In this podcast for St. Lawrence University, Steven Horwitz defends Lenore Skenazy and her concept of Free Range Kids; kids should be less supervised and more trusted to navigate their own way through the world, better to prepare them for adulthood. Kids are seen as constantly in need of management, lest they fall victim to a physical or social danger – scraped knees and paedophiles, respectively. In a bit of gratuitous econo-centrism, he suggests that unlike most modern mothers, Skenazy is “thinking like an economist,” by keeping in mind the Bastian insight that the unseen negatives of not allowing kids to take chances are just as much a cost as the various perils that come more easily to mind. Sure, but that’s like saying people are thinking like economists when they hear the other side of an argument.
(According to Ron Alsop, Horwitz could be on to something. He believes the Millenial generation is spoiled, unable to take initiative due to a relatively coddled upbringing.)
Brink Lindsey, on the other hand, has made much hay of the fact that kids who are doted upon by micro-managing parents from day 1 are higher achievers in their adult life. From the planning of extra curricular activities to the contribution of a large word-sum score through a talkative home environment (“utterances” in the words of Betty Hart and Todd Risley), it would seem that the less “free range,” the better for future success. People like David Friedman have made the case for Unschooling, which I’m sympathetic too for Nockian reasons of “elitist anarchism“, but it’s easy for Friedman to say, with his strong genes, Phd. and house in the leafy south bay area ‘burbs likely full of other nerds for his kids to play with.
Maybe these are two separate issues, one relating to obvious existential threats and the other to acquiring skills and habits crucial to a productive and well-integrated adult. I’m not sure. But it sure seems to me that an overly cautious, near-neurotic parenting style would, at the very least, imbue children with a sense of preparation and planning. In other words, my hunch is that being cognizant of safety (stranger danger!) and holding early success in school in high regard are positively correlated, as is the inverse.
I suppose there is a good deal of wiggle room between being an overbearing parent and being merely a parent that plans (perhaps excessively) for their kids to make their own plans.