Spinoff: If you don't let your kids play outside alone, why not? - Mothering Forums

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Old 04-27-2007, 05:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The other thread about letting kids play outside alone unsupervised got me wondering. I have a completely fenced backyard, and I haven't had any concerns about letting my DC play out there while I'm in the house. We've been doing that for a long time. I poke my head out from time to time, but that's more out of curiousity as to what he's up to than out of any worry.

So, for those of you who aren't comfortable letting your DC play outside alone, why not? For the purposes of this, I'm talking about a fenced yard with kids who are past the oral stage. I can certainly understand not wanting your kids to play in an unfenced yard by a busy street or not wanting to let a child who puts everything in her mouth be outside alone, but what makes you not want to leave your kids alone in a fenced backyard? This is not a judgement at all! I'm just curious because it never occurred to me that there was a problem with it and now I'm wondering! Thanks!
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Old 04-27-2007, 05:35 PM
 
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I only recently started letting 4 year old dd play in the fenced backyard while I am in the house (also looking out occasionally) because our yard has a hill and we have a large dog. Previously, I was concerned about the way she plays tug with him, I did not want her to do it on the hill and tumble down. Also, the dog used to knock her over a lot as he is huge. And, she was not very good at keeping away from digging in the yard in inappropriate places. She would dig, he would dig, there would be more mud than I was happy with.

Now, I know she will not play tug on the hill, she will tell me if he starts digging, and she will not dig up flowers either. And, they will both stay in the back yard, for sure, even though she can open the gate. Front not fenced, busy street.
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Old 04-27-2007, 05:41 PM
 
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I think it depends on your kid, neighborhood, etc. I was glad when DD turned 9yo b/c I felt comfy letting her out alone (we have a small yard, no fencing, etc.) She was attacked by a 7yo neighbor girl 2x. First time I thought the kids just got to rough. The second time, I walked out to see DD jumped from behind. All out punches thrown! I settled that right there and then but it was a year ago and just now DD is being allowed around the block and back herself. I play it all by ear. She is not allowed further b/c there are some other kids I don't trust and woods and water. She can't swim well and the woods pose other issues. It stinks.

At my moms house both my kids (Ds is 5 1/2 yo) are allowed outside alone to play. IMHO, it depnds on so many factors!
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Old 04-27-2007, 06:53 PM
 
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I wouldn't let my ds play outside unsupervised for safety reasons.
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Old 04-27-2007, 07:04 PM
 
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I wouldn't let my ds play outside unsupervised for safety reasons.
But, what safety reasons? I'm with the OP - I don't give it a second thought. My youngest has been playing outside totally alone since she was 18 months old. If she falls, she falls - she would've if I were there with her, right? We have no snakes, she can't leave the yard... I think Rainey wanted to know specifically why not...

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Old 04-27-2007, 07:04 PM
 
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We don't have a fenced yard at home. My parents have a fenced yard and dd (7) is still supervised when she plays there.
Reasons-
Dd is likely to leave the yard if the mood takes her. She is pretty impulsive.
My parents have items in their backyard she shouldn't play with.
The back yard can not be seen or heard clearly from inside the house. If dd was injured and alone back there she might have to wait for help if she could not walk up steps and around to the door of the house.
The older neighbor children have been known to enter my parent's fenced yard without permission even with the gate locked. They have taken things and destroyed property. I don't trust them not to come in the yard and bully my dd or try to get her to do something she shouldn't. They will stay out if an adult is out there.

Kim ~mom to one awesome dd (12)

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Old 04-27-2007, 08:48 PM
 
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I don't because it's a chain link fence and dd (5 years old) can get out without any problems. She's an intensely curious person and she would follow a butterfly out the gate just to see the colors of its wings change in the sunlight. She wouldn't realize she's done anything "wrong", but additionally, I don't think she'd be so absorbed to wander into the road. Still it worries me. As I stated in the other thread, we live on a dangerous curve that the teenagers like to take at breakneck speeds. I can see the whole back yard from my kitchen windows, but it only takes a moment of looking away.

I also worry that once out the gate, she's at the side of the house where the whole world can see that she is a pretty 5 year old unsupervised little girl. Call it paranoia, but... well, there it is.

I also don't leave her in the car for a couple of minutes, let her walk in a parking lot without holding my hand or wander around in a store.

However, I do let her climb fences, hang from swing sets, jump on trampolines, and watch our oil lamp burning on our table (unsupervised). It could be a matter of simply knowing your child's abilities.
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Old 04-27-2007, 09:51 PM
 
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i would let my dd play in a fenced yard unsupervised if we had one. when her and i went to trinidad to visit my fam last may she played in the yard unsupervised and she had a blast! here in america we've lived in apts all her life so having a big back and front yard full of fruit trees and "cosy holes" was such fun for her. plus kittens and puppies and a million cousins. lol
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Old 04-27-2007, 09:57 PM
 
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We are just starting to let them play out back together without an adult... we have a very steep rickety set of stairs though without real railing thingys that is about 3 stories off of the ground because of a slope... very dangerous. I need the landlords to do somthing about it because it causes me anxiety! Also a cougar got a pitbull in one of the neighbours yards last year. Another time it was on the neighbours roof on the same side of the road as us 4 doors down. The neighbours let thier two year old play alone right next to the forest and thier yard is unfenced. I am a little bit high strung though

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Old 04-27-2007, 10:11 PM
 
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I would NOT allow my dd to play outside alone until she was older - unless I was sitting right inside able to watch the entire time.

She would have to be old enough to understand that if anyone came to the backyard - even a friend - she should run right inside and simply say "Oh, I'll go and get my mommy for you." and if it were a stranger she should just run as fast as she could and say nothing.

The ugly statistics are that 1 in 3 girls is molested. I would be suspicious if a friend were to enter the backyard and not try the front door first. Or maybe it would be a friend whom I would never be suspicious about, but I would never try to tell my dd which friends could be trusted implicitly and which couldn't. Heck, I would just trust them ALL implicitly - except that I know in this day and age you just can't be too careful.

We do not allow dd to go with the "daycare" at a consignment sale, or to go to the church nursery, or anything like that. I am shocked that most parents feel perfectly comfortable with these things. Shocked that they don't mind someone they don't know watching their child, shocked that their child doesn't mind going with strangers - or that if the child minds the parent thinks it's nothing. I mean just look at the abuse that has arisen out of the Catholic church's recent history. Not to pick on them, just that it has been publicized. But churche's are perfect places for predators. Parents are often so trusting they just let their kids run all over out of sight after services. And forget about nurseries at church! The people running them have no background checks, sometimes no experience with kids etc.

Getting off track - back to the backyard. I just would not be comfortable that soemone would not sneak in - over a fence even - and harm my child. Yes, that is a VERY slim chance. Prob more chance of getting into a car accident I suppose. But NO I don't think I'm being paranoid. Next to impossible to live w/o transportation, but very ez to watch your child in the backyard or not let them there alone. And also, I thik it's often easier for the body to heal than for an emotional trauma to heal. Easier to understand that there was a car accident than to understand that someone snuck into my own backyard and in essence home, to molest or kidnap.

And if people are kidnapping kids out of bedrooms at night, and 1 in 3 girls is molested, then I just think you can't be too careful. I am not fearful or paranoid. Just choose to take what i consider healthy precautiouns each day to protect my dd. I think you can do this in a way that protects a child but still allows them to be a child and doesn't make them paranoid or allow them no space - so like letting them play w me watching from a window - or sitting reading my book so we are each "in our own world etc"

Ok, enough rambling...
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Old 04-27-2007, 10:47 PM
 
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DS has played outside in our fenced backyard since about age 2 1/2 or so. I leave the back door open. He does not open the gate, we have no dogs, no hills, and no friends/strangers unexpectedly coming into the backyard. I can hear everything happening (I stay in the room near the door). I can see most of the yard and deck from the sofa or if I am working at the kitchen sink. I actually really like that he'll play outside because he isn't much of one for independent play.
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Old 04-27-2007, 11:03 PM
 
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AttatchedMama, I totally agree with you!

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Old 04-27-2007, 11:08 PM
 
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Attachedmama - you've articulated what I did not have the energy or time to say. I totally agree. My summary was "better safe than sorry". I applaud your post.
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Old 04-27-2007, 11:44 PM
 
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I think it totally depends on your yard, and your kid. My "fenced" yard had a split rail fence a toddler could have gone under in a heartbeat, it also had an alley running along it, with drivers who occaisionally pulled into the driveway to turn around, and it's less than a block from a very busy street. Finally, it had a steep set of concrete stairs going down to the basement -- perfect for a child to tumble down. So we waited a long time for him to be outside alone -- at 4 maybe if the door was open and I was right by it keeping an eye out, not until 5 or 6 for any real length of time.

DS was very big on putting things in his mouth -- EVERYTHING went in his mouth until he was about 2 1/2 so realistically unless I had a yard with nothing in it but grass (not plants or mulch or rocks he could choke on, no worms to dig up and eat) I wouldn't have let him outside alone. But after that -- if I had a fence I knew he couldn't climb or slip under, and a gate that locked or at least latched tight enough to keep him in, and no obvious hazards like snakes or rats (I live in the city so that's a bigger threat) or the stairs I mentioned, then yes I would have felt safe.
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Old 04-28-2007, 01:49 AM
 
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The ugly statistics are that 1 in 3 girls is molested. I would be suspicious if a friend were to enter the backyard and not try the front door first.
These are very valid fears of which you write but statistically they are also very rare occurrences. I feel it is also very important for children to play outside and that cannot always be attended 100%. And, children need to do things on their own, without us near them 100%. We cannot succomb to the fears around us and limit our children's life experiences to the point where they don't get much outdoor time. To me, that would be a real tragedy.

As parents, it does behoove us to monitor our children and safeguard them. But, we cannot protect our children from every possibility. We have to make choices. There has to be balance; we have to balance our fears with the freedom to let our children grow.
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Old 04-28-2007, 02:03 AM
 
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These are very valid fears of which you write but statistically they are also very rare occurrences. I feel it is also very important for children to play outside and that cannot always be attended 100%. And, children need to do things on their own, without us near them 100%. We cannot succomb to the fears around us and limit our children's life experiences to the point where they don't get much outdoor time. To me, that would be a real tragedy.

As parents, it does behoove us to monitor our children and safeguard them. But, we cannot protect our children from every possibility. We have to make choices. There has to be balance; we have to balance our fears with the freedom to let our children grow.
I totally agree. You better serve your children to teach them to listen to their inner voice, to teach them correct names for body parts, etc. when it comes to protecting them from those types of dangers. Teaching them to be fearful that someone will come into the yard and snatch them or harm them creates a lot of unnecessary and unrealistic fear. They need to have experiences that are separate from their parents. To become fully absorbed in the world of imagination. To sometimes do things that are a little risky (like climb too high up the tree) to learn their limits and build their confidence. You can't protect them from life in the long term and childhood is when they should be learning these lessons. It is crucial to their development. Obviously if their are actual dangers present it would be different (no fence and lots of traffic, predatory animals, etc) but in a fenced back yard they should be safe. It is prudent to check on them every so often, but if they are having enough fun you will hear their shrieks of joy anyway


 

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Old 04-28-2007, 03:35 AM
 
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I would not let a child under the age of 6 be ANYWHERE that I could not hear them alone. So no, I would not have allowed my kids to be outside at that age alone since I could not hear them.
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Old 04-28-2007, 03:36 AM
 
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I live in a city neighborhood that is very safe and residential, but there are alleys behind the yards that anyone can drive down, and our dividing fence is not of the high wooden sort, so no way. I might feel differently in a 'burb with a high wooden fence. I dont' know.

I think it really depends, though I don't think not doing so means I'm being overprotective. He still gets absorbed in his own little world all the time. I'm not trying to protect him for the rest of his life, I just don't feel comfortable with it now.
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Old 04-28-2007, 06:30 AM
 
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We live in suburban neighborhood of a big metro area...that being said-they have been allowed to play in the backyard from about 2 1/2 yrs. old because we have a wonderful adult German Shephard (who would never allow a stranger to enter the yard) and because we have a 8 ft.privacy fence around the whole thing! But...they are not allowed to play in the front yard of this wonderful neighborhood until they are 7 yrs. old. We don't have a lot of traffic, but you never know when a weirdo will drive up. My 9 yr. old is very leary of strangers and would be fine, but my almost 7 yr. old would go off with anyone if they told her they were looking for their puppy/kitty/child etc. and this is after much "safety" talks. She just trusts everyone and has such an innocent view of the the world. Guess it depends on the child.
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Old 04-28-2007, 07:02 AM
 
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Yikes!! NO way!!

I would not let her do it in when we lived in NC in the country because of strangers wandering in the woods, people hunting and the possibility that a stray bullet might enter our yard, and wild rabid animals that wandered up from time to time! I wouldn't have trusted a fence in place of supervision!!!

I don't do it here in midwest suburbia because of the fear of kidnapping/molestation and of other CHILDREN hurting her more than adults, actually. We also have a lake behind out house that it doesn't take much to scale a fence and get down to the pretty water and ducks, etc and drown. We've also seen big animals here in the daytime that should be nocturnal and it's impossible to tell if it's because they have no homes anymore/are out gathering food for their young or are rabid. There have been raccoons and possums out here in the middle of the day, an occasional HUGE deer running at breakneck speed through our yard, mean geese from the lake, unleashed dogs, foxes, etc.

We also eat lots of herbs and flowers from my garden, but some are poison and just for decoration. Although she knows to ask before picking something and eating, I can't trust a 6 yr old 100% to not pop a lovely flower in her mouth just because she THINKS it's one we use in salad.

I do think that we should let our children have freedoms, and she does. I do think that she should be able to climb a tree or play on the playground without me hovering over her, but that doesn't mean I'm going to not supervise her and set bounderies either. She does need to learn what is safe and what is not. Unfortunately, there are things that just aren't safe- it's not that I'm trying to fill her with fear (believe me, my mom would not even let me put on my shoes as a child without checking them inside for spiders, so I know all about that!)--- but I think some fear is healthy.

'Manda

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Old 04-28-2007, 10:05 AM
 
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I think it always depends on the child and the neighbourhood. I let my ds play in the unfenced front yard in our quiet street and I check on him frequently from the front window. He knows to stay on our lawn, he is mostly interested in digging in the dirt and making up stories in his head. Our neighbours do the same thing - we see the kids out front and parents peeking out. Our street runs in a circle so there are very few random passersby.

In our previous house we would never have done it -- much busier street, neighbours we know less well, street used as a throughway to get to other areas in the neighbourhood.
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Old 04-28-2007, 11:56 AM
 
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These are very valid fears of which you write but statistically they are also very rare occurrences. I feel it is also very important for children to play outside and that cannot always be attended 100%. And, children need to do things on their own, without us near them 100%. We cannot succomb to the fears around us and limit our children's life experiences to the point where they don't get much outdoor time. To me, that would be a real tragedy.

As parents, it does behoove us to monitor our children and safeguard them. But, we cannot protect our children from every possibility. We have to make choices. There has to be balance; we have to balance our fears with the freedom to let our children grow.

We are all entitled to our own opinions and parenting styles of course... but I fail to see how "1 in 3" is as you put it, statistically a rare occurrence.

I agree that it is very important that children play outside and that they do things on their own. I do not limit my dd's life experiences so she doesn't get much outdoor time. At not quite 2 she recognizes the call of a chickadee, has pointed out a bald eagle to us, finds buds on branches etc. And sometimes she just wanders and plays. We have succeeded in doing this despite the fact that we live in an apt bldg with no outdoor space to play. Like I said in my original post, you can monitor - from a distance or even from inside if you have a home - so that the child still feels like they are on their own.

And I don't see how when we soon have a house, my letting her play outside while I peer thru the window, sitting by it, or sit in the other corner of the yard reading, is not letting her have her space or is teaching her fear. I think it's just a good precaution.

Also telling kids names for their body parts etc is a good thing - but not a preventative measure. That just helps so that maybe if something happens, then maybe they will know how to tell you. But when the perpetrator tells them it is their fault and don't tell your mommy or daddy even if they told you it's ok because you were bad and thats' why this happened or if you tell mommy and daddy then I will hurt them too -ad infinitum - most very young children will live in fear and believe that. And those *are* the kinds of things said to children who are molested.

One in 3 *is* a high statistic - and it spans urban, rural, poor, middle class and wealthy. I will do all I can to protect my dd, not in a paranoid way and telling her that every person might hurt her etc, but I will keep her in my sight until she is much older and able to follow simple instructions such as "come get mommy if someone comes in the yard". That kind of simple instruction does not bring fear with it -and I will prob say something like "I'ts important that mommy knows right away when we have guests so that I can greet them myself and make them feel welcome" or something.

Just my opinion...
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Old 04-28-2007, 12:01 PM
 
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I get that we all have different ideas about this, but I really don't think that those of us who don't allow them to play alone outside at the ages of 2, 3, or 4 or 5 are not allowing them freedom to grow, or succumbing to fears, limiting outdoor time, or trying to protect them from any and every possibility. I think that's really a stretch and almost a little insulting,actually. We don't sit indoors in fear. I'm just kind of trying to keep him safe, period. I'm not breathing down his neck or instilling fear in him.
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Old 04-28-2007, 12:42 PM
 
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Even if it's true that 1 in 3 girls is molested, most of them are not molested by strangers. The number of kids who are molested or abducted by strangers is certainly very small. And I doubt it's more of a risk for a 3 year old playing in her own yard than for a 12 year old riding his bike half a mile to his friend's house, or a 16 year old walking around the mall with her friends. If you're afraid to let your preschool kid play alone in your yard because of the threat of abduction/molestation, it seems like you'd have to be equally afraid to let your preteen or teen ever go anywhere alone.
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Old 04-28-2007, 12:59 PM
 
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We live in a quiet suburb with no wild animal or water concerns and have a 6 foot privacy fence. I've let my DD1 play outside alone since she was an older 3--I consider her a particularly mature and thoughtful child, and I open all the back windows and stay near where I can hear her. That said, I do NOT see the same thing happening for my DD2, who is way more impulsive and daring--oh, SO daring : She's the "climb to the top of the jungle gym and see if she can fly" kind of kid.

I don't let my DD1 play in the side or front yards alone, and I have no idea at what age I'll feel comfortable doing so. Probably older than 7 or 8, because I'm completely paranoid. I can't even fathom letting her go around the block, but I'm sure that will come when she's older. I totally agree with Daffodil, and statistically she's correct, but we live very near where Megan Kanka was abducted and I've just heard too many stories. That, combined with my overactive imagination, gives me a hard time Then again, I know far more people who were molested by "trusted" family members (including one of my best friends and most of the women in my immediate family on my dad's side) than have ever even been approached by strangers.

Bottom line, it depends on your kid, your neighborhood, and your sense of safety.

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Old 04-28-2007, 12:59 PM
 
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We just started to let our son go down the street to play on his own. We do watch him walk down and periodically look out. Prior to this year, we always were with him. We have no backyard and our front yard is minimal. We have friends with a totally fenced back yard and the kids will play there by themselves. The youngest boy is soon to be 3. We closely monitored his playing, but all the kids were also looking out for him. If the backyard had not been totally fenced there is no way they would have been allowed to be there unsupervised.

My personal feeling is that it is irresponsible to leave young children, as in 5 or younger, unsupervised to play. THIS IS MY OPINION. I know that it differs from others.
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Old 04-28-2007, 01:32 PM
 
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I let DS1 when he was 7. He is only allowed in my or the neighbor's yard. We have tons of kids in the neighborhood that come over to our yard (we don't have a fence)

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Old 04-28-2007, 03:57 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Daffodil View Post
Even if it's true that 1 in 3 girls is molested, most of them are not molested by strangers. The number of kids who are molested or abducted by strangers is certainly very small. And I doubt it's more of a risk for a 3 year old playing in her own yard than for a 12 year old riding his bike half a mile to his friend's house, or a 16 year old walking around the mall with her friends. If you're afraid to let your preschool kid play alone in your yard because of the threat of abduction/molestation, it seems like you'd have to be equally afraid to let your preteen or teen ever go anywhere alone.
I understand that most of them are not molested by strangers - which is why I already stated that my dd when older will be instructed on how to make our guests feel welcome by immed saying "let me go inside to tell my mommy you are here" so that I can greet them and make them feel welcome. That does not instill fear and still protects her.

As for older kids - the difference is that my preteen or teen is going to know enough to run even if a gun is pulled on them, to fight back, to tell me if someone tries something, to not go near a car to "give directions" etc They would not be intimidated by someone telling them lies that they will hurt dd's parents if she tells or that it's all her fault etc. So in that case, riding a bike to friends or going to the mall is much safer.

Also a preteen/teen is going to be smart enough to know to take precautions hopefully- like stay with a friend at all times, don't go in secluded places etc etc. At least they are smart enough to know those precautions and understand the reasons...
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Old 04-28-2007, 04:03 PM
 
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I don't let my kids play outside alone because we have no yard at all. All we have is a sidewalk next to an intersection. My 8yo has enough maturity now to be able to sit on the porch with a friend or jump rope on the sidewalk, but I just started letting her do it. My other two? No way.

And yet I know thats obviously just me because I can look up and down the street and see kids still in diapers playing on the sidewalk with no parents in sight and cars whizzing by. No thanks. It just doesn't seem responsible parenting to me.

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Old 04-28-2007, 04:59 PM
 
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Wow! I just can't imagine living my life with such fear. It's amazing I'm still alive, and unmaimed remembering all the crazy things my laid back mom let me do. I've broken bones, and I have a lot of small scars, but I had a blast doing it. I'd really like to see the 1 in 3 girls are molested statistic, since I can't find it anywhere. Also, I'm guessing as with any such statistic, one needs to read the fine print. Fear sells, so that's what the media sells. I rarely watch the news because it angers me in this aspect. It also encourages the governement and businesses to infringe laws/rules upon my freedom.

Anyway, I let my DS run around in the backyard all the time (since about a month ago when the weather warmed up). My biggest concern is that he will fall and hurt himself, but then he could do that even if I'm back there with him, and I'm not about to hold his hand constantly (even if he would let me, which he won't). I have a fenced yard, no wild animals (although I do have a dog), & no freaky neighbors (and even if I did, I'd still let him play outside). My 5 yr old plays in the front yard with minimal supervision all the time - riding his bike or scooter up and down the sidewalk/driveway. I have limits that I enforce, and DS is good about following them. If something happened to either one of my children, I'd be devastated, but I will not shelter my children, and refuse to live in fear.
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