Free-Range Kids

Top 10 Worst Helicopter Parenting Moments of 2018

Aborted snowball fights, unused playground equipment, baseless child trafficking panics, and more.

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Kidnapping, Halloween, and snowballs—in 2018, we freaked out about each of these things and many others. Here are the year's ten most vexing moments for the free-range parenting movement:

1). After a passerby witnessed a man seemingly abducting a little girl in a shopping mall parking lot in Brighton, England, all hell broke loose. Helicopters were scrambled. Cops went door to door. The mall aired the closed-circuit footage over and over again until the man was finally found. No, he wasn't an abductor: He was the girl's father. Cops confirmed this. Sorry for the fuss.

2). When Ohio 5-year-old Braylen Carwell started having seizures after trick or treating and tested positive for meth, parents were warned to check for poisoned candy. A few days later, Braylen's dad, a former drug user, was charged with meth possession and evidence tampering. Said the local police chief, "We are extremely confident that [Braylen] did not ingest any candy from Trick or Treat that was tainted."

3). Child Protective Services showed up at the home of Corey Widen, a mom in Wilmette, Illinois, after someone reported seeing her daughter, age 8, walking the dog alone. Investigators interrogated Widen, her daughter, other family members, and the girl's pediatrician before coming to their senses and admitting that mom had not committed neglect.

4). Preschoolers in Nova Scotia were not allowed to play on their playground's equipment because it was labeled for children ages 5-12. The fact that kids have always played on equipment without an age label (see, for instance, trees) matters not.

5). "A woman is giving a stark warning after she says two women and three men attempted to abduct her daughter at a rest stop on Interstate 74 in Indiana," announced a TV station in Ohio. This info came from the woman's Facebook page. In a post, she explained she had been at a rest stop when two ladies looked at her daughter as three men stood in front of a minivan with its door open. The fact that none of them actually attempted an abduction did not get in the way of this juicy non-story.

6). Penn State's Outing Club can no longer go outside, since hikers typically venture beyond the limits of cell phone coverage. "Student safety in any activity is our primary focus," said a university spokeswoman. The 98-year-old club is still allowed to hold film festivals host speakers, and explore the great indoors.

7). A school in East London, England, forbid its 1,500 students from touching snow because this could tempt them to make snowballs. To skeptics, headmaster Ges Smith said: "It only takes one student, one piece of grit, one stone in a snowball in an eye, with an injury and we change our view."

8). Texas writer May Cobb was returning to the car with her autistic 5-year-old after a day in the park when they were stopped by the cops. Someone had reported a boy with messy hair and too-short pants. Even the cops were embarrassed to be following up on this. But follow up they did.

9). A documentary about Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady showed him kissing his 11-year-old son on the lips. The media went wild. New York's CBS TV station asked people what they thought. But as one local pointed out, " Who doesn't hate Tom Brady here?"

10). Busybodies waved down the police when they saw a boy, age 8 or thereabouts, walking by himself. He told the cops he was going to his grandma's. He likes walking there. Grandma confirmed this. Police then spoke to his parents about the dangers of letting children walk alone to grandma's. It is unclear whether they added anything about big bad wolves.

Thankfully, not all the news was bad. This spring, Utah passed America's first Free-Range Parenting Law, which decreed that parents cannot be considered negligent simply for letting their kids run errands, play outside, wait briefly in the car (under some circumstances), or come home with a latchkey. It's a start, at least. See you in 2019!

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  1. No, he wasn’t an abductor: He was the girl’s father. Cops confirmed this. Sorry for the fuss.

    FAKE NEWS. They weren’t sorry.

  2. Helicopter parenting sounded freaking awesome, until I realized it didn’t involve my wife giving birth to an actual helicopter.

    1. Only a man would think giving birth to a helicopter would be “awesome”.
      😉

      1. What is this, vag-splaining?

      2. Also, this is really a pretty ridiculous statement. Everyone knows that the rotors don’t spin until the doctor smacks it on the tail boom.

        1. Plus, the rotors fold back, like baby skulls compress for delivery.

        2. If you’re having trouble conceiving, you should seriously consider that helicopter parenting just isn’t in the cards for you. My cousin and his wife went in for IVF, now he’s taking care of two twin rotors and it’s like a full-time job.

  3. ‘Penn State’s Outing Club can no longer go outside, since hikers typically venture beyond the limits of cell phone coverage…The 98-year-old club is still allowed to hold film festivals…”

    But aren’t they afraid that someone might shout “fire?”

    1. I think it’s a sign of the times we live in that I first thought the Penn State Outing Club was for revealing closeted gays.

    2. Jerry’s in prison. It should be safe to come out now.

  4. At least in the US, our constitution provides the right to confront our accuser, so the anonymous complaints of foreign countries cannot happen here.

    1. Except in title IX cases.

    2. While sort-of true in theory, that is untrue in practice. Consider:
      I phone in an anonymous tip that you are a criminal. The police show up to investigate. Under our structure, the police have become the “accuser” whom you have the right to confront, not the original tipster. It doesn’t matter whether my anonymous tip was legitimate, mistaken or even malicious. The police could try to chase me down for the malicious tip but you can’t.

      In most situations, that’s okay because the police will filter out the non-credible tips. But put the same scenario in the context of Child Protective Services and even the most obviously incredible claims must be “fully investigated”. The process is the punishment and you have no recourse against the mistaken or even fraudulent instigator of the original claim.

  5. Kid walking to grandma’s house needs a red jacket and a basket of bread for his next walk. The wolves can eye him knowing the message is for them.

    1. And a lumberjack(woodsman) with a big ax.

  6. Look, if we do not support institutionalized helicopter parenting (and associated paternalistic/maternalistic/they-eristic policies and programs) how are we going to raise the paranoid, frightened, and emotionally dependent citizens of tomorrow?

    1. We already have, it is to late.

  7. And you thought you had parental rights! har dee harhar, http://nymensactionnetwork.org/prra/.

  8. 6). Penn State’s Outing Club can no longer go outside, since hikers typically venture beyond the limits of cell phone coverage. “Student safety in any activity is our primary focus,” said a university spokeswoman. The 98-year-old club is still allowed to hold film festivals host speakers, and explore the great indoors.

    Wait, Penn State? A college? So we’re talking about college students who are – allegedly – adults, right? What the fuck?!

    Also, isn’t it a little early to publish this list? There’s still 18 days left in 2018. Plenty of time for someone to say “hold my beer” and top all of these.

    1. Oh, wait, Penn State. They probably just don’t want too many students to get out of rape range of the football coach.

      1. He prefers them much younger though.

        “On a scale of 1 to 10 how old do you have to be to stay away from Penn St?”

    2. #8 is a non-story. Police were called to investigate, they investigated, no one was shot or arrested, and they apologized before leaving. Sure, you don’t really want people to call the cops for messy hair but, other than that, it’s exactly how you would want the situation to go down. The story ends with the writer saying ‘Any time you see a kid doing strange things or hearing weird noises, consider that they may have a disability.’ which isn’t exactly the antithesis of helicopter parenting.

      1. How would I want the situation to go down? Either:
        A. The people making the call realize that they are idiots because messy hair and clothes choices aren’t abuse and hang up before wasting the police’s time.
        or
        B. The officer taking the original report listens to the description of the “abuse” and tells off the caller for wasting everyone’s time based on zero evidence at all.

        In both A and B, the mother and child proceed about their day unaware of the problem at all. The fact that what really happened is less bad than C (police swoop in with guns blazing and everybody dies) does not make what really happened in any way good.

        1. As a general rule, I want the conclusion to come AFTER the investigation, rather than BEFORE or INSTEAD OF.

          Messy hair and inappropriate clothing are not themselves abuse, but either MAY BE a symptom of neglect. It doesn’t take long to find out. You miss 100% of the crimes you didn’t bother to investigate.

          1. Well I think your absence of claiming you don’t beat your children may be a symptom of child abuse.

            1. And, given your opinion is worth nothing, I would care… why?

              1. Pretty clear statement that Libertarianitis assumes you beat your children explicitly without evidence.

                Also a pretty strong indication that he’s unaware of the Rule of Goats.

                AFAICT, at least half the people on these forums, probably myself included, are more authoritarian than these cops were.

        2. The fact that what really happened is less bad than C (police swoop in with guns blazing and everybody dies) does not make what really happened in any way good.

          What really happened was less bad than an old man, entirely within his rights, shouting “Get a haircut, hippy!” at the kid. I recognize situation A may be a more preferred outcome, but as an adult, I also recognize that there may be more than one and that everyone is entitled to their own. I also realize, as a libertarian, that everybody living up to everyone else’s ideals 100% of the time would be a pretty fucking oppressive way to live.

          Helicopter parenting a helicopter parent when nothing happened doesn’t fix helicopter parenting and doesn’t make less than nothing happening happen.

          If it weren’t a grown woman I’d have told her to stop tattling on the police and learn to deal with it like I would a 5-yr.-old.

          1. I respectfully disagree. An old man yelling “Get a haircut” however rudely is considerably less stressful and disruptive than even the most polite confrontation with armed police or with bureaucrats who have the power to arbitrarily take your kid away from you.

            1. An old man yelling “Get a haircut” however rudely is considerably less stressful and disruptive than even the most polite confrontation with armed police or with bureaucrats who have the power to arbitrarily take your kid away from you.

              Who said the old man wasn’t?

      2. Kids always do strange things and make weird noises.

    3. “Wait, Penn State? A college? So we’re talking about college students who are – allegedly – adults, right? What the fuck?!”

      Because adults are incapable of filing nuisance lawsuits?

  9. #2) The kid really did get sick. No, it wasn’t tainted Halloween candy, but there was an actual injury, at least.

    #6) These are college students? WTF? Can’t they, as legal adults, just go places if they want to?

    #8) The cops may be legally required to show up for such calls.

    1. “#6) These are college students? WTF? Can’t they, as legal adults, just go places if they want to?”

      Sure they can. But the club is affiliated with the university, which means that there’s somebody to sue if something happens.
      Sue the jackass who drove into a group of students walking along the roadway? Sure, if you can find them and prove they were driving in that particular time and place. Sue the outing club, for poor planning that had club members walking down a roadway where they might get hit by a passing car? Sure. It has $371 in the bank. Sue the university for not training club organizers not to plan outings that require walkers to be near moving cars? There’s a winner!

    2. “#6) These are college students? WTF? Can’t they, as legal adults, just go places if they want to?”

      They can, and do. They just aren’t going to be bussed out there on the University’s dime and served sandwiches, and more importantly, the University is not going to get sued when one of them inevitably does something stupid out of cell-phone range.

      That said, it’s objectively dumb and part of what’s ruining the nation.

      1. The Penn State Outing Club was not only entirely self-funded but had a rather substantial endowment of their own. They were not “bussed out there on the University’s dime and served sandwiches”.

        There are actually some credible accusations that this controversy was manufactured to try to get that cash balance back into University Administrators’ control.

        1. If they’ve got a funding source in place that isn’t the University, why don’t they just become the “Not-Penn-State Outing Club”, and do whatever the fuck they want?

          1. Sports club at my alma mater were “The ____ Club at UH” for that very reason, to deflect liability.

          2. They could call the,selves the “Sandusky Outing Club”.

    3. #2) Yes, but then they used it as an excuse to scare a bunch of other parents whose kids were in no danger at all.

      #6) Maybe, it depends. If they do so independently, yes. If they do so as part of an official outing by a student organization, funded at least partly with university funds and covered by the university’s liability insurance, probably not.

  10. Yeah if your kid ingests meth you left lying around you’re not a “former” drug user.

    1. If you’re not high at the time, you are.

      1. If you blame the Halloween candy and tamper with evidence I’m gonna side with IceTrey. I can’t read your mind, but your behavior strongly suggests that you’re willing to throw your family and Halloween under the bus in order to keep using it. Not saying the drugs should be illegal, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have personal issues with regards to its use.

    2. He used to do meth…he still does, but he used to, too.

      1. The next relapse may well be imminent, but when they put him in prison, he’s going to have a tougher time getting a supplier.

      2. He becomes a “former” drug user, several times a day

    3. I quit drinking too. Last night at 2:00 am, lol.

    4. I haven’t had a beer since breakfast so technically, I’m a recovering alcoholic.

  11. #2 doesn’t sound like excessively protective parenting to me.

    1. The warning other parents about the non-existent danger of meth tainted Halloween candy was definitely excessively protective parenting.

      1. Warning other parents about the danger of meth-tainted Halloween candy is not excessively protective parenting.

        Excessively-protective parenting would be hearing the warning, and seizing all of your kid’s Halloween haul, or deciding that trick-or-treating is too dangerous for your kids.

        Telling scary stories at Halloween-time being recast as excessively-protective parenting? I just don’t think so.

  12. The good news is that judging from these anecdotes, helicopter parenting only exists in a few flyover states, England and Canada. The rest of the world is pretty safe.

    1. Helicopter parenting exists wherever there are helicopter parents. Which is fine… their kids, their overprotective instincts, their adult children who can’t/won’t move out and be self-sufficient.

      The problem is when they want to put helicopter parenting in the laws for everyone. OK, fine, there’s an actual law that says I can’t let my 8-year-old drive. But if I think she can walk to someplace, and nobody can point to a specific danger along the route that she wouldn’t be expected to be able to handle, then butt out. I know better than anybody what she’s capable of.

      1. The data clearly show that helicopter parenting doesn’t exist in vast swaths of the globe. If you want to raise your child in a place where she can walk to some place, try countries like Mexico, Africa, or just about any other country. Avoid Canada, England or the USA.

        1. “Avoid Canada, England or the USA.”

          Or any country in the EU.

          1. I raised her in the USA, just fine. Maybe you’re doing it wrong?

        2. The data clearly show that helicopter parenting doesn’t exist in vast swaths of the globe.

          Really? Because my data clearly show vast swaths of the globe where governments don’t even trust adults to handle sharp pointy objects or things that go boom, let alone children.

          1. Get a better globe. The current ones show mostly water in vast swaths of the globe, with no helicopters, parents, OR governments.

  13. >>> Someone had reported a boy with messy hair and too-short pants

    Buster Brown?

  14. Penn State Inning Club

  15. If these are the worst, my Helicopter Parentocalypse fears have significantly subsided. This stuff is over the line but not threatening to the very civilization that spawned it.

    1. These are the ones egregious enough to warrant news coverage. What isn’t included are the parents who endure daily indignities at the hands of the state nor the culture of fear produced that you could possibly lose your kids over a minor infraction.

      Not to mention you are effectively letting the inmates run the asylum. I feel genuinely bad for the kids growing up today. There is no release valve to even attempt to color outside the lines a little. That is going to make for some demented adults in the future.

      1. “These are the ones egregious enough to warrant news coverage. What isn’t included are the parents who endure daily indignities at the hands of the state nor the culture of fear produced that you could possibly lose your kids over a minor infraction.”

        If the list of “10 worst” of something doesn’t include the worst of that something, then…

        ” I feel genuinely bad for the kids growing up today.”

        Meh. There were overprotective parents in the past. There will be overprotective parents in the future. There were neglectful parents in the past. There will be neglectful parents in the future. There is no reason to single out “now” amongst either group.
        If you are timid and fearful, it may show up as hiding your children away to keep them away from all the strangers, or it may show up as hiding your children away to keep them from coming to the attention of the state protective agencies. The root cause is the same either way.

        1. If it is the ten worst (or most publicized) out of a few thousand cases, maybe. If it is the ten worst out of millions of such investigations, that quite another matter now isn’t it? Is there a rash of child abuse taking place to justify such an intrusion? Even an Atlantic article puts the number of justified investigations at less than 5%. Even stop and frisk has better odds.

          It’s one thing to be over-protective yourself. It’s quite another to use the state as a billy club to coerce other parents to your specification.

          But hey, good of you to be so cavalier about parents being hassled by the state.

          1. “But hey, good of you to be so cavalier about parents being hassled by the state.”

            Maybe read enough of my comments to understand what my position is, before commenting about what my position “is” in the future?

  16. I’m not sure the Tom Brady one belongs in the list. Not to say that it’s not ridiculous, but the most that happened was some busy bodies momentarily debates is this appropriate. Personally, I think it’s not a big deal. That said, if your a national star, your being filmed for a documentary or news story, and you ask your child for a kiss, don’t then follow up with on the lips, and expect it to not raise a few eyebrows. Since it did nothing more than raise a few eye brows, and maybe cause the kid a moment of extreme embarrassment (which every teen thinks is the only thing parents ever do) it’s not exactly fitting with the rest.

    1. In Spain they french kiss their kids. I witnessed it.

    2. Only in the WASPiest areas of the US is it uncommon for parents to kiss their children on the lips. Peoples eyebrows were only raised by the stick up their asses.

  17. Busybodies waved down the police when they saw a boy, age 8 or thereabouts, walking by himself….It is unclear whether they added anything about big bad wolves.

    I too have been accosted by busybodies. Wolves tend to just leave me alone.

    1. They let their kid walk to Grandma’s without wolfsbane? Thet’s negligence.

  18. In this day and age I don’t have a problem with allowing an 8 year old to walk alone to grandma’s house. A few dozen, or even a few thousand abductions per year is certainly not troublesome. But, I would like to see a law whereby if a child is abducted and never recovered alive the parents spend the rest of their lives in prison. I won’t even suggest that the punishment includes some kind of rape or torture that the child might have experienced – that would be too cruel and unusual.

    1. da fuck?

      1. Look, he’s trying to meet you halfway here.

        1. I think he just wants to legally rape some parents, but maybe that’s just me.

          1. The /sarc in my comment was unspoken but still present.

            1. Sorry. I realized that and should have told you I thought your response was on point and damned funny. 🙂

  19. one stone in a snowball in an eye, with an injury and we change our view

    That does seem like a true statement, even if it’s only until your eye heals.

    1. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

      “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid”
      –Santa Claus, A Christmas Story.

      1. It’s all fun and games until I lose an eye. Someone else losing an eye is just another part of the fun and games…

  20. For color on #3, Wilmette is a very wealthy suburb. Think John Hughes movie. There are few safer places on the planet.

  21. It is not all bad.

    Thanks to the recent efforts of our brave social justice warriors our children may never again be subjugated to this sort of pedophilic date raping sex trafficking :

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6bbuBubZ1yE

  22. Children should be watched, monitored and corrected at all times.
    Better yet, we should launch a Young Pioneer program like the Soviets had.
    This way, we will all know the youth of America will become good socialists and even better slaves.
    What a future that would be!

  23. The challenge of raising children is finding out what works. A good many people have had success, or close enough, and assume the method they used would have worked with any child.

    The goal is to raise children who are self-sufficient, and able to make adult decisions wisely by the time they are called upon to do so (which may be earlier or later, depending on circumstances.) The method that worked for my kid worked pretty well… I gave her the self-autonomy to make decisions she’d demonstrated the ability to make. Amazingly, the child who was smart and capable turned into an adult who is smart and capable.

    There are kids out there who are more capable, able to do things I might not have trusted my kid to handle at a similar age. There are also some who are less capable. As a default, I assume the parents know their children the best, and judge their capabilities reasonably accurately. Sometimes they’re not, unfortunately, and it’s hard to tell just by looking unless you have Sherlock Holmes-level attention to detail.

  24. I remember the old days when our phones had cords, we had to get off the sofa to change channels and we had to illegally tape Star Wars off of HBO on our Betamax machines so we could watch it over and over again in my friend’s basement. We were tough back in the 80’s.

    1. EEEEEHHHHHH? Back in MY day, kids didn’t HAVE Betamax. If you wanted to go see Star Wars again, you had to go down to the theater it was still playing in after a full year, and pay $2.25 AGAIN… EACH TIME. And our parents didn’t want to hear about it… they didn’t even have Star Wars… uphill… both ways.

  25. The harder it becomes the more you learn.

  26. all this “helicopter parenting” started when over protecting parents made all activities stop awarding 1st, 2nd etc place trophies for winning and started not keeping score and giving all a “participation” trophy. If they didn’t want them to keep score they should not have taught them to count. These types of parents should all be beaten with bags of oranges.

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  28. Someone had reported a boy with messy hair and too-short pants…

    Who has the job of deciding how short our pants are allowed to be? I want that job! How much does it pay? At what point do too-short pants become too-long shorts, and is it also against the law to have long shorts, like it is apparently against the law to have too-short pants? How much can I earn to be the pants police?!!!!

    Perhaps they misread the rules, and the problem was really with too-short KILTS…

    Maybe we could branch off into swimsuits… “Madam, I am sorry but you will have to come with me. Your swimsuit bottom is too long, and your top is too short, and your middle would be too short if there was one. You are criminally out of proportion”

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