, went camping, and cooked weenies, s’mores and barbecue chicken (among other things) over an (GASP!) open fire. It was FANTASTIC.

    Kids today are missing out on so much. I don’t have any, but if(whenpleaseGod) I do, I’d like to teach them to make a fire without any matches, let them get a bad grade if they don’t do their homework, and say “Yep, you can do extra chores to make it up” if they break something. And hopefully give them something I didn’t get: a really comprehensive financial education from the time they are little!

  10. There was a commenter on the CBS site who used the word “smug” to describe this article, and I completely agree.

    I live in a subdivision in a rural area, and it’s not dangerous for kids to walk to school, but in the cities where I used to live (in America, not Switzerland), that would border on child neglect because of dangers (insane traffic, no sidewalks, gangs on the prowl, pedophiles, dogs at large to name a few).

    Suzanne, you might be living in la-la land where everything is perfect and wonderful, but the rest of us are in the real world.

    You might think your child will be my child’s boss, or maybe your child will be terrified of average American children who grew up knowing a different set of survival rules.

    I really think you missed the mark with this one.

    1. Obviously there are neighborhoods where it wouldn’t make sense, but there are plenty where it’s perfectly safe — just as it has been for years — and kids still aren’t allowed to walk by themselves. I think that was what Suzanne was pointing out.

    2. With all due respect, you missed the whole point. If there are drug deals going on outside your front door it is not advisable to let your kid go out by himself. However, we’re smothering our children in our attempts to keep them safe.

      This is why I started with the saws. If Swiss 3 year olds are capable handling saws that means American 3 year olds are also capable of handling saws, but we’re so petrified that we don’t allow them.

      Don’t we want our children to live up to their potential? That means giving them the chance to make mistakes and even the chance to get injured from time to time. If we bubble wrap our kids and then suddenly let them free at 18, they won’t be prepared for adulthood.

  11. You’re kid is going to die a failure just like whoever wrote this [redacted] article.

    This is Suzanne–I don’t allow spam or bad words on my blog. You can feel free to criticize me all day long, but keep the bad language to yourself.

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