Helicopter Moms & Dads: Watch this and then go dunk your heads in cold water

I guess the parents of these lean, marvelous looking, exuberant Siberian kid-animals didn’t get the memo that what kids need now is 24/7 hovering, being kept indoors, and fed packaged junk food.

standard several kids with buckets
Playing in the snow…in swim trunks

That’s their everyday ritual at this school, for 18 years now. The temperature ranges from -10 to -30 celsius (+11 to -22 fahrenheit). To make it even more fun, they douse themselves with ice water, rub snow on themselves and lob snowballs at each other.

Do you think they’re just posing for the camera, or is it real? Check it out, a mere 25 seconds of kid laughing fun.

So much awesome. A real lesson in hormesis…and equally, the waning joy of childhood in the West.

Here’s the whole story in The Siberian Times, along with a bunch more pictures.

And for more information on how not to be a life killing, overprotective, hovering, overbearing ninny-nanny when it comes to your kids, see Lenore Skenazy at Free Range Kids. Besides, we know what you helicopter parent assholes are all about: sacrificing your childrens’ childhood joy and independent discovery and adventure, for the sake of your irrational fears—because you watch too much sensational garbage “news” on television like a drug addict, losing all perspective. You’ve allowed yourselves to become so fucking stupid when it comes to raising kids—when it ought to be the most natural thing in the world because we were all kids once! We have experience.

I was a total free range kid, and here was my no-boundaries playground. All summer long, from after breakfast until dinner. Lunch? What’s lunch? Zero parental supervision, from well before 10 years of age. There used to be an old power company dam in the river that we all played in and slid down. No flotation vests. No sunscreen. No shirts. No shoes.

Truckee River Playground
Truckee River Playground (click image to enlarge)

From what I tend to see around and about, I’d sure hate to be a kid today, enslaved to what passes for parents—either locked up with an xBox, 6-pack of sugar water and bag of chips…or enduring the productivity schedule of a Fortune-500 CEO, being shuttled endlessly to dance practice, music lessons, sports practice, and then hours of homework to top it all off.

Disclaimer: The above is intended as a ranty generalization. I’m well aware there are still some good parents out there, else we’d all be up shit creek. The children of the bad ones will most likely become lawyers, politicians, bureaucrats, college professors, so on and so forth, so that they can get back at everyone else for their miserable childhood.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Earl Cannonbear on February 12, 2013 at 18:52

    Barnaul is a prosperous city that lies on Russia’s western Siberian plain.

    Wonderful scenes of happy children growing up in safe clean environments.

    Contrast that with these images of The Charcoal Children of Manila

    Kindergarten age kids scavenging through a seething masses of stinking garbage.

    I will leave it to the readers to draw their own conclusions as to the cause of the differences.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2013 at 19:37


      You’re comparing a remote rural city of a half million with a metropolitan area of 25 million. Btilliant How about go to the remote islands as I have been, and make a more proper comparison. Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, similar. I’ve been to out of the way places in all of them and they’re pretty much like out of the way places everywhere.

      Next find me some urban squalor in Moscow. Shouldn’t be that tough.

      Man you racists are a kick.

    • Earl Cannonbear on February 12, 2013 at 20:25

      Dr. Richard Lynn is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Ulster.

      In 2002 he wrote the book “IQ and the Wealth of Nations” where he convincingly argues that the differences in national income and poverty rates are correlated with national average IQ.

      To give some context, it is generally accepted that IQs of 70 or lower signify mental retardation.

      IQs ranging from 70 to 85 indicate borderline intellectual functioning.

      European countries on average have an IQ of 100.

      The average IQ of Filipinos is only 86!

      Don’t shoot the messenger.

    • Jscott on February 12, 2013 at 20:53


      Where are you on the average of your living area? I would like wealth, intelligence, and happiness metrics.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2013 at 20:57

      Go to a fishing village on an island in the PI. Once you find that they can speak English and 3-4 other dialects, including Tagalog, you’ll begin to get a clue.

      Explain to them the elements of IQ tests. Have them create one for you. Make sure they understand that in developing it, an average score of 100 for them is the standard. Then you take it.

      IQ is bullshit, except at extremes one way or the other. IQ tests are designed to set a standard for a typical white cog in the industrial machine. But the fact is, immigrants of all colors have been coming here and doing just fine.

      Ever see any recent footage of a typical US Auto Assembly line?

      Moreover, the PI was a US colony from 1899-1946, and this was after Spanish colonization (brutal). I wonder what the average IQ of new Americans was in 1776 after being under the thumb of British rule so that they could keep us an agrarian society for as long as possible.

    • Earl Cannonbear on February 12, 2013 at 21:52

      I hear what you’re saying.

      I suppose its possible for a person who survives by sifting through garbage to create an IQ test biased towards scavenging techniques that we would find challenging.

      But what are we testing? Most modern Westerners don’t pick through garbage for a living, we manipulate abstract symbols. But then again, given our high IQs, I’m confident if we put our minds to it we would in short order be on the bleeding edge of refuse recover technology far surpassing current third world standards.

      Yes immigrants of all colors who legally enter the US do fine but that is only because immigrants by their very nature are on average better educated and more ambitions that those they leave behind. We are getting the creme of the crop. In an ironic twist, by siphoning off the small proportion of high IQ individuals we’re only making conditions worse in these backward countries. What’s left behind are the dregs of the dregs.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 13, 2013 at 07:31

      “I suppose its possible for a person who survives by sifting through garbage to create an IQ test biased towards scavenging techniques that we would find challenging.”

      Can’t deal with the real scenario I proposed I see. I said remote island fishing village. Or, you could try out an African hunter-gatherer tribe. Same deal. Their survival abilities don’t involve digging through garbage, nor being a cubicle warrior or operating machinery on a construction site or in a factory. They deal with survival in nature and you would surely fall short.

      On the other hand, you could go to all the factories now all over the third world as well and find yourself just as lost.

      In the end, you simply can’t come to grips with the fact that humans evolve intelligence over generations just as they evolve character traits, personality and culture. Put the “dumbest” brown skins from the heart of the Amazon in the heart of NYC and within a generation, maybe two, their kids will beat your ass, largely because one of the traits they are going to develop is to get ahead through hard work & dedication, not sitting around complaining that someone is taking away what they haven’t even earned.

      Perhaps that’s the biggest issue of all. People like you and Mary believe you have earned something because you’re white, and you can’t stand to see brown people actually go and earn it.

    • Joshua on February 13, 2013 at 06:45

      Earl – correlation does not equal causation. In my mind, it’s at least as likely that prosperity increases IQ as it is that IQ increases prosperity.

      In fact, given that the average IQ of Americans (and this as we got progressively less white) rose several points over the last century, I’d say there’s much MORE evidence for the second hypothesis.

  2. […] this and then go dunk your heads in cold water Free The Animal / Posted on: February 12, 2013 Free The Animal – I guess the parents of these lean, marvelous looking, exuberant Siberian kid-animals […]

  3. shelley on February 12, 2013 at 12:41

    OMG! There’s water down there and you were allowed to run around unsupervised at 10! Are you real or imaginary because I’m not sure how you ever survived!

    I actually let my kids run around with their ALICE packs full of flints, magnifying glasses, Ka-Bars, paracord and carabiners. I had to put the halt on their airsoft guns, .22s and bow/arrows, though. Once, they rigged up a needle on a string/straw dart thing and skewered a bunch of lizards all day once.

    I did receive one call from one mommy who didn’t believe their child when he said they had this stuff, to which I politely responded, yes they do, and he has never returned to play again. His loss!

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2013 at 13:10

      We used to fire .22 caliber shells between rocks, because they’re rimfire. I think we were 12 or so. Of course, even at 12, if you grew up around guns and have some knowledge of them, blasting shells in that manner is not particularly dangerous since there’s no chamber to constrain the expanding gas and propel the bullet in a single direction. It kinda just makes a big pop and you’ll find the bullet a few yards away.

  4. Jessica K on February 12, 2013 at 13:25

    I had a alarm clock in the first grade. I had to get up, feed myself, cloth myself and get myself and my brother to school. And I was six or seven. My parents worked hard and owned their own business. I laugh when I see parents who don’t think their teenager is capable of mowing the lawn. If you do, do, do for your kids, what do they learn? They learn they are not capable and worse they learn to be lazy.

    Kids also learn through exploring and play. We did not need expensive toys. We build forts out of bushes and sticks. We dug holes and poured in water so our forth would have a lake. We’d get our little brothers dirty to make our nor’easter mad. We’d play basketball until we were hot and dirty and HAPPY. And somehow we were all able to do it without our parents telling us how. As a matter of fact, I remember feeling sorry for the kid with the protective mom.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2013 at 13:32

      ” I remember feeling sorry for the kid with the protective mom.”

      Yep, we’ve all been there and it was sad. After a while, they stopped asking if they could join us because they had already accepted the reality and it would just heighten the disappointment.

  5. JLo on February 12, 2013 at 13:25

    Wow, I never thought I’d see my adopted homeland held up as an example for anything in the US. I’m used to my former compatriots who’ve never even been here telling me what a shit hole it is. Bravo, Richard, I guess that’s why I dig this site!

    I also grew up free-range on 100 acres of forrest, wouldn’t give up that childhood for the world.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2013 at 13:37


      You are quite welcome, and the facts are just the facts. Those kids look like they feel like the richest, most privileged kids in the world, and all they have to play with is now and buckets of ice water.

      It’s also cool how the girls are shirtless too, right with the boys. That was the norm back when here, too. In the US, people would get hauled in for child porn and end up on the sex offender registry.

    • JLo on February 12, 2013 at 13:52

      The US is a wonderful place in a lot of ways, but when I go back to visit I feel very uncomfortable. Too many laws and rules, you can’t say this or that because you might offend someone. It’s not for me, I much prefer chaos.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2013 at 14:04

      “I much prefer chaos.”

      There is anarchic order to be found there. Human order; not political, not hierarchical, not authoritarian.

      Americans hate chaotic systems now, because they want to be told what to do. Chris Rock typifies the average American (“Obama is our daddy and we have to listen to him”)

      Chris Rock needs a paddling behind the woodshed before being sent to bed without any dinner. …Since he seems to want to be a child.

    • JLo on February 13, 2013 at 01:42

      Put another way, natural order, or even disorder in a positive sense. I’m not sure if you’ve read NN Taleb’s new book, but it’s largely an essay on this very topic. One of his examples is how humans respond constructively to short-term, sharp stress and destructively to drawn out chronic stress.

  6. ladysadie1 on February 12, 2013 at 13:28

    How did you survive? My kids can’t wait for Spring so they can practice playing “Hunger Games” with their friends. They have been relentlessly studying edible wild plants this winter and they are teaching their friends. A summer of freedom from school, sports and rules – why can’t I have that???

  7. Lee on February 12, 2013 at 14:23

    I grew up with an abandoned building site at the bottom of the road and a forest valley and irrigation lake beyond that. There were about 5 boys aged between 7 and 10 from various families in the street. Cement mixer rides, beam to beam racing, cavity wall walking, shed roof hopping, salt bags down embankments, etc., etc. I can’t remember anything happening worse than a few cuts and bruises.

  8. shelley on February 12, 2013 at 14:44

    What happened to us as we grew up free having an awesome time being a kid to become parents to bizarrely over-protective? I have not been able to figure it out yet. Maybe it is just all the non-stop news scaring people half to death. Or maybe the moms have become too busy working and feel guilty so strap their children down in front of the tv. I don’t know, but I hope it goes full circle.

    It kind of reminds me of that VW commercial of the dad teaching his boy how to throw a ball – that man obviously had a helicopter mommy:

    “Chris Rock typifies the average American” I hope that’s not true!

  9. Chris Hynes on February 12, 2013 at 15:11

    You didn’t shit as a kid?

    Hilarious typo alert, paragraph 6.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2013 at 15:30

      That’s right. From breakfast to dinner, if you had to go, you held it. We were tough. 🙂

    • Gabriella Kadar on February 12, 2013 at 19:07

      My kids just shit in the woods. During hunting season it was a bit hair-raising.

  10. VW on February 12, 2013 at 15:12


    You sonofabitch, I’ll get you.

    – a lawyer

  11. marie on February 12, 2013 at 17:13

    You get an “A” anyway
    – a college professor 😉

  12. ladysadie1 on February 12, 2013 at 17:25

    Whaaaat? You people are saying that we have rights to our children??? Eric Holder just said that we don’t: Home schooling is now unconstitutional.

  13. Gabriella Kadar on February 12, 2013 at 17:50

    One thing I’ve noticed between being a kid and being an adult: when we were kids we stayed in the lake even if our lips were blue. Parents would ask if the water was too cold. We were in total denial “It’s warm”. Even if our teeth were chattering, we were having fun. Running from the sauna and jumping into icy lake….These days? The Polar Bear club is not for me. I don’t know for sure if it’s my thyroid or if it’s just what happens when we ‘grow up’. When I was a kid I never noticed when it was super hot and humid either.

    I grew up in the city, but we were little badasses. Got into everything, knew every escape route (laneways, garage roofs, spaces in fences, you name it). Our parents never knew or didn’t want to know. We were like feral cats. Some of the stuff we got up to is shameful actually. I think about it now from the perspective of an adult. There were parents who wouldn’t allow their kids to run with us.

    Probably the helicopter parent business is because parents are older these days and they are old enough to know that they are not immortal (which the opposite of never occurred to me as a child. The thought of dropping dead from something didn’t even register until recently and I just push the thought aside.) But I think today’s ‘elderly’ parents who are like yesterday’s grandparents, project all their fears onto the kids. They don’t want anything adverse to happen to their very few and precious bundles to the extent that even normal bumps and bruises are catastrophic occurrences. This is not good.

    When I was a kid, unless the broken bone broke through the skin, you didn’t tell your parents. You’d just get punished. There was no health insurance either so anything was a ‘big deal’. (It’s kind of funny these days when I’ve had Xrays taken of various bits and the radiologist shows me old healed fractures. It’s not good for reporting current problems like herniated discs because there’s a tendency to just ‘suck it up’ and the vocabulary for pain is under-developed….problems could be treated ‘on time’ before they become structural issues. But that’s the legacy of running around as a child, spraining wrists, breaking kneecaps, breaking heel bones, toes etc.. So there’s that too.)

    Kids need to discover the limits and enjoy the thrills.

    Because I work, I sent my kids first to day camps and then to residential camp most summers until they ‘graduated’ as counsellors. They became expert canoeists, kayakers, they learned how to sail, find their way through the woods, swim a lot, hike, set up camp, ride horses, play tennis, etc. etc. Not being home with mom for 8 weeks did us all a great deal of good. This does not mean we didn’t go on ‘Adventures with Mom’ because we did a lot of that as well. I think their going up north helped them to become independent in positive ways.

    They experienced their share of sprains, broken fingers, tennis ball to the eye, broken arm………We can’t/shouldn’t wrap our children in cotton batting. These days kids don’t even walk to school and back.

  14. Paleophil on February 12, 2013 at 19:16

    Excellent post, thanks for the links to the excellent article and video, Richard. Very inspirational. These kids are motivating me to take my own cryotherapy practice up another notch. It is indeed sad how coddling and fear have come to dominate American child rearing. Before the automobile and then multiple-car households became commonplace, all this shuttling-around nonsense was impossible and children were allowed to be children.

  15. Marc on February 12, 2013 at 19:23

    “The children of the bad ones will most likely become lawyers, politicians, bureaucrats, college professors, so on and so forth, so that they can get back at everyone else for their miserable childhood.”




    • Gabriella Kadar on February 12, 2013 at 20:12

      News report today that applications for law school in the US is majorly down and has been declining for the past several years. Less hungry lawyers?

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2013 at 20:48

      No, they can’t find work. I heard an NPR deal a while back on the issue. Tons with 200K plus student loans and can’t get a job in a firm. Every caller was in this situation and ever one said they would not do it over again. Word is, the way to be a lawyer is to find a firm to work as an assistant or paralegal, impress them, and have them help you through law school with a promise of a job. That, or have a daddy or mommy that’s a high powered lawyer. That helps.

    • Gabriella Kadar on February 13, 2013 at 02:32

      Sorry. My question implied that perhaps in the future there won’t be so many lawyers. I think both countries have too many of them. It’s like excess government which is also a great employer of lawyers. They haven’t been able to get jobs here either and the tuition is very high.

    • Jscott on February 12, 2013 at 20:59

      Less hungry lawyers?

      Hopefully smarter applicants. Why the FUCK would you want to be a lawyer? Even if you got partner WTF? Now, if you are male you could justify it with the procuring of younger females. Yet, not the time/money element.

      Unless your parents bought your degree. The game is different then. Still, working 80 hours plus writing bullshit that will not matter is friggin hard to reconcile.

      I have been a consultant in some of the big firms. The atmosphere is incredibly seductive. Though, it is just a higher priced crackhouse.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2013 at 21:25

      “Still, working 80 hours plus writing bullshit that will not matter is friggin hard to reconcile.”

      Don’t even get me started. Owing to my work, I’ve read—well, fallen asleep—thousands of complaints (lawsuits) over the years. Yea, I know all the elements of the case theory have to be there. Thing is, once you have some familiarity with it, not really that hard and so much is boilerplate anyway.

      And then the massive, massive number of hours it takes (often for multiple people) to properly try a case at trial. It’s a lot of crazy.

      When I lived downtown I was a member of a local athletic club I could walk to. High percentage of lawyers, especially older ones (the younger ones were all still in the office doing those 80 hours, probably). It’s hilarious to listen to them talk, discussing obscure legal issues as though it would ever matter to anyone outside their own circle.

      That said, I’ve had a few lawyers get me out of business binds before, mostly with “regulators.” And I’ve had some screw things up. Basically, I think you’re probably wasting your money if you’re paying less than $300-400 per hour. There’s a reason most get that kind of hourly rate—they get results.

    • shelley on February 13, 2013 at 02:59

      “working 80 hours plus writing” – easily…

  16. Amy H. on February 13, 2013 at 03:19

    I grew up in the ‘burbs but in a town that was pretty well wooded, with some farms scattered around housing developments. My house had woods that backed right up to the edge of the yard (no fence) and my brother and I spent one whole summer scavenging plywood and timbers from various neighbors’ scrap piles to build a tree fort. There was a small brook running through the woods about a mile in and we used to go back there with our friends to swim and play army with our toy machine guns. My uncle, an avid hunter, took us back there to learn how to track animals. He gave us each an army survival knife – the kind with a hollow handle that held fishing line and flints and had a compass on the end, we had endless hours of fun playing bushwhacker and purposely getting lost and using our compasses to find the way home again. As I got older, I taught myself how to ID wild plants and herbs for eating and healing.

    Now those woods are gone, replaced by a cookie-cutter McMansion development. I am so sad to think of those poor kids who will never know the joy of those woods.

    On the other side of town was an abandoned tobacco factory next to a lake where my grandfather first taught me how to fish at five years old. I’d walk or ride my bike there and spend hours looking for plants or gathering the blueberries that grew in abundance, or just daydreaming about living permanently in a place where there were no people. Now, that lake is becoming more of a pond as they drain more and more of it to make room for a housing development. There are two on its shores already, and they are expanding into a third. The old abandoned tobacco factory, the largest single still standing red brick structure in America, is being turned into senior housing, last I heard.

    Sometimes I think its a combination of helicopter parenting + no where to go to play. We moved to the rural part of the state just so we could give our kids the same experiences we had as kids – freedom to roam and learn about nature without endless haranguing and observation. Freedom to get into a little bit of trouble, just so you can use that expensive piece of tissue in your head to figure a way out of it. Freedom to develop your wits, and a sense of wonder about the world.

  17. Zosha on February 13, 2013 at 10:50

    Wow! I must be the only one on here who was NOT a free range kid. I was allowed to ride my bike around the neighborhood, but that’s about it. One time I even got in trouble for riding my book down the street. The horror! I also had about a million after school activities for as long as I can remember – dance lessons, music lessons, art lessons, swim team, etc. Whenever I did my homework, especially some type of project, my mom would hover over my shoulder and practically write it for me. I was in the “gifted” program and much ado was made about me being smart and talented and what not. Fast forward to college when I finally got away from all that shit and took a nose dive. Apparently talent doesn’t get you anywhere near where working hard does. Aside from that, I lacked any real social skills. I pretty much lacked any knowledge about how things work in the real world and it took me a long time to grow up. Too long. It’s hard not to be bitter about it. Now that I have my own daughter, I try as best as I can to be free range with her so she won’t have the same problems, but it’s hard when family undermines my authority. What’s worse, I see the same thing going on at her school and I worry about those poor kids, thinking the whole world is revolving around them and their precious activities.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 13, 2013 at 12:28

      “thinking the whole world is revolving around them and their precious activities.”

      YES. Thank you for adding that which I neglected to do. The helicopter phenomena has the effect of giving kids a false sense of self importance, self worth. There’s this whole world of adults hovering over and revolving around them and since these are their first experiences in life, they think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

      Then they go off to school and find all the other kids think the same way, so you get a competition in self importance.

    • Joshua on February 13, 2013 at 12:57

      You’re not the only one. My mother was a smotherer & I was likewise labelled gifted. I never had to work hard in school & I also got to college and had no idea how to actually work hard.

      I don’t think I’m bitter about it though. It is what it is, and I am who I am. One thing that experience taught me is that I can change, and I can change myself for the better.

  18. Barry Bliss on February 13, 2013 at 14:46

    Earl Cannonbare,
    You are a bit immature.
    See Jared Diamond.

    One winter I lived without heat and took only ice cold showers.
    One day I was talking to a fellow employee and she said “You are the only one out of us all that has not gotten sick this winter”.

    I have gotten so used to this over protective society I almost cannot believe that they are actually doing that in Siberia.
    Man, it’s easy to forget how great real freedom is.

  19. Stacy S on February 21, 2013 at 18:54

    Oooh! Over there by Oxbow park! Love that area!
    I was a free-range kid as well… And, until I was 12, this was in LA! As long as I was back in the yard by the time the street lights came on, all was good. 🙂

  20. Rob O. on March 18, 2013 at 17:38

    Somehow a LOT of parents have totally forgotten than bumps and bruises (both physical and emotional) nature’s way of helping you learn your limits. I’m working hard to let my son learn through experience and consequences. I want him to have a sense of old-school independence, grit, and fearlessness. And on a slightly off-topic rant, I’m also doing my level best to raise my son in an analog, tactile way where he can build skills that help him thrive in the real world.

    The digital stuff will come, but later. He’ll have the rest of his life to be the digital media consumer that Microsoft, Apple and Google so desperately want him to be. But he’ll only have a short time to be a child, so for now, it’s analog world: Soccer, Legos, paper-based books, watercolor paints, an analog wristwatch, and anything else non-techie I can toss at him. (And this from a career IT guy – which you can imagine makes me seem like the Amish Luddite to my coworkers and friends!)

    And along more topical (Paleo) lines, my son eats real food for every meal that I can control. A waffle smeared with peanut butter and a cheese stick are classic breakfast fare. As are oatmeal with raisins or scrambled eggs with cheese – at 6 he’s not quite ready to do the on-stove cooking, but he can crack eggs better than some of our adult friends and he whips up eggs in a bowl with an old-school hand-cranked egg beater!

  21. noah on March 20, 2013 at 17:34

    Popular pastime in most of Scandinavia. We tend to run into saunas afterwards. Saunas which are mostly unisex saunas. Oh yeah….

    And our kids are ok, their minds are not warped from the nudity nor the cold.

  22. Richard Nikoley on March 20, 2013 at 19:48

    “Saunas which are mostly unisex saunas. Oh yeah….”

    Sadly, that was going out in Japan, even in the 1980s. Still, even in the early 90s, beaches on the Med were replete with topless women and often in the spring, from the office buildings in panties and topless.

    At first, it’s culture shock and then you get just mature enough. That is, mature enough to not stare or make a scene. Immature enough to enjoy the bounty of this life.

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