Lenore Skenazy, President of Let Grow, Discusses the Power of Independent Learning

While a common stereotype of the kind and caring parent includes having a watchful eye, Lenore Skenazy, president of “Let Grow,” is advocating for something else: allowing children to take risks. “Treating today’s kids as physically and emotionally fragile is bad for their future — and ours,” Let Grow’s website explains. “Let Grow encounters the culture of overprotection. We aim to future-proof our kids, and our country.” 

Ms. Skenazy came to CGPS last week to give a presentation on the idea of reasonable risk-taking to Grammar School parents. Ms. Skenazy believes children need to learn from experience, experience that they gather when they are ready and which is supported by parents who believe they can overcome obstacles. 

“To be a good mom in America today, you’re always supposed to be going to that very dark place. Stranger Danger. You go to the worst case scenario first and you proceed as if it’s going to happen,” Ms. Skenazy explained. 

Ms. Skenazy explained that the media often portrays children in worst case scenarios, which installs a fear about taking risks. While we remember the rare kidnappings highlighted in the news, we forget the thousands of safe travels to and from school that children successfully complete every day. 

Ms. Skenazy urges parents to allow their children to take small risks that increase in responsibility as the child proves themselves capable, and to ensure confidence in their ability to handle those risks. In one example, Ms. Skenazy left her son in the handbag section at a department store, with instructions as to how to get the short bus ride home and safe rules to follow. After he came home safe and sound, “He was levitating,” she explained.  

The problem, Ms. Skenazy says, is that reference points have disappeared. Parents aren’t sure as to how to regulate risk when there’s no baseline about what is too risky. “What happens when we have a culture like this is that children get the brunt of it...it’s making them anxious,” she said. 

The solution? A new culture of independent learning can be created by fostering a community where small risk taking is normalized. With assignments aligned with the Let Grow guidelines, students from the entire community can practice their risk-taking, share their experiences and come together over small lessons learned. The support of a community effort to encourage more calculated risk taking can also put parents at ease. “What’s one thing you used to love doing as a kid but won’t let your own kids do?” Ms. Skenazy asked the room. The question got everyone thinking.