The Top 10 Best and Worst Let Grow Moments of 2021

The lows were low but oh those highs!

In a crazy year, some crazy stories were crazier than others.

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THE TOP FIVE WORST LET GROW STORIES:

1 WHY CAN’T YOU BE GOOD LIKE ME?

A Beaverton, Oregon, man screamed at a lady for leaving her kid in the car while she ran into the grocery for two items. Her irresponsibility was hurting his work! Here he was, minding his own business, stealing her car, when he noticed the baby and had to bring him back. What a waste of time! On the upside, at least that gave the guy a chance to tell the mom what a lowlife she was before he sped off again — in her car.

2 WE’LL LEAVE A LIGHT ON (IN YOUR CELL)

Shaina Bell of Youngstown, Ohio, was arrested for leaving her kids, 10 and 2, in a motel room while she worked her evening shift at a pizza shop. Cops tipped off to this struggling family criminal activity booked mom into jail on two counts of criminal child endangerment. Being in a cell would certainly help her supervise her kids! Surprise happy ending: When the story got out, a Go Fund Me raised $165,000 to help the Bell family.

3 THE SCHOOL PICK-UP-TO-PRISON PIPELINE

When 10-year-old Braylin Harvey was picked up a full seven minutes late from a Chicago Public School, the school reported his mom, JaNay Dodson, to the Department of Child and Family Services. The principal’s email to JaNay said, “I am empathetic to the challenges of balancing work and family responsibilities, however, all school employees are…required to follow CPS protocols.” Delores Umbrage couldn’t have said it better!

4 NO GLOWING RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THIS KID

Hazmat teams rushed to New Jersey’s Haddon Township High School in January after a sophomore brought a quarter-size piece of Fiestaware — the colorful Depression-era plates — to science class. He wanted to see if the red color, once made with uranium oxide, was radioactive. His teacher considered it a learning opportunity. An administrator considered it a biohazard and evacuated the school, even though if you Google, “Fiestaware radioactive,” as I did, you will find an article in ScienceNotes.org saying, “There is no record of anyone ever becoming sick from manufacturing or using radioactive Fiestaware.”

5 HOW DARE THOSE BOYS PLAY OUTSIDE?

Nevada doctor Daniel Hansen was at work when his sons, 8 and 10, asked their mom if they could play down their dead-end street. Mom said yes, and off they went – until a neighbor called 911 to report two unsupervised children. Firefighters raced over to…sheepishly escort them home. The firemen apologized, then added they would be reporting the family to law enforcement.

Dr. Hansen’s mom, Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen, needed no further prodding to co-sponsor Let Grow’s “Reasonable Childhood Independence” bill in the Nevada State Legislature. The law ensures that parents who let their kids do reasonable things like play outside cannot be charged with neglect unless they put the kids in obvious and likely danger.

The bill passed in the Nevada House with bi-partisan support, stalling in the senate. But, as you’ll read in the “BEST” moments list below, it did much better elsewhere!

THE TOP 5 BEST LET GROW STORIES

1  DEAR TEACHER, YOU WERE RIGHT

A high school student wrote a letter to his 7th grade teacher who’d made her class do 20 Let Grow Projects. That is, she assigned the homework: “Go home and do something new, on your own, without your parents!” over and over.

In his back-to-school note he wrote:

I would give you a little bit of insight into the person I am growing up to be right now partially thanks to the program you started with us.

I feel like since the last time we talked about 2 years ago I have become a much more mature person who excepts [sic] responsibilities. I have been a lot happier in general than I used to be when I think things like depression and anxiety were still hovering over my head. I feel like I have become much much closer to being a mature adult and my parents are super proud of the person I am becoming…”

The letter goes on, but we don’t have to – you get it: Promoting independence helps kids become better versions of themselves.

2 THE MORE ACTHUNG, BABY, THE BETTER!

Germany has started adding MORE RISK to its playgrounds, building climbing structures that stretch three stories high. And who is requesting this?

Insurance companies!

They want kids to grow up aware of risks and avoiding them by doing things like actually paying attention when they’re walking. An influential German study had found that “children who had improved their motor skills in playgrounds at an early age were less likely to suffer accidents as they got older,” and so the German insurers began requesting playgrounds that would help kids develop “risk competence.”

That sound you hear is kids cheering — and maybe an ankle twisting.

3 KIDS OF STEEL

What would happen if a big youth sports league devoted the first 10-20 minutes of each practice to plain old free play?

That’s an experiment the Steel Sports league piloted in 2018 after owner Warren Lichtenstein read The Coddling of the American Mind by Let Grow co-founder Jonathan Haidt, with its chapters on the importance of self-directed free play.

The pilot results were so heartening that the entire League adopted the new free-play-first protocol. Not only did that mean “Kids were running to practice now,” instead of walking, said Ian Hughes, the League’s head of Coach and Curriculum Development, it also meant that he deliberately decided not to coach the oldest boys’ team at their national tournament. He let the kids coach themselves and they WON.

A coincidence?

Or maybe it’s the power of kids stepping up when an adult, trusting them, stepped back.

4 LEAVE THOSE KIDS ALONE!

“‘LET THEM BE KIDS!’ IS ‘FREE-RANGE’ PARENTING THE KEY TO HEALTHIER, HAPPIER CHILDREN?”

That’s exactly what The Guardian asked in a headline this August, and it answered itself with a resounding: Yes!

“We are not benefiting children, either through parents overprotecting and over-monitoring them, or through society not creating an environment for unstructured and independent play,” the giant article said.

The antidote? Give kids more free, unstructured time to play and do things on their own. They went on to quote our own president, Lenore Skenazy, saying that’s exactly why she founded the Free-Range Kids movement and Let Grow, which promotes childhood independence through school programs (free!), materials for parents, and legal advocacy.

“If there ever was a moment to really think about what children need, and how we create the…environment that allows those freedoms, now’s the time,” the article concludes.

We agree!

5 TWO NEW STATES PASS “LET GROW” LAWS!

This year, Oklahoma and Texas became the second and third states to follow the lead of Utah, which passed the country’s first “Free-Range Parenting” law in 2018. Now one tenth of American kids live where they are guaranteed the right to “Reasonable Childhood Independence.”

This coming year Let Grow hopes to pass similar bills in Colorado, Nebraska and South Carolina.

Stay tuned and wish us luck — 2022 could be a much better year for Free-Range Kids!

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