Honey I Bubble Wrapped the Kids

At what age do we let them go?

Comments (25)

(25) miriam, June 20, 2009 9:49 PM

in response to ima, your right, if he had gotten lost, it would be a different story. but he didnt. he was alright. and so will most children be alright if we would give them the same amount of independence we had as kids.

(24) sandy, June 19, 2009 12:44 PM

I agree with R Salomon

Because we have bubble-wrapped our children, we have isolated them from the natural world to the point that most children, especially urban children, have no connection with the incredible creation of Life. How can we teach Tikkun Olam if they have no awareness of anything except computers and organized sports or lessons? I am a scientist, my love for the environment was fostered as a child through hours and hours of unsupervised play with siblings and friends in the woods, the wetlands, and the waterways. I also agree with Annette, that safety has to be a consideration (for example, teach the child to swim and then let him do it!) A group of children who understand their surroundings are safer than a lone child in unfamiliar territory. I am sure R. Salomon's grandson knew the way to shul very well.

(23) Anonymous, June 19, 2009 11:06 AM

I think it depends on the kid, himself. Every parent knows their kid best, if they think that the kid could do it, why not? Should they grow up their entire life being too dependant of their parents?

(22) Lenore Skenazy, June 17, 2009 8:57 PM

I agree with Tuvie!! (Of course, I would)

Hi Rabbi! Yes, it's me, Lenore, the mom who let her 9-year-old ride the subway himself. I'm glad Tuvie (Tuvy?) showed you what he's ready to do and gladder still that, despite some (very normal!) trepidation, you kvelled a little and thought about reality: The reality of what he can do and the reality of our pretty darn safe city -- safest of the top 25 largest cities in America. I'll bet you were walking 9 blocks by yourself when you were his age. Glad he's getting the same kind of freedom and responsibility. And meantime: Hi to you! It's nice to be mentioned on Aish. If you ever want me to come speak at your shul or community center, please let me know! I'm at freerangekids.com . Todah! L.

(21) Ima, June 17, 2009 8:11 PM

what if...

What if the rabbi's grandson had gotten lost, causing untold hours of worry for his family? Then we'd be saying that clearly the adults misjudged the situation and had acted irresponsibly. Obviously parents need to strike a healthy balance, but when it comes to safety issues I think you need to err on the side of caution. A thoght-provoking article, as usual!

(20) Aliza G, June 17, 2009 7:42 PM

I'm with Lenore & Rabbi Yaakov

The sooner you teach your kids how to survive in this world, the better off they will be. Instilling confidence in your child's abilities is a wonderful way to show your love for them. Who will be better off as an adult - the child who is coddled and protected until they leave for college? or the child who learns, by trial and error how do do things for their self?

(19) Annette, June 17, 2009 7:17 PM

maybe 'independence' needs to be defined, and clearly, SAFETY FIRST!

there's a huge difference between being independent and being able to defend themselves - and our fears are not based on their independence or lack of, it's pretty obvious that as parents if we feel our kid can not make an independent decision they are not qualified to go out alone, however let's remember that usually victims are independent people who were unable to defend themselves! I live in a lovely and very safe city hours north of Toronto, my 14 year old son is out biking with 2 buddies literally 'all over' town, if he were a 10yr old, he would simply not be allowed! and he was independent at 10, he was also strong... for a 10 year old, at 14 with an amazing phisique (hockey will do it!) and big for his age we know he can take care of himself especially with his 2 buddies, me on the other hand, his mum, I pick and chose carefully where and when I walk... so is it about independence, or knowing what message we're sending by being where we are, alone or not? this past winter while walking our dog along the lake I was approached by 'single' men and their dogs, I had to stop those lovely walks along our beautiful frozen lake and explain to my husband why I'm not comfortable going back! so be it Last fall in Toronto during the HH's, walking between shul and my hostess' house, she showed me a tree lined dirt path she likes to walk... I refused to walk along that path in Toronto! 'no way!' I replied, it simply scared me, to her she's in the middle of a huge Jewish area and loves it But I still think we send out messages to would-be perpetrators, and we're better off sending the right messages: "WE are not your target!" and let's not walk alone. Kids may feel stupid walking with parents at a certain age, then it's time to find a buddy and keep safety a priority. Anywhere.

(18) Anonymous, June 17, 2009 1:39 PM

Remember Dinah?

It was dangerous back in the day and it is dangerous now. Even adult women need to be "bubble wrapped." There are some crazies out there.

(17) Anonymous, June 16, 2009 9:09 PM

no, I won't

I have a ten year old and he is very mature, very smart, and very independent, and my shul (synagogue) is THREE BLOCKS AWAY. I WILL NOT allow him to walk by himself. Don't tell me I am overprotective. I certainly am not, however, if you can anticipate your reaction if G-d forbid, one of the following could happen,(no I am not paranoid either)then you get really scared.Our world is a crazy one - meaning - kidnapping is a reality. Being mugged -is a reality. People with guns - that is a reality. Rapists, and creepy people are everywhere. Are you going to tell me I shouldn't be scared? What world do you live in? Don't you read the news? What mother puts a small child on a subway by himself so she can finish shopping at Bloomingdales? What utter selfishness! We have an obligation to watch our children until WE are ABSOLUTELY SURE they are okay to walk alone in the street, because the consequences can be devastating. And by the way, to the person in Israel who made the comment about the small children going alone, when I was in Israel I saw a five or six year old carrying an infant across the street by herself. I was not okay with that, and I know everyone does it, but what's a mother with so many children supposed to do?

(16) Marsha, June 16, 2009 7:22 PM

Cultivating independence

Over the generations society in America has changed. As a second grader I used to walk to shul every shabbos with my older brother, a fourth grader. It was a twenty-five minute walk in each direction. In fifth grade I used to take two buses to school everyday. My daughters, starting at age 10 until 12 or 13, walked in large groups only to school, a 10 minute walk. I don't know what I would allow now. The children need to learn to navigate the world, beginning with the local community. It is just a question at what age is it safe to do it alone. Keep in mind, there are other ways to cultivate independence in our children. By giving them age-appropriate responsibilities in the home and cultivating independent thinking, one assists their children in becoming independent adults, as well.

(15) Elana, June 16, 2009 6:44 PM

Hard line to draw

Independence depends on the child. Is the child ready for these types of situations? Also, letting a nine yr old boy walk a few blocks to shul is way different than letting a nine year old loose in Manhatten's subway system. Maybe a bus would be okay, since the bus driver is right there and I would ask the driver to keep an eye out. But the subway system?? I don't think so.

(14) Grace Fishenfeld, June 16, 2009 6:35 PM

Luz em Gain!

When I was five years old I crossed the street to visit Mrs Rabinowitz. It was Saturday and I knew that Mrs Rabinowitz baked. I wished her a good Shabbis and she gave me five wonderful cookies. I expanded my adventures when I traveled to a distant High School to major in a specific program the distant school had to offer. When the reason was good, My mom and dad permitted me to move into a bigger world. My children also valued the experience of independence. When we moved to Long Island, i had not learned to drive and my son got on his two wheeler bike and took himself to Menka Katz's Sunday yiddish school classes, at the Peretz school of the Workmen's Circle, in the next town. He was twelve years old. I quickly learned to drive but our son also learned to believe in himself. Bubby who lived with us always said to gay gezunta hait and with the right foot.

(13) Anonymous, June 16, 2009 6:12 PM

Kid's thrive on having some independence. They need to be taught tools. Yes, there are horrible crazy people out there so it is necessary to teach your kids what to do in different situations. Role playing is really great. My 9 year old daughter likes to bike ride- so I let her go for up to 15 minutes and then she has to check in with me. I know exactly where she is biking. My stomach hurts every time she leaves the house but I do agree with the Rabbi that kids really need some independence.

(12) Berry, June 16, 2009 10:51 AM

You have put your finger on one (of many) great reasons to live in Israel.

If I was a parent in the US, maybe I'd relate more to this "fear" for our children. But living here in Yerushalayim, in a religious neighborhood, I'm uplifted and inspired by the independence of the kids here. My 9-year-old daughter walks by herself to friends, to school, and to stores in the area. And I love it! The kids here have a very independent spirit, and it's so refreshing to see it. They "fly" with it and seem to enjoy their lives so much more. I grew up in the US, and I remember my parents carpooling and shlepping us everywhere. It was such a burden to get anywhere. Here, it's much more free and I think the children benefit. Listen, I'm not a dope - my daughter and I call each other and set times and all that. I know where she is every second. But it really is nice. Nu, R. Salomon -- how 'bout a pilot trip? :-)

(11) ruth housman, June 16, 2009 10:09 AM

Bubble "Rap"

I think we're all torn, those of us who love and care for our offspring, that they will be hurt when they venture off on their own. Will they drive carefully? Will they remember to fasten their seatbelts? Will they go unknowingly or unprotected into unsafe neighborhoods? The list of potential hazards is great and endless. It's about love. If we didn't love this intensely it wouldn't matter. And yet, we do know that love involves letting go, and that independence is a goal of bringing up children and we learn through our mistakes. We all fall down and we all surely will, even, God forbid, them! and we obsess about our children, that when they fall down, it won't be bad enough that they cannot keep on walking. So yes, these are issues to ponder and the answer is somewhere in the middle. Life is such a balancing act. It's a "see saw" and when we're balancing exactly, we don't move on that child's contraption. To "see" clearly is to realize we must let go, but not entirely. How to do this right is a question only a "Solomon" can answer. Would YOU have felt this way if something untoward HAD happened when he walked to synagogue? This is why we pose these questions and why we have such deep conflict about those we love.

(10) shana, June 16, 2009 9:56 AM

We the parents have no choice

I had all the freedom of the 70's to ride buses,hang out in malls, parks and play with my friends on the sidewalk. However, today 'WE HAVE NO CHOICE"! If Bubble wrapping prevents an inappropriate sexual encounter of a minor or a chance abduction, I repeat, 'WE HAVE NO CHOICE". CHILDREN CAN NAVIGATE FROM POINT A TO B, but they cannot fend off a larger, predator that has deviant intentions. There are deviants from all walks of life, all cultures and they live among us. If you are capable of telling which person is decent and wich is deviant by all means "let your minor children Go!" In the mean time, I'll keep my 2 little girls safe, with the freedoms that I am able to give them.

(9) MS RBS, June 16, 2009 9:10 AM

Freedon versus lurking dangers

Reb Yaakov, I heard your video today but on this same day I read about 2 attempted abductions of young girls in Borough Park by some Mexicans and I think this is the crucial question: are our neighborhoods safe enough to let our kids loose? Hashem Yerachem!

(8) Jane Doe, June 16, 2009 8:55 AM

Where to draw the line

There's a reason to be concerned: how many Jeffrey Dahmers are still in the world? How many terrorists would love to find a young Jewish child all by himself? Obviously, children have to learn to be independent and how to fend for themselves, but we cannot ignore dangerous realities. Also, bicycle helmuts aren't overprotective at all. They save lives. Ask columnist Dave Barry, whose son's life was saved by wearing one. Would you call wearing a seatbelt in a car overprotective?

(7) Anonymous, June 16, 2009 7:09 AM

Bicycle helmuts are not an example of parental overprotectiveness

I understand the overall sentiment of your article. However, I take exception with the mention of a helmut as an example of parental overprotectiveness. In our city there as been an admirable campaign by Hatzolah to get kids to wear bicycle helmuts. This is only logical from an organization dedicated to safety when the alternative could be - Chas V'Shalom! - a severe brain injury to a child in a bicycle accident without a helmut.

(6) SusanE, June 15, 2009 12:16 PM

I Don't know What is the Right Age.

The age to let kids become more independent would depend on how much he was taught in his growing up years how to make good decisions. The decision about letting a child walk the streets alone in a different city would be based on several depends. It depends first on where this took place. If it is a closed Jewish neighborhood or is it the inner city? If the streets are crowded. Would this be in the evening? Has he walked it before with adults? Is he on his own in the streets in Atlanta and already street smart? I agree that little kids are way too controlled and shuttered, but mostly on the decisions about what coat to wear to grade school or what they want to do in their spare time or how they spend their allowance. I even see parents order for their 10 year olds in restaurants. But those same kids are given too much freedom in being on their own outside the home. The 15 year olds need that control much more than a 10 year old. Let them learn some independence between 5 and 13 then begin to monitor them more closely until they reach about 30...... I've been a parent.

(5) Dvirah, June 15, 2009 9:06 AM

Cultural Differences

In Israel, it is quite common to see groups of 9- and 10-year-olds roaming around the shopping centers without any attending parents. By the time they are 12-13, they come by themselves. This is one of the cultural differences between the US and Israel, early independence is encouraged in Israel, perhaps because of the looming army service.

(4) iris moskovitz, June 15, 2009 7:55 AM

This hits home with me

I am an only child whom grew up in the 70's and 80's. My own mother at the time, knew when to let me have some independance, and when to help me along.I boruch Hashem, now have a 10 year old, and a 7 year old. In this day and age, I am truly quite scared to let my 10 year old have the independance my mother allowed me to have.With all the modern technologies out there, some really sick people can G-d forbid do some harm towards our children,with just the internet, for instance. I know that eventually I will need to let my children have their independance, but I am not quite ready yet. Before I became a mother, I really did not know the meaning of worry, as I do today. Thank you Mom, for giving me the freedom at the right times in my life. I hope I can learn from you. .

(3) Rosen, June 14, 2009 6:46 PM

a child's independence

Reminds me of a story on www.parentdish.com where a 3 or 4 year old boy snuck out of his parents' house around 2 or 3am in the morning to get candy at the grocery store while it was closed.

(2) sharona, June 14, 2009 1:56 PM

interesting message

I think you have a good point. On the one hand, it's scary all the things that could happen. But on the other hand, we need to let them be independent. I think it depends on the child what they are ready for. I suggest people start with something small, and then continue to bigger things as the kids grow.

(1) adina, June 14, 2009 10:54 AM

More important ways

I'm not sure letting your 9-year-old kid walk around NYC is the right way to foster independence, maybe that works in Atlanta, but NY is a pretty scary place. There are other ways to teach children how to fend for themselves- by 9 or 10, kids should be able to serve themselves, and even cook a few basic dishes, they should know how to do laundry, and vacuum the living room, by high school, they ought to know how to balance a checkbook and keep to a budget, how to make important phone calls, like to the cell phone company, and a bunch of other things. This is especially important in the orthodox community where we expect our kids to marry before age 23, you want to marry at 19, then be ready for it at 18. It kills me every time I see a clueless 19-year-old marching down to the chuppah, knowing that when the sheva brachos end, she's gonna get a really hard, stinging slap from reality.


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