Let Kids Be Kids

boy smiling as he exits a school bus

by Gloria Buoncristiano-Thai

Our children are most important to us, it is our job as parents to protect them.

I remember the day another parent started screaming and cursing at my son. It has been years since this occurrence, but my son and I still talk about it occasionally. He had climbed up into a Plumeria tree. This tree was the favorite of the neighborhood kids to climb. Another boy was running towards the tree and slipped in the mud; and at the moment this boy was tumbling, my son was in midair and landed on him. Neither of the boys was hurt, so why did this dad lose his composure? The parents of this child were the embodiment of what is now known as “helicopter parents.” They always intervened instead of letting the kids work things out on their own. As for me, I was/am that “crazy” parent that permitted her children to roam, now known as “free range.”

Janis of Kapolei is concerned about the safety of her kids as any parent would be. Her main worry is of her children being abducted, especially from highly populated public places. She feels that parks and malls are places, “where children can very easily be snatched in plain view without any one individual taking notice.” Janis admits that the media reports of abductions are a major reason for her concern. Are Janis’ fears valid? The reality is that childhood abductions by strangers are a rare occurrence in Hawai’i. Even on the Mainland, the fears of parents are misplaced. It may seem like we are in the midst of an epidemic, but in reality, all indications are that the problem has been improving. Many state missing-children agencies show declining numbers of cases, which is supported by FBI statistics and the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

David Finkelhor, Ph.D., who is the Director of the Crimes against Children Research Center, Co-Director of the Family Research Laboratory and Professor of Sociology at the University of New Hampshire, says that “children taken by strangers or slight acquaintances represent only one-hundredth of 1 percent of all missing children.” The number is estimated to be 115 kids.

Far more common are children who have run away, have gotten lost or injured, or have been taken by a member of the family as part of a custody dispute. Sometimes children are not where they are expected to be because of a  miscommunication.

Sue of Kaneohe remembers taking TheBus to school every day as a child by herself, but will not permit her child to ride alone. There are times that she does not even want to take her child in the car for fear of an accident. She weighs whether or not what she needs to do is worth getting into a possible car accident. Sue admits that logically, her thinking is ridiculous. What happened to the fun for our keiki?

Parents for your health as well as your kids, turn off the 24/7 news stations. Permit your children to run free, run barefoot, run with the “pack.” Let them get dirty. Allow them room to fall down and get back up. Give them the tools to solve problems, then step back and watch as they learn to negotiate with their peers. By the way, statistics also confirm that trying to protect children with “safer” playgrounds and the like have not resulted in less injuries to kids.

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