An Entire Town May Go Free-Range — and It’s Not Alone

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Here’s what is happening. Social historians take note: People are realizing that they WANT to be able to let their kids play outside, walk to the store, ride their bikes without fear of legal repercussions. And so they are starting to talk about this, in living rooms, on social media, and at city hall. Below is just ONE of about four or five letters I’ve gotten in the past few weeks about a town moving toward going “officially” Free-Range:

Dear Free-Range Kds:

I finally bit the bullet and did something that has been on my mind for ages. Your website, the Meitiv’s troubles, and having the police show up at my door because a “concerned citizen” called about my 8 year old walking 1,000ft to the bus stop alone made me decide, “Someone has to do something, and I guess that someone will be me.”
I posted the following in my neighborhood forum on Nextdoor.com:
If you are unfamiliar with the idea of ‘Free-Range Parenting,’ please Google it and check out FreeRangeKids.com

I’ve been thinking and thinking about how we (parents in general) could feel safe and comfortable giving our children the freedom and independence most of us had as children. The freedom to ride their bikes around the neighborhood “until the streetlights come on,” the freedom to walk to the parks, play there and walk home without having to be be watched every moment by a parent, the freedom to walk to a friend’s house or to school, just like most of us did when we were young. Freedoms that provided us with incredibly important learning experiences, and would provide our children with the same.

The more I thought about it the more I realized that people these days have the idea that the world is much less safe than it was when we were kids….but that isn’t true. (Look up the crime stats, especially crimes against kids.)

And I realized that a lot of us grew up in communities where our parents felt like if we got hurt, lost, or were misbehaving, a neighbor would help us and/or get us home.

And I realize that is something a lot of us don’t have these days. We fear that people we don’t know might be dangerous, even though most of us rationally know that the MOST adults would much sooner help our children than harm them, and we don’t make close friends with our neighbors.

Further, if we see a lost/hurt/alone child, or even just a child playing in the park or walking around the neighborhood alone, most of us are more apt to call the police than we are to just approach the child and ask, “Are you okay? Do you know how to get home? Do your parents know where you are? Do you know your Mommy/Daddy’s phone number?” And we assume that if we do approach the child we will be looked at by the child, the child’s parent, or some other passerby as the scary, creepy, stranger that most of us keep warning our children against.

And we are more apt to teach our children “DO NOT EVERY SPEAK TO STRANGERS!” than we are to teach them “MOST adults would rather help you than harm you, and if you need help, you should find an adult. BUT stay away from any adults that make you uncomfortable, ask you to do things you know you should not do, or act in ways you don’t usually see adults acting.”

We teach our children to avoid everyone they don’t already know, instead of teaching them ways to judge people safely, or trusting their “gut instincts” the way we usually trust ours. 

I know I’m being long-winded, but I feel passionate about this topic and want to connect with others who agree.

I think we should try to change this mindset. I think we should try to create communities where we feel comfortable letting our children have some freedom and independence to learn and show us how capable and intelligent they are, even without us hovering over them, and to let them have some of the joys we had playing outside with our friends for hours at a time. 

I think a couple of the ways we might be able to make that happen is to:
1. Get a group of parents together and maybe put together some flyers about how safe the world is now, compared to years ago
2. Maybe make a directory of parents/neighbors that agree to be emergency contacts for the neighborhood kids/ other parents? If a kid gets hurt they/their friend can go to or call the closest “emergency parent” to where they are, if a kid doesn’t come home on time, parents can call the people in the directory and see if they have seen the child. Things like that? Just a network of friendly helpful neighbors who will agree to help any kids who are lost/hurt/ need a glass of water, etc. They don’t necessarily have to be parents, possibly a grandparent, or just a friendly neighbor.
3. Maybe we can have a representative parent to go to their neighborhood meetings and let people know what we’re doing?

I don’t want this to seem like it has a to be a ton of work, it shouldn’t be, it should just be a way for all of us to feel like our kids can have some freedom, and still be safe and for us to know we have a good network of friendly neighbors.

Is this something anyone else is interested in?”
So, Lenore: At first I was really nervous that I was the only one around my neighborhood feeling like this and that I was going to get a bunch of responses saying “But..But…your children’s safety! Predators on every corner!” That has not been what has happened at all, not even once!
 
The response has been great! In 2 days I’ve had 10 people, some parents, a grandma, an aunt, and a friendly neighbor respond that they are completely on board. We live in an incredibly safe neighborhood, so almost no one is afraid of the super rare chance of their kids getting abducted or anything like that.
 
I’m planning on meeting up with the people who have responded, and their kids, and anyone else they bring alone on May 2nd (I intentionally planned that so it would be beofre the May 9th “Take our kids to the park…” day, so more people in my neighborhood would feel inclined to participate in that. 🙂 )
I also called my local police department today to ask about the laws in my area regarding kids being home or out and about alone, they told me that — first, there is no state or local law regarding what age a kid can walk to school, be home, play at the park or walk home, alone.
If the police are called they take the situation on a case by case basis. If the parents are aware the kid is out, the kids seems mature and capable, then no problem. It is largely left up to the parents’ discretion, and no one will “get in trouble” unless the officer determines that the child is truly in danger or not capable or something like that. The officer I spoke to was really nice, and made it really clear that they have no intention of trying to get parents in trouble for letting their kids play outside, and they will defer to the parents’ determination of their child’s maturity unless the child is clearly in danger. 
I was also given the number of the department where I can reach the officer in charge of the “Zone” I live in, and told that I could absolutely schedule a time for him to meet up with me and my neighbors and our kids, so he is familiar with our faces, and knows that we fully intend on letting our kids be “Free-Range.”
I recommended to my neighbors that we give our kids the Free-Range Kids memberships cards I found on your site that have the parents’ name and phone number and say, “I have permission to be out playing without an adult.”
I’m so excited.
-Vallori
Lenore here: Me too. Beyond excited. This is a sea change.
What? Not stop kids from playing outside?Their town is going to look like ours!

What? Not stop kids from playing outside?Their town is going to look like ours!

61 Responses to An Entire Town May Go Free-Range — and It’s Not Alone

  1. Montreal Dad April 23, 2015 at 11:18 am #

    So proud of you, Lenore!

  2. Opal April 23, 2015 at 11:22 am #

    Can I be someone who says, “No, I don’t have kids (yet), but I love seeing kids out playing, and I’m happy to, as a member of my community, talk with those kids, and encourage them? ” We walk our dog every night in my neighborhood, and we love kids playing-they interact with is and our pup (13 years old), and make it feel like we’re in a community. I love the kids who run up and kick a soccer ball for our dog. I love the kids who go, “What’s her name? She seems so friendly.” I don’t have kids yet because we’re not ready, but we love interacting and being a part of the community. The most hurtful thing I’d when parents call their kids in and give them a talk about “strangers.”

  3. Michelle April 23, 2015 at 11:24 am #

    I have wondered how, or whether, to broach this with my neighbors. I know that many of them are on board already. The ones I see out walking their dogs always tell me how they enjoy seeing and talking to my kids. But there are also those who don’t come out, and don’t let their kids out to play. So far I just encourage my kids to keep inviting their friends out to play.

  4. Michelle April 23, 2015 at 11:28 am #

    Opal, you don’t have to have kids to be a part of the community! I’m sorry that some parents are so fearful. My kids have many adult friends in our neighborhood. Some of them have kids, some of their kids are grown, some of them don’t.

  5. Becks April 23, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    This is Great!

    I wonder if Vallori would mind if I or other people copy and paste some of her wording to do a similar thing. I find it difficult to avoid sounding ‘preachy’ or judgemental when I try to discuss this.

  6. sigh April 23, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    “I think we should try to create communities where we feel comfortable letting our children have some freedom and independence to learn and show us how capable and intelligent they are, even without us hovering over them…”

    Even without hovering.

    You cannot “see” a child becoming capable in certain ways, because it can only happen when you are NOT looking.

    And legions of parents are deciding to abandon that wisdom, abandon that part of their responsibility in helping their kids develop necessary faculties, by insisting the children always be supervised. It’s as though there is some twisted idea that the only way children can grow up is if adults show them and monitor them and assign them tasks that are graded and evaluated by adults.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. I remind myself daily: children learn by experience. Children learn by our example. We need not work so hard at “parenting.” Just lead by example, and let them have experiences of their own.

    I love the response from the community and the law enforcement of this town. There is hope. Perhaps there is an awakening happening: “Hey! It doesn’t have to be this way! We have the power to create our own experience after all!”

  7. Wow... April 23, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    Hmmm….One little caveat: I’m not quite sure about the ‘acting in ways you don’t usually see adults acting’. I mean, I kinda get it but I don’t know…just ‘acting oddly’ is not the same thing as ‘acting suspiciously’.

  8. vallori April 23, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    Becks,

    Feel free to use as little or as much of my wording as you like.

    Also, I’m really thrilled st the police department’s offer to have the officer meet up with me/the neighbors.
    I think a lot of us are going to feel a lot more comfortable knowing that our local police are looking out for our kids, and not going to hassle if the kids are playing outside. Hopefully other PD’s will be as accommodating.

    Sigh,

    *shrugs* maybe “show” wasn’t the best word to use. I can’t think of a better one, but what I mean is that at each step in a child’s life you learn that they are ready for more freedoms and responsibilities by finding out how they handle the ones you give them. Like the free range project some schools are doing, mentioned on this site, when you experience your kids being capable of one task, (or even witness (by watching or hearing about it later) their challenges, you form a better idea of their level of maturity and capability, and what you can let them do without assistance.

    I personally find that kids are generally FAR more capable, intelligent, and astute; and at a much earlier age, than people usually give them credit for.

  9. vallori April 23, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

    Wow,

    Yeah, that also could probably be phrased better, thanks for the tip.

    I was thinking a parent who had that conversation with a child would probably expand on the idea and spirit of it, and not leave it quite as broad as I did.

    Even “acting suspiciously” I’d hope a parent would expand on a bit so their kids would have a better idea of what that would entail.

    Like, if you see a guy wander the park with his hands down his pants, avoid that guy. If you see a lady wobbling with a bottle in her hand and mumbling at the trees, avoid that lady. The lady at the park playing with her dog: not weird, the guy in the van saying “come see the puppy I have in the back”, weird. Etc

    I just figured the parents could fill in the blanks with their own kids, and some kids might better understand what comes across as “suspicious” if they think of it in terms of adults acting “weird” or out if the norm.

  10. vallori April 23, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    Opal,

    The first person who responded to my post in my neighborhood forum is not a parent. Just a friendly neighborhor who wants to have a safe and happy community, and I love that he wants to be involved.

    I hope more non-parents get involved as well.

    While we have never been the type of parents to harp on “NEVER EVER TALK TO STRANGERS!” our older kids got a lot of it at school, and I didn’t realize how it was effecting them and their younger siblings until one day when my youngest dropped his hat in the store and a man picked it up and gave it to him, my youngest didn’t say “thank you”, looked scared, and then said “WOW! I can’t believe a STRANGER would give me my hat back!” The guy looked hurt, I felt embarrassed and my husband and I had a talk about “strangers” with the kids that night.

    The talk was basically: “The vast majority of adults will not hurt a child, and are definitely not out looking for children to hurt.”
    We went into more detail, and since then my youngest, who I previously thought was just kind of a standoffish kid, has been polite to just about everyone he comes across, and has also been more open to making friends on the playground.

    He apparently had had stranger anxiety around all ages of people, and I hadn’t even realized it.

    Anyway, a community isn’t just made of parents and your comment and my experience in the store that day has really driven home how much we are alienating ourself and our children from wondeful and friendly people with the stranger danger stuff.

  11. Neil M April 23, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

    What a great way to make a good community even better!

  12. Helen April 23, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    Whatever happened to the Block Parent program? When I was growing up in the mid-80s, many living rooms windows had a “block parent” sign in the window. Kids knew that if they ran into trouble, they could safely go to one of these homes for help. As I recall, the signs were available from the local police department and the people who had the signs did go through some kind of vetting process. I never used it, but it was always comforting to know that there were people to help all along the way. Would a program like this fly these days, I wonder?

  13. Wow... April 23, 2015 at 12:52 pm #

    @Valliori:

    Sure,the dog in van thing = weird. Lady playing with her dog = not weird. I just also hope that kids are taught about ‘harmless weird’ too. Lady mumbling at trees = weird.

    Like….I pretty much don’t drink. New’s year Eve and Christmas…sure. Most of the time though, I don’t. I have co-ordination issues though so I *look* drunk a lot of the time.

    Sure. Teach kids about “suspicious”, Teach kids about “not going off with strangers” But also teach kids about “strange, but harmless”. Atypical is perhaps a better word. I guess… “harmless eccentrics” is what I’m going for here? I dunno – am I making any sense

  14. Jen April 23, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

    I am wondering if the author would mind if I steal this for MY neighborhood’s Next Door site. We have a lot of families on ours, as well as a large number of law enforcement in our neighborhood.

  15. BL April 23, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    Has Aunt Bea been background-checked?

  16. vallori April 23, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    Wow,

    Lol. You’re making sense.

    It depends on the kid’s level of understanding and general temperament I guess.

    With my older kids I’d be able to say “suspicious” and they would be able to judge that pretty well without me going into great detail, and if they had questions, they’d ask.

    With my middle kid, who has Autism, but is high functioning, I have to get *very* *very* specific. Lol

    Helen,
    I have heard of “block moms” but I’m not terribly familiar with the program, though it sounds like it’s right in line with my intentions. I’ll look into it more.

  17. JP Merzetti April 23, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    This sea change has to address, I think, a whole lot more than just the concept of ‘free-range.’
    The world has changed – a generally agreed-upon condition, but if we examine how it has, certain factors come to light.
    Crime statistics are what they are: it is not just the crime itself, but how we respond and relate to it, and to the very idea of it. Just as to anything conceived as the idea of anything remotely dangerous to a child.
    There is a huge difference between children learning about the concept of danger as a natural matter of course, compared to something that is decided for them, pre-emptive restriction of their activity.
    The mind-set that decides beforehand that the required safety is only achieved by extreme limitation, and constant supervision……strains us beyond the limit.
    One wonders, if 90% of all mothers of school age children were stay-at home, would any family-friendly neighborhood revert to a constantly-watched environment normalized for childhood freedom?
    Well, that isn’t happening anytime soon (nor necessarily should it) – so that is not the answer.

    But a sense of community, and involvement within, can go a long way to producing this.
    In my childhood, adults within the community retained a strong common sense. They were not suspicious of each other without good reason to be (innocent until proven guilty.) Resulting in a strong and powerful social fabric which encouraged volunteerism.
    It was understood that kids were an investment in the future. Of course.
    But I wonder how this “investment” has changed, over time.
    Some people’s dogs are show dogs. That’s a business.
    Some people’s pets are child-replacements.
    I certainly don’t remember anything like that as a kid……except for dippy old grannies.

    Social perspective, about the kind of community we want to live in, and what it provides for all its citizens.
    The idea of citizenship……arranged in an order which is good, and healthy, for all.
    Adults participate in a joint democratic discourse – thereby creating consensus, and when enough of them decide what the desired requirements should be, things can and do change.
    But this involves social process, combined effort, and active involvement with each other.
    In communities where households become compartmentalized, insulated, and set apart from each other…it becomes virtually impossible to achieve this.

    Information used to flow through a community like water. Direct from the horse’s mouth. Now, too often, it side-tracks and detours through a televised propaganda machine. The “business” of sensationalized news. Corporatizing a community’s social construct. And it makes us crazy.

    I sincerely hope that this sea change produces a return to adult common sense.
    The sense of children has never been uncommon.
    And when nonsense commands their world, and their experience of the world, it hurts us all. We all lose.

  18. Karen Virtue April 23, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    Bravo Vallori! Be the change you wish to see in the world 🙂
    (and thanks for the nextdoor .com knowledge… was not aware of this site…)

    Please keep us updated on the progress of the process.

  19. John April 23, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    I certainly wish this parent the world of luck with this venture and a huge kudos goes out to her neighbors for being on board with this!

    In her 3 points above, the pessimists will probably try debunking her first point with, “Well, the reason the world is so much safer for kids nowadays is because we’re watching them more”. This must be countered with the fact that ALL crime is down and even back when crimes against children were higher, they were still extremely rare despite of them being on their own more.

    In her second point above regarding a directory of “parents/neighbors that agree to be emergency contacts for the neighborhood kids/ other parents?” This was actually a very popular concept back in the 1970s. People who agreed to be emergency contacts for kids in trouble were called “Block Parents”. Does anybody here remember that? Perhaps it was just a Wisconsin thing where I grew up. Basically a sign was placed in the front window that read “Block Parent” and any child who was in trouble was encouraged to knock on the door of a “Block Parent”. BUT it was emphasized to kids that a Block Parent was not there to be taken advantage of. They were only there for emergencies and/or if the child was hurt and needed help and not there for the kid to get a drink of water or some other minor favors.

    Perhaps the “Block Parent” was just a Wisconsin thing, I don’t know. But it was popular as I was growing up there in the 1970s and I think early 1980s. Unfortunately, in our pedophilia paranoia culture, the “Block Parent” fizzled out pretty quickly. Well, I think it’s high time to bring this concept back into style and I think the parent is basically echoing that philosophy in point 2 above.

  20. suz April 23, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    i love it. my kids are grown now, but we homeschooled and mostly sorta kinda free-ranged, and i’m so glad my kids had something resembling the wide-open freedom i myself enjoyed as a child.
    being micro-managed is never fun, however ‘safe’ it makes the parents feel. we are going to feel it in the next generation if we don’t have young people who have been trusted to problem solve, interact with people they don’t know and stride forward boldly into their world. fearfulness and insularity helps no one.
    khairete
    suz

  21. Papa Fred April 23, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

    Not too long ago (maybe a half dozen years?) there was a “program” called something like “Helping Hand” in which homes would volunteer to place a red hand sticker on their front door which indicated they were ready to help a child in need who came to their door for such assistance. I haven’t heard anything about it lately. It might be moribund, or still ongoing.

  22. Margaret Candler April 23, 2015 at 1:22 pm #

    Montgomery County Social Services pretends to care about children by attacking parents who give their children a little freedom. When I reported severe child abuse to them, they looked the other way. Yes, it was against a father and during a divorce, but I expected that county to follow Maryland law and standard procedures. They did not and the county employee in charge repeatedly lied and enabled a child abuser. Is Free-Range Parenting really more serious than beating and raping a child? http://www.justice4elsanewman.com
    Margaret Candler

  23. Emily Morris April 23, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    I love this. I feel like we are on the cusp of some beautiful revolution and may this go well for this town and many others.

    As for acting weird/suspicious/odd… it’s a grey area, but I agree with the general advice. If someone is doing something a child finds “odd” (even if an adult would declare if harmless), I see no reason for the child to not mind his own business. As he grows, he’ll be able to better distinguish the actions of others. I know that I at thirty years of age am still perfecting the skill. As long as the only emotion isn’t fear, there’s nothing wrong with it.

    On another note, I’m so excited for the Park Day. My daughter is two, so we’re not ready to leave her at the park by herself yet, but ever since spring really appeared we’ve been letting her roam our fenced-in backyard by herself with parent checks every few minutes.

  24. Vicki Bradley April 23, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    First, I’d like to preface this comment by saying that I’m 100% committed to FRK parenting. Out of curiosity, I was wondering if anyone out there has had the experience of telling someone that the crime statistics show that crime has been decreasing over the years, and had someone retort with “Perhaps the reason crime is decreasing is because, thanks to helicopter parenting, there are fewer children on the street to commit a crime against.” Has anyone come across this as an argument against FRK?

  25. Havva April 23, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    Congratulations Vallori! And thank you Lenore.

    Vallori your observation in the comments about stranger anxiety was insightful. My mom spent a few months teaching me stranger danger, and several years trying to undo the damage. My daughter is 4 and I have started explaining my experience with stranger danger rules, and why I think those rules did more harm than good. I’ve tried to explain the motivations behind the rules, why the rules were too far reaching, and what I learned was a better rule.

    Frankly I think stranger danger has created stranger anxiety in adults too. I think that is why parents today are so afraid. I think that is why people have trouble making friends with their neighbors…after all the neighbors are strangers (until you reach out to them anyhow). Of course if no one reaches out, everyone remains strangers.

    On the discussion about people acting ‘in ways you don’t usually see adults acting.’ I think keeping one’s distance from such people is a fine starting point. Even adults keep a distance from people having obviously mentally ill outbursts. They might not be dangerous, but until you can be certain a little caution and distance is in order.

    I think applying that practice is more critical for kids who lack the experience to know what is just odd vs what is likely to be dangerous. I would just be clear that this is a starting point, to keep the kid safe until they learn the difference between eccentric and dangerous. And that such encounters are something to talk to an adult about so they can learn which types of odd people are safe, which need help from other grown ups, and which are dangerous.

    I’m actually trying to come up with a good concise rules list. My daughter has been very fascinated by my story about the stranger danger stickers. Especially how I got the freedom to go to the park when I memorized all the rules, earned my rules stickers, and could recite them all by memory. Now she wants to earn rules stickers…. and I think it is a fine idea… Now I just need to invent the free range rules stickers. And perhaps some other supporting material.

  26. Red April 23, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

    @JP Merzetti:

    I actually do think that the lack of stay-at-home parents does have an impact.

    Right now, I and my family are living in a neighborhood which does have a lot of stay-at-home parents or grandparents. This unusual situation exists partly because we are in a high-tech area, have a lot of people living here who have come over from India or China for high-tech jobs, and their spouses may not be able to work in the US but are currently living in the US. Or the grandparents are here, not able to work.

    Our neighborhood is filled with free-range kids on a daily basis. There are parents/grandparents out keeping a general eye on the chaos sometimes.

  27. marie April 23, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

    Block Parents seems like a good way to teach kids that they should trust only those who have been given some kind of official approval. I would rather kids learned on their own who will be friendly and who will be helpful. Also, learning how to ask for help at the Grumpy House is a good skill, too. When the need *real* help — broken arm, for example — they shouldn’t have to look for a sign in the window. The fact that Charlie’s mom always has snacks and always welcomes the kids…that’s something kids will learn on their own.

  28. SanityAnyone? April 23, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    Dear Vallori, thank you on behalf of many of us, and I hope you start a revolution!

  29. Havva April 23, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

    @Vicki Bradley,
    That has come up here before. The basic response it to point out that if keeping kids from being alone was the thing protecting children, we would only see the fall in victimization among children. We wouldn’t expect to see the exact same decrease against adults. And we would expect the fall in crime to be less against teens than young children (since even now they have more freedom). But instead the statistics show crime falling at the same pace for people of all ages. Which shows that the fall is about stopping criminals, not about stopping children.

  30. Wow... April 23, 2015 at 2:01 pm #

    @Havva: Sure, that makes sense. Just make sure that kids get told the idea of ‘harmless odd’ at some point. Not necessarily this year or the year after but…just at some point. Not talking about obviously mental ill outbursts but more…there’s a difference between ‘dippy old granny’ odd and other odd, imo. Dippy old grannies are odd but harmless odd.

    By all means, teach your kids to err on the side of caution as a starting point. Just talk about anti-discrimination at some point too. 😉 And sure, maybe kids avoid ‘dippy old granny’ odd at first…but at some point, the distinction does have to be made, imo.

    Or Vallori’s middle son for example….will probably have to be taught the social rules by rote and may well essentially be giving a live performance when he talks to people. And believe me (trust me, I know what I’m talking about), people can TELL when that sort of thing happens. That doesn’t mean that he’s dangerous though.

  31. Kenny Felder April 23, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

    This is the single coolest thing I have seen in a very long time.

  32. Anne April 23, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

    Wait til that childless friendly neighbor becomes weird.

  33. vallori April 23, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

    Anne,

    Lol. That’s exactly the kind of mindset we’re trying to change. 😉

    By and large, all of the childless adult neighbors I have met here are good and kind people, if my judgment of character is on point, and it usually is. So I’m not terribly horribly concerned, but will be cautious, of course.

  34. vallori April 23, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

    Everyone,

    I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am, the response to my post on nextdoor.com had me really excited, your comments here are only increasing that more and more.

    The fact that some of you want to use my words, and are giving me your encouraging words tickles me to no end. Please do feel free to use as little or as much of my words, ideas, etc as you like.

    Let me know how it goes, let me know if your neighbors are more free rage minded than you realized, like mine. Let me know if your police department is so helpful!

    And I’m so glad to bring some attention to nextdoor.com it’s great, though not super active.
    We can thank my husband for that one, I don’t know where he found out about it, but he is the one who told me to try it out.

    I tried to research about Block Parents, but I found so little information. Mostly just people saying “I remember this program…what happened to it?”
    I guess there was a program like that until recently in Canada, but they have been working on getting rid of it. :/

  35. Vicki Bradley April 23, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

    Thanks, Havva! 🙂

  36. Havva April 23, 2015 at 4:05 pm #

    @Wow,
    You are absolutely right about teaching harmless odd and anti-discrimination. I intended to convey that even if I didn’t. I think, the biggest part of that is in getting out there and actually meeting and introducing a kid to a wide variety of people, including the harmless odd, and treating everyone well . On that front I think my daughter is ahead of where I was at her age. Just a few of the odd people she knows:
    A high functioning autistic adult (aspergers), who is a brilliant researcher and viscerally understands childish quirks, who also has some unique phobias.
    An adult with down syndrome, who is always eager to lend a hand, and loves to visit, but also has many opinions that are based on a misunderstanding of the world.
    A 4 year old child with serious developmental delays who can’t talk and expresses joy with grunts, and flapping, which can be most startling. But just the same, I love to congratulate her achievements (most recently standing), because doing so brings her such joy.

  37. Donna April 23, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

    Vicki Bradley, My answer to that comment is in park what Havva said about all crime being down, not just crime against children. But also consider that many areas are still free range, even in the US. There are neighborhoods and towns where free range is the norm. Many here report living in such places. In addition, poorer areas everywhere tend to be more free range by necessity or unfortunate circumstance. While poor areas have lots of issues and the children there do fall victim to crime at much higher levels, it is not generally stranger crimes and definitely not stranger abductions.

    If lack of children to abduct was really what was keeping crime statistics down, we would expect to see rates higher, and possibly surging, in areas where children do roam freely. Honestly, it doesn’t take much effort to head down to your local low income housing where you will find, in fairly short order, children that are truly pretty neglected and will probably not even be noticed missing for a good while. But that isn’t happening.

  38. Wow... April 23, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

    @Havva: Then you’re doing just fine. Now, if we can convince everyone to follow your example*, we’ll be doing just fine. And both of those adults act in ways that adults normally don’t. I don’t expect a child to understand the term ‘anti-discrimination’ but I think ‘harmless odd’ is a good place to start on that lesson. There is a reason you described the person with Asperger’s as having UNIQUE phobias, after all. Again, not dangerous. Not saying this for you so much as people who read this later.

    *Within reasonable limits, of course.

  39. Miriam April 23, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    Awesome!

  40. Stephen Bowes April 23, 2015 at 5:36 pm #

    I don’t even tell my kids to “stay away from any adults that make you uncomfortable, ask you to do things you know you should not do, or act in ways you don’t usually see adults acting” because I don’t find it necessary to frighten them about threats that they are almost certain to never face (i.e. being struck by lightening, marooned on a desert island, killed by terrorists, crushed by a boulder or eaten by Bigfoot.

  41. Diana Green April 23, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

    Today as I crossed a street a woman carrying a one year old was approaching, smiling at me. She waved “Hi!” and encouraged the baby to wave. I smiled and waved and commented on the little one’s adeptness.

    I could have wept tears of joy.

    For years people discouraged their kids from “talking to strangers”. Or waving. Or smiling.

    I agree. I see a “sea change”, and thanks, Lenore for helping it along.

  42. Rachel @ Wife, Then Mama April 23, 2015 at 5:56 pm #

    I posted the same thing on my city’s Nextdoor page, as well as on a community Facebook page. So far no comment, and no likes, but at least I tried!

    I ALWAYS encourage my kids (both 2) to say “Hello” to all the people we see when we are outside. I give them major props when they do, and when they don’t I tell the person, “Sorry, they are still learning to be polite.” If the stranger says, “Oh, they must know not to talk to strangers.” I reply “No, I teach them that its good to TALK to strangers, we just don’t GO with strangers.”

    What the heck kind of advice is it to not talk to anyone you don’t know? You could never meet new people, and going to the freaking grocery store would be terrifying!

  43. That '70s Mom April 23, 2015 at 9:33 pm #

    Great idea. I’m going to share this on my neighborhood’s Facebook page and see if I can get something going. We have everything in place; but I think it would be fantastic to have an implicit understanding w/my neighbors. I’ll let you know how it goes – thanks for this!

  44. Lisa @ Four Under Six April 23, 2015 at 11:24 pm #

    I love this!! I am totally impressed that Vallori took this on. I’ve had similar thoughts of doing this in my neighborhood many times but feel like I would be met with so much resistance. Maybe not!! I wonder what state she lives in? I’m just curious.

  45. The other Mandy April 23, 2015 at 11:27 pm #

    My 2 year old is very friendly and often strikes up conversations with random people when we’re out. He knows more of the neighbors than I do, since he’s out walking and at the park with the nanny. I’m Very thankful for this, as it helps *me* talk to people more. I tend to be a bit shy.

  46. sexhysteria April 24, 2015 at 4:10 am #

    How about Free Range states? In Europe whole countries are Free Range.

  47. International reader April 24, 2015 at 5:14 am #

    When my kids grew up (the last batch is 14 and 11) in the UK/US (luckily for this aspect of their life we now live in a small Western European country) we adopted and rehearsed on a regular basis the Safer Stranger routine. I thought it was from the US, but I realize it probably was more from the UK. You can google it, i would of course not take the risk to recommend it 😉 lest I get sued if it backfires (once every 750,000 years).

    Anyway, safer strangers (with a very high likelihood of safety) are in uniforms (especially women), public employees at their place of work, sensible stores attendants, mothers with children, this kind of stuff. We would pick the topic once in a while in a public place and ask our kids to suggest Safer Strangers in the vicinity, if they ever needed adult assistance (I mean, assistance from an adult).

    Have a good day.

  48. Beth April 24, 2015 at 7:24 am #

    No no no no no no no. All men in uniform are NOT going to kidnap and molest your children. All men with children are not secret pedophiles. Do you not know any loving fathers (and I don’t mean “loving” in the creepy way)?

    Teaching your kids to avoid men in uniform and fathers with children is also teaching your sons that some day, they too, will be a person that everyone’s afraid of. And they will have done NOTHING to deserve that suspicion.

  49. Wow... April 24, 2015 at 7:45 am #

    @International Reader, @Beth:

    I wonder how much of that seemingly-preponderance of men in the statistics is due to a disparity in reporting?

  50. Suzanne April 24, 2015 at 8:23 am #

    What state does Valerie live in? That is the way the law is written in Indiana and the general position of the Fort Wayne police department. I think this is a great idea. Would she please send an update after the meeting? I would be interested in organizing something like this too.

  51. International reader April 24, 2015 at 8:44 am #

    @Beth – I appreciate your views. Note that we did not advise our kids to “avoid” or “fear” men in uniforms. We just encouraged them, if the option is given, to prefer the other gender. So no risk that we develop an anti-father stance.

    This is not the right blog for this, but I am also a defender of constitutional rights, and they are more often harmed by men in uniforms than women in uniforms.

  52. Crystal April 24, 2015 at 9:36 am #

    Wow, that’s so awesome! Way to go!

  53. Parry April 24, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    Regarding the question of how to explain to kiss the difference between a safe adult and a dangerous one, I told my daughter a few things. First, listen to your gut. If they make you uncomfortable don’t go near them. Second, a normal adult would not ask a kid for help, to give directions, our to go off with them for any reason. Third, I told her if an adult is approaching her and making her unsure of herself, go to any other adult for help. Any adult you choose and approach is likely safer than the ones who approach you. Finally, I told her if it came down to it, don’t worry about polite. Run away, scream or shout, fight, and fight dirty. if it ever gets to that point, it may not be enough, but it’s such a rare situation in not too concerned. She made it to adulthood and now had only to worry about the tips of people who prey on adults – muggers, rapists, con men, people with no sense of boundaries, tax men, politicians, used car salesmen, dishonest mechanics, and the like.

  54. Eric S April 24, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

    A W E S O M E ! !

    I feel like I’ve traveled back in time. lol I can picture parks filled with kids, with little to no parents. Children riding their bikes around the neighborhood. I even picture kids with scraped knees, dusting themselves off, and continue having a great time. It can happen. 😉

  55. Vallori April 24, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    To those who have wondered, I’m in AZ.

    Suzanne,
    I will update 🙂 I sent an email to the “Crime Prevention Ofiicer” for my neighborhood today, I guess he is out of the office until Monday, but i hope to hear from him then. I let him know what my neighbors and I were intended and told him I’d appreciate if he could schedule a time to meet with us and reassure us that our kids and us as not only safe from crime, but also safe from legal reprecussions if we let out kids outside.

    International,
    I had never really consciously thought about the concept “Safer Strangers”. Of course, I have told the kids if they need help while they are out and they see a police officer, that’s the best person to ask. Thanks for sharing the idea, I’ll be looking into it more. Like I had mentioned, my middle child is Autistic, so very specific guidelines like that are really helpful for our family.

    Parry,
    Your second point made me feel like I was the “creepy stranger” haha. I won’t ask little kids for directions or anything, but if I see a group of teens outside and I can’t find a street or something, I will ask them. I’ll of course ask an adult first, if I see one, but if I don’t, I won’t hesitate to ask older kids. I do see your overall point though.

    Anyway, I’ll keep you guys updated on how things go with my meet up with the neighbors and with the crime prevention officer.
    I can’t wait to see other kids actually playing in the park this summer instead of just mine out there all alone!

  56. sue April 24, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    There aren’t a whole lot of people out and about in our neighborhood. As we move through the neighborhood, I’ve always pointed out the homes of kids they kinda know from school. I tell them you can always go there if you need help. You don’t have to be best friends for a parent to help you. My nine year old did just this when he wrecked his bike and tore his leg up. I barely knew the parents, but of course they helped him out. Wouldn’t you?

  57. Beth April 24, 2015 at 6:40 pm #

    “We just encouraged them, if the option is given, to prefer the other gender.”

    Why?

    Female cops carry guns too, if that’s what you’re referring to.

  58. Rose April 24, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

    When I was a child, my parents did not worry about me. Almost everyone in the neighborhood had children. If any of us got out of line, the neighbors would remind us that our parents would not like what we were saying or doing. Our parents were pretty much in sync with the rules that we had to follow.

  59. Brandy King April 25, 2015 at 10:10 pm #

    I was so inspired by this post that I just wrote an email to my local police department asking for clarification on laws relating to child supervision. I want to start talking about this with others in my town but I loved the idea of asking the police first so that I’d have info straight from them to refer to. Thanks SO much for the inspiration. Hope to report back soon with positive followup!

  60. International reader April 26, 2015 at 9:12 am #

    @Vallori . Safer stranger code . See here http://www.childseyemedia.com/safer_strangers_code.html

    @Beth . We are both entitled to our opinions. mine are fairly conservative, , albeit also libertarian, if you care to know. Hence i believe in “maternal instinct”. I don’t PC that concept. To be precise, I am a man.

    Have a good day.

  61. kaylee April 26, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

    http://www.freerangekids.com.au
    Do you by any chance run a daycare centre?