New Parenting Styles: Kristen and Beckie

Opposing Parenting Approaches
"I have never been a helicopter mom. My children are free-range. They are able to come and go as they please, within reason. I allow my kids to walk to their friend's house, and they get to play on their own outside, without much supervision. I think it's riskier to take a car ride than it is to play outside unsupervised," says Kristen. "I trained them really young to be as self-sufficient as they possibly can at their age. It makes me a little unusual. People do react strangely to that.

"I definitely think that people should trust that the world is generally a good place. I guess I'm idealistic. We're going to assume that my children are not going to be approached by evil strangers all the time, but if that does happen, they've been taught to scream, run, kick, hit, bite " whatever they can do to get away," she explains. "Nowadays, people are so worried about their kids going outside that they insist on knowing where they are every second. I really don't think that there are that many evil strangers out there."

[AD]In the studio, Dr. Phil tells Kristen that in 1969, a survey said that 41 percent of kids walked to school and back, but in 2001, it was only 13 percent. "Has the world gotten that much scarier, or have parents just gotten wimpy?" he asks.

"I don't think parents are wimpy," Kristen says. "I think our 24-hour news media cycle instills fear in us. There are TV stations that want to get ratings. I don't buy into the fear tactics of the media and the news."

"Do you worry that you're going to put your kids in over their head?" Dr. Phil asks. "One of the things that you said that did bother me some is that you trust your kids' judgment."

"I do trust their judgment," she says, explaining that if her children are going to a friend's house, she makes sure the friend is home and tells the mom that her child is on the way. "If they go and I hear nothing for a long time, I'm pretty sure that they got there."

[AD]"Why do you not just have them confirm that they've arrived?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I guess because we're all busy, and I'm not worried about it," she says. "I think what I'd really like, honestly, is for more people to allow their kids to go outside, so that there are more eyes on the street, so I really do feel free to leave my kids out."

"I think that's a good point," Dr. Phil says.

Beckie is a mother of two who cannot imagine letting her kids walk around the neighborhood or even the school playground unattended.

"My greatest fear is the safety of my children. I would rather be overprotective of my daughter now and watch her grow up, than be under-protective and have somebody kidnap her and kill her," Beckie says. "My children are not allowed to walk to the park by themselves, go to the mall, ride their bikes around the block; it's not safe. Currently, at my daughter's school, they are having to go out the back door and walk out on to the playground unsupervised to get to the restroom."


[AD]"It's very important for me to tell my grandchildren that there are mean people in the world and that these people do mean things," says Cheri, Beckie's mother. "I don't believe that there is enough being done to protect our children. How many children need to be abducted, raped or murdered before we realize that these dangers are out there?" 


"You don't know who your neighbors are. You could have a pedophile living two doors down from you. There are 40 sexual predators living within a 10-mile radius of our house. I'm beginning to wonder if our children are going to grow up here, or if we're going to have to move away for safety," Beckie says. 

In the studio, Beckie explains why she won't let her children play outside unsupervised. "I'm afraid that somebody has easy-access to drive up, snatch my children out of the front yard and drive down the street," she says.

"And you feel like your number one job is to protect your children, so therefore, you're keeping them out of harm's way," Dr. Phil says.

"I am overprotective, I feel, from some of the experiences I've had growing up," Beckie says, explaining that when she was in kindergarten, her best friend was abducted, raped and murdered. The girl's body was found less than a mile from the house where Beckie now lives. "I feel that my children have some freedom. I'm just not willing to let them have so much freedom that they are accessible to anybody out there."

"What do you let them do?" Dr. Phil asks.

"They're allowed to play at parks with my supervision," she says. "I need to be able to see them, and I need to know there aren't bushes or people whom I don't recognize around them." She explains that at her daughter's school, there is only a chain-link fence separating the playground from a park, and her daughter has to walk through the area to use the restroom.

[AD]"I've said it's really important to prepare your child to self-protect," Dr. Phil says. He plays a video from a previous show of a mom teaching children what to do if they're attacked by a stranger.


"You can't be there all the time," Dr. Phil says. "Those children need to learn to self-protect." He suggests practicing the self-defense techniques demonstrated in the video with your children.