Pope Francis to Parents: Thou Shalt Free-Range

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Pope Francis’ “Statement on the Family,” released April 8, runs 200+ pages. I cannot claim to have read them all. But  here’s the part I’d call the Free-Range Passage (page 196-7):

Parents need to be involved and “consider what they want their children to be exposed to,” wrote the Pope. “Vigilance is always necessary.”

But,  he added, “vigilance” is not to be mistaken for constant supervision!

If parents are obsessed with always knowing where their children are and controlling all their movements…this is no way to educate, strengthen and prepare their children to face challenges. What is most important is the ability lovingly to help them grow in freedom, maturity, overall discipline and real autonomy. Only in this way will children come to possess the wherewithal needed to fend for themselves and to act intelligently and prudently whenever they meet with difficulties.”

If that’s not the Free-Range Kids philosophy, what is?

Compare the Pope’s wisdom with the opening of this pitch I got  last week for yet another safety product:

Hi Lenore,

Children are naturally inquisitive and yearn to explore the world around them, as new things are experienced and creativity is developed. In turn, parents must cope with anxious moments when their child is out of view at school, summer camp and anything in between.

The Pope is so on point in recognizing that constant vigilance is on its way to becoming the new norm of parenting. Parents are expected to freak out during those ever fewer “anxious moments when their child is out of view.”

The Pontiff sees the way this excess oversight cripples kids, and he is out to keep parents from assuming the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent role better played by…Someone Else. Someone the Pope talks to a lot, on our behalf. – L

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Helicopter Not!

Helicopter Not!

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19 Responses to Pope Francis to Parents: Thou Shalt Free-Range

  1. Powers April 18, 2016 at 8:33 am #

    Isn’t “coping with anxious moments when their child is out of view” exactly what we want parents to be doing?

  2. Wendy W April 18, 2016 at 8:59 am #

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    The problem is in HOW they cope. Do they learn to deal with their own anxious feelings by reminding themselves of the growth their children will gain as a result, or do they attempt to eliminate their fears by eliminating every possible growth opportunity by constant vigilance?

  3. Crystal April 18, 2016 at 9:54 am #

    I’m not Catholic, but I love this guy (for more reasons than this, but still)! I hope at least a few helicopter parents will respect his position enough to at least think about what he said here.

  4. pentamom April 18, 2016 at 10:01 am #

    I like the distinction between “vigilance” and “continuous supervision.” Being vigilant is being aware of what is going on and not checking out. But you can be aware without being controlling and breathing down their necks. I can vigilantly let my kids go down the street to play for hours because I know that down the street playing is not a genuinely dangerous situation. Vigilance is the opposite of neglect, not of freedom.

  5. Beth2 April 18, 2016 at 10:34 am #

    @Powers: “Isn’t “coping with anxious moments when their child is out of view” exactly what we want parents to be doing?”

    Yep! I suspect that Lenore’s intended point was that the letter then went on, to try to sell her a “safety product” that purports to *take away* the need to cope with anxious moments when her child is out of view, by, I dunno, installing a surveillance camera in their bicycle handlebars or something.

  6. Eyes Rolling April 18, 2016 at 12:13 pm #

    What a blessing of a higher order!

  7. John April 18, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

    I may not agree with EVERYTHING the Pope says or does BUT, and this may be a little off topic, I LOVED his quote when he said “God is not a magician”. So many of my Evangelical Protestant church mates need to understand that.

    But his quote above is also spot-on! Don’t know how he got on the subject of free-range parenting but he said it very eloquently.

  8. lollipoplover April 18, 2016 at 1:34 pm #

    Having watched the movie Spotlight and followed the child sex abuse scandal and especially Cardinal Law, I always view these things with a raised eyebrow. But I like this Pope. He says sensible thing and he kisses lots of babies and sick kids.

    “What is most important is the ability lovingly to help them grow in freedom, maturity, overall discipline and real autonomy.”

    It’s parents working themselves out of a job. It’s preparing your child for the road, the the road for your child.
    Baby steps but handing over the reigns, eventually.

    SO many parents struggle with this. The anxiety is like a virus to kids, they absorb it and it makes them sick. I hear constantly of anxiety disorders in very young kids, ones who need stress balls for state tests or opt out because of test anxiety and worry about everything.
    We seem to delay maturity by requiring supervision for children who are almost teenagers and arresting their parents. Yet we give these kids weapons to drive when they have little skill or experience away from adults. And we wonder why our leading causes of death in young kids are not accidents, but suicides or drug overdoses.

    They are sick from within. Sick with worry they caught from their parents and not able to cope with the world and everyday risk- mentally or physically. Or they are walking and texting to “check in” with their parents, telling them their every move(if they don’t already have a gps on their phone) and they get struck and killed by cars and trucks.

  9. Papilio April 18, 2016 at 1:58 pm #

    Yeah. I’m not religious at all, but within the category of religious leaders/people, paus Franciscus shows a lot of common sense and I can appreciate that.

  10. hineata April 18, 2016 at 4:19 pm #

    @Lenore – you could always have a go at chatting with Someone on your own behalf ☺.

    @Papilio – AM religious but not that particular brand ☺…but I agree with you that he has a lot of common sense stuff to say. And unlike Father Brown (yes, really☺) who polished off half a bottle of whiskey with my Protestant grandfather to celebrate my birth, he doesn’t appear to do it through an alcoholic haze ☺.

    @Lenore – could you please find a product that gets kids OUT of the house? Teens, specifically. Hormonal teen girls who seem to want to spend all their time in their rooms or the lounge studying and avoiding their friends/life in general, especially! Or do you have, say, a 4 year internship going so I can be out of the country until specific progeny is a fully legal adult? ☺

  11. Donald April 18, 2016 at 5:18 pm #

    Wow!

    You can’t get a better endorsement than that!

    We’ve seen a few changes since you published your book. Thou shalt Free range is a big one!

  12. JP Merzetti April 18, 2016 at 5:53 pm #

    Nice to get a little bit of divine sanction once in awhile.
    (balances out the cash-grabbing nonsense of value-adding kids by data-mining manufactured false fears)

  13. Havva April 18, 2016 at 11:18 pm #

    My husband reminds me that he has been calling Francis “The Free Range Pope” ever since the man refused to sit behind bulet proof glass in the popemobile. Pope Francis has been giving his security detail fits other ways too, such as slipping out of the Vatican and taking walks. I hope that he lives a very, very, long time and showes that the world isn’t so horridly dangerous, even for high profile figures.

  14. sexhysteria April 19, 2016 at 2:33 am #

    Thanks, Pope Francis!

  15. Backroads April 19, 2016 at 6:35 am #

    Not Catholic either, but when a man of God speaks so, who am to argue?

  16. BL April 19, 2016 at 7:15 am #

    I don’t suppose he could say that helicopter parents and sanctimommies are going to burn in hell?

  17. Tim Gill April 19, 2016 at 9:12 am #

    Nice spot Lenore. That’s a quote I’ll be putting in my back pocket and pulling out at every opportunity!

  18. Papilio April 19, 2016 at 9:41 am #

    @Hineata: “not that particular brand” That might explain why they didn’t give YOU the alcohol 😛
    “do you have, say, a 4 year internship going” She *does* host foreign students… Maybe you’re not the one who should leave the country for a while? :-E

  19. Paul Bearer April 19, 2016 at 6:14 pm #

    #BestPope does it again.