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FAQ

  1. What is “Free-Range Kids”?
  2. You have been dubbed “America’s Worst Mom” by the media. How did you earn this title?
  3. Were you a Free Range kid? How can you tell if a kid IS “Free-Range”?
  4. What prompted you to found the Free Range Kids movement?
  5. What is a helicopter parent?
  6. Why were our parents different from today’s parents?
  7. Your new book has a section titled “The A-Z review of everything you might be worried about” in which you debunk many parental fears. Did you come across any particularly outrageous parental concerns?
  8. You’ve offered readers a number of “Free Range Commandments,” one of which is “Fail!” But we don’t want our kids to fail…do we?
  9. You are raising your kids in New York City, is it harder to be a Free Range parent in the city?
  10. You have experienced the media from all angles, as a newspaper columnist, a news consumer and most recently as the sensational subject of a media storm. Has your view of the media changed as a result of this?
  11. What should we do to liberate our kids without going crazy with worry?
What is “Free-Range Kids”?
Free-Range Kids is a commonsense approach to parenting in these overprotective times.

You have been dubbed “America’s Worst Mom” by the media. How did you earn this title?
In 2008, I let my then-9-year-old ride the subway by himself. He’d been asking us — my husband and me — to please take him someplace and let him find his way home by himself. So my husband and I discussed this. Our boy knows how to read a map, he speaks the language and we’re New Yorkers. We’re on the subway all the time.

That’s how it came to be that one sunny Sunday, after lunch at McDonald’s, I took him to Bloomingdales€¦and left him in the handbag department.

I didn’t leave him unprepared, of course! I gave him a map, a MetroCard, quarters for the phone and $20 for emergencies. Bloomingdale’s sits on top of a subway station on our local line, and it’s always crowded with shoppers. I believed he’d be safe. I believed he could figure out his way. And if he needed to ask someone for directions — which it turns out he did — I even believed the person would not think, “Gee, I was about to go home with my nice, new Bloomingdale’s shirt. But now I think I’ll abduct this adorable child instead.”

Long story short: He got home about 45 minutes later, ecstatic with independence. I wrote a little column about his adventure and two days later I was on the Today Show, NPR, MSNBC and Fox News defending myself as NOT “America’s Worst Mom.”

The notion was that I had deliberately put my son in harm’s way (possibly to “prove” something) and I was just incredibly lucky that he made it home. One NPR caller asked why I had given my son “one day of fun” even though he would probably end up dead by nightfall.

I launched my blog that weekend (www.freerangekids.com) to explain my parenting philosophy: I believe in safety. I LOVE safety — helmets, car seats, safety belts. I believe in teaching children how to cross the street and even wave their arms to be noticed. I’m a safety geek! But I also believe our kids do not need a security detail every time they leave the house. Our kids are safer than we think, and more competent, too. They deserve a chance to stretch and grow and do what we did — stay out till the street lights come on.

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Were you a Free Range kid? How can you tell if a kid IS “Free-Range”?
A Free-Range Kid is a kid who gets treated as a smart, young, capable individual, not an invalid who needs constant attention and help.
For instance, in the suburbs, many school PTAs have figured out a new way to raise money (God bless ‘em): They auction off the prime drop-off spot right in front of the school — the shortest distance between car and door.

But at the mall, or movie theater or dentist’s office, that would be considered the handicapped parking spot — the one you need if you are really disabled. So somehow, in our understandable desire to do the very best for our kids, we have started treating them as if they’re handicapped! As if they couldn’t possibly walk a couple of blocks, or make their own lunch or climb a tree without hurting themselves, or struggling too much.

Free-Range Kids are sort of old-fashioned. They’re kids who are expected to WANT to grow up and do things on their own. And then, when they show us they’re ready, we allow ‘em to.

I was a Free-Range Kid because we all were back when I was growing up, before cable TV started showing abductions 24/7 and finding the weirdest, saddest stories from around the world to make parents think that no child is safe doing anything on his own anymore. And it’s not just cable TV to blame: It’s most of the media we parents encounter. I read a four-page article in a parenting magazine the other day on “How to Have a Fun and Totally Safe Day in the Sun” — as if it is so hard to have a safe day outside with your kid that you need four pages of instructions! We are bombarded by warnings that make us feel our kids need constant supervision and help or they will die.

That’s true if your child is gravely ill, but otherwise it is not true — as the presence of all us former Free-Range Kids proves.

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What prompted you to found the Free Range Kids movement?
I think it was the cameramen and make-up ladies at The Today Show.

While everyone was bustling around preparing me and my son Izzy for our interview, they asked what we were there to talk about. I said, “I let him ride the subway.”

“I did that at his age!” said a couple of the cameramen. “It was fun!” The make-up ladies remembered walking to school. Everyone started reminiscing about their childhoods — the freedom, the joy, the simple fun of walking down the block to knock on a friend’s door to come out and play. And then they’d shake their heads and say, “But I would never let my kids do that today.”

Why not?

“Times have changed.”

They’re right of course — nothing stays the same. Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, crime was on the rise. It went up and up until it peaked around 1990. The strange thing, though, is that since then, it’s been going back down. Dramatically. Today we are back to the crime level of 1970, according to Dept. of Justice statistics. So — unbelievable as it seems — if you were playing outside as a kid in the ’70s or ’80s, your kids are actually SAFER outside than you were!

It doesn’t feel that way (at ALL), because when our parents were raising us, there was no CSI. Law & Order was something you believed in, not something on the air 8 nights a week, made to look depressingly real. The other day I got a letter from a guy in an old Brooklyn neighborhood where they shoot a lot of Law & Order scenes. On TV, it’s always the backdrop for a rape or murder. In real life, he said, it’s a safe, quiet safe neighborhood — and therein lies the tale: There’s a big disconnect between the horrors on TV and the reality we live in — the safest time for children (in America, that is) in the history of this disease-plagued, famine-prone, war-wracked world.

I founded the Free-Range Kids movement in part to be one small voice saying, “Hey! I know we are all scared for our kids! But maybe we don’t have to be quite so terrified!” It’s an attempt to figure out how we got so much more worried for our kids in just one generation, and to separate the real dangers from the ones foisted upon us by the media, and by other folks with things to sell (like baby safety product manufacturers who have to scare us about a remote danger like “traumatic head injury from toddling” before we’ll buy their products, like the “ThudGuard” — a helmet for kids to wear all day when they’re learning to walk).

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What is a helicopter parent?
It’s a sort of disparaging term for parents who believe their child is so vulnerable — to injury, to teasing, to disease and disappointment — that they have to sort of hover (like a helicopter) over the child, ready to swoop in if anything remotely “bad” happens.

I’ve heard of helicopter parents who call their children’s college professors to complain about a grade their kid got on a paper. A paper they might have even helped the kid write.

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Why were our parents different from today’s parents?
Our parents were watching Dallas and Dynasty, where the biggest crime was big hair. Today’s parents are drowning in bad news that comes to us instantaneously from around the world. We hear about abductions in Portugal and Aruba. I can instantly name you five girls who met ghastly ends — Caylee, Maddie, Natalee, Jon Benet, Jaycee — but our parents could never do that.

When your brain is saturated with horrifying stories like those, it is hard to focus on the millions of children NOT murdered. We don’t know THEIR names. We know the ones who are GONE. So when we try to decide, “Gee, is it safe for my child to walk to school?” we flash on the stories we have heard. Also — one interesting brain fact: The most memorable stories come to mind first. And whatever comes to mind first we usually think of as the most common. That’s just human nature, but it’s also wrong.

Anyway, in addition to all these gruesome images, we also live in crazy lawsuit time. That means that we have gotten used to schools and park districts banning things with even the tiniest chance of causing an accident that might cause a parent to sue. So our playgrounds are stripped of merry-go-rounds and slides that are higher than a worm. And we get so used to all these “safety” precautions (which are actually lawsuit precautions) that we start thinking of everyday childhood as inherently unsafe.

If you buy the DVD “Sesame Street: Old School” you’ll see kids having the world’s best time. It’s a collection of Sesame Street highlights from its first years, 1969 — 1974, and it shows kids playing Follow the Leader through a vacant lot, climbing through a giant pipe, balancing on a piece of wood, laughing as they wind their way through some sheets on the line to dry. Of course they’re happy: This was public television trying to model ideal childhood for pre-schoolers. It was put on the air after countless psychologists and child specialists signed off on it. But at the very beginning of the DVD, before you see any of this, there’s a warning:

“For adult viewing only.”

In just one generation, what was considered a normal, happy, HEALTHY childhood has become considered WILDLY dangerous. Litigiously dangerous.

We’re swimming in fear soup — fear of lawsuits, fear of injury, fear of abductions, fear of blame. (People love to blame parents for not being “responsible” enough.) And Free-Range Kids is trying to paddle out.

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Your new book has a section titled “The A-Z review of everything you might be worried about” in which you debunk many parental fears. Did you come across any particularly outrageous parental concerns?
One very huge concern is baby formula. So many of my friends couldn’t breastfeed and were consumed with guilt for “making” their kids drink formula. But 80% of moms are using some formula by the time their children are 6 months old. That’s a lot of guilt about something very common and not harmful. A lot of parents today (including me) were raised on formula. It’s not rat poison.

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You’ve offered readers a number of “Free Range Commandments,” one of which is “Fail!” But we don’t want our kids to fail…do we?
We sure do!

It’s true, one of my Free-Range Commandments is, “Fail! It’s the New ‘Succeed!’”

We don’t want our kids to ONLY fail, of course. But if they don’t fail sometimes, they won’t learn that they can get back up and go on with their lives.

For instance, we don’t want our kids to fall off a bike. Who does? But we do want them to learn how to ride. So we have two choices: We can hold onto their handlebars€¦forever. That way they’ll never, ever fall. Or we can wish them luck and then — let go.

Chances are, if we do that, they will, at some point, fall. When they get up again, they’ll have two huge things going for them:

  1. They’ll know they can fall and get back up again. If that’s not a life lesson, what is?
  2. They’ll be learning how to actually ride a bike.

Most things in life take some tumbles before we get it right. As Thomas Edison said, when asked how it felt to fail 10,000 times before he figured out the light bulb, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

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You are raising your kids in New York City, is it harder to be a Free Range parent in the city?
It’s not that hard anywhere. It just takes some time on the parents’ part. For us in the city, Free-Range means teaching our kids how to take public transportation. But in the ‘burbs it involves teaching them how to ride their bikes. And in either place, we also teach kids how to be safe in the very unlikely event they encounter someone creepy.

I interviewed Ernie Allen, head of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. You know — the folks who put the kids’ pictures on the milk cartons (and failed to mention the vast majority were runaways or taken by the non-custodial parent in a divorce case. Oh well.)

Anyway, when I said that I think “stranger danger” is way overblown, Allen — to my great surprise — totally agreed! “Our message is exactly the one you’re trying to convey,” said he. “We have been trying to debunk they myth of ‘stranger danger.’”

What do we both suggest? Teach your kids TO talk to strangers. That way, if they’re ever creeped out by someone in the proverbial white van, they can run to the man across the street, raking his leaves, and say, “Help! I’m being followed!” Or they can run into a shop and say, “Call the police!” Or, “Can I please borrow your phone?”

Confident kids who feel at home in the world are SAFER than coddled kids who have been taught they are dainty prey without mom or dad by their side. When Allen interviewed children who had escaped potential abductions, here’s what they had in common: They stood up for themselves. They kicked, screamed, bit, and ran.

So teach your kids to do that. Same way you teach them to, “Stop, drop and roll” in the unlikely even they ever find themselves on fire. And then — send them out to build that muscle called confidence.

“Our message to parents is you don’t have to live in fear. You don’t have to feel you have to lock your children in a room.”

That’s not me talking. That’s the guy who put the pictures on the milk cartons.

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You have experienced the media from all angles, as a newspaper columnist, a news consumer and most recently as the sensational subject of a media storm. Has your view of the media changed as a result of this?
Wow! That’s a question I never got before. I guess I hadn’t quite realized how much the media loves parenting controversies. It loves to pit me against a “helicopter” parent, as if we are two different species. But the fact is, helicopter parents and Free-Rangers are not that different. We BOTH want our kids to be safe, and happy, and responsible. It’s just a question of what we see as dangerous. Helicopters see disappointment as dangerous. I see it as bracing (even though I do hate watching my kids when they can’t get what they want, or are really mad at themselves). Helicopter parents also see the outside world as unspeakably dangerous. I see it as a place children have always explored and messed around in. I was talking to a representative from Tide last week and he told me kids are not getting as dirty as they used to! That’s sad.

Anyway, back to the media: Someone wrote to my blog with this great analogy: If a Martian came to earth and wanted to understand what life is like down here, you could give him this choice. Does he want to know how 99.9 percent of people live their lives? Or does he want to know about the .1%?

Chances are, he’d want to hear about the 99.9%. But when we turn on the TV, we see the .1% — the horrible stories that make the news, the horrible plots that keep us glued to CSI. And then we turn off the TV and say, “What a crazy world we live in.”

That’s why one of the “How to Start Going Free-Range” tips I give in my book is so simple: Next time you are going to watch one of those crime shows, turn off the TV and take a walk outside instead — maybe with your kids. Talk to some neighbors, look around, get a feel for the place again. THIS is the world you’re living in, not the one on TV.

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What should we do to liberate our kids without going crazy with worry?
Besides read my book, you mean?

Well, I do give a lot of tips in it, and I’ll give a few of them here.

  1. Warn your family beforehand, then turn off your cell phone for a day. Better still, leave it on the nightstand so you won’t be tempted to press, “On.” Why? Mostly because one morning my 10-year-old called to ask me, “Mom? Can I have another piece of banana bread?” And I realized: Our kids are getting used to us making ALL their decisions. Even the banana bread ones. Time to stop treating them like toddlers. (At least, once they actually AREN’T toddlers.)
  2. When you’re standing around with a bunch of other parents all waiting for soccer to start, or school to open, or the bus to come pick them up, volunteer to watch all the kids yourself. Give the other parents a little break. This way you are creating community. It’s your way of saying we’re all in this together and we can help each other out. It’s also a way of saying, “Look, I don’t think anything so horrible is about to happen here at this bus stop that we need five adults to fight for the lives of five or six children.”If the other parents are too nervous to accept your kind offer, flip it around. Ask them to watch your kid! This creates a sense of shared responsibility, too. And gives you time to go to Starbucks.
  3. Get a little perspective on this strange, scared parenting era we are living in by visiting a baby superstore with your oldest living relative. (Yes, always best if they’re living.) Go around looking at all the things like baby knee pads and infra-red video baby monitors asking, “Which of these things did YOU need when you were raising us?” (Be prepared for a little scorn.)
  4. Visit my website! Freerangekids.com. You’ll find lts of stories of people gradually letting their kids go — and them coming back safe and sound.
    Good luck to all us parents — and kids!

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By Kate Paine Mon Feb 15th 2010 at 4:41 am  

Hi Lenore,
I love your site and thought you might like to know that there are some places in the world where kids are encouraged to become free range. I live in Switzerland, just outside of Zurich. My just turned five-year old daughter goes to kindergarten and will very soon be expected to start walking to and fro by herself. At the end of a session the teacher simply lets the kids walk out the door, without a second thought as to how they will get home. And once kids are back home it is the norm for them to be seen on the streets, going to visit friends or to soccer or whatever, or €“ wait for it €“ playing in the streets (albeit the quiet ones).

So how is this possible? Well, the kids receive lots of training when they first start school on how to cross the road safely, and much of what they do in class is geared towards building their confidence and independence. Even better, this level of independence is actively supported and expected by the whole community.

And it all starts way before school age. In playgrounds it is common to see parents not jumping in to referee every exchange their child has with another child, or to watch their every step on the climbing frame. In fact, I’ve never seen such out there playground equipment as I have since coming here.

As you can imagine, there is much outrage amongst the many parents from the UK, America and Australia at this high level of €˜neglect’, but it is also encouraging to see that some of these same expats start to change their minds as soon as they get to see the system working up close. By the way, this is also a system in which kids don’t start formal reading and writing until they are nearly seven-years old.

It really makes my heart glad to see kids out walking by themselves and also making decisions for themselves. And my daughter can’t wait to wave mummy goodbye.

Kate Paine (an Australian living in Switzerland)

By Riff Dog Sun Feb 21st 2010 at 12:16 pm  

I remember that subway story. My wife and I were outraged at the outrage. We’re in for a whole world of incompetent future adults if these helicopter parents have their way.

By Brenda Lee Mon Feb 22nd 2010 at 10:09 pm  

Hi Lenore
I love the sight as many do, love the basic theology behind letting kids actually grow and learn independently!!

I caught a brief glimpse of you on a documentary called Lost on the Playground, I only saw about 15 minutes of it , but would like to know more. I can’t find any information on it anywhere…google Lost on the Playground and I get something about being Lost in the Playboy Mansion ( not quite the same thing)….

Do you have any information about what I am actually looking for?
Thanks
BLee

By Kels Thu Feb 25th 2010 at 11:57 am  

Hi Lenore,
My name’s Kelsey. I am not a free range kid (well, teenager now). Growing up, I was never really allowed to wander much. My parents weren’t helicopter parents, they just didn’t let me explore. In fact, I only learned how to ride my bike to the library a few months ago. I have never in my life been given the liberty to explore around in the woods, even though I don’t think I want anything as much as that (I’m a nature freak). In fact, one of my favorite times during childhood was when I used to hang out with my cousin at the culd-de-sac in front of her house, because we were allowed to just run around. There was only one mom out at a time, and she was guarding the stop sign at the end of the street (the street let out into a major road). To this day, I miss running around there.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that even though I’ve never experience being a free-ranged kid, I think you’re right. And I fully intend to raise my kids up as free-range kids when I grow up.

By garth crouch Sat Feb 27th 2010 at 12:42 am  

This is awesome! I don’t have any kids of my own but one of my favorite quotes is constantly being challenged by those living in fear. “Never trade the thrills of living for the security of existence” We have a daycare center at my worksite and it is in a constant state of fear, no matter what it is. Today the woodchips, that protect the KIDS from falls, is being questioned for mold because in the “Pacific Northwet” the chips stay damp under the surface and they are decomposing, turning black, so now we have a “mold” scare. I’m researching “other” resilient flooring for under the play equipment but I’m running into all sorts of “fear” about the different mediums. Rubber pellets, pea gravel, shredded tire mats they are all so “dangerous” (please) that I don’t know if a solution really exists that the parents will support.

This search led me to your site! You deserve a huge THANK YOU, for what you are doing. My fear has been that our kids wont be able to function on their own, wont be able to make decisions or realize that the “bumps” we go through in life are actually our biggest lessons. again, THANK YOU

ps. here’s one for the record books…. on our worksite we have a piece of equipment that detects wind shear for airplanes. It bounces a sound off of the atmosphere. It sounds off once an hour and when it was first installed the daycare personnel stated that the kids were scared of the noise because it reminded them of the old sci-fi film “Them” with the radioactive ants. The kids aren’t big enough to have ever seen the movie, it was the adults!

By Angela Green Garland Thu Mar 4th 2010 at 5:57 am  

I am thankful for this website. I was a free range kid. I have two children and have been scorned for letting them go outside by themselves.

I know part of the problem with the “helicopterization” of parents is the lists of pedophiles and predators. I have done quick searches for comparisons and was unable to find any data–has anyone ever compared the child predator rate of then (when we were children) and now. By predators I mean true child sex offenders (not teenage lust) and kidnapping, etc. Are the numbers the same or are we more aware of it because of the numerous media outlets?

Should I be nervous. I am always in tears when I see anguished parents on TV. It is a pain that I would not care to remotely imagine. I think such images cause the rest of us to “helicopter.” Are our fears irrational or are there more sick people out there compared to previous decades?

Angela

By Yan Seiner Fri Sep 7th 2012 at 9:36 pm  

OK, this won’t make much sense. This freerange stuff got me to find an old book that I read as a kid (I had to have been younger than 9…)

http://www.databazeknih.cz/knihy/velke-vetsi-nejvetsi-124949

It’s a story about a brother and sister, both little kids, who have 3 adventures. Each is bigger than the last.

I loved that book as a kid. The kids get to do really cool things, and in the book parents never appear except at the end of each adventure as the kids come home – and of course the kids say nothing about their adventures to the parents.

I certainly hope my kids are having similar adventures where I’m not a factor. It’s called trust – I trust my kids to do the right thing even when I’m not around, and they trust me not to interfere.

Here’s to childhood adventure!

By Betsy Wed Sep 19th 2012 at 6:37 pm  

Its not the fact that you allow your child to walk home, play, or do things unattended…

But what makes you think you deserve $350 to do something that parents can do for free?

By Stephen Fri Sep 21st 2012 at 6:02 pm  

I wanted to say that we have to change a lot more things for this movement to take shape:

1) We will need to repeal curfew laws and other laws that limit children.

2) We will need to reduce the grip the insurance industry currently has on rules of establishments. This will mean changing the presumption of negligence and not assuming the establishment is liable for not preventing every childhood injury off the parents property. We have gotten into a very bad cycle of with every claim paid by an insurer, where a child was injured, they ask the facility to ban the activity from future generations of children. We must find a way to reverse this trend. We should not assume a child will be indemnified every moment they are away from home.

3) We will need to reduce CPS’s power and allow children to take some risks again, on a gradual scale in which the threshold increases as they grow.

4) We will need to create policies that allow children’s rights and encourage unstructured play rather than discourage it.

5) Allow children to take risks again.

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By Kire Du'Hai Sun Sep 30th 2012 at 4:39 am  

The primary concern I’ve heard from parents who do not want to leave their children unsupervised is not that of criminals, predators, or danger to life and limb…
… but danger of having them taken away by the police, being called by “well-intentioned” neighbors.

When you can get arrested for letting your kids play outside just because nosy neighbors thought it was irresponsible, it severely limits your *ability* to let them free-range.

This is no small concern. Do you have legal advice for those parents who want to give their children freedom and self-reliance, but fear legal action against them or having their children taken away?

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By jeff mitchell Tue Oct 9th 2012 at 6:04 pm  

I grew up a free range kid. My brothers and I were away from home all day long playing with neighbor kids in the woods a short distance from our townhouse. I wrecked my bike (frequently), I got scrapes, bruises and fat lips, I broke my collar bone sledding and except for the immediate pain of some of those experiences I loved evey minute of my childhood. The marks left behind I wore like medals, and I learned about risky behavior – on my own. I wish the same for my kids. I love them, we talk about safety, but I won’t worry about a chipped tooth or a broken arm – it’s not worth diminishing the adventure of their childhood. Besides, good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement. So I let ‘em take their lumps.

By Jeffrey Varasano Thu Jan 10th 2013 at 3:11 am  

I grew up in the Bronx in the 1970′s. I lived in Co-op City, which is the country’s largest public housing project.

I walked to school (about 7 or 8 blocks) by myself in the first grade. Everyone did. At lunch we all walked out, unsupervised, to Joe’s hot dog truck or the shopping center to eat pizza. When I got home, I grabbed my bike or baseball gear and played with friends in the streets or park until 6pm. Later in the summer. I never met my friends parents unless it was raining and went to someone’s house. But that was rare. Most parents you never saw. If a kid’s parents came to watch us play, we would have all thought it was creepy, like the parents were checking up on us or something. No one was damaged because their parents missed a game. They missed all the games. Parents were not welcome.

In 1977 they arrested the Son of Sam and we found out he used to live in the next building over. This caused curiosity, but no change whatsoever in our behavior. There were many muggings. This was not a safe time or neighborhood. We thought to complain about the policing and the neighborhood in general. But no one thought to lock us up or helicopter over us. It was never even thought of as an option.

I returned to Co-op in October. I hadn’t been there in 20 years. The streets and parks were empty of kids playing. It was like a ghost town on a sunny Saturday afternoon with the temp at 68. The population of the neighborhood, we heard, was actually up a bit. But kids were not outside.

These changes are sad…

By Rob Cece Sun Jan 13th 2013 at 9:46 pm  

This blog is hilarious. My parents use to do the same stuff with us. Let us do whatever we want basically, and we turned out fine.

There was that one day that my brother was left at Toys-R-Us accidentally, but noone kidnapped him lol.

By J.B.Reilly Thu Jan 24th 2013 at 8:14 pm  

Love the site and found it to bee interesting. I think as a parent we must find a balance giving Independence to our children in today”s world. I grew up with a strict father who was always watching us wherever we went and it hampered me when I became an adult in the way I was ill prepared for the big wide world. Don’t blame him though that’s how he showed his love for us. But as I said its not the same world as we used to live in. Cant even leave our house door unlocked nowadays.

By Danielle Fri Mar 8th 2013 at 6:27 am  

Hi, I stumbled upon this website after a very long discussion in the middle of the night with my husband. We have a six year old daughter and a 14 month old daughter. We live in Hawaii, and let’s just say the neighborhood we live in is very typical of those you may find in Hawaii..l.but it is also questionable for children in my eyes. There are quite a few kids that live in our neighborhood though. As my daughter has gotten older she has wanted to make friends here. There are many very young girls constantly unsupervised (I rarely see their parents if ever). We have always just met up with these girls at the park to let them play while I watch or sit and read. The unfortunate things are this….there are about 6 pit bulls in our neighborhood sometimes loose and other times just tied to a tree or post. Also, of the girls my daughter wants to play with, both of her parents are addicted to meth. There is a convicted child molestor down the street He is elderly now but yes, still here I am struggling big time because my husband really wants to let our daughter become “free range” so to speak in our neighborhood. I cannot get past all my worry. I don’t know what to do since of course I don’t want her locked up in the house but I cannot get past all the seeming “dangers” just right there. Please help. Any words of advice will help.

By David J Pye Wed Mar 13th 2013 at 12:33 am  

I’m really glad I came across this site! I am also one of those kids who grew up without my Parents hovering over me. My Mother was simply too busy with housework and such, and my Father was busy working. He also was very typical for the time, which means He was “hands off” unless there was discipline involved. So me and my Borthers & Sisters spent A LOT of unsupervised time just doing whatever. Parents were around, but not like today watching your every move. No one was every worried about us getting abducted, murdered, or anything like that. Now granted, we lived in the suburbs, which (at least way back when) was considered way more safe than living in the city (Chicago to be exact). But anyways, there were a lot more kids out playing and just doing whatever. So now that I’m a Parent myself (2 children almost 4 & 5 years old), I find that the old way still works just fine, and I let my children have the freedom I did. And what concerns my Ex the most (the children live with me, NOT her) is that I let them have that freedom! Our Daughter will be going to Kindergarten in the fall, and my Ex is horrified that I will be letting Her walk to school by herself. “That’s Crazy!” I’m told. My Ex had a helicopter Mother. Gee, I wonder where her attitude comes from?

By mdsshop Mon Mar 18th 2013 at 10:43 am  

The primary concern I’ve heard from parents who do not want to leave their children unsupervised is not that of criminals, predators, or danger to life and limb…
… but danger of having them taken away by the police, being called by “well-intentioned” neighbors.
When you can get arrested for letting your kids play outside just because nosy neighbors thought it was irresponsible, it severely limits your *ability* to let them free-range.
This is no small concern. Do you have legal advice for those parents who want to give their children freedom and self-reliance, but fear legal action against them or having their children taken away?
My Site

By Brain Carinitine Tue Mar 26th 2013 at 4:30 am  

Great read and good information for parents looking for a good approach to parenting especially in these times.

By Don Youst Fri Mar 29th 2013 at 6:24 pm  

This is a great blog. I can remember doing alot of this with my parents when I was younger.

By electric piano Sun Mar 31st 2013 at 1:18 pm  

Excellent Read. I’m new to parenting and love reading about this kind of stuff. Your parenting tips are insightful and I love your writing style. Thanks.

By Pauline Tue Apr 16th 2013 at 2:28 pm  

I grew up very free range, and in Europe as well (where this is still, as far as I can tell, more accepted than it is in the US). I grew up in the 80′s in a normal, middle-class suburb in The Netherlands. My parents told me what I needed to know about child abductors and how I should never go with anyone I didn’t know. They told me to roll on the floor if I ever caught fire, or jump in the cold shower (or any water) immediately. They told me how to dial 112 (999 in the US) and what to say. Then they just let me play outside with the neighbourhood kids untill the street lights came on. No cellphones back then either. And I survived.

Yes, I scraped my knees more times than I care to remember (drove my mum nuts because my jeans needed so many patches), I sprained my ankle, split my lip, once had a huge black eye (because a kid on a bike ran the handlebar into my face), I fell out of trees, I cut myself with my own pocket knife, I burnt my fingers making little campfires. And I still had the BEST childhood ever. Bumps, scrapes, blisters and everything. I learned, I grew, I felt stronger each year, and I became independent through trial&error and through exploring my surroundings a little bit further every time.

Once I was approached by a creepy guy in the public pool with a friend (we were both 10 and my mum had dropped us off for an afternoon of swimming). He told me my mum asked him to come and collect me. I asked if he knew my mum’s name and where she worked, like my mum had told me. He quickly walked away, and I immediately ran to the pool safety guard and described the man to him. Yes it was scary afterwards (when I fully realised what could have happened), but I also felt very proud that I had done the right thing. My parents had taught me well, and it paid off. I was self-reliant. I was confident. And if I ever have kids of my own, I will want them to feel the same way and learn through experience like I did. Although I will probably give them a cellhone. So they can at least call me if they’re on fire :-)

By Teresa Wed Apr 24th 2013 at 11:43 am  

I have a problem with this idea…..My parents also raised me very free range in the 1970s. Nothing ever happened to me that was too bad – a rusted nail incident, some scuffs and fights, etc., but I tended to be quite bold and didn’t put up with bullies. My parents were NOT helicopter parents – they let me do pretty much whatever I wanted to do. So now I have no close relationship with them. They just let me get cavities, eat tons of sweets with my friends when they weren’t looking, make my own decisions, pick my own terrible friends, do or not do my homework and so on. I never developed a bond with them like kids who grow up with parents that care for them more closely, share their problems and try to help them work it out, I grew up clueless in another way: I had no idea about so many things because no one gave me guidance or advice. I grew up alone, with a group of kids who also grew up alone, lord of the flies style. There is a middle point between the philosophy on this site and extreme helicopter parenting. There is love, warmth, advice, babying when needed (adults need babying sometimes too). I think my parents were just lazy, honestly, They brought kids into the world but wanted to be watching TV, shopping or chatting with their friends or planning parties. They didn’t want to take care of kids. The helicopter model is a reaction to this type of parenting. I had no carseat. Is that a good thing? Of course kids will SURVIVE, but I really want my kids to do more than survive. And, I’m glad to be a parent and okay with mixing it up: sometimes I spend lots of time doting on my kids and sometimes I get me time. Anyway, they will be all grown up and gone soon. Parents in the U.S. usually turn their kids bedrooms into a TV room or second living room then. Why the lack of emotional attachment? Why the hurry to throw them out? This should be examined.

By April Tue May 7th 2013 at 1:16 am  

I was a free-range child. I grew up in the late 80s early 90s. I lived in small towns and suburbs. From the time my three brothers and I were maybe 7 or so, we spent nearly every day of our summers and after school hours outside. We climbed trees, rode our bikes to friends’ houses, roller-bladed, waded in streams, built forts, made make-shift bows and arrows. My mom would kick us out the door in the morning and we weren’t even allowed to come in for lunch, we’d eat that outside in the sunshine at a picnic table. All the kids in my neighborhoods were treated like this. We roamed around in little packs. We had boundaries, the busy road at the edge of our neighborhood, for example. But very few. The worse things that happened to me: I cut myself whittling arrows and needed stitches. I drank water straight from a stream and got sick. I fell out of a tree and sprained my ankle. It was our time to explore (and stay our of Mom’s hair) so she could accomplish things. We’d come home filthy with sap-sticky hands and be marched off to shower before allowing to engage in indoor activities. We got plenty of exercise, fresh air and vitamin D. I see the way kids are raised today with schedules as busy as my adult one and I wonder whether their imaginations are intact. Whether they are given moments to day dream, to play house and or pretend to be Indians or adventures. You are are doing a wonderful thing. I don’t have children yet, but I can’t imagine raising them any other way.

By Angelo Bambini Mon May 13th 2013 at 3:02 pm  

As a child I can remember riding my bike miles away from my house, with no worries. I would show up at dark from dinner and do it again the next day. Times have changed, but I commend you on educating your child. You are the last of a dying breed.

By Darren Smith Mon May 13th 2013 at 3:09 pm  

I think the problem with kids these days is way too much video games and TV. I myself like to do a “TV free Saturday” and make sure my kids are out of the house. Biking and just playing with each other OUTSIDE is the key to a self-reliant kid. You learn so much when you are on your own, regardless of age.

By Joseph McKee Thu May 16th 2013 at 4:03 pm  

There are probably a few things I could even learn from your book, but I agree, for the most part many parents don’t take the time to show, and then allow them to show us how they can do things on their own. From an early age I’ve tried to teach my boys that “chicks dig scars”, and they shouldn’t be afraid of pain or falling down. And I try not to monopolize all their time and allow them to ask me to go do things.

By mary Thu May 16th 2013 at 7:02 pm  

we have so called free rangers in our neighborhood. rude, inconsiderate, etc.-their parents do not have a clue where they are or how they act. neither do they care. maybe they got their lazy parenting ideas from your lovely book. hopefully none of your kids will wind up in the hands of predators-how sad that you excuse lazy parenting.

By Laura Fri May 17th 2013 at 7:33 am  

So sad how people confuse free ranging with laziness. Free ranging is about making the effort to teach your kids how to look after themselves, what to do in an emergency, how to explore and adventure safely.

I fear for my neice. She is only 18 months but has never been allowed out to play if there’s even a slight breeze. We went on a family holiday to the coast and she wasn’t allowed to go to the beach….you catch colds from the cold air and the sea air, dontcha know?! And her mum is a nurse!!! They took her to the park, but her mum hovered half way down the slide ‘just in case’…

I had a mostly free range childhood…i had stricter boundaries than my friends, the end of the street rather than the park, 8pm rather than 9…but I loved it all. I fell out of trees, came off my bike, skinned my knees and elbows rollerblading. Wouldnt change it for the world.

My neice has even been pulled out of nursery…too many germs, she was always ill. Also, she isnt allowed to wander her nans house without holding her mums hand. They have a 1inch slate hearth round their fire, she might fall, crack her head open and die!!!!

By Claire Fri May 24th 2013 at 3:05 pm  

Oh my goodness. Free-range parenting is NOT about being lazy! Just the opposite, actually. It take more work to teach your child how to be independent than it does to be a helicopter parent. Free-range parents have to put in so much effort on the front-end to make sure their kids know how to take care of themselves in age-appropriate ways. It means the parents can’t just take the lazy, fearful path of doing everything for your kids, so that they never have to make a decision or encounter anything bad.

If we, as parents, don’t teach our kids how to do things for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and lead independent lives, we will be raising a generation of losers. My kid is 9, and he’s allowed to ride his bike on busy streets, take public transportation, go places by himself, attend sleepover parties, and use the stove when I’m not home. But obviously, there are rules and limits! There are areas of the city he’s not allowed to go, he has to wear his bike helmet, I have to know the parents of the kids he plays with, I’ve taught him how to use the oven, the iron, the washer and dryer, etc. He does laundry, fixes himself lunch, and is a straight A student.

Let your kids surprise you with what they are capable of doing. Tell them how to take care of themselves and research the best methods for teaching kids how to stay safe. Trust me, it’s worth it.

By Reina Neally Wed Jun 12th 2013 at 5:33 am  

I have to say that for the last few of hours i have been hooked by the amazing articles on this website. Keep up the good work.

By Rachel Sat Jul 6th 2013 at 11:51 pm  

I can’t believe this style of parenting actually has a name, a movement, a theology! My mom emailed me this article simply for interest sake (we often reminisce about how kids used to play freely in the neighbourhood and wonder about where all of the children have gone from the playgrounds). Since my son was born 5 glorious years ago, I have taken a sort of “hands off” approach; in most situatuons, I discuss with him what the potential dangers are, what to look out for or avoid, ask him what he thinks he should or shouldn’t do in case of the what ifs and then encourage him to get out there. I’m a huge believer in the power of natural consequences; what better way to learn some of life’s most important lessons! If you don’t eat your dinner, you’ll be hungry. If you don’t pick up your stuff, it’ll get broken or lost or stolen or vacuumed up. If you don’t clean up your room, you’ll stub your toe or trip on something. Some people say its mean or too harsh, but I want my son to understand how the real world works. I can’t even count the number of times another parent has come to “warn” me about the danger my son is in and 99% of the time I’m fully aware, keeping him in the corner of my eye, and fully sure that he is competent enough to tackle whatever he’s attempting. I’ve seen him do amazing things! I’ve even encouraged him to go a little farther, climb a little higher, try it one more time, look at it from a different angle. Our kids are capable of so much more than the world gives them credit for! Now that I have two kids, I usually let them work out their own battles- sometimes by making them responsible for one another and for keeping peace between them. Hopefully if more and more parents stay a few steps behind their kids, we can bring back neighbourhoods where kids play outside until the streetlights come on, where everyone’s mom has a turn keeping an eye on the lot and where playgrounds are filled with an assortment of new friends to meet.

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By Pressure W Tue Aug 6th 2013 at 5:29 pm  

I think one of the best parts of the article is the shift in attitude from yesterday to today with allowing are children to do different things. Back in the 1970s I was a 13 year old construction worker handling a 3000 PSI pressure washer and no one said a word. Now people would send an employer to jail for that sort of thing. I’m not sure if it is better or worse, but times seem like they used to be better.

By Kathy Schultz Sat Aug 10th 2013 at 4:37 pm  

Dear Ms. Lenore Skenazy,

As a mom of two young children, I am always amazed by how quickly they outgrow clothing and become “too old” for the cute items I have purchased to decorate their rooms. While I happily pass along many of these items to friends and charities, I have been at a loss when it comes to the monogrammed apparel and other items personalized with their names or initials. In speaking with friends and other parents, I quickly realized I wasn’t alone.

I wanted to offer a solution to all the moms and dads out there experiencing this dilemma and that’s why I decided to launch LollyDaisy.com, a new online shopping destination that will offer parents a seamless way to sell their children’s very gently-used monogrammed apparel, accessories and home décor, and a more cost-conscious way to purchase these adorable personalized items. LollyDaisy.com makes it easy for buyers to search by name and initials to find a match! Sellers may begin uploading items now, and in celebration of our launch we are hosting a “Cute Kid Contest” with a chance to win a $250 American Express gift card!

The following press release offers details about LollyDaisy.com and upcoming launch. I am also happy to speak with you to answer any questions you may have about LollyDaisy.com and my inspiration for launching a secondhand monogram business for parents and other sellers of these precious children’s products.

High-resolution images of the website for print and web are available upon request.

Warm regards,

Kathy Schultz

Founder, Lolly Daisy

(314)504-3486

kathy@lollydaisy.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW WEBSITE LollyDaisy.com Connects Parents Who Wish

To Buy and Sell Gently-Used Monogrammed Children’s Apparel,

Accessories and Home Décor

ST. LOUIS (8/8/13) – A new online shopping destination will connect buyers and sellers of very gently-used, overstocked and custom monogrammed and personalized children’s apparel, accessories and home décor. LollyDaisy.com, created by parent and businesswoman Kathy Schultz, will debut in October 2013 for United States-based consumers, and sellers may begin posting items for sale now.

“As a mom of two young children I am always amazed by how quickly they outgrow clothing and become ‘too old’ for those cute items I bought to decorate their rooms,” said Schultz. “While I happily pass along many of these items to friends and charities, I was at a loss when it came to the precious monogrammed apparel and other items personalized with their names and initials. I quickly realized I wasn’t alone. Many of my friends and other parents I spoke with said they were experiencing a similar dilemma.”

Schultz’s solution, LollyDaisy.com, is an e-commerce site where sellers may post very gently used monogrammed and personalized children’s items and give them a sale price. Potential buyers can search by name or initials to find the personalized item they seek. They may also search by size, color, brand and a variety of other specifications. Visitors to the site can also create an account to be notified by email when new items are posted that meet their search criteria.

Beginning in August 2013, sellers may begin uploading their items to LollyDaisy.com in preparation for the October 2013 launch. “Clothing, diaper bags, wall letters, dishware, towels, backpacks, jewelry, bedding, if it’s personalized and in great condition we will take it and help users sell and market their merchandise to consumers,” explained Schultz.

In addition, LollyDaisy.com will sell at a discounted price a wide array of overstock and floor sample items from wholesale vendors.

“New monogrammed and personalized children’s merchandise is often pricey, but LollyDaisy.com offers parents and gift givers a more cost-conscious, guiltless way of buying these highly sought after clothing and accessories,” said Schultz.

If consumers are unable to locate a specific monogrammed or personalized item, they may search LollyDaisy.com for custom-made apparel, accessories and home décor.

LollyDaisy.com charges no membership or listing fee and only requires a minimal seller’s fee.

As part of LollyDaisy.com’s launch, the Company is hosting a “Cute Kid Contest”. The winner of the contest will receive a $250 USD American Express gift card. Contest details are available on http://facebook.com/LollyDaisy

Boilerplate

Based in St. Louis, MO, LollyDaisy.com is an online shopping destination for buyers and sellers of very gently used, overstocked and custom monogrammed and personalized children’s apparel, accessories and home décor. LollyDaisy.com was created by parent and businesswoman Kathy Schultz. The website is slated to launch in October 2013. Sellers may begin posting items for sale in August 2013.

By KK Mon Sep 2nd 2013 at 11:32 pm  

Thank you for your work and courage presenting these ideas. This culture does not welcome that which rocks it’s economic boat.
My own thoughts around childrearing was catalyzed with my volunteer work with a group 10-15 children in an orphanage in India. Their ages ranged from 3-15. They had very little in the way material goods or adult direction. They had food, shelter, clothes and went to public schools. There primary socialization, and caring came from one another. How they were with me and with each other was different enough, in a positive way, that I began questioning my personal and cultural assumptions about children and childrearing. Having had a son I’d been through a childrearing process of my own and had done some reading and thinking about the subject previously. A particular idea that had been always in the background of my thinking came to the foreground and other articles supporting and connected to it started coming to me recently including now your work.
I produce soem statistic i’ve found below.
More than 90% of all sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator. Almost 50% of the offenders are household members and 38% are already acquaintances of the victims.
Source: US Department of Justice. (1997) and Finkelhor and Ormond. (2001).
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, victims of rape and sexual assault report that in nearly 3 out of 4 incidents, the offender was not a stranger. Based on police-recorded incident data, in 90% of the rapes of children younger than 12, the child knew the offender.
Source: Greenfield, et al, 1997. Sex Offenses and Offenders: An Analysis of Data on Rae and Sexual Assault. United States Department of Justice.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, victims of rape and sexual assault report that in nearly 3 out of 4 incidents, the offender was not a stranger. Based on police-recorded incident data, in 90% of the rapes of children younger than 12, the child knew the offender.
Source: Greenfield, et al, 1997. Sex Offenses and Offenders: An Analysis of Data on Rae and Sexual Assault. United States Department of Justice.

Like rape, child molestation is one of the most underreported crimes: only 1-10% are ever disclosed.

Source: FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Reading between the lines should point at who the more provable dangerous people to children are, which we are in denial about.

KK

By Sarah Sun Sep 8th 2013 at 4:58 pm  

Etan Patz

By Karcher Wed Nov 13th 2013 at 1:25 am  

Hi Lenore–Funny I just came upon this faq for Free Range Kids. Recently in my town in Cloverdale near Vancouver in Canada they banned kids playing tag and that sort of thing because it had them “touching” each other and like you say thats a big no-no these days.

It’s really a joke and the kids will grow up so sheltered and they won’t be able to read a map like yours… Great job and I like the movement.

By Jessica Taylor Wed Nov 13th 2013 at 11:29 pm  

Children’s education is like a systems engineering.

By Adrienne Fri Nov 15th 2013 at 1:41 pm  

Hi Lenore;

As a new parent (I have a 10 month old son and another baby on the way in 4 months) I have to applaud your stance on the “dangers” of raising kids. I’m only 35 but vividly remember walking 1.5km to school in the morning alone- at age FIVE. This wasn’t an everyday occurrence, but when my single mother had a doctor’s appt with my older sister or my little brother, sometimes I walked by myself and GASP, have lived to tell about it. Can you even begin to imagine the grief parents would get today if they allowed that to happen? They’d probably be run out of town….
I whole-heartedly agree with you that the news media sells a lot more stories by digging up and highlighting the truly devious acts nowadays, and this has 90% contributed to the “worst-first” mentality. The other 10% being that with our ability to get information NOW age, parents don’t know how to turn off the smartphone, laptop, Facebook feed, etc. and think for themselves (ps the best and worst thing about the internet is that you can ALWAYS find what you’re looking for). I hear a lot of friends saying “I’m scared about bringing a child into this world”….I will certainly be passing along the link to your site to them in the hopes that some of the edge can be taken off. Having a child has been far and away the most significant and beautiful thing that has ever happened in my life and I shudder to think that there are some out there who may choose to allow the “big scary world” to keep them from experiencing such joy.

Thank you again, and all the very best to you :)

Sincerely,
Adrienne Betts

By Ricardo Sun Jan 19th 2014 at 11:21 pm  

As a piano teacher, you’d think I wouldn’t have to deal with helicopter parents. I teach piano out of my home and typically have parents sit in the next room while I give their child a lesson. This works well most of the time. However, I have had to ask several parents NOT to be in the house as I give a lesson. They are simply too overbearing. I’ve had parents yell at their kids from the next room over simply because they missed a note in one of the pieces they’ve been practicing all week.

By Edward Wed Jan 22nd 2014 at 12:54 am  

Excellent points! Even though kids a while away for me for now these are interesting points to consider.