Giving my child freedom

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BigDogsWang | 17:31 Tue 07th Mar 2006 | Parenting
13 Answers

We live in quite a sleepy Market Town in Bedfordshire (Shefford), on a fairly new estate. At the bottom of our road (approx 2 minute walk) is an enclosed park with swings, see-saws, slides, etc, which on nice days is fairly busy with children of all ages. He has to cross one road on his way, which is a small cul-de-sac, so isn't exactly busy. We allow him to walk down there on his own and spend an hour or so playing with other kids.

A lot of our friends who have similar aged children say they would never allow their child to do the same. My parents in particular are very concerned, and we often argue about the fact that as a child in the 70's, there wasn't a day went by when I wasn't out and about. All I ever hear from my friends and parents is "ohhh, he might get run over, people drive around so fast these days", and the one which really gets my back up is "ohhh, there's too many pedophiles around just waiting to snatch children".

My argument is nowadays children are probably safer than they've ever been, and people are being brainwashed by media hysteria (which frankly is the only way they feel they can sell their newspapers).
If I don't give him his own freedom, how will he cope with life with regards to socialising, and making his own judgments? What else do I do, let him stay cooped up in the house, without exercise, just watching TV and playing the Playstation all day?

By the way, he is our only child.

Thoughts / advice please?


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Sorry, I forgot to mention he is 7, and will be 8 in May.
Yes, I agree with you wholeheartedly.I've always afforded my children more freedoms than most of our friends were comfortable with and have endured critisisms for behaviour very similar to yours.I especially dislike the implciation by some that I'm "not bothered2 byt the thought of them being hit by a car or abducted by a paedophile.Both of these things concern me very much and I have done my utmost to make them as aware of the dangers as possible, but I refuse to ruin their childhood with bogeymen that are no more pervalent than when I was a kid. there is a hysteria about paedophiles, whipped up by the media because they are good for almost universal loathing and fear and

whoops pressed th worng button:)

are guaranteed to sell their papers. Your child is very very very unlikely to meet it's death at the hands of a child molesting stranger it doesn't know. It's more likely to die of cancer because it's aspartame intake is too high, or break it's neck in an accident when it falls off it's bike, having NOT been hit by a car, but peadophiles are all of our worst nightmare so we allow their threat to grow in our heads until we are too terrified to allow our kids to be kids.I worry endlessly like everyone else, but somehow I feel I'm doing the right thing in letting them have their freedom to play and be children, as they'll be so dysfunctional as adults if they live in the insular confines of their bedrooms.

Question Author

Spot on. I would also like to add (before anyone comments), that it is not lazy parenting. We often take him (at the weekends) Bowling or to the pictures. And during the week my wife takes him to play football on Tuesday evenings, and Karate lessons.

I want to build his character as much as possible. He will thank us for it later in life.

I think you are being very sensible BDW. Assuming (and I don't mean to offend here) that you have explained the dangers in crossing the road etc.

My own children were always given similar freedom and the worst that happened was a broken collar bone - they will climb trees even if you tell then not to!

i wouldn't let my 8 year old boy walk to the park by himself to a place where I couldn't see him. i do however let him play out the front by himself and there is a park directly opposite my house on the green where I can see him. i don't know why, but it makes me feel more secure to be able to pop out and check on him periodically, not like every few minutes of anything.

I understand where you're coming from, but I guess we just all parent in different ways. I am not yet comfortable enough to allow him to go anywhere out of sight of the house yet. He also does several different clubs through the week, so i don't think he is missing out.

btw, does your son have a phone? If he doesn't, you could always get him a PAYG sim and that way he could txt you when he arrives and just before he leaves. It might be a compromise between you and your family who worry terribly, they might feel happier knowing he is still contactable and can contact you if he gets scared or worried about anything.

just a thought.

but if he had a mobile phone then he might get mugged or something...

I think if he is a sensible kid, knows about stranger danger and and how to cross the road safely, he will be fine. No more likely to get in trouble than an older child or adult. A child is more likely to be abused by a member of his family than a complete stranger - obviously it is only the latter that make the papers. He will definitely thank you for it. Much better for him to be active, independent and out with his friends, especially since he's an only child. You know your child better than anyone, so don't let anyone else's criticisms get you down.

I agree with what most of the posts have already said, he is old enough to go a short distance from the house, I have brought up 5 children who were allowed a little freedom at that age, I never expected older ones to look after younger ones. I did find though that older kids at the park tended to keep an eye out for younger children and if one hurt themself another child would come and get me or bring my child back to me, without me even asking them to.

There was a survey done a few years ago which said our children are in no more danger than we were at their age, things get reported more which makes more headlines and so everyone gets worked up.

I know you are all going to come back at me on this but no way would I let a 7 year old off on his own especially to a park.I would go wih him so he is still getting play time.What are you saying nothing will happen to your child the saying is (never thought it would happen in our village.)What about that poor girl of 11 that was raped in the supermarket and her mother was probably within shouting distance and more people about too.I have had my say on this and I am not going to enter into any argumental discussions as this is how I feel about it.

Question Author

Thank you for your point wendilla. No, I do not want to enter into any arguments either. This is after all the Answerbank, not the Arguebank!

I do believe however that you may be a victim of 'Daily Mail-ism'. Were the media to be believed, it is not safe to set foot outside your front door! Granted, what happened to the young girl was dreadful, but you have to put things into perspective. There are 60 million people in the United Kingdom. The young girl's mother was probably more likely to win the National Lottery than have her daughter raped by some scumbag in a toilet. This will come as no comfort to the young girl and her family, but if the rest of the general public hide away in fear because of incidents like this, we will end up with a country full of insecure, cotton wool wrapped, indecisive, nervous, timid, unsociable children who will grow up without being able to make their own way in life.

Did you not have any kind of freedom when you were young? Hand on heart, none at all?

At what age do you suggest we let our children be allowed to grow up? It is a tough world, and if kids don't learn to be streetwise, problems will arise in their adult lives.

There are NOT nonces and rapists hanging out on every street corner.

l understand your dilema but it sounds as if you're dismissing these very real concerns as' that sort of thing happens to other people but us'. l agree with you that in the old days it seemed quite safe for kids to play out and wander all over the place doing what ever and came home safe and sound, but times have changed, l think you would be wise to think about how much freedom you allow your child especially at the age of 7. do you really think he would be capable of fending off an adult who has the intention of doing him harm.

I do understand your dilemma and feel that media paranoia about risks has had a huge impact on the amount of freedom which parents feel they can safely allow their children. Eight is a little young, but I guess a lot depends on the confidence of your child and how mature he is for his age.

If you do decide to let your son have this freedom, first buy him a personal safety alarm, make sure he knows how to use it and that he always wears clothing with a pocket in which it can be stored.

Without frightening him, try some possible "situation role plays" with him and if possible, include some of his little friends in these, so that he and they will have the knowledge to know how to deal with something if it arises.

Read quite a lot of the answers posted to this question, i am in two minds though, i had the run of my village when i was a kid and was sexually abused by 2 different males , one male was a friends father, another a male who lived at the end of the street. I didnt realise that this was what it was until i was about 14 or 15. I never told anyone until a reunion about 10 years ago and i heard another female mention something, i actually thought i had dreamt it all, we spoke and it had happened to her as well. I have a son now aged 11 and he knows all the ins and outs of sexual abuse, he has known for about 2 years of what adults are capable of, no matter whether he knows them of not, i went through a rough patch when i kept thinking that i was being over protective and i should not really make him aware of these animals who are out there in our streets. Let me also state here and now that i work in a service where databases are kept on these individuals and if you think that it is hype and scaremongering, please think again, there are far more sexual abusers out there than you think.. My kid never went out of my sight for any more than an hour without a phone call to me, or me knowing exactly where he was, if the hour went by i went looking.. He didnt go past an hour or else he knew that he would upset me. I am not trying to sound patronising, but you will never forgive yourself if anything happens.. Your choice, your consequences.

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