Who knows the correct way to parent a 5 year old?

This week a 5 year old girl was taken whilst playing outside her family home. As a mum to a 5 year old girl this hit home very hard, and I can’t stop thinking about what those poor parents are going through.

Most of my Twitter and Facebook timelines showed total support for the family. Then little by little comments would come out about why she was playing outside at 7pm aged 5. These comments just seemed to increase as the days go by which is what has prompted this blog post.

Are any of the people making these comments parents to a 5 year old girl in that village? Have any of them won any awards for their parenting skills? I follow a lot of parents on Twitter and I am friends with a lot of parents on Facebook and in real life, and I would say that for the most part we are just trying to do our best – as we see it – for our kids.

My daughter is 5 years old and she sometimes plays outside at 7pm (more in the summer when the days are longer, it has to be said) and we live in London, not a Welsh village. She does this because I feel this is better for her than being cooped up inside, watching TV or playing on a games console. But also because I feel this is perfectly safe in the area where we live. Of course I wouldn’t allow this if I thought this might be dangerous for her.

Where do we draw the line between cosseting our children and letting them learn to become independent?

My mum happened to be with me yesterday and we got to talking about this and talking about what it was like when I was a kid, when she was a kid and even when her mum was a kid. You know what? It was the same, there were the same risks, but we were less aware of it because we didn’t have the same kind of news coverage and mass social media coverage that we have today. Not that I’m saying that’s a bad thing as it can help find missing people sooner, but that we were just unaware of how much it went on.

As my mum told me yesterday, she was approached by strange men on a couple of occasions as a child, whilst walking home in the dark in the 1950s, and my grandma got flashed at when she was a girl in the 1920s. It has always happened, but it doesn’t happen that much and most of the time the child involved is unharmed. Does that mean we need to lock our children up until they reach 18?

Mum and I talked about how when we were kids (in a new town, in the southeast of England in the late 1970s/early 1980s) we would go to play at the local park without adults, Mum would send us to the shops with money where we would have to negotiate roads, we would start off playing in one place then move on to another without telling our parents as we were too caught up in having fun. All of that before the days of mobile phones so we were uncontactable. Fair enough I wasn’t 5 years old but I was still primary school age. I would be surprised if there are many parents that allow their kids to do that now, whilst that was the norm for all the kids nearby when we were growing up.

You may disagree with that way of parenting, but it has taught my brothers and sisters and me to be self-confident and independent. What happens if kids get wrapped up in cotton wool and only ever kept under the watchful eyes of their parents? At what stage do they learn to fly on their own?

I am sure that April Jones’s parents are torturing themselves with “what ifs” and going over what happened, not to mention thinking about what might have happened between Monday evening and now. They need our support not our judgement.

As for me, does this change the way I raise my 5 year old? No. I make sure she knows that there are baddies out there and that you can’t tell them apart from goodies. She is aware of an adult who is just being friendly and chatting and one who is doing something “not right”. I have to hope that she will use this judgement if she ever gets into that kind of an awful situation. But I refuse to molly-coddle her or clip her wings. So go ahead and judge me instead.

Franglaise Mummy as a child in the early 1980s.

Let’s face it though, my parents weren’t running much risk letting me out on my own, between that hair and those teeth, they knew I was pretty safe!


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