Letting My 12-Year-Old Go to the Park Alone Is Not a Crime: What Do You Think? by Margaret Steck

Letting My 12-Year-Old Go to the Park Alone Is Not a Crime: What Do You Think?

Recently, we've been letting our daughter walk to our neighborhood playground by herself as a way to foster independence and to build confidence. The park is less than two blocks away from home and only requires her to cross two side streets.

Yesterday, she came home with two police officers in tow! Apparently, an adult at the park asked her where her parents were, and even when she replied, "I'm 12, I've got this. Thank you!" they still called 911 to report a child alone at the park. Even the police officers were apologetic and wondered why someone reported her, but they wanted to make sure she came home safely.

My daughter was rattled and in tears, wondering if she had done anything wrong, and any little bit of confidence she had been building was undermined. I'm so angry and frustrated with the person who felt justified in calling the police on a middle school-aged child. 

What right does anyone have in questioning my family's choices in giving my children independence?

Would you let your children walk to the park themselves if you felt they were ready to become more independent? I'm curious to hear what other parents think!

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Elisa Schmitz
Say what?! Unbelievable! Obviously times are different now, but I was on my own as a kid from a younger age than that (started walking to school with my big brother when we were in kindergarten and first grade, respectively). How are kids supposed to gain confidence and independence if they are always on their parents' leash? Yikes. So sorry this happened, Margaret Steck . What do you think, Mike Prochaska ?
Mike Prochaska
You all know what i think this! Children need there independence you did nothing wrong. This has happened to me before. The Park is across the street my sisters house and we Could hear the kids from the house abt hellicopter mom came and told us she was going to call the cop. By my house it so different my kids and other kids in neighborhood house hop mostly at our horse or play by themselves in the circle and no one complains
Mike Prochaska
Let kid be kids they don’t need parents hovering over them all the time
Mike Prochaska
And yes I have let my kids goto the Home owners assoc playground without as it build independence
Carrie Watts
My kids are 9 and 5. We have a playground in our housing development that I can see from my back window. I let them go to the playground by themselves, knowing I can see them, but so that they can feel independent and empowered. It has helped my 9yr old take responsibility for his brother, giving him confidence. It has allowed my 5yr old to feel "like a big boy," and he is therefore more willing to do "big boy things," like come home when I call for them. No arguments, no tears, they both come home happily when I give a shout, because I am showing them respect and giving them that little bit of leeway to be grown up. Things are getting out of hand when parents don't get to make these decisions to help their kids grow up with strength of mind and confidence in their own decision-making abilities.
Mike Prochaska
Yes how it is here too
Margaret Steck
Thank you all so much for your support. We were all very surprised by this, but after a few days, my daughter decided she was ready to go back to the park on her own again. We developed some strategies in case something like this happened again : 1) If someone approaches her and asks where her parents are, she doesn't need to speak with them. She doesn't owe anyone she doesn't know an explanation. 2) She has her phone with her now so that if someone approaches her, she can walk away and call me (I'm a block and a half away and I won't let her go to the park when I'm not home). 3) If the police are summoned, she has her phone and she can call me and have the police speak with me. There is NO LAW in our city that states that 12 year olds must be accompanied by an adult. She's empowered because she knows I've got her back and the law is on her side.
Mike Prochaska
Sad she has to take her phone so she can call you for her right to play at the park
Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP
People need to mind their own business! If your daughter was in a dangerous situation, that would be the only reason to call the police. Yes, Elisa All Schmitz 30Seconds it is a different time, but as parents we need to build independence. Having twins it was easier for me because they always had a buddy to go places with. When they were 12, my son would walk alone to the local rec center to his theater rehearsals during the day, which was about 2 blocks away. He loved doing that. He felt like a "big kid." He would call me when he got to the center so I knew he was OK. They knew the "rules" of the road and what to do if something happened. It's unfortunate that we even have to teach our kids to be aware, but it is a life skill to know what to do in all situations.
Well, my 9yo walks to her day camp about 1/2 mile away from my office and checks herself in. She comes back by herself afterwards. She is allowed to go out for runs and walks by herself and has even gone out to dinner alone while I was at a meeting. Granted, it’s a small town, but she does just fine and there have been no problems. Of course, I walked to school alone when I was 5 in Columbus, OH and babysat at age 8, so it seems a bit absurd to not allow a 9yo to develop independence and confidence, let alone a 12yo. That’s just silly. In a few years she’ll be able to drive a car.
Rosie Schmitgen
My daughter is 13 and I find other ways for her to have independence. She has her own bank card, she does school online it’s an accredited program, I get her grades and progress from the online school but I don’t tell my daughter what to do or how to do it, she sets up her own tutoring time and I take her. There are many ways to foster independence other than letting her go to a neighborhood park alone. Even in restaurants I usually go to the bathroom with her. In this day and age with all of the human trafficking and weirdos out there we are extremely cautious in our family. In a somewhat affluent neighborhood near us an 11 year old girl was taken off of her bike and taken to north padre island and raped and left on the beach, the police found her alive roaming the beach ...in the neighbor hood we lived in that was also affluent there were 2 near kidnappings in front of children’s homes but luckily the children ran away and into their garage this was reported in the local news also fliers were put out all over our neighborhood about the incident. We live in a small city where people know each other and this happens. I’m not willing to take that chance. My daughter is very independent and has been since she was very young and independent in many ways but we have always been very cautious.
Marjorie A. Carter
I believe it all depends on where you live, and have you been to the park with her not having her know you are there to see who is there too. If the park was in a neighborhood where you live and only the is open to your neighborhood ok. but elsewhere no.
Cassandra Conyers
Each child is different. If you think your daughter can handle the independence, I say let her go. The well-meaning adults who call the police stepped way over the line. They may have issues of their own. I'd make sure your child understands they meant well but overstepped your daughter's boundaries.
Ikram M.
I agree with Rosie Schmitgen Schmitgen. It's not that your daughter cannot be independent at her age, or cannot go to the park. It's about understanding the world we live in, and how there are evil people preying on young children and women in parks and isolated places. There are many ways you can foster independence, and if you daughter wants to go to the park, you can at least have a friend or some friends go with her. It's less likely for a predator to approach a group of girls than one on her own. I actually watched a docu a few weeks ago where a 16 year girl, with her dog, went to her local park about 5pm. Two hours later, her body was found by a couple jogging and she had been brutally killed because she told her assailant she didn't want to speak to him. So, she did everything right, but that didn't stop an evil man from ending her life.
Fe Diaz
I also agree with Rosie..

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