Founder of the book, blog and movement Free-Range Kids
WHAT’S YOUR MOTTO?
Our kids are safer and smarter than our culture gives them credit for.
WHAT’S ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND?
In theory? “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” by Steven Pinker. “Thinking Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman. And, “The New York Review of Books.” In reality: “Nine Women, One Dress” (so fun!) and my clock radio.
WHAT GIVES YOU GOOSE BUMPS?
Hearing about someone saved from something awful.
WHAT IS YOUR BAD DAY BACKUP PLAN?
WHAT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR?
My family (past and present) and not being born before central heating. And my neighborhood — I love Jackson Heights, Queens. Truly, if anyone wants to drop me a note, I will meet you out here and show you around.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
Feeling lucky to be you.
BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
“Action breaks the cycle.” In other words, when things are scary or depressing, if you can just get yourself to do one thing new or different or brave, everything can change.
BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER GIVEN?
“Ignore the jerks!”
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW THAT YOU ARE EXCITED ABOUT?
1 – Starting a non-profit with Dan Shuchman, Jon Haidt and Peter Gray called “Too Safe to Succeed.” We’re fighting the way our culture stunts kids physically, emotionally and intellectually by falsely assuming they’re super-fragile.
2 – More talks! Mostly what I do, besides blog at Free-Range Kids, is give talks. I make people laugh so hard their cheeks hurt (or so they tell me), but they also leave more confident and optimistic. I’ve lectured everywhere from Microsoft to DreamWorks to Yale (three times!), not to mention at loads of schools, about how we got so afraid for our kids. It’s not that we each individually suddenly decided to become worried, helicoptering, crazy people. Our culture is shoving fear down our throats! I show people how to fight that fear, so kids can have the kind of old-fashioned free time WE had, to find their own interests, fight their own battles, and develop all the social skills, leadership and joy it’s hard to get any other way.
3 – Lately I’ve also started giving talks about the draconian nature of our sex offender laws. Did you know your child is more like to end up ON the registry than be molested BY someone on it? These laws have to change. But they won’t until we all understand they are not making kids any safer.
HOW DO YOU PRESS PAUSE?
This is not my forte. My sister once told me, “Think of exercise as part of your job.” But… I usually just keep furiously typing at the computer till I keel over.
WHAT DID YOUR 8-YEAR-OLD SELF LOVE DOING?
Same things I’m doing now: Writing, reading, making things. I really wanted to start a fad or coin a phrase. Actually, one of my “talking points” about the reason kids need unsupervised, unstructured time is that when you are a kid and you have enough time and space to discover what you really LOVE doing, you may end up doing it the rest of your life. Ask me about Jeff Bezos’ childhood sometime!
IF YOU COULD HAVE ONE MAGIC POWER WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Getting people out of prison the second they no longer pose a threat to society. I think about 90% of prisoners would go home if I had that power. My other magic power would get rid of all pain. Can’t I please have two magic powers? I’ll trade you for my secret for forgetting to eat!
WHAT MAKES YOU FORGET TO EAT?
When I’m really upset. I guess that’s the up-side of misery.
WHAT 3 THINGS WOULD YOU GRAB IN A FIRE?
Besides other people? A fire extinguisher! (That being said, I have two in my kitchen and I’m not quite sure I could figure out how use them if I was freaking out because the stove was going up in flames.)
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE – YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE?
Waiting to have kids when we wanted them. It took a long time. Ugh.
Grrrrr (If that’s a word)– An all-purpose outlet.
FAVORITE WORK OF ART?
I’m trite. I love “Nighthawks” for the same reason half the world loves it: It makes loneliness seem universal and lovely. Also, I love lunch counters. And coffee. And the ’20s. And snacks.
Oh gosh. Favorite? As a kid: “Little Women.” Actually, I just re-read it a year or so ago, and it was STILL completely wonderful. Louisa May Alcott even had a whole chapter on Meg becoming a helicopter parent. It was warm AND hilarious. So maybe it’s “Little Women” now and forever. (But if you want to read a book that will make you totally laugh, laugh, LAUGH read, “Where’d You Go Bernadette?” )
CAN PEOPLE CONTACT YOU? (ALL RIGHT, THAT’S A QUESTION I ADDED MYSELF, BECAUSE THE ANSWER IS):
Yes! If you want to talk about any of this, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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