Anti-Fragility – How Lack of Exposure to Risk Can Cripple a Child

Parents are not to blame with Lenore Skenazy.

Hi everyone. In today’s episode, we are joined by Lenore Skenazy who wrote a book called Free-Range Kids and started a foundation called Let Grow. We discussed this very important concept of anti-fragility which essentially means if we don’t expose children to risk it actually can cripple their development. We got into some of the details in terms of the pros and the cons of sheltering children as well as some resources that are now available for parents, for teachers, for school districts, to start moving back to an older, ’70s and ’80s way of approaching children’s responsibility and safety. We also discussed a kind of re-finding of the balance that may have been lost, very much akin to the way we have reduced exposure to dirt and germs which has also been a problem for our immune systems.

If we don't expose children to risk it can cripple their development. In this episode we discuss parenting, the rise in anxious and depressed kids and what parents can do. Click To Tweet

And we do draw that parallel in this episode, that lack of exposure is harmful. If you want to learn more about that concept specifically, in terms of how early-life exposure to, in this case, dirt and germs and bacteria is not healthy for the child’s development of their immune system and their gut, I’ll refer you to Healthy Gut, Healthy You where there’s a whole section about early-life childhood developmental factors as they pertain to the gut and the immune system.

[Continue reading below]

In This Episode

Episode Intro … 00:00:40
A Culture of Helicopter Parenting … 00:04:20
What are We Getting Wrong as A Culture … 00:15:13
Programs for Schools and Parents … 00:21:49
Episode Wrap-Up … 00:31:00

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Now, today with Lenore, we discuss more environmental and societal type factors, so the amount of free time you have, the amount of oversight that you have, the amount of risks you are allowed to take as a child, and how those can lead to a paralleled lack of development of the psyche and the responsibility and such with children. A very important topic that literally impacts the direction our society goes. Because the healthier the minds and the psyches of children are and the higher the confidence of children, those children grow up to be adults, and those adults help steer our culture and our society. So a very important topic and a great conversation with Lenore Skenazy.


Episode Intro

Hi everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Dr. Ruscio Radio. Today I am here with Lenore Skenazy, who is president of Let Grow, and we are going to be discussing how to raise healthy children and this concept of what’s known as anti-fragility, meaning that, using the bones example, your bones would be weak unless they have pressure against them. And there seems to be the same sort of operation with children, that they need to have stress and dependence problems in order to grow and to get healthier. This is a topic I’m so excited about. I’m passionate about it and I’m really honored and appreciative to have you here to discuss this topic with us, Lenore. So welcome to the show.

Lenore Skenazy:         Well thank you doc. Thanks.

DrMR:  Give us a little bit about your backstory. There’s kind of a cool way that you came on the map here, so let’s go over that.

LS:       That’s fine. We’ll go over that, and then I can’t wait to talk about anti-fragility. It’s a word that most people don’t know yet, and I think it’s really a helpful concept. But for me, I’m a newspaper columnist by trade. Many years back, about 12 years ago, I let my nine-year-old ride the subway by himself here in New York City, because he’d been asking me and my husband if we’d take him someplace he’d never been before and let him find his own way home, and we decided, okay, that was a reasonable request. So I did that and he came home safe and sound and extremely happy and I wrote a column “Why I Let My Nine Year Old Ride The Subway Alone.” and two days later I was on The Today Show, MSNBC, Fox News and NPR. This is an issue that seems to go across a lot of borders.

I appeared on Fox News, and I had to defend myself. I got the nickname “America’s Worst Mom,” which now I wear proudly, but it was a little weird at the time. So I started a blog that weekend and I called it Free-Range Kids and I said. A blog, at least you get to defend yourself. I was like, I love safety. I love helmets and mouth guards and seat belts and anti-smoking campaigns. I think I’m actually a pretty nervous mom. I just trusted my kid in the world, but it’s in a world that I know is safer than when I was growing up, or at a 50-year crime low. I live in New York City.

It’s filled with people, which I think gives us safety in numbers and we take the subways all the time, so it didn’t seem like a strange or novel or weird or scary place for our son to be.

So from starting the Free-Range Kids blog, then it sort of grew into a movement, and then a book as you said. And then a few years ago, somebody I know we both love, Jonathan Height, who wrote The Coddling of the American Mind and a couple of others came to me and said, “Let’s start a nonprofit because we really are worried about what seems to be the fragility of kids today.” It’s not just that middle-age thing where everybody thinks that “Kids, they have no gumption.” There’s statistical evidence and it’s sad that kids are more anxious and more depressed and to a certain extent, this isn’t statistical, but possibly more passive then they’ve been in not only previous generations, but this has been spiking in the last 10 or 15 years.

How do we give kids back the wherewithal to roll with some punches and to make things happen and to feel kind of confident and happy? Not the self-esteem thing. Not the I’m great because I’m me, but just the I’m great because I built a tree fort, I’m great because I got home even after my bike broke. I’m great because you know I got my friends to organize a game and it was really fun. Just giving kids back some of the independence that they need to know that they can handle things and it’s going to be okay.

DrMR:  And that really ties in nicely with the concept of anti-fragility. It really provides such an easy and nice-

LS:       It’s a perfect analogy, yeah.


A Culture of Helicopter Parenting

Key Takeaways

[Back to Top]

  • Kidnappings are extraordinarily rare
  • The culture today is that parents can’t let their kids out of their sight
  • This is causing kids today to be way more fragile and unable to cope
    • Therefore causing a rise in anxiety, depression, and suicide

DrMR:  So for our audience can also restate that as the immune system. We know that-

LS:       That’s what I was going to say. What about the gut? Come on.

DrMR:  Exactly. So lack of the things that we thought were bad bacteria actually cripples the immune system, and the same thing seems to happen sadly with children. One of the understandable concerns that parents have is, “Will my child get hurt, or will my child get abducted?” I think that’s the thing that scares patients the most. That scares parents the most is not maybe necessarily falling down or scraping an elbow or what have you, but will my kid go missing one day? Which is an absolutely understandable concern, but I believe that some of the fear there doesn’t really match what the stats tell us. I’m not sure how deep you get into that specifically, but can you tell us more about that?

LS:       Oh, believe me, I’ve got a lot of… Yeah. I have a lot of stats and they are very much on the side of recognizing that we live in pretty safe times. I’ll talk about them, but afterward we’ll talk about how statistics don’t move the needle. Here’s my favorite statistic, which is if for some bizarre reason you wanted your child to be stereotypically kidnapped, that is kidnapped and held overnight by a stranger, how long would you have to keep them outside, unsupervised, let’s say on the corner, for this to be statistically likely to happen? How long would you have to keep your kid outside by themselves before they would be likely to be kidnapped? It’s sort of like how many lottery tickets you’d have to buy before you would win the lottery. But how long?

DrMR:  Maybe 10 hours?

LS:       No, no, no. You have to think way longer. If you’re thinking that in 10 hours is all it takes for your kid to be kidnapped and not seen again, that’s a really scary proposition.

DrMR:  So I am not a parent, but in talking with some parents, their leash seems to be if they don’t hear from their kid or even being unwilling to let their kid out of their sight for a period of time, there’s just this fear around the corner.

LS:       Some fear is good. But here, I’ll tell you the actual statistic, which was crunched for me by a guy in England named Warwick Karens who wrote a book about this stuff. Anyways, the answer is 750 thousand years, which I recognize is a kind of gigantic number and it sounds ridiculous, but that’s because it is. The crime that we’re the most afraid of is the crime that is, thank God, extraordinarily, extraordinarily rare. And I just heard a phrase the other day that I don’t know if it will hit anybody as deeply as it hit me, but the phrase was, what if, and I’m looking at my notes now because I just wrote it down. It’s like what if keeping kids safe is the thing that’s the most dangerous? In fearing this extraordinarily unlikely movie scenario worst-case event, we keep our kids inside and they’re getting depressed. They’re getting anxious, the rates of self-harm are going up, the rates of hospitalization for young people, I hate even saying this, it makes me sick so I’m going to say it really fast, committing suicide is going up.

It’s not like I blame parents either way. I think the parents are afraid because we’ve all been told to be afraid. My mom let me walk to school back in the days when nobody was saying, “Are you crazy? What if they’re kidnapped?” I feel like parents are whipsawed by just the scariest stories, the scariest movies, people going on Facebook saying “I was almost sex-trafficked last night.” And nobody has the record. I talked to the head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center. No child has been taken from a parent in a public place and sex trafficked as far as he knows, and this is all he studies. But it is so scary that we think that we have to be with our kids all the time, which means that we have to drive them and watch them and play with them and stay with them. I think anybody who’s over 35 remembers a childhood that was very different from that that they cherished because when they were playing with their friends, they were making up games, they were running through the forest, they were on their own, and that’s when they became the people they are. They got the confidence and the friendship and the resourcefulness that we are taking away from our kids because our culture is scaring us so much.

DrMR:  To draw maybe a line of observation here that may motivate parents and really show how if we don’t do this the right way, the ramifications can be fairly high, one of the things Jonathan Height discusses in some of his lectures is the reason why we may have this college outrage culture where it seems like boy, there’s some crazy stuff going on college campuses as they… Not to paint everyone with a broad brush, but it does seem that they’re a much more tumultuous place today than they were when I was in college.

He parallels today’s current generation of college student was right about when parents stopped letting their kids have the same degree of freedom. Parents were much more prone to be helicopter-like and mediate disagreements and provide all the rules, and children were really sheltered from any type of noxious social situation.

Now fast forward into young adulthood, and there seems to be a real inability to live in the world without trying to pull in the college administrators or the government to essentially shut down or censor people with which they don’t agree. These are the stakes of the game that we’re playing here. If this is not handled appropriately, that is bringing up children. We could really be steering society right off the edge of a cliff.

LS:       Yeah. Here’s what I hear. On campus, a big problem is anxiety and the sort of inability to cope. That’s something that nobody wants their kids to go through. Gosh, there was something that we were just saying. We’re talking about whether kids go… Oh yeah. So I just don’t want to blame parents because I feel like first of all, if all parents across America feel like they can’t let their kids out of their sight and that it’s best to “helicopter” or whatever you want to call it, that’s because of a culture… If it was me being crazy overprotective mom, okay that’s weird of me. But if everybody feels like they can’t let their kids out of their sight, it must be a culture that is telling them that their kids are in constant danger.

I feel bad for parents who are told you need this product, you need to track your kids, you need to put your kids in an afterschool program so you know where they are and you know that they’re okay, and then you have to have everybody background checked so you know that the people that they’re with are okay. There’s almost nothing that kids are allowed to do that somebody hasn’t come up with a reason that it’s too scary and parents better be involved and double-check and pay a lot of money and read all about it. This is not just that the parents are fruitcakes. It’s that the parents have been told this by the culture. John and I wrote a piece for Reason Magazine, John Height and I, called The Fragile Generation, and it starts out with a quote from Parents Magazine, which is the Bible of the parenting world. It was called “The Play Date Playbook” in Parents.

It was a bunch of questions and answers. One of the questions was if your child is old enough to stay home by herself now and often does, but now she has a play date over, can you still run to the dry cleaner? Parents Magazine said absolutely not. What if there’s a squabble? You want to be there to be able to jump in before anyone’s feelings get too hurt. To me, that’s an artifact. That’s like the Rosetta stone for our culture because here we had the experts in parenting telling us that our kids can’t even handle a spat and that it is our job as parents to watch them all the time, constantly taking their emotional temperature, always jumping in if somebody’s feelings could get hurt on the assumption that it’s so traumatic that they won’t recover. That the friendship will fray, that the kids will be distraught, that they may not be able to handle it.

So what we’ve been told is that our kids are so vulnerable, whether it’s a kidnapping or an argument with a friend and the gamut in between. Not getting a trophy, being frustrated at school, not getting invited to a birthday party. All of this has been rewritten as it’s going to happen to your kid unless you are watching. And if you aren’t watching and jumping in, you’re expecting too much of your kid and they will be hurt physically, emotionally, psychologically, you name it, and it will all be your fault. So with that mandate, poor parents, they’re stuck hovering. Who wouldn’t hover if Parents Magazine is saying the minute your kid is in an argument with a friend, all bets are off, her psychological health is on the line and you better be there to help her survive?

DrMR:  I agree. I certainly think that it’s not the parents acting out of sync with the culture. It’s where the culture is going and this is becoming the new norm. So yes, I think this is something that we all need to better understand and all act individually to hope sway the culture in a better direction. And this begs an important question. I’ll be at a big question. What are we getting wrong as a culture? Obviously we are trying to do the right thing but-


What are We Getting Wrong as a Culture

Key Takeaways

[Back to Top]

  • Where the parenting culture gets it wrong is …Risk
  • The risk for child abduction or something terrible happening is not nearly as high as we think
  • The Crimes Against Children Research Center reports that an estimated 105 children were victims of kidnapping in 2011

LS: We get risk wrong. We get risks so totally wrong. A couple of months ago, maybe two months ago, there was a case in New Jersey where a girl had fallen off of a slide on the playground at a kindergarten and the parents sued because she broke her arm for $170 thousand and they got it. The reason that they won ostensibly was that their lawyer had argued that the slide had been at a 35-degree angle, whereas it should have been at a 30-degree angle. It’s like, gee, has a child ever slid down anything other than the absolutely perfect incline with the absolutely perfect pushy mulch underneath. Are there any hills that might be a little steeper? Are there any, I don’t know, playhouse roofs that they might have jumped off of?

If you have a society that thinks that a 35-degree angle is sue worthy, lawsuit worthy, we are getting risk wrong. We think that we can and must create a world where there is zero risk of anybody getting hurt in any way, from a scrape to a frown, and a jury decision… Actually, I don’t know if it was a jury or a judge, but a lawsuit like that where the school loses is this giant chilling effect to everyone, who thinks, “Oh my God, is anything safe enough?” This was not a kid who was jumping off the roof of the school and nobody’s saying stop doing it. They were sliding down a slide that all the other kids had slid down, but this kid happened to fall off, and suddenly instead of being thought of as an anomalous accident, the world isn’t perfect, we can’t expect it to be, it was something that someone should have done something about. And we are stuck being the parents, thinking, “We better do something about X or Y, because Parents Magazine is telling us our kids can’t stand a fight, and the judicial system is telling us our kids can’t handle a slight incline.”

LS:       It’s this weird culture that thinks that only perfection and zero risk is safe enough for kids, but as we started out this discussion, bones that don’t have any resistance against them, an intestinal system that is never exposed to any kind of germs, those do not develop resourcefulness. They don’t develop strength, and that’s what we’re taking away from our kids, is any chance to develop strength.

Not that I think they should be sent through traumatic events, but when we reduced all normal interactions or frustrations to trauma, we call them all traumatic, then we’re giving kids this bubble-like experience that is not doing them any favors.

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DrMR:  It’s funny to ponder that by attempting to reduce risk now, we increase risk later, most namely of depression and anxiety. I think it’s maybe helpful also for parents to reframe it as such. When you feel that knee jerk reaction to want to protect your child in the moment, understand that, loosely said, the more you do that now, the more you run the risk of other problems later, and what’s the best kind of pro/con analysis here and how do we weigh that?

LS:       Right. The other thing is, getting back to not wanting to feel like parents are ruining their kids, I feel it’s a society thing. It’s not the parents. The parents are stuck listening. The schools are afraid of being sued and so they don’t let children go home on their own and the parents are afraid of being shamed, so they wait at the bus stop with their kid. It is not an individual parents’ problem, and we started Let Grow because we felt like the only way to change society is to do it wholesale because you can’t be the only parent who sends your kid to the park. The kid will come right home. There’s nothing to do, it’s boring, and you don’t want your neighbors saying, “Why’d you let her play outside?” At Let Grow, we’re really trying to make it easy, normal, and legal to give your kids some independence, and whenever you want, I will tell you a couple of our programs that we’re doing that are free in schools that we think are really going to change things.

DrMR:  I’d love to hear more about those. I have one quick question first, which is coming back to the whole child abduction issue, I know there was something that tipped off parents to heighten their concerns here. And I’m wondering, are the stats here, are they improving over time in terms of child abduction?

LS:       First of all, child abduction is so rare that the numbers don’t go up or down a lot, sort of death by lightning. It’s just it’s the rarest, it’s unpredictable. But I do have the most recent numbers, which were from the Crimes Against Children Research Center, which deals with the Department of Justice and which is the government, federal government. 2011, the most recent year there were I think 105 stranger kidnappings. It was 80 or 90%, 90% of them end up home again, not murdered. We think of these as just a kid snatched off the street when they’re walking to and from school, but in fact, 30% of these very few, thank God, stranger abductions were kids who the parents didn’t even know they were gone.

So you’re talking about kids who are living in a very distressed situation to begin with, with a family structure that isn’t working. It’s just the idea that strangers in vans are driving up and down the streets of suburbia snatching any kid they see on a bike. It’s the law and order SVU picture, but it’s reality.

DrMR:  So we’ve identified the problems and maybe shown some of what we should not do, but it’s more challenging of course to rectify the situation, which is why I think it’s awesome you’re putting together programs. Tell us more about this.


Programs for Schools and Parents

Key Takeaways

[Back to Top]

  • Try making a list of all the things your kid can try to do on their own
    • That way you both agree to it and get to achieve satisfaction together
  • The more children are able to do on their own, the more trusted they feel
  • The more confident kids feel, the less anxious they become as they walk through life

LS: Yeah, all right. So for 10 years, it was just me doing Free-Range Kids and I would talk about it and I would give these statistics and people would be interested and remember their own childhoods and then they would go to their homes and nothing would change because as I was saying, it’s hard to be the only person or to think like, “Boy, am I being risky or crazy, I’m going to let my kid wait at the bus stop.” So Let Grow was created with the idea of not just changing minds but changing behaviors. I’d say the easiest program that we have is one that we do through the schools, and it’s called the Let Grow Project. And if you go to letgrow.org and you look at schools, there it is. Like I said, all our materials are free, because we’re a nonprofit.

So the project is this. Teachers give the kids a homework assignment and that assignment is to go home and do one thing on their own without their parents. It can be walk the dog, mow the lawn, make dinner, run an errand, climb a tree. Just something where they go home with this whole big list and they can add anything they want to the list and they sit down with their parents and together with the parents they decide what it’ll be. But it has to be something. Sometimes it’s within the house. Sometimes it’s making pancakes or whatever. But as the kids do these projects throughout the year, whether they do one, five, some people do 20, the parents vision of their kids changes, because when the kid has said “All right, I’m going to go to the store and I’m going to come back with the bread,” and the mother is fretting and the dad is sitting there and they’re anxious for a while. I’m actually clenching my hands as I say this, because I know that feeling.

It is a nerve-wracking feeling. But then the kid comes through the door and they are so proud and they got the bread. Okay, let’s eat the bread for dinner. The parents see the kid as somebody different. They see them as blossoming, and it is only that feeling when their fear gets replaced by pride and joy in raising this competent, confident, radiant kid. That’s the only thing that breaks the fear. So you almost have to have the experience before you’re willing to have the experience again. Just talking about, “Hey, this is great,” does so little. But when a whole class or a whole school or a whole district is doing this, it is remarkably transformative. As a matter of fact, I’m going to look for this nice note that we got in our inbox today. Hang on a sec. Oh my goodness. We’re-

DrMR:  While you’re looking for that, this has to feel so good to the kids too. Because the kids seem to want to be responsible.

LS:       Oh yeah. Oh yeah. So here’s the thing. When you’re a kid, kids are hard-wired to want to do things on their own. As soon as they crawl, they start crawling away from us. They look back, were there, and they smile and then they crawl a little more. Kids need us. It’s not like they try to leave us for good. But the whole idea is that kids need roots and wings, and we’ve been very good giving them the roots but we’re not giving them the wings.

When your kid feels like you don’t trust them to do anything in the real world because you’re so scared for them, they know that you love them, but they don’t get the idea that you believe in that.

“Oh I sure believe in you. I just don’t believe in all the cars out there and all the people out there and all the stuff out there.” Well if you don’t believe in me doing anything out there, you don’t believe in me because somehow you dealt with walking to school and passing a mean dog and getting lost but you don’t think I can.

It’s really important that kids have someone that believes in them, and it’s particularly great if the person who believes in them is their parent. The only way you can prove it is by saying, “Look, I’m going to teach you how to cross the street safely. Let’s try it a couple of times. Let me make sure you look both ways. Okay, could you go now? Is this a good time? Okay, now I’m going to let you do it.” And you watch, and then you have to step back and let them do it. Otherwise, you’re saying, “I’m the only one who knows how to do this. You’re just not competent enough. You’re just not ready for it.” When a school assignment is, “Okay, you finally got to give your kid a little independence,” and you do it because all the other parents are doing it too, it just makes it so easy.

Once it’s easy and normal, the kids get this ability again to have some control over part of their life, some moments that are not under direct surveillance and supervision and instruction from an adult. Kids need that, and it’s very hard to give them that in this fearful society, so you have to do it as a group, and that’s why we do this through schools, the Let Grow project.

DrMR:  I love that. If someone can just go there, and I’m assuming there’s information on how they could present this to their teacher or the staff at the school?

LS:       You bet. Yeah, it is. It’s all there. There’s a list of projects for the kids, there’s a letter to send home to the parents. It’s just, like I said, free. So now I’m just looking for this one quote from this wonderful lady that I can’t… Nothing’s working. I’ll just tell you what she said. She said… Now it sounds like I’m bragging because I’m just trying to quote it.

DrMR:  Or you can paraphrase. That’s okay. We’ll take your word for it.

LS:       Okay. She said she was so grateful for the project because it helped her feel less anxious, which allowed her to give her son some freedom, and then when he started doing things, she was so proud of him that it got her less anxious and him less anxious and let him do more things. She said, “It’s not only letting him grow, but it’s also letting me grow.” It’s the simplest idea. It wasn’t even my idea. It was a sixth-grade teacher here in New York City who came up with the project and I just stole it from her. And she’s happy about that.

But the point is that it’s just renormalizing something that most of us took for granted as kids, which is that of course we were going to have some free time to make some stuff happen with our friends.

DrMR:  Right. I love it. I love it. I would highly, highly encourage any parents or soon to be parents out there to head over to Let Grow because yes, this seems like it’s going to change on the community level and as a grassroots movement. What better objective to set for the heads of family and for the kids than trying to reestablish some of these things, like you said Lenore, that we took for granted as kids, but unfortunately now we’re kind of the rarity. We’ve got to do some work to get those back into the norms.

LS:       I wanted to put in a plug too. It doesn’t mean that the only way to do this is through schools, because at Let Grow, what we have is we have a blog with a lot of articles by regular old parents saying, “Here’s how I got my kid brave enough to go on a sleepover, and here’s what I did when my kid’s school got rid of recess and here’s what I did when my kids at a grocery and how I got brave enough to send them two aisles over to go looking for the corn,” or whatever. We also have a Facebook page, which for SEO search engine reasons is called No More Helicopter Parenting, even though I don’t like blaming parents. What’s nice about that is that there is a page where we’re a community, and if you say, “I want to let my four-year-old play on the front lawn, is that crazy?” people won’t immediately jump on you and say, “Yes it is and I’m going to report you.”

It’ll be like, “I was going to wait until five,” or “How about the backyard?” Or, “That’s fine. Just have a couple of kids together and give them the ground rules.” It’s just a place where you can relax a little. It’s still the internet, so not everybody is totally lovely, but most people are because we’re just trying to figure this out together. People ask, “My seven year old won’t get off the couch. What should I do? I want him to play. I think it’s good to play. What do I do?” At least there’s a group of people virtually, if not in your town already, who are doing these things. And then in your town, there are so many people who feel like they’re being judged for being bad parents because they want their kids to play outside or they let their kid walk to the store or whatever.

Talk to these other people, talk to your friends, and you will find allies and you can get together. I always thought like a work date, playdate is a good idea. I’m always working on my computer, why don’t I get together with a friend who’s also doing her work from home and send the kids into the backyard? Why not try that? That way the kids are playing and you’re getting your work done. Everybody’s a little less lonely. So there are a lot of different ways that you can give your kid little increments of independence, and they will grow braver and so will you.


Episode Wrap-Up

Key Takeaways

[Back to Top]

  • Give kids free time to play!

Where to learn more

DrMR:  I love it. Lenore, I really appreciate the work that you’re doing, and we’ll make sure to link to letgrow.org and also your book Free-Range Kids and the Facebook page. Is there anything else that you want to make people aware of?

LS:       I didn’t put in a big word and I would like to for free play, because we keep talking about independence, but actually giving your kids time to play turns out to be… By play, I don’t mean just… Afterschool sports and activities are great, but those are generally run by an adult. So in addition to those, if you can give them some time when they’re in the basement or the backyard or the park and they have to figure out what to do and the rules, and there’s a couple of kids at different ages together. That’s just great on every level. Kids learn to communicate and compromise and come up with ideas. They learn leadership, they learn democracy, they’re going to vote. Is this the board? “Should we all be dogs or should only you a dog?” Focus is learned because you’re trying to make something happen and it’s really exciting and interesting. If you can give your kids some free time for free play with other kids of all different ages, I think that’s a great thing too.

DrMR:  Yeah, I love that point that I’ve heard you make, and I’m wondering, because one of the questions when I was discussing with my brother who has kids, he said, “How old is old enough and how old is too young?” I know there’s maybe not a one size fits all answer there, but do you have some general guidelines?

LS:       I generally suggest that you look back on your own childhood and try to remember what you liked doing. I was five years younger than my sister, so I was tagging along with her when I must’ve been like four and five, and she was a cool nine and 10 year old. So just think back on your own childhood and if your parents loved you and let you do things on your own with other kids, you can do the same with yours.

DrMR:  Awesome. Love it. Yeah, that’s a great point also. I’m glad you mentioned that. Anything else you want to mention before we move to a close?

LS:       No. I’m glad for the chance to talk, and I know I rattle on sometimes. The thing I just want to stress is that I am a parent and I feel bad for all of us because somehow in this era when more children will live to adulthood than any time in human history, we are more afraid than in many times in human history. I blame the media, I blame the marketplace, I blame lawyers, I blame a lot of people, but I don’t blame parents because we are buffeted by those fears.

DrMR:  Right. No, I love it. And we’re all in this together trying to write some of the community norms that are maybe a bit off the mark. I think that was understanding and then having some resources like you’ve provided. And I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that, okay, we’ve figured out many things are not good practices through some time observation and then conversations like these help us to identify, okay we’ve now got to change some of what we’re doing and forge a different path forward. Again, I love the work that you’re doing because I think it gives people a place to aggregate and to discuss and to have resources to make this easier. I’m sure as parents, there’s a lot going on. We don’t have a bunch of free time where you’re just sitting on your phone.

LS:       Right. Nobody does. Nobody has any time. Oh, I did want to say one other thing, which is that Utah in 2018 passed a law they call the Free-Range Parenting Law, and it makes sure that letting your kids, play outside, come home with a latch key, God, I can’t remember, walk to school, wait briefly in a car under some circumstances, that these are not mistaken for neglect, and other states are considering a law like that now. There’s Colorado, Delaware, South Carolina, Texas, a bunch of other states. If you’re interested in bringing a law like that to the attention of your state representative or senator, if you go to Let Grow and you click on Free-Range Law at the bottom, there’s just a whole passel of information and even the laws written out that you can send to somebody and say, “Hey, let’s consider this.”

DrMR:  So you have been a busy bee over there really.

LS:       Sometimes I feel like nothing and sometimes I feel busy. Today’s a busy day.

DrMR:  Awesome. Well, Lenore, it’s been a pleasure chatting. Thank you so much again for taking the time.

LS:       Oh, thank you Doc. Thanks.

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