Meet Scarecrow’s Mother

Via Free-Range Kids:

My son is only 4, and I have pretty much put the fear of God in him about strangers! It’s a constant conversation (especially lately) that is not at all sugar coated! He knows that there are very bad people that can take him and hurt him. I’ve told him that he would never see us again, and reminded him that there’s not a thing in the world that a stranger offers him (candy, puppy, bike, etc) that we can’t give him. I also told him that “crazy people” have Spiderman webs and even if you just walk up to their car, they can spin a web and get you! Over dramatic? Maybe… but I would rather scare my child than put flyers up with his picture on it! let me also remind you that there is a substantial amount of crime that doesn’t make it to the 6 o’clock news…

Anxiety is not good for us. Our bodies aren’t made to steep in cortisol:

The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including:

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Digestive problems

  • Heart disease

  • Sleep problems

  • Weight gain

  • Memory and concentration impairment

There are, indeed, very bad people who can take him and hurt him. But they are few and far between, none have Spiderman web powers, and most of them aren’t strangers. So Jackie, the quoted mother is screwing her four-year-old up emotionally and physically for what? For her own narcissistic needs—she scares him not so that he won’t get hurt, but so that Jackie won’t put up flyers with his picture on them.

And why not? “Constantly” “scaring” this four-year-old doesn’t cost Jackie anything—even though she isn’t making him any safer, she isn’t the one who is at risk of depression, heart disease, and mental impairment.

It doesn’t cost her anything, but it’ll cost someone. Do you think it’s more likely that those few “very bad people” spent their childhoods being kids, or that they spent their childhoods constantly anxious and afraid?

“Mommy, Mommy! How are monsters made?”

Shut up or the strangers will get you.


2 responses to “Meet Scarecrow’s Mother”

  1. If you don’t already know it, you might like the economics term “externality”.

    Roughly, it’s a cost you push off on someone else. So, if you dump sewage in your own pond, you lose the use of your pond. If you dump sewage in a river, everyone downstream of you loses use of the river. in the second case, the downstreamers’ loss is the externality.

    In this excellent example Jackie is considering the benefit vs the cost to her, instead of the benefit vs the total cost, and the cost delta is the externality: the cortisol soup.

    (To be completely pedantic: this is a “negative externality.” You can also have “positive externalities,” where someone makes a decision which is beneficial for them, and third parties benefit)

  2. Had an interesting conversation over Thanksgiving dinner yesterday on this very topic–will I let my daughter ride her bike to the Bayou (four blocks away) by herself?

    Sure. No problem. My friends and I would head out Saturday morning after cartoons, hop on our bikes, and play all day unsupervised at the bayou behind our neighborhood. “Be back before the streetlights come on” my Mom would advise me; as that was approximately when dinner would be ready.

    Sometimes I’d bring my BB gun too.

    Needless to say my brother-in-law’s California relatives reacted with shock–how could I risk my child so?

    They were surprised when I quoted the crime statistics–down by half across the board since 1992.

    But the Modern American Way is to steep oneself in Fear! Fear! Fear! Fear! It’s a fantastically useful tool on the part of those who manipulate us; cortisol makes you stupid.

    Works good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.