Lori Loughlin is, of course, the poster girl du jour for “bulldozer” (aka “snowplow”) parenting, where mom and/or dad simply annihilate all obstacles in the child’s path. We can all agree disaster that way lies; for both parent and child. Even if no legal lines are crossed – or you are at least not caught crossing them – the emotional and psychological damage can be deep and permanent.

So we move across the spectrum to “helicopter” parenting; i.e. structuring almost every moment of a child’s life with efficiency in high regard. Asian “Tiger Moms” are the premier stereotype for this category. We understand and empathize with their motivation; they see the world as a cutthroat, competitive arena into which they must launch their child, and they are not entirely mistaken. Many of these parents (or their parents) came from cultures where children are ruthlessly “tracked” almost from birth. The drawback here is that the child will tend to think and operate along well-worn “tracks.” The peculiarly American pioneer spirit to “improvise, adapt and overcome” tends to be stifled. And, it must be said, children (especially boys) are much like puppies. A lack of unstructured play time can force redirected mischief in all sorts of unwanted directions; or result in the dangerous repression of such energy.

That leaves us with “free range” parenting. For a quick tutorial, go here. Upon this subject I can speak personally, having been raised on the far side of it. (I once described my upbringing to a friend, and he jokingly asked if I was feral.) I was raised on a crops farm, situated upon a few dozen acres of upland surrounded by swamp (yes, I’m an authentic “Swamp Yankee”) in a little New England town that made Andy Griffith’s Mayberry look like Manhattan. My mother died when I was two, and I couldn’t help thinking that when my father looked at me, the old Marine saw her. He could hardly raise his voice to me, let alone lay a hand on me (and this was back in the day when most children were spanked). When I was twelve he built a little cabin for me and my friends in the woods behind the farm, and told me later it was so I could grow up carefree. Whenever I see this scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade I tear up a bit – that’s the view my dad took.

Yet in that little town I could not get away with much. Everyone knew my dad (he was a Selectman – which also made him one of the police commissioners – convenient that…) and if any of the townsfolk espied dangerous or destructive shenanigans it was sure to get back to him. So as long as I kept my grades up, and our only full-time cop – Hubie – didn’t have to stop by to have a chat with dad too often on my account, I was free to come and go as I pleased.

Would I advise parents today to take such a laissez faire approach to parenting? Not to that degree, unless you can reconstruct such a time and place. Hillary Clinton was right about one thing; “it takes a village” to raise a child – not a giant federal leviathan, but an actual organic village – if childhood is to be in any sense idyllic. So the first task is to build up actual neighborhoods. Go outside, pushing your kids out ahead of  you, and leave the electronics inside. Let them get their fair share of bumps and bruises.  Get to know your neighbors, their kids, and the surroundings. Trump likes to talk about “making America great again.” Well, that can start on your block, and in your “neck of the woods.”

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Photo by Tama66 (Pixabay)