Now neighbors can call the cops on the kids playing outside!

familyWhat would you do if you knew that your neighbors were watching your every parenting move, waiting to catch you doing something wrong so they could report you to child protective services (CPS)? Would that bother you or would you just go on about your business? I mean none of us like to be told what to do, especially not when it comes to parenting.

CPS has applied vague legal standards and erring on the side of "safety," by removing children from families who have not mistreated them, who have not come to harm, but who are nonetheless deemed to be "at risk." Parents who have done nothing wrong are losing their kids. Guess who is calling CPS to deem these kids to be "at risk"? You got it, those damn nosy neighbors.

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Okay, we all know beating is bad. Don't do it. But now, no one can discipline their children without worrying that a) their effort to raise respectful children might land them in jail or b) a child might cry "beating" just for a simple tap with the chancla. So most people just give up because they feel like their hands are tied and we all look on in horror as children act like jerks in public and talk back.

We'll, since we've all gone all hidden-dragon-crouching-tiger-mom, the standard expectation of parenting is to be attached at the hip with our children. If you try to parent old-school style and let your children loose outside without constant and immediate parental supervision even in the backyard, you, my friend, could be in danger of being arrested and hauled off to jail if your neighbor makes it their business. So, my advice to you, watch out who you piss off.

When I was a kid, we used to stay outside unchaperoned with our friends until the street lights came on. Why? Because back then, our neighborhood knew and accepted that it took a village to raise a child so all the parents watched out for all the children. They all popped their head out from time to time or my dad would play soccer with all of us. There was no, "Debi, be careful how fast you run. Put your helmet on or you might bust your head!" Because getting hurt and recovering is a part of life and a lesson we all need to learn. There was no coddling past the age of 3.

Look, I'm not saying that if I see 3 naked, dirty neighborhood children locked outside starving while their mom is in the picture window hitting, what looks like, the crack pipe that I won't go knock on her door and set her straight or pull the kids inside my house and feed and clothe them. But if I see three perfectly healthy children playing outside in their yard while there mom empties the dryer or answers a phone, my first thought is not to call the police or CPS on her. It's not my business to judge her parenting or intervene unless the kids are in immediate danger. The problem is that out of context, you don't really know what's going on.

The point is this, as neighbors, it's the neighborly thing to help your neighbor out. Look up every once in awhile if you are raking the yard and the kids are outside alone or you hear a car barreling down the road, just in case. But it's not your place to judge your neighbor's parenting or how they choose to raise their kids. They have a right to their own values, as long as they aren't breaking the law, and you have a right to yours. So, nosy neighbors, stop calling CPS every time a kid goes on the jungle gym unattended. Be a good neighbor and mind your own business.

Image via Karsten Bitter/Flickr

Topics: abuse  childcare  crime