Helicopter parents are the talk of the Internet, with proponents claiming that they are simply ensuring the safety and future success of their children by hovering under the playground ladder and making themselves an ever-available presence in their children’s lives. Despite that, helicopter parents are routinely blamed with creating children that are unable to succeed without a hand to hold and for contributing to school environments in which teachers are increasingly afraid of their own students.
So why, then, are parents who give their children some freedom and responsibility being punished?
Florida parents of 11 and 4-year-old boys were arrested after a neighbor called police while their older son played basketball in their home driveway. Yes, you read that correctly. In his own driveway. At the time, his parents and brother were caught up in traffic after running some errands, so the boy decided to pass the time shooting some hoops while waiting for his parents to arrive home.
Now, perhaps because I was a latchkey kid at 8 (for you youngins, that means I had my own key to the house, got off the bus, and went home until my parents got off work) and was babysitting the neighbor’s kids by the time I was 12, I was shocked by what happened when the parents arrived home. A police officer was already there waiting for them, and they were arrested for child neglect, a third degree felony.
A felony for their son playing in his own driveway while his parents were on their way home.
Both of the boys were removed from their parents care and handed over to Child Protective Services, who placed them with a foster family. Though they were later allowed to stay with a relative, that turned out to only be a temporary measure and the boys were soon put back into foster care.
Although the parents disagree with the allegations, including that their son did not have access to water or food, they chose to comply with a judge’s request to admit that they were unaware that it was wrong to leave their son at home. Additionally, in order to regain custody of their children, they had to promise not to leave their son at home alone again.
Now, this occurred in Florida, which does not have a minimum age that children may be left home alone on the books. So, for allowing their son to be independent and to care for himself while they were stuck in traffic, they are now saddled with a third degree felony, must go to court-mandated parenting classes, and must also attend therapy.
After that ordeal, I’d need therapy too.
So which one is it? Should parents sacrifice their entire lives to hold their child’s hand through the playground, college and their wedding night, or do parents need to relax a little and allow their kids to learn what freedom and responsibility really mean?
A lot of people believe the latter, but with story after story of parents being arrested and their children being forcibly removed, the answer is anything but clear.
Caitlin is a writer and freelance copyeditor who drinks way too much coffee and dreams of being an accomplished astrobiologist. Growing up in the Air Force, she ping-ponged around the U.S., across the Atlantic, and back only to start the process all over again with her husband. Now settled in Tucson, she writes for Virtue Marketing and can be found tweeting at @ifyoureadreamer, writing on her blog, or posting helpful articles for indie and self-published authors.