“I Was Raised Free-Range and It Crippled Me”

Readers — Found this on my “Pro or Con?” page just now:

Dear Free-Range Kids: Your website (granted I haven’t read your book yet) speaks of everything from a parent’s point-of-view but have you considered what Free-Range Parenting looks and feels like according to a child?

I’m 26 years old and was raised with the Free-Range parent philosophy.  Now that I’m old enough to begin reflecting with introspection and observation, I’ve come to the realization that Free-Range parenting was founded to counteract helicopter parenting but neglected to recognize its own extremism.  I do have great parents who taught me independence and free thinking in that I’ve traveled to 50 countries, obtained masters in both aerospace engineering and sports management, worked with acclaimed businesses in their industries; NASA and Detroit professional sports teams, by all outward accounts I have many great accomplishments due to my parents.  But I only look good on paper.

You said, “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.”  And what happens to a child who grows up wondering why their parents were never there for them?  Why they were expected to do everything on their own volition? What you may define as coddling, children could interpret as love, support, and understanding.  Coddling was once defined as cooking an egg in water below the boiling point.  It wasn’t overprotected or pampered because it gave the egg a chance to cook itself under its own free will and its own pace.  Free-Range parenting made me an accomplished adult but it brought me to a “boiling point” before I was ready.

I wasn’t given the childhood to learn what support looks like and now I question it with great insecurity in all relationships in my life.  I never ask for help and I never allow myself to be vulnerable because Free-Range parenting taught me only about independence.  It neglected to teach me how to recognize what healthy dependence on society and humanity looks like.

If Free-Range parenting believes the world isn’t as dangerous as it’s made out to be, it still becomes dangerous because a child grows up believing they have nowhere to turn to for escape if needed. And a child with no place to relax from the world is just as dangerous as a helicopter child not being capable to enter the world.  Neither child will survive it.

This is not meant to accuse any parenting ideology as wrong as it may have worked for some children because that is what they as an individual needed.  But I am supporting that claim that one parenting ideology is right and all the other are wrong.  As I mentioned earlier, I am only beginning to reflect on the world but in this moment I can safely say I am sick of hearing about parenting style.  There isn’t a philosophy on parenting.  Because each child, each individual, each perspective is different.  The only foundation that parents need is unconditional love.  An acceptance based on the uniqueness of each child.  It’s one thing to tell a child you love them but you have to show them love in a meaning that correlate with what they believe it to be.  Not what you believe it to be. – Non-Free-Ranger

Dear Non: Thanks for this note. You’re so right, there is no one “parenting philosophy” that works across the board. Free-Range doesn’t consider itself a parenting philosophy, per se. It’s just a way of looking at a world bent on brainwashing us with fear, and trying to counter that drumbeat of dread.

It sounds like your parents may have been uninvolved to the extreme — or at least it felt that way to you, which would indeed feel terrible. I very much agree that children deserve unconditional love and I think no Free-Ranger would feel otherwise. We also believe in play — lots of it — not the push to “succeed” you may have experienced (and thought was “Free-Range”).  

Free-Range isn’t about ignoring our kids, or not “being there” for them, it’s about loving AND believing in them. That is not the same thing as turning a cold shoulder, and it is not the same as answering all requests for help (unspoken or otherwise) with a, “You can do it — go away.”

I’m really sorry this was your experience, and I hope you can go forth and embrace the world in a way that makes you happy. — L




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78 Responses to “I Was Raised Free-Range and It Crippled Me”

  1. Paul March 17, 2014 at 8:16 am #

    Looks like someone needs to take some responsibility and stop blaming others for their own inadequacies.

  2. SOA March 17, 2014 at 8:30 am #

    Well said Lenore. I agree 100%. I practice Free Range but I am also the SAHM that does the parties and the playdates and the sleepovers and all the Pinterest crafts and decorations etc with my kids. So I doubt they will grow up saying I did not do enough with them. You can do both. I can let my kids stay outside by themselves while I check on them occasionally and still spend tons of time with them doing super mom type stuff. There is a happy medium.

    I am sorry she felt neglected and abandoned growing up but you seem to have accomplished much so if you have kids raise them taking the good parts of what your parents did to do and then improve on the parts where they lacked and your kids will turn out great.

  3. David DeLugas March 17, 2014 at 8:30 am #

    Parents can always talk the talk about loving their child, but do they walk the walk. Lenore pegged it here in her comments and I, too, feel badly for this young man who did not feel as if his parents were there for him, supporting and nurturing him. The true test is not whether a parent says he or she loves his or her child, but whether the child feels loved. His experience cannot be summed up in a comment, as he wrote, but in the entirety of what his parents did and did not do for him that left him feeling so alone during his childhood, a childhood that should be filled with the joys and simplicity of not yet being an adult! This only reinforces that being a good parent, whatever ones style or approach, must include conveying in ways that one’s own child understands that the child IS loved. https://www.parentsusa.org Please LIKE the Facebook page of the National Association of Parents and JOIN at our website.

  4. Amber March 17, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    I agree with Lenore’s response that that kind of parenting is not what I would considering free-range. It sounds like (if the author is being a reliable narrator) that he experienced some neglect. I am with my children, caring for them, loving them, and supporting them…but also encouraging them that there is much they are capable of!

    For example, yesterday morning my two 6 year olds and I made homemade cinnamon rolls. They were involved in every step of the process, including getting the melted butter out of the microwave and even slicing the rolls with a real knife!! I demonstrated responsible use (reminded them they ONLY use knives under adult supervision at this age), but then I let them cut the rolls themselves. (They were so careful, and PROUD of themselves!)

    It was a loving and nurturing experience where I built their confidence through guidance….

    Free range doesn’t mean “Here 6 year old…here is a knife…go at it.” :)

  5. QuicoT March 17, 2014 at 8:37 am #

    My parents in law were very free-range. Their oldest kid, my wife, did great with it. Her younger sister, my sister-in-law, really struggled in ways that sound similar to what Non is saying. They were definitely not neglected. It’s just that children’s temperaments are different.

    It’s a really, really hard balancing act parents have to do. And the hardest part is understanding that really good intentions can lead you astray.

  6. kerry March 17, 2014 at 8:39 am #

    i disagree with paul’s comment, which i find cold and very internet-like.

    to the author, i would agree that that childhood was tough. i could call my childhood free-range, and (from how i see it) those were the good bits. the other bits (one parent abandoning, the other crawling into a bottle) are the parts that were their brokenness. in my case, it is easier to see the difference a) because at 42 i’ve had a long time to reflect :) , and b) because the broken parts were not born from adherence to a philosophy, but from clearly brokenness on their own part.

    i may be mistaken, but i think free-range parenting is too recent to have influenced your parents. (just as helicopter parenting wasn’t a label a while ago). the absurd layers of fear mongering have gotten exponentially worse since either of us were little. either way, everyone has things they need to figure out as an adult. it is a matter of surrounding yourself with the right people and prioritizing your healing. and then forgiving yourself, because for some reason that is always a majpr part of letting go of and healing from our parents’ mistakes.

    all the best…

  7. E March 17, 2014 at 8:41 am #

    I think this post and Lenore’s response are great. Perspective is always good to read/hear. I grew up in a large family and I was surprised to learn that one of my siblings had a completely different mindset in regard to our parents affection (or lack of it). This was my most introverted sibling but it was clear that she would have preferred that my parents were more expressive (we were not a family that said “I love you” much). I was floored at how we could grow up in the same household and feel so differently. This wasn’t a family rift or anything, but just reflecting back she felt that she would have benefited from more direct expressions of love/support.

    I try to remember that with my own children (who are vastly different, personality wise).

  8. E March 17, 2014 at 8:48 am #

    @QuicoT , so well said.

  9. AnotherAnon March 17, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    It sounds like this young man was emotionally neglected, and that the parents may have used rhetoric about “fostering independence” in order to justify that neglect to themselves.

    Free range parenting doesn’t mean not hugging your child when they cry. It means that when your kid is asking for more independence, you give it to them in ways that were appropriate 20, 30, or 40 years ago, but which are unconsionable today.

  10. Nicole March 17, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    I believe that you werent raised exactly free range, you were raised by yourself. As an infant, I never do CIO, why? because I want my son to realize no matter what I will be there for him, also as an infant I do alot of babywearing so he can be close to momma, as an infant and very very young toddler its a good time to show them I will be there no matter what. Then as he gets older I let him do age appropriate things on his own, but I’m always there to talk and ask questions. If he needs something I will always be there. We also have age appropriate mother son dates. Free Range doesnt mean we send them outside and tell them we dont want to see them again until dinnertime. Free Rrange means that we give our children the trust and know how to do that if they want to.

  11. Lihtox March 17, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    I think the writer is correct in what they say: you CAN take free-range too far of course. In the current climate this would be very hard to do, given the pressures to helicopter, but one should always be aware of the dangers of going too far.
    That said, writer, don’t make the assumption that helicoptering parents give you a place to relax and escape either. It’s hard to feel like your parents don’t trust you, who offer miles of criticism in the name of being helpful. You tend to hide bad news and troubles from them, because you know that their reaction, while well-meaning, will only make you feel worse. I won’t say this is true in all helicoptering scenarios: no doubt, many such parents do make the switch to having an adult relationship with their kids. But it’s easy for a coptered kid to have that same feeling of not having a home base to escape to.

  12. David Veatch March 17, 2014 at 9:00 am #

    My parents’ Free Range philosophy was to do their best to protect me from mistakes that could prove to be fatal or permanent, and allow me to make the rest. There was nothing remote or removed or detached about it. Non wasn’t raised Free Range. By her account and perspective, Non wasn’t raised Free Range – Non was raised uninvolved.

  13. David Veatch March 17, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    My parents’ Free Range philosophy was to do their best to protect me from mistakes that could prove to be fatal or permanent, and allow me to make the rest. There was nothing remote or removed or detached about it. Non wasn’t raised Free Range. By her account and perspective, Non wasn’t raised Free Range – Non was raised uninvolved and neglected.

  14. Nanci March 17, 2014 at 9:04 am #

    I’m guessing the writer’s parents were more neglectful than free-range. I do see children out on their not because their parents are giving them amounts of freedom to keep from stifling them but because the parents simply don’t care. That is really sad, but not at all the same as free-range parenting. I recently read a book “The Glass Castle”, those children were definitely free range but due to their mothers mental illness and father alcoholism not due to loving parents allowing their children freedom. I allow my kids to go out and explore but before they go they give me an idea of where they will be, such as in the woods, down by the creek, or at a particular friends. When they return at the appointed time I ask them about their adventures and we talk. They have freedom, but we also have a very close relationship :)

  15. Donna March 17, 2014 at 9:23 am #

    I think Lenore and others have given a great response.

    But this comment does bring up a question of perception that I’ve had – do our children end up feeling less loved when compared to kids with helicopter parents? My daughter had a friend in Samoa whose parents were extremely overindulgent. Mom was a real type A personality who now funneled all of that energy into her children. She slept in bed with them, rubbed their backs until they fell asleep, waited on them hand and foot, etc. Beyond normal parenting things. My daughter was constantly asking me to do those things for her too and my answer was always “no,” but it did make me wonder if she was feeling as if J’s parents loved her more because they were willing to do these completely over-the-top things for her.

    I do think it is a battle we fight living in a helicopter world. Our parenting is very much what we were raised experiencing and we felt fully loved, but all our friends were also treated exactly the same so there wasn’t this over-the-top comparison. Do our kids feel somewhat less than as compared to kids with overindulgent, helicopter parents?

  16. Dee March 17, 2014 at 9:30 am #

    Free range parenting can also be coupled with neglect or a lack of attachment. But that’s far from a requirement. I’m very pro-Free Range, but my son did not walk to school by himself on a regular basis until he was 11, not because I wasn’t ready for it, but because he wasn’t. I did everything to set the stage, but he was anxious about it so it didn’t fully happen (he did walk by himself part-way sooner) until he was ready and felt comfortable, prepared, and independent. A year later, I can tell you he’s very comfortable and doesn’t feel neglected. He willingly walked home about 3x the distance from school when we were at a scout event and I couldn’t leave.

    I’m sorry you had such a bad experience. Your parents sound like they didn’t take the time or interest to find out about you. That’s just sad and it’s not a typical part of Free Range parenting.

  17. Tara March 17, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    Like others are saying, there is a huge difference between “free-range” and neglect.

    The other day my 3.5 year old came to me and asked for help building her Lincoln Log house but said “mom, can you help me figure it out? I already tried by myself”

    She knows she can come to me and ask for help or get support about anything at any time. But she also knows that my first response is typically “try to figure it out yourself first”.

    She also isn’t asking me to build the thing for her, but to give her tips on how to accomplish it herself.

    She knows she can always look to me for support or guidance, but because I’ve raised her “free-range” she prefers to try things on her own.

  18. Warren March 17, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    Of course some kids will compare what their parents do to what other parents do.

    Why am I walking to school when so and so’s mom drives them?

    Why do I have to mow the lawn when so and so’s dad does it?

    They also hear other parents tell you their little darling would never have been hurt climbing the tree, or doing whatever.

    You do your best, you do what you feel is right. You then hope that they take all this forward into a mature adulthood and understand what you were doing. Unfortunately either this author did not have good parents, or she is just not mature enough to understand the lessons she was taught.

    And yes there are a lot of adults that want to blame their parents for every little problem they have. Mommy didn’t breastfeed me, Daddy missed my second grade play and so on, and those are their reasons for not graduating or getting a good job, or whatever.

    Personal responsibility is lost on a great number of people.

    A comedian, Gallagher, once said, “I wish someone would go on Oprah and say……My mom was great, my dad was great I just screwed up.”

  19. Michael March 17, 2014 at 10:20 am #

    Seems to me that the guest author needs to read your book, Lenore :-) I embrace many aspects of free range, and I am a loving, teaching parent. Free range isn’t about ignoring one’s children, but having faith in them and letting them do the things they feel they are ready to do. I am one of the only parents I know that allows their children to go use a public restroom unaccompanied. But I also offer “would you like Mom to come with you?” to my small ones. I show up to make their meals, but when my kiddo says they want to make their own sandwich or slice their own apple, I know they have the skills to do so! I would never dream of ditching my kids at home alone all day with nothing to do against their will, but my eight-year-old certainly gets the choice of riding along to the figure skating rink or ballet studio with me, or staying at home for that 1 hour interval on Saturday mornings. Free range is loving, teaching, and being there. But also recognizing that kids are not so fragile that they will fall apart the second we are not in control.

  20. lollipoplover March 17, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    “It neglected to teach me how to recognize what healthy dependence on society and humanity looks like.”

    This doesn’t sound free range but dysfunctional.
    Family bonds and dependence on society aren’t the same.

    My free range children depend on each other and our family unit for their foundation. Each has unique capabilities and interests and parenting is adjusted for our family to *work*. One is a woodworker, athlete, and outdoorsman. One is a cook and an artist. One is a dreamer and passionate animal lover. Each goes out into society and finds their own, unique way to connect.

    I have no interest in any of my children looking good “on paper”. Degrees and acclaimed businesses don’t define a successful life- I want children to find what makes them happy. I can can only guide them to the path where they find their fit. It cannot be taught- free range or helicopter. It doesn’t sound like this letter writer has found their happy life path yet and needs to take more of an introspective look vs. finding fault in the past.

    What I CAN give my children is ample free play without my constant intervention to find what they enjoy doing. This is done with love and understanding that they are capable, important individuals who can speak up if they don’t like doing ballet or getting a master’s degree.

    If one of my children came to me later in life saying they felt “great insecurity in all relationships in my life” I would be most disappointed that they didn’t clearly communicate their individual wants and needs and not blame others for their unhappiness. I can’t give my children happiness no matter how I parent. It’s not something you can consume or buy in the organic section.

  21. DND March 17, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    I don’t know that I’d jump to neglect the way everyone else is. Sometimes parents simply don’t realise that their parenting style is hurting their children. It’s an easy thing to do, particularly if you have a child who naturally isn’t inclined to speak up about their feelings or who doesn’t fully understand what their feelings are.

    Like E, I was raised in a very large family. Families as large as mine are nearly always free range simply because there isn’t any way to keep track of everyone. For me this was brilliant because I was naturally independent from a young age and never wanted my parents to help me with things anyway. I was happiest when left alone.

    However, I’ve since learnt that a few of my siblings felt neglected because our parents couldn’t always attend every play or recital or little league game. They believe that our parents should have had fewer children so that they could focus their attention and attend every small milestone and event. We always had a large group of relatives at every event, often to the point where I was embarrassed by them so to me the idea of being neglected was bizarre, but to them it had a very real impact. Same parents, same parenting style, two wildly different reactions.

  22. Edward March 17, 2014 at 10:36 am #

    I believe this topic and the comments so far have made all of us re-think our definitions of certain words and phrases used here. I would just like to commend Lenore for allowing us to do that thinking in an open forum. I’ve never known the Free Range Kids blog to suppress anything for its own sake.
    And yes, it has made me think why I had the independence I had growing up in my family.

  23. Lola March 17, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    I think children also have a saying about what they want and need from their parents. Granted, being there for them doesn’t necessarily mean being right there with them. Sometimes it does, though.
    I know my maternal instinct leaves much to be desired, so I have to tell my children to call if they need help, or cuddling, or encouragement or whatever, because they’ve been cursed with a clumsy, awkward mother who nevertheless loves them to death.
    It’s working for us, so far. I’ll tell you more when we get over their teens.

  24. Keri March 17, 2014 at 10:43 am #

    I can certainly sympathize with the author of the letter as I felt that my parents were not there for me for a long time. I was the oldest of 4, and I had many more responsibilities than my siblings because I had to help my parents so much. My parents both worked full time, so my siblings were my responsibility from the time school was out until my parents got home. I was the child who moved out the day after graduation, married young, joined the military, divorced with no family support as I lived across the country from my family, found a job overseas after the military and then came home when I was 28 years old with no home, no idea what I wanted to do with my life……All those years I felt like they weren’t there for me and coming home with my tail between my legs because of some straight up bad luck changed everything. My parents were afraid to offer help because I was so extremely independent. And I was afraid to ask for it because I was so extremely independent. When I called to ask if I could live with them for 30 days to figure out what I needed to do, they were there 100% and it was really a revelation to me to rely on them, since I didn’t ever rely on them once I got my first job at 14 years old. I am sorry the author of the letter feels this way, and I agree with everyone’s comments that all children are different, especially within the same household. My siblings didn’t leave home until they were 19 or 20 and I found that so foreign. My parents were finally able to help me later on in my life and were grateful to do so after their perception that I never wanted any help, and it has healed a lot of old scars I carried. My father jokes that I haven’t needed them since I was 3 years old, and so they let me find my own way far more than my siblings, because that was just my personality. If they had treated my siblings that way, I can see how they may feel like the author of the letter. Parenting is tough, and parents do what they can and what they think is right. I hope the author of the letter can find a way to enjoy the world by creating a new support system of friends if family is not available.

  25. Becky March 17, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    I tend to question the validity of anyone on the internet who claims to be a literal rocket scientist, but I will give this writer the benefit of the doubt.

    Sir, love and support go both ways. Why don’t you give old mom and dad a call? I bet the support you’ve apparently been searching for your whole life was there all along, and is still there in spades.

  26. anonymous mom March 17, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    @kerry, I think blaming your life not being perfect and you sometimes feeling unhappy or scared on the failure of your parents to be perfect is very “internet-y.” I honestly think that once the letter write has another decade or so under their belt and maybe a kid or two of their own, they will be less likely to place the blame for their feelings of unhappiness or anxiety on their parents.

    Everybody’s parents screwed up somehow. Everybody’s. There are no perfect parents because there are no perfect people. Not having had a perfect childhood–which seems to be the complaint here, not that the parents were horrible or abusive or even neglectful, but simply didn’t find the ideal balance between freedom and protection–is part of the human condition, but one the young and childless on the internet seem to have no understanding of.

    I get it, because at 26 I would have had a similar rant about my not-bad but less-than-perfect childhood, although my parents erred on the side of being too overprotective. I knew that I’d be the perfect parent when I had kids. And then I had them.

  27. Thomas Arbs March 17, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    Dear Non: Please do not blame the parenting you have experienced on “free-ranging” as a fixed concept because it isn’t. There is a very distinct line between free-range parenting and neglect. Not having heard your parents’ point of view we cannot judge if you actually received your excellent education through your parents or, despite your parents, exclusively through your own effort. Free-ranging may involve pushing you into cold water to learn to swim, but it clearly does not mean walking away after the push. Showing you how to do it yourself, in my own understanding, definitely still involves showing, and offering consolidation and advice if things didn’t turn out right the first time. And leaving you time to do things on your own does not imply not finding time to show you love and compassion. In fact the amount of time parents do afford for their children does not correlate with the free-range/helicopter scale at all, you will find helicopter parents who do not allow their children to walk to the corner store but still leave them parked in front of the TV for hours.

  28. ifsogirl March 17, 2014 at 11:05 am #

    @ Lithox – your description of hellecoptor parwnting is exactly my experience. I’malmost 40 now so lockdown in the 80’s wasn’t as bad as it is now.

    Even with overprotective parents I didnt feel “loved”. I knew my parents loved me but it wasn’t something spoken or overtly shown.

    I did keep bad things from my parents, when I was 15 working at McD’s a coworker/classmate’s parents called to tell my parents about the manager sayibg sexual things to some of the yoing girls. There was a court case and everything. I was punished for not telling tjem sooner so tjeybxould seal with it, and then told I wasn’t going to court.

    In that moment I learned that what happened to me wasn’t nearly as important as my parents idk embarasment maybe. I learned that I wasn’t smart enough to take care of myself, but I should know how to on my own.
    I don’t ask for help. In fact it’s one of the hardest things for me to do. I was taught I wasn’t capable on my own and that was a failing on my part. Why else would everyone keep treating me like an airhead?

  29. Lola March 17, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    Awww, Becky… I think you nailed it.

  30. anonymous mom March 17, 2014 at 11:22 am #

    @Becky, yes, especially about the love and support probably having been there all along.

    I don’t think I ever felt, as a child, fully loved and accepted by my parents. But, I know now, as an adult, that it wasn’t my parents; it was me. It turns out, in ALL of my relationships, I never feel fully loved and accepted, no matter how unconditionally loving a person is. I am a very self-critical person, and I project that onto other people while also expecting them to give me all the validation I don’t give myself. My parents didn’t “do” that to me; my own personality and temperament viewed how I saw them.

    I have learned, as an adult, that if I don’t consciously reign in it, I have a bottomless pit in need of validation and unconditional support. My parents couldn’t give me enough support and validation (or, it turns out, my friends, my professors, my husband…) because there is no “enough” for me. One of my three kids is also like this. It’s hard to parent a kid for whom no amount of love and support is ever enough. It’s hard to BE a kid for whom no amount of love and support is ever enough. But, ultimately, this is something he is going to have to work out for himself, like I had to, and to learn that you can’t look to others for perfection or to fill needs in yourself that they can’t fill. We all have parts of our temperament or personality or character that need to grow.

  31. anonymous mom March 17, 2014 at 11:30 am #

    @SOA, I’m a SAHM who spends a LOT of time with my kids–we live in a city and I supervise them nearly all the time, because of their ages–and I’m still sure that at least one of my kids will come back to me with a litany of complaints that will probably include my not spending enough time with them, not giving them enough emotional support, and many other failures.

    Because, that’s what people do, especially when young adults. We try to make a straight line from our own problems to our parents’ failings. And, the harder a time we’re having, the more negatively we’re going to remember things. That’s just one of the facts of memory. You take three kids raised in the same house, and they will remember their childhood in vastly different ways, which will in most cases have more to do with their current situation and state of mind than anything that actually happened a decade or two earlier. I fully expect most of my kids to go through that phase. I just hope they eventually have kids of their own and are able to forgive me for having been human. 😉

  32. ifsogirl March 17, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    Warren I met someone who did take responsibility. He told me that his five brothers and sisters all grew up to be good teens and responsible adults. That his parents were good and loving people and did their best. He just was rotten.

    He did drugs, joined a skinhead gang (and has the ink to prove it if you have a keen eye), got into trouble with the law and was the nightmare child in a “normal” family.

    Now he’s got a family of his own, a good job and still some serious issues regarding substance abuse, but he’s come quite far already so who knows.

  33. Leslie March 17, 2014 at 11:56 am #


    Your letter really broke my heart. I’m sorry you didn’t get the support, attention, or love you needed. It’s important that we know our kids and give them what they need, and it’s important that we don’t react to bad things by going too far in the other direction. I hope you’re able to work through where this has left you and grow into the person you want to be.

  34. Lee Baldwin March 17, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    his parents weren’t Free Range, they were uninvolved & possibly neglectful. not the same thing at all.

  35. Andrea Jones March 17, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    “Free-range” doesn’t mean “absent.” I’m sorry your parents weren’t there for you. Free-range is allowing children to do things themselves when they are developmentally ready (go to their friend’s house on their own, walk to school, cook a dinner) and to trust them to make choices for themselves when ready. It’s also knowing when they need help and support and when they don’t. It doesn’t mean leave them to their own devices always. Perhaps you can see a counselor so you can come to peace with your upbringing and be more secure with yourself. I wish you well.

  36. BL March 17, 2014 at 12:48 pm #


    Yeah, that all looks familiar.

    And it all seemed pretty tame then, especially after reading “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” (my favorite book as a kid).

  37. Orange you glad March 17, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

    Everything we experience teaches us. Stop blaming and start being grateful. Blaming others for how we are forever locked into misery and suffering because we identify ourselves as victims. I had a life perhaps similar to yours. I grew up with enormous expectations of maturity heaped on me, and I was able to deliver. I felt old at 16. I had panic attacks, was self-critical and loath to ask for help.

    My first marriage was more about proving how grown up I was than love and trust in my partner. Throughout my l

  38. Orange you glad March 17, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    Oh whatever. Too hard to do this on a phone. I had to learn to find within myself everything I thought was missing. No person can provide that anyway.

  39. Andrea March 17, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

    This letter sheds light on the complexity of parenting — it’s not about following the doctrine of a school of thought, it’s about finding the right cocktail of nurturing for your kids. This was more difficult before the internet — all you could do back in the day was model after other parents in your family or community, or read a good book if you could find one. If the bookstore or library didn’t have anything about attachment parenting and your town wasn’t very enlightened, your parents were SOL on forging a new parenting path. Or maybe your parents just didn’t have a clue about what you needed. Either way, I don’t think it’s a failure of a school of thought, rather it’s a failure to recognize an individual’s emotional needs.

    My parents both had rather desperate upbringings, and they made their best effort to give me a normal suburban childhood. Mine was a hybrid childhood. I had ample free time to do what I wanted, rode my bike all over town, had lots of opportunities to explore nature, and still got to watch more TV that was good for me. On the other hand, my mom had a desperate fear of child molesters and kidnappers, so there was a constant anxious eye on me whenever we were in stores or crowds, and she was a basket case any time I had unchaperoned interactions with non-teacher adults. My parents were both social workers (the therapist type) and were educated in child development, so their parenting solutions were usually clinical, straight out of the textbooks.

    My son was going through a rough patch a couple years ago — trouble sleeping, often angry and worried, resistant to learning to read and write. It was concerning enough that I took him to our family doctor (who had good advice), and then asked my mom what she thought, since she was a therapist and all. Her first thought was that he had probably been molested. My dad thought so, too. I know the signs as well, and I know my son’s life, and I can tell you that wasn’t what it was. But she would have had me suspect anybody he spent time around — neighbors, coaches, maybe even my husband — just because his cognitive struggles happened to match a couple line items on her list of molestation indicators. It was then that I noticed that my mother, intensely well-meaning as she was, was limited in her ability to understand the complexities of a unique individual. It was then that I realized how many of my own needs she missed. It wasn’t that she didn’t check in with me, or praise me, or show me that she cared or was interested — it was that, lacking a healthy childhood of her own for a model, she approached raising me more like a carefully-tended science project rather than thoughtfully and intuitively nurturing a human being.

    This person’s letter doesn’t leave me thinking he or she was neglected in the dangerous sense — I get the picture of parents who, for whatever reason, just didn’t know what to do with the particularly special kid they made. Considering this person’s impressive resume, I wonder if this was in fact a case of parents clueless in how to best support a highly intelligent child. I recommend browsing the articles on sengifted.org, “Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted”. I went to the site looking for ideas in how to parent my sensitive brainiac son, and discovered my own emotionally-starved childhood in those articles.

  40. Amanda Matthews March 17, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    “When they return at the appointed time I ask them about their adventures and we talk. They have freedom, but we also have a very close relationship.”

    I really think this is the key difference. Most people see parenting in terms of supervising or not supervising. You supervise too much, you’re a helicopter parent. You supervise less than normal, and you’re labeled free-range. You don’t supervise enough, you’re neglectful. They seem to think you have to figure out just that right amount of supervision to be a good parent.

    But there is a vast difference between supervising and parenting. Babysitters supervise. With adults, supervisors supervise. That’s completely different than parenting.

    I always cringe when people say “parents shouldn’t be friends with their kids” with the implication that being friends with your kids leads to spoiled, entitled brats. Friends don’t always say yes, don’t always give friends everything they ask for. If they do, that’s a dysfunctional friendship.

    I think a HEALTHY friendship is essential to take the parent-child relationship from supervising to parenting. (And that’s important because even if you’re a helicopter parent, you can’t always supervise. Maybe the kid goes to school, and/or you go to work; and even if not, there are times where you will relinquish supervision to someone else.) A healthy friendship is based on MUTUAL respect, trust, and support.

    And that’s the difference between saying “No, 10-year-old, you can’t climb on a log. Sit here so I can see you” (helicopter parenting/over-supervising), not giving a crap when the kid comes home and tries to tell you about the log he climbed on today (emotional neglect), and actually caring and having a conversation about what he did today without you there (free-range-PARENTING).

  41. Alison S. March 17, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    I scanned the comment stack, and I did see that someone used the “A word” (alcoholism) and someone else used the “D word” (dysfunctional), so I’m not the only one who reacted along those lines.

    In short, that does not sound like a post by someone who had been raised free range. That sounds more like a post by someone who was raised in an alcoholic ideology and who may have fulfilled something akin to a Lost Child role within that context (with a healthy dose of Hero role).

    This of course is pure speculation, but anyone who knows anything about the family-wide consequences of addiction is going to see a number of red flags in there.

    And I’m not saying that to be critical – I’m saying it to encourage the writer to examine his situation through the addiction lens instead of through the Free Range lens. He sounds like he has developed some impressively accurate insight into WHAT happened to him, but WHY is another question entirely – he may have superimposed the wrong explanatory framework on those insights.

    And that’s relevant because no real improvements can occur until the true nature of any given issue is revealed.

  42. Lizzie March 17, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    He was obviously neglected as a child. Free range kids are not synonymous with neglected kids.

  43. lollipoplover March 17, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    We don’t get to pick our parents. I had older parents as the youngest of 10 and used to wish my parents were cooler/younger/richer. I understood from an early age that I was entitled to 1/10 of parent attention and accepted it happily. I made up for it with my siblings and childhood friends who are still among my closest relationships.

    You could say I was a free range kid but it was more like being raised by a wolf pack. We were free to play but the older kids looked after the younger ones and we looked up to them. I didn’t have a curfew (but always was home before 12 because my friends with curfews or sisters drove me). My parents never asked for my grades though I got straight A’s. I didn’t need help with college applications or financal help. If I couldn’t figure it out on my own, I asked a sister/brother/teacher/friend. I had multiple jobs since I was 15. I respected my parents but saved my 1/10 for the big stuff-learning to drive(even though my sisters taught me when I was 13),marriage, career advise, and homeownership.

    As others said above, there is no such thing as perfect parenting. All parents make mistakes and all wants will not be met. Of my siblings, I have 2 who will tell you that they felt our parents were not *there* for them and can’t imagine not going to every childhood game/concert/school volunteering for their kids and providing every luxury that they didn’t have- car/iphone/laptop. Personally, I don’t think that’s the answer or cure for what they feel they were missing. In the words of the Rolling Stones, You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.

  44. Molly March 17, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    I agree, Lenore. Seems this situation is on the extreme end of the scale. I was raised free range by a stay at home, unconditionally loving (and emotionally available) mother. Thankfully! Free Range Parenting, to me, is about being here for my children so thoroughly, that they feel comfortable exploring and gaining experience and knowledge about our environments. Thanks for sharing your story, “non”, hopefully you heal soon.

  45. Molly March 17, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    I’ll add I was one of 6 children, aged 1-11, and the oldest is now 35. We are so thankful to our mother’s style!

  46. Molly March 17, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

    I’ll add I was one of 6 children, aged 1-11, and the oldest is now 35. We are so thankful for our mother’s style!

  47. Ally March 17, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

    I have two children, one of whom is a free range dream. he is very independant, very capable, eager to learn new skills and be given new responsibilities. My other child, on the other hand, fights me tooth and nail whenever I encourage her to do things on her own. She does not want to be independent. She wants me to help her with everything. I have to really be careful that I don’t push her too hard because it makes her feel unloved, and that is not my intention. The point is, different children require different things. As a parent you try to be aware of that–but of course we are human, and we make mistakes.

  48. Papilio March 17, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    Funny how so many of you say “Free-range parenting is xxx” and “Free-range parenting means xxx”, without ever specifying that ‘xxx’ is your own interpretation. Can you take Free-range parenting too far? That depends on the definition, and personally I’d leave it to Lenore to decide what that is :-)

  49. hineata March 17, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

    Hmmm, Non – I think I agree with Andrea. Your accomplishments etc point to you being an extremely talented individual, and I too would suggest you read sites aimed at gifted kids/adults. Hoagies is another good one. It is more than likely that your parents simply didn’t know how to work with you.

    That said, did you as a kid ask for hugs, affirmation etc? I know one of my kids at the moment, who is super-independent (and coincidentally also unusually bright and capable), is likely to come back in the future and complain about childhood neglect, but she just does not like to listen to advice, get hugs, get things done for her etc., etc. In short I don’t know what to do with her some days, and simply try to back off and leave the door open for her to come to me. Are you sure similar things didn’t happen with you and your parents?

    Parenting is a hard gig. And worrying about whether our parents were ‘there for us’ is a post-50’s thing, too. I don’t blame you for doing it – I am a 60’s/70’s child myself, LOL! – but maybe you just need to forgive your parents and move on. If they were not actively beating you, and kept you fed, watered and with a roof over your head, then they did okay. Not fantastically,but okay.

  50. The Retro Way March 17, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

    You can have a free range kid who is not loved and you can have a battery kid who is loved. Conversely, you can have a free range kid who is loved and a battery kid who is not loved. I may be wrong but it sounds as though the poster falls into the ‘free range kid who is not loved’ category.

    She says, ‘a child grows up believing they have nowhere to turn to for escape if needed’ which suggests her parents were never there for her in times of crisis, or at least she felt they wouldn’t be. That is not free range….that is heartless.

    A free range kid will be greeted with kisses and a hug in the morning, sent to school with a kiss, a warning about the road and a good breakfast in her tummy, greeted on returning home with a hug, fed a nice lunch, talked to about school, allowed out the door to free play, greeted with love before dinnertime, talked to with love over dinner, read a story with cuddles and put to bed with kisses, cuddles and ‘I love you’s.

    A free range kid might be free to come and go and might be filled with the confidence to take care of herself but she will also know home is where the heart is.

    Maybe the poster will think differently when she is older. It’s normal to question your parents’ style at her age. In maybe ten years time she might realise that her parents did what they thought was best for her and realise they did, in fact, love her.

  51. Taradlion March 17, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

    If trying to stick to the same or similar analogy, there is a difference between Free Range and “stray” or Ferrell.

  52. Reziac March 17, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    The Retro Way says,
    She says, ‘a child grows up believing they have nowhere to turn to for escape if needed’ which suggests her parents were never there for her in times of crisis, or at least she felt they wouldn’t be. That is not free range….that is heartless.

    This, exactly. The writer seems not to understand that it’s not a choice between ‘neglect’ and ‘bubblewrapping’ with no other options, and no other range of behavior.

    Good parenting goes to neither extreme.

  53. EricS March 17, 2014 at 9:20 pm #

    To Non-Free-Ranger. Your 26 years old, and by all accounts compared to many hear, you are still a youngin. I guess you haven’t grasped the true nature of Free-Range parenting. Many people don’t fully understand it. Like you, many think it’s about letting children do whatever they want, with no guidance. That is far from the reality.

    In my day, back in the 70s and 80s, we never had a moniker for what is considered “Free-Range” today. Every kid only new it as one thing, CHILDHOOD. Sure our parents taught us how to fend for ourselves, and let us be on our merry way to explore, meet and make new friends, play, experience, and learn on our own. But to say they weren’t around or gave us very little support, or discipline, is a complete understatement. Because we had such “freedom”, we were actually held to a higher standard of responsibility. As much freedom as we had, we were still accountable for our actions. Our parents were always there when we needed to talk, to understand situations, and to learn. They did guide us. As well as punish us. You can say it was nicely balanced way of life for us back then.

    You may have been put on the tipping end of the “free-range” scale. Just like helicopter parenting tips the other. True free-range falls in between. As a free-range parent, I give a comfortable wide berth, both for the parents and the child. If we feel that, after taking into account of all pros and cons, including the readiness (or not readiness of our child), it’s not the best time, we simply say “no, not right now”. We also explain why, so that he understands why we made the decision. Sure there is disappointment. But he also learns, that in order to be able to do what he wants, he has to prove that he can take on he responsibility. Encouraging him to work on himself. And whenever he asks for guidance, or to get our confirmation/approval that he’s on the right track, we are honest and there for him. We constantly guide our kid, we just don’t do everything he is capable of doing himself. Like crossing he street. You start by holding their hands, teaching them how to cross the street. Eventually, you let go. Then you let them walk ahead of you. To the point, that you don’t even need to be there anymore. They can cross the street themselves. And if they come across some new experience, and don’t understand, we as parents are there ready to guide them in the right direction. Then off they go, learning and experiencing once again. That is what free-range has always been for me. That is how I and all my friends have grown up.

  54. Andrea March 17, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

    Yeah, I don’t think she (he?) was raised Free Range so much as s/he was ignored. I would say my upbringing was Free Range, in that my parents gave me freedom to find my own way, but they were always there for me, and I knew they were there IF I NEEDED THEM. They drove me to my sports practices, they came to all of my games to cheer me on, we had family dinners and we laughed together, they sent me to walk to school with my friends and without them (in the city) when I was in 3rd grade, they didn’t do my homework for me, they let me play outside with my friends without hovering, and they did not get involved with our drama. But they gave me a sense of security, too, which it sounds like the letter writer never felt like s/he got.

    I think that’s the crux of free range philosophy, is giving children the tools and freedom to do things on their own WHEN THEY ARE READY, not dropping them off in the middle of no where with no map and hoping they can figure it out.

    I think the letter writer believes he was raised neglected and unloved, and that’s terrible, but it’s not Free Range.

  55. AB March 17, 2014 at 10:06 pm #

    I think your point that you have to show love in a way that is meaningful to the child, not to you, is very important. I find myself frequently weighing how to instill both independence skills and a sense that they are loved in my kids.

    It is a difficult balance, and as other people have pointed out it is different for different children — and what the same child wants can also change over time. One day last year my then seventh grader told me that our neighbor “gets driven to school but I don’t because you’re too lazy.” This is the child who begged me to let him walk to school alone as soon as he was in third grade, which is the earliest our school district will allow it.

    I was shocked — I had not realized that he now felt uncared for because he has to walk to school. I talked to him about how his walking by himself is not about my being too lazy, it’s about trusting him to be able to walk the .4 miles to school by himself. The neighbor gets driven at least partly out of a fear of predators.

    I didn’t start driving him — I really do think that it’s better for him to walk, for several reasons. But I have become more willing to drop him or pick him up every now and then when the weather is miserable or he’s just had a slow start to the day, so that he can also get that feeling of being coddled.

  56. JP March 17, 2014 at 10:09 pm #

    um….free range parenting was NOT invented to counteract against helicopter parenting.
    Long before helicopters, or that style of parenting were ever invented, most parenting was accomplished in what we would now refer to as a free-range style.
    No-one called it that. No one needed to.
    Until the Industrial Revolution lured the rural masses into cities, and kids straight into child labor – most kids were off ranging, free or otherwise, because their parents were too busy with other things (earning livings.)
    Childhood was therefor not a hobby-fied obsession. It was just that era of a person’s life that had to somehow be survived (in times of divers’ plagues and viruses with no known cures.)
    Free range was the common sense moving with the times.
    It still is, or would be, if the fun and profit motives would leave it alone.

  57. bmommyx2 March 17, 2014 at 10:24 pm #

    I’m so sorry & sad for his experience and it’s unfortunate that he blames Free Range parenting. It sound more like non-parenting. Parenting should be tuned to the parent, child & family. I personally also consider myself an AP Parent, but if you were to look it up on some website or in a book I doubt I do even half of the things on the list. My parenting is always evolving. I think of Free Range parenting as more of natural parenting or the way people have been parenting since before Amber Alerts or the McMartin Pre-school trial, since before the internet & 24 hour news. I grew up in the 70’s & 80’s. I often walked home & did my own homework. I rode my bike to the park & had to be home by dark. I didn’t have a cellphone with GPS & I wasn’t in constant contact with home. My 7 yr old plays out in front of our house on our quiet culdasac & I don’t stay out there, but I know parents who would never let their kids out of their sight.

  58. Catherine March 17, 2014 at 11:43 pm #

    According to Diana Baumrind there are four parenting styles: authoritarian ‘do as I say’, low on responsiveness; neglectful: no need for a definition there; permissive lots of freedom, few rules, but responsive. All of these have downsides for the child and the adult the child becomes. Authoritative parent has the best outcomes – high expectations and very responsive/caring.

    I’m hearing less free range than neglectful.

  59. Steve March 17, 2014 at 11:52 pm #

    Non-Free Ranger. The past is over…

    The good thing is that your beliefs about what it all meant are not etched in stone. You can change the meanings to help you feel a lot better and be the person you want to be. We are only victims of our past if we stay mired in unhelpful beliefs that keep us in a rut of self pity.

    The following videos can help you chart a new course.

    Sean Stephenson is a person you won’t forget.
    Listen to what he has to say in this short video:



    This longer one by Robert Smith introduces you to an extremely helpful self-help process:


    You might think it’s not for you because it’s a talk being given to addicts in an treatment center … but give yourself 5 minutes to decide if you want to watch it all. Robert’s life was certainly not like yours. It was much worse. Yet ______

  60. Cassie March 18, 2014 at 2:25 am #

    There is a difference between neglect and free-range parenting.

    Free-range parenting is not about abandoning, ignoring, or not giving a shit about your kids. I know, I grew up with a mum that didn’t give a shit about me. It wasn’t free-range parenting.

    On the other hand I care deeply about my children, I love interacting with them and want to be involved with them. For me free-range is about all about small moments here and there that make up an overall life in which the parent has trusted the child to make good decisions, and allowed them to fulfill their potential.

  61. Ema March 18, 2014 at 5:00 am #

    I am in a ‘fortunate’ position to be able to answer this through experience. I too was raised in a free-range way but which continued to neglect. My parents were great with the trust and freedom, they just didn’t realise that at some point they had to step in and be responsible, they left home when I was 13, which was great as I had the house to myself….

    I now have children of my own, that range in age from 20 down to 6. About 6 months ago my 17yo was sitting chatting with me about her life versus her friends lives. One thing she said was about the fact that her friends mums, even now at 17 still made their lunch for them every day, still swooped in and did things for them. I asked how she felt about that, she said that initially she had thought ‘oh I wish my mum did that for me’ and then she sat back and realised that when we were all in the house together I would make lunch for the family, if she wanted to scoot out and free-range at 10.30 then I didn’t make her lunch, she would make a packed lunch and deal with it herself, if she stayed in bed until 2pm the same applied, same goes with the 8 yo, if she wants to eat at a time that isn’t when I’m making lunch then she deals with that herself! In terms of love & support, well I’m there for my girls (they’re all girls, no boys except dad in our house), I know this to be true because the 20 yo (who has now left home) phones me for advice, for support and sometimes just to tell me she loves me. She knows that I will listen to whatever her current problem/dilemma is, offer practical solutions if I feel that’s what she’s after – and I know my girls pretty well so I know when all she wants is an ‘oh no, that’s tough’ or ‘oh what a nasty piece of work he/she is’ , and the 17yo regularly comes and sits with me and wails about the woes of college (she was home educated until september 2013) , or talks about her latest project, she’s an Urbexer (Urban explorer) so she is still free-range, with the urbex though she tells me where she’s going, what the building is like and who she’s going with (usually!), sometimes she’ll ask me what I think about a site and we discuss whether or not it’s safe, I never just tell her though (I completely would though if she showed me one that was totally unsafe – like I said I’m not into neglect!). I would of course helicopter right in there and scoop any one of them out of whatever big old mess they’d got themselves into, and they know they can rely on me. In fact I once got a call with the words ‘I’m so sorry mum I’ve done the most stupid thing in the whole wide world’, luckily it wasn’t a big thick spiderweb tattoo across her face so she/we was able to overcome it.
    So, I’ve seen neglect dressed up as free-range, and I’ve (I believe) free-ranged without neglect. I can’t comment on how my small girls feel about it, they’re too busy having fun.

  62. Kenny Felder March 18, 2014 at 7:01 am #

    What a wonderful and insightful note! Whoever wrote that, I hope you read this comment.

    I was raised in the 1970s, and my parents were *always* there for us. If I was in a basketball game, my parents were in the stands. My mother (who has two Master’s degrees by the way) took a 20-year hiatus in her career to raise me and my two siblings. She gardened with us and baked cookies with us–and also with all our friends. She kissed our boo-boos when we fell off the bike, but then put us back on the bike. Both my parents always surrounded us with energy and with love. BUT they did not tell us that we couldn’t walk across the street, couldn’t go running in the woods without them, couldn’t go trick or treating unchaperoned. They taught us that the world is a good and supportive place, not a scary place.

    My own first child was born in 1993, and I have done my best to raise my four kids the way I was raised. When my kids are in a play, we’re always there in the audience. My 8-year-old daughter is perfectly comfortable crossing Franklin Street on her scooter to go to TCBY with a friend. I like to think that all the love and attention makes them more secure and comfortable going out into the world. That’s what free range means to me.

  63. Jennifer March 18, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    This letter is, sadly, very interesting, and I feel similarly about not being able to be healthfully dependent on anyone. I was the eldest of four and was “on my own” from a very early age because I was always very responsible. I don’t feel I was parented, but neglected, even though my mom was always around and I know that she loves me. Her style of parenting hasn’t changed my whole life (I am 38 now) and I am doing my best to work through what I feel were a string of disappointments taking me to present day. I am raising my children differently. I do not think I know the best way for them, but I am trying to take what I have learned from my own upbringing and educating myself on different approaches.

  64. Christine Hancock March 18, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    What is this person talking about?! He (not sure actually) credits his accomplishments in life to a free-range childhood, then goes on as if the parenting style was painful, crippling, and neglectful.

    I feel for him if his parents truly were not there for him. My parents after they finally divorced all but disappeared from my weekly and daily life, (mom went back to college and work, dad moved 90 miles away and I only saw him every other weekend). It hurt that they were not always there, but so long as someone else was watching my younger siblings, and I was home before dark, I could come and go as I pleased. I went biking all over the city, got summer jobs and a bank account, hiked in the nearby woods, went unaccompanied to festivals, historical sites, the movies, or the library. I also was home 3 – 5 afternoons and evenings a week watching my younger siblings.

    I’m not cold enough to say my life was better for their absence; but I am willing to say that I was given much practice and a taste for adulthood starting at 11 years of age, and it served me well.

  65. E March 18, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    I already commented, but I’ll add again, that I was raised as one of 6 kids born in the 50s and 60s. We were by definition free range. We walked to school ‘alone’ from day 1. We played wherever we wanted and came home to a dinner bell my Mom rang. We played in the street (car, car, C-A-R, etc).

    As adults, my sister and I were reflecting on things and I was stunned to learn that she felt out parents didn’t show enough love to us. She felt like she missed out on affection and nurturing. It had never occurred to me to feel that way. We had this discussion when she was a lot older than her 20s, so she wasn’t as young as the person here, but I do wonder if she felt that strongly in her 20s. Now it was more of a footnote.

    I think the point (and several have made it) is that it can be difficult for a parent to be able to identify and provide what each child needs. Does the introverted child need more reassurance? I know with my introvert, I often think they are/were coping with things fine, only to realize that they hold things in and don’t wear their emotions on their sleeve (like my other child) and sometimes I don’t even consider they actually feel differently than they are expressing.

    Parenting isn’t easy, identifying what each child needs can be difficult. Consistency is always touted as a key in parenting, but that doesn’t mean that some kids might need something more/less/different than others, even in the same household.

  66. bmj2k March 18, 2014 at 9:13 pm #

    Free range parenting does not equal dumping your children and leaving them on their own.

  67. Warren March 18, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

    Parenting isn’t easy?

    I wouldn’t put it that way, E. Parenting is natural, and if you trust your instincts and do not over think things, then parenting is quite easy. Yes there are issues that pop up from time to time, but you go with your instincts and it works out just fine.

    I believe that parenting is one of those things which far too many people over think and over analyze.

  68. Jake March 19, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    This letter doesn’t say nearly enough for me to judge the parents.

    Maybe the parents didn’t show enough love.

    Maybe junior has emotional problems.

    Either is a likely scenario. There are just not enough details.

    I can tell you my gut response to reading this letter was “boo-friggin-hoo.”

    I’m 31, and a brand spanking new father. Growing up, I through my parents were horrible at times.

    All my friends got Bar Mitzvahed, and got cash, fancy trips, one got an IOU for a car (I grew up upper-middle class, in a community full of doctors and lawyers and such).

    My parents looked me right in the eye and told me “You’re a man now. You do your own laundry and cooking. You have your own room, so you do all the cleaning. We’re heaping a bunch of new chores on you too. The pool man is fired, your get to do that now. As soon as you get your driver’s license, the car pool is on you. If we run out of coffee cream at 5:30 am, you’re off to the farm store for more.”

    God, did I hate them for that. What awful, crappy parents.

    Now that I an adult/parent, it was the best present they could have given me. I cook, clean, and make the house run. In college, I didn’t struggle with laundry or being on my own, since I took care of myself since middle school.

    I know, in my heart of hearts, I will do the same to my children. And I know I will say to them “Yeah, you hate me now. But, 5 years, you will understand the value of it, and in 15 years, you will appreciate it.”

    Then I’ll give them a hundred buck to burn to soften the blow.

    Oh, BTW, @ Amber I don’t believe that free range parenting means “Here 6 year old…here is a knife…go at it.” They should have been handed the knife at 3.

  69. Papilio March 19, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

    Forgot to say the growling chicken still makes me chuckle :-)

  70. Owen Allen March 19, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

    Thanks for you beautiful and concise response to non-free ranger. One of the things that interests me (and many others since the avante garde period of early 20th century) is whether we are something individual and authentic, and how to create conditions for that authentic being to flourish. That the child’s ability to play and explore is at the heart of flourishment and learning, plays in tension with a parental aspiration for children to optimize their learning, even display a genius or become an elite sportperson; and the aspirations of governments and industries to herd children into a career of societies making. Non of this tension is especially bad if the parents recognise it for what it is and creates a loving family environment within which to make choices. As we enter an era where our ability to communicate with children around choice is greatly enhanced compared to previous generations, our recognition of what we may not have had with our parents can be highlighted through the contrast. Yet feeling our own upbringing was a bit skewed can be a goad to look to how that balance can be redressed in our own child-rearing. I think the responsibility Paul suggests here, lies in the ‘how can I see raising my children and how do I go about that?’. And I suspect the answer to that question for no-free ranger, might have a little free range in there.

  71. Strakh March 20, 2014 at 11:42 am #

    How sad that no one got this.
    This is a “Poe,” or what those of my generation would call “B.S.”
    Reread this “letter.”
    I quote:
    “I’m 26 years old….”
    “… I’ve traveled to 50 countries, obtained masters in both aerospace engineering and sports management, worked with acclaimed businesses in their industries; NASA and Detroit professional sports teams, …”
    For once, Do. The. Math.
    All that, at 26?
    If this were true, this Wunderkind would have been plastered on the cover of every magazine in the world.
    This is simply a poorly written attempt to discredit Lenore’s ideas about Free Range Parenting, nothing (and I mean nothing) more.
    This is so transparent my jaw kept dropping more at each reply.
    This is a common tactic of those who know they have no argument (who does, against reality, after all?) so they take the “Devil’s Advocate” stance by lying about a fictional life lived by the ideas they actually despise.
    In this manner, they hope to show Lenore and her readers that they are “just a little wrong” after all, and perhaps actually wrong about the whole thing.
    Don’t believe this CRAP for a minute.
    Stop giving this liar any credibility by even discussing the lies that “he” has vomited onto this page.

  72. steve March 20, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

    Strakh said:

    “How sad that no one got this: This is a “Poe,” or what those of my generation would call “B.S.” Reread this “letter.” I quote: “I’m 26 years old….” “… I’ve traveled to 50 countries, obtained masters in both aerospace engineering and sports management, worked with acclaimed businesses in their industries; NASA and Detroit professional sports teams, …” For once, Do. The. Math. All that, at 26? If this were true, this Wunderkind would have been plastered on the cover of every magazine in the world.”

    Strakh – there are wealthy people who travel the world and take their kids with them. That’s how he traveled to 50 countries by age 26. As a teenager he probably attended science camps, then did internships, perhaps even before college. This is just a very driven, talented individual who took advantage of opportunities most people his age don’t even think of pursuing.

  73. Strakh March 20, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    How odd that while you quoted my words, you apparently didn’t understand them.
    “… obtained masters in both aerospace engineering and sports management, worked with acclaimed businesses in their industries; NASA and Detroit professional sports teams, …”
    Let’s do some critical reading, shall we? You know, what schools in this fading Republic used to teach…
    “… obtained masters in both aerospace engineering and sports management, …”
    “masters,” this Poe would know if he/she/it actually had one (or even two), is capitalized.
    “aerospace engineering” is just nebulous enough to sound really impressive, yet nothing specific is known, merely implied.
    Same with the “sports management” claim.
    These two wildly divergent claims warrant your closer examination. To have obtained such degrees and then working not just for “NASA” but “NASA and Detroit professional sports teams” (again, implying multiple teams) by the age of 26 would grant this Wunderkind at least a mention in one or two popular magazines, trade journals, you have it.
    Notice the machine under your fingers, Steve?
    Use it.
    Google the stats offered up in this Poe and see what you get.
    The “information” given in this letter is textbook Poe, or Devil’s Advocate.
    While there are people who are fast enough to do what this Poe claims, Steve, they are so rare they are clearly noticeable.
    And that was my point: if you do the math (a short-hand phrase for “do the research to prove the claim) you’ll find an impostor trying to discredit the very idea of letting your children think for themselves.
    For your own edification and education, look up the “debate” techniques of “Christians” in America. You’ll find multiple examples of this type of Poe, such as “I used to be an atheist until I found God” tripe.
    It’s a favorite “wedge” technique to slowly begin to discredit a claim and continue the “debate” until full refutation can be openly stated.
    Lenore’s critics are getting a bit more (but not MUCH more) sophisticated.
    That’s about it.

  74. E March 21, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    @Warren, I agree with you mostly. I guess my angle was that if my parents knew that my sister felt she was not given enough affection/love/emotional support, they’d be heartbroken. But they raised 5 other kids in the same household that didn’t feel that way (I guess I should say at least 2 other kids since it was only 3 of us having the conversation). This sister had a few minor health issues growing up (lazy eye, foot alignment). They were noticeable and in some cases the “treatment” was visible. I presume that’s part of what contributed to her introverted nature and perhaps why she may have need a little more ‘something’ from our parents that the rest of us didn’t need.

    She turned out fine and is still very close to our parents and her siblings, so I suppose it’s just a footnote at this point. I’m sure if my parents knew how she felt, they’d wish they’d known then. Or maybe not, lol. To raise 6 kids that are well adjusted, all college educated on their own dimes and employed (or retired) is probably a job well done.

    As far as the legitimacy of the poster @Strakh , food for thought/discussion is good, even if it’s slanted or hypothetical. There are plenty of new bits w/o enough info that we all speculate about here anyway. Lenore posts info from readers all the time that support the Free Range viewpoint and she can’t possibly verify them all.

  75. Strakh March 21, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    “Food for discussion.”
    Of course it’s always imperative to discuss one’s ideas with those who agree as well as those who don’t, unless one of you are lying about the topic.
    It is not okay to lie.
    And this “poster’s” tale Is. A. Lie.
    To legitimize a lie, in any way, even by not pointing out it’s a lie, is to welcome the idea that reality isn’t reality.
    My computer, hell- even Big Blue itself, cannot hold all the lies that reality isn’t reality that are still harming us today.
    This is 2014. You are on the internet. If you can’t verify a person’s claims like the ones in this “post,” you simply aren’t even trying.
    43 years ago a person walked out of my life seemingly forever.
    I never heard a thing about her or her family in that time.
    Took me five *seconds* to find her on the internet.
    Nothing in today’s world is “unverifiable.”
    If there are “stories” with details that you can’t verify but still choose to discuss, well….
    If that is the caliber of your intellectual discourse here, I’ll move along and let you discuss your ideas by entertaining and legitimizing bald-face falsehoods.
    I mean, if I want to join a discussion of lies, I’ll go to the ACA website.
    I have Lenore’s book, I follow her in the many places she contributes, and I love her ideas.
    She doesn’t need to entertain nor legitimize liars in order to defend her premise.
    She’s right, and reality backs her up.
    And reality is more than enough.

  76. Amanda Matthews March 25, 2014 at 5:10 pm #


    I went to college at 16, and traveled around the world starting at 18. By 22 I’d worked with acclaimed businesses.

    My friend is 27 and soon to have a PHD in astrophysics – he would have it already if he hadn’t chosen to take a year off to play video games for a living.

    Yet neither of us are on any magazines, and it would be difficult to track us down if I didn’t use my real name (nor my common internet alias) here.

    Yes, it’s 2014 and we have computers. Getting an education, traveling, and getting notable jobs is not difficult/impossible before age 26 anymore. Many people are doing it – and there aren’t all that many magazines left anymore. So, many faces go unplastered on covers.

  77. Strakh March 30, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

    I still marvel that reading comprehension is so low here.
    Read the article again.
    Then read my posts again.
    Maybe you can get your buddy with the PhD (the proper abbreviation) to help you.
    The poster cited two very visible, very easily checked disciplines as his areas of expertise.
    If you are American, you know that sports is the national religion. Any yahoo who would work with multiple teams in a large city (reread that post, dear) while also holding a post graduate degree in “aerospace engineering” and working simultaneously with NASA (reread that post, dear) would be found in *seconds* on the internet.
    And, true to all religions, the drooling morons who follow these sports would have seen this Wunderkind in one of the rags devoted to all things pointless.
    You utterly missed the entire point of my posts.
    His post was a none-too-subtle slam at the very idea of free range parenting.
    The examples he gave of parenting had NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with free range parenting.
    Again, the examples he gave of parenting had NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with free range parenting.
    (I typed that twice hoping that maybe, just maybe, you’d get a little closer to figuring that out for yourself. Well, I can always hope….)
    His letter was fake, it was an attack on the very idea of free range parenting, and no one here even saw that.
    I’m beginning to understand why the ACA is still going. If no one can read and comprehend THIS site, they certainly couldn’t understand the Constitution the ACA openly violates.