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Pro or Con?

If you’re all for raising a Free Range Kid, great! What are you doing — and what’s the reaction among friends and family? Any way of convincing them that you’re not crazy? Tell your story! Give tips! Start a movement!

Of course, if you are against the whole idea of letting your kid out of your sight, feel free to weigh in, too. But remember: Free-Range is not “free-wheeling.” We believe in teaching our kids safety. We just also happen to believe that kids today are smarter and safer than society gives them credit for.

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2292 Comments     3 Pings

By Anonymous Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 6:48 pm  

Dumbass!

By Natalie Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 6:51 pm  

Rock on! I don’t even have kids, but I think you are right on!

By Sheryl Munson Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 6:54 pm  

I am strongly for raising a free range kid. Due to the lack of good child care, my daughter would sometimes ride her bike home from school and wait until I could come home. She called me when she got home and locked all doors. She loved it. From time to time, after I’m home during down time, she rides her bike around the neighborhood. Still scary to me but I’m learning not to be so protective.

By Sibling Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 6:56 pm  

When I was very young my two brothers along with three other boys fell through the ice on a small pond and drowned. If they had been supervised or given simple rules such as “don’t go past the block” All of them would still be alive. There are still old timers around today that remember this horrible event.

You are giving dangerous advice and gambling with your childs life.

By Margie Andrews Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 6:58 pm  

I love this! I have long purported to nay-sayers that we actually live in a safer, less threatening society than we are told- AND I regularly give my children chores, they take on big people responsibility, and they self-monitoring, self-assessing, and they even get to ride their bikes the mile of country roads to their grandparent’s home.

I think it is great that you have started this! How will we turn out the next generation of world leaders if they don’t know how to cross the street!

Thank you!

Margie Andrews, Mom, Teacher, Dairy Farmer

By Fairly New Mom Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 7:05 pm  

My husband and I were just discussing, how we grew up in the 70′s without any cell phones, computers etc. With two kids under 5, i’m hoping that we can have this same sense of raising our kids not to be so fearful to the point of living in a bubble.

We don’t have subways where I live. And I like the idea of my kids walking to school with friends and riding bikes to the local park and library, these are all normal things.

The scary part is that we are so over informed with the listing of child predators, that I believe we live in fear of our kids and only want to protect them.

I will continue to visit your site as my kids grow of independence age to come up with simple ways to allow them some normal childhood freedoms.

Kudos for being brave! With trust in God, we should be able to raise happy, healthy, and harm free kids!

By Niblicks Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 7:08 pm  

I am listening to you on KNPR, Las Vegas as I write and thank you for making my day. You have voiced, along with George Carlin, my sentiments and a great absurdity in our lives. I don’t know where we went wrong, but our kids are incapable of functioning in society until they go to college, and then only if they happen to room with a “fear-free” kid. I used to ride the NY subways from Brooklyn to Manhattan and back, to visit my grandfather at work. No cell phones, but a dime for pay phones as the only way to stay in contact with my grandmother. As long as I returned on time, my grandparents assumed I was capable of taking care of myself. We played outside all day, after school and weekends. My mom had a school bell to call us when she wanted us to come home and rarely had to use it.

Parents are afraid of one thing; adults abusing or abducting their kids. They are so protective that they are incapable of properly disciplining their kids. Kids grow up with no idea of right and wrong and are not able to cope with any normal occurrence, let alone abnormal ones. I give humans less than 100 years left on this planet and the time is shrinking!

By Natalie Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 7:08 pm  

I was born in 1961, just at the end of the era when your toys could kill you. Now, we live in the age of rounded corners of molded plastic, warning labels, and disclaimers. For some reason, we now believe the risks of childhood can and should be completely eliminated. What we’ve gained is the perception that we are in constant morbid peril. What we’ve eliminated is our tolerance for any risk, and independent thought.

By Roger Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 7:09 pm  

My first memory of an independent action is from when I was seven. I was allowed to, bridle, saddle, and ride a horse for three miles, by myself. At 33, I can clearly remember the sense of adventure, responsibility and above all, PRIDE.

I hear a word being used more and more: helicopter parents. They hover around their children and never let them act independently.

Thanks,

Roger

By Charlotte Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 7:09 pm  

I’m 14 years old. I think that the idea of more freedom would be good for teenagers, because it may stop them from wanting to lash out and go to the extreme. I like your advice, but it may be a little too much. Freedom is good, but I think that the idea of a 9 year old alone in NY really freaked some parents out.

Charlotte

By Bridget Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 7:10 pm  

I used to worry about my children a lot, and wouldn’t let my pre-teen son walk to the library in my southwest Portland neighborhood.

Then we moved to the country, where my 10-year-old is now allowed to walk on the tops of 5-foot tall fences, hang out in the pasture with horses, cope with a cantankerous rooster and encounter all kinds of tetanus-inducing sharp objects.

A year later, my kids are fine. Nobody has needed stitches. This experience has caused me to rethink how I raise my kids. We need to teach our children how to be safe and how to use their wits and not worry so much about rare tragedies.

By Deb Johnston Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 7:14 pm  

congradulations!!! you are empowering your son to be responsible for himself. we live in a small town. my kids walk to school, the library, the pharmacy, the movies in our little 3 block ‘downtown’, to karate class, to piano lessons, to friends houses, the ice cream shop. i have friends who think i am crazy! but my kids, who are 15, 13 and 13 have grown up being responsible for themselves and aware of their environment and people around them. my 15 year old daughter took the train into philadelphia with a couple of her friends to shop and hang out for the day and some people can’t believe i let her go. but they had a blast and it was an excellent exercise for her self-esteem and confidence. there is so much coddling going on today. people want there to be no risks and everything to be perfectly safe. but the world is not risk free. bad things happen. living in fear or being paranoid about that thing that may never happen is sick. kids must have opportunities to spread their wings, learn responsibility and gain confidence in being able to navigate in this world of ours. i think it is a sad reflection on the state of society today how so many people have reacted negatively to this great event (which shouldn’t really be such a big deal…) in your son’s young life. good for you and for him!

my husband and i are definitely free range parents and don’t understand parents who are horrified that we are.

By Meghan Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 7:15 pm  

Thank you for letting your son find his way home and letting the world know that nothing awful happened. When my younger sister and I were in grade school, my mother would send us outside shortly after we got home. We weren’t allowed to come back in until dinner time. We are both still alive and well. I was also rarely accompanied to the bus stop or school even though I had a penchant for getting lost on the way. And obviously, I am still here to tell about it. As a matter of fact, I don’t fear getting lost as an adult. I always found my way home and know that I will get where I’m going even if I take a few wrong turns along the way. I have a feeling that I would have terrible fear of getting lost now had I not been allowed to get lost as a child.

I now have an infant son of my own and hope to raise him to be independent. That means letting him go places by himself as he is ready to just as my parents let me go places on my own. I don’t want him to fear the world, I want him to live in it. After all, there will come a time when I won’t be there to hold his hand, much as I may want to. If he can’t hold his own, I will have failed as a parent.

So keep on letting your son explore independence and don’t let the naysayers get to you!

Meghan

By Lauren Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 7:15 pm  

Both my daughter and son have been in scouts and have received survival, self-defense, first aid, cpr, lifeguarding, and orienteering training, etc., and have actually used the newly acquired skills in a supervised setting – where the adults let the kids make and then hopefully learn from their mistakes. I also am big on map reading and feel confident that given a map, my kids could find their way anywhere.

My son at 17 travelled with 3 other 17 year olds (3 out of 4 are Eagle Scouts) to another state for a backpacking weekend. Yes, I was nervous, but if you tell them you are nervous, you are saying to them, in effect, that you are not confident in their skills and judgement. I was 17 when I moved away from home and started college. I think I’m doing him a favor by raising a smart, self-reliant individual with sound judgement. Not saying he’s perfect or never make mistakes, but I think he learns from them.

How are the kids being raised by Chinook Helicopter parents, who aren’t allowed to fail once in a while, going to deal with the real world outside their parents’ control?

By Tom Kirdas Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 7:17 pm  

Bravo! I took a hyperactive-attention-deficit-diagnosed ten-year-old to New York last year for a week. He had never been on any form of public transportation and had lived all of his ten years in a small Ohio town. One of the first things we did when we hit the Big Apple was to make sure he knew how to get back to our Central Park West youth hostel INDEPENDENTLY from anywhere in the city. Why? Because he commonly darts off in unpredictable directions – out of our sight – and might easily be lost in a store or a crowd. Of course, we reviewed the routes back to our hostel with him every time we ventured out into the city for the next five days. On the sixth day, he (and his 16-year-old brother) wanted to be “tested” – so we left them on their own at the World Trade Center site, and then their mother and I went in separate directions to enjoy a welcome respite from the kids and each other. At the end of the day, everyone had great adventures to share — and fine memories to keep.

Training any child (as young as possible) to be independent with public transportation is a RESPONSIBLE thing for parents to do. New York is probably the safest and most helpful big city in the world in which to do that.

By karen m. Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 7:21 pm  

I am for the idea but do think that situations can limit or advance the amount of freedom to said range. Our neighborhood has sidewalks within it but none to take you onto the main roads. The local children cannot even walk to the school (which would take approx. 10 minutes to accomplish) because they would have to walk in the street for part of the journey.

Unfortunately we didn’t realize this before settling on the house/location. We moved to the states from Ireland where we walked everywhere and though our children were too young to crawl far from home, I did see many more young children and teens out and about all the time, in many different locations, more than I see here. We need walking communities again with services and sidewalks.

By Anonymous Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 7:21 pm  

About time someone raised the perceived vs real risks to children. In Tokyo you see kids on subways all the time. Today’s children are sometimes too protected in all facets of life. I guess there were no risks when I was young (50 years ago). Back in the day we would leave in the morning and return home in time for dinner. The biggest risk, we thought, was coming home late for dinner! Trips to the river for fishing, train ride to NYC (150 miles away), etc. all led to a well rounded childhood with memories. I wonder how many of today’s Nintendo generation will remember that afternoon in front of the tube….

By Donnell Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 7:40 pm  

I’m 23 years old and don’t have kids. But when I was a kid I spent all day outside and never saw my parents or grandparents (whoever was watching me at the time) until lunch and dinner. It is a healthy way to grow up because then you have all those experiences to learn from as you are growing up. I am going to raise my kids the same way, and I really appreciate you advocating this lifestyle choice. I don’t want a television and video games to raise my children for me. GO OUTSIDE DAMN IT!!!

By Martin Hackworth Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 7:44 pm  

I’m with you. I was the ultimate free range kid myself and it taught me a lot about both making good decisions and the differences between danger that is real and danger that is an illusion.

My son JR goes with me on a lot of adventures that give others heart attacks (check out the gallery on motorcyclejazz.com) but he’s orders of magnitude safer with me climbing, skiing, wandering around in the wilderness or riding dirt bikes than he is anytime he’s in a car.

Great interview on TOTN today, btw, The line about Jack the Ripper was so funny I snorted an entire diet coke through my nose.

Cheers

martin

By Cherie Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 7:56 pm  

Wow! A kindred spirit. I have always given my son as much freedom as deisred. I also NEVER discouraged him from talking to strangers. ( I explained why he shouldn’t get into cars or go off in private with them) He’s never been beat up, molested or seriously injured. He is growing up to be confident and sociable. He has his own opinions on religion and politics and I couldn’t be more proud. I also recommend the bood “Protecting the Gift” by Gavin DeBecker. It supports this idology on childrearing. Was great hearing you on the radio this morning! YOU’RE AWESOME

By Monica Alatorre Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 7:59 pm  

OK, I WANT to raise Free Range Kids, but I’m scared. My 9 year old is asking us to let him ride his bike to the park — two blocks away — and we don’t want to let him. Or rather, we WANT to let him, but we think it’s too risky. The risks I fear are these: stray dogs and crazy drivers are my biggest fears, as there are plenty of both in my neighborhood. I do worry about crazy kidnappers, but not as much as the dogs and cars. Also, the park in question is at times fine — families, kids, etc., and at other times, not fine — older kids, adults hanging out engaging in questionable activities, possibly drinking, possibly worse.

It’s an ongoing question for us…but he’s the oldest of 5, so we best come up with a plan…

Thanks for this site; I heard you on Talk of the Nation today, and if the five kids give me some time later, I hope to post on my own blog about my thoughts on the topic.

By Shari Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 8:00 pm  

Growing up, it was a great pleasure to roam the neighborhood, if only to the corner, to knock on doors and find playmates. We were to come home when the street lights came on, and only needed to call home if we planned to be inside a house where my Mom couldn’t find us via a quick tour of the yards. We chewed on our lead toys and lived in our lead-painted houses and still grew up fairly bright.

We walked nearly a mile to school from 2nd through 12th and got to know every dog along the way, not to mention every doughnut shop. It kept us thin, healthy, and curious. If the snow was up to our knees and we arrived soaked, our teacher sat us on the radiator for a few minutes. We made our mistakes like playing in the creek after being forbidden, but a mild scolding set us straight. We walked far away from strangers who drove slowly past us and tried to ask us questions. Not a single kid in my neighborhood died trying.

I had a fair number of men expose themselves to me as a child, and it was a bit frightening and GROSS, but it helped to hone my danger radar.

I WANT MY KIDS TO EXPERIENCE THE FREEDOM THEY NEED TO GROW! I am absolutely sickened by the isolation and the ghost town appearance of our tidy little suburb. It was built in 1950 specifically to enhance socialization, but no one comes out. Appointment required, apparently. I do not want to have to drive my kid everywhere just to play with another kid. I want to leave them a few hours without a babysitter by age 8.

My children are only 3 and 5 and do not yet have free reign of the streets. They are allowed to the corner only, and a nearby one at that. They don’t yet possess an ounce of suspicion to help keep them safe from someone offering to show them a puppy in a van. They don’t truly understand the momentum of an oncoming vehicle, or to look out for moving cars in driveways. But by six or seven, I think they should be given at least a several street range.

This biggest problem is that it seems they will be alone. Without friends to meet on the street and other Moms peeking out the window once in a while, the whole experience is limited. Finding a friend home and going in to play a video game doesn’t count as quality childhood interaction in my book. I am hoping against hope for a major reversal in the culture. Perhaps the childhood obesity phenomenon will be the kicker.

By the way, overly fearful parents are BORING conversationalists, by the way. And overly coddled kids are boring kids. Sorry. And please don’t offer me any more hand sanitizer at the natural history museum.

A growing sense of freedom is what makes childhood worth living.

By Nicole Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 8:02 pm  

Congratulations on living in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Manhattan. Of course your son was safe. I live in the Germantown section of Philadelphia and I wouldn’t even risk waiting for the train alone here. I don’t live in Mayberry. I’m not worried about my son getting “stolen” and killed; I’m worried that my child will get beaten and brutalized by other children. Or molested. Or offered drugs. These are real fears for those of us who live in what you folks might call ghettos. I don’t have luxury of letting my young son cross town alone. He’ll have to wait until he is big enough not to be picked on.

By Carrie Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 8:04 pm  

Good for you! I, too, have a 9 year old boy. My friends think I am nuts for letting him walk the 1/2 mile to school alone or with a friend. He goes to the park, goes to the school playground after hours. Heads out the door with a yell, “Mom, I’m going to see whose around!” Just like we did back in the 70′s. I am astounded that my friends will drag their kids thousands of miles a year in cars without a thought about it – when that is truly the most dangerous place for them. If our kids are not allowed to be alone, how will they learn to think for themselves, make decisions, get themselves in and out of trouble? These are skills necessary for negotiating the world as an adult. My son will for sure be in charge of all the coddled kids when he grows up.

By Eric Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 8:08 pm  

I live in an affluent suburb of Chicago. When my daughter – now 13 – was 5, I allowed her to go alone to the park a block from the house. Judging by the reaction of her mother and my friends and neighbors you would have thought I had tried to kill her. My daughter was thrilled with her achievement and ability. She actually was gone from my sight for little more than ten minutes. Upon her return the look of excitement on her face and her clear feelings of independence and self-reliance is something neither she nor I will ever forget. It taught her that she was capable of going out into the world alone, and was the first step of many to achieving her independence. I have noticed that most of the children around us do not have this sense about themselves even as they enter high school.

My daughter is one of the most reliable and capable babysitters we know. She is able to shop for and prepare dinner for the family and regularly chaperons her friends when they do things alone. She is capable of getting herself up and ready for school and then walking or biking to school. She has adventured alone into our little suburban downtown to go the grocery store or get a book from the library. She can navigate around our area and knows how the ride the commuter train into Chicago.

Her friends are only now being allowed a little independence. How will they take care of themselves if they don’t get to experiment with limited independence now when we can discuss the things that happen and how they handle themselves in these limited adventures?

I’m so glad to see other parents who think the way I do. We have come to live in fear of all the wrong things. It is not likely that our children will be abducted or abused by a stranger – a family member or family friend is more likely the threat. Lenor Skenazy is exactly on target, and I applauded her public declaration.

By Nicki Lerczak Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 8:09 pm  

Yippee! An avid bicyclist when I was 12 I would routinely bike all over the towns near my home in Huntington, Long Island. It was nothing for me to take off after school (without a helmet or cell phone!!!) bike 10 miles to the nearby state park and then home again before dinner. My parents had no idea where I went between school and dinner but they trusted me to do it.

I would also pick up the bus at the end of our street on a Sat. morning, ride into town, do some shopping, get lunch and then head home again. My school bus stop was at the same location – at least a 5 minute walk from my house. It makes me crazy these days to see school buses stop at practically every other house to pick up each kid. Why can’t these kids just walk to a central location and get picked up in a group? There were 30 of us at my bus stop and we managed to do it without any problems.

I intend to give my son (now 2 1/2) as close to a similar experience as I can. Maturity only comes with practice! :-)

Keep up the good fight!

Nicki Lerczak

By Shari Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 8:12 pm  

Monica – Just do it! You will give your daughter a great gift to let her travel two blocks alone on her bike. The comment on this site “We are not living in Baghdad, here” made me think “I bet the kids in Baghdad run all over town doing errands without parental oversight.” Some kids are performing in Carnegie Hall at age 9. Some are snowboarding experts. Some can do most of the light work on a farm. Let your 9 year old grow. Let us know how it turns out.

By Scarlett Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 8:33 pm  

I think the idea of “free range kids” is terrific. But it is so sad that we actually have to have a “movement” to raise awareness in parents.

I grew up in Alaska and when I was a kid my folks used to put me on the ferry with a bunch of other kids and we’d ride about 8-10 hours to the next town where we were going to go to summer camp for a couple of weeks. We had a blast on those trips and not one of us ever fell overboard.

I walked everywhere in my town when I was a kid and rode my bike all over the place during the summer. We’d roam all over the woods and beaches and we didn’t have to come home until it was dark -and in the summertime in AK that is saying a lot! We’d simply lay out our plans for the day before leaving home and then make a phonecall if we were going to divert from the plans at all. It was what my folks called being responsible and courteous.

I have 3 young sons and I worry about them night and day. I don’t think you ever stop wondering if your kids will be okay- no matter how old they get. But you can’t stop them from living their lives and you can’t protect them from everything. All you do is teach them to be afraid of life and to rely on other people to always be watching out for them -and that isn’t how things work in the real world. The best gifts you can give your child is a sense of self-reliance and the ability to make good decisions. If we, as parents, give our children knowledge and guidance and talk openly with them about how the world works they will not only be armed with the ability to survive, but to also flourish and thrive in a very big, very scary and very exciting world.

By Fred Rasmussen Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 9:03 pm  

Hi Lenore,

I heard you today on Talk of the Nation. As you requested for us to say: RIGHT ON!

I have felt for years that many people worry too much about the “dangers” of the world. I will turn 50 this year, and personally, I trace these worries back to the first “Halloween” scares. “People are putting razor blades in apples.” “People are poisoning apples.” Etc.

Interestingly, my wife’s family is much more nervous than my family. I just think it is an unhealthy way to live life, let alone unenjoyable!

I grew up in suburban Chicago, and childhood for me meant playing sandlot sports (baseball, football, wiffleball, etc.), riding bikes all over, sledding and skating in the winter, exploring the woods and creek in the neighborhood, and playing flashlight tag at night.

I do remember one seminal journey. I was already a bit older, maybe early teens, and I had a casual friend, Steve Mucci, whose family had a cottage at Fox Lake. Steve said in passing that I should visit some time. Well, one day, me and my friend Marky Ferguson up and decided we would ride our bikes to visit Steve. I don’t know if we had directions, or how we found our way, but after a long day and forty plus miles on our bikes, we arrived at the Mucci’s cottage. They did not know we were coming, but I think the parents quickly realized the situation when they learned that we had ridden our bikes from our hometown to their cottage. They took us in for the night, and I think we may have gotten a ride home the next day.

We had lots of adventures. I remember another time we rode our bikes to Graue Mill, an old grain mill on the Salt Creek that passed by our homes. Salt Creek also wended its way through Butler National Golf Course, serving as a water hazard. I don’t know if we knew this a priori, but we went to the mill, which was downstream of the golf course, and found that there were hundreds if not thousands of golf balls that traveled down from the golf course and got stuck in the mud at the dam for the mill. We waded in the leech infested waters and collected several shopping bags full of balls. We decided it would be too hard to travel with the balls on our bikes the five miles back to our house, so I called my oldest brother Bill to come and pick up the golf balls with the car.

I don’t really know how much attention our folks paid to us, but I know that we four children all turned into smart, fun, successful citizens, with families of our own. My wife and I gave our son quite a bit of freedom growing up, and at least I can say that he is quite independent. Aside from our financial support, he moved down to the beach with his friends from elementary school, and has been living independently since he was 17. He is attending community college and is working on transferring to a four year university, all without Mom and Dad having to get involved.

Hear Hear to Free Range Chiren!

Sincerely,

Fred Rasmussen

Apex, NC

By Gayle Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 9:13 pm  

I understand the value and importance of sending a responsible TWELVE-yearold to ride a subway or a bike on his own, but NINE is too young. Would you hire a nine-year-old BABYSITTER? Obviously, Ms. Skenazy has never experienced the kind of tragedy that can happen when a child is unsupervised. Yes, such accidents are not as prevalent as the media would have us believe, but tragedies and abductions DO happen, all the time. I wonder what Adam Walsh’s father, or the parents of other children who dies too young, think of this website? If something HAD happened to Ms. Skenazy’s son, she would certainly now be charged in the NY courts with child endangerment. Just because a nine-year-old WANTS to be left alone in Bloomingdale’s to make his way home, doean’t mean HE SHOULD BE LEFT THERE BY A RESPONSIBLE PARENT.

By Pat Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 10:59 pm  

I just left my car after listening to you on WOR 710 am radio in N.Y. I forthwith had to check this site out. BRAVO !!!! I Love it . I am the parent of 9 Y.O. Twin boys and constantly get ” beat up ” by other family members for giving them a little freedom. Case in point.

Recently we spent 8 days at Walt Disney World and were fortunate to be staying very close to the Magic Kingdom. Now I don’t know about others but I can’t even come close to the stamina of my kids day to day nevermind at Disney World.

We had other family members vacationing w/ us which included their two cousins ages 12 and 14, along with my Sister and Bro in Law.

My idea- Go Go Go if You wanna go. I figured that my boys along w/ their cousins would be perfectly fine on their own at the Magic Kingdom. And what fun that would be for them as well as the Grownups.

The kids were a little reluctant but my wife and my sister were steadfast in their approach- NO WAY !

Well needless to stay my a_s was draggin after 14 hours of Mickey Mouse. But the kids had fun.

If they are reluctant now I can’t imagine what their older years will bring, I have some idea.

They will be like most young adults- scared to death to ( excuse the expression ) get off the teat. And we can be like other helicopter parents and fly just close enough to NEVER relenquish control.

By Jeanne Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 11:09 pm  

Any parent panics the first time you here the head thump of your new walker hitting the floor. But, we let them learn to walk because its worth it. We take precautions but we KNOW they are going to whack their heads at some point.

Things will change back in the US when people realize the DAMAGE done by filling their children with fear of every new and challenging situation and by teaching them that if they just follow all the rules and precautions nothing will ever go wrong (or if it does, it won’t be their fault and they won’t be sued).

Risks are relative, and what we risk be NOT letting our kids be free range is grossly underestimated.

By Paulette Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 11:23 pm  

A parents most important job is to teach their children to be independent.

By Anonymous Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 11:30 pm  

I’m definitely for it! Here’s a good book for those on this track: The Last Child in the Woods. While much of it focuses on the lack of engagement in the natural world (and the whole “disorder” thing really rubs me wrong)–there’s a similar vein of reason underlying the author’s arguments: a misperceived since of risk that causes us to sacrifice any sense of independence, adventure, or self-reliance in children, which may, in the end, put them at even greater risk.

We’re passing unfounded anxieties on to our children. I think of the boy scout lost for days in the mountains who actually intentionally avoided his the searchers/rescuers because they were “strangers.”

We need to give our kids more common sense and balance and fewer black and white rules. It’s crazy to think that we give kids no independence growing up and then hand them the car keys at age 16.

By Georgia Wed Apr 9th 2008 at 11:38 pm  

What a breath of fresh air! I listened to Talk of the Nation today and heard about Lenore Skenazy letting her son go home alone on the subway. From what I’ve heard the rate of stranger abduction is about the same as it was in the 1950′s. I work in a school district in a SMALL TOWN where no one is allowed to walk to school because “something” could happen. The other day an overweight child was reprimanded for walking to school–he lived less than a half mile away. Yet, we have a new wellness policy and exercise together every morning! We have gotten crazy! This website is great.

By ruby Thu Apr 10th 2008 at 12:59 am  

while i respect your choices, how can you let a 9 year old on a subway without a cell phone and yet feel he’s not responsible enough to have a cell phone. what if HE needed YOU? beyond that i heard you on steve whatever his maulsberg name is and he is the most rude host. he kept interrupting and overspeaking you. you have a right to your choices. i totally agree that we are fearful country, afraid of living and afraid of dying demonstrated by all the pharmaceutical ads.

the media should go drown themselves in the same pool as attys. and hedgefunders. i abhor the celebrity, sensationalistic focus. the reporting on the upcoming election is absurd. what happened? how did we lose america?

the question is where do we go from here.

I am going to be a first time grandmother in the fall and I am “scared to death” of the world my unborn grandbaby will be living in. I guess I bought into the fear, haven’t I?

By Stephanie Pringhipakis Thu Apr 10th 2008 at 1:34 am  

You are correct in your approach to child-rearing. I think that not teaching children in how to be self-reliant and think for themselves is a lot more dangerous than exposing them gradually to certain calculated levels of risk-taking. Your words were well chosen today but you felt so empassioned by your views that you are going to receive a lot of flack for not letting callers say their piece too!

I would like to receive your paper column, can you add me to a mailing list? Best of luck, Stephanie

By Caroline Thu Apr 10th 2008 at 2:12 am  

It is ironic, but I heard you on Talk of the Nation and it seemed timely as my older kids recently asked me for more freedom. They have had the freedom to ride bikes, go fishing on their own, etc., but when my son got to be a senior, I caught him acting inappropriately, which meant that I lost my trust and kept tighter tabs. He’s 18 now, and I have had to completely let go. That has been hard for me because I worry for his safety. Also, my daughter is a freshman, and it has been hard for me to allow her as much freedom as she had earlier when I didn’t worry about dangerous situations. But I am letting go and allowing them both to make their own decisions and choices. Wish me luck. My husband has been in this place longer than me.

By johanna Thu Apr 10th 2008 at 2:14 am  

I’m from Germany and still take my two girls, 9 and 12, there for part of each year. In our small but modern village, in first grade, the teacher takes the whole class around on foot to visit each child’s house in turn, so that the kids will know where their classmates live and will feel comfortable walking there independently (at age 6-7). Street safety is highly emphasized. In 4th grade, the standard curriculum includes a street-safety bicycle riding test, as well as a swimming test. In 5th grade, all the schoolkids begin taking public transportation down to the town to attend school, walking several blocks through a public park. Early on (at 10 years old), my daughter got on the wrong bus, figured out how to get back on her own, and learned some great lessons, including: mistakes will happen, it’s not the end of the world, I am capable and resourceful enough to handle an unexpected situation, there are in fact helpful adults out there… This past summer, I put both daughters on a train across Germany to visit their cousins, after discussing what they would do if things didn’t go according to plan. They came home glowing with pride and independence. Next time: changing trains?

Since every kid develops at their own pace, it’s up to sane parents to decide when they should be allowed certain freedoms.

By Sue Thu Apr 10th 2008 at 2:41 am  

Our younger son has always had a strong case of wanderlust. He is also mature and responsible. We have let him explore the world by degrees, and as a result, he has had a life rich in adventure and friendships.

When he was nine, he often walked to the business district of the town we live in, to meet friends for lunch. On those short trips, he practiced crossing the street safely and calculating the tip for his meal.

When he was 14, we dropped him off for 10 days at an Audubon camp in the mountains of Vermont. Friends of ours were horrified that the camp was set on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, and that we left him in the care of camp counselors we had never met. During those 10 days, he learned to make friends with strangers, to work together with other people to cook meals and haul equipment. Two of his fellow campers have become his closest friends.

Last summer, at age 15, he traveled by bus to Indiana to visit one of his camp friends. He had to make several bus connections to reach his destination. He and his friend, who is now in college, then traveled into the middle of nowhere to conduct environmental research for four days. He learned how to find his way in strange new places and how to ask for help when he needed it.

This summer, at age 16, he will travel without us to Malaysian Borneo for a 10-day nature trek with an ecotourism company.

The world is open to him — its people, its natural wonders, its potential, and — yes — its dangers.

One of my niece’s friends was killed recently when her car ran off the road as she was driving to high school. The same thing could happen as easily to my son. Keeping him at home would not make him any safer, but it would deny him the opportunity to grown, to learn, to trust, to explore. He has told us many times how grateful he is that we have given him the freedom to venture forth on his own. I know it will make all the difference in where life takes him.

By rabbmari Thu Apr 10th 2008 at 3:56 am  

Super interesting topic, I have 2 kids and they walk to school, but I do remember wondering when they could go alone, and feeling pressure from other parents (or just glares and stares) –

Walking places would feel much safer if there were more people out and about, but that is not the case in most US neighborhoods!

I was glad to hear it is not illegal to let kids do things without supervision (TOTN on NPR), although it sounds like there may be overzealous policemen (or people) who think otherwise…the TOTN story the day before was about overdoing babyproofing, and I think the 2 stories went well together, it really is the same problem — kids are not allowed to experience life, freedom, consequences….and if you don’t give them room to make small mistakes, I fear they will make BIG MISTAKES.

When I was 8, we moved to Germany. That was 1974. I loved that I could get around on my own, go to the store for my mother, get to my various lessons using public transport, walk downtown with a friend for ice cream. I really think it taught me to think differently, to grow and become more responsible. I am also convinced that it helps wire a part of your brain that is spatial-geographical. When I was 12, we moved back to the US, and it was like having my wings clipped — I couldn’t get anywhere without having my mom drive me, and the places teens went were awful — the mall! Very depressing, I couldn’t even ride my bike anywhere.

By sistercylon Thu Apr 10th 2008 at 6:41 am  

We live in this crazy, frivolous lawsuit society and it has made parents into these crazed, fearing and fear-mongering people. Most especially when their precious snowflakes are involved. This is not limited to parents, but to western society at large! How dare the designers and architects of our children’s playgrounds subject anyone to the horror of a splinter? They should not be surprised when we sue them for neglect! I am a 26 year old homosexual and I thank my parents for letting me out into the world–however reluctantly–to experience the inconvenience of public transport (we couldn’t afford anything else). It is just one of those things necessary to life! what if your car, or your parents’ car breaks down? what if you go to art school and you can’t afford a car? what if you just can’t afford a car? what if you choose to eschew the convenience of a car? what if the pollution isn’t worth it? what if gas costs too much? everyone should take public transportation! at least once. everyone should get a splinter! everyone should experience the neighbor kids putting a plank through their bicycle spokes because it was “their” turf. it’s life. it makes you stronger. it prepares you for all the personality types we all experience in the corporate world that we all are expected to adapt to in our professional lives.

By Mama73 Thu Apr 10th 2008 at 2:26 pm  

To people who worry…

You can tell your children to come home immediately if they sense any dangerous people when they go on their free range adventures. Also, teach them young NEVER to swim alone or go out on icy lakes and ponds. My brother and I were given a lot of freedom from the time we were 6 and 4 (really!) and we never did these things–despite plenty of opportunities.

Also, if your child is out alone a lot, you can GET THEM A DOG! Mine was amazing deterrent when I was small — and when I took her to college with me she successfully curtailed two attempted break-ins…and scared off some really shady charachters.

By BMS2000 Thu Apr 10th 2008 at 5:01 pm  

Amen! My kids are not as free range as I like – we live on a road that is scary busy (I have nearly gotten creamed on numerous occasions trying to cross that nightmare) so there is a bit of a limit to how far my 7 and 6 year olds can go. But as long as they don’t cross ‘the big streets’ they can go outside, ride bikes, play with scrap wood and hand tools, come in to get splinters removed, roll in mud, climb the tree, and whatever else they can think of. My neighbor down the street freaks if her 6 year old leaves their fenced in yard to go in the front yard. Once when my then 4 year old was riding his tricycle down the sidewalk, a concerned looking passer by came running up to me (in my front yard) asking “Do you know that your child is going down the SIDEWALK?” as if they were going off a cliff into the grand canyon. Yes I have taught them common sense safety rules, but for the love of all that is holy, let your kids roam a bit.

By Claudia Kaplan Thu Apr 10th 2008 at 5:58 pm  

Thank you for going public with something that I have been ranting about privately — or just to friends — ever since I became a mother 12 years ago!! (And as an older parent — I’m now 56 — my memory goes WAY back to all kinds of childhood freedoms that are gone now.)

I think the issue you are addressing goes a long way toward explaining the popularity of “extreme sports” — people just do not have enough normal risk and stimulation and challenge in their lives any more!

By Mariam Thu Apr 10th 2008 at 8:25 pm  

I think it is important to give your children freedom on simple things so that when you do act protectively on more important things your children will actually listen to you.

And when my brother got to do stuff and I didn’t just because I was a girl it only made me want to do it behind their back, because if it was safe for him to do it and he was an idiot (in my childhood opinion) I didn’t see a problem with doing it myself.

And the way I see it perverts don’t seem to discriminate betweens boys and girls.

By Anonymous Thu Apr 10th 2008 at 11:30 pm  

I heard you on NPR and thought you were great. I heard you in the afternoon and that very morning I had left my doddling 11 yr old alone in our house and left for work. She had to make her way across the street to the bus stop on her own and the neighbors across the street were home with their daughter, the neighbors down the street were home with their kids. And they all take their kids to the bus stop. I drove to work worried about what might have happened to her. You’re right. I’m nuts. And she loves it when I give her a little more independence!

By Bikram Fri Apr 11th 2008 at 3:33 am  

I am surprised that there are people who are against this ..! There is absolutely no other way to live and grow as a complete person. Your experiences shape you and prepare you for the future and the earlier the kids learn the better it is for them…. People don’t vote against teaching their kids violin@ age 9 so why this… let them learn what this world has in store for them.

By Anne Fri Apr 11th 2008 at 4:10 am  

I caught the tail end of your interview on NPR and really appreciate people like you out in the world. I realize that I too would like to have a Free Range Kid, but have a difficult time figuring out how to comfortably back up and let me fledging test her wings. I would appreciate any suggestions on how to open my hands to allow this process to happen. I would love for my daughter to have that same sort of freedom I had growing up in the 70′s!

By ann Fri Apr 11th 2008 at 5:16 am  

I totally agree with your sentiment here. Of course we won’t let our kids run totally wild now, they are 2 and 5 and we live on a crazy street etc. But your point is valid! Things have gone WAY too far in the opposite direction. You can’t even find a fun playground anymore, they’re all so tamed down and funproofed.

I was a free range kid myself. Total latchkey kid out in the sticks of rural Oregon. Loved every minute of it and learned a LOT.

We’re not doing our kids any favors by restricting them so much.

By Tyler Fri Apr 11th 2008 at 1:51 pm  

I don’t have kids, but I heard about this on the radio this morning and feel that I have to say, that this is possibly the most sane thing related to raising children I’ve heard since I was a child myself (I’m 24 now)

By Shane Fri Apr 11th 2008 at 3:26 pm  

Yippeee, Free Range Kids! Streets are for people too, let’s take back our cities!

Kidical Mass!

http://www.kidicalmass.org

By alice Fri Apr 11th 2008 at 3:32 pm  

I could not beleive my ears when I heard this on WOR!

You are insane! You are asking for trouble!

How would you feel if something happened to your child while letting him have “free range”?????????

NOT THIS MOM!!!!!!!!!!!

By danielo Fri Apr 11th 2008 at 3:38 pm  

Even a quick scan of the comments on this page shows that the arguments against your stand are almost entirely examples of “converse fallacy of accident” — arguing against an objective conclusion by citing special cases.

As a parent who continues to be viewed as irresponsible for choosing to live a car-free lifestyle — the horror of taking my kid to the store in a bicycle trailer! — I feel your frustration. It’s very reassuring to know that there are others out there who aren’t complete idiots, and whose children might actually grow up functional and complete.

I am thrilled your are standing up for wisdom. Keep up the good work.

By KJ Fri Apr 11th 2008 at 4:53 pm  

And you wonder why kids are video game zombies – they can’t go outside!

When I was 10, I went around the neighborhood on my own selling popcorn to raise funds to go to camp – who does that anymore? I babysat at 14 and was responsible for 2 kids 5 and 8.

While there could be a balance of “don’t come back until dinner,” kids should be able to walk / play wherever you both feel comfortable with.

While my 8 year old wouldn’t be ready to go to NYC on her own, who’s to say that your son isn’t – every kid has their strengths and he obviously was prepared.

We really need to get to know our neighbors again and start to get out of this pervasive attitude of fear (thanks to the current administration and TV, it sells well!).

Thanks for this breath of fresh air. KJ

By Terri Fri Apr 11th 2008 at 5:22 pm  

My sons are 26 and 11 and both have been raised as Free Range Kids. Recently, my 11 year old son went to the local park (approx 4-5 blocks away) to play rollerblade hockey. He fell and broke his arm. He knew what to do and was able to get himself back home so we could take him to ER. The ER doctor acted as if we had set him loose in the wilderness! I was proud of him and will continue to encourage his independance. We have neighbors that still do not allow their boys (12 and 13) to go to the park w/o supervision. Which boy is better off? My son!

By anabananasplit Fri Apr 11th 2008 at 7:34 pm  

I was a Free Range kid. And it made me enjoy my childhood. It made me smarter, more autonomous, more responsible and less prone to teen rebellion. Freedom with accountability.

Great article and great initiative with this site. Congrats!

Let your kids grow beyond themselves, don’t cage them. Protecting them from the bad things – small and big, almost certain and 1 in a million chance – in live will also deny them all the good things that could cross their path if they were aloud to follow it…

By Barefoot Yankee Fri Apr 11th 2008 at 8:54 pm  

You are my new hero! I’ve got 2 kids, 3 1/2 and 1 year and they’re both free range kids. Well, the little one WILL be. The one thing I keep hearing is that, oh you need to be more careful with them….they might fall down or get hurt if you let them do that. Well, guess what? Kids DO fall down. Kids DO get hurt. IT’S CALLED THE LEARNING CURVE and the sooner your kids get real life experience, the less they will fall down and the less they will get hurt. Kids are a million times smarter and ready for what life throws them than most people give them credit for. Do you want to raise a follower, or a leader? Give them a long long leash and let them gain the confidence to change the world.

By Jon Fri Apr 11th 2008 at 9:02 pm  

I just heard you on Talk of the Nation, and I completely agree with your principles. However, I think that your statistics are not as sound as you think. For example, you compared kids riding in cars vs. being abducted. A true comparison would be number abductions per trips kids make alone vs. number of car accidents per car trips. Obviously kids ride in cars far more than they are alone. Similarly, you laughed that one caller may have been comparing letting your kids make a trip alone with letting them handle a firearm alone, but by your standards I am sure that you would find that children accidents with unattended firearms are far less frequent than abductions. Let me repeat that I agree with you, and obviously it is not as safe to let kids have guns, but simply it happens less so there is less chance of an accident.

By Anonymous Fri Apr 11th 2008 at 11:44 pm  

I applaud what you are doing, but I have to add a warning to the list, ironically.

Having just come through a stunning custodial challenge (the second in three years) where I was accused of negligence for things like letting the kids wade in knee-deep water while I was present without safety gear, I have learned first hand how dangerous it is to be PERCEIVED as negligent.

Losing your child to a hostile ex (or even the state) IS a realistic concern in this day and age if you step too far outside the norm. I knew it was coming and was pretty conservative, but I still had to defend my choices to a variety of officials.

I fall on the free range side, but am more conservative than I would be if I felt secure from future challenges.

By Jim Nutt Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 12:36 am  

Ours is only 11 months old, but we’re already trying to raise him to be independent and free range. His play area is baby friendly, but certainly not “baby proof” and we encourage him to take risks and try new things. Besides, the house is 145 years old, making it “safe” would be impossible…

By Jen Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 4:07 am  

Heard you on NPR, and I want to say, right on! I want my kids to grow up feeling unafraid and willing to go out and meet the world. We walk around our neighborhood as often as weather allows, and we get the kids to pay attention to where we are and challenge them to find the way to our destination. They know their way around. At the age of nine, my older son walks to the homes of friends blocks away, one over half a mile. Usually his friends meet him halfway, so I know I am not viewed as the crazy mom because other people are letting their kids do it too. He rides the neighborhood bus on his own. We send him away to camp for two weeks at a time, much against the warnings of in-laws who warn of the “sickos” who work at camps. He’s even let himself into the house with the key he keeps in his backpack “just in case”. Just in case mom gets stuck in traffic and doesn’t make it home, he is fully capable of letting himself in and starting homework. Once he did this, had a question about homework, and called up his Grandpa. Till then, I hadn’t even known he knew how to find the number. He isn’t traumatized by being alone for a bit, even seems pleased with himself.

By gary Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 5:23 am  

Love it. My kids have been the same all along. I know some parents that drove my wife nuts with the freedom that our kids had (especially when their kids were wishing they could do the same). Still they are happy, well adjusted and able to navigate the city quite well. I would not have done it any other way..

By Eric Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 8:30 am  

I also heard you on NPR. I wanted to add my vote of support for your decision. I think you handled the initial situation correctly for your given circumstances and you’ve done and excellent job in how you’ve handled the resulting media frenzy.

By Critical thinking Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 12:26 pm  

Lots of great rational responses here – and I applaud you and everyone that agrees. We in North America are raising a society of kids (and subsequantly adults) who have no concept of critical thinking and analysis of situations.

Kids must get brusied knees, eat dirt, get lost (temporarily) in the woods out at the farm, ride bikes, and walk on the street. They must do this in order to assess relative danger, rationalize, and ask critical questions in various situations. How does the danger of riding a bike compare to jumping off a bridge; walking down the neighborhood street compare to playing on the freeway; eating snow compare to drinking bleach; etc.

Kids (and sadly many adults) need to learn how to live life and create strategies to assess and MITIGATE danger, NOT eliminate it.

This is done everywhere in nature except with us stupid humans – of course humans are the only life on this planet that constantly throws mother nature’s perfection out of balance. I’m not sure if humans even have 100 years (as suggested in another letter) left on this planet at the rate we are going.

By Eric Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 3:02 pm  

Apprantly, climbing is a toddler behavior with an additional charge on the day-care price list.

My wife recently picked up my 18 month old boy at a rec-center day care and they jokingly told her that next time he would be charged double because he was a “climber.” I guess that means that instead of just watching the children, the staff had to get him down off the roof of the play house several times.

At home, my son has incredible ballance. We’ll find him circling the dining room table walking on the seats and arms of chairs, straddling gaps like a pro mountaineer and rarely falling or taking a tumble.

I’ll be in a public place and other parents will jump to save my kid before he’s even a foot off the ground . I always give him 2-3 feet before I get uncomfortable.

I realize that my child is learning when he balances on the arm of a chair, and when he falls from that same chair a moment later. He’s learning when he closes the cabliet doors on his fingers (we don’t use cabinet locks), hes learning when he rolls down the last few stairs because he wanted to try walking forward down them.

But soon, he will be slamming cabinet doors like a pro, he’ll be running up and down the steps with legs seemingly too short to make it up each step.

By Bob B Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 3:05 pm  

It is about time someone stood up to put a stop to the OVER-protection of children. Yes, we need to protect our children, but not to the point where they can no longer function in society. The world is really no more dangerous for children today than it was 20 years ago, it only seems that way due to media hyping up every little thing that happens.

Can something bad happen? Yes. But something bad can happen anywhere, children get shot at school. We cannot be with them always, it is our responsibility to teach them to function without us.

By Jacob Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 3:10 pm  

I think this may be important on the Internet/computers as well. Kids aren’t going to able to live their whole lives afraid and ignorant of Google. The fact that I had total and complete freedom on my own computer is one of the reasons I’m where I am today, close to mastery of PHP and learning both Java and Python.

On a computer, if you’re afraid (or forbidden) to experiment, you’ll never learn anything.

Restrictions on who you are allowed to talk to online… if you did the same thing in the real world (following your child around at school, choosing which conversations happen, listening to them, and taking home transcripts), DCF would get interested.

(Disclaimer: 13 here.)

By Melinda Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 3:26 pm  

Bravo!!

By Jeremy Miller Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 4:25 pm  

I just wanted to leave a quick note to applaud your actions. I do not have children, but when I was growing I had quite a bit of freedom. Sure I made mistakes, and got involved in things I probably shouldn’t have been. That led to some of the most important lessons of my life though. I am proud to say I am still here, happy and healthy and much more confident than I would have been otherwise.

By Rory Flynn Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 4:29 pm  

I remember years ago when my son was about 10-11 and he some other friends wanted to ride their bikes to a park about a mile-a mile and a half away. They had sandwiches (which they made), snacks, water, etc. No cell phone. No walkie-talkie. And they were to be home at a certain. Just one parent squawked. The kids had a great time, learned about their neighborhood and got together throughtout that summer for other bike trips. Free Range All The Way!

By michaelb1 Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 4:33 pm  

I can say for a fact that free-range children are healthier and taste better then those raised in captivity.

I kid!

I think there is a lot of support for this free-range concept. My wife and I have been discussing this for a while now. We have friends, family, and neighbors that act as though the world is out to kill their children.

What the hell is the world coming to when a kid can’t be allowed to get hurt or fail at anything?

Several months ago we went to a pool party and there was a kid there that could not get in the pool without a lifejacket on. OK, thats one safety net. He was also NOT allowed to let go of the side of the pool. Thats 2 safety nets. Further his dad hovered 2ft away and watched him watch the other kids play and swim in the middle of the pool. THAT’S 3 SAFETY NETS! Do you think that kid will grow up with a healthy attitude about rivers, lakes, pools, the ocean etc?

By Alex Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 4:35 pm  

I’m A child who’s mother is crazily over protective. I’m 17 in 5 days and She’s still convinced that I have no morals if she isn’t there standing over my shoulder

I’m really glad there are parents that don’t shelter kids to the point of making them socially isolated. And i’m sad that there are parents that still don’t let their kids have real sugar.

I Envy your kids

By Arabella Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 4:44 pm  

Bravo. I shouldn’t really leave a reply since I am childless and plan to remain that way. But I am member of society and the “auntie” to many a human to be, and let’s face it just plan nosey and judgmental.

I was an only child raised free and wild. Now granted I lived one block away from my elementary school and my Mom could stare out the dining room window and practically watch me walk into my class room.

Since our family loved to cook I was handling a paring knife long before I was comfortable eating with a fork (that may be an exaggeration, but it’s my memory so I’m keeping it) and to this day I have of the finest knife and kitchen skills.

It was not a horrible preventable accident, or some faceless nameless boogieman that scared my childhood, it was leukemia. nothing my mother did could have protected me from that monster. And yet even when I was battling the beast my Mom let me run free (so long as I took my meds) and so unless I was actually “feeling” I never felt sick.

I was a free range kid, I made it, no broken bones, no stints in rehab, not tattoos even. In the end I’m kind of boring really.

Bravo for this site and your efforts, as an “Auntie” I plan to show my neeflings the wonders of trebuchets and sword fighting, how to pour champagne and dice onions (woohoo child labor!).

By Jamie Sue Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 4:59 pm  

My son will be five soon. He never leaves my sight. Some days I’m afraid to let him go into the kitchen or bathroom alone. We don’t go anywhere outside without holding hands. Of course, my son has autism, and is unable to appreciate the concept of danger in the same way that you, I, or a typical five year old would. For instance – having burned himself on a hot pan, my child is still unable to understand that it is dangerous to touch a hot pan.

I dream of a day when my son is capable of being so independent as to ride the subway alone. I would be grateful for it. Many parents are so enraptured by thier media driven fears that they are unwilling to enjoy the tremendous good fortune they have recieved in having a typically developing child. Parents who overprotect thier children do so because they WANT to. If they HAD to they would not be so thrilled at the task.

By Mike Hansen Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 5:01 pm  

I whole heartedly agree. If kids are coddled like this, our world is going to end. I used to walk for miles with my sister when I was a kid, and with my friend across the street we’d go searching all over the town. Parents these days need to get a grip and stop being such a bunch of sissies. Their kids are going to grow up retarded.

By Daniel Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 5:37 pm  

I believe that sending a 9 year old onto the subway alone is not only a very stupid thing to do but quite possibly criminal in some places.

Kids can build a sense of independence and self reliance without these kind of knee jerk reactionary escapades. It just takes a bit more actual participation by and creativity from the parents.

Here’s a TED talk on the subject.

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/202

By Jeffrey McManus Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 5:39 pm  

It’s definitely true that you can’t protect your children from everything. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. But the real question here is to what extent parents equip their children to deal with the real world. Most parents today are spending all their time protecting, censoring and controlling, while spending very little time giving children the tools they need to get by. Never letting your kids go out of the house alone is a form of abstinence education, every bit as mindless as crossing your fingers and praying they’ll never have sex if you never talk about it.

By Merlyn (UK) Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 6:14 pm  

Let me start by applauding your ideas.

In response to some of the scaremongers here, I’d say it’s obvious that there are some 9-year-olds who would be best not left anywhere alone, let alone in NYC, and others for whom this would be no problem at all. The latter are likely those who have been brought up by people who think like you.

A common theme among your supporters here is “we were brought up this way so it should be OK for our kids.” I’d say there is a key change that has taken place between our childhoods and our kids’, and funnily enough it’s not a massive increase in rampant, child-snatching paedophiles on the streets. Rather, it’s a huge increase in traffic levels. Our kids’ lives are circumscribed by cars. Cars make it dangerous for them to be out alone and so they need cars to get anywhere. Bear this in mind when raising free-range children and you should be good. I’m lucky enough to be raising kids in a place where there a few cars but OTOH most places are too far away for kids to walk. Oh well.

By Joshua Rothhaas Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 6:36 pm  

Hello, I am not a parent but I am excited to be one… eventually…. later. I am 21 years old and going to college in cleveland, ohio. I am one of those guys that is super excited to be a dad. This idea strikes dead on the kind of parenting I want to emulate. I cringe at the sight of parents who demand their 9-year old hold their hand as they cross the street. It seems to me they are treating their almost-teens as if they just learned to walk. I feel kids are way way smarter than most parents give them credit for, and they will only grow to the intellectual standards you hold them too.

I also recall cringing at my peers restrictions. I grew up at the beginning of this “scare the hell out of parents” news media meme. I live in a suburb called Lakewood. Our violent crime rate is almost non existent. But, I grew up on the “bad side of town”. Where homes only go for 80-100,000 dollars instead of 300-900,000. One time me and my friends where at one of Lakewood’s 5 major parks (in only 32 square miles of city or less) and I invited everyone over for snacks at my house (we where 14 or 15 at the time). 3 of my 7 buddies refused to go because their parents had informed them that going past the park was dangerous and not allowed.

Many of my friends had to be home by 930 or 10pm every night (even weekends) until they left for college (and are held to similar restrictions when they come home).

My parents placed almost no (ridiculous) restrictions on me. I walked to school alone, i came home when I felt it was reasonable. I rode public transportation. I am currently alive and well with a 3.925 gpa and on track to go for a PhD in economics.

This isn’t well written. But know us eventual parents need this reminder. We need encouragement to live up to our own childhood promises of “i will never do this to my kid.” We need examples of rationality, not paranoia. Thank you for providing this.

By Doktor Holocaust Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 6:40 pm  

I was born in 1980, and was free-range from the age of 8 onwards. I didn’t ride a bicycle, but walked to school and various shops, and would often be deposited at or near the mall with permission to wander the neighborhood (there were other shops around in walking distance, including my favorite comic book store) provided I was back at the designated pick-up location on time.

it was a working-class area, not really a rich neighborhood but not a slum either. I was never beaten up, and only rarely offered drugs or spoken to by creepy older people, but I had been given sound instructions on these issues beforehand and always came home undrugged, unmolested, and otherwise unharmed (except for the scrapes when I took a short cut through some thorny undergrowth).

By Sharon Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 7:03 pm  

About time, while I wouldn’t have done what you did I do think some parents coddle their kids too much. Both my kids have played out on the street since they were around 6. As they got older I allowed their boundaries to expand to neighbouring streets. They both go to the local shop for me and know to be back in the house when the street lights go on or at 8pm (whichever comes first). They do have mobiles but that’s more because ‘everyone else’ does rather then me wanting to keep in touch. My son walks to and from high school and my daughter will when she starts in September. They both know the rules but they know that I trust them to behave themselves and be safe and they appreciate that trust and responsibility. I’d rather this than keeping them ‘safe’ until they’re suddenly off to uni or going out to work and having no idea how to behave or react to the outside world. I saw a documentary the other night about parents going so far as to have their children chipped like pets – ridiculous!

By Jan Vilhuber Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 7:40 pm  

We moved from Las Vegas, NV to a small town in Montana (outside of Missoula) precisely because we didn’t feel comfortable raising kids in a large city like Las Vegas. Unlike New York, there are no subways, and no good public transportation. Not that the kids had any desire to go for a bus ride on their own, but we felt it better to raise the kids closer to nature, where we can just let them run free in the woods or ride their bikes over to friends’ houses.

When we first moved here, and finally got the kids new bikes, I told my son to go have fun. He was a bit at a loss at first (“where should I go?” “I can really go off on my own?!”) so I gave him a few bucks for a coke and told him to go down to the gas-station and get a soda for himself. He thought I was kidding at first, but has since gotten into being free to go ride his bike wherever he wants to. We feel completely comfortable letting him go.

I was raised in Germany (medium sized town of about 50K people), where things are naturally a bit different. Towns are generally smaller, distances smaller, and public transportation absolutely fantastic. We rode our bikes 15 minutes to school every day (rain or shine, except when mom was nice and gave us a ride), and the bus in the winter. We were free to ride our bikes all over town to go visit friends. The culture doesn’t revolve around cars so much, so riding the bike was completely normal. I would like my kids to grow up with the freedom a bike and good surroundings offer.

I applaud you letting your kid ride on the subway. I told my wife (who was born and raised in vegas), and she was a bit skeptical, but allowed that it probably was day-time, and that you probably made sure not to put the kid into undue harm. She’s not sure she would have let our son alone in New York, but we also didn’t grow up there (we visited a few times). I’m thinking that if we were born and raised in New York, we’d probably do that as well.

We americans tend to treat kids as imbeciles until the age of 20, and it shows in our culture. It’s time to treat kids as young as 9 or 10 as the budding adults that they are. We as a country will be better for it. “Do it for the Children!” (hah!)

By First responder Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 8:26 pm  

A couple years ago we pulled a young girl from the ice. She broke through the ice, along with her babysitter, who pulled himself out and went home to change clothes, leaving us to try to figure out where she went through.

Just because kids are “supervised” doesn’t mean that bad things can’t happen to them as well. Better to teach kids common sense they can use when they’re alone or in supervised groups.

By Philipp Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 8:38 pm  

Hi,

thank you so much, you are giving me back a trust in American Socitety that I have been lacking. I chose to raise my Kids in Europe for the very simple reason that doing what you are doing would have brought me in contact with social workers in the NY suburb I used to live in.

Here (Austria) all kids walk to school from 1st grade onwards. Kids eat snow, run through the woods, dig holes in the ground with their hands, ride bicycles, climb trees, and much more. They don’t automatically get run over, kidnapped, die of some germs, fall off and break their neck, and much more. But they are automatically growing up exploring their world, they do automatically grow up confident in what they can do and aware of what dangers there really are.

Thank you so much for bringing back sanity to child rearing in a country that is dear to my heart. Thank you for your initiative.

By AB3A Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 8:54 pm  

For.

The hazards are real. However, If your children do not learn to deal with them at an early age, they’ll have an opportunity to be far more reckless with far more dangerous stuff at a later age –and you won’t be able to do a damned thing about it.

By connie r. Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 8:57 pm  

Well, I dunno. I was somewhat free range when I was young, so I’m not dead set against the concept, but it really depends on the location and the kid.

My children lost a nine year old friend and neighbor of theirs when he borrowed a bike from another neighbor kid and then promptly rolled into the street ON it, where he wound up being hit and mortally wounded by a car-in front of half the neighborhood. (My kids were just finishing up dinner with us or they’d have probably witnessed it themselves.)

We as parents still are responsible to use our best judgement about how much freedom our children can handle.

By piove Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 9:17 pm  

There are a lot of negative comments on here, some understandable, most simple prejudice.

To sibling, who lost two brothers and a friend to drowning.

That’s a horrible thing to live with, but people die every day in a number of awful ways.

I have had several friends die on motorcycles, but I still ride daily.

I have had several friends die, all at once, in a car wreck. But I still drive.

I know people who have died as a result of drinking, but I enjoy a beer.

We teach our children their rights, but not responsibilities.

Kids need to learn to take knocks.

I agree that they need boundaries. I had them, and I pushed them. Constantly.

If kids want mischief, they will find it, and statistically they more likely to die or be seriously injured in the home than out of it.

Let ‘em grow.

By Gomi Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 9:39 pm  

My wife and I are planning on kids in the near future and we just moved from Chicago to a smaller downstate city. Even without a kid, I can already feel the fear of letting them out of my sight, but I definitely want to raise them “Free Range.” I was born and raised in a big city, so this smaller city seems much safer than some of the areas I wandered as a kid. But I think environments like this, or suburban or rural areas, are good “incubators” for free range kids, without the more “intrusive” dangers in a larger city (having grown up around drugs and gangs myself). Let them develop their independence here, and they’ll be able to handle the bigger stuff later in life.

By Caya Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 10:01 pm  

I was raised much more of a free-range kid than my kids are allowed to be. The reason for this is that people are not the same as they were in the 70′s. Our culture is not the same as it was even then. Pornography and child pornography is hugely, astronomically increased since those times. With the pornography, comes the BEHAVIOR. There are much looser morals in these days- there is much less inhibition against doing wrong and evil things. Violence in movies & tv & video games and vicious sarcasm disguised as “humor” are considered acceptable things for childhood in our culture. If I thought all my neighbors were the Cleavers, then of course I’d let my kid go free-range. But they are not, and we don’t live in the 50′s or even the 70′s any more. We just DON’T! It’s not that I don’t trust my kids to be capable, but that the circumstances have changed. They face bigger dangers than we did, and I’m not interested in exposing them to what it takes to be safe against the many, many more creeps and sickos there are now. I want them to be innocent as long as they can, it’s their right.

Not only that, but people drive much faster now, and have bigger, more powerful cars. And I believe they drive more recklessly- in our society there is hardly such a thing as responsibility to others, it is all selfish. There are more people now, and streets are busier. So riding your bike from one end of town to the other end of town is VERY different now, then it was then. It is simply more dangerous!

As for suburban or rural areas being better for raising free-range kids, maybe. But I wouldn’t bet on it. I would walk any night down in downtown Manhattan where there’s always people around, but I wouldn’t walk at night in my local woods. When people get isolated, and when you have small towns, things tend to get insulated, isolated, and strange. Sick things can breed there. I’ve seen it over & over.

So that is why my kids are most definitely NOT free-range kids.

By martha Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 10:34 pm  

I totally support what you did and must also add that the oppressive, paranoid parenting culture in the States is one of the main reasons my husband and I left. We want our kids to run outside with packs of their friends until they hear us yell “Dinner!” and now they do. Good luck.

By 23yroldgirl Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 11:06 pm  

I’m 23 years old now, but was raised by very overprotective parents. I was the youngest of 3, and fortunately received the least of that protection.

I don’t know how my older siblings turned out in regards to new situations, but I’m glad I got a relatively early start to new experiences. What served me best was hiking in the state parks once I got my driver’s license. I learned how to keep an eye out for strangers, how to find my way back on trails, and most importantly, how to stay calm if I might be lost.

When I was 19, I went off with some friends to Toronto. I was the only one that had not ridden a subway before. It was sobering to realize that I would have had no idea how to get around the city if I was alone.

I’m 23 now, and fairly independent. But it’s unfortunate that the next generation may be even more overprotected than I was.

Kids: Get the heck outside, and when you’re hungry, come in and make your own darn sandwich!

By Seandavid010 Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 11:08 pm  

When I was ten years old, summertime was the time to explore the world! We’d head out at about ten in the morning, return for lunchtime, and head back out again. We’d stay out until it got dark building forts, exploring creeks, making (gasp!) boobytraps for nonexistent bad guys. The great thing is, I’m not that old! This was only fifteen years ago! I guess my mom was ahead of the curve.

Let’s just honor the time-tested methods of parenting, eh? Tell your parents where you’re going, and be home by dark.

Excellent job.

By Todd Johnson Sat Apr 12th 2008 at 11:16 pm  

I applaud your message, and your desire to EN-COURAGE your kids, rather than DIS-COURAGE them. Too many folks in this world are in the business of spreading fear, and too many folks are buying in. Thanks for the reminder for kids of all ages: no risk, no reward.

By RLH Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 12:00 am  

Great site. Great idea! I really think the current generation of parents are too suffocating. It’s difficult to give your own kids “Free Range” as you get sucked into the current mindset.

I saw a great article about 6 months ago on this trend featuring an English family– “How children lost the right to roam in four generations” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=462091&in_page_id=1770

By Jason Anderson Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 12:18 am  

Hi, love the premise. if you get time, I think it would be really helpful to back up your point not just with the occasional statistical tidbit, but with a top 10 or top 5 causes of Death for people under 18, *giving sources*.

You could be claiming water is wet and some people will still think it’s a crazy theory, but hard data (though never perfect) is harder to villianize.

Also, if you make a statistics page please include rates of death/injury/sexual abuse that happen within the home vs outside, strangers vs known person. I personally knew a mother who moved her family to a safer neighborhood and did not listen to them when they told her their father was abusing them.

By janis Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 3:03 am  

this link was sent to me by a friend who recognized my parenting practices in what he read on this website. i’m guessing that he heard the interview on mpr.

i see so much confidence in my daughter who is only 17 months old- just from my setting up a relatively safe environment for her to explore and then letting her do just that! of course i’ve plugged the sockets and blocked off the litter boxes and i’m always near-by enough to react when needed. but she doesn’t take flying leaps off of chairs- unless i happen to be within arm’s reach of her. why? because she understands what would happen if she did!

yes, there is a risk in doing this but there is also a notceable benefit! i see so many kids doing the dumbest things and i can’t help but attribute it to their parents’ overprotection/obsession.

i am repeatedly told what a great temperament my daughter has and i think it is partially due to the fact that she is allowed to challenge herself on a daily basis. she is not bored or suffering from low self-esteem. she can amuse herself which is a skill many children are not even allowed to develop these days!

at the same time, i do think it is important to always keep in mind the actual capabilities and the emotional (as well as physical) impact of what your child is allowed to do. no one would let a two year old leave the yard and go down the street alone (i would hope). it is all about empowerment, not neglect!

i’m glad to see that not only are some other parents rethinking the effects of overprotection, but that there is a voice out there that is spreading this radical concept!

i think that i may take it one step further when i am thinking about how i parent: i don’t think about how i was raised or how my parents were raised, i actually think about how things were 100 years ago on the prairie. sometimes i consider other cultures or other parts of the world and how their parenting might be done differently.

thank you, thank you, thank you for this website! i have forwarded the link to many friends and family so that they can read about other people that are doing similar things with their children. maybe if they read all of the articles they will come out of it thinking that i am pretty uptight compared to some people…! ;^)

i can definitely tell you that my friends and family have noted the results- even at such an early age- of my parenting. not that they haven’t voiced concern from time to time when i tell them that she is climbing on this or that! but they also report back that she does not try do things that are outside of her capability without caution or assistance- which i think is kind of a revelation to them!

i hope that no one reads this website and thinks that it is justification for neglectful parenting because it could be misinterpreted as such. it would be a shame if that is what they took away from this information.

however, there will always be people who operate out of a negative mode and are not inclined to open their minds to radical concepts like “not everything from the past is wrong or bad”.

as for the above responder who stated that cars are bigger and more powerful now than they were in the past…. she must not have been a “free range” child herself because if she had been out and about in the 70′s (or she may be much younger) she would have seen just how big a chevy impala used to be! before they set govermental standards to curb oil use, cars and engines were HUGE and people could drive much faster than the fuel-economizing limit of “drive 55″…

the point is to teach your children about the dangers of cars BEFORE you let them go on their own and have the chance to make the decision to do something that could get anyone- not just a child- killed!

and heck, cars don’t have to be that big, powerful or fast-moving to injure or kill someone who was not paying attention… they don’t frequently go veering off of the allotted road that they are driving on… and in the case that they do not even sitting in the living room of an urban dwelling is truly safe from “that” driver…! accidents happen.

in our community a child was killed while doing homework in her kitchen. good for her for doing her homework- when she was done she may have even been allowed outside to play in the streets. my point is that you don’t have to be out carousing to end up being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

By Jasper von Schnitzel Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 3:28 am  

People take media-violence and near-crimes (& near-tragedies) in their lives and trump them up into some cautious fiction, which is then used to limit life experience and make a cloud of misery for their progeny. Witness ‘Sibling’ above who wrote: “When I was very young my 2 brothers along with 3 other boys fell through the ice on a small pond and drowned. If they had been supervised or given simple rules such as “don’t go past the block” All of them would still be alive.”

Yes ‘Sibling,’ they would. That guidance would have saved your sibling, but everyone else not slated to fall through ice would just be penalized by your general proscription, and their experience needlessly reduced. Unless everyone in all creation is promised the same experience, your rule is overkill. You don’t make guidelines and rules based on the most random extreme thing that might happen.

Last week on ABCnews, there was an article announcing that Ultimate Fighting has become a sport for kids (!) with one super-stupid parent stating, “He’s going to need to be able to protect himself and his family,” as if a standard lifetime ever requires a person to become physically violent with another person. What a moron.

These terrorized parents impose a harsh world view onto their surroundings that is usually not there. I’m 40 and only about ten years ago after some cross-country trips did I learn that most strangers can be trusted to ehlp youout of a jam and be polite. My parents would have preferred me to believe they were all out to get me. dumb.

By Jasper von Schnitzel Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 3:32 am  

Ditto for tiny-minded parents who move to the suburbs for a number of other reasons* then insist it’s about safety. Ten years later their kids are so chroncially unstimulated stranded in the sticks that they join gangs, do drugs, knock up girls, get STDs. Some trade-off huh?

* Moving to the suburbs is really about vanity, narrow-mindedness, neurosis, economy, and personal failings. So it’s comfortable to pretend it’s really something you’re doing it for the kids safety.

By CC Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 4:00 am  

Hooray, a sane parent at last!

By Danielle Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 4:15 am  

Completely for {and trying to raise my boys} “free range”. I love this term; this description; this definition. It fits very nicely into a parenting style that I always believed in but didn’t know had a label.

A long time ago I read a quote from somewhere that said: “I remember when a little bacon, eggs and sunshine were good for you”.

That quote, I’m sure said by some “old timer” always stuck with me. And it’s what I think of when I’m getting a little anxious about my boys exploring deeper into the woods behind our house. It what relaxes me and lets them be.

I agree that the risks are greater now than 50 years ago. But I also believe in allowing my children {within reason} to develop the inner tools to survive those risks.

I believe in big breakfasts with bacon and butter, running naked through sprinklers in the summer, exploring in the woods peacefully alone to daydream, catching bugs and getting stung by bees, building treehouses and getting splinters, coming in for lunch only because you have just realized you were hungry… I could just go on and on.

I hope I’m never too scared or {circumstantially} jaded to see the good that these things do for the soul.

Thanks!

By Ojala Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 6:12 am  

I totally agree. We have three sons. Our two older boys get to and from school on their own (a mile each way), ride their bikes to friends’ houses, even 5 miles away, walk to the local shopping center on their own, and so on. My middle son has started exploring the city on his bike — something I well remember doing at his age. It always amazes me to see the line of moms in SUVs lining up at the school doors to pick up children and take them to their next appointment. Parents comment on how I “make” my kids get to and from school under their own steam, but I don’t feel guilty. It’s kind of nice to have that down time. Also, I have read that children need to learn independence or they are developmentally stunted. Not to mention never having the opportunity to experience figuring out something on their own. I am a librarian and have worked in both public and academic settings and cannot believe how many parents come up to me and ask their children’s homework question for them — this even happened at the university! Usually I will say, “Why don’t you let him/her tell me what the assignment is him/herself?” They always seem so surprised. Thank you for letting me rant.

By sarah gilbert Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 6:56 am  

so wonderful that someone is making a stand :) of course I, too, grew up a free range kid — didn’t we all? — oldest of five and I was free to roam my southeast Portland, Oregon neighborhood from as young as I can remember. there were always boundaries, and amazingly enough, at five or six, we knew what they were! none of us was hurt in the slightest, and two of us ended up valedictorian of our high school.

now I have three boys and they’re a bit young to be sending on the subway alone, but I admit to taking great risks. I let my two-year-old go to the backyard alone to play in the sandbox. I let my five-year-old cross the street without holding hands. I let my nine-month-old eat raw honey. I let them all play in the dirt.

children are far more intelligent and responsible than we’re allowing them to be, today, and I believe in taking reasonable precautions, and then, letting them LIVE.

(note: I let my chickens free range too. their eggs are amazing!)

By Maryvale1985 Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 7:55 am  

I am for Free Range^1985th power.

That was the year I was born in, so I am one of the last to have “free range” be anything near common. The area I grew up in was not one of the safest in terms of crime, but I was still allowed, even encouraged, to walk/bike around the neighborhood. I learned street smarts and how to sense what was real danger. I knew how to interact tactfully with other free range kids, far before the word “tact” was in my vocabulary. I’d walk our large dogs around the neighborhood, and no one ever messed with the little güera girl and her lab mutt and chow. And I had my first e-mail address and use of chatrooms of all ages at 11, two years before the modern minimum age of online decision making, and was probably the first minor within at least a mile to do so. No one ever received my address, nor did any gang ever entice me, because I knew no one else would love or care for me more than my God and my parents.

When I was 9, my family went on vacation to Manhattan, and the place terrified me, but only because it was Not Home At All. Home was Phoenix, where trees were taller than buildings, avenues are West and streets are East and never the twain shall meet, either spoke English or Spanish were spoken, and a heavy jacket and mittens were for wearing near Christmas, not before Halloween. I am glad that you and your son are living free range, if you make it work in New York you can make it anywhere. Thank you, and ¡Viva la resistancía!

By Sylvia Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 9:18 am  

For. Although I like mobile phones. :)

By Thomas Prosi Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 9:46 am  

WOW!

You guys must be living on another planet. I am living in Germany and from here it looks like big America has vanished somewhere into nothing and lost in fear.

When I was young, we were FREE as kids, and I mean FREE. I was in one place walking nearly half an hour to my school and same time back. In another place, where I was living, I had to take the bus for 45 minutes plus 10 minutes walk from home to the bus station. And guess what, I, like all my friends made the way back home every day. And after school we took the football and off we went to the soccer field to play. Only rule was to come back before dark. And – we all grew up and survived it.

Now I am raising 2 kids (11 and 12) at the moment and they are going to school by bus every day. And they are meeting friends and live a happy live. Actually I DON’T want to know about everything they do. Why should I. They have secrets. GOOD. They should have. It is part of everyones live. Was it difficult to let them go to kindergarden alone when they were young? Of course it was. And I was watching them going that almost one mile to the kindergarden at least as much as I could see (maybe 3 quarters). They were 5 by that time and came back home every day.

So much for my history now back to America: When we were young we looked up to America. We liked that freedom, the opportunities and the rights people seemed to have over there. But now? All you Americans look at your country. ‘The land of the free? The home of the brave?’ Next time you sing your hymn, think twice. Are you still free? What about being brave? When I read through the comments to this real personal website, I found it very strange how some people could attack someone else so terrible for having such a normal opinion. They let their kids grow up free and let them learn about responsibility. That is a good thing!

Face it: You cannot protect your kid from every evil thing in the world. Your kid has to grow up and learn to decide for him/herself. When will you start doing it? When he/she is 18? 21? 25? never?

Don’t be so afraid of live. In the end, you will die anyway. So this short time in between should be filled with joy and happiness not with fear of what could happen. Don’t forget to live. And allow your kids to live too.

Long live FreeRangeKids ;-)

P.S.: Tx for reading

By Droplet Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 1:08 pm  

I’m pregnant with our first child and absolutely dumbfounded at the safety-mania in the blogging world about children. Listening to a normally wonderful podcast the other day, they were talking about carabiners and how useful they are, but felt the need to have an aside to be careful with them because they can pinch your kids’ fingers.

Carabiners can pinch your kids’ fingers, people! Stop them now!

Yes, the carabiner will pinch your kid’s finger, and they will learn that carabiners pinch. Ow. Pinchy. Move on.

I’m all for free-range children because this is how we learn that life is dangerous and some things hurt and whose responsibility is it to be careful around dangerous things? Yours. Not your parents’.

When I was around twelve, a man pulled up to me in his van as I walking to school and offered me a ride. I refused him because of Stranger Danger, yes, but also because I’d seen creepy adults before and knew better than to go near them. The second lesson is the more effective one.

I rode the subway in Chicago alone for the first time when I was eleven. It had never occurred to me that I could before then, that I was responsible enough to find my way and be responsible for myself. I was. That’s all there is to it.

Sheltering helps no one.

By scodav Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 2:46 pm  

Bravo! I’ve just become an elementary school teacher (US) and the fear shown by some of the parents saddens me. To a great extent, I blame the media and its fear-oriented programming. Once the communists disappeared, they had to scare us with something to get our attention, and crime filled the bill.

What the kids lose in independence and life experience is not offset by their “increased safety”.

By Swanky Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 3:06 pm  

The world is not more dangerous for our kids than it was for us, the media has just made sure we know about every tiny thing that happens to kids everywhere, and the Baby Boomers are too protective and it makes for insanity.

I recall 10 years ago visiting a family friend who lived in the house I grew up in. We roamed the neighborhood and never thought about it. Now, she fenced in the back yard and watches her daughter (at least 12 years old) if she goes back there! This is a home in a small town, great neighborhood and so far from any real danger. It’s crazy! Fear put on her by the media.

Serial killers existed in the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s. But today its a fear. These priests did their worst decades ago, but today its a fear. Get real.

I give my daughter the same freedoms I had. I do not succumb to the hysteria.

By Kathy Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 3:27 pm  

Just found your website on the front page of del.icio.us and I love it. I was just thinking about this the other day.

When we were young, we rode around in the back of our grandfather’s pickup truck; played in a swamp; wandered around our neigborhood at will — much of it wooded and secluded. We played with clackers (Remember those small, solid balls that you clacked together?), yard darts and vine swings. We ate candy, drank soda and watched tv. Yet somehow we survived!

One of my sisters — who grew up with this freedom — immediately became a crazy person when her kids were born. They are monitored 24/7, can’t have sugar, can’t even sit out on their front porch — forget about

going to the park alone — someone will steal them.

Instead of having the freedom to explore, learn and grow, their days are: School, then sports teams after school (all year long, doesn’t matter which ones just as long as they are in them), then homework, then school, then sports teams, then homework. Every so often they get to go to the park “as a family”, but never by themselves.

Kids are growing up to be a bunch of medicated sheep without the ability to think for themselves. So sad.

By anna Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 4:46 pm  

the backlash for kids without a parent present is the upshot of the no-child-left-unattended policy.

my 14 year old son and his friends were picked up by the cops at the train tracks near our house because it is now so uncommon for kids to be out on their own that clearly they were up to something awfully suspicious by picking those blackberries that grow in profusion there. none of them had cell phone umbilical cords so they were treated like drug-dealing runaway truant thugs! they were each individually delivered to their doorsteps in the police cruiser.

my 8 year old carries a note in his back pocket that says:

my mom knows where i am. she told me it was okay to be here and she knows i can get home on my own. if you really don’t believe me, call her (and then there is our number) and then i’ve signed it.

this may seem silly, but so far 3 different parents have called me while he’s been out at the park near our house to make sure.

keep up the good work!

By Harper Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 5:08 pm  

FEAR! what a perfect way to destroy all that is wonderful in the world.

It’s absurd that you are making a stand – and yet you are. Thank for refusing to submit. You are doing your son the greatest service you can ever do for him.

This is the parenting advice I have been waiting for.

By Dave Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 5:38 pm  

A wonderful way to raise your children! My girls are growing up to be self-sufficient, strong, and confident in the world. We chose to live near a school so they can walk or ride their bikes to and from. When we hike, they are the navigators. I am teaching them to be good route finders and careful, competent backcountry explorers. I have taught them a lot and have much more to teach them. I will never teach them to be afraid, especially of their world and the people with whom they share it. Cautious and prepared, but never afraid.

Thank you for acting as voice of reason in a world profiting on fear.

Come out to Colorado and my girls (4 and 1) can teach your son how to move over canyon country, cross a stream, and traverse a canyon. They could certainly use some instruction in navigating a subway system!

By Lara Pienaar Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 6:30 pm  

Sign me up as a member of this movement. I have a 10 year old, a 7 year old and a 4 year old. My 10 year old (girl) has been begging me to let her go walking by herself. As an 8 year old I would take my 3 year old sister on the bus, into town and to the movies and loved the independence and freedom. I feel that my physical independence gave me a strong sense of self and trust in my own capabilities as well as a very independent way of thinking (even as a child I was never afraid of speaking my mind and not joining the herd). I feel it is a shame that this culture is so overprotective and I got suckered into it (I have been overprotective all these years.)

We went camping in a State Forest not too long ago and guess what the kids said when I asked them what was the best part of the week-end? They answered, “Being able to go exploring by ourselves.”

It made me heartsick that children have so few opportunities to do that these days.

Thank you for speaking up because I will now think about ways that I can give my children some freedom to move and explore in the real world.

By Lara Pienaar Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 7:22 pm  

I have just asked my children whether they would like to walk to the school playground by themselves (no big roads to cross). They were BEAMING. Excited and nervous too. I gave them a note, a cell phone, they packed juice and snacks and set off. I toyed with the idea of following them or surprising them once they are there but I think it will diminish their experience and so I’ll rather manage my own anxieties.

This is a very good thing to do. It started to drizzle. My daughter called and asked if they should come home. I said: “If you want to, but it’s not as if a little rain is going to kill you. You decide for yourself.”

By Nate Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 7:44 pm  

Thanks for this. I don’t have kids, but most my adult anxiety stems from the fact that my mom was anxiety-ridden and wouldn’t let me do anything independent. I know many parents that drive me nuts with their worries. Sadly, I see it being passed down all over again. Bravo!

By Tony Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 7:54 pm  

I agree! My children and I were laughing at some new playground equipment at a local park. Sand has been replaced with a thick rubber mat, plugs fill in all the links on the swings, and the jungle gym is an unrecognizable giant rounded corner. I have been able to convince my wife to let our 10 year old daughter walk one block to the school bus stop by herself. She and I both lived neat open spaces where we would explore all day long and not come home until dark. Baby steps.

By Anonymous Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 8:15 pm  

Hi, love the premise. if you get time, I think it would be really helpful to back up your point not just with the occasional statistical tidbit, but with a top 10 or top 5 causes of Death for people under 18, *giving sources*.

I agree completely. Not only is it helpful to have them available when debating, but whether you realize it or not, you’re starting a movement, and the proponents of that movement are going to come in contact with police, doctors, schools, and child protective services, which means, eventually, court involvement. The earlier in the chain real evidence gets involved, the better for all concerned. Here is some preliminary googling!

“The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) reported an estimated 1,490 child fatalities in 2004. This translates to a rate of 2.03 children per 100,000 children in the general population. NCANDS defines “child fatality” as the death of a child caused by an injury resulting from abuse or neglect, or where abuse or neglect was a contributing factor.”

I don’t know if Free Range Parenting would count as neglect, or in what jurisdictions that might be true.

http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/fatality.cfm

“Although fatal injuries have declined over the past two decades, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for children ages 1–4 and ages 5–14. In addition, non-fatal injuries continue to be important causes of child morbidity and disability and to substantially reduce quality of life.”

http://childstats.gov/americaschildren/phenviro6.asp

“Violence affects the quality of life of young people who experience, witness, or feel threatened by it. In addition to the direct physical harm suffered by young victims of serious violence, such violence can adversely affect victims’ mental health and development and increase the likelihood that they themselves will commit acts of serious violence.”

http://childstats.gov/americaschildren/phenviro5.asp

Children’s deaths are most likely the result of injury suffered in traffic accidents, intentional harm, drowning, falling, fire and poisoning.”

http://www.mindfully.org/Health/2007/US-Death-Rate1may07.htm

Here are some PDFs:

http://www.childdeathreview.org/reports/Unintentional%20Injury%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

http://www.futureofchildren.org/usr_doc/Unintentional_Injuries.pdf

“Deaths from unintentional ingestion of potentially poisonous substances among children under 5 years of age have decreased from a high of 456 in 1959 to a low of 57 in 1981 (1,2). Mortality data, however, underestimate the magnitude and public health impact of the childhood poisoning problem”

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00000496.htm

“With the news dramatizing the risks of death posed by Al Qaeda, stranger child abductions, sex offenders, and street crime, this may come as a shock. Our biggest risks of death are not those overblown dramatic ones. No, the residents of the United States of America die mainly from diseases and preventable accidents. The same is true when the focus is specifically children. “

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/223783/death_from_terrorism_and_stranger_abduction.html

I hope these help. You can find many, many more by googling.

By Jen Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 9:34 pm  

Thank you for an open forum! My opinion is that the whole idea depends on quite a few variables, the largest of which is the personality/readiness of the child. Overall, I agree with the movement – I have a three year old and plan on raising him to be self-sufficient. My friend works in HR and has noticed a disturbing trend of college graduates entering the workforce and having their parents negotiate job offers for them. Hopefully, the Free Range kid movement is a step in the direction of creating self-sufficient kids who can take care of themselves in a way these college grads can’t.

By Liz Ditz Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 9:39 pm  

I am strongly in favor of free range kids.

I’ve posted a link to the blog at Kitchen Table Math, and will do a longer post later in the week at my primary blog, I Speak of Dreams.

I see the Free Range Kid philosophy as another antidote to helicopter parenting — a style that leaves kids entirely unready for the adult world.

By Heather Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 9:54 pm  

Thank you. I don’t have kids, but I hear from friends of mine how restricted their child’s lives are. They don’t go out to play, the don’t trick or treat alone, they don’t ride their bike to the store for candy. All things I did and I grew up in the 80s.

I hope that when I have kids, when they go out to play, there will be other neighborhood kids whose Mom’s let them out of the house, unsupervised for an entire Saturday.

Thank you.

By yopino Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 10:14 pm  

My first is about to set foot on earth in 3 weeks from now and it will certainly be a free ranger. It is a parents task to prepare your children to cope with life and its dangerous pitfalls. locking it up in a golden cage is not doing that. it is learning it to asses danger and how to act safely on its own that will prepare it for life. I am convinced although not scientifically documented that the rise in suicide nowadays is also a result of not letting our children live their lives “free range”.

I had my fair share of bruises and stitches during my free range time and am not in the least traumatised by it.

By andrea Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 10:25 pm  

This is the first intelligent discourse on this subject I have seen–and pretty thorough. I do feel for Nicole (above) who lives in a dangerous neighborhood. Actually, it’s difficult to generalize about what is dangerous in different neighborhoods for different people. For example, I used to live in a Mexican neighborhood, and as a middle-aged woman, I was safe and even protected by the same groups (gangs) that were threatening to undeclared teenaged hispanic boys. So, one must always be careful not to be too cavalier or to over-generalize.

In general, though, middle-class parents are way too neurotic, and are increasingly insulated in their gated-communities and SUV’s from having the kind of experiences needed to balance the terrifying information presented in the media.

I have two children (7 and 9) and we live in a diverse urban neighborhood (not affluent at all). We have no car and ride public transport and encounter all kids of people on a daily (hourly) basis.

I think it’s good to remember that old adage: it’s dangerous to let your child climb a tree, but more dangerous not to.

By ar-lock Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 11:15 pm  

People are obsessed with death/ aka the

bottom line.

to live you must risk to some extent…

to be happy you must be free.

to not be totaly paranoid you must have

more than one kid.

to not be a tool you should have kids

before your 30.

sorry 40 year olds. you make lame

parents… IMHO :P

By Sarah-Wynne Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 11:27 pm  

Thank you for showing the world that us kids need to be independent! I used to live in downtown Kelowna and spent a lot of time walking around the cultural centre with no supervision other than my parents liked to know where I was. I never had reason to ride the bus regularly, but now that I’m fourteen and have moved back to attend school here, I wish I knew. This would give me some more independence from my guardians, who insist I cannot even walk 1 block to the park by myself in broad daylight on a weekend, let alone learn to navigate the bus system and get to my lessons, etc, without needing a ride. It would definitely make life easier for everyone involved, but I have to respect my guardians. And so I wait for the notorious Learner’s Permit.

At least I’m allowed to eat snow.

By Kris Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 11:44 pm  

I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and so did my father. When I was 11 (around 1981) my father and I took the subway into Manhattan together, probably to go to a museum. I remember he was aghast when I said I had never been on the subway alone, and he said that by age 9 (yes that age exactly) he knew his way around by himself on every subway line in the city (this would have been around 1931).

He taught me that I had a responsibility to be able to find my way around for my own safety, but also in order to take advantage of the fantastic opportunities that we were blessed to have access to all over New York City.

By Tad Sun Apr 13th 2008 at 11:49 pm  

I am in full support of Free Range Kids! I grew up in a smallish city and absolutely loved the freedom I had to explore my community. The only way kids will learn to be good citizens is practice. Let’s all stop coddling our children and let them learn!

By Elementary School Teacher Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 12:29 am  

I am an educator who strongly supports the Free Range Kid idea.

Anyone who has decided to have children must understand that they have agreed to bring those children into a world that has zero – ZERO – guarantees of safety. I watch my “hover mothers/fathers” trying to cushion their kids from all the dangers of life – stranger danger, social drama, bullying, physical and mental exertion – but I can plainly see that the kids who are best equipped to handle the “dangers” (I say challenges) of life are those who are supplied with a good example at home and the freedom to practice their judgment independently.

The trick is not to “ignore/neglect” kids but to give them the freedom they need, and have a right to, as individuals – even as very young individuals. Kudos to those parents who are learning to trust their kids.

PS- Kids who understand independent thinking are much better learners, too. Parents, please, let your kids fight their own battles and find their own paths! They will thank you for trusting them.

By jaci Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 12:43 am  

I am probably somewhere in the middle ground, but that is only because I do not know some of the adventures my kids took when I wasn’t looking. I’d bite my nails and chew my cuticles off if I knew.

But, hey – for the past eight years I have paid for a monthly metro bus pass for whichever teenager was still at home and traveling from one side of the Portland, OR metro area to the other. My son navigated the buses with his trusty BMX bike strapped on front, and when he arrived where he wanted to go, he then took off on his bike (we hope with his helmet on his head, but we don’t hold any illusions) and went for further adventures. Now it’s my teenage daughter who navigates public transit in the metro area.

The only advice I gave them was this: trust your instincts. And don’t tell mom about your near misses until long after the adrenaline rush is gone. I sleep better not knowing.

Thank you and I have just become a fan!!

By Ted Bruns Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 12:53 am  

I was comapring your nine year old to my own, and I think it all depends on the emotional/mental maturity of the child. I don’t beleive I coddle my sons. I do make them wear helmets (that’s only comon sense) but i also let them explore the neighborhoods and surrounding farmland unsupervised and let them venture with their friends to various restaraunts etc on their own. I think we all worry about the eleven o’clock news and how would we look getting interviewed but in the end they have to be free. That sense of independence and empowerment is irreplaceable and goes a long way when they get older

By Leah Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 1:21 am  

I just wanted to say thank you for speaking out against the North American “safe-child” mindset. Visiting the playgrounds I used to frequent as a child (which are now desolate, sandy wastelands) has shown me just how far this mentality has gone. We’ve become so opposed to allowing our children to get hurt (and to learn from getting hurt), that we’re sacrificing the quality of their play. It’s time we start examining these fears.

I’m appalled that this trend has gone on as long as it has, and hope that your article, and this website is the beginning of the pendulum swing.

By Joyce Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 2:24 am  

In the U.S., you have CPS. In Canada, it’s known as the Children’s Aid Society or CAS. We’ve had them involved with our family for the last few years. They just closed our file last year. We feel like we’re living under a microscope. Our daughter is 10 years old. We’d let her walk a block to the store, but we’re afraid to because of CAS. Our caseworker was very unimpressed with us letting her walk a block to school. What do you suggest?

By Julie Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 3:04 am  

We are being brainwashed by the media to believe that the bogeyman is behind every bush, waiting to jump out and abduct, assault and murder us or our children. People who are fearful are easier to control, and less likely to question what the state is doing. People who watch the news are less likely to get out and know their neighbors, because they might be scary, different people who will abduct their children.

Our children are 14 and 16. Our daughter wanted to take voice lessons, and so we got her a bus pass and she rode the bus home from downtown Saint Paul, because we couldn’t drive her there and back. My children have had house keys since age 8, rode the school bus home and let themselves into the house. They also cook dinner on a weekly basis. Sometimes our son complains that he was a latch-key child and has to cook dinner, but I think that secretly he is proud of his skills.

I think it boils down to the confidence the child has in her/his abilities. Your child believed that he could find his way home on the subway by himself, and he did. If he didn’t feel confident about this skill set, he probably wouldn’t have asked to do this task. We start by teaching our children to walk by holding onto us. They gradually walk on their own.

I think the answer is to, at first, have them go with a friend. There is safety in numbers. This is what we did when our oldest was 14 and wanted to go to the mall. Now she doesn’t want to learn to drive, but is willing to take the city bus all over.

By noname mom Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 3:22 am  

I think people should begin to understand that every kid is different and so is the context in which different kids grow up. You have obviously been teaching your child how to behave responsibly and independently since he was young. You probably talk to him about the pros and cons of being independent in the city. And you LIVE in New York City and probably have been with him on the subway thousands of times. It is familiar terrain to him and you. So, I say, he is probably ready to take the subway by himself, especially if he was the one who asked to be able to do it. You can be pretty certain he won’t freak out and will act responsibly.

I live in a small town and allow my kids a certain range of freedom, which they are comfortable with. They have only been on the subway about 5 times and don’t know New York, so it would be inappropriate for me to allow them to ride the subway alone. And there are probably things that my kids can do on their own, in their environment, that you would not want your son to do, say -if he came to visit.

I think that everyone should stop looking for proof that their way of parenting is the best one…and just let every family adapt to what works best for them and their child. The main rule about parenting is that every child is different, as is every parent. So everyone should just find their own comfort zone and stop judging others by what they do. We probably do not know enough about their context, background and children to be making those judgments or choices for them.

By Jenn N Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 4:41 am  

So Fabulous to see this sit, when I first heard about your story it set off a flurry of debate in my office. Some for some against. I am not yet a mother but will be within the next few years and can’t imagine not giving my kids the upbringing I had, I barly remember having supervision as a child, my sister and I rode our bikes for miles with no phones no checking in with the parents, just as long as we were back by dark, my husband who grew up in a rather rough neighborhood and was just as free, and we both grew up as perfectly normal functioning adults.

By Alex B Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 5:06 am  

It’s just great to hear about this.

When I was a kid we used to go out and play in the farmer’s fields (in rural Wales). Later as more housing developments moved in we used to dodge the night watchman and play on the construction site.

Good times had: lots, Injuries: 0

I’ve got a 6 year old right now and I’m just waiting for her to convince me that she’ll actually look before crossing the road. For comparative statistics there were some heinous child molesters and serial killers in the 60′s and 70′s (when I grew up) and it’s just the same now. Not worse, not better.

Keep up the great work on the website.

By Marc Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 5:59 am  

The ones saying “free range kids” is evil clamour that kids need more supervision. Yet so many kids are harmed even with the supervision. The ones that drowned? My condolences, but in my experience, it was rarely the ones who lived near water that drowned. Those kids had usually been allowed to play around it without supervision on a regular basis, and understood the dangers. The ones who drowned when I was younger (there were several) were the ones who lived wrapped up in cotton wool, unable to see real dangers for what they were. They were the visitors, the ones who had never learned to spot danger for themselves, instead always depending on someone else to do it for them.

Kids learn from experience. If you don’t let them have the experience, they aren’t going to learn. Yes, supervision is necessary initially. But at some point the kids have to learn to just deal with it. A kid that has learned how to spot danger for themselves is MUCH safer than the kid that has always had someone hovering over them, telling them to do this or that, but never actually telling them why.

I was a scout master many years ago. Those kids taught me many things about just how independent children really can be, if they are simply allowed to BE independent.

As for me? Injuries: 8. Lessons: too many to count.

By Ann Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 7:01 am  

Wow! What a cool term! I guess I’m free range all the way baby. Titles are so funny and everchanging aren’t they!

Although, I would never let them take the Bombay train downtown by themselves. There are other more “free rangey” things I let my four and five year old do.

Way to go Lenore!

Ann

By Rebekah Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 7:56 am  

Fantastic! We are about to have our first child and one of the things we love about living in asia is that this still happens here. I’m glad to hear of a revival in the states, should we ever return, our child will hopefully have enough independence and critical thinking skills to get home and make good choices. freak things do happen, and some things we can and should prevent, but not at the cost of life experience and freedom.

By rebecca Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 9:21 am  

I think a lot of people mistake paranoia for savvy…we like to think that bad things happen to certain people and not others for handy capsule-sized reasons, and that we can be safe by hording and avoiding all the reasons we can think of that a bad thing would ever happen. We like to believe in only good outcomes and bad outcomes, not risk/benefit balancing acts. Maybe I can keep my son from ever needing three stitches by never letting him out on his own, but what if in doing so I set him up to have no self control or sense of unstructured enjoyment? How can a person ever develop a sense of self at all without a chance to discover those things?

I believe as well that we go too far in justifying our own prejudices with the knee-jerk notion that it might somehow harm a child.

I don’t believe in throwing a child (or anyone for that matter) into the deep end without so much as a well-wish, but I believe (and have seen) that any child can clue you in when they’re ready for a new challenge in action or thought.

By gerry kessler Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 11:37 am  

What surprises me is how much media this attracted, and how truly paranoid so many of us Americans have become. But, i grew up in East New York Brooklyn in the sixties during the race riots at twelve and never had a problem, and my children grew up in Stapleton, Staten Island, and they were taking public transportation in the third grade.

Children who are allowed the privilege to discover the world around them with their parent’s encouragement learn best how to live in their world. The world wasn’t any safer when i grew up or when my children did, just the media has, and they draw a profit every time people tune in out of fear of that big dangerous world out there.

Your child is, and will always be, the only person to show you they can survive in this world without being placed in a plastic bubble, watched and monitored like they’re in critical condition on life support. Talk to your child and ask them what they want to do, and then show them how they can do it on their own.

And then let them do it, and watch them grow smarter and stronger.

By Peter Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 12:39 pm  

The Onion had an “article” in 1996 about an effort to make the earth kid safe.

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/30359

The plan included filling the Grand Canyon with plastic playroom balls, and preventing tigers from growing past the cub stage.

Feel free to use the tip for a blog post. I am not sure how many people will ever read this many comments.

By Richard, Emeritus Professor of Education Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 2:32 pm  

We are who we are taught to be, Bravo to you and other parents who recognize the importance of teaching self reliance and appropriate decision making.

By Melizzard Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 3:44 pm  

Thank God a voice of reason has risen above the Alpha/Gap/Whatever Moms. These people were the biggest shock of parenthood for me.

I grew up in rural Georgia and I played in woods where hunters hunted, moon-shiners protected their stills, water moccasins swam in creeks, and the occasional bull got loose from the adjacent fields. Through it all I survived. And have a treasure trove of self confidence to show for it.

Now the lady next door to me won’t let her elementary schooler walk 100 yards to the bus stop by himself so I look like a ‘bad’ mom if I send mine out alone.

By tm Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 4:00 pm  

My son is a Boy Scout. thank God.

Yeah, yeah, there are some who claim scouting is evil because allegedly the main scouting organization doesn’t let gays participate but in reality, any parent in scouting will tell you that largely that policy is ignored at the local level. It’s a topic that just doesn’t come up in the typical Boy Scout troop.

The reason I think thank God is because on scouting trips my son can do all the things that he would be able to learn in school. Worse, he would face expulsion from his school for using or teaching other students about.

In scouts, he is encouraged to learn and teach others about the use of fire, knives, and axes. He’s also learned how to use common sense orienteering skills to find his way out of being lost. He’s learned to cook on a propane stove.

But, heaven help him if he ever accidentally leaves his scouting pocket knife in his pocket on a school day. He’ll be expelled and I’d be facing CPS in a heartbeat.

To me, scouting is as close as we in America get to “Free Range Schooling”. it’s a shame that our schools are set up to unlearn everything they learn about self-sufficiency in scouts.

By Michael Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 4:11 pm  

#

Sibling, on April 9th, 2008 at 6:56 pm Said:

When I was very young my two brothers along with three other boys fell through the ice on a small pond and drowned. If they had been supervised or given simple rules such as “don’t go past the block” All of them would still be alive. There are still old timers around today that remember this horrible event.

You are giving dangerous advice and gambling with your childs life.

Sibling – this is exactly why I support this. It’s your parents fault for not giving them the rules – that’s what we parents do. But we cannot be there at all times to make sure they follow it. We won’t always be able to make sure they’re safe. And they need to know this and learn for themselves so that as adults, they know when not to go on the ice. AND that if the ice is safe, they can go on it, because a world covered in foam is only a little fun.

By Billoney Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 4:50 pm  

The problem with the logic of “we all survived and are here to talk about it” is that all of the dead children are NOT here to talk about it. One cigarette smoker lives to 100 and everyone points and says “look, she made it and is here to talk about it” while ignoring the thousands dead that can not speak.

By maggie Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 4:56 pm  

When I was living in Japan everyone on the street let their kids go to the park alone. My daughters were 3 and 5 at the time and just ran off with the other kids. I followed ducking behind cars so they couldn’t see me and watched from a distance. They were all fine. After a week of spying I finally relaxed enough to enjoy the time that they were at the park. My brother grew up in Germany in the 60′s and 3 yrs old was the official age when a child was old enough to go to the corner bakery in the morning to pick up the bread. Today, 3 yrs old is still thought of as infancy! Many people still have a 3 yr old in a highchair, diapers and they have never drank out of a cup before- all they know are ‘sippy-cups.’ This world is beyond absurd.

I know of another story where a family traveled to south east asia with a 2 yr old still in a stroller- all the local people thought the child had stumbled across a land mine. When the child got up and walked around they were amazed- but confused. Why would a healthy child need a wheelchair??? Good question!

When I was in the Philippines 2 year olds ran on rice field ledges one foot wide with up to a 2 story drop off on the other side. I was in my 20′s and walked nervously along the edge while they ran past me. I asked a local if a child had ever fallen off and they laughed and laughed. They said the only people who ever got hurt were tourists because they weren’t used to it. This is the exact proof that the old wise one said about fear- ‘we have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ The fear IS the danger- not the subway, the tree, the neighbor. it’s only the fear.

By stefaneener Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 4:56 pm  

I’m all for data too.

And accidents HAPPEN. That’s why they’re called “accidents.” Kids die in car crashes, kids get meningitis, etc. My children are beyond precious to me.

That’s why I pay a premium to live in a statistically safe place, and then give them free run. The eldest rides her bike and the bus all over town. The second youngest walks to piano lessons and then meets me at a park afterwards. The youngest two play out front with me inside. They cook using the stove and sharp knives.

Part of it is temperment — these aren’t compliant kids, but part of it is me encouraging it. With four children, I’d spend my entire life hovering.

At a park last week — a safe, neighborhood park — the park after school employee walked my nephew and son to more and my sister, and said “You should watch them more closely! One got hurt!” The injury? A skinned knee. These kids were less than 100 yards away from us, in a playground away from the swing. We actually could see them, but weren’t eyeballs on them at all times. Sheesh.

We thanked her for the bandaid she’d provided the injured child and then let them run off again. If it happens again, I may tell her that I made a vow to not interfere up to and including broken arms.

All that said? I watch them like a hawk around water. Children die in water a LOT — it’s the fourth leading cause of death according to some websites I looked at — and it’s preventable by attention. So we do good swim lessons and watch carefully, but even then I watch less after 8 or so. And by that I mean check-ins, not eyeballs on at all times. But the almost-3 year old? I don’t rely on lifeguards to watch her.

When my kids are 16, they’ll take an excellent, fight-based assault prevention course that my sister and myself have done. But that’s thankfully a few years away.

And common-sense things like car seats and bike helmets, sure. . . but sheesh, common sense and an awareness of real statistical thinking would relax so many people. It’s sad that our cultural anxiety is worked out on the bodies of our kids. I fear for those over-parented kids becoming adults with zero coping skills. My goal as a parent is NOT to raise a young adult who has to call me for every decision. It’s one of the reasons, amusingly enough, that we chose to homeschool — so our kids COULD range around without the freaking regimentation and fear-based approach of our local schools.

By tm Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 5:16 pm  

To Sibling,

I am genuinely sorry for your loss.

But of course no one here is advocating that children be left to their defenses. Of course, it is proper and right for our children to have basic skills, like swimming or ice safety, or how to use tools like knives, axes, cooking appliances, and yes, guns, safely, which is why I’m a big fan of scouting (see my prior post).

Proper supervision might have saved your siblings, yes. It also might not have saved them if the imagined adult in charge did not know what to do at the time of the accident.

What might have saved them is proper training for the situation. For example, they might have learned to lie down prone if you feel the ice start to give way. That distributes the weight and you may be able to crawl off the ice. If they knew that, then regardless of whether or not the adult was there, they might have been able to escape the situation intact.

Similarly, as Lenore mentions in her initial post, she did not send out her child without some basic information, i.e. trainig, for her excursion in the New York subways. It’s not as if her child was from a rural town in Iowa. This is a child raised from a young age to know his way around.

It is sad to lose your siblings but it would be sadder still if they had never experienced the joys of skating along with the risks. The sad thing here isn’t the lack of a hovering parent, but the lack of training and a bigger tragedy which has turned an accident into an occasion to point fingers at others rather than to learn from the experience and train others to avoid it.

I really think that the biggest enemy of “Free Rangeness” is affluence. Much of the world takes death as a part of life. Even the death of children. In nature, the death of the young happens all the time.

I’m a parent. I’m horrified at the idea of losing my children.

But we in the affluent and litigious-prone west have this twisted belief that every death is the result of someone else’s failing. It can’t just be an accident that a child dies, it must be the doctor’s fault, or a parent’s, or a teacher’s, or Lenore Skenazy because of that article in the Sun. Death or injury is an insult that cannot stand.

Let’s face it, sometimes accidents or human failings happen. That’s a fact that our children need to be trained to understand and embrace. Instead, in our world, we try to pretend that life should be perfect – that doctors, teachers, and parents should be perfect. That any slipup or mistake should be punished and never happen again. We have one lawyer for every 265 Americans in this country to make sure of that (citing WikiAnswers, if you must know…)

Perfection is the enemy of good. Trying to legislate perfection, criminalizing accidents is a recipe for creating an entire society that is afraid to do anything, afraid to create anything, learns nothing, and then accomplishes nothing.

Every time we treat an accident as an occasion for someone to be sued or punished, we teach our children that there are no accidents, no occasions to learn from our mistakes.

I’m sorry for your loss. But I pray that you look at their death in another light. They died doing something that they loved to do, which is maybe not a bad way to go. Their pain was real and horrible, but probably didn’t last long. Had they lived, they might have died instead of Alzheimer’s or cancer or some other way that would have slowly robbed them of the quality of that life or had them in pain for weeks at a time.

Anyway Sibling. I wish you peace.

By dan Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 5:21 pm  

FOR! Parenting is, in large part, about helping your kids to manage risks – not about sheltering them from risk altogether. Well done for bringing this issue into the open: free-range parenting is, sadly, a real taboo.

By Marcy Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 6:08 pm  

So nice to see and read a bit of sensibility, in a nation infected with hysteria. I was born in 1964 – like all my friends, we were “Free Range Kids.” We stayed outside and played from dawn to dusk, without (gasp) parental supervision of any sort, beyond our parents needing to know the general area we would be playing. I walked home from Elementary School (4th-6th grade) with friends on more than a few occasions when I missed the bus, and my school was a mile from my parents’ house. It was NO big deal. We rode our bikes where we liked, walked to the mall (3 miles from home), and grew.

Were there predators? Of course! Many more than there are now, though people like to fool themselves and pretend that there was ever such a thing as “the good old days.” In those good old days, it wasn’t even reported if a man exposed himself to an adolescent, let alone laid hands on them. The cops didn’t care (I know from experience, having even given over license numbers of strangers doing it to me). Molesters had free rein, because nobody wanted to believe that it happened in their city, town, neighborhood, street, own home. WE have the distinct advantage of being informed. We inform our children as well…but the downside of that inevitably is that what is seen cannot be unseen. We KNOW what’s out there, and that it occurs with more frequency than anyone previously believed. This does not mean every person is a monster, so people need to pull their heads out of their butts and start thinking again. You can’t bubble-wrap kids, and protect them. You hurt them in the long run – creating little selfish, socially retarded idiots who think the whole world owes them safety and comfort and a series of gold stars just for learning how to stand upright. Non-competitors in a competitive world. Guess who comes in last?

Arm your kids with knowledge and what to do in potentially bad situations, and for the love of the Gods do NOT teach them that they HAVE to do what any adult says, just because that person is older. Respect needs to be earned, regardless of uniform or age. Life is a gamble and a game. Winners are those who learn the rules quickly, and how to work those rules to their advantage. There will never be a time when no child falls victim to those who would exploit or abuse. There will always be predators…so teach your children how not to be prey, count your blessings, and always remember that they must learn how to survive in the real world. Holding back reality and protecting them too much in a strange game of ‘let’s pretend the world is perfect’ will not help them at all, ever.

I’m very thankful I was a Free-Range Child. Every experience, good, bad or indifferent, taught me how to be a functioning, contributing adult.

By CrysH Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 6:19 pm  

Your free-range position interests me, as I was raised as a free-range kid in the 70′s. However, as I new mom, I’ve totally bought into the culture of parental fear. There’s no legitimate reason why I’m so fearful, but the fear exists nevertheless. I worry that my twin boys aren’t sleeping enough or eating enough. I worry about pesticides on fruit, bisphenol-A, and lead on toys. I’m scared they’ll get sun damage or get snatched from their car seats while I’m pumping gas or returning my shopping cart. I could go on.. I have a number of fears.

Hopefully, by the time my boys care, I will have conquered my fear.

By Shay Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 6:25 pm  

Wow, what great comments!

I too am a free range mom. I love that this is a movement! My 7 1/2 dd walks to school and home each day. Many moms in the neighborhood commented on me letting her do this. I told them I’m not an overprotective parent and trust her to go straight to school. She walks with other kids, and has a crossing guard at the corner to cross the street. She is very responsible and has even called me from school when the crossing guard wasn’t there.

The good news is that many other parents are letting their children walk to school as well!

Keep up the good work!

By Nambla Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 7:38 pm  

Child Molesters nationwide thank you.

By RCB Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 7:42 pm  

I just remembered something I would love to let my kids do, but I know will never be possible.

When I was a sophomore in high school (15 years old), we went on a school trip to France during Spring Break. We spent 3 days in the Loire Valley, and the rest of the time in Paris. The only scheduled event we had in Paris was dinner. The rest was free time. They showed us the first day how the Metro map worked, gave us the word for a 10-pack of tickets, and sent us off. We gravitated to small groups of 5-6 people and wandered. For days. In Paris. Some went shopping, some went to museums, some explored the student quarter, and some bought tickets to chamber music ensembles.

After the very sad case of Natalee Holloway, can kids go on trips like this any more?

By Allison Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 8:27 pm  

What I find very sad is that a discussion is necessary for all this. What in the world are we doing to our children.

When my husband was growing up his mother would regularly lock the kids out of the house in the summer when she was trying to get things done. Granted this was in the country, but I lived in the Los Angeles suburbs and my friends and I were always out and about on our bikes, horses or whatever with no parental supervision. We were given rules & knew to follow them. We were even allowed to swim in the ocean as long as there was more than 1 of us. This was the 1960′s, but that did not mean there were not predators. I can remember being taught at a very early age not to talk to strangers, and that if my mother was late picking me up, under no circumstances should I go with anyone who might say they were sent to pick me up, unless it was a very close family friend.

My son is soon to be 14, and has been a “free range” kid for most of his life. Without the challenge of being able to do things on his own, I don’t see how he can fully develop a sense of responsibility or accomplishment.

By Anonymous Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 8:29 pm  

if i didn’t want to be with my children i shouldn’t have had them. this site is full of lazy parents who don’t want to raise their kids. while your kids are out all day until dark, you get to get that last nap or soap opera in, huh. poor kids. as long as they’re out of your hair. you bet. they’ll have fond memories of their family time when they’re grown, won’t they. it’s your kids who come to my house during snack time and ask for something to eat. and then tell me that their mother is sleeping. i was one of the freerange, and i knew it was because the adults wanted us out of their hair.

By Terri Baker Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 9:55 pm  

My husband will be thrilled to see and read this site. He will be even more thrilled that I am reading the ideas here!

I have three boys. They are 5, 7 and 10 years old. I tend to “hover” and make too many fear based decisions regarding their activities. As they get older, it is clear that this sort of “parenting style” is not good for them and it’s not good for my relationship with them.

I have recently decided to let my 7 and 10 year old ride their bikes to school (1/2 mile – sidewalk the entire way – many parents – crossing guard) and was concerned that it wasn’t the right thing to do. After reading this I realize, I worry entirely too much and I am teaching them to live the same way.

Thank you for reminding moms who are trying to give their children the best that we need to lighten up a little…and give our kids some space to grow.

By Michael Ruch Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 10:30 pm  

Here Here! I laugh when I take the kids to the park/playground at the parents who hover after their kids, oh no, they might fall!

Believe it or not we don’t live in the world of CSI and Law & Order, serial killers and child abductors are not a dime a dozen. I am guilt of some of this when I ponder my 11 year old nephew riding a few miles away from home to the bike park, but it’s not because of abductors, it’s usually because of the likelihood of delinquent behavior.

I can hardly wait until my son gets old enough to walk himself to school, and even walk his little brother end evntually little sister. My biggest concern is traffic on the busy roads, not kidnappers or pedophiles.

By Greg Marshall Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 10:52 pm  

Free ranging your child makes for a more well-adjusted and secure child. My child was driving golf carts at 3 (speed ajusted, with pedal extensions) he could drive by nine and at 16 scored a 100% on the driving part of his drivers test… which had never happened at the local office in our community. He road the bus system, swam in lakes, learned to shoot, and to understand different people he met on the street. I worry, as I have always worry, but I know those experiences and the ones he still has make him stronger. In fact, I know at the end of the day, its those experiences and lessons that will make the difference as he competes in the world for a job with the sheltered kids. That edge in confidence and self-worth obtained by being “free range” may make all the difference in the world.

By Billy Kim Mon Apr 14th 2008 at 11:54 pm  

I also remember roaming the streets of Queens New York and the earliest childhood memories I have is playing in the streets of Seoul in S.Korea. I must have been three or four…I turned out fine so did everyone else who were born preMTV

I feel sorry for the kids today.

We live in “burbs” and created a bubble with streets that go no where and with out side-walks or cross walks to walk on, only the giant parking lots with mega malls with anti-bacterial hand wipes and lotions to guard against every imaginable germs and blame other kids if they catch a cold…(kids get sick 12-15 times a year, someone actually did a study, which is about every 3, 4 weeks). I take my three year old girl to the playground by CAR! it’s in the commuter parking lot behind the highway!!! and when I get there there are equal number of parents watching over the kids in between ballet school and piano lessons and soccer practices and take out foods for dinner.

I remember the smell of dirt and sweat after a long day.

I remember I was free to roam and explore the world, and sometimes I got lost but I managed to get back for dinner.

I remember the dirty finger nails and how easy it was to make new friends and we played in the dirt and rocks, we ran, we played tags and we climb over trees, boulders, mountains and at the summit we would let the cool breeze wipe our sweat off our faces.

And I remember that musky smell of hot July sun and how cool the breeze was and felt how fun it was and thought what a day!

But now I look at my daughter and I feel sad. She only knows of daycare and playground and mall. And when she starts school she will be on pianos, ballets, soccer, swimming, and what ever is in FAB for mothers taste.

I on the other hand will try to take her fishing and camping much as I can.

May be move to inner city which is more inline with my taste and let her roam the streets but that would make me irresponsible, right? and if I did let her out who would she play with…

By Marni Tue Apr 15th 2008 at 12:01 am  

I must say I am a bit on the fence about free range children. I recently found myself in the position of having to give my 11 yr old freedom I was not ready to give. With a shortage of school bus drivers in our city, my child’s school implemented a rule that the Junior High students had to ride city transit. My son was entering Junior Hight (middle school), gr. 7. I must say I was mortified, but what could I do? Someone else was making the decision for me. We are now nearing the end of his grade 7 year, and everything seems to be going well. Now he is pushing me to allow him to care for my 7 year old stubborn, younger son, his brother, over Summer school break. It isn’t that I don’t trust my now 12 year old, I am just not sure about trusting my 7 year old. I do however agree, that you can be too overprotective these days…

By C. Edwards Tue Apr 15th 2008 at 11:24 am  

I live in a neighborhood that most of the fearful parents above would be traumatized to let their children roam… and they’d be entirely wrong. My house is in an older, low-income neighborhood, primarily minority, mostly extended families, most adults holding 2 or even 3 low-wage jobs. The kids are pretty much on their own. (My neighborhood changed around me when a local mobile home park was declared urban blight and empty houses in my neighborhood were bought by the local housing authority to house those displaced. That caused some “flight”, though my partner and I chose to stay; the other houses were purchased as well.) For the past seven years, I’ve watched these kids — they look out for each other, and the only time I’ve seen violence between them was when an (wealthy, privileged) interloper came in to cause a problem. I have a very small friend (3 years old) who comes and talks to me on my back porch — no parent in sight. I’ve also talked to some of the local teachers who teach these kids and they’re very impressed with the kids’ academic and social performance — most of them had low expectations for the kids coming into their school. The High School district in which I live serves my neighborhood, several other so called marginal ones, and three wealthy tracts. For the last three years, student council prez, valedictorian and salutatorian all came from my neighborhood. My neighborhood does not seem to have a drug problem, the cops rarely visit, and I know of no thefts, break-ins, burglaries or property crimes. I walk my neighborhood streets at midnight because it’s cooler in summer then and have never felt anything but safety.

I believe the independence the kids in my neighborhood grow up with — along with strong family ties and a work ethic bred in bone — is the key to their success. I’m going to be happy to raise a child here, and she’ll ride her trike, play with the other kids, be happily more bilingual than her parents, walk to school with her friends and to the corner store. She’ll have more interesting things to do with her life than have her mom hanging over her.

By Anonymous Tue Apr 15th 2008 at 11:38 am  

I was a free range kid. Sadly, my daughter cannot be. We adopted her from the foster care system. Because of her background, she holds eye contact too long with strange men, will talk to any stranger and hardly ever looks when crossing busy streets. I would be a fool to let her go around unattended. Can she when she’s older? I sure hope so, but I will be damn sure she’s ready.

By Greg Tue Apr 15th 2008 at 12:20 pm  

With my dear daughter, my wife and I are already practicing what this smart woman is suggesting. A long, long time ago I started my blog, lil’screamie with a half-serious and not very well written post about “protecting your baby from the dangers of sharp edges”, (oh, gee, that’s a good idea) and a host of other things that struck me as absurd fear-mongering to sell products – It bothered me then, and it still bugs the crap out of me. I think it’s our responsibility as parents to let our kids get dirty, make mistakes, experience the consequences of making a bad choice, and to learn from that experience. I really want my girl to have the self-confidence and strength that engenders. I personally can’t wait ’til she’s old enough to run down the block to the deli to pick up some half n’ half for daddy’s coffee. In the country, I try to take her outside as much as possible and really let her run free, And even occasionally leave her alone (never out of sight, just out of her view) to see what she does, and see how she’s doing. She almost never notices that I’m not hovering behind her, and she just plays. How simple is that? This weekend, she found herself a pile of leaves – a deep pile of leaves, up to her waist, she waded in sat down, and buried herself in them. Wet and dirty and cold? You bet. But she had fun, and I didn’t worry – when she’s not so sure about something, Dear Alex will give out a little cry for “daddy”, and I’ll always be there for her, but I won’t micro-manage. Sure, the notion of independence is more appropriate for slightly older kids, and at parents letting kids be kids – an appropriate sort of backlash, I think, to a culture that’s gone waaay over the top in protecting our kids from harm and germs and failure and, well, life.

I’m all for lightening up, and it’s never too early to start teaching a toddler the skills they need to separate what’s safe from what’s dangerous, what can really hurt them from what’s unreasonable fear, and how to tell the difference.

By Eliot Kimber Tue Apr 15th 2008 at 1:17 pm  

I was raised pretty much free range. I remember walking at least 1/2 mile to 2nd grade in Berkley, CA in 1968 or 69. I don’t think anybody thought anything of it. I had a bike and we rode all over the place.

I also had a neighbor kid seriously hurt in an accident around that time–we were taking turns going down a driveway lying on a skateboard and zooming out into the street. A taxi came around the corner way too fast and ran over the kid–he lived but was hurt pretty bad. Could have been any of us. Looking back it was definitely a failure of supervision in that case. But it was also a freak accident–our street was not normally busy. But I don’t think that incident really changed the behavior of any of the parents, at least not that I can remember.

We then moved to a small town in Idaho and could go anywhere I wanted at pretty much any time. The only thing that slowed us down was snow we could bike through. Thinking about it now, I’d saw that little town is much more dangerous today because of Meth, a scourge on rural areas that was nothing we had to contend with. But it’s still not that dangerous….

I’m now the father, at 46, of an adopted 4-year-old. We work hard to foster as much independence in her as we can (and she is a naturally independent and capable child). But at the same time I get very paranoid, for no good reason. We took a trip to NYC last year and I had nightmares about losing her in a crowd. As it happened I ended up carrying her in the sling almost everywhere–not out of fear but convenience. But at the same time I’ve spent enough time in NYC to know that a capable kid can easily and safely navigate the streets and subways almost anywhere.

But I also ask why are we as modern parents so much more obsessed with our children’s safety? A large part has to be the media focus on rare but hideous crimes and accidents, and the general climate of fear that our society seems to have wound itself up into.

But I think it must also be a side effect of wealth. My parents were quite young by today’s standards and working pretty hard most of the time, as well as being naturally a bit more focused on themselves than on their children.

By contrast, I had 20 years as a DINK to do what I wanted and made a considered decision to start a family. We’re wealthy enough that we can both devote whatever time we choose to our child (a lot) and do things like drive places that 40 years ago we might not have even had the car to drive to.

Being concerned about your kids and worrying about them when they’re out of your sight has to be a constant for parents over the course of history. The question, it seems to me, might come down to “how much time and energy can I afford to spend acting on that paranoia?” My parents didn’t have the luxury. I do and I know I’m fairly representative of older, more affluent parents generally.

So I find it something of a struggle to let my daughter be as free as she reasonably can be. I have to remind myself that danger is a part of life, that we learn by doing, that she has a right to fail on her own. I have the luxury of living in the center of a city where my daughter will be able, in a few years, to reasonably safely bike to the park or the swimming pool or the museum or take the bus or even walk.

I’m also almost embarrassed to be reminded that the picture on my family blog at the time I’m writing this is of my daughter kitted out in full pads and helmet to go roller skating. It’s saving her a few skinned knees, but I’m not sure it’s actually helping her be a better or safer skater because the early penalty for falling is much lower. But I can only imagine what people would say if we didn’t insist she wear the gear. Hmmm.

By lfar Tue Apr 15th 2008 at 11:18 pm  

Yes! I’m a college student and it’s pretty pathetic the way some people don’t know how to do things themselves. 20 year olds! I don’t have kids- and maybe it’s different when you do- but this is a great blog.

By bishophicks Wed Apr 16th 2008 at 3:41 am  

The Daily Mail article from last summer about the gradual confinement of one family’s children over 4 generations really opened my eyes and I vowed that this would be the year I started letting my son (just turned seven) more unsupervised outdoor time. He had been confined to a fenced in 1/4 acre even though we own almost 5 (mostly overgrown woods/swamp), and the kids in the neighborhood went to each others’ houses by appointment. Step 1 is easier access to nearby friends. We live on a busy street and don’t have a front yard or sidewalk, so just getting next door required adult help. I made a path through the woods that connects three houses. Within minutes of fishing it, there were 3 kids playing in the woods and within 30 minutes there were 5 kids in our yard having a ball.

Next step is to build a bridge so the kids can cross a water obstacle and gain access to the rest of our property. While scouting locations for the bridge, my son looked down and said, “Uh oh,” and showed me his hand – it had some dirt on it. I felt guilty because I had raised a kid who thought getting dirty meant something bad had happened. But then, ten minutes later he got muddy swamp water in his boot (so did I) and was laughing about as we squish-squished back to the house to change socks.

To the people who have a sad, terrible story about the loss of a child or young friend – I’m sorry that happened to you. Tragic stories make the news because they’re tragic and RARE – not because they are common. And it’s not always a lack of supervision – sometimes bad things happen when a parent is right there. My son has a friend who ended up with a badly broken leg when he was run over in a parking lot while holding his mother’s hand!

Maturity, independence, self confidence, and common sense do not arrive auto-magically at the age of eighteen. They are built slowly over time as a person is given more and more freedom and responsibility and learns that they can function in the world. You have to learn how to be an adult. And it starts with walking to school (which my son’s school doesn’t allow even though we are 150 yards from school property), riding the subway by yourself, or getting yourself to a friend’s house, or biking into town.

By Ric Gau Wed Apr 16th 2008 at 6:43 am  

I really hope that you don’t think that this is something new. I am 58 years old and grew up in Seattle Wa. From the time I was in kindergarden I walked to school every day, it was about a half mile, by my self because I didn’t want my parents walking with me. We all did it then yes are parents were worried about us but they also knew that we had to grow up sooner or later.

When our son was about 3 or 4, he is 28 now, he wanted to take his big wheel to the street behind our house to ride with his friends. My first reaction was NO but I then relented and let him go as he only had to go around the block. Yes I watched him from the house but you have to let go sometime and let them find out for themselves that there is gravity.

When he was in elementry school he got himself dressed and off to the bus alone. And later he waked or biked to school when he was about 10 years old.

For all those parents who are so worried about what might happen, as we all are, and won’t let their children grow up and experence life what are you going to do when they get cars and leave for college.

My son is married and a father himself but that doesn’t mean I don’t still worry. But it is all part of life and living life is good.

By Angela S. Thu Apr 17th 2008 at 1:08 am  

I’m 26 years old, and grew up with an extremely protective mother who convinced me (unintentionally, unknowingly) that eventually I would be abducted by someone, and most likely, killed. My parents were divorced and my father has always been a policeman, and for a long time, was a detective.

My mother primarily reads true crime novels, watches made for tv movies about horrible crimes, and tells me that I am unrealistic and out of touch with the “real world” and finds my fairly tame married life as a lawyer dangerous and wild.

It took me YEARS (and therapy) to overcome the fear that she unintentionally instilled in me. I am still afraid of the dark, of dogs, of strange men, I live in a gated community, and I am always looking over my shoulder- but I think I am getting to the point where I walk the line between safe/smart and paranoid.

I’m willing to travel across the country on my own now, I’ve gone to other countries, seen more of the world, tried lots of new things, gone skydiving, kayaking, scuba diving, parasailing, and lots of things that I never thought I’d be brave enough to do. But it takes a lot to overcome the kind of fear that a parent can instill in a child.

I don’t have children yet, but my husband and I are all for the free-range idea.

By mylesfromnowhere Thu Apr 17th 2008 at 7:59 am  

My god some of these women’s clingy relationship with there children is horrifying emotional abuse that is as damaging as ANY other abuse parents can inflict on their children

By Alec Long Fri Apr 18th 2008 at 1:19 am  

Bravo, Lenore, for deciding enough is enough. What kind of country have we become? This is America the Great? How can it be, when we cower in fear every time our children go outside, terrified they could be snatched or fall into a ditch never to be found again? Bullpucky. Overprotective parenting has perpetuated this fear, and is passing it along to our children.

I’m all for letting children learn independence and responsibility from an early age, and letting them have fun outside, away from video games and text chats. And–without Mom or Dad hovering inches away, scanning the perimeter for threats, armed to the teeth with Bactine and pepper spray.

By critical thinking Fri Apr 18th 2008 at 2:17 am  

To the Anonymous who wrote on April 14 that all these parents are “Lazy”.

I believe that YOU are the lazy one as you are abdicating your responsibility as a parent to teach your kids how to think for themselves, assess situations, rationalize, judge and make informed responsible decisions.

Or do you just plan on holding their hands for their entire lives ??

I’m glad I’ll be gone from this earth when these kids (who will grow up – for lack of a better word – having no commen sense life skills) have their own kids – what the heck will that generation do? I guess by then machines will do all the thinking for us and humankind will become relatively catatonic.

Sci-fi or future reality…..?

By billy last thought Fri Apr 18th 2008 at 11:19 pm  

we can bitch and moan about how to raise our children, what to eat, where to go but the fact is that they’ll all turn out fine and even with all those disfunctionalities. When our generation are long gone next generation will do fine, they’ll manage, adapt and make it better. I know everybody say “the good all time” but I know we have it better than 30, 50 years ago, average life span is longer, quality of life is better, death rate is less world wide. I know I have it better than my parents and no doubt my child will have it batter.

We just have to teach them to be a better person and DO the right thing not just tell them but DO the right thing.

It doesn’t matter whether they’re free range or not.

By JD B Sat Apr 19th 2008 at 3:00 am  

Way to go! I’m a scout leader and have worked with many thousands of high school students through national leadership conferences. The best students have been those who had the maximum freedom, maximum responsibility, and true accountability placed upon them from their parents/family members.

By Meg Sat Apr 19th 2008 at 5:40 am  

Hallelujah!! I no longer feel like a fish swimming upstream1 I have lobbied for 2 years (and lost with husband) to allow our son to go to see a movie at the cinema with friends without grownups. May be your column/web site will influence him to loosen his grip.

In the meantime, we made progress on the “autonomy/free range” front this week. I have purchased a bus-pass so that our now 13 year old son will take the bus from his school to our local library–A MILE AWAY-God forbid–ALONE. This way he can change his environment for doing his homework (tired of him being at home to do it with all of the distractions!)

I am so ready to be a part of this cultural shift–back to freedom from being held hostage by FEAR!!!!. We can create those “good ole days”–a little bit at a time. I am commited to doing my part.

A MOM WHO STANDS FOR FREEDOM

By Rosetry Sat Apr 19th 2008 at 9:18 pm  

My son grew up fishing mostly alone on canals near the Intracoastal Waterway in So. FL. He and his friends drove their bikes off makeshift ramps into the water, constructed rafts to sail to Cuba (rarely floated past docks) and navigated an old Jon boat at an age when most parents would not let their kids ride bikes alone.

As a young adult he is an avid traveller and has friends around the globe.

Did/do I fear for his safety? Absolutely! Will my fears interfere with his explorations and growth? Hope not.

Courage can be gifted– Lenore, I hope your website, words and deeds are accepted as such.

Yasher Koach from Monroe

Judy R.

By Jenni Sun Apr 20th 2008 at 4:53 am  

I am definitely in the FOR camp. I raised one daughter to adulthood as a ‘freerange’ kid. I was a single working mom. She rode the school bus home in the afternoon and let herself in with her own key. She needed to call me at work by a certain time to let me know she was home. She did exceedingly well. The only panic time being when the bus was involved in an accident and I did not get the normal phone call. This would have happened whether I had been home to meet her or not. She is a functioning, independent your woman now.

Additionally, I have an 8 year old daughter that I give permission to roam our neighborhood fairly freely. She’s a different kid than her sister and we operate a little differently. She ride her bike around the neighborhood and reports back frequently. She has a watch and complies with requests to either check in or be home at a specific time. We don’t let her go off our block unattended. We have too many very busy streets and she is not a sensate kid. She get’s lost in the moment and doesn’t sense what is going on around her. Different strategies for different kids.

You go!

By John Sun Apr 20th 2008 at 10:57 am  

I just found this site, as a link from “boing boing”… as a former “free range child” myself, I am definitely in favor of letting my kids explore their independence as they explore the world.

There was a comment MUCH higher up on this page about going to one of the Disney parks in Orlando, and lettings the kids go where they wanted within the park. I used to do this with my kids (I live in Orlando and we had annual passes for Universal) and they loved it. I just made sure they had watches (so they knew what time it was) and knew where to meet, and at what time, and they had my cell phone number memorized so if something happened they could have a park employee call me… it worked out really well, they got to ride the water rides fifteen times in a row if they wanted to, and I was able to enjoy the rides I wanted to go on, and hang out with some of my friends who worked at the park.

One thing I might suggest, which can have benefits on several levels… Amateur Radio, both for yourself and for your kids (if they’re interested.) The FRS radios you can buy in the store without a license are, more or less, junk- they rarely work beyond a few hundred feet, and in an environment like an amusement park, where everybody has them and nobody follows any kind of etiquette, it’s a waste of time. Being able to use better radios makes it a lot easier to keep in contact with kids/parents when you’re out somewhere like an amusement park, both because the frequencies aren’t crowded, and because you can use more power. I have personally used handheld radios to keep in touch with friends several miles away, and if we use a repeater the range goes up to the 40-50 mile range. Yes, on handheld radios.

It can also be a good experience for the kids. Kids become interested for different reasons, but for many there is a kind of prestige at participating in something which is normally a “grown-up” thing (there is no age limit, there are licensed hams as young as 8 years old.) Some kids are more intelligent than their peers and may be more comfortable talking to adults- ham radio lets them talk to other hams, which for the most part are friendly and intelligent people. Speaking for myself, it helped me to be more comfortable socializing with people I didn’t know (yet.)

And the best part for a lot of people… as of about a year and a half ago, the license no longer requires any knowledge of morse code. There’s a 35-question multiple-choice test, and you have to answer 28 questions correctly. There’s a small fee to take the test (because the testers are volunteers, not FCC officials) but the license itself is free.

http://www.hello-radio.org/ has more information about Amateur Radio, including how to get started.

73 (“Best Wishes”)

John KG4ZOW

By Ava Tari Sun Apr 20th 2008 at 11:25 am  

I’m just going to leave a link to a brilliant image from “indexed.”

By Cherish Mon Apr 21st 2008 at 7:28 am  

Alright! A friend just sent me to your site, and I’m SO glad! I have let my older son be home alone and walk to school alone since he was nine. I live in one of the safest cities in the US, and my neighbors all think I’m nuts. I remember walking much farther than he did when I was five.

Even this year, now that he’s in junior high, acquaintances have commented about how I shouldn’t let him run around alone (i.e. walk home…2 miles). Seriously, you’d think I’m abusing the kid or something.

Some of my greatest memories were spending my summers walking around my town, going to the library, going to the museums, swimming at the pool, or going to Dairy Queen. My parents weren’t there, and probably didn’t know where I was half the time. On the other hand, they raised me be careful, but you can’t be careful unless you get some practice!

Anyway, great site! Thanks!

By Kevin Mon Apr 21st 2008 at 12:26 pm  

I had a perfect happy childhood with loving parents who cared deeply about me, including letting me grow up in the “real” world. My one rule was be home for dinner, or let them know where I was.

My friends and I played in the creek under railroad trestles, actually met homeless men (who were fine to talk to and had great stories, we were not molested ever in any way). We walked everywhere, including downtown to the movies. When we got older we had paper routes, rode our bikes miles and miles, camped in remote state parks (in groups), and generally learned to be self-sufficient.

I got in trouble for shooting my peashooter into one of the city fountains, and had to pick out the peas. I got caught prying the caps off of soda bottles to drink the soda through a long straw, etc.

I grew up with an active mind, an inquisitive and open mind, and an appreciation for learning everything I possibly could about everything.

I went to college, earned a masters degree and a PhD, married a wonderful woman, had a great career and made a ton of money, have two kids and five grandkids, am retired now, and try to teach my kids to let my grandkids have the same freedoms I enjoyed so very much.

By free range philly Mon Apr 21st 2008 at 7:40 pm  

I listened to your NPR interview. It astonishes me we have to discuss this. Our three kids are “free range”, and so are the dozen or so locals who live on the street and run in the gang. We, of course, have added our own modern twist, they go to several different schools, public and private: But they move from house to house, yard to yard, to and from town and the park either alone or en-masse and have lived to tell the tale! We even give them money sometimes and let them go to town and buy things. On their own (not one has yet slipped into the liquor store and bought an 8-ball). Our neighboorhood is a mile and half from the Philadelphia border, so this is not small twon USA, and I have even heard (but cannot confirm) that there may actually be some unlocked doors nearby.

It’s an unspoken thread here in the hood that this feels right and it works, and I cannot honestly remember discussing it with anyone in detail, we just do it.

We need T-shirts.

By TexasTesla Tue Apr 22nd 2008 at 4:09 am  

We are lucky to be raising our kids in a “free range” community. Nobody thinks it odd to see children riding bikes, walking to school, or playing with friends WITHOUT hovering parents. Kids are told the boundaries (don’t cross the highway, be home by dark), and amazingly…all are healthy and well.

We do our children a grave disservice by restricting them in the name of “can’t be too safe”. TEACH your kids to be safe by give them boundaries and rules…and letting them discover the world, and independence.

By deannathegeek Tue Apr 22nd 2008 at 4:13 am  

I have 3 kids of varying maturity. Obviously, my 3 year old son isn’t going anywhere by himself anytime soon. My 6 year old daughter is very mature and responsible for her age. She gor a Firefly cell phone for Christmas and walks the 4 blocks to school by herself. She also has the freedom to wander our trailer park by herself (there’s only one way in & out of the park, and I know more than half of the residents). My 9 year old daughter, however, feels that she can do whatever she wants, and if given an inch she will take a mile (literally!). Last time I let her walk to a friend’s house in the trailer park, they left the park and went to the nearest McDonald’s over a mile away without permission. All that being said, it goes back to the child-is s/he responsible enough to be free-range? Are they mature enough to comprehend ‘stranger danger’ and how to cope with the freedom they’re being given? I firmly believe a parent should know their child’s abilities and limitations well before giving them their freedom.

By Gina (not my real name) Tue Apr 22nd 2008 at 4:58 am  

I think what you did is wonderful. Most parents today want to shield their kids from everything. While I would love to live in a world where kids never have to know pain or loss, I don’t. Neither do the people who think they can keep something from ever happening to their kid by micromanaging every moment of the day. Every kid will feel pain and loss at one point or another. Whether their parent(s) are there every minute of their day or not. What these parents need to learn is the only way they are going to equip their kids to deal with these things is by letting them experience it. I worry about the kids whose parents make every decision for them. What is going to happen if mommy or daddy die? As awful as it is to think about, parents do die. Then what happens? Have they equipped their kid to handle his or her own life? Unfortunately the answer for many these days is no.

By Jennifer Mc Tue Apr 22nd 2008 at 10:44 am  

When I married my husband, he had a sister who was only 6 years old. From day 1 I told them that if they continued to coddle her and not let her figure things out for herself, that she would never learn to be independent. My mother-in-law told me last month, that at almost 13, they have finally figured out that she may never be independent. If you don’t let kids take their lumps and figure things out, they don’t learn how. At this point, my four year old is better able to deal with the world than my almost 13 year old sister in law. It scares me that so many people think that constantly protecting their kids from every possible threat is a good idea. On the other hand, knowing the child and where their limits should be is just smart. But, it is our job to teach our children these skilss, and if we don’t, they won’t have them.

By Kendra Williams Tue Apr 22nd 2008 at 11:47 am  

I am an 18 year old and a freshman in college. My parents raised my sister and I in a “free range” manner, and the two of us have never had any interest in drugs or partying and were never sexually abused. Unfortunately, I am unable to say the same thing for the majority of my friends and acquaintances. Giving children their freedom and trusting them goes much further in raising independent and responsible children than watching them every step of the way. In fact, constantly watching and “protecting” your child is the surest way of which I am aware for them to become entangled in whatever it is you are protecting them from. Even if they are successful while living at home, the second they leave for college or enter a world where they are not constantly protected failure becomes inevitable. Having an honest and trustful relationship with children (who by the way should also just be considered slightly small adults) is the best way to raise independent and successful children.

By Melissa S Tue Apr 22nd 2008 at 8:34 pm  

Absolutely FOR!

I may not be a parent, but I’m about to be a senior in college (and you know, college kids pretend to know everything).

Jokes aside, I grew up as far more of a free range kid than many of my peers, and I can now see the effects of it in college. As for me, all by myself, I handle all my bills, hold down a job, get good grades, and am more than well on my way to complete independence (financially almost there, just holding on to that parental health insurance, you know?).

Currently, I’m writing this from Japan where I am studying abroad. Here it’s nothing for a kid to ride the train alone or bike alone – it’s everyday life! And it’s been really nice to not be surrounded by constant over-worrying all the time.

Then there are many of my peers. Their parents lingered on campus for days after freshman orientation, call constantly, visit constantly, etc. And so many of the kids can’t do anything for themselves! Case in point, my freshman roommate (with extraordinary helicopter parents) ended first year with slipping grades and about 20 pounds gained from alcohol and poor diet.

It’s not all that extreme, but, especially when it comes to finances, I see even college grads who are still getting handouts from mommy and daddy just because their parents don’t want them to have it hard at all. Sometimes I envy it, obviously, but then I see that it’s been months and they have no drive to get jobs!

So yes, there are pros and cons to everything, and obviously, it’s really important to know your kid before applying anything, but my parents did a good job with me, I think! They trust me to make good decisions and I’m grateful that they gave me enough room to make my own choices growing up that I now know how to make the right ones now.

I’m glad I found this website (thanks to newsweek). Nice to see bits of sanity popping up everywhere! I’m really interested to see where this whole thing goes in the future.

By Mike Wren Tue Apr 22nd 2008 at 9:57 pm  

I grew up in the mountains of Montana where I had a rifle at age 10 and a half dozen more by Junior High School. I wandered through the mountains alone, for days, and nights, by the time I was 12.

I am a better man, and my sons are better men, because we were raised that way. Kids are only kids because whiney, sissy parents train them to be kids. Independent and smart parents train their children to be responsible, capable, hard working, independent men and women.

The world is better off with parents like Lenore Skenazy.

By Zoe Brookes Tue Apr 22nd 2008 at 10:23 pm  

I was born in the UK in 1967. At five my mum put me on the equivalent of a Greyhound bus for a 70 mile ride. My aunt was to collect me at the other end. This, I believe was too much too young. The bus made a stop that I didn’t expect and I nearly got left behind after hopping out to buy a drink (yes, at 5!). At eight, I happily took the city bus to an arts program in the center of the city where I grew up, and at 15 I travelled around Europe with an 18 year old friend. Both of these were great experiences. Now a parent considering what’s safe and what’s not I think about: is my child equipped to make good decisions if something goes wrong? I also think hard about busy roads, since motorists are the number one hazard for children where I live.

By Texas Teacher Tue Apr 22nd 2008 at 11:02 pm  

I think you’re awesome. I am a teacher of middle school children, and I see how so many of them simply cannot function even semi-independently because they are so used to having their parents do everything for them.

My husband rode a city bus in Houston when he was 9 and he was fine. I walked five blocks to visit my best friend when I was 8 and I was fine. We need to calm down as a society and remember that statistics show we are actually a SAFER society than we were years ago. It’s only because of the media that we think things are more dangerous.

By amy Wed Apr 23rd 2008 at 12:44 am  

I let my 8 and 10 year old sons bike the 3 blocks to a friend’s house. But when they returned the friend’s mom insisted on accompanying them back home through our very safe neighborhood ‘just in case.’

I also let my 4 year old run freely to our next door neighbor’s house, and even to the house across the street.

Ironically, I felt a lot MORE free after being chided unfairly for giving my children too much freedom. One day I was in our yard raking and my kids were playing right next to me. A woman drove by and shouted, “You should watch you children more closely!” There were just a few feet away from me!

At that point I realized that there is just no pleasing some people. Folks will criticize you for doing whatever you do. So you’ve got to go with your gut and good sense.

By J.S. Wed Apr 23rd 2008 at 1:47 am  

The whole “helicopter parent” things started in the 80′s, right around when I was prime marrying age. I objected to the overprotection/overscheduling then and am still against it. Seeing a married life raising kids in this fashion was so applling to me it was the main reason I never got married nor had kids of my own. It IS debilitating and stifling. Furthermore, I believe all those moms shuttling their kids everywhere in their minivans and idling the engines while they waited was one of the main causes of global climate change

By Marci Wed Apr 23rd 2008 at 2:40 am  

I grew up in the Northeast in the 60′s and 70′s, rode my bike for miles, downtown, parks, school just about anywhere. I can remember being about 8 years old and taking care of my little brother 3 years younger than myself after school until my mom and dad got home. During the summers when school was out we would go to camp and have the time of our lives. Boating, swimming, arts and crafts and totally independent. We would be taken back to the school yard and walk home (about 3 miles) and wait till mom and dad got home to tell them about our adventures. Yes, we were smart and extremely mature, but that was just the way we were raised. Our questions were answered in a very adult way and our opinions asked as to what we just learned. Bless my parents for rearing us as civilized and intellectual human beings. We got to go the bank and watch as my father did his banking, talk to the bank president as if he was our next door neighbor. Fearless of life and free to enjoy it. We learned to stand up for our rights, stay focused in our endeavors, kind and compassionate to all around us and most importantly, to be able to discern right from wrong. We didn’t have a religious upbringing, but a humanist approach to our life and to the life of others. My siblings all achieved higher education, had wonderful families and successful lives. We as a whole have raised our children in the same manner and are repeating the pattern, strong independent women and men for the world. I applaud you, this world has enough ninnies, let’s give our children the backbone they will need to succeed.

By Sara Wed Apr 23rd 2008 at 4:42 am  

YOU ARE MY GOD — or Goddess as it were€¦Not only do I watch as helicopter mommies huddle over their children insistently but ironically there seems to be a total disconnect to general parenting. Helicopter mommies are so busy swatting out imaginary fires and chasing away non-existent boogey- men that they can’t seem to just be a parent.

Mothers (and of course fathers) at one point in time taught their children manners, discipline, life lessons and the “other stuff” needed to become a productive member of society. Now, most moms behave like they are sending their children out into battle every day and they are leading the charge. Anything beyond the safety and security of the child is irrelevant and I am quite sure, exhausting after slaying imaginary “evils” all day.

For example, eating out once a pleasurable event is now a train wreck. Because there isn’t a single possible person on the entire planet that a helicopter mommy could possibly trust to leave with her children — the children NOW COME TO THE RESTAURANT. And because they can’t discipline their children — there is no time for this in a helicopter mommy-world — I get to listen to her children scream for “grilled cheese sandwich” in a seafood restaurant at 80 decibels.

It is a shame that these women — and let’s be honest here it is mostly woman suffering from this affliction — we do most of the child rearing– have totally lost a sense of self. You were someone BEFORE you were a mom. Yes, MOM is the best title any woman could ever have in her lifetime. But how can moms give something to their children if they have nothing for themselves?

Ask yourself, what will you leave your child with when you are gone? Pride and self-reliance? Or fear and dependence?

By madwaxer Wed Apr 23rd 2008 at 7:15 am  

excellent choice.

Please continue to ignore the true bricks who continue to share their unintelligent comments.

Especially those who have forgotten how to live and only cling on to surviving.

In this age we can’t all waste money driving kids everywhere they want to go. nor can be baby them their entire lives. in college i knew ‘kids’ who never worked a single job on campus the entire 4yrs!

after they graduated they couldn’t get jobs because they had no work experience. (shocking!)

As kids my cousins and i would walk long distances to areas of Boston where other kids our age lived-who we got along with (were level headed).

It was cheaper than spending a lot of money on browsing at cafes or racking up bills dailing up to the net at home. even when it got cheaper we still prefered meeting other people in person. now i have a kid i know for a start hes not going to have a tv at home not even a cell phone. at most i may let him have a pager for short messaging with myself and his mom. simply because i hate talking on the phone for more than 3mins.

once again keep your life simple and your kids will turn out normal just like you.

By Stella Wed Apr 23rd 2008 at 8:22 pm  

GOOD FOR YOU!!!

My two very fat nephews are the product of a helicopter mother. They are not allowed outside for extended periods of time and they lay around watching TV. It totally disgusts me and my husband.

What the hell has happened to these parents? Do they not realize they are doing a HUGE disservice to their children by hovering over their every move?

It frightens me to see how these kids will turn out as adults……..

By Kelly Wed Apr 23rd 2008 at 10:26 pm  

I think many moms of young kids hover because they don’t want to be perceived by the other mothers as slacker moms. There are extremes at either end of the protective spectrum, both of which are damaging in their ways; but most of us (I think) fall in the middle. We don’t want to lose our place in Mommy World by standing out too far. Every time I give my independent 5 year old a little slack, there’s always a mom (or worse, an older man) at the ready with a smart comment.

Bravo to you!

By Sarah Thu Apr 24th 2008 at 2:43 am  

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

As the single mother of an 8 year old boy, I’ve had to “let go” more out of necessity than out of choice. I work full time at a law firm in Austin, with employers that graciously allow me to be there for my child when I have to be. I began taking my lunch breaks at 2:30 to pick him up from school by 2:45, and would spend 20-30 minutes with him (going over homework, preparing snacks, etc.) before getting back to work at 3:30 at the beginning of his 1st grade school year. He previously attended an on-site after school care program but living on a fixed budget, it was difficult to afford. The rates were reduced for families that met the income requirements but I made one or two more dollars an hour to qualify. Often, I had to decide whether to pay the electricity bill or buy groceries. We got by, and now I can more than afford to send him to that program, but I choose to save my money and at the same time instill into him a sense of well-being, self-sufficiency, self-discipline and independece. I was amazed after just the first few weeks at how much more confident he was in himself both at home and at school. I began to give him chores to do–unload the dishwasher, sort laundry, dust furniture-and along with those chores came a sense of pride. I realized that doing every little thing for him that my mother didn’t do for me (for which i held a lot of resentment towards her for so long) was NOT being a good mother. If anything, it made me a bad mother because I was not teaching him the bare necessisties of daily life. I plan to continue on this path and gradually release the hold I’ve had on him as his age and ability allow, e.g., when he’s tall enough to see over the stove, he’ll learn how to cook and operate the washer and dryer.

We now live with my boyfriend who has a 12 year old son that lives with his mother. She has always relied on her family to pick up her slack in regard to child care or financial issues, so my boyfriend has no clue what it’s like to make the choice I had to make. When his son visits, it’s obvious his mother or her family hovers over him when he expects one of us to fix his plate of food! He forgets his toothbrush at home because his mother has to remind him every day to brush his teeth. He leaves his things all over the house because his mother picks up after him. He has no responsibilities whatsoever.

My boyfriend feels that it is wrong for me to place so much independence on a child as young as mine is. I feel that it’s wrong that his child’s mother doesn’t give their son the independence he DESERVES now and will REQUIRE later. The boyfriend constantly assumes that my child is up to no good when he’s home alone and he very well may be… I wouldn’t know because the house hasn’t burned down yet, there are no blood stains on my carpets, nothing is out of place (except for the dishes he’s used that are in the dishwasher instead of the cupboards), and his homework is always completed. My child knows the rules, and I remind him every day what to do if the doorbell rings, if someone calls and asks for me, etc. when I am not home. I have 100% faith that he’ll do the right thing, when he’s at home alone and later in life when he’s out on his own. On the other hand, the boyfriend’s son, when given the rare opportunities to be unsupervised, turns them into opportunities to be devious.

So I’m a believer in your school of thought, though I never expected to be… I was forced into it but there’s no way in hell I’d consider dropping out now that I see positve results in all aspects. I see negative results first-hand, too, in the boyfriend’s child, which makes me want to advocate the cause all the more. I appreciate your efforts, and the efforts of at least a few others, to start raising adults now. When our children are grown, I shudder to think of the state of America being run by what will be oversized children so many parents seem to be raising.

By Astrid Thu Apr 24th 2008 at 4:53 am  

I couldn’t agree more! And a million thanks for launching this crusade. I’ve long been the postermom for “Bad Mothers of America” because we have always allowed our daughter (now 10) to be independent and venture past our yard as she wished (with permission, of course.) At seven years old she was riding her bike to the library, four blocks away (sidewalks all the way.)

Recently at a playground, as my daughter ran by on her way from the playscape to the swings, another mother seated next to me frowned, pointed to the sign posted nearby and said, “I WISH people would enforce the “No Running” rule here! Someone’s going to get hurt!” No Running?! It’s a PLAYGROUND, for Pete’s sake!” What are they supposed to do? Walk sedately from apparatus to apparatus? No WONDER we have a childhood obesity problem in this country!

We refuse to raise our child in a climate of fear and “what ifs,” chained to the backyard by a paranoia of what may be lurking around the next corner. Instead, our daughter is independent and confident in her abilities to exist and succeed outside the sphere of our watchful gaze. I consider THAT successful parenting.

By Phyllis Thu Apr 24th 2008 at 7:06 am  

I am a grandmother and my daughter,35, and her son live with me. He is ten. When his father was here, he was a helicopter parent! It drove my daughter and myself crazy! She ran our neighborhood when she was growing up, and it made her a thinking young woman today! Recently he skinned his knees up riding a bike with his friend. You would have thought he was kidnapped and knifed the way his Father acted when he found out! We want him to grow up confident and strong, thinking for himself, not babied! Thank you for this web site! We know we weren’t the only ones! Oh, the daughter is divorcing the helicopter!! Thank goodness, it has saved my grandson!

By HobbesLaw Thu Apr 24th 2008 at 1:56 pm  

“Free Range Kids believes in safety, but we also believe that a lot of parents are going overboard, creating quivering masses of helplessness instead of independent humans. What makes you think you’re right and we’re wrong?”

What a joke, I am supposed to answer this loaded question? You are a journalist? OK. I will go ahead and agree with you since my child is neither helpless nor quivering.

By Pumped Blogger Thu Apr 24th 2008 at 10:23 pm  

Right on! I have this instinct to raise my baby as a “free range” child (of course, with common sense rules) and I’m glad there is a forum out there that agrees.

By Holly Maybon Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 4:54 am  

I grew up in the 90s. I was walking to school and my friends’ houses and even sometimes staying home alone when I was 7 or 8. I do not approve of swaddling children in bubblewrap and I will not do it to my own two sons.

By Hallie Fur Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 4:57 am  

I have 3 children ages 11, (boy), 13, (girl), 15, (boy). My 11 year old can ride his bike 1 mile to his tutoring session, stop and buy himself a snack, go to our local park, and make it home all by himself. My 13 can go do the grocery shoping, come home and make dinner, and do her own laundry. The 15 year old has a job. My children are extremely independent and know how to take care of themselves. They have very good instincts and know when to speak to a “stranger” and when it is uncomfortable and a bad situation. Free Range Kids will be this countries next group of leaders. They have been given the opportunity to go out and enjoy their surrondings and feel comfortable with themselves. Many people say I am a “bad mother”, what they don’t know is that I am teaching my children that I trust and believe in them. They have self confidence that most children are lacking. Shuttling your kids back and forth and keeping them inside to be entertained by video games and the internet is not protecting them. It’s creating obese, anti social, angery children who will eventually become adults. God help us!

By mom of 7,10, & 11 year old Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:01 am  

I believe that every child is not alike. Some can handle more freedom than others. If your child is responsible enough, you should be able to tell. Most people should mind their own buisness and keep their opinions to themselves. My sister still makes my 10 year old nephew go into the ladies room with her. But that is her business. If she asked my opinion then and only then would I state what I think. My son was about 4 when he went to the mens room by himself. He does fine sometimes and others he wants to go into the ladies room with me. I dont push him.

By Kelly Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:02 am  

You know at first I thought you were crazy for letting your child ride the subway. But I can admit to ignorance of the statistics. I guess I figured with everything you hear, that life really is that bad out there. Now my boys 11 and 7, already have some freedom, they go out and play (we live in a townhouse with 7 other units) and they check the mail out by the street. I haven’t let them wander to the store or anything – yet – because we’ve witnessed drug use and other shady dealings in our neighborhood. I’m tempted now though to ease them into more free range living. My growing up years weren’t the most free range, but free enough to where I could take care of myself. Thanks for opening my mind a bit more.

By Desmond Lloyd Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:06 am  

A Definite FOR – GOOD FOR YOU

I am from an older generation, but rode the subway in Boston when I was 10, no worries.

It has got to be a good thing to allow our children to be independent and to function in society. If only for the purpose of getting from point A to point B safely.

Regards

By Ms. Drea Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:06 am  

Sarah just about sums it up for me…kudos to you and to her!

I have raised a 17 year old amazing, independent and strong lady. You have to teach them common sense and safety. They must be allowed to grow , learn and become thier own person. Kids are not held accountable anymore but how could they be with mommy and daddy hovering and treating them like posessions.

By David Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:10 am  

Count me in the “For”.

What galls me the most is the smugness with which the “Against” will tell me what I am doing wrong.

To them, I offer a truce: you raise your kids however you want, and I won’t say a word. In return, I’ll raise mine the best I can, and I’ll thank you to keep your opinions to yourself.

That’s why the Pilgrims came here, right?

By Dolli Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:11 am  

I am totally for raising a child to be independent. My daughter is 11 and she is a responsible, intelligent individual. I give her enough freedom to learn to make good decisions, without major repercussions to her life. I have been admonished because she is growing in her independence. I was once told by someone that she was too independent, and that they were raising “children” not a little adult. But as her parent, I feel like my job in not to raise a child. . . but to raise an adult. After all in 7 very short years she will be one and be expected to act like one, and make decisions like one. If we “over-protect” and coddle our children, how will they be able to make that jump into adult-hood fully prepared?

By Michele Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:18 am  

I am totally for Free Range Kids. Feeling like I had to constantly hover over my kids to protect them gives me anxiety, and them a sense of helplessness. This made me feel like this just isn’t right.

Let kids be kids. Let them ride bikes, climb trees, jump, run, and yes fall down. Giving your kids the gift of self-empowerment and responsibility is the best tool you can give them to face the world.

As for what David said… Forget truces… the Mommy Wars have been raging for years, and I *will* say a word to those who challenge me or my parenting styles… My kids won’t still be living at home at 25 years old, can these hover-moms say the same thing? Children are a gift not a possession, let them find their way in the world.

By Erin Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:19 am  

Geez, I’m not sure where I stand. I grew up in a time when people weren’t afraid to step in and help each other’s children. It doesn’t seem the same now. Everyone assumes someone else is watching.

I LOVED my freedom to go ride my bike with my friends all day without checking in until lunch or dinner. On the other hand, I also ended up in situations that I was not equipped to handle. A friend and I were gang raped as young teens on a school playground when we cut through. I know it’s a rarity for something like that to happen, but it did. I want to keep my son safe, but not clip his wings. It’s going to be very difficult. But I want to try. He’s only a year old, so I have time to work it out… :-)

By jamie Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:20 am  

I read your article last week and was so impressed that you agree with my beliefs. I have allowed my three children the freedom to walk to school, and take the bus to town. I make them carry their cell phone so I can check up on them. They all know what to do in an emergency, and I am confidant that they can be cautious without being paranoid. I also have let my son stay home by himself since he was nine. Since he was a baby I have taught him to make his own choices and along the way he has become more responsible than many adults I know.

By Tasha Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:23 am  

Good for you! So many opinions out there on how to raise them and how to restrict them but seems to me they are only getting worse. It is great what you are doing. You can’t raise a child that doesn’t know how to do things on their own and do them with good morals. I APPLAUD you

By Debbie Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:25 am  

I’m raising my 9 year old to be a free range kid. For a long time, when she was younger, I assumed the whole “lets-plan-a-play-date” culture was due to living in an town where families are really spread out. Many of my friends don’t have any kids near them.

I wasn’t willing to have my life revolve around playdates so we moved to a neighborhood that is full of kids, who all play outside at every opportunity. I personally hate our clubby, generic little piece of suburbia, but I’ve put my discontent aside so my daughter can have the freedom to roam and learn some life skills on her own. We talk alot about safety, and she’s one of the more mature kids in that regard. Other than that, we talk very little about her time with her friends.

I don’t let her ride her bike out of our neighborhood because I don’t feel her bike skills are up to navigating the busy street that she’d have to cross. However, as long as she is with a friend, I let her walk to the corner store to get soda, or to the park to play basketball.

Our cell phones greatly enhance my security when she is out. The one rule she has is that she MUST answer her phone when it rings. If I get voicemail, she gets time at home.

By Michele Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:25 am  

… I just read the post of mom of 7, 10, and 11 year old…. I feel sorry for your sister’s 10 year old son that in 5th grade he’s not old enough to take a pee without his mom hovering over him… wow that is so paranoid, it’s actually scary. That kid is going to be in therapy for sure!

By boomer kid Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:28 am  

Thank goodness not everybody is drinking the helicopter parent’s cool-aid. As a 52 year old baby boomer, I was raised totally free range. Basically the only rule was “be home when the streetlifhts come on”. My parents didn’t even know where i was half the time.I walked, rode my bike, rode the bus any place I wanted. And i figured out how to get there. All of my friends were raised the same way and we all managed to make it to adulthood just fine. I raised my two daughters basically the same way, although i did always want to know where they were. they also managed to make it to adulthood. Some parents today are raising kids who can not think for themselves, figure things out for themselves, or manage to get across town without mommy and the minivan.

By Dolores Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:35 am  

When I was a youngster in the 60′s I was allowed to roam the neighborhood freely and without supervision. I walked and sometimes rode my bike to school. The perverts were around then too. I recall two incidences where I was physically picked up by men, on my way to school, and another time returning home from school. I was a skinny little girl and somehow squirmed out of their grasp. There were at least five other times where I felt some danger ie, cars following closely, “hey little girl,” calls, and yes, lets not forget two men who chose to expose themselves. I realize I was a walking target because I was female, and frail in appearance. My experiences impacted my life in a negative way but I also became pretty street wise and learned some valuable life lessons. It fostered independence and I gained some inner strength. Although I am somewhat ambivalent I probably lean more toward allowing our children more freedom and independence. More than the trauma that I experienced in my childhood the memory that stands out the most is the joyous, magical freedom of being allowed to be a kid.

By Leigh Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:41 am  

Thank you for putting into print what so many of us have been thinking. I grew up during a time when mothers were just getting back into the work force and my sister and I would get home from school, do our chores, make our own snacks and wait for my parents to get home. We rode our bikes in the neighborhood (without helmets), drank tap water, played with our friends (outside) and loved every minute of it. We are both better off for it. I now let my kids ride their bikes (without helmets) to the park and at the same time I teach them about being responsible for themselves. I think the world will be a lot better place when people begin to realize that you cant protect your kids from everything no matter how hard you try. Independence is one of the best gifts you can offer your kids and it gives them the tools they need later in life.

By Grant Cottam Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:41 am  

Maybe things are “worse” out there now than when I grew up, but I was very much “free range”. I tended to do things with friends when no adult was with me, which somewhat minimized the risk. Girls are probably more at risk when alone than boys. The specific neighborhoods make a big difference too. In general, I think kids need to learn how to do things without adult supervision – but when they are ready, and that would be different for each child. They need to develop independence, but everything within reason – Safe and Sane. I neither applaud nor condemn the actions of Ms. Skenazy. She should be the judge of what her kids need to grow up into self-actualized and self-sufficient adults.

By Dom Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:42 am  

Alright…even though I just recently turned 21, I remember about 10 years ago when I was allowed to walk the back alley to school and play with friends until dark and run to the park, provided my grandma knew i was there. She trusted me to go to Sav-on for here at night, down the back alley. She still had no prolbmes with letting my sister do it and she’s only 12…and the neighborhood is worse than when I was her age.

Why should it matter how you raise your own kids? As long as long as you give them some ground rules, inform them of the dangers out there and how to deal with them….what’s the big deal. Let your kids be free…most of these rare cases i read are with kids who are too overprotected and didn’t know what to look for or how to react when something bad happened.

My advice to uptight parents……You’re ruining your kids for life!!! Stop it, let them have some freedom and experience life.

By What? Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:43 am  

Honestly you are just relying on other adults to come to your kids aide in the event of danger, since of course you are not available.

How kind of you.

I almost think you should call your site “Pass-The-Buck” Parenting!

Hopefully your kid will enounter the honest/safe people in the world when they need an adult, and not the local sexual predator.

Good luck with the odds on that, since it is a gamble to be sure.

By Jadey Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:43 am  

Good for you, and your son!

I, as well as the majority of people reading this blog, grew up in the 70′s. We didn’t have cell phones, computers, video games (with the exception of the infamous Atari – which we were only allowed to play for an hour or so at night AFTER we had finished our homework) we had house phones (party lines) and were only given 20 minutes each, because someone might be trying to reach our parents in case of an emergency.

On Saturday morning, we were never allowed to sleep past 10am we had to do our chores – not just pick up our rooms, but REAL household duties, scouring the toilet, dust the furniture in the formal dining room, and (hold your breath) mow the lawn – IN THE HEAT. Usually, by 12 in the afternoon, our parents would tell us to JUST GO SOMEWHERE!! If we had no place to go, fine, they would find more chores for us to do. We knew better than to tell our parents we were “bored”, again, they’d find something for us to do. – not something we enjoyed, either. The only rule was to “check in” every couple of hours and be home when the streetlights came on. oh, and not to get into any trouble. We learned how to be independent, and how not to get into trouble.

Look at us, we made it. They will too. If we don’t TRUST our kids, how will they learn to trust themselves, or anyone else?

Jadey

By Larry in VA. Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:48 am  

Great idea. I started taking my son to a punk rock club in Washington DC when he was in the 8th grade. As soon as he was 15 he and some buddies were taking the subway there on their own.

Our bubble wrapped kids can deal with a lot more then we give them credit for. Go for it.

By kitty Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:48 am  

There is an enormous difference in “keeping your child within eyesight” at all times and letting a 10 year old ride the NY subway alone. GET A GRIP.

By Michele Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:54 am  

miss kitty says ‘reeeeer’

If you can’t defend your argument better than that, why bother?

And why exactly do you NEED to keep your child within eyesight at all times?

The fear in today’s parenting is overwhelming. It’s as if we all believed the urban myths from the early eighties like there is razor blades in the apples… so no home-made treats on Halloween.

I say if this mother felt her son was competent to handle riding a subway, she is a better judge of his abilities than you or I, and since she hasn’t hovered over him his whole life, he was capable of it. If a child has no opportunity to demonstrate his own ability to care for himself, then he’ll never know how.

So, maybe you need to ‘get a grip” a grip on your paranoia, you know…. they have medication to treat that.

By Rebecca Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:57 am  

We live in the relatively small city of Salt Lake City,Utah. In 1993, when my daughters were 11 and 10, I sent them to Tokyo by themselves to visit their aunt. While I am sure Delta supervised them to some degree, they were not watched every second of the trip. In Tokyo, they wandered around the neighborhood by themselves and had a great time.

5 years later, they went to NYC with their dad. I gave them specific boundaries that they were not supposed to cross — Central Park to 42nd, 7th to 5th, etc. When I called them later in the day and asked them what they did that day, they informed me they had taken the subway to Brooklyn!! So much for boundaries.

They have grown up to be confident, adventurous, smart, savvy travelers. They know how to be cautious and safe, buth they always have a great time.

I’m all for free-range kids. Give them a chance to spread their wings.

By Mandy Herzog Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:57 am  

I love the independence my children feel when I let them go into a store alone, or walk home from school. I am just not too sure if this is the best idea in this day and age. My mother never had to worry about her kids getting abducted because that sort of thing just wasn’t happening in rural IN in the 70′s. What about now? A happy medium would be nice.

By Frank Martin Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 5:58 am  

I just read your article, and it got me to thinking why I don’t live in America anymore.

What scares me is the reaction that you got from the public.

Why do Americans always feel that they need to to criticize or comment on something that is not their business?

All I can say is that I don’t want any part of this so-called Modern Parenting Movement. NO. NO. NO.

Somewhere between how I was raised with the old way of parenting, and modernity is where I find my guiding light of how to be a dad.

There’s a parable in Aesop’s Fables concerning the reaction of the public . Basically, a man, his son, and a donkey were walking along going from town to town. No matter what they did (man rode donkey/son rode donkey/no one rode on the donkey) somebody had something to say. In the very end,

the father says to his son, “You see son no matter what you do, someone always has something to say. So do what you like.”

Good luck. You sound like a good mom.

By Happy Free Ranger Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 6:04 am  

Regarding the comments of “Sibling”, whose brothers fell through pond ice and drowned: she believes, “If they had been supervised or given simple rules such as “don’t go past the block” All of them would still be alive.”

It’s very sad and terrible that it happened, but the truth is, having adult supervision would not necessary have saved them. However, if they had been given a simple rule, “Don’t EVER walk on a frozen pond because it may crack, you will fall in and drown” AND IF THEY HAD LISTENED, perhaps they would never have gone on that pond in the first place. I grew up in the 60′s in the suburban Chicago area with a nearby river, ponds and man-made lakes that kids played around all the time, even in winter. We had train tracks, busy streets and fast, heavy traffic and were told not cross certain streets or to walk on train tracks, etc. We earned the right to more freedom by demonstrating more and more ability to deal with the potential dangers of our environment. Yes, we were told the awful consequence of disobeying: that you could get seriously hurt or killed if you went beyond the limits that were set. Yes, we were scared (but not terrified) to do certain things. If another kid got hurt or killed while doing things we were told not to do, parents would use it as an example of what happens when you disobey a rule that’s made for your own safety. It taught us to be careful and look out for dangers. That’s how you learn to be independent, self-sufficient, and a competent young person capable of living a productive life. We also did our own homework, including projects, and our extracurricular activities did not always have to include a cheering or encouraging parent on the sidelines or audience. Yet we achieved and became accomplished.

At age 9 I and my little friends would take the bus to our suburb’s small downtown area on saturday morning and stay until mid-afternoon, shopping, having lunch, buying candy, and later, going bowling. I walked to school starting in kindergarten, then rode my bike. The only time I got a ride was when the snow was too high. I went on errands to the grocery store, butcher shop, etc., starting about age 6.

By Nicole Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 6:04 am  

I must say that today after picking up my 7 year old son from grade 2, I sat down at the computer and found this story.

I quickly dove into the article and forwarded the link to several of my close friends who are parents as well. Here’s my opinion.

I believe that we fear too much. I live near a “high risk” neighbourhood in Canada and had stopped letting my children play outside in fear of getting hurt, abducted and abused.

In the mean time they started to play video games, talking on line to strangers and all to my knowledge. Now in the past year, I’ve opened my eyes and started to take the “leash” off.

Letting my kids talk to strangers on line while playing games (I must add that I am not always in the room 100% of the time)! What am I thinking?

I would rather let my children gain their independence and self-confidence while taking that chance then squish their individuality by teaching them to be afraid. I believe that we’ve become over informed and the access to information on what is going on can (in my opinion) hurt us more than help.

My older son now 17 has hardly any friends b/c of my fears. He has developed relationships on line through his gaming but when taken out to enjoy a night as a family golfing has a hard time being social. I can’t believe I just figured this out. My younger son will not be like this nor will he be afraid of trying things on his own.

Kudos’ to you who gave your son the give of self-confidence!

By Mikki Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 6:05 am  

An overprotected child grows into an ill-prepared adult. How do we expect our children to be able to function on their own when they become adults if we don’t give them freedom and teach them respondibility as children and teens???? We live in rural New Hampshire, so I will admit it is probably a little easier here. But my kids have always been allowed to ride their bikes to the playground, walk to the library, go down to the store….all without me hanging over them. My oldest is now an adult and I can easily see that she is better prepared to start her life as an adult than her more overprotected friends. They have no clue. My girls have either walked to school or taken the bus by themselves and come home while I am still at work. They have been taught not to let anyone in the house if I’m not there and to not answer the telephone. They would lock the door and do their homework.

Parents today have forgotten what it is like to be a kid. Children need a certain amount of freedom to grow. You can’t and shouldn’t be in their back pocket all the time.

By Dianne Woodbury Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 6:15 am  

I agree with the mother who authored the article. I had to move in with my parents when my son was ten, until I relocated in two months to another state, they were so selfish they would not let me borrow their car to take my son to his old bus stop and pick him up. Instead they wanted me to transfer him to a substandard school, which I would not do. I rode the city bus with my son for weeks (with a newborn infant) and show ed him how to ride the bus to his bus stop across town. I would meet him to come back home until he said he was ready to try it alone. I prayed everyday that the Lord would protect my child on that city bus. I eventually left and relocated, but that was the most stressful two months of my life. I was a single parent for ten years and my son was a latch key kid for a while and he would be home alone for about an hour. Now, I have a seven year old, that I would not dream of leaving alone because I don’t think he is mentally mature enough to take care of himself like my first son. He does not even have a key yet.

By Sweet T Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 6:21 am  

I agree. I am a mom to a 9 year old young boy. He flies from NYC to CA by himself (for the past 3 years), he walks several blocks to the library by himself, he walks about 10 blocks to the library with his friends. Children need to feel independent, the need a sense of responsiblity, if I say be home by 5:00 pm you better believe he will be home by 4:45 pm.

I understand as parents we care greatful for the welfare of our children but if we do not let go….slowly, they will not be productive individuals.

in my line of work you would be amazed how many parents accompany their children to a job interview, some even ask to sit in on the meeting. These are college graduates and their parents are accompanying them on interviews.

At the end of the day it is all about how mature, well adjusted your child is. If little Sarah still runs out in the street when on family excursions, then no she doesn’t need to beout by herself. i tell my son all the time, when I was in the 2nd grade I used to take the train from queens to brooklyn and walk the mean, drug infested streets of bedford stuyvesant everyday by myself. I turned out just fine.

By JoJo Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 6:39 am  

U R the best mom in the world! Why live in fear? Look at statistics, and fear not. At some point the mama eagle tosses the baby out of the nest so he can FLY!

By Yippeeee!!! Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 6:42 am  

I’m not alone!!! Hooray!!!

My little corner of suburbia is filled with helicopter moms finishing their children’s sentences and monitoring play.

UGH.

I’m a careful mom. We don’t have subways here, but I’m a frequent visitor to NY and feel safer there than I do in our area.

I feel so happy to have found like-minded parents!!

As for the person who stated that we are “relying on other” parents to monitor the safety of our children because we “aren’t available”….well that sounds awfully like my neighbor who watches the kids play constantly in our yards…keeping an eye out for any child to say something “not NICE!” to her kid.

Good Grief. Kids NEED to problem solve and learn to deal with each other without a grown-up going to bat for them at every single second.

It would only be relying on other adults if a parent knowingly sent their child on the subway with the knowledge that the child was NOT READY for the responsibility.

A child who is “ready” demonstrates signs of readiness in their responsible behavior at most other times, as well.

For example, I know for a fact that my son will not be ready for the same independant privileges that my daughter will enjoy at the same age. He won’t be ready as early because he does not demonstrate the same maturity to me at this point. When he does, he’ll be allowed the little freedoms, as well.

I LOVE this site!

By kathy Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 6:44 am  

I think my in-laws watch too many scary news stories. They probably think I’m an unconcerned mother. My 10 yr old son has basketball practice at 6:00 in the evening a couple nights a week. I usually dropped him off, then came back to pick him up. When my job made that impossible my in-laws took over. I found out they were staying for the hour and a half practice. Why? ‘We don’t like to leave children alone” He’s with his two coaches and a parent assistant! Also any time we’re at a public event they spend the whole time having little panic attacks and saying ‘Where’s Sam?!” Invariably Sam is directly behind them or blocked from view by a larger member of the family. Sam is 10.

By Treasure Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 6:59 am  

I have raised two girls over the last 20 some odd years. I worry about our overprotective society. Why is it that the expression “Roam the neighborhood” has a bad connotation. When my youngest started riding skateboards, she was stopped by the local police numerous times. Apparently, skateboarding and riding bicycles on the street are now considered risky behavior.

I believe that part of our obesity problem is because children aren’t out side enough. I know when I was growing up, I spent most of my time on a bicycle doing wheeleys. We were always being told to “go outside and play”. No one really supervised us that much. And this was in an upperclass neighborhood.

By Tom Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 7:03 am  

It is difficult these days. Remember gowing up in a small town and being able to go from one end of the town to the other by myself or with friends and I regret my not feeling comfortable enough to allow my kids the same possibilities. Partly the community I live in more than anything, just finished spending a year in a small town in N Cali I allowed them more fredom than now back again in small town Wash State. Bottom line as far as I am concerned is that it should be each parents decision and they need to live with their decisions it should not be the government to decide if a parent can let there child on the subway or not.

By Maritza Martinez Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 7:05 am  

HOORAY!! for you! I used to be a mother hen mom, till i went to live with my dad and he finally told me something i will never forget… “How can you expect them to know anything if you do it all for them!” “Let them go and figure it out for themselves otherwise there be grown men waiting for mommy to handle it.” Sometimes i feel like the worst mother in the world for letting my 8 year old walk to school alone… I used to walk him and forth meet him at the cross walks,etc. I guess i was “hoovering” till I started to see that this was affecting all aspects of our life. Ask him to throw the trash? pick up his dirty clothes?? It would be agonizing. same with my 12 year old. asking them for help was like asking them to pull out their own teeth out! now that i am a full time student as well as a part time worker and my husband is out the door before we even get up the kids had to start walking themselves. i can see the changes… i can see them venturing out trying new things. and whether its coincidence or not, chores are done with no crying and whinning. My boys even started going to a youth group and while it’s not our “religion” i commend them for getting out there and figuring life out for themselves… I’m a catholic by training, I can barely keep my eyes open during mass but i was told this is what you are and it stuck to me… I see my boys making choices… taking chances… becoming men… and as much as i’m scared for them…i mean phoenix, az is tweaker central…

Lately I hear them talking about their days and people they run into. and i feel proud. things i was SO ‘uncool” for such as not giving them $100 allowance,cell phones, and psp’s are no longer the talk of the table but it’s more about what there going to do today, tommorrow, etc…

I think parents should be encouraged to let go and let there kids grow up… the ones that don’t should be on the news!

By Liz Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 7:06 am  

I am the parent of a 10 year old son and live in Chicago. I am all for raising independent kids, however there are quite a few differences between when were kids and today. The first is that the crimes against children were no less frequent years ago. They just went unreported. I know this from personal experience. It was “kept in the family” when a child was molested back then. The subject was considered taboo. Also, our parents were not as well equipped as we are today on keeping track of their kids. We have cell phones and nanny cams today. If our parents had those things available to them I guarantee they would have used them. The child mortality rate is much less than it was decades ago and I attribute this to our use of technology and smarter parenting. But also due to technology, our kids are growing up much faster than we were and are exposed to more violence at a much younger age. The greatest concern is not about adults committing violence against children, the concern is what children are doing to other children. Just look at what happened in Florida 2 weeks ago. And do we need to mention Columbine?

I don’t think that any one parent can say to another that they are raising their child wrong – but I think that if you are going to compare how our generation was raised to how we are raising our children today, there is no real comparison. The world is dramatically different today than it was even 20 years ago. And I can tell you this much, just knowing what I saw growing up and the things my friends and I got into as “free range kids”, I DEFINITELY don’t want my son getting into any of those things.

Every generation can learn from the one before it. As parents I think we are all still learning from our parents’ mistakes. And we will make our own mistakes as well. Hopefully, those mistakes will not harm our kids, but will teach them something.

But would I allow my 10 year old to ride the subway alone in Manhattan or the Loop? Never. But does my son walk to school? Yes, he does. The difference is that there are neighbors who we know and trust that if something happened they could help. Who could we trust on the subway to help? It is not about knowing if I can trust my child, it is about trusting the world with my child.

By Megan Watts Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 7:07 am  

I agree!!!

I have a 5 year old boy,3 year old daughter and 9 month old son. All very precious to me. All sacred treasures. My son rides the school bus and prefers to walk himself to the bustop about 1 block away. He also prefers to Walk home from the stop. He feels like a grown up. Since allowing myself to let go and let him grow he has learnt to sort and put his own clothes away. He makes his own bed. He is making decisions for himself where before he would cower and expect me to make a decision for him. That small amount of faith I had in him allowed him to take off. He is so much more assertive.

My three year old daughter is following his lead. She thinks if she can clean up her room and make her bed and take dirty dishes to the sink I will allow her to walk to the park by herself. She is three and I am no where near ready for that but she is allowed to walk two doors the left and visit her friend and that makes her feel like a big girl.

My daughter helps feed her little brother and letting her do those little things makes her feel important.

I grew up in a time and place where i walked to school by myself at 5 and made it there and back in one piece. I grew up without special car seats for toddlers and preschoolers. I grew up without bike helmuts and knee pads. I grew up and I am fine. I am not saying that helmuts, car seats, and knee pads are useless. I am just saying that my family did not instill fear in me. They promoted strengh, pride, sense of responsibility and sense of accountability.

We now live in a society where fear is driven into us through every level of media, We buy based on fear, we eat based on fear we stay home based on fear.

I will not teach my children to fear. I will teach my children to stand tall and to stand strong.

It is our jobs as parents to teach our children to be respectable additions to society. Not cowering, weak, blind followers. I am giving my Children power.

By Angela Albright Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 7:16 am  

I was born and raised in Atlanta, I have lived in a small rural north Georgia town for 22 years now and this is where i raised my kids. As a child i was a free range kid, I went all over the city, was i molested YES but it was a grandfather that I was left with that harmed me not anything from the streets.

When I was raising my sons they were also free range children, in a small town I never even thought twice about letting them ride their bikes all over town (or walk for that matter) now I see parents with their kids right at thier side, afraid to even let them walk up the block on the sidewalk, not me my grandchildren are given rules about getting int he street, how to cross the street etc… and they follow the rules even at 5 and 3, they are now allowed to go to the end of the block alone (I live in a converted commercial building in the historic downtown area) and into the variety store or the pizza place, the shop owners know them and they have a pride of the independence. I see so many children that are timid and scared of any new situation, these children I fear for their safety if they should become separated from their parents, they would panic.

I also see the children that are just kept inside, in front of the TV or the computer, they are unhealthy and often unhappy and without friends.

Give children roots and wings to keep them well adjusted. Free the kids!

By sari Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 7:17 am  

i am totally for this.

my parents did not let me do anything when i was a kid.

I feel like i had a lot to catch up with now that i am 25.

I wish my parents would have been like this.

and i will be like this with my kids.

By Sara Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 7:18 am  

I am 26, my sister is 22. Our childhoods were so different, we might as well have been raised in different households. I was the first born and was never given small toys to play with. Never allowed near the stove, even if it wasn’t on. I didn’t watch tv. I was encouraged to do art projects, but without pens, pencils or scissors. Jumbo crayons were my only medium. I was shuttled to and from school and participated in after school programs that were literally supervised by nuns. I only went on one field trip, and my parents were both there. We moved when I turned 10, so my sister and I never went to the same school together.

She walked to and from school, often staying later to play on the swing sets with her friends. She was enrolled in gymnastics and threw herself at inanimate objects and climbed up 12 foot ropes on a daily basis. She talked to strangers. She played with Polly Pockets, which at the time were the size of a dime. She sold magazines and gift wrap door to door.

Guess what? We are both alive. In fact, all of our friends are too. The way we were raised and the freedom were were given or in my case, denied, did not shorten our lifespan. Random acts of violence are just that, random. Being with an adult does not guarantee a child’s safety.

Kids these days know about the bad things in the world. They see predators on tv. They hear swear words in music, on television and in public. They have seen drug use in movies and know that danger could lourk around every corner. It’s up to the parents to teach them to be safe. How to spot trouble, and how to avoid it. Any parent who thinks their kid should be kept under lock and key is just saying that they don’t trust their own parenting skills.

By Jan Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 7:18 am  

More power to you. At 8 I rode public transportation from my home in the suburbs of San Francisco to the Embaradaro area where I went to school after being kicked out of third grade for reading the encyclopedia. My father rode with me the first time there and back to make sure I knew the way, but for four years I rode every day and learned independence, dealing with strange and difficult people and how to make sure I got where I needed to go on time. If I missed the bus or the jitney I didn’t call my Mom (who didn’t have a car at home) or my Dad (who did have a car but wouldn’t leave work to rescue me because I wasn’t paying attention). I learned how to stand up for myself and take care of myself long before I got to high school and nothing terrible happened to me. I learned how to avoid the terrible in the city, but was kidnapped three block from my “safe” home in the suburbs so you can never tell where danger can lie. The fact that I had been on my own to travel made me aware that attracting a policeman’s attention to the car I was in would likely get me out of trouble and it did. If my parents had taken me to school every day in a care I might not have thought to throw trash from the car to attract a policeman at 9 years of age. Giving kids independence and the knowledge of how to navigate in the world without parental involvement is the way to build strong adults. You can bet if I had been more than a hour late getting home from school my mother, who knew the route I traveled and all the transportation I took, would have been on the phone to the police.

By Pam Johnson Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 7:20 am  

Thank God! I thought I was the only ‘slacker mom” in the world!! I hate being in groups of women. It seems the only conversation they are capable of is how smart, talented, and damn near perfect their child is!! If I hear one more mom say that their child is sooooo bored in school because it is not “challenging enough” for their little einstein I will puke! I think as parents we are so stressed that if our children aren’t perfect in school or at sports, they will turn out to be drug dealers.

By Aditya Kapoor Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 7:22 am  

Well done!!!

I am from India and I used to ride bike when I was 9 year old. It was not small bike but a regular bike. I guess people all over the world are becoming over protective.

Have faith in your child and god. Your child will show you what he/she is capable off. Don’t under estimate..

By Colin Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 7:38 am  

Different, but related point:

Paying $35K a year to send your 5-year old to private school so they can learn their right from their left isn’t going to make them more likely to get into Harvard.

By Jeanette Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 7:42 am  

I’m a single mom, and I have raised my kids to be self sufficiant. They are 13, 15 &17. And when I have the chance to sleep in on a “school day”, I do it. They are old enough and responsible enough to get up, eat and catch the bus without me. Of coarse, my current live in boyfriend thinks I’m a bad parent because I don’t cherish every second since the kids will be gone soon enough and I’ll never get that time back. What do you think??

By R Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 7:47 am  

BRAVA! About time someone brought this up!! So ridiculus how over protective parents are these days – kids that will have no clue how to do anything themselves!! again BRAVA

By catherine Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 7:49 am  

i totally agree. Right now i am a senior in highschool and still can’t attend school fieldtrips to amusement parks, hang out, or sleep over. i have showed them my responsability through constant good grades and behavior, but i can’t seem to catch a break, i can barely go to a public bathroom by myself.

By Liz Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 8:01 am  

I think you rock. It’s crazy how much we over protect our kids these days. I work at a university and it is stunning how college kids today are not able to take care of themselves and have Mom or Dad call whenever they have a problem. I grew up in the 70s and 80s and things weren’t like that. Most parents I knew encouraged responsibility and independence. We were allowed to do things, within reason, on our own. I hope to raise my son (who is 2 years old) to be a responsible, independent citizen. We need to stop smothering our kids because it is making them more and more self-centered and dependent.

By Phil Cooper Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 8:04 am  

Hurrah for Lenore!!! I totally agree – we have become so paranoid and frightened over the last 20 years! It’s true that life isn’t safe but being hyper-vigilant will not change that something might happen. I do belive in being safe and smart – but not paranoid! Kids should be allowed to have a good time while they’re kids!!

By Jon Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 8:08 am  

Being apart of the latch-key kid alumni and as a parent to a 7 year old girl, I’m actually all for “free-ranging”. I learned how to take care of myself at a young age, which then gave me more solid independence as an adult. My wife on the other hand was born to helicopter parents and as a result of that, alot of typical skills you’d expect most adults to have (e.g. driving a car, paying bills, dealing with others in general), she has a more difficult time doing.

Kids who learn at an early age how to manage themselves without getting into trouble learn how to deal with problems in life without freaking out as much. As long as you (the parent) give your kids the right tools to learn how to be responsible for themselves, you can step back and see how awesome your kids really are.

But harp over them constantly until they’re practically adults themselves and you’re going to end up in a serious world of hurt. Especially when you as the parent will eventually need your kids to help YOU as you get into your golden years.

By Douglas Mapes Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 8:10 am  

Bravo to you all who dare let your kids live real lives!

I stun people today when I duscuss my youth in New Orleans. From age six, my mother would take us to the inner city Mardi Gras parades and turn us loose, telling us to meet back at the Lee CIrcle statue. Four kids in my family, all going seperate ways into the crowds, and being of both sexes, wandering joyfully in a city famous for horrible crimes. What a cool childhood!

You see, there were half a million adults keeping track of the roaming hordes of unsupervised children. Never knew any kid to be harmed, never heard any horror stories, always had a blast.

This was but a smll taset of the wonderful liberty I experienced. To my supposedly neglectful mother, I offer the sincerest thanks!

By Patricia B Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 8:16 am  

I raised 4 incredible children who as adults today frequently reference with loving haressment, the permissive attitude with which I raised them. Thank you so much for now I have a term to describe my parenting techniques- I was just raising Free Range Kids.

By katiegumbo Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 8:44 am  

This is terrific! I don’t have any children of my own, but I do have 100+ kids cycle through my classroom each year, and I am always saddened by their lack of independence. If people want to talk about child abuse, let’s talk about releasing a child into the adult world without the skills to perform tasks without coaching, cope with the unexpected, or overcome defeats. As a history teacher, part of my curriculum is the way “salutary neglect” allowed the American colonies to bloom and create the institutions we all hold so dear today. I also tell my students about the brave young people – some as young as fourteen – who left their families behind and went west to seek a new life. Parents of America, take a lesson from history: your kids are more capable than you give them credit for! Set them free and marvel at the wonders they will produce when you let them!

By indiawallis Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 8:55 am  

Amen!

My son is only 3, so these aren’t quite *my* issues yet. But it starts young. Do you turn your home into a padded cell, or assume that a run-in with the coffee table is a learning experience? Do you keep your child locked to your side when you walk on city streets, or trust him to learn how to walk next to you? Like some others here, I worried that I was a slacker mom who would be reported to CPS for not buying a toilet lock and letting him step on and off the Metro escalators by himself.

It’s such a relief to know there are just as many of us who feel like our kids will probably do better if we give them some freedom. My parents didn’t watch me like a hawk – and I can’t see how it would’ve helped if they had.

As for the idea that we’re passing-the-buck? I couldn’t disagree more. If a kid gets lost, I’m perfectly happy to help. And I’m confident there are many more people like me than dangerous predators.

By Andrew Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 8:56 am  

As a parent-to-be (of twins!) later this year, I worry about this very much. How much supervision is too much? The last thing I want is to turn my kids (we’re having one of each) into a couple of adult wimps who have no idea how to function in society or learn to care for their own needs. I grew up in Chicago, a city with great public transit, and remember taking the bus Downtown to the Loop, to Sox games, and just about everywhere else I needed to go from about the 6th grade. My brother and I used to ride our bikes everywhere, which was OK with the parents as long as we were “home when the streetlights come on.” Please people, listen to this woman, lest we cultivate a culture of sissified adults with the common sense and self-care capabilities of seven-year-olds.

By Mindy Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 8:57 am  

Kudos! Maybe Alaskan kids are just a wee bit more independent than the lower 48 city kids. All three of my daughters flew alone to visit grandparents in Arizona by themselves. Granted they had airline employees assist them between flights (sort of) but having traveled since birth basically, they were familar with looking at flight status and getting through security etc. When the Travellers Aid person wasn’t paying attention my 8 year old pointed out that she needed to get to the gate for the next flight. They were safe but gained a great sense of independence. They had books to read and crayons to draw with and music to listen to on headphones. They conversed with other passengers but behaved (from the comments of the other passengers when they got off the plane and came up to us and commented on how mature they were)

I see too many young adults that don’t want to leave home. Our society coddles them too much.

I lived in the suburbs of Chicago. I took the CTA as a 12 year old by myself. I rode my bike everywhere. In the summer I went to the beach in the morning and as long as I was home for dinner all was well. This was the norm in the 70s. We survived…and thrived.

Good for you to bring this to the public attention!

By tnmtngrl111 Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 9:15 am  

When I was a kid my mother would send me and my younger sisters out to play. We lived on a small farm surrounded by 100′s of acres of fields and forests. As long as we could hear her whistle (Almost a mile away) we could do whatever we wanted all day. We would pack PB&J sandwiches and off we’d go. It was a beautiful childhood. Except when my Dad got home we couldn’t tell him. He is the type that would grill you before you walked out the door, and warn of all the “posible dangers that awaited you outside the door. It’s amazing that having grown up with such wonderful freedom I am more like my Dad then my Mom. I think it comes from being the oldest and being responsible for younger siblings.

We live 5 hrs away from my family and every summer my children go to visit for 2 weeks. Staying with my youngest sister who bears a striking resemblence to my mother when it comes to child rearing. I am a nervous wreck the whole time. My Husband who is much more laid back blames me (NOT in a bad way) for our 6 yr old sons “nervousness”. He’s very catious and careful. Concerned about getting hurt or lost ect… Our daughter 4, is a jump first ask if there’s water at the bottom later. It’s wonderful how they balance each other.

I try not to be to much of a helicopter but it makes me feel better, sets my mind at ease to have them in sight at all times. It’s a choice I make. As for other people who allow thier child to “roam free” as well as it is a well thought out desicion I applaude them for raising such capable kids. And having the courage to let thier “babies” grow up. I hope to find a balance within myself where I feel mildly comfortable letting them branch out on thier own. I have been teaching my 6 year old how to microwave cook for himself so that if I’m busy or even (pretending to )take a nap he can heat up leftover mac & cheese himself, get his own drink and decide what disney channel to watch.

By Older Parent Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 9:26 am  

Where to begin, my. You set up your own site, no protection from predators..not good, just for starters. Yeah things where great growing up,and yeah things HAVE changed. Why be worried about being too worried. Believe me there is plenty to worry about. Without worrying if you are being too ‘overprotective’ or ‘stifling’ you child’s grow. Here’s an idea, instead of condoning ‘latch key kids’, tell people to actually play, talk and be with their children, instead of ‘dropping’ them off somewhere while you self absorb yourself in your own needs and desires. I know its a real new and Novel idea, but hey it WORKS!

There is no ‘over playing’ done by the media, if anything a lot of stuff never gets aired! The stats you people are reading are not taking in consideration the fact there are MORE people now.

Look, I would live to look through those rose colored glasses with you. But I have been around longer then you and I’m hear to say the advise you are handing out is damaging and very dangerous, probably more than you know or will ever admit. It’s great you are getting lots of attention, perhaps thats you goal, God only knows. But if you truely believe that it is safe out there you are sadly mistaken. May NO child be hurt or worse from what you are ‘giving out’ as advise. You have many new moms reading this and believing the sh*t you are saying. Think about it, please.

That’s about all the attention your getting from me KID. Remember ‘you make you own bed….”

God Bless

By B_N Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 9:39 am  

It’s about time someone in the public eye did this & got attention doing it so we can get society back to the reality that kids today should be able to do what we did when we were kids without some stupid self appointed watchdog group telling the rest of society how they think other kids should be raised & watched after.

We as kids “did it” alone all day & we survived!

As one other wrote, we were gone all day until either lunch or dinner, ate, then went back out until the street lights came on.

And it was great!

Oh, & we also survived without being forced to wear seat belts, & could be left alone in a car while our mom/dad, whomever, went into the convenience store or supermarket & left us in the car with the radio playing.

Try that today & see how fast your in jail, fined & have your kids taken away!

By Heather Lynch Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 9:48 am  

I can see letting him any child take the subway at 15 by themselves, not 10. Thats just way too young in this day and age. Maybe we didnt hear about all the crime and abused and molested kids when WE were younger but if we had some other kids might have been saved from the fates they suffered. There is nothing wrong with being protective of you child and there is nothing wrong with wanting to give your child some freedom, but there is a difference between being OVERPROTECTIVE and just plain out DUMB.

By Jessica Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 9:51 am  

I have a hard time convincing my husband that its ok to leave my 6 (almost 7yo) step-son home alone for 10 minutes between the time when he leaves for work and when I get home.

I hope he reads all this and realizes that he’s not a horrible father for doing so and that I’m not just a callous step-mom for wanting to do so.

By Momof5 Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 9:54 am  

Wow Lenore, I can tell by your wisdom and your insight that you really care about raising a child that is resonsible, self-regulating and brave. Hurray for you and your courage (great example by the way!) And hurray for parents who recognize what their child is capable of and what they are not…(and can differentiate that from what they as parents are capable of and what they are not.)

My five children are between 19 and 26 now, but when they were growing up I was constantly trying to weigh (and teach them to weigh) what was the best choice in a particular circumstance. For example, walking around by ones self at night at 10 years old. We would have a discussion like “is it a good or bad idea? Why? What could happen? What would you do if this happened? Do you want to put yourself in circumstances like that? etc. It takes a long time..but they begin to understand safe conduct and not so safe conduct. Same scenario for riding bike to the store on a summer afternoon. Good idea bad idea? etc… till my kids began to do this kind of reasoning with alot of their personal decisions. Of course then there is just the personality of the child.

My oldest could not be left with his younger siblings (even as he got older…cuz he just wasn’t interested.) My oldest daughter (2nd child) could have been babysitting yonger children at the age of 4 (had she been tall enough and it was legal) because she was just very wise and caring and organized.

In Oregon where I live it is leagal for kids to be “left alone” at 10 years and you can care for others at 12. But we didn’t just say ok your 10 you can be on your own. We started letting them make choices as soon as they were old enough to communicate with us. We let them choose what they wore, within reason what they watched on TV (do you want to watch this or that) Often at breakfast and lunch I would give them two choices just for the opportunity to empower them with a sense of freedom and confidence. As they became teens we seldom had to tell our kids what to do, instead we could discuss the pros and cons of a situation and let them make the choices themselves (9 times out of 10 they came to the conclusion I hoped they would…but in the 10th time I was confident that they would learn more than they would loose.) Moreover, we had no rebellion from our kids cuz they were busy making good choices to reach the goals they set for themselves with our input. To that end, I have two who have finished college and one that is working in his field and the other is headed for grad school. My third is teaching English in

China (in between her soph and jr year of college) and my twins just are finishing their freshman year of college. Instilling confidence and courage as well as letting a child know you trust them to make good decisions is one of the most powerful tools a parent can use in my opinion, and good parents know what their kids are capable of. Hurray for us-who look for the balance and help our kids to become responsible, capable adults.

By Matt Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 10:23 am  

Thankyou. I am glad to see a mom helping transition her son to become a man. If I meet one more 18+ year old boy I am going to scream.

By matt Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 10:26 am  

newsflash! this is the way kids are reared in the real world. guess what? they’re just fine.

By Kim Mom of three Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 10:44 am  

Lenore, good for you, and good for your adorable son! I know my fourth-grader would have loved that kind of independence. I like to think of myself as a good mom: My boys wear helmets when biking, they are strapped tight in car seats or seat belts, they have never been left unattended in the car while I run a quick errand. Those things are precautions every parent should take. But then there are the gray areas in which you have to know if your child can handle the situation. We live in a lovely, though large, suburban town. Here is one thing that has confuzzled me since my kids started elementary and taking the school bus: parents wait with their children at the school bus stop. I’m not talking one or two parents with kindergarteners; I mean all of the parents, all of the time, every morning. I mean 10 and 11 year-olds. I can see the bus stop from my living room window; it’s just across the sleepy, no-outlet, street. And the only reason that I also go out there to wait with my kids is because if I don’t, I’m sure I will be talked about. If I can’t wait there because of an appointment or because I have to get to work earlier, I feel like I have to ask permission: “Would it be okay with you if I left my boys here?” The answer is, “Sure, we’ll watch them.” Watch them? Watch them do what? Stand and wait? I don’t think anything will happen to any of these kids if none of us were out there with them. My biggest concern is that one of them misses the bus because he’s up in a tree, or playing hide-and-seek. I never had my parents at the bus stop, and I felt sorry for my schoolmates whose parents stuck around. The only time I wished my parents were there was when it was raining or freezing cold, and only then if they had a warm, dry car for me to wait in. I could go on about this subject, but I commend you for knowing that your son was resourceful enough to make the trip home. I do not think you were gambling with his life. Perhaps tomorrow morning will be the start of something new for me: Give them hugs at the back door and say, “See you when you get home!” I’m pretty sure they can find the bus-stop across the street.

By Bruno Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 10:46 am  

Hello, I just found this website by accident and I found it refreshing! Imagine…letting kids do stuff by themselves….absolutley absurd. (please not the sarcasm)

As an adult who has worked in child care and education for the past 10 years, I have seen my fair share of paranoid parents. Whenever the question of safety came up, I always asked them the question `Is it really more dangerous or does the media report it more?` Despite parents agreeing with me, they would still coddle their kids….their kids, their choice.

As a 7 year old child, I remember walking to and from school everyday. I remember my friends and I building forts in the woods, bicycling to the local pool, going to the convenience store and yes, even making my own lunch. I remember those years well and enjoyed them.

I live in Japan now and it is very much the same as I remember my childhood. Children walk to school by themselves, do things on their own, bicycle around town with their friends. Even though a lot of them do get coddled at home, once they are outside, they`re on their own. (some have self phones, which I think is stupid)But parents do not get into other parents faces about how they raise their kids and I think that is an important note to take.

Anyways, keep up the good work. Let kids be kids. The most well behaved, socially adept, street saavy kids I`ve ever met are the ones who`s parents don`t coddle them. (I like the name of your website too)

Bruno

By roll2tide Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 10:47 am  

As a father of 3(13,4,1), I am completely FOR teaching kids independence. Is the world a harsher place today than it was 26 years ago when I was 10 years old? Absolutely. Will this world magicly become a better place once todays kids are adults? Absolutely not. And what awaits all these sheltered children raised by overprotective parents? Often, failure. At a minimum, an almost certain lack of leadership abilities and the cavalier spirit that drives most great achievements in life. Teach them safety, teach them to think on their feet. Teach them what to look for and why, as well as how to react if they feel they are in danger. Independence, pride in one’s self, and self confidence simply cannot be learned any other way than through life experience.

By bubble wrapped Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 10:50 am  

Love this blog! I’m 22 and won’t be having kids for a while, but this hits so close to home it hurts. At age 12 I wasn’t allowed to walk up the block to my tutor. UP THE BLOCK. I couldn’t even be in the front yard by myself and for the longest time just taking a walk by myself was cause for a fight. I learned to be selective about telling my mom where I was going because to her, anywhere with parallel parking instead of parking lots is a :”dangerous area” To be fair, if my dad had his way we would have been much more “free range. And also we didn’t have much censorship in terms of what we could read or watch or listen to, it was just the actual “going outside” part the my mom was overprotective about. But it did have the effect of making me that much more eager to go out on my own and never want to move back home (geez I hope I’m not making my mom out to be some kind of monster, we really do get along much better that i moved out) and much more unsentimental about childhood, even though there were a lot of other factors contributing to THAT! And another thing with the bullies, I was always told to just ignore it, never fight back ever, but it didn’t stop shit, i just let those assholes walk all over me. And that wasn’t my mom’s doing so much as the message we got from school and everywhere else with dealing with bullies, to always ignore it, never fight back. Bleh. To quote Bill Watterson, people who get nostalgic about childhood were obviously never children

By David Faux Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 11:07 am  

I live in a small town in Southern California and have 5 children. Anyone who knows them would call them free range kids. The 14 and 10 year old ride their bikes to the library and park. The 9 year old rides her bike close to home and the 6 year old and 4 year old regularly pack a lunch and walk around the block to eat.

They know how to obey traffic laws, be aware of strangers and ask for help.

Their mother and I talk about their liberties and ask questions about what they do.

While agree that it’s important to teach children self reliance, it’s also vital to teach them street smarts. In short, wisdom.

By Virginia Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 11:10 am  

I grew up in NYC in the late 60′s early 70′s with both parents working, I walk to and from school and even came home for lunch. Our dentist was in Manhattan and if I had a dental appointment I would take the train to Manhattan from Queens walk the two blocks and have my teeth clean or a filling done. (Those were the days when doctors saw minors without needing the parents.) I live in NJ and when my son who now in college was growing up we took him into NY alot, to teach him a sense of street smarts. By time he was 14 he was taking public transportation (learn to read train schedules) into NYC to visit friends he had made from summers at Boy Scout Camps.

If we don’t start giving our children freedom as they are growing up they do not learn responsiblity,self awareness and self reliance to become a functioning adult.

Now that he is at school, I am proud that my son knows how to be on his own.

By Holli Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 11:15 am  

Free range kids= <change of OBESITY AND DIABETES!!! HOORAY FOR THE OUTDOORS and play time

By Julia Best Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 11:22 am  

I have to say that I have raised two boys, free range, and one girl that I hate to let out of my sight. But it has to be different with each child. My beautiful daughter is autistic. She is very happy-go-lucky and way too trusting as we learned when she was just 6 years old. Nothing bad happened but it was too close a call.

I think that the parent has to judge what and when is a good time to let the child branch out on their own, even just for a trip a block away to a friends. I think that parents in general understand but over-fear their childs limitations. And it can be a daunting reality to have to deal with your own at the same time. Safety is always an issue. But knowing when to let go even a little bit is and always will be a hard issue.

I cannot knock the parent that lets their child ride the subway home. I can trust ( hope ) that that person is responsible and wise enough to know their own child and judge whether he or she is mature and responsible enough to handle it.

It is after all the parents who should make the decisions for their kids. They are the ones who SHOULD know them best right !

In my case I have a fear of driving. Well more like being in a car. By the time I was 10 years old I had been in two accidents and witnessed 3 others including a decapitation of someone on the way home from school. I never realized just how badly my fears had affected my kids until my son went for his license.

I now know just how many phobias parents can instill on their kids without even knowing. But I also know that we as parents need to judge kids as individuals.

Julia

By inthemiddle Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 11:33 am  

people be reasonable! theres a lot of gray between always hovering 2 ft away and giving your kid a map, a twenty and your most sincere best wishes- allowing a child of that age that much freedom is neglect but it doesn’t mean you have to be a helicopter parent there are lots of age appropiate freedoms that can be allowed and these can be increased as the child masters each new responsibility because thats what children are- responsibilities- I agree with the woman who cites laziness as a motivator for this so called movement!

By GD Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 11:35 am  

It strikes me that what this is really about is losing the fear of our neighbors and neighborhoods. Instead we can just take a chance and trust each other and the world with our kids a bit. It’s better for them, us, and our community.

By WB Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 11:49 am  

Thank you! I have a 15 month old…may she be free range!!!!

By roll2tide Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 11:57 am  

lol @ the idea that parental laziness is behind this. Heres a clue, since not everyone has one:

An irresponsible parent is an irresponsible parent. period. free range or busy-body meddler.

Free range, I think, is about actively TEACHING children independence. Talking to them, setting limits, yes, but expanding those limits as far is appropriate for the child. being INTERACTIVE with your child.

Its not like this lady pointed towards the subway and just wished him well. He was familair with the subway system, he obviously wanted to do this and felt he was perfectly capable because he dint have a wetnurse hovering over him his whole life.

People follow leaders. They just kill and eat sheep. Where do you want your child to fall?

By Elvie Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 11:59 am  

What a joy to have found this site full of kindred spirits! I have been concerned for years now that we are raising an entire generation who have no idea how to think for themselves, mediate a dispute, or realistically assess a risk because there has been an adult present every moment of their lives to do these things for them. My family is fortunate to live in a neighborhood where the kids can and do just “go out and play” — unaccompanied and unsupervised by adults, exploring their corner of the world, making up their own games and rules, settling their own disputes … in other words, learning some of the life skills that many of their helicopter-parented peers are clearly and sadly lacking. My 9-year-old is perfectly comfortable staying home alone for an hour or so, and I’ve recently “hired” my 12-year-old to be my housekeeper. If they’re ever to become functioning adults, kids need to build confidence through self-reliance and experience the pride that comes from real accomplishment. What they don’t need is to have their precious “self-esteem” shored up with feel-good trophies and ribbons just for showing up, Mommy hovering anxiously in the background, at their weekly round of adult-organized and -mediated activities.

By David Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 12:09 pm  

I was raised in a “Free Range” environment as well as most of my friends, in an affluent middle class neighborhood. I had all the freedom I needed to “explore” and “learn” many different things.

In the 70′s, at the age of 13, I was allowed to ride my bike and/or walk to my friends houses on the other side of town any time I wanted, and to partake in sex, drugs, alcohol, any time I wanted. Having the ability and the freedom to experience whatever I wanted, any time I wanted, at the age 13, was great. Since I was very clever to hide all of my unsupervised drug use and open sex, my parents, nor did my friends parents have a clue what we were doing. Most importantly though, I didn’t have a clue, of the circumstances of the choices I was making at a very early age. Life was great€¦€¦I thought.

By Susan Reed Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 12:21 pm  

Fab website!

I raised my daughter this way….22 years ago. Of course I protected her, but I did not ‘coddle’ her!

She is now strong, independant, smart and classy!

She is currently touring South East Asia on her own…making great new friends and planning to come home to attend Teacher’s College.

I believe in allowing children to falter and fail early in life…so that they learn consequences. I also believe in allowing them to see, early in life, how capable and competent they are.

Cheers!

Susan

By Donald Dawson Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 12:22 pm  

Here is slightly different perspective on this topic. Although I am single with no children, I am a businessman who has hired well over 1,000 people over the past 25 years, primarily “first time in the professional workplace” people – early 20′s.

It is amazing how completely unprepared young adults are today to deal in the workplace compared to 20 years ago.

My personal feeling is that this is a attributable to the way in which many of them were raised. Many new employees today exhibit a lack of development regarding basic judgement/decision making, lack of responsibility (excessive absenteeism, poor work ethic), and finally a sense of entitlement (ie, I as the employer owe them – I should be grateful if they just show up).

Obviously I support the concept of Free Range Kids – but what I think should not really matter. Each parent should be entitled to making these decisions on their own.

If those parents who feel that every waking moment of little Johnnie’s childhood needs to be planned, protected, catered to, etc. so that Johnnie will be less prepared to deal with the real world, that is their choice. However, they should mind their own business about how other people choose to raise their children (obvious exceptions to this regarding abuse, basic safety, malnutrition, etc.).

What happened to this country’s ability to “agree to disagree”? Can’t we just all start minding our own business?

By Mom Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 1:06 pm  

Awesome!

My oldest, began babysitting a couple times a week, at age 11, for a family of 3, in the next building over. Next child at age 9 began riding the bus, from the stop 1/2 mile from our house, to her grandparents, so she could watch ball games on TV with her grandpa.

I realize, not Everyone lives in ‘safe’ neighborhoods. But, most of us do. We must choose to live where we are comfortable and then allow our children the oppurtunity to experience life and adventure and success. I cringe when I hear mothers tell how they must take thier 12 year old to the store with them, because they won’t leave the child at home unattended. At age 12, Can’t the child go to the store FOR the mother?

By Parent Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 1:06 pm  

Could you pick a different word than “Free Range’. These are kids not turkeys! Of course I suppose you treating them the same way. MORONS!

By Paule Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 1:11 pm  

We have 5 children, all independant, hard working and law abiding. We have been strict in some ways, and in other ways a bit relaxed. Ages 17 to 22. We stress honesty and the importance of rules and order. Eductaions is important, self respect, and love of family and friends. And they are allowed to make mistakes. The most important skill we’ve imparted has been to simply think about what your doing and the consequences associated with your actions (we have 3 girls…right!). Our kids are watchful and sensible. We don’t have a map, or instructions on raising kids. You are hardly the worlds worst mom. You love your child, and if he shares his days adventures and challenges honestly, then your doing it right! Although sometimes I bite my lip, let the kids talk, let them grow and hold their hands when its needed. I have a feeling you doing it for his benefit. We wish the best!

By Jeannie Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 1:23 pm  

We only have our children for 18 years, like it or not. We parents do the best that we can. Enjoy the wonder years when the children are young. Too soon, they join us in adulthood. Don’t forget to laugh! Life is hard enough, and before you know it, you are taking care of your elders! Enjoy your children…..

By Nickole Johnson Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 1:47 pm  

I am so very excited to see this is finally a topic being brought to the forefront. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to hold my tongue when friends or co-workers get into conversations about the kids and how protective they are over them. Little Background. I am a mother of 4 and I am a Radio Dispatcher for the Police Department. I hear the news before it is news. I know the horror stories that happen on a daily business around my city and it scares me to death that my children are even around it. Does that make me lock them all up in a safe room.. NO WAY! How can we spend our lives living in fear of all around us. If we do everything for our children and lead them around on a rope, seen or unseen, how will they be able to ever do things for themselves. Two co-workers of mine were talking about how it takes so much time taking their kindergartner to school due to having to get out of the car and walk them into school and wait for them to get into class. I had to pipe in and say “can’t you just let him out of the car, wave good by and go after he is thru the gate?” Well let me tell you I have opted to keep my mouth shut after that. I was chastised for the thought and when I told them that I have always done that with my children the glares were ice and that was the end of that conversation. I have to think that these are also the same type of children who don’t get dressed by themselves and don’t know how to cook or clean up either. I don’t mean cook a three corse meal but being independent and having the ability enough to do things on their own such as make a bowl of oatmeal in the morning, get dressed, put the items they need in a bag and head out the door all by 8 in time for the first bell to ring. Well I am very glad to see that my husband and I are not alone and that when our children are grown and on their own they will not be the only responsible independent group out there.. There will be others within their generation that were taught independence. Kudos to all working to keep the apron strings short. Oh and for those who might still be reading this and disagree.. I am a survivor of the “latch key” kids! from Kindergarten on. I survived crossing busy city streets, scary alley ways, quiet naborhoods and city busses. Your kids will too.

By Family in Switzerland Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 2:42 pm  

We are living in Switzerland but we are from the East coast of the US. Here, children as young as 4 are expected to walk to Kindergarten BY THEMSELVES! Parents can escort them for the first few weeks, but then they are on their own! All K kids have orange safety scarves and the rules of crossing at crosswalks is taught well.

Of course, I was aghast the first time I saw little ones walking to school by themselves! My eldest was going to 1st class (grade) and I walked her to and from school daily…with her younger siblings in the jogging stroller! But kids here have wacky school schedules; morning classes from 8 to 11:45 and then they walk home to lunch. The kids only return to afternoon school twice a week (for small group instruction) from 1:45 to 3:30. This was a lot of walking!

Now that we have been here for 1 1/2 years, my eldest is starting to resist the “escort” to school! We compromised: she is escorted to the main road and then I watch her cross (at the crosswalk). She then rides her scooter by herself to school on the residential streets.

Did I ever expect myself to allow this? No, but here the kids are expected to grow up and experience life. But as my twins approach Kindergarten in the fall, you can bet they will have a shadow! :) 8 years vs 4 is quite a difference but I am seeing how this can help my children. Tschuss!

By Chris & DeAnn Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 2:55 pm  

I used to be a scared over protective mother, then I moved to Germany. Kids there (I lived in 2 different locations in Bavaria, a village and a city) were given a lot of freedom. I observed that as they grew they rose to the challenge of being responsible for their actions. Frist graders that were trusted to ride the city bus to school (with transfers) became first graders that could be trusted to responsibly handle riding the city bus to school. All the adults kept an eye on the kids to make sure they were ok.

Now I live in Cyprus and I still allow my children (ages 9,10 and 12) a lot of freedom. They have a cell phone in case they need anything or I need to tell them something. But I trust them to be responsible for their behavior and to use their brains when it comes to dealing with the people they come in contact with.

If we ever move back to the States it will probably depend on where we live as to whether or not I will continue to allow my children to have free range.

-DeAnn

By Chris & DeAnn Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 2:55 pm  

I used to be a scared over protective mother, then I moved to Germany. Kids there (I lived in 2 different locations in Bavaria, a village and a city) were given a lot of freedom. I observed that as they grew they rose to the challenge of being responsible for their actions. Frist graders that were trusted to ride the city bus to school (with transfers) became first graders that could be trusted to responsibly handle riding the city bus to school. All the adults kept an eye on the kids to make sure they were ok.

Now I live in Cyprus and I still allow my children (ages 9,10 and 12) a lot of freedom. They have a cell phone in case they need anything or I need to tell them something. But I trust them to be responsible for their behavior and to use their brains when it comes to dealing with the people they come in contact with.

If we ever move back to the States it will probably depend on where we live as to whether or not I will continue to allow my children to have free range.

-DeAnn

By Chris & DeAnn Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 2:55 pm  

I used to be a scared over protective mother, then I moved to Germany. Kids there (I lived in 2 different locations in Bavaria, a village and a city) were given a lot of freedom. I observed that as they grew they rose to the challenge of being responsible for their actions. Frist graders that were trusted to ride the city bus to school (with transfers) became first graders that could be trusted to responsibly handle riding the city bus to school. All the adults kept an eye on the kids to make sure they were ok.

Now I live in Cyprus and I still allow my children (ages 9,10 and 12) a lot of freedom. They have a cell phone in case they need anything or I need to tell them something. But I trust them to be responsible for their behavior and to use their brains when it comes to dealing with the people they come in contact with.

If we ever move back to the States it will probably depend on where we live as to whether or not I will continue to allow my children to have free range.

-DeAnn

By Chris & DeAnn Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 2:55 pm  

I used to be a scared over protective mother, then I moved to Germany. Kids there (I lived in 2 different locations in Bavaria, a village and a city) were given a lot of freedom. I observed that as they grew they rose to the challenge of being responsible for their actions. Frist graders that were trusted to ride the city bus to school (with transfers) became first graders that could be trusted to responsibly handle riding the city bus to school. All the adults kept an eye on the kids to make sure they were ok.

Now I live in Cyprus and I still allow my children (ages 9,10 and 12) a lot of freedom. They have a cell phone in case they need anything or I need to tell them something. But I trust them to be responsible for their behavior and to use their brains when it comes to dealing with the people they come in contact with.

If we ever move back to the States it will probably depend on where we live as to whether or not I will continue to allow my children to have free range.

-DeAnn

By Chris & DeAnn Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 2:55 pm  

I used to be a scared over protective mother, then I moved to Germany. Kids there (I lived in 2 different locations in Bavaria, a village and a city) were given a lot of freedom. I observed that as they grew they rose to the challenge of being responsible for their actions. Frist graders that were trusted to ride the city bus to school (with transfers) became first graders that could be trusted to responsibly handle riding the city bus to school. All the adults kept an eye on the kids to make sure they were ok.

Now I live in Cyprus and I still allow my children (ages 9,10 and 12) a lot of freedom. They have a cell phone in case they need anything or I need to tell them something. But I trust them to be responsible for their behavior and to use their brains when it comes to dealing with the people they come in contact with.

If we ever move back to the States it will probably depend on where we live as to whether or not I will continue to allow my children to have free range.

-DeAnn

By Chris & DeAnn Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 2:55 pm  

I used to be a scared over protective mother, then I moved to Germany. Kids there (I lived in 2 different locations in Bavaria, a village and a city) were given a lot of freedom. I observed that as they grew they rose to the challenge of being responsible for their actions. Frist graders that were trusted to ride the city bus to school (with transfers) became first graders that could be trusted to responsibly handle riding the city bus to school. All the adults kept an eye on the kids to make sure they were ok.

Now I live in Cyprus and I still allow my children (ages 9,10 and 12) a lot of freedom. They have a cell phone in case they need anything or I need to tell them something. But I trust them to be responsible for their behavior and to use their brains when it comes to dealing with the people they come in contact with.

If we ever move back to the States it will probably depend on where we live as to whether or not I will continue to allow my children to have free range.

-DeAnn

By Chris & DeAnn Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 2:58 pm  

I wanted to add that I grew up extrememly free range. I lived on a cattle ranch in California and my sister and I used to leave the house in the morning and roam the hills for hours. We wouldn’t come home until we got hungry. All my mother knew was that we were somewhere on the ranch.

-DeAnn

By Chris & DeAnn Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 2:58 pm  

I wanted to add that I grew up extrememly free range. I lived on a cattle ranch in California and my sister and I used to leave the house in the morning and roam the hills for hours. We wouldn’t come home until we got hungry. All my mother knew was that we were somewhere on the ranch.

-DeAnn

By Chris & DeAnn Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 2:58 pm  

I wanted to add that I grew up extrememly free range. I lived on a cattle ranch in California and my sister and I used to leave the house in the morning and roam the hills for hours. We wouldn’t come home until we got hungry. All my mother knew was that we were somewhere on the ranch.

-DeAnn

By Chris & DeAnn Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 2:58 pm  

I wanted to add that I grew up extrememly free range. I lived on a cattle ranch in California and my sister and I used to leave the house in the morning and roam the hills for hours. We wouldn’t come home until we got hungry. All my mother knew was that we were somewhere on the ranch.

-DeAnn

By Chris & DeAnn Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 2:58 pm  

I wanted to add that I grew up extrememly free range. I lived on a cattle ranch in California and my sister and I used to leave the house in the morning and roam the hills for hours. We wouldn’t come home until we got hungry. All my mother knew was that we were somewhere on the ranch.

-DeAnn

By Chris & DeAnn Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 2:58 pm  

I wanted to add that I grew up extrememly free range. I lived on a cattle ranch in California and my sister and I used to leave the house in the morning and roam the hills for hours. We wouldn’t come home until we got hungry. All my mother knew was that we were somewhere on the ranch.

-DeAnn

By Rochelle Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 3:07 pm  

I am 100% FOR-Free Range Kids!!! Children need freedom and responsibility. I was raised to be independent and socially responsible. Growing-up I was expected to help out around the house (i.e. cook, clean, take care of my younger sister and brother, get-up and go to school, etc). My parents taught me the VALUE of responsible choices. The more responsible I was the more freedom I was given (i.e. I was traveling around Europe without my parents before I was even 15yrs old).

At 30yrs old (no children) I see lazy children with no responsibility. My friends will do everything for their children and demand nothing. I think it is pretty sad. They are afraid to let their children out of their sight for fear that something will happen. I believe we are making mountains out of mole hills. If you are raising responsible children and the child is aware of what IS expected and what is NOT allowed then there is no need for fear. Independence should not be a topic that is introduced when the child is going off to college.

By Rita Sunden Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 4:22 pm  

I am an American who married a Swede and moved abroad to Sweden in 1982. Our 4 children were born there and lived there untill 1999. The Swedes raise their to be independent and responsible. Children bike or walk every day to school and activities. At 10 they no longer have day care after school and let themselves into their homes. Teenagers are taught to be responsible by being given responsibility. When my oldest was 13 she went on a school trip from our little village in Sweden to Stockholm the capital city. The teacher turned them loose and told them to come back in 3 hours and they did. Since this time we have lived in the United States again. My 13 year old had a nose bleed in a park on an outdoor day with the school two blocks from our home. She was not allowed to walk home alone to change her clothes! I had to come an get her. Since I believe that my children are good people I have given them responsibility since a young age appropriate to their ages. I have increased responsibility as they have aged. When my children were 15, 13, 8, and 7, I left them to take care of themselves (with a responsible adult to call in an emergency) in Southlake TX when my husband and I traveled to Brussels Belgium to choose our new home as we were moving. They did well with no troubles. I have left them alone many more times since then and have never had any trouble with them because I expected the best and got the best. They call me when I am out of town and ask if friends can come over. I say yes because I trust them, male or female friends. They have lived up to the trust everytime. I have not had any problems with alcohol, drug or sex abuse. My friend in the US still have baby sitters when she is out of town and her children are 19, 22, and 14!

I send my children to Brussels to visit when we lived in the US again. My children then 13 and 15 took the train alone from Bussels in Belgium to Toulon in France. They had no problems. Europeans laugh at the over protective parents in the US. Children in Europe are treated with respect and given responsibility and not treated as idiots or babies when they are well past that age. Americans need to wake up and see that their children are good and treated as such. Allow them to be everything that they can be.

By Rita Sunden Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 4:31 pm  

I made a typo in my previous comment. My friend’s children who cannot be left alone when mom is out of town are 19, 22, and 24! Unbelievable

By Steve Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 6:52 pm  

You say “We believe in helmets, car seats and safety belts.” Why? We didn’t have any of them when I was a kid and I’m OK.

Maybe it’s because things change?

If you feel comfortable letting your kid run around a large city unsupervised, go for it! But I’ll have no sympathy for you if he gets abducted.

By Another free range mom Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 7:37 pm  

Helicopter parents are everywhere.

I live in the country on a dead end dirt road. My friend will drive her daughter down the street and come and pick her up for play dates. Because it is too far for her precious little poopsie to walk in such a dangerous hood.

It is four houses away. About 1/2 mile . On a dead end street in bumfarkville with only7 houses on the street. ( and everyone knows everyone and 60 % of the people on our road are gone all day at work.)

When my kids are at her house, I just call down there and tell her to punt them my direction. Even if it is mostly dark. And she drives them home every time.

The next generation will be called the Pussy Generation.

Oh, and it is my sister in law.

YAY FOR ME!

By Another free range mom Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 7:52 pm  

One more bragging item I would like to add:

My kids are responsible for getting themselves up, dressed, lunches packed, book bags in order and proper outside clothing.

They are 10 and 8, and have been doing this for 2 years and it came out of the fact I was recovering from a major illness and had major dizziness issues, leaving me exhausted all the freaking time. I gave them jobs to do and – shocking-they did it. I saw no reason to discontinue their independence.

Theoretically, I could sleep in if it wasn’t for all the fun stuff called Sibling Rivalry and Hey, Let’s Annoy The Cat!!! ( Oh, I have a job, too.)

Yes, they have gone to school ill prepared for the weather or a forgotten lunch, but I do not bring anything up to them. They grab needed warmer wear or boots from Lost and Found so they can go outside ( returning them to the bin after school.) or they borrow the $ needed for Hot Lunch and then pay back the next day.) They each have only had one phone call home regarding things they forgot in all the years of school. Each time they’ve been told to plan better next time. ( we are 7 miles from school.) If they forget homework, then I charge them one dollar for a delivery service. AS I drive a truck that gets 14 MPG-we are free range, not total hippie – this delivery charge may have to go up in price.

By Larry Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 8:13 pm  

Great site — too many nervous Nellie type moms (and dads) are raising a generation of powderpuffs with eggshell psyches. Keep it up. BTW, my kids leave the house in the morning and I sometimes don’t see them until dinnertime. They also can fix their own meals if they need to (7 & 8 yo, know how to open a can and use a microwave oven).

By Katrina Nesse Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 10:15 pm  

I am so glad you are here, promoting childhood. I am a photographer who loves children and has come to loathe taking pictures of kids because their parents can’t leave them alone. The adults correct, admonish, and praise over nothing. So many children who can barely speak for themselves- but should be able to do it in three languages because of all their afterschool programs. I know it’s hard to be a parent. But turn off the television and let your kids learn how to make something. Worries about the kid hammering their finger or the inconvience of a trip to the doctor are far outweighed when your child feels the pride of standing on their own step stool or eating the first tomato they grew. Hooray for intrisic motivation and kids who can solve problems because of trial and error!

By Ron Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 11:06 pm  

I grew up the only child of a very over protective mother in the 1970′s. I was still allowed to ride my bike around and be gone all day Saturday and Sunday as long as I made it home for dinner. I was allowed to do this because I had to report in from which ever friend’s house I stopped at or where ever my bike took me as long as there was a phone.

I had to earn my parents’ trust that I was paying attention to the world around me and that I could handle being out and about without them to safeguard me. That trust was earned in steps.

Is Free Ranging for every kid? No, there’s going to be kids that are future Darwin Awards. Some it’s their own fault, some it’s their parents’ fault and some (sadly) it’s not their fault but someone’s design. Is this going to happen to every kid? No, barely one in a thousand will have something bad happen to their be it accident or otherwise. To tether the entire herd because one calf has a habit of straying has been the mantra for the last couple of decades. Probably because it’s easier than actually doing a full job of parenting along side the person’s other responsibilities, numerous or few they may actually be.

I’m going to be a father of my first child soon and I have EVERY intention to make sure my child has a childhood as good as mine if not better…as long as he earns it a step at a time.

By Chris Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 11:25 pm  

As a new father of a 4 month old, I have been giving my philosophy on parenting a lot of thought lately. I think I fall pretty squarely in the free range camp. I want to model my son’s experiences after my own childhood experiences, and I ahd a lot of freedom.

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and walked to school by myself (or with the neighbor girl) from kindergarten on. In 4th grade (I guess I was 8 or 9?), I was allowed to walk to our suburb’s downtown area, over 1.5 miles away, to buy comic books or baseball cards. I could walk to my friends houses for lunch on school days. I would yell at my mom “I’m going out” and then be lost in the neighborhood for hours with friends.

What has changed from then to now? Are cities and suburbs more dangerous? No. Are kids less capable? No. What I think has changes is our sense of community and the degree to which we know our neighbors.

When I was a kid, my family knew every other family on our blocks (we had a corner house) and many families on the surrounding blocks. If I got in trouble, usually my mom knew about it before I even got home because of everyone knew everyone and they certainly knew my mom.

These days, I don’t think people know or trust their neighbors anymore, at least not the way they used to, and that is why some parents are afraid to let their kids play outside, explore and be a kid.

By AnDy Fri Apr 25th 2008 at 11:29 pm  

I am largely for free range parenting. The one qualifier I have is that you can’t take a child whose parents haven’t allowed them to do ANYTHING or taught them to do ANYTHING and let them free to try to do EVERYTHING. But it’s somewhat of a moot point since the likelihood of that happening is slim to none.

You can’t put the kids in bubble wrap their entire life and then expect them to be well-adjusted, functioning, succesful, yes, thriving adults merely as a result of their birthdate saying they ARE an adult.

Likewise, you can’t simply re-direct and pacify children their entire lives and then expect them to be able to handle rejection, hurt feelings or the potential for the word *gasp* NO to be heard. Adults have to be able to handle the hard times and the times when things don’t go our way because our employers, our friends, our neighbors, our lives aren’t going to bend around our wants and needs and fragile psyches. Children need to be given the freedom and independence to experience life so that they can learn from those experiences and build upon them to use later as adults.

By Andrea Sat Apr 26th 2008 at 12:45 am  

I am raising what you call a ‘free range kid’ and know I am doing it right because the Bible tells me so. Kids are not meant to be helicoptered over – it robs them of their ability be independent and become successful, happy adults.

The art of ‘child rearing’ has been lost to the idea of ‘parenting’, and it is compromising this generation and the future of our society.

By Kelly Sat Apr 26th 2008 at 3:38 am  

My kids (18 and 17 years old) have been raised free range and are sturdy, dependable, independent, confident young men. At around 14, I began to let them choose when and how much to study, with whom to hang out, outside interests, etc. I’ve always taught “safety, not fear.” By letting them go, in a sense, they are very much closer to me somehow. Our shared love and respect is a constant blanket of comfort around me. Ironically, when our older son went to college, I greived terribly, and still do to a degree that I’m thinking is not quite healthy. But — I force myself not to be a “hover mother.” I call once weekly for a brief conversation and email him two or three times per month. I never let him see my sadness. He knows me to be capable and strong, just as I have raised him. I am dealing with my concerns without weighing him down. Since his birth, I have said, “I will give this child wings; I will not break him.” That is how we live, and it is a great honor to be in these relationships with my kids.

By I want to be a free range mom Sat Apr 26th 2008 at 3:57 am  

Thanks for your site here! I let my 7 and 5 yr lod take a five minute walk aroud the block and was told by family that I should NEVER let them out of my site! I thought it was reasonable in our gated community but others did not. We just need to keep praying for our kids and use good judgement.

By pinkladybugs Sat Apr 26th 2008 at 4:35 am  

I’ll leave the same comment here that I left on a friend’s blog, where I first heard about this site:

I agree with so much of what you said, but this is a hard one for me. When I was a kid, one of my playmates who lived about a mile from me was abducted on her way home from the bus stop. She was molested and tortured for a week before they tied her to a tree in the woods, where she died of exposure. They still don’t know who did it. She was nine years old.

The thing about kids is they think they’re invincible. They just don’t think about certain things or pay attention to them. I’ve tried really hard to teach my niece & my little sister to be vigilant w/o making them scared to leave the house. It’s a fine line.

By Marcy Sat Apr 26th 2008 at 8:46 am  

Thing is, pinkladybugs, that horrible as it is, it happens anyhow…even to kids whose parents watch over them intrusively. Educating kids is far more helpful than locking them away. The truth of the matter in anything regarding personal safety for yourself or others, is that ignorance of reality kills faster than anything else.

How prepared for dealing with the realities of the world, do you think kids are if they are swaddled and kept ignorant, and never allowed to learn to rely on themselves and THINK? Much as we’d like to see it never happen, some will fall victim to predators – and that’s adults as well as kids. The persons least-likely to fall victim, are the ones who are street-smart enough to be alert and know what to do and when. You won’t get street-smart and wise kids by keeping them under supervision 24-7.

By Lynn Sat Apr 26th 2008 at 10:36 am  

I’m a Mom of 4 here, in a (leafy!) suburban community near Boston, age 34 – kids are 14 (High School), 10, 9 and 8.

Kudos to you for making the “Free Range” parenting style being named and recognized! Life is about balance…it’s undeniable. We (my husband and I) are raising our kids to have logic, common sense and instinct be as vital as traditional scholastic education, and “Free Range” skills are imperative for raising “thinking” children.

As requested, I’m including a note about one of the key elements that we consider another aspect of this. Making your elementary-and-up “own it”. Kids in our relatively “over-privileged ” community aren’t required to really OWN the consequences for actions. Accident or otherwise, when you, oh, say BREAK the neighbors window with a baseball, you (the child!) need to A) Apologize face-to-face to the owner and B) figure out what contribution you can make toward resolution of the problem.

How many kids are really put to the test of “owning it”? My 8 yr old broke a window this week…he’s not only gone over and formally apologized for it to the home-owner, but will financially contribute to rectifying it. It isn’t a punishment, as it was a sincere fly-ball accident, but just because it is Right to do.

Again, Kudos to you…thanks for making this connection for so many who feel that honing the skill of instinct and panic-less thinking a valuable tool in raising children!

By sunniemom Sat Apr 26th 2008 at 8:07 pm  

Very cool site. I grew up free range, and so did my dh, but when our dd was 2 we lost her at a crowded flea market. Fortunately, an older couple that we had chatted with earlier spotted her and took care of her until we located her.

But my dh was TRAUMATIZED. Our dd is 9 yo now, and he still panics occasionally when he can’t see her or know exactly where she is. He is making progress back to free range parenting though, and I am sure your site will provide some needed perspective and encouragement.

By Nicole Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 1:22 am  

I love it! I raised a free range kid. She’s 20 now. By 5 she was riding public ferry boats alone, by seven she was taking the trains between Seattle and Portland, by 15 she was skipping off to exotic international locations by herself, in some instances with no adult to meet her on the other side and staying in hotels or hostels with a friend or alone.

It’s all about how you train them, how you teach them techniques for being safe and making good street smart decisions. Rather than teaching them how to look out for boogey-men, I taught my child how to profile potentially safe people, and keep herself near them.

I think part of the problem is that we don’t teach kids how to look for safe people; today, they’re taught that everyone and every stranger is a bad guy, when that’s just not true. If you turn a kid loose who believes that every stranger is a boogie man, that child will find themselves separated from the people that could potentially be useful to them in a crisis, AND it makes them a target cowering over there in the corner trying to not be seen.

This site is great! And I think it’s a message that needs to be broadcasted. I’m really really tired of fearful parents who coddle their children.

By katiegumbo Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 1:36 am  

I think it’s kind of interesting that people here are saying that free range parents are lazy. So many people on this board have said “I know I’m probably smothering my kid, but it’s too hard and scary for me to let them out of my sight.” That’s lazy too. There’s nothing easy about turning your treasured young one loose on the world and trusting that it will be ok. Anyone who has watched their teenager drive away alone in the car for the first time knows that…

By Bex Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 9:09 am  

It’s time to turn off the news & get out there & meet the people in our community.

It takes a village, so let’s build one.

Let’s meet one another & ALL look out for everyone’s kids so that they are safe to wonder where ever they wish.

I think this is the key to the “childhood of yesterday”…Xxx

By Mark Russell Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 6:37 pm  

Lenore, I am not sure if you are having doubts at times from all the bashing you are going through. But I want to tell you in many ways you have NOT done a bad thing. Time is short but I will be back to write more of my thoughts. But one thought I wish to express is you are doing much to prepare your child for the nasty world many other kids are not prepared to meet. Way to go.

By turtlemom3 Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 9:06 pm  

At nearly 66, I feel like I’ve seen a lot of stuff! Kids need a broad range of experiences – and a broad range of success experiences ON THEIR OWN – in order to grow up considering themselves to be competent. To think they can be successful. They learn to be successful by being successful. They learn to problem solve by solving problems. Pieces of brain come together this way.

The current trend of wrapping kids in cotton batting and never letting them get into a situation in which they have to use their wits to get out. Maybe that’s why young people aren’t leaving home on time anymore. I don’t know. But I do know we need to use muscles in order to build them up, and we need to use our brains in order to build them up. And that includes building up our wits.

By Jim Reitze Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 9:06 pm  

Our 2 boys are most certainly ‘free range’. They are now nearly 14 and 18, and are far more capable and independent than I ever was at that age. At 53 I am still more timid in public than they are. Not that I was overprotected, but I was never made to believe in my own power. Yes, there are more worries today than our parents had to deal with. But they had more worries than their parents. I believe it is in the way we bring our kids up. Ours are confident, level headed and responsible. We believe in their ability to handle themselves. Yes, we all have cell phones, which helps. But our boys use them more to update changes in plans or ask permission than for ‘tracking devices’. Our ‘secret’ if there is one is simple. We do our best to arm our boys with common sense, give them the tools to function out in the world, then have faith that we’ve done our best and let them venture out. So far they have not let us down, and when faced with crisis, have handled themselves admirably.

By Siobhan Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 9:25 pm  

Good for you! I have 3 children that are growing up self sufficient, independant and with tons of self esteem. My job is to teach them skills to use for life…am I ever concerned-yes, but not to the point of paralysis. Thanks for raising the level of awareness on this.

By Lynette Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 9:47 pm  

I am a child myself, –well more so of a young adult but still– and I was raised in a Free Range way.

I agree from my point of veiw, in this way of raising kids. Though, when I go out, my mother still tells me to call.

True, this factor does annoy me, but at the end of the day, I understand her reason.

I read a comment of a person saying that their siblings were killed due to a lack of rules. I’m sure that every parent that allows their children to be Free Range does atleast, give a set of rules or boundries.

Or, at the very least, trusts that their kids have sense enough to know what not to do. Not saying anything to be cruel to this particular commenter.

Just thought I’d put in a comment from my point of veiw.

By Still mothering after 27 years... Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 10:01 pm  

We are always and everywhere parents, of our own children and everyone else’s. Children become healthy adults, able to make decisions (even unhealthy ones, they’re the best teachers), useful to their communities and society by learning how, in the safety and secutiry of their homes, schools and communities. What does that mean? It depends. Some homes and families aren’t safe, some schools aren’t, as well as some communities. To negotiate the perils of each environment, children need to practice. First it’s how to boil water, then how to cook and bake. Same with anything your are learning. Start with the easy stuff under strict supervision, then, as the child grows and enters each developmental stage that allows cognitive advances, the more difficult and comlicated tasks. Children cannot tie their own shoes at 1 year old, but might be able to at 5. Learning skills takes time and practice. I’m sure the 4th grader who rode the subway home had ridden the subway before with his parent, knew the stops, was aware of his neighborhood, etc. This action did not happen in a vacuum. My twin daughters say they never knew a day without community service, volunteering for all kinds of things, from helping elderly neighbors with their lawn raking to marching in protests against various u.s. military invasions over the years. They are now 27, civically engaged, still volunteering regularly, for issues of their own choosing, able to think critically and make decisions as well as able to learn from mistaken ones. But I’m still their mother and available to help, offer advice (only when asked) and rescue when needed. Every parent must figure this out on their own depending upon their own circumstances. My parents left us siblings on our own WAY TOO MUCH with too many and too difficult responsibilities too early in our lives, this led to insecurities and anxieties. But what I learned from my own childhood is that responsibility for self needs to be gradual and continual, with a parent or caring adult there every step of the way to offer guidance, security, support and, whenever necessary, intervention. We chose to have at least one parent at home, even through the teen years, while my parents both worked outside the home from a few days after our births. We got into way to much conflict and danger and as a result have had to do a lot of work as adults to repair the damage.

By Ashley Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 10:02 pm  

I think this is a great idea i have a son who is a month old but i already started this in a way, I’ve noticed that almost no one anymore lets the babies lay on the floor and kick and move, many of my friends who have babies about the same age, and they hold them almost 24/7. And i was raised that way to in first grade i was allowed to walk 8 or 9 blocks to school every day and then walk home, both my parents worked full time and my brother went to a different school so i was responsable for myself from about 6 15 in the morning till i went to school and then till about 4 30 after school. and come to find out i gave my mom quite a few scares cuz i would stop by a friends after school before i called her…oooops but i was fine and i plan on my son growing up the same way. i cant fine a good enough reason to be overprotective.

By Darci Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 10:12 pm  

My kids (now 20, 19 and 17) were raised Free-Range almost more by accident than by design.

Income- wise and geograhpically, we are working class people. We have never had two cars, and cable and gaming systems have never been in the budget. Our house is, while not tiny, small in camparison to houses of today’s standards. They grew up with public transportation and “Go outside!”. So at the age of 8 or 9, they knew their way around, could make a transaction at the market half a mile away, get to the library, and choose to walk to school.

Were ther nerve racking moments? Sure. But you know what? They are amongst the most well rounded, socially aware kids in the neighborhood.

And they never leave the house without the priceless advice of “Look both ways, and don’t run with sharp sticks”.

By Jessica Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 10:16 pm  

THANK YOU.

How can we expect children to grow into independent, critically thinking adults if we don’t let them practice?

By Maggie Tompkins Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 10:29 pm  

Kudos to all who give their children some sense of independence that does not include Guitar Hero. When we don’t let our kids prove that they can do something without being followed and protected, we perpetuate the fear factor that is so prevelent in American culture. The media and the government have done such a wonderful job of promoting fear that we have a society where people are afraid of everything and everyone.

I am the mother of 9 children. My youngest daughter is 12. My oldest is 33. My children can bike, walk to school, go downtown (in pairs) and play night games with their neighborhood friends. I am a Free Range Parent. My children do not have the invisible umbilical cord known as the cell phone. They just have to let me know where they are going and we set times of contact.

Here’s the amazing news. Six of my children have reached adulthood and the other three, who are 17, 14 and 12 are still alive and unscathed. They also have a sense of a world that is not all frightening and full of bad people, as they know that most of those they meet are really good and if they need something, I am reachable and there are many other adults who will pitch in and help.

We need to emphasize good in our children’s lives, as if we do not, we will perpetuate the fear factor, which is what keeps all Americans suppressed.

I wonder how many over protective parents let their children watch inappropriate movies?

Maggie T

By Rachel Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 10:40 pm  

After reading this article, I found myself wondering how in the world I became so paranoid?? My childhood, the youngest of 5, (I’m 40 now), was spent riding my bike to school, spending hours riding around the neighborhood, hanging out at the park, going to the mall. Yes, I remember a few times where someone made me feel uncomfortable, but I just learned to walk away. We used to play hide & seek that encompassed several suburban blocks, running through yards etc. My mom used to unplug the TV in the summer, told us it was broke and to go outside and play.

I have a son, who is 16. I can look back and realize I was one of the over protective, paranoid of every stranger. My son never learned fight or flight.. he never learned to make a decision for himself. I was always right there, believing that I knew better than he did, what to do. Why??? I think the way society has changed in general. Parents are afraid to parent their children for fear of being called “abusive”. Schools have no control over the students and what is worse, the students know it. They have been taught to call the police when someone does something THEY think is unjustified.

I now regret how I raised my son. I should have let him get lost a little close to home. I should have let him make many of his own decisions. I should have let him touch the fire to get burned so he wouldn’t do it again. All of my “protecting” did nothing to stop him from trying pot and alcohol at 14. It didn’t stop him from getting picked up by the police for vandalism where he is now faced with $5000 in restitution, which I refuse to pay. Now, at 16, I am forcing him to suddenly grow up and accept his responsibilities and punishments when he was so coddled before, he never had to live through these things. I do regret what I did or didn’t do, but I am glad that I finally woke up to reality of letting my kid be a kid and being the parent I really should have been, not the one who was created by the paranoid society around me.

I applaud this mom who let her son ride the subway home alone. Why not?! Nothing happened. Yes it could have, yes she would have blamed herself for the rest of her life if somethind HAD happened. Who wouldn’t? Most parents do not willingly put their children in the path of danger, but it can happen and unfortunately, it can happen right in their own home.

Society, stop being over critical. Take a look at the generation of kids who will be running OUR future. What is it going to be like, when these over protected, paranoid kids are raised when they get out in the real world??

We, as a society, are wrong, in the way we pamper, protect and coddle our kids. We aren’t doing them, or us, any favors.

By Joan Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 10:41 pm  

My mother taught me to walk to school when I was 9 and we were living in London, England. I applaud your “Free Range” approach. My sons are currently 17 and 21; I raised them in a rural environment so ‘free range’ was the norm. It was like growing up in Mayberry and both have Opie/Richie Cunningham qualities. I was more concerned about them riding a bike to school — it’s hard to cycle straight on our country lanes with no sidewalks and muddy edges, and country drivers are a wee bit lax about driving straight themselves.

My concern for my kids is that they didn’t develop the ‘street smarts’ that I did. They’re going out into the world with wonderful small-town values but not the intuitive protections that may better serve them as they begin to live on their own!

By Stephanie Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 10:46 pm  

Congratulations to you! I fight this battle every day. I live in an incredibly safe, affluent neighborhood. My children and 9 and 11. The other mothers think I’m crazy because I let them walk back and forth to school alone – all of two blocks away!

My kids have been to town, about 2 miles away and left – horrors! – home alone.

I’m wondering if we can address how often ‘concern’ for kids safety serves as a mask for the continuing intrusion against our privacy and civil right.

For example, my daughter was, until recently, a Girl Scout. This year they have instituted a new policy – all the parents, for any level of participation, need to go get fingerprinted! All this in the name of protecting the children.

Has anyone out there had this experience with an organization?

By Chuck Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 10:56 pm  

Thank you, thank you, thank you. After watching for years as parents pad, helmet, leash, restrain, and otherwise protect their children from any possible injury or contamination, it is wonderful to find someone with a realistic approach to parenting. Don’t get me wrong, I believe kids should be protected, but to what length? There’s still the chance that a plane could fall from the sky and wipe out the house, school, or playground where they are playing. I rode a bike, sometimes dangerously fast and always without any protection, as did all of my friends. And, none of us died or were seriously injured. In fact, all of us grew up to be intelligent, successful adults.

I question the over-protective behavior of todays parents for many reasons, but one in particular is the softening effects. By “padding” our children to an extreme are parents causing them to become less able to deal with the cuts and bruises of daily life? And by constantly shadowing them are parents becoming a security blanket that may be hard to give up? How are children supposed to learn, experience, and grow when they are constantly tethered to a parent? Teach them, guide them, then let them free to use the knowledge and grow in to a more rounded and grounded child. They will be stronger and more independent for it. They will be able to deal with any situation, and find their way in the world. Teach them what to avoid, and then trust them to do so. Over-protection can only turn out weak, nervous, and frightened children who will have a harder time growing up because of it.

Also, I’d like to commend the poster from April 9th on their effective use of the English language in their intriguing statement of “Dumbass”. Very compelling, and well thought out argument.

By Chordsy Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 10:59 pm  

Wow, what a breath of fresh air you are..! Sorry to hear you are getting alot of criticism from the give-your-kid-a-cell-phone set.

By mybluett Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 11:19 pm  

I am glad to see that there are others who, like me, believe that a few scars and stiches help turn children with life experience into adults less likely to be afraid because we are told to be afraid…

By kstrike Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 11:28 pm  

Just last week I was at wits end getting my 8-yr old to school (we ride bikes) on time. So, after a gentle time reminder and a warning that I would be leaving to get his 5-yr old sister (who’d gotten herself ready) to school on time, I left. He went ballistic screaming and crying…. he walked the 6 blocks to school carrying on like this (oh yes! I could hear him!). I dropped off his sis and met him at the corner of the school yard. He was still crying. I said, “Oh Will, I’m so sorry you’re late to school.” To which he replied, “I hate you! It’s all your fault!” “Oh, no, ” I replied, “it’s not. You knew the time and what you needed to accomplish. I’m not to blame. Do you want a ride the rest of the way.” He said yes and we talked as I pulled him in my bike trailer about how he would probably be the first one ready the next day and that I knew he could do it. I thought it a great learning experience. When I got home I had a phone call from a neighbor lady saying she had to call the police because I had left my son and he was heartbroken!!!! He’s EIGHT, we live in a RURAL Wyoming town, it was nearly SIXTY degrees out and he had SIX blocks to walk!!! If I dress him, feed him, and walk him out the door every morning HOW is he going to get to an eight o’clock class in college? Kudos to you! I let my kids roam all over (I generally know where they are every minute). I get criticized constantly, but my kids understand I don’t drive them – we ride bikes, they have some places they can’t go, they call to let me know if they are going to another place, etc. They can problem solve, they are strong, smart and responsible.

By Alan George Sun Apr 27th 2008 at 11:56 pm  

I am a single parent raising two daughters…..My daughters used to play a game- when it was too hot to play at the park- they would run home to thier babysitting grandparents and tell them that there was a suspicious looking guy parked outside fo the park, and he looked like a molester……….LOL This was a playground that was staffed with adult park leaders(including a kid I coached for three years) They did it twice before I found out about it………then I lowered the BOOM……..

Many years later, they admitted that it was just too hot and they wanted to watch a movie!!!

Yes, I codddle my daughters- but I do it to make ME feel good…………

There has to be a balance….

By Jake Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 12:29 am  

I have a kid and one on the way. My two year old boy is one of the climbing-est, problem-solving-est, and best developed kids in town. Seriously. Other kids his age (22 months) cannot do the things he does, from running, to jumping, to climbing, to putting his own toys away. He also has never fallen and hurt himself. Why? I think it is because of natural development. Kids, like all creatures, learn to act according to their capacity to act. As they get older, their new abilities are within their capibility. However, if we helicopter all around them and live their lives for them to save them from their “ouchies”, their capacities far exceed their abilities. Then they don’t know what to do with their new found powers and hurt themselves.

Please, let your children live. Do not rob them of their capacity to act and develope because of a mixture of fear and love. Trust your children. Trust the evolution that has gotten them to this point.

Personally, I think that hovering has to do with a sort of contempt for the human element. But that is another story.

By Sheryl Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 12:37 am  

I think taking the subway is an appropriate freedom for some 9 year olds, especially if there is a parent waiting for him at home. I believe this responsibility will build self confidence in a child who is mature enough. We live in a world where media coverage of every horrific event is constantly in your face, it creates paranoia. I have two boys one who is three, and he is just starting to be able to walk along side me in stores etc. I have a constant panic when we are out that the moment I look away from him he is going to be gone forever. It’s difficult to separate yourself from the headlines. I hope that when my children are school aged I can let them have their freedom which is so important!

By Dan Solomon Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 12:43 am  

I really think you are on to something.

We need to be teaching responsibility as much as preserving our kids safety. We need to need to teach our kids how to deal with failure and over come adversity as much as we need to instill in them a desire to suceed.

By Bernadette Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 12:47 am  

I SUPPORT YOU! Each parent has to decide what is best for their kids. At 10, I could stay at home by myself. But, I was not allowed to walk around our “neighborhood” until I was 13 because we lived along a very busy 4-to-6 lane highway. I was more likely to get ran over by a bus than get kidnapped or what ever your critics think could happen to your son. Kidnappers and pedophiles don’t just run up to kids, grab’em and sprint off. They lure. They set a trap. It could happen AND HAS HAPPENED right in the child’s front yard or home. If you teach your kid to be smart and SET GROUND RULES (as I am sure you do, like “Go straight home” or “Call me when you reach Billy’s”), you are teaching your kid SURVIVAL SKILLS that will be invaluable for them when they reach the age when society views them as “independent.” If you don’t let them fly a little bit on their own, when they reach the age when they are flying solo, they’ll be clueless naive dolts! I imagine a lot of people critical of you are people who don’t know the REAL NYC. They have a vilified image of Sin City in their heads KUDOS TO YOU! YOU ARE RAISING A SMART YOUNG MAN!

By Bernadette Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 12:59 am  

Wow! I’ve read a few comments. I didn’t think about the video game aspect of modern kids lives. Imagine how much smarter kids would be if parents turned off the games and told their kids, “Go outside. Stay within XXX blocks/streets/etc., but learn about your world!” Guitar Hero wont’ teach them sh-t about the real world. I mean, really, with cellphones, many have GPS, do you really have to worry about your kids? When I was 5, I lived in an LA suburb. I went outside in the AM and was told “Come home for lunch and before the street lights come on.” When I was 10, my family didn’t see me all day! I was running around our rural road, playing in the woods, playing tag, baseball, inventing a world tied to the natural world around me and learning how to interact with other kids older and younger than me.

No parenting approach is foolproof. On a sad note, when I was 16, a classmate killed an 8 year old girl. He was playing hide-n-seek with the other kids in his neighborhood (at this point, we didn’t live in the country). He was “weird” obviously, and I know he had a very rough childhood. CRITICS, please tell me which parent failed? The one who let their kid play outside or the one who messed up the 16 year old and turned him into a murderer?

By Heather Parnass Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 1:05 am  

Hi. I totally love the idea of a free range kid. BUT, I feel totally scared & paranoid about it, too. My son is only 3 years old, but I have said many times, “How will I ever let him ride his bike around the neighborhood alone like I did?” I’m 37, grew up playing around the neighborhood all day & just had be home by dark. I have to admit, that I find it difficult to imagine giving my son the same freedoms when he is older. Hopefully, I will be able to. It’s like my peer group is just totally paralyzed about relaxing with our kids. We totally micromother our children & although I am critical of it, I do it. ??? I admire you, Lenore. You have guts that I wonder if I posess.

By Tori Singleton Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 1:14 am  

I’m a 21 year old college student in North Carolina, and I completely agree with free range, but my reason for doing so is a little different then everyone else’s. I grew up with a very overprotective mother (she still is today) and did not do very many things on my own. Some of that was because I was afraid to do those things, but part of it was because my mother was afraid to let me do those things. Her fear was planted in me, and I grew up afraid of many things. I wish my mother had let me be a free range child. We lived for the most part in fairly safe areas, and we always knew people who would have been perfectly willing to keep an eye out for me. I was never in any real danger of being hurt or kidnapped, etc. But once you let fear in your life, its hard to dismiss it. To this day, I am still afraid of many things, and I struggle with doing things alone. I hope that when I have children I can raise them to be more independent then me and to know how to better protect themselves without living in fear of the outside world.

By Florida's worst mom Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 1:17 am  

I am in my 30′s. When I was 8, I would ride my bike to school, tennis practice, and to the pool. My best memories as a child were spending summer days at the pool with my friends and riding my bike back home at sunset. We would also bring jars to the desert outside our neighborhood (in Texas) and capture all kinds of creepy crawlies and pretend we were stranded on a desert island. Gone are the days of “Go play outside” and “Be home before dark!”

I now have a child who will never experience that kind of freedom, because her father (my ex husband) is a helicopter parent. We watched E.T. the other day and my daughter said “that mommy is bad because she let her kids ride bikes alone!” Wow. I have been ostrasized for reading a magazine on a loungechair while my 6 year old (a magnificent swimmer) played in the pool with barbies, eating on my terrace while she slept in her bedroom inside, and allowing her to make her own cereal (apparently, the refridgerator can fall on top of her). My ex’s explaination – “Don’t you watch the news? What if she stopped breathing and you couldn’t hear her, because you were grilling on the terrace? Haven’t you heard of Madeline? A child can drown in a teaspoon of water!” This all coming from a man who used to iceskate on the frozen lake behind his home.

I allow my now 7 year old to walk from my car in the school parking lot into her school and to her classroom by herself. She is estatic… positively glowing with the joy of idependence. Still a long way from the fond memories that I have as a child, but it’s a small step in the right direction.

By Victoria Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 1:48 am  

I was taking a 40 min. bus ride to school by myself when I was 7. After school same way I was getting home, using the key hung on my neck to open the door. I was preparing lunch for myself and doing homework as fast as I can, so I could run outside and play with my yard friends. People in my neighborhood knew who I was and would help me if there was a need. Strange women on the bus would give me a seat at the window and help me to concur the crowds to the exit. This was in 1977, in Europe. Time was different, society was different.

Today we are paranoid about crimes, disasters and accidents. We are more isolated from each other, indifferent to each other. How much support will child get when lost on the street? Probably the best he/she could get is the stranger taking him/her to the nearest police dept while rolling their eyes: “where for God’s sake are child’s parents?”

By Megan Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 1:50 am  

I have a question.

How come or why is it that parents are freaking out or just shocked that some parents let their children go places unaccompanied by an adult? While these said freaking out parents let their children play games such as gran theft auto, wear make-up or clothes that ONLY a 20 something model wears? It’s hypocritical. And it’s a no wonder kids are so messed up these days. Parents feel its the end of the world if their child goes some where unattended but oh please by all means go listen to that heavy metal or play that violent game because its ok. “I dont trust you to go outside but I do trust you to do something psychotic. I care but then I don’t. You understand don’t you sweet heart?” It’s hypocrtical. I don’t have kids myself but it is a dream of mine. And you can bet that when given the chance I will let my child have free range. Letting a child go somewhere with out an adult makes them feel good inside. Their thought process changes and they feel like they can do anything (within means of course). Point is, it makes them feel important. It’s how I felt when was allowed to cruise the mall or go to the movies with out my parents. I didn’t need makeup or a cell phone to feel independant. I just wanted the ability to walk away and come back saying yeah I did that. Independence is the ability to do things on your own, moving out into a run down apt. as a college student is not one of them. That is called growing up. Independence for a child also encourages them, saying to them that they can do what ever it is they set their mind to. Yes actually saying it can be inspirational but showing them is opening up a whole new door to a world only they can create. They say everything is for the future generations. So shall we expect our future to be dark, depressing, and paranoid? Or bright and boundless of things that can/will be done? You can’t get far when smothered with fear. Lenore, you’re a great mom!

By Stephanie Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 2:27 am  

I live north of Boston and have a 13 year old daughter. We’ve been having conversations for weeks about why I won’ t let go off on her own to hang out with her friends. We’ve have both arguements and rational converstaions about this and we’re trying to hear each others sides. It’s been productive so far, however, I know I need to give in to this. She needs her space and her friends and I trust her. She has a cell phone and I’m never far away. So yesterday she walked a block over to her friends house and then walked home later in the day. It was a good feeling for both of us.

I stumbled upon the article of you letting your son ride the subway and made my way to this website. It’s given me the confidence and a little push to understand that I am not alone with these decisions. I was a completely unsupervised young child. The youngest of five and as a young teen I would take the train and subways all over Boston by myself or with friends. I learned to be street smart and aware of my surroundings. I think it’s great you allowed your son to go it alone.

Today is a new day and I want to let my daughter grow up and be responsible and the only way to do that is to let her go. This is the start of it and thanks for opening my eyes a little wider.

Stephanie

By Betty Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 2:34 am  

I’m a mom of a 13-yr old boy and an 11-yr old girl and I’m ashamed of how paranoid I am. The news keeps you in constant fear of your child being abducted and anally raped and eaten, etc. I had to stop watching news shows because of the way they made me feel. I was a kid who lived in the Bronx and took 2 buses to get to my Catholic School as early as 7. And I did it all by myself. My friends and I wandered all over the city, and, as long as we were home by dark, we could do whatever we wanted. Without cell phones! Now, here I am, with a teenager, and I get an upset tummy when I watch him walk w/his friends to Jr. High each day. What’s wrong with our society? What’s wrong with me? I’m weaning myself from being overprotective. I believe I’ve raised my children to be afraid of everything. Here I am, a fearless adult who did whatever she wanted and went everywhere I wanted(and I’m sure that fearlessness was shaped while I was exploring on my own) . And I’m too f-ing paranoid to let my teenager walk to the store. I’m ashamed that I’ve allowed society to shape me into a worrier. Yes, there are predators. But they aren’t everywhere and I need to get over myself. Fast. Before I raise a scaredy-cat son and paranoid daughter. We’re gonna have a whole generation of skittish people if we don’t give our kids some space. Starting with mine. I’m gonna go kick them out of the house on this sunny afternoon and let them wander. (But, they better answer their cell phones.)

By Anonymous Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 2:34 am  

I am a very conservative, very concerned 35 year old mother of 11 children ages 17-2 years old. First I want to say that I don’t feel that what this mother did should be considered free range. She made an educated decision to allow her son to do something after checking the facts. She then made a plan with him. Would I have done it? Never in a million years. Do I think she was a bad mother for doing it? No. I think bad mothers are parents that do let their children free range. Parents that don’t care where their children are, when they come home, etc. These are the parents that scare me.

I grew up being a part time free range child. When I was little I had a lot of room. I would walk a mile away to go to Highs to get some milk. I walked alone to kindergarten. Now I think back and say, whooaaa, what was my mother thinking. Anybody, absolutely anybody could have grabbed me. It is not as though there were not abducted children back in those days.

Years past and my mother became a lot more protective. In the times I did manage to get out from under her smothering wings I made totally all the wrong decisions. One night I was approached by someone who obviously wanted sex in exchange for cocaine. I was 13!

I decided back in those days what sort of mother I would be. The biggest flaw was that we didn’t have much money and no extended family. My mother gave up driving and that left me a very depressed, stay at home child. Knowing myself, and lots of the crazies out there in the world, I decided that my children would be all about family. They have always been homeschooled. I don’t let them spend the nights out. We are very religious so parties outside of family and family friend gatherings are out of the question. We have bought our children a house with a 3 acre wood, pool, horses, you name it. They stay busy with their animals and each other. Sometimes they help me with my company, Shea Terra Organics. We go on frequent family outings. When the kids want to go somewhere or do something we cater to them. When they want to be with children that we approve of, it is always in family settings. We drop our daughter off at college and pick her up. There are charitable things she attends to there and at some point we have to trust that she has to make the all the right decisions.

What I consider to be free range children are children who are not blessed enough to have their parents deeply involved in their lives. There is a reason why children do not hatch out of eggs like alligators. For example, after school in our 3 acre wood we discovered that teenagers from the school next to us had been smoking pot. The children were eventually captured on infra red. How sad, I thought. Where are the parents of these kids, and why don’t they know that their children are on my property smoking pot after school?

I am concerned with children not knowing where their children are, who they are with and what they are doing. Too many children have become drug atticks, theives and the like. My one friend worked all the time and left her daughter to fend for herself. She ended up a needle user, car theif, shoplifter, all by the age of 16. I know this little girl since she was 2. What a very sweet girl she was. But with room to range as she saw fit, she ended up in the wrong crowd with other kids from families that didn’t care- and she ended up very, very sick.

My brother and sister, too, have a similar story. They moved with their father at the ages of 12 and 13. The poor things didn’t stand a chance. My brother was found blue in the woods as a teenager. As an adult he he was addicted to the worst of drugs and had a near fatal car accident. My sister had 3 children, very suicidal, on drugs and lost her two sweet babies to their father. Some things are more dangerous than abductors. Please parents, for your childrens sake and for the whole of society, keep a close eye and a guiding hand on your children. If you don’t, sex offenders and drug pushers will.

To recap, I don’t feel that this train ride, by a mother who planned and calculated carefully with her son is a case of neglect. I simply hope, as I believe she will, watch her child carefully, know who he is with and plan his days and future together. That is why we are moms.

By Anonymous Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 2:41 am  

Please excuse my errors in the post above. I was in a hurry- sometimes after you type a thousand words the computer dies along with all your information. Sure you have been there.

Also, I meant to say that there are some things equally dangerous as abductors.

By Anonymous Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 3:08 am  

I would love to live in a free range kid neighborhood. But parents seem to be doing this backward. Physical freedom (and the choices that come with it) is what the kids need, yet they are limited. What they don’t need is to have exposure to media that is age innapropriate. I have elementary school kids and they come home with stories of their buddies searching around You Tube and watching MTV, Simpsons and playing Mature rated video games. All these are for at least age 14 and up. Let my 5th grader walk around town? No problem. Going over a friends house who has too much media freedom? No thank you. But it would seem parents feel safest when their kids are home in from of some electronic entertainment.

By Regan Shale Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 3:21 am  

I SO agree with your philosphy! My kids are 5 and almost 3, and I let them play in our unfenced yard together. They know the rules. I trust them, and will until they leave the yard. If they do, they’ll suffer some time without that freedom and some discussion about why we have these rules. Some people think I’m crazy, but I remind them of our summer days when moms said, “Play outside. You’re not to be back inside until I call you for lunch/dinner.” I’ve also mentioned that when my son is 10ish, I plan to stop paying for before/aftercare and he will walk/ride his bike to and from school. It’s about 1.3 miles. He can hack it! Heck, he can do it now, but I think the authorities might take issue. My brother and sisters and I all did this. For years I’ve been spouting the very message you promote on this site. Some agree, others think I’m delusional. I’m just happy there are plenty of other parents out there like me! Thanks, Lenore.

By Kristin Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 3:26 am  

Having been a high school guidance counselor I saw two major parenting pitfalls:

1. Helicoptering resulting in students lacking accountability as everything was supposed to be the schools responsibility

2. Non-engagement to the point of not coming in and intervening when a student needed support

I personally believe that parents are facilitators as much as they are anything else such as protectors. We are charged with facilitating what is great within the child. We do not own our children.

For me that means creating a home culture of independence and responsibility. For example, my second grader makes her own lunch everyday. She has done so since 1st grade. We all learn by trial and error and she has been hungry some days because she did not pack well.

I really like what you are doing and it inspired me to see if other mothers would be willing to let our 8 yr. olds ride the bus downtown and meet us for ice cream.

Keep up the good work.

By Kat Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 3:29 am  

One phenomenon I’ve noticed in my community is that certain stay-at-home moms seem the most reluctant to give their kids any freedom. I see Moms walking their fifth graders (as tall as they are) the 2-3 very safe blocks to school. It almost seems like they wish to elevate motherhood to this all-encompassing endeavor to justify their choice to stay home.

By Tracy Stein Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 3:46 am  

I could write a book about this! My daughter is in her 3rd year of college and she is just now starting to feel some confidence. I was the worst mother, not Lenore Skenazy. I took care of everything and it left my daughter socially crippled. She had to learn to buy groceries, take care of postal and banking, use a credit card (of course she got in over her head and I bailed her out). Now she is learning how to make her own doctor appointments, where to get her hair done, how to speak to various customer service reps, and how to do a resume and interview. There is so much more. She doesn’t drive and is afraid of public transportation. I let her quit all kinds of things and she had trouble with commitments and responsibilities. Not anymore. I literally had to push her out of the nest before she learned how to fly. I am in California and she is in Virginia. This is her first summer alone. I am also in college and I am taking an internship in Chicago – partly so she has to figure out what to do with herself. I only had one child and I feel like I blew it. I know she will do things a lot differently. If you are a mother of a baby or young child, do not make the same mistakes. It will cost you and your child. Tracy

By Kaci Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 3:53 am  

I am an older mother, who has one set of grown children and 2 still at home. I have seen how children are more adaptable than people give them credit for. AND the more you try to protect them the less life skills they have for handling situations.

I have a friend who was sent to public schools and went on a mission for his church with children who were homeschooled. The homeschooled teens had more trouble adapting and handling situations. Now don’t think I am not putting down homeschooling, only using it for an example.

By Kim G. Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 3:54 am  

I thnk the lack of mothers staying at home with their kids results in them not knowing what they are capable of. If you don’t spend the majority of your time with someone how do you know what they can do?

By Susan Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 4:05 am  

For the most part I was a free ranged kid growing up. My single mother worked 2 full time jobs, so I had a lot of time on my hands. But I am finding that hard to do with my own kids. I’m so terrified that something will happen to them. I’ve just recently started leaving them home alone for an hour or so and I know let them go to the park in my apartment complex alone. I trust them and I am confident that they know how to be safe. But how do I get over my own fears. I am a helicopter mom and I know that it’s not fair to my children. I just don’t know how to get over my paranoid mothering.

I want my children to be independent like I was. I want them to feel confident enough to take public transportation and the roam the city alone when they get a little older. I live in Reno and there is great history here and a lot of amazing things to see. I want them to explore and to get their hands dirty. But how do I ease myself and let go of the reins.

Hopefully Lenore Skenazy’s blog will help me with that. I would rather be called a bad mother and have healthy, independent, confident children than be called a good mom with kids that won’t let go of her leg.

Susan

By Kaci Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 4:07 am  

I am an older parents with 2 sets of children. One set is grown with children of their own. The others are still young and at home. I have found that children learn by example and their mistakes and protecting them from every mistake is a mistake. You do need to keep an eye on them without them knowing in many cases. I have held my breath over many things as I watched my children work through many problems.

A friend of mine gave a good example of how overprotecting them can hurt. Now, I am not putting down homeschooling, but using this as an example. When this young man went out of town on a mission for his church he was paired up with a homeschooled young man that had very protective parents. He did not have the skills to deal with many situations, whether social or problems. What have we accomplished by this?

I am also a student and one of my classes is Cultural Anthropology. In one of the studies we read, it was over a civilization that let their children run free through the forests(the older children taught them what not to do). while parents worked and EVERYONE kept an eye on them. These children learned from an early age to use things like machettis and never hurt themselves. This made me think about how we are shortchanging our kids in many ways.Especially their adaptability.

By Second Grade Teacher Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 4:46 am  

Reading of the responses from some of these parents is making things that happen to my 7/8 year olds forgivable. It’s not thier fault, parents want to do everything for their child. I run my classroom with cooperation from each and every student taking part, the other class still unpacks their folders and packs up their folders, teaching them no responsibility. If parents continue to teach their students to cling to them and to have no self reliance our society is in big trouble…….stop the rude comments to the author because you live in the ghetto, or in a rougher section of town. We live in a rural area and some of our parents won’t let their children play in the front yards of their home.

By Virginia Davis Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 5:00 am  

I am a mother, a grandmother and a great grandmother. If we did anything right in raising our children it was to raise them as freerange kids. They are now grown, finished college, (some with graduate degrees) and without any pushing from their parents. We just told them it was expected, and they saw that college was a family tradition so they all finished–some after a struggle. We always sympathied, but never babied when they made mistakes.

Our payback is to see what they have done with their lives. They are all around 50 and very successful. Sure, we gave them advise when they asked for it, listened to their ideas on starting a new business, kept their kids when they went back to college, and praised their success and the successes of their children who are mainly being raised as freerange kids also. I admire Leonore for giving her son the gift of responsibility. And if she ever writes a book on the subject, I could certainly contribute an idea or two.

By Tracy Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 5:13 am  

Thank you for writing the column and starting this blog. I look forward to more stories of successfully indie kids and parenting tips, too. Put me on the pre-order list for a book.

Cheers,

Ms. Sick of Play Dates — Just Go Play!

By Child Welfare Worker Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 5:23 am  

I completely applaud you, Ms. Skenazy. I saw you and your son on The Today Program and I thought your idea was wonderful. As a child welfare worker, I am amazed at parents who think “someone else” is out to get their children when stastically it is the parents or close-relatives that do the greatest harm. Just a thought. Again, kudos.

By Mom of Two Boys Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 5:30 am  

I used to hold my sister’s hand and go to the park, across the street, practically every day. There was a gardener at the park who showed us that he was growing baby onions beneath one tree, and he showed us how to pick mulberries from the weeping mulberry tree. I remember my mother was aghast and claimed these berries would hurt us, and we told her that the berries were fine.

I am now a mother of two boys, and on a weekly basis I go to a local building complex that is smack dab in the middle of a large city park, where I do volunteer work for about one to two hours. My boys finally feel comfortable enough to go play in the park by themselves. THREE TIMES, people who WORK in that park have called the police on me. TWO TIMES (we were already gone by the time the police arrived the first time) I have had to discuss this with a policeman. Both times they have confirmed that I have broken no law. Both times the officer has admitted that he has a brother, and yes, he used to play in the local park without his mother.

A note here is that the city I live in claims to be the third safest city in the United States for a city its size. These policemen know that statistic. I keep asking them if they’re telling me my city is unsafe (they say no).

My kids know how to scream, “You’re not my mommy! You’re not my daddy!” if someone approaches them. They can outrun many adults. They know exactly where I am (about 200 yards away). They know to come fetch me if one of them falls down off the park equipment.

So far, the worst thing that has happened is that the park staff have tried intimidating them, and I am getting pissed off that I’m beginning to feel harrassed.

My kids are fine. I believe in their right to hang out at a city park without me hovering over them. And the next time the police approach me about this they had better give me a ticket and a damn good reason for pestering me, or I will go talk to their management, and also write an article to the local newspaper.

We shall see. Unfortunately, my kids are starting to be scared that the workers are going to call the police, and the police are going to come every time they go to the park, so now they’re getting more shy about playing at that park. Which I think is a shame.

By Allyssa Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 6:14 am  

My parents raised me with a ‘free range’ style.

At seven, I was aloud to go around the block I lived on, which included the McDonald’s down the street. When I started third grade, I walked the mile to school at seven-thirty in the morning, and home at three-thirty.

Middle school left me riding the city bus across town to the library and friend’s house, that summer led me walking downtown at nine in the morning to read by the Grand River.

So I firmly believe in free-range parenting, just like my parents. Good luck!

(also, whilst visiting in Chicago, I fell asleep on the subway and escaped unscathed. I think it’s safe for the most part anymore.)

By Jessica former 'latchkey kid' Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 6:38 am  

Thanks for letting people know that there is more to the world besides the ‘Mean World Theory’ that we perpetuate so much in our society and the socialization of kids.

I’m myself a former, what sociologists call a ‘latchkey kid’ and I am rather concerned by how possessive people have become over their children. Not to say that children shouldn’t be watched by their parents at all, just that I can think of far worse things than letting your kid ride the subway or bus by themselves when they know well enough to. There is such a thing as being overly possessive of your children’s actions and schedules to the point where you’re frustrated why at 26 or 35 they haven’t left your house, started a job or education, and ‘gone into the real world’. my mother’s close friend has unfortunately and subconsciously done this to her wonderful kids, who are like sisters to me, but they are at the point where they are either afraid or completely unmotivated to leave the house. It’s a saddening feeling when you try to take them out on halloween like any other kid, and their mother is afraid they’ll be kidnapped or attacked. :-(

Granted I live in a rural area where different social aspects rule than in a urban one, but even my grandmother taught me from a very early age what to do if ‘this or that’ happens, and mostly, how to be a responsible member of society (a.k.a. how to grow up). It was growing up with the responsibilities along with certain freedoms that I think from personal experience helped later on when finding a job, going into higher education, contributing to my family, etc.

From a life’s experience of personal observation, I think what children are missing out on now is not only the freedom of growing up, but the responsibilities that you come to understand and gain. Older generations than myself complain that kids now grow up with this sense of ‘instant gratification’ and ‘immediately deserving’ something. At first I thought it was just the age-old complaint of “them vs. us”, but now I’m starting to see that it may be rather correct. I hope that people come across your website and realize that parenting may differ from person to person, but there is as much harm from cloistering your child as there is letting them run wild.

… And to any parents who already know this, I hope your children give you a big hug and thanks for helping them become responsible adults. I still give my parents thanks for helping me have a great childhood and becoming an adult who practices hard work and responsiblitiy (and also play, I still know how to have a good time once the work’s done, lol.).
:-)

By Lara Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 6:40 am  

I’m 20yrs old and I agree with letting children having freedom. When I lived in Japan, I saw elementary children of all ages taking both the subway and buses by themselves. Most of the younger children had an older sibling with them, or some the children would group up after a few couple of stops if from the same school. I’m sure if you look at other countries too, they have the same sort of thing happening.

I don’t believe that it is such an unusual thing.

By Monica Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 7:34 am  

I’m all for it. I started allowing my son to go to the playground by himself last year (he was 7). I live half a block away and on the opposite side of the street. If I was working out in the front lawn, I would let him go down and play. This year, if I’m working outside he can go. He knows not to go anywhere else and he is so proud of himself. One day he went to his friends house without permission and he lost his playground privileges. It has not happened again.

There are limits however. My neighbor allows her 4 year old to play outside by himself and I have difficulties with that. He comes on to my property and steals things and then last fall he ended up getting into some poison that I had put out in my yard. His mother had no clue until I came home and noticed little white hand prints all over and I went over to talk to her.

By Nina Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 7:43 am  

I am all for it because think that people here in this country over-protect and treat their children like they know nothing. Kids are much smarter than we give them credit for! You’ve got my vote, Lenore! I don’t see what the big deal is. Manhattan is the one out of four major cities that I have lived in in the US where I have felt the safest! You’re a great Mother! BEST, Nina

By Kristine Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 7:59 am  

It is ok to let kids have a little bit of independence no matter what age. But it is up to us parents to judge at what point and what instances we allow this. Yes, I do agree that kids nowadays are coddled too much.

Case in point, my three year old daughter. She goes to dance class once a week and she does experience a little bit of independence when she’s at class. When it’s time to put on her ballet shoes, I give here the shoes and she puts them on by herself. When it’s time to change to tap shoes, she takes off her ballet shoes and puts the tap shoes on and insists on putting on the ribbon through the holes, but we tie it up for her. When my husband first tried to do this to her, other parents where a bit dumbfounded (and even gave him the “eye”). They were surprised that he lets our daughter take off her shoes and puts them on by herself while the other mothers do it for their kids.

We want to teach my daughter independence at an early age, but of course, we still give her all the TLC that she wants.

By Keri Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 8:09 am  

When I first heard your story about your son taking the subway home alone, I was a bit skeptical but you made your points clear. I lived in NYC briefly and it took me a while to understand the subway system there. It’s very easy to get lost in the crowds and get off at the wrong subway stop. Kudos to your son for making it home in one piece all by himself! =) Since I live in Vermont, it’s pretty easy to raise my kids free-range. The key is educating your children how to protect themselves and learn how to problem-solve when they run into a problem. If we overprotect our kids, how can they learn to take care of themselves? Best of luck to you and your free-range son! =)

By Emily Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 9:16 am  

Bravo!!!!

Thank you for actually trying to raise an independent child!

My classroom is full of children who cannot do fo themself. I am in an uphill battle to encourage independence and creative thinking!!!

Wonderful!!

By Shulamit Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 9:28 am  

For or against?

It depends on the kid.

If parent and child agree that it is time, then it is.

When does a carefully protected child learn to deal with learning the basic life-skills involved when *things* happen?

Self-confidence isn’t gained by avoiding failure. It is gained through attaining hard-earned successes, while surviving hard-earned failures. As parents, it is our job to gage our children’s abilities, and keep them challenged.

I am nervous about the dearth of real-life creative problem-solving experience the latest American generation is getting. They can barely take care of themselves–how will they lead when the time comes?

By haley Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 9:46 am  

Dude im from the y generation. im 14 years old. even i was a free range kid. we were expected to go out the door and not to return until the street lights came on and to be dirty and have some kind of story to tell or it was considered a day wasted. let you kids be kids

By Tanya Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 10:00 am  

I’m also strongly in favor of fostering independence in children. I recently completed a house purchase and one of the main reasons it took a while for my husband and I to find a house was because we wanted a house that was within walking distance of our town (which has an LIRR station to the city) because I hoped that this would be beneficial to the whole family with regard to both health and independence. I myself walked and biked to school growing up in the 70s and was able to walk to the center of our my hometown, Stamford, CT, during high school and my parents had no problem with this.

I am now raising two children who are still below six and I have noticed the helicopter parent effect at this age as parents take around special placemats to restaurants to prevent germs. Beyond the health concerns, parents are also a bit too worried about the mess. I love to do art with my kids and have no problems with glue and paint in their hair, on the clothes and on the Little Tykes table.

I remember making mud pies in my yard regularly and my dad (who is a big gardener) actually has me bring some worms in to my mom one day and ask her to fry them for breakfast as a joke–something that would cause many parents today to consider him a complete nut. He is a bit eccentric but not nuts.

By Timothy Longua Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 10:02 am  

It’s about time. Making mistakes, getting hurt, being uncomfortable, getting lost; we develop life’s requisite problem-solving skills by emerging from these moments of disequilibrium. More outrageous tha your actions is the fact that so many people find it outrageous.

As for the enlightened post below me, it’s surprising that such a clever and well thought out poster would lost anonymously.

By haley Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 10:14 am  

let your kids be kids. if it’s sunny make them go outside. depending on the age and distance they can walk to school. let em be what they can be. they’re not stupid. they know the signs of stranger danger. they’ve been told all their life. you go girl!

By massmom Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 10:25 am  

Thank you for bringing this issue into the open. I have a five year old and struggle with the societal pressure to smother. Last summer some older boys were headed to walk to the store. I told my eager son he could go. He is very good with street safety, I have been teaching him to watch for cars and keep himself safe since he was three. He set off with a dollar for water balloons, responsibly walking on the sidewalk. The store is three short streets away, less than a six minute walk. About five minutes later he came back, escorted. One of the boys, who is thirteen stopped at home to grab some money and his mom told him that he could not walk to the store. She delivered my son and a lecture. This mother adamantly believed that her thirteen year old and the neighboring twelve year old (who had told me he had permission to go) were both not responsible enough to walk with my son to the store. I was shocked and dismayed.

I believe this type of hover parenting is a reason teens get into such trouble with drugs and other things. If we never allow our children to think for themselves and learn how to keep themselves safe and occupied how will they ever learn to handle the freedom that comes with adulthood?

I grew up in Maine and spent my days riding my bike, at 12 I remember biking 7 miles to a friends house. At five I could safely cross the street or walk around the corner to another friends house. Once there we kids headed into the woods beyond the purview of the grownups, we ran around in the woods with sticks, climbed trees, and developed a healthy respect for the beauty and danger inherent in nature.

Now, when I send my five year old across the street by himself I know I get looks from my neighbors. But, he looks both ways, behaves while he is there, and comes home when I call for him, or when he gets bored.

I am surprised when I drive through rural and suburban neighborhoods on nice days. Often there are children at the playgrounds. But the front yards are empty. People are too afraid. They are afraid of the criminals spotlighted by the news media, by the fear, and by the scorn of their own community. But, we need to wake up, shake off the fear, unplug our kids, and get them outside.

By R.J. Yancey Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 10:32 am  

I’m 18 and I live in a small town in southern Georgia. Where I live we don’t have a subway system or anything of that nature, but we have our own forms of “danger”. Where I live anyone can get anywhere just by taking a short walk. I think it is important to children and adults to be safe, but sometimes parents do go overboard. I’m mature enough to know that children do need supervision when it comes to some things, but at the same time I’m still a kid myself, and I know that the more freedom I have to explore, the more mature I will become.

By Nicole Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 10:38 am  

I think that kids need freedom. I mean, come on! Kids need to learn what ot do when they get to the real world. If you don’t let them try things on their own when they’re young, do you really think they’ll be safe when they’re older?

By Lori Morsman Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 10:49 am  

I am a 53 year old grandmother of two lovely granddaughters, aged 4 and a half and 2 and a half. I live in the same city here in Eastern Washington State that my children, now 33, 32, and 26 grew up in. They walked a good mile through our low to middle income neighborhood to get to school in snow or shine. We do not have much bus service still. I guess kids either walk now or get rides. But we sent our kids to the corner convenience store–and this was not and is not a small town for milk and eggs, let them ride their bikes all over the place as long as when I stood on the porch and yelled for them, they could hear me. Or, and this was just as common, as long as they could be found by the grapevine of other parents and other kids and other adults who relayed the message that “your” or “somebody’s mom/dad–is it yours?–is calling for “you”. We parents and adults were not all buddy buddy across five or ten blocks of a old and diverse neighborhood. It just was normal to notice kids and notice their situations, etc.

Now, my daughter seems, to me, sometimes too caught up monitoring safety issues which are not real or realistic. I work in education and I really do not think unwashed hands after a trip to the grocery store is worth my granddaughter practically having an anxiety attack along with her mother. I think it’s a fine idea but yeowww!

I–and my ex—Grandpa–sit off quite a bit compared to the parents at the park. It is the girls’ job to negotiate the ways of the playground. I watch the adults, too, but I think, as I did today, at the park, that the world is not worse than it was for me or my kids, I think much of the reaction is self-serving: parents are thinking of what they OUGHT to be doing in the eyes of society…I do NOT mean they do not love their kids. I mean they are much like folks who could not countenance their children marrying outside the race or the faith. It was against the rules as enforced by the experts and the community they felt a part of. We are convinced by media, by media exposure, by innundation of information, that boogey men and women lurk around every single corner of the library and that therefore the accepted (new) norm–regardless of facts–must be obeyed, or else bad things will happen AND WE as parents will be blamed.

I sincerely hope we NEVER blame a suffering parent for the acts of another in harming a child. But how can children learn to cope, to practice the safety we teach, if we do not let them? We must build community every day, and we must build safe ones, every every day, and , yes, we must give our kids the free run of that range.

By Erika Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 11:56 am  

I LOVE this!!

I grew up in the 70′s in univ. student housing. As soon as I was 8 ,I was allowed to roam the campus. I learned how to use a card catalog and work the microfiche (yep those archaic things lol) on my own. I practiced how to interact with people of all backgrounds, cultures and ages by myself. If my mother had kept me locked up or under her constant supervision I probably wouldn’t of convinced the drama dept. to let me volunteer as an usher during the Shakespearean festival at the age of 9.

I was a true “City Kid”. I now live in a small city in the Midwest and am raising four boys while also operating a small childcare. I have to admit to slightly failing my children. I have not taught the older ones (almost 9, 11, 13) how to ride the bus and they are very limited on where they can ride their bikes to and for how long. In fact the first summer that I did allow them to be out of my site and I annoyed them the entire time by calling them every 20 minutes.

Even though I feel deficient in this area, the parents of the children I care for feel that I am too permissive with my children and one parent was shocked to find my 9yr old in line at the bank waiting to make my business deposits.

I do agree that not every child should be allowed to do everything. Each child has their strengths and weaknesses. However, I do believe that children should have their ability stretched a little so that they can realize what they are capable of.

Some people agree with my philosophy and others are shocked and i personally believe it is because of their own selfish needs that they are trying to meet.

But I tell everyone, “I am raising young adults, not children.”

Once they are young adults they will be capable of exploring their community/world and continuing their own personal education.”

I am very glad that I came upon your site thru MSN. I had already discussed just yesterday that this was going to be the summer of Independence if it killed me lol. Thank you for the affirmation that I am doing the right thing

By Celeste Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 12:27 pm  

I am victim to the typical mom-xiety whenever my eight year-old son crosses the street to go to our neighborhood park, but I know that the answer to that is teaching him responsibility for his actions when crossing the road, not keeping him confined to the house until I am freed up from all of my grown-up whatevering to go with him to the park. My son’s been allowed to go to the park by himself for over a year now, (we moved into this house a year and a half ago) and that was a process, not a sudden booting out the door. We discussed responsibility and practiced crossing the street alone, and let him go to the park by himself for five minutes one day. We gradually lengthened the tether until now, he’s pretty much allowed to do whatever he wants in our direct neighborhood so long as we’re awake and know where he is. He’s responsible and considerate, and knows the meaning of a curfew. We started out having him carry a walkie-talkie so that we could ping him whenever I got anxious, but eventually we figured out that he naturally wants to check in with us far more often than we would require, had we given him a time.

I worry every single time that he leaves the house. I peer up the street and look for his bright orange hoodie. But I buy him bright orange hoodies so I can spot him from a distance, rather than attaching him to my hip so he never knows what independence is and has to learn the hard way when he’s an “adult.”

I freak out, but I talk to my son about the reasons I freak out, and we come up with plans together to try and mitigate some of that. We’ve gone over stranger danger, have beat him over the head with the importance of street safety, and make sure that he is aware and comfortable with his surroundings.

A lot of people think that my partner and I are crazy for giving our son so much freedom, and my son’s biological dad definitely questions the decision. And while I can respect my ex-husband’s concern, I do my best to address his dad-xiety and help him work through that without compromising my son’s independence.

Kids need to be kept safe, but coddling them may open a host of dangers down the road. We’re all parents doing the best we can for our kids. This is the way that I do it.

By Tayler Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 1:14 pm  

I was raised in the “free range” way. I was allowed to ride my bike to the library and to my friends homes as well as anywhere else I ended up. I did not have a cell phone till I got my license at 16.

There are worst case scenarios to this type of upbringing as with any case. However, I find that I am a better adult because of this. I am 20 years old and I have felt independent since before I hit puberty.

As children, we want our parents to find a medium between coddling and incompletely ignoring us. We want the freedom of being an adult while still given boundaries. This type of raising is a “To Each His/Her Own”; I feel that I will raise my children this way as long as the world still allows it.

Thank you for writing this article. Although it is not a “earth shattering” issue, it is still a valuable parenting topic.

By Crysti Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 8:13 pm  

Good for you Lenore!! I am the mother of 2 boys, 8 and 6 years old who are being raised in a very free-range sort of way. I deal with criticism masked as concern about this all the time. Especially from people who either do not have children or have really “bad” kids who cannot be trusted out of Mom’s sight. I think its important to point out that each kid is different….just because I let my children stay home for a few hours alone doesn’t mean everyone should. It depends on the level of maturity and responsibility they have. My sister-in-law, an elem. school teacher, tells me its against the law to leave kids alone until they are 12. I cannot find this anywhere…and considering YOU didn’t get arrested, I am thinking she’s wrong.

(I also live in NY…But waaaay upstate..)

Am I nervous about letting them go out in a rowboat or kayak? YES! Am I worried that all these awful scary people are going to snatch them away ? YES!! But I’m MORE worried that they will grow up helpless and dependent on other people.(namely ME!) So, I let them go fishing alone… (fish-hooks? YIKES! we all know the damage they can do!) They take the fish off themselves..( I’m not touching those slimy things). They go hiking in the woods, build forts..and there really are bears around! My 8 year old got a .22 rifle to go squirrel hunting with for his birthday this year…You’d think I bought him a ready-made bomb and directions to blow up his school. When the boys were 3 years old, they got 4-wheelers…those real ones not the battery operated ones. Did they drive into the street? No, but the younger one did hit the house,…once…and he learned not to do that again. My kids have not yet had any broken bones or as yet shown signs of long-term damage. They are responsible and caring, dependable and courageous. I walk that fine line everyday deciding how much freedom they get. It’s a little more every year. So, am I scared? Sometimes…But I am a lot more proud of them than anything. That is something I tell them every day.

By Andrea C. Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 8:23 pm  

THANK YOU LENORE!!! Your story hits on what I believe is a critical issue in today’s world. These overprotective parents are raising a generation of children who cannot think for themselves, cannot make simple decisions and have been raised thinking someone will always be there to do everything for them. These parents are doing their children a huge disservice! How will these kids ever learn to handle the realities of the real world?

I have a 14-year-old daughter who I’ve raised to be an indepent thinker (rather than a naive follower).

I don’t let her run wild and I always know where she is.

But I’ve allowed her to experience the “real world” by making her own choices and guiding her through her own experiences in “real world” circumstances. I know some of these helicopter parents consider me too liberal, however my daughter is able to make good choices on her own and would know what to do if, God forbid, she found herself alone in the world.

Meanwhile, she is an honor roll student and an athlete.

Most importantly, I believe I’ve given her the skills — and the FREEDOM — to succeed in the real world without me. Heaven help those children who are growing up with their parents doing everything for them.

By Matt Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 8:31 pm  

When I was in 3rd grade, I rode a bike to school. I had a BB gun. I played with fireworks. And I had a single mom, who was in a wheelchair. I’m 31 now, have been married for 8 years, never been unemployed, in good shape, and have lived a great life! This is because my childhood prepared me for the responsibilities of adulthood. By sheltering your kids, you are destroying their ability to be productive, independent, and responsible. They become fat, needy, and live at home until there 40. Good for you for speaking out and letting your children experience the world. We are blessed that children in American aren’t trying to find clean water to drink every day or dying from politically motivated warfare. The least we could do is try to give them tools they need to succeed.

By Dave Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 8:38 pm  

Hello, I am a father of 4 of my own, and 2nd marriage brought into my fold another 3. My youngest is 12, my oldest is 23. I grew up in sothern california where we would ride our bicycles 17 miles to Huntington Beach hang out all day and ride back home up rt 39. Now I find my kids a bit timid due to an overpamering from my 1st wife. Now I have more of a 1 on 1 role and my 12 year old has the presence to make a 4 mile trip to her sisters house and back with no issue. She is involved in summer sailing classes and is active in softball and tennis as well. The mentality of keep them home and safe does them no favors when they have to make choices later on in life. Without the real life experiences of “IU would rather do it myself” how in the world are our children ever going to be come independant and responsible souls they need to become to achieve the greatness locked inside of each one. Release the reins of your children folks, see what wonders they can find on their own. Rein them in and as soon as they become 18 they will run far and fast from “your nurturing ways”, and please try to balance being a parent and being a friend. The results are worth it!

By Anonymous Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 8:53 pm  

I wrote above about being a mother who homeschools my 11 children. There are a few things that I forgot about and would like to add.

Once, when I was 10 and my sister 2, we were at a park. My mother, stepfather and another couple were sitting on a blanket enjoying conversation while we children played in a very busy park right beside them. I went to the bathroom in the woods with my step sister. We heard someone coming and she was hysterical so I stood outside the bathroom. We were quite some way away from the park. A tall, lanky man passed by and I saw he had a boy on his shoulders. As he ascended the hill higher I then noticed that holding onto his hand was my 2 year old sister. He claims she followed him, bologna. I took her back. No one noticed she was missing. My 4 year old brother was still there. They had the police follow him, only to find out he was a convicted child molester and would volunteer to watch his neighbors son, although he was to have no contact with children.

As a mother I feel that our job is to protect our children, as well as to teach them. It is a fine balancing act. I let my older children go shopping across the road from my warehouse yet I know where they are. I know how long it should take them to come back. I have prepped them for what could happen and what to do. Yes, they have to learn things on their own, but we parents must know how to make that happen in the safest way possible. This is not to say that children don’t know things, or we fail to teach them, it is just to say that there are dangerous situations our there, there are vultures out there who prey on children and women, and we need to make it harder for these vultures to have access.

The boy Adam that was stolen from a store was left to play a computer. Others have been taken as they ride bikes. When I was on a train in NY at the age of 16 I had this Indian man put me on the wrong train and try to take me somewhere. I really had no idea what was going on. Thankfully another passenger noticed, got rid of him and gave me 20 dollars to take a cab as I was far off.

As we know there are children molested by people in churches where we trust to leave our children. I think as parents, if we really love the very children that are vulnerable to such vultures, we need to watch them with a keen eye. We can let them walk but watch them from a distance. We can let them make decisions but gently guide them. This is what parenting is for.

Myself, I have 10 acres that I give my children free range on. They know they must stay on the property. I don’t really watch them much. I just follow up on them from time to time. Sometimes I send them to neighbors with eggs and the like. I know where I send them and wait for them to come back. They know never to go inside anyones house. I have 10 neighbors and we know who they are. Does that mean that one of them isn’t a vulture? No, it just means that I know who they are. I know where they are.

By Pam Baker Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 10:31 pm  

Such a hot topic. But I think Eleanor Roosevelt had some profound words that could be applied to this topic.

“You must do the things you think you cannot do.” That can be for the parents as well as the children of our nation.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’

“People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.”

and finally….

“You can never really live anyone else’s life, not even your child’s. The influence you exert is through your own life, and what you’ve become yourself.”

Pam Baker

By Jennifer Bristow Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 11:15 pm  

I am one of the few parents that I believe has a good reasone to be over protective, but I am not.

My daughter was born in 1992 with Congential Heart Disease (among other problems) and has had mutliple surgeries and pacemakers to keep her alive and mostly well. Even given that she is on blood thinners (asaprin now), her father and I have always encouraged her to explore her world by riding scooters, climbing trees and playing outstide with the neighborhood kids as much as possible.

We decided during all that hospital time during her first 5 years to do our best to ensure that she truely lived her life. I will not put her in a bubble, I want her to experience everything.

She has been taught from a very early age about safety – from the oven is hot and what “hot” means to “there are bad people out there who like to hurt children”. Nothing paranoid, but basic safety measures. She walked to and from school by herself (at her insistence by the way) as young as second grade.

She turns 16 in May this year and not only am I grateful that she is healthy enough to enjoy what she has; I am also happy that she has made good choices throughout her life. I will continue to encourage her to make her own choices – her most recent is that she would rather ride the public bus than learn to drive.

By Another Free-Ranger Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 11:32 pm  

I have two kids, 10 and 9 years old. I also have two toddlers, 2 1/2 and 1 1/2.

Just last night, after we put the 1 1/2 yo to bed, we left the older kids in charge of the 2 1/2 yo and went out to a movie and ice cream.

The older kids know not to answer the door (ever. We have our keys) or phone, unless it is us (we have caller i.d.). They are not to turn on the stove. We have a cell phone that they can call if they need to and they know how to (responsibly) use 9-1-1.

This is not a rare occurence in our house. The older kids are incredibly responsible. They did their chores while we were gone, even though we forgot to mention it before we left, and they put the 2 1/2 yo to bed, including changing his diaper.

They also walk to school. It is only 1/2 a mile, but there is actually a bus that can pick them up!

They walk or bike to the park down the street, about 1/4 mile, no sidewalks, but not a busy street.

They do not have a cell phone. Teach your children to be responsible (which you can’t do if you hover) and then LET THEM BE KIDS and HAVE A LIFE!

By Christine Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 11:43 pm  

Well… I’m conflicted. I live in a safe subdivision in a small town in CT. I let my 12 year old son roam the neighborhood pretty much at will — he goes out to the bus stop or to his friends by himself, and I let him stay home alone for short periods. I still walk my 8 year old daughter to the bus stop though. Perhaps it is time to cut that cord.

I do worry, though, about other kids (and adults) doing unsafe things. Yesterday, in fact, my daughter was playing in the woods at a friend’s house, when the neighboring boys decided that it would be fun to “hunt” the girls with their BB guns (the guns shoot little plastic BBs, but they hit hard enough to bruise). They hit both girls, including hitting my daughter’s friend in the face.

It seems to me that those boys need more supervision, not less (not to mention some basic safety lessons!)

By anonymous Mon Apr 28th 2008 at 11:56 pm  

When you’ve done everything you can to instill common sense in your children, and you BOTH feel they’re ready to prove that they’re ready to earn your trust then the only way to know for sure is to let them go. Obviously, if Lenore doubted her son’s abilities she wouldn’t have let him go.

I’ve struggled between being a helicopter-mom and having free-range kids. Its a daily struggle just to let them do some of the littlest things, but at the end of the day my family comes out of it better for the experience, and with a better relationship.

When kids learn that we trust them, they learn to trust us. BUT we as parents have to maintain our own common sense and listen to our instincts when we think something isn’t right.

Carefully thought out and planned experiences, are what life is about. Isolating kids from experiences leaves them scared of even the littlest thing… and makes them much more dependent and draining on parents.

By Parent Tue Apr 29th 2008 at 12:34 am  

Don’t forget to teach them to cook too.

WEBSTER, Mass (WWLP) Three young children had who had been left home alone were rescued from a fire in their apartment. Police in Webster arrested 28 year old Christina Page after she left her three-year-old son and two month old twins home alone with a pot of food cooking on the stove.

An upstairs neighbor smelled smoke and rescued the children before calling for help.

The children were treated at a hospital for smoke inhalation and were expected to be turned over to the custody of the Department of Social Services.

By Mario Tue Apr 29th 2008 at 1:49 am  

Sorry, Lenore, you have good intentions, but you’re giving bad advice. The best defense for being a “helicopter parent” is that you do not get a second chance to raise a child safely into adulthood. Even if the changes are one in a million that something bad might happen, it’s still too high a risk for me to take with my child’s life.

It’s not about a child handling the expected, but of his ability to handle the unexpected, regardless of how well you raise him.

As some of your “against” comment show, the unexpected does happen with tragic consequences. Your child will grow up soon enough, Lenore; no need to push the limits of risk just to brighten his day at nine.

By A 70's City Kid Tue Apr 29th 2008 at 2:35 am  

How about letting parents raise their own child without commentary. Who better knows than the mom and dad who helped develop and recognize the capabilities their kid has?? The boy rode a train, he didn’t rob a store.

Shame on all of you who think you know better than this boy’s mom.

PS to the young man riding the train: your life is meant to be lived and experienced – your mom has given you a precious gift.

By Anonymous Tue Apr 29th 2008 at 3:48 am  

I do not mean to criticize anyone, but I am thinking about the safety of your children. Why would you ever leave a 2 year old with a 10 year old so YOU can go to a movie? I am not against leaving a 10 year old and a 9 year old alone for a few hours- but with a sleeping 1 and a half year old and a 2 year old??? Oh my God. Furthermore, you are leaving them so that you can have some time out? Isn’t that what a babysitter is for???? If the police had known they would take the children away. I am not a super protective mother but a 2 year old is hard for even an adult to take care of. I have eleven children. My 2 year old likes to create things. She turns on the bathroom sink. She climbs. She sticks her heads out windows. I have to watch her round the clock to make sure she does not hurt herself. Wow, I pray your toddlers will be safe.

By Anonymous Tue Apr 29th 2008 at 4:00 am  

LET THEM BE KIDS and HAVE A LIFE!

How can the kids have a life and be kids if they are busy watching toddlers so you can got out and have a good time? I hope other parents don’t get bad ideas from this. Not only is it very dangerous, it is also very illegal.

Lenore, letting her seemingly mature son take the train with clear instructions what to do should not be confused with selfishness and neglect. She was giving her son an opportunity to gain something, not having something taken away from him.

It is important parents learn a clear distinction between teaching children and merely being neglectful of them. This woman did not neglect her son. One could argue that he was put in a dangerous situation, yes, but this is arguable. She did not leave him to roam the streets by night. She did not leave minors in his care. She did not take him into a bar. She did not leave him on a weekend while she went to Florida. She merely helped him to acheive a life skill.

By PreschoolMom Tue Apr 29th 2008 at 7:18 am  

Why is this such a polarizing discussion? Giving our kids room to make mistakes, to get hurt, and to build competence is NOT abdication of parental oversight. No one is saying we should let kids roam completely free, without boundaries or rules, or without regard for basic safety.

Are my kids allowed to run at the pool, jump off the garage roof, bike 10 miles to town on a busy road? Absolutely not. Would I take my 5-year olds to Target and say, “meet you at the entrance in 20 minutes”? No! Do we hand the kids the hedgetrimmers and tell them to get busy? Duh. Do we leave matches within their easy reach? Come on.

As my kids get increased time for unsupervised play, we still monitor their activities. We make corrections as appropriate, but mostly we enjoy the creativity and confidence they display. And we enjoy their interest in the hobbies and chores we can do when we’re not monitoring ALL of their movements.

While many may say I’m more of a Free Range Parent, no one can accuse me of being an irresponsible one. And just because I don’t rush over every time one my kids gets a scrape or a bump, that doesn’t mean I’m not a “caring” parent.

One in a million may not be a comfortable thought for you as a parent, but the reality is that you deal with that every day, and you CANNOT protect your kids from EVERY SINGLE possible thing that could go wrong. You can cut up a toddler’s food so that s/he is less likely to choke on it, but you’re not going to keep your child on an all-liquid diet forever. Is your child more safe in a carseat in your minivan or in a trailer behind your bicycle? Either way, you’re not likely to prevent your child from leaving your home/yard so you can avoid every *possible* traffic collision. You can only MITIGATE risk. And make no mistake, sacrificing your child’s independence to give you peace of mind in avoiding the 1 in a million risk has its own consequences. Don’t fool yourself, that’s putting your needs (peace of mind) over those of your child. At least be honest about that.

By karrie Tue Apr 29th 2008 at 8:29 am  

I’m still trying to get an honest handle on what you mean by Free Range. Age and maturity appropriate freedom? All for it. However, I think we need to consider the individual child, the real risks of the environment and their own comfort level. An urban 9 yo, who I assume has a good deal of experience with the public transit and all the characters a large city has to offer, begging to take a short subway ride alone? Fine by me.

Asking your 3 yo to wait outside on a bench in a strip mall with one of the worst parking lot “road” ragers and a meth clinic across the street, so you can browse a bookstore alone? Not so much. (I witnessed this recently in another Northeastern City and was flabbergasted and annoyed, since I felt compelled to keep an eye on the poor kid and I was off mom duty at that time.)

By Parent Wed Apr 30th 2008 at 12:12 am  

Sentencing set for ex-police officer convicted of child rape

Associated Press – April 29, 2008 9:44 AM ET

PITTSFIELD, Mass. (AP) – A former Connecticut police constable is set to be sentenced on child rape charges.

Alden Hewett is scheduled to appear Tuesday afternoon in Berkshire District Court, where he was convicted earlier this month of sexually assaulting a boy over three years starting in 1991.

The 55-year-old Hewett lives in Otis and is a manager at a local ski area.

Hewett was a former police constable in New Hartford, Conn., and was once suspected of molesting several boys in Connecticut in the 1970s and 1980s.

State police said in a 1992 report that they could not bring any charges against Hewett because none of the cases fell within the statute of limitations.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

By perspective Wed Apr 30th 2008 at 6:11 am  

I had a distant relative who at 15 walked across Europe, with her 7 year old sister, fleeing the Nazis. Another got a job and bought a house at 13, when her parents lost theirs in the depression. Another was in WWII at 16, and yet another left home for college at 14.

Makes my 1970′s bike rides through a not-so-nice neighborhood seem pretty safe. Kids are a lot more resourceful than we give them credit for.

By l be charlie the spleen missing unicorn Wed Apr 30th 2008 at 7:27 am  

you be rockin’ with these results

By Addley Wed Apr 30th 2008 at 9:23 am  

I was raised a free-range kid, and I can tell you, I’m way better off for it.

See, I went to a private elementary school and, along with the rest of my classmates, was relatively sheltered for my first six years of school life. When the end of my sixth grade year rolled around, most of us were able to choose between three of the six public jr. highs in our area – either our ‘home’ school, where we were districted, or the two magnet schools, one of which specialized in academics, the other in the fine arts. The Fine Arts magnet school was districted in a lower-income part of town and had a reputation for fights and gangs, but I was in love with creative writing and jumped at the chance to choose swimming as a P.E. substitute. My mother, to my delight, was willing to let me go anywhere I wished.

When we announced this, my mother got several reproachful comments from my classmates’ helicopter parents – “WELL! I wouldn’t let *my* child go there! Don’t you know how dangerous it is?” But my mother, thankfully, decided to see how the school was for ourselves and ignored them.

In my first year there, I was faced with things I’d never seen before – crude languge, hallway fights, religious seperation, suicidal friends, gangs and talk of sex and drugs – but more than anything, I learned how to deal with them in a setting where anything too bad would be soon broken up by teachers or campus police. I had the morals my mother instilled in me, all I need was to learn how to stand up for them. What’s more, I met people who have become my very best friends, and learned about real *goodness* in people – no matter what folks tell you, there is honor among theives. I had a better experience throughout Jr. High than even my brother, who chose to go to the academic magnet school and was bullied by the *teachers.* I would later be allowed to make my own decision and go to the ‘high-risk’ high school as well.

I’m in college now, my first year, and a few months ago one of the helicoptor moms arranged a ‘reunion’ of sorts for my six-grade class. With the exception of me and an old friend, whom I would occasional drag out of her mother’s sight while mine covered for us, no one in class knew how to take care of themselves in college. They were all sticking close to home so mommy and daddy could coddle them some more, instead of striking out on their own and learning how to live for themselves. Most of them will never leave our hometown – and that’s *really* depressing when you know what our hometown is like.

So, all I can say is, you folks have the right idea. Childhood is supposed to be safe, *not* sterlized. Independence is key!

By satsu Thu May 1st 2008 at 2:31 am  

I think that our children do need freedom. I was raised ‘free range’,my parents also taught me how to protect myself in case of danger.

If you decide on everything in your child’s life they won’t have room to grow. There SHOULD be boundaries ,but they should also have freedom.

You as a parent should gauge how mature your child is and teach them the responsible way to go about things. Teach them about dangerous situations but also let them have room to grow and discover themselves . It is our job as parents to get our children ready for ‘the real world’ as best we can. If you shelter them and not let them find themselves they will not survive as they should into their adulthood.

There was a comment made by someone about kids drowning in a lake. I’m sorry to say but you can only assume that if they were told not to do something they would still be alive. Children who are given rules still do things against the rules,rules are not automatic barriers from danger.

By DH Thu May 1st 2008 at 2:50 am  

Thanks for the wake up call as I am a borderline hoverer-free ranger. My kids 9, 12 walked to school 1mile each way. They help me shop, they can cook ,do laundry etc etc, even ride motercycles but we have been hesitant to allow them to stay overnight at other peoples houses.

Maybe if more and more parents think this way maybe the world will become more self relient and need less “Goverment” to take care of them.

By KStreet Thu May 1st 2008 at 5:47 am  

Thank you for starting this blog and conversation! My first child is due in a few weeks, and as I begin navigating parenthood advice I am appalled at how over-protective everything has become. No crib bumpers to prevent everyday bruises for the one-in-a-million chance the baby somehow sufficates. Car seats mandated by law until age 8. And parents afraid to let elementary school kids out of their sight even for short distances during daylight.

I was a free range kid growing up in the 80s, and it made me more mature and self-confident. I took my first unaccompanied airplane flight when I was 7. I walked all over town by myself by the time I was 8, and took my little sister too when I was 9. I was babysitting neighbors for cash by age 12. I went to Mexico on a service trip at age 14 and walked around foreign towns with only other teenagers. Left home for college hundreds of miles away at 16. Had a good-paying job with management responsibilities in New York City by age 22, when many of my coddled peers still couldn’t face the prospect of having to fend for themselves.

Do I want my daughter to grow up in a bubble, or do I want her to have the opportunities to stretch herself like I did? Comparing my life with those of current and former “bubble children,” I say a pox upon the bubbles and the people who criticize parents who don’t keep their child in a bubble!

By Shepherd Thu May 1st 2008 at 3:26 pm  

It’s all well and good to expose your children to amazing opportunities. I guess you could say I was raised free-range. I enjoyed a lot of freedom as a child and was allowed to walk all over my small town. I was also molested. Like with anything, you take risks. So long as your child isn’t the one in the million to die from getting strangled in a crib bumper, they seem pretty reasonable.

I have come to realize that ‘culling of the herd’ is a far more palatable prospect when it’s not my member of the herd that’s getting culled.

By Anon Fri May 2nd 2008 at 4:16 am  

I totally agree and think modern parents have gone nuts, and are warped.

I truly feel sorry for today’s children, never having the independent fun we had and learning to be self-sufficient so they will be a better teen, young adult and adult.

The way we’re going in modern society, these kids are going to grow into adults who are afraid of their shadows because they never were alone, making good decisions, and building their instincts and intuition about stranger danger.

Good for you and I hope the tend grows and grows.

By Gus Mitchem Fri May 2nd 2008 at 4:36 am  

I am for!

If you raise an intelligent independant child you will get an independant adult, too many people are trying to keep their kids safe by not exposing them to things they will eventually be exposed to in time. The younger the better use the advenuture of youth to teach you child to grow

By massmom Fri May 2nd 2008 at 9:32 am  

Re: Christine’s comment-

I agree with you that boys need extra lessons on safety at an earlier age. My son is a brave acrobatic kid. I teach him things that I know other parents and sometimes my own husband think he is too young to know. He knows how to use a steak knife alone, how to cross a street, and what to do if other kids are playing with a real gun (come home immediately and tell a grownup what is happening.)

Recently I heard from him that some of the children in pre-school have been choking each other. So, last week we talked about the choking game, that one I had overlooked. But I figure with him it is smarter to discuss the dangers he could be facing before he runs into them. And if you let your child go to other people’s houses or play with other children outside of your direct purview there may be dangers you don’t know about.

I also think girls need many of the same lessons but they also need different ones, especially once they reach puberty or get ready to head out on their own.

By Helen Sat May 3rd 2008 at 7:29 am  

I’ve just discovered this website through reading about Skenazy’s story. I thoroughly agree and support this trend.

My children are older now, but I homeschooled them for several years so they could experience ‘free ranging’. When they finally went to school I let them walk to and from school. I pretty well do let them do anything they wanted as long as it didn’t damage property or life. I was ridiculed and looked down upon by other parents in my neighbourhood – even had some come to my door to tell me that I shouldn’t let my kids ride their bikes out on the footpath etc.

But now, my twin daughters are youth leaders in their church (their choice – I’m not religous), have completed college degrees and now are studying to be teachers. They are amazing young women – they have travelled overseas alone, and generally feel they can achieve what ever they want.

My son now lives in another city with his father and every school holidays since he was 12 he has flown alone between cities – even some transferred flights (and not as a child – we didn’t declare his age to the airline as he didn’t want to be nannied by the flight attendants).

We need to realise that protecting children from harm in their childhood does not benefit society. Children learn and grow from taking risks, being stupid, from making mistakes and, yes, by getting hurt and lost and scared. What do we want – over protected nannied children that have to be like that ‘jackass’ guy in their 20′s and 30′s because they were never able to take risks and be stupid earlier in their lives.

Try reading books like Richard Price’s ‘The Wanderers’ for an extreme taste of a freeranging childhood. Sure, kids got hurt and even killed. But young boys also learnt about friendship, making decisions and the consequences, and taking the step from boyhood to manhood.

By matthew gerke Sun May 4th 2008 at 12:41 pm  

my wife and i are having our first child this year. i would never leave my child at, let’s say, the state fair alone. however, i will not force my child to call me the minute he/she gets to the neighborhood pool like i had to when i was a child. i do not think this style of parenting is calling for ultimate freedom for children, but for parents to not smother as they/we have a tendency to do. in a world where cellphone plans can be used to track where kids are at all times, we don’t have to utilize all the advances we have. a strong, independent child will have a better sense of self. a smothered son or daughter will doubt their own ability to make decisions and take care of themselves. FOR!

By Adam Jones Sun May 4th 2008 at 2:36 pm  

You would hope that an insult would be, at the least, creative.

By Adam Jones Sun May 4th 2008 at 2:38 pm  

referencing “dumbass” at the top of the page

By Laurie Tue May 6th 2008 at 8:57 pm  

My mantra is everything in moderation. Don’t smother your kids, don’t let them have complete and total independence. I have a one year old daughter, and while I don’t know if I’ll be letting her ride the subway at 9 years old, I certainly will have her as “free range” as I feel comfortable. I don’t need web-cam baby monitors or padded walls to baby proof my house. Just some common sense protections for her like gates at the stairs and putting toxic substances out of reach–because she is certainly an “explorer” at heart. I let her entertain herself as much as possible and want to raise her to be independent, strong, and confident. These things only come with allowing independence. My mother always told me that the measure of a good parent is the ability of a child to succeed without you– at age 9 or age 29.

By Jill Wed May 7th 2008 at 7:10 am  

I’m totally for the free range kid! I was told I was nuts for letting my five-year-old ride his bike around the neighborhood — that someone would “steal” him. I’ve never worried about it — I think the internet and the press draw too much attention to the bad things that can happen. I grew up with a “helicopter mom” and I was never allowed to ride my bike in the street, let alone go around the neighborhood. I’m glad I broke that cycle! My kids love exploring the world around them are afraid of very little. My son is now nine and very independent and responsible. My kids walk to and from school everyday and can handle being alone until I can get home from work. Our entire family thinks we’re nuts, but it works for us!

By Heather Thu May 8th 2008 at 12:06 pm  

I’m not sure what parenting style my husband and I have been using. But, what I do know is that we will be much more thoughtful of our decisions from this point on. According to some, we are overly free range — he’s not quite six and has had a real four-wheeler for a couple of years now, he and dad have shot real guns, he’s outside without us a lot — and because he is one of those “all boy” kind of boys, he gets to climb and jump from whatever he thinks he can. However, he is a thoughtful child. He considers whether or not he is up to high and will climb down before jumping. He’s a boy, but he’s not suicidal!!

But, in many ways, I think I have failed him. I realized when I first found this site that I had never made him get his own glass and pour a glass of milk. Why? Because it’s just easier for me to do it — I don’t make a mess, etc. But, that has changed — started thinking of him calling me from college asking for help! We are working on using the microwave, as well as getting his own things from the fridge, etc.

We don’t live in a community that is set up for walking anywhere (unfortunately)! But, when I was growing up, my grandma and aunt lived a couple of blocks away from one another, and I was allowed to wander the entire neighborhood and go back and forth. They still live there, and my son is comfortable with the area, so we will start there — and allow him more independence.

I have to make an effort to be more free range. I work with children that are abused/neglected every day. But, what statistics don’t really show (at least not the stats in the media most often) is that a huge majority of the children that are sexually abused — it is done by a trusted family member or family friend — someone you would leave your child with no matter how “helicopter-ish” you might be.

I love this site and love all of the ideas of what other things I can do to teach my son to be more independent!!

By nicole Thu May 8th 2008 at 4:53 pm  

I was a free-range kid (we were called “latchkey kids”) and I not only survived, I thrived. I don’t understand the paranoia today.

By D Fri May 9th 2008 at 3:40 am  

I’m 23 and from Chicago. When my siblings and I were young, we were allowed to go to the park, library, and school by ourselves. When I got to high school, I had to take public transportation by myself. I’ve also taken so many trips with my youth group in high school. Nothing ever happened. I don’t understand the appeal of keeping your kids in a bubble. Whenever a friend of mine tells me “I haven’t done ____”, I jokingly ask if they live under a rock.

By Tiffany Fri May 9th 2008 at 4:59 am  

I just discovered your website and I want to say thanks. I have a 2 & 3 year old. People seem shocked that I just let them in the backyard so I can get some peace or clean house. My yard is fenced and locked so they cant get out. They get muddy and play and go on their slide. When they need me they just walk right back in the house. I was so worried that I was wrong for this. Thank you for making me feel better. I was a free range kid and now I know that my kids will be too!

By Kari Fri May 9th 2008 at 6:58 am  

When I was five, I was sexually assaulted by a stranger, who managed to seperate me from my older brother and best friend. We were with a group of other older kids, at the elementary school within eyeshot of my mom’s kitchen window. The man was very convincing and my brother ignored all my parent’s warnings. The stranger used the old, “help me find my dog trick.” Well, it worked, and 27 years later I still suffer. I am the mother of four who feels anxious when I can’t see my kids. My eight year old daughter wants to go to a sleep over, and I am desperately trying to come up with an excuse not to let her. I hate being this way, I wish I could relax and let my kids have some freedom. But the thought of “what if” always plagues my mind. Once the damage is done, its done. You can never get that innocence back. I wish that horrible thing never happened to me, and I will probably live in this neurotic bubble the rest of my life. My kids will probably never visit after they leave home. I am jealous of free range moms. I pray you always have happiness.

By Miguel de Luis Fri May 9th 2008 at 6:43 pm  

I agree that if a 9 years old cannot do an errand unsupervised in any given city at daytime, it is time to evacuate and/or do something about crime.

I’d rather herd goats than live in such a war zone.

By Dave Sat May 10th 2008 at 3:54 am  

My fondest memories are the times when I was “free ranging”. My mother would lock the screen door while she cleaned the house and we played outside all day. I would wander through the woods by myself at young ages and explore. Picking blackberries, climbing trees, eating muscadines, catching frogs and avoiding snakes. Thank you, to my parents for giving me that opportuntity.

Parents can’t live in fear. That is a learned trait that our kids pick up. All the fear we teach them will hinder them reaching there full potential. Will our children be in danger? Yes! Will they get hurt ? Yes! But they will also learn how to deal with danger and how to over come the pain that life brings.

By Patti V. Sat May 10th 2008 at 4:02 am  

I love this conversation. Parents are fearful because of many reasons. One reason is that parents no longer know their neighbors. In most neighborhoods, people stay away from each other. There is very little communication between neighbors, other than the usual “Hi, How are ya?”. When I was growing up people were at home. They spent time visiting with their neighbors and getting to know them. Now, most families are busy with work, school, school activities, and other activities that keep them away from their homes and neighborhoods. Many neighborhoods look like ghost towns for a good part of the day for most days. We homeschool and see that our neighborhood is very quiet for most of the school year. Children are running off to extracurricular activities, spending time doing their homework, and spending all day in school. They don’t have much time for “free range” play. Young children in the summer go to daycare all day. We see them after 5:30. Of course in the winter, we live in Michigan, we see them only on the weekend.

I think we should think about the “free range” idea in regards to how much time do children have to explore and learn about the world around them. Walking to school and doing similar things is great, but how much time are children able to be “free”. I think parents need to think about this before signing them up for all kinds of activities, especially children who are in school or daycare all day. Children need time to ponder, play, explore, observe, create, and be free from organized anything.

I am happy that my children have about 12 hours each day to be “free range”. I do not allow my children to run the neighborhood and ride their bike around the block by themselves yet. I have very good reason for that. But they can play in the front yard, go to neighbors’ houses to play and stay over night, ride their bikes in the road, climb fences, climb trees, and many other things.

By Irina Mon May 12th 2008 at 3:09 am  

I am for. Freedom is the best gift that we can give our children.

By Tina Tue May 13th 2008 at 10:38 am  

I have no idea why parents have gotten so crazy! I live right across the street( not too busy one) from a park and I have people look at me like I’m a monster! I let my kids walk to school by themself they are 11,9 and 61/2. I do pick them up because my son in sk needs an adult to release him from class. My kids know danger and if they get hurt they won’t do it again. BTW my kids have had many stiches and bump and oddly enough it all happened in the house while I was with them! Give kids freedom! My kids are said to be polite and well behaved when out and they are really good kids but trap them in the house…I have had facs called on me because my son was double riding with my other son! Sure I don’t approve but geez why call facs I did it when I was younger and lived . I also had facs called because my 8 year old didn’t want to wear snow and I didn’t force him. Sure it was chilly but it wasn’t snowy! The worker has to come out but she was basically laughing her a$$ off! People have gotten crazy. They bring up paul branardo (he was from my town!) it was years ago and he is in jail. All of my years not one relitive or friend has gotten kidnapped. Those parents who baby there kids sicken mr geez like a 14 year old can’t walk hon a few blocks!

By Tina Tue May 13th 2008 at 10:40 am  

sorry I ment snow pants

By John C Wed May 14th 2008 at 2:13 am  

I am a single father of four, ages 5-9, two boys and two girls. I live on a dead end street beside a large park. The park is barely used! I have talked to more than a few parents and most children in my area are not allowed in the park unsupervised. My kids are.! I encourage them to get out and play. I love my children I would never let any harm come to them. Keeping them locked in a house until I can supervise them is cruel. Parents have to learn to relax.

J

By Amy Wed May 14th 2008 at 2:56 am  

I totally agree. I have 3 kids and sometimes think I am raising a bunch of scared, paranoid kids. They are afraid of everything. I was able to leave my house after breakfast, hang with the neighbor kids (sometimes eating lunch at their house, without calling mom) and not coming home until it was dinner time. Then outside again, until dark. I didn’t have a cell, I didn’t check in, and I had GREAT parents.

By Jim Wed May 14th 2008 at 5:33 am  

When I was 8 I was molested in the bathroom of our local KMart. Nothing too severe. I was at KMart at lunchtime from school because my mother was busy that day. It was in the early 70s. Something told me to not tell anyone and that I would understand it when I was older. I was allowed to spend time in our local ravine, sail everywhere at our cottage and had many adventures. All places with potential for peril. Looking back I doubt my parents would have handled it well and likely it would have cost me the rest of my childhood as well as constant pity if I had told them. Not a good trade in my opinion. To this day they live fine without the knowledge. I think it is easy to discount the benefits of feeling a part of the world and inflate the sense personal feeling of taking responsibility of protecting your children from everything. 6464

By Sandi Wed May 14th 2008 at 7:23 am  

I just found your website and am very interested in all the comments. I guess I could be defined as a helicopter Mom, who really wants to be more “Free range”..but I don’t even know where to start. I have a 15 year old daughter and 10 year old son….Where do I start?

By R Wed May 14th 2008 at 9:31 pm  

hello, Lenore, i read your article about letting your son go on the subway in NY… and hats off to you! i really don’t know much about NY myself, but i doubt that you would have let your son go alone on the subway if it was too dangerous.

i wholeheartedly agree with the ‘free range’ philosophy. i’m in high school and i live in germany, outside a big city. the public transport here is excellent, so i see kids as young as 7 or 8 years old on the bus or tram. from when i was about 10, my parents would let me take the train into the city and meet up with my friends, see a movie, etc. all i can say is that, this sort of thing is great. i do have a cell phone and my parents are sometimes prone to being a bit overprotective, but i do have a lot of independence.

go free range parenting!

By Daniela Thu May 15th 2008 at 3:05 am  

All FOR free range kids. I grew up in a big city with public transportation and I rode the subway bymyself when I was 9! Yes, times have changes, but what that really means is that our kids need to be prepared differently. My son has been coming home on the school bus and staying by himself for 2 hours since he was 10 (he is now 11). He calls me as soon as he gets home and locks all the doors. He knows he’s not allowed to go outside or have anyone over until we get home. When one of us does get home he takes off on his bike and roams the neighborhood. He does have a cell phone in case of emergency (nothing fancy, just a standard phone that will call home if needed).

I don’t see how keeping my child under surveillance will teach him anything!

By Jodi Thu May 15th 2008 at 5:11 pm  

How about the expression “curling” parents? These parents go in front of the kids sweeping the “court” smooth of all bumps and obstacles so that the child can glide to the “goal”. How can children cope with real life problems and obstacles as teenagers and adults if they never learn to master the ordinary situations that they are not even allowed to encounter?

By Cyrus Thu May 15th 2008 at 8:47 pm  

Just read Rosa Brook’s Op Ed “Please, go outside and play”. You are a touch of fresh air and sanity.

By Victoria Thu May 15th 2008 at 9:01 pm  

Alice,

Please have a nice stiff Martini. Think about how the media has probably affected how safe you think the world is. You think you are being practical. You are ruled by fear. Is that any way to live life?

I have four children and I must say it is a struggle/does not come naturally to let them be free range. But I will continue to fight my own fears and let them build independence and enjoy the magically free time of childhood. I remember my own free childhood and am grateful to my parents for it. Are there really THAT many more bogeymen now than there were 30 years ago? More crazy drivers? More germs maybe?

Speaking of germs, one of the modern “inventions” that has always driven me nuts is those cloth shopping cart inserts for babies. Maybe it’s because with four kids I never had time to worry about germs on shopping carts or whether my baby might feel a tiny bit uncomfortable from the cool metal of the cart. Get out of the bubble!

By A Thu May 15th 2008 at 11:58 pm  

I applaud you for letting your 9 year old son ride the subway by himself, within certain limits (time of day, proximity to home, prior education in how to ride safely, etc.). The subways are full of normal people who can see that a child is alone and would step in to help if he looked like he needed it.

By Sali Olson Fri May 16th 2008 at 2:55 am  

Letting the kid fail: Let’s see, we can hire tutors, sign up for expensive after school help sessions, sit at a table and re-live our own high school years doing home work, or provide a quiet place, access to reference material and directions to the library. How much ADD/ADHD is related to these over-scheduled tots? I admit, I fell into the trap with our youngest, highly un-motivated daughter. I stewed, I spent, I re-learned algebra and trig, and finally I let her fail. She will graduate high school; after summer school this year and if she chooses, will go on to Community College where she can study whatever she wants. She will also work for spending money and to maintain her vehicle. The world isn’t a big dangerous jungle any more than it was 50 years ago. Unlike her mother and father, she has never ridden in a car without a seatbelt or a two door with a free-flopping front seat back!

By Ayoungone Fri May 16th 2008 at 5:21 am  

I am a free ranger, in my mind, anyway. I am working on becoming more so, in practice. My daughter is only 5 so we have some room to work. What I want to know is what you all’s thoughts are about public vs. private schooling. I deplore the Public schools in my area, so she has been going to a private Pre-K and will be attending private for Kindergarten, but I am really beginning to question if continuing on with Private schools is the way to go. I mean we went to Public Schools and we are all fine, high acheivers, actually. I mean I could really be putting the $$$ away to pay for college, not spending it on the primary years. Thoughts, anyone???

By Felisha Fri May 16th 2008 at 1:22 pm  

Unfortunately I never had the wonderful experience of being a free range kid. My brother and I could go anywhere on our street and that was the limit. Even as teenagers it was a struggle just to walk a few blocks to catch the bus or to the store.

I am 24 & my younger brother is 21 and most kids from our generation were allowed to roam about, the paranoia really hadn’t set in.

I am a mother of a 2 year old and I let my little girl roam around the neighborhood and the park behind our houses with older neighbor kids and would not have a problem with granting her freedom as she gets older.

We are a military family stationed in Japan and out here kids walk to school and roam around pretty freely unlike back in the states and all the children here are safe.

By dmlithgow Fri May 16th 2008 at 2:21 pm  

I grew up as a “free range kid” in Long Island, NY. My parents grew up as free range kids in Bronx, NY and they took the subway often. I think kids today would do just fine free ranging in most neighborhoods.

I think half the problem is that the media over reports on the slightest child related situation anywhere in the U.S. making us all paranoid. I don’t believe that the world is so much more dangerous today than it was when I was a kid or when my parents were children.

By Stephen Roger Lewis Sat May 17th 2008 at 9:59 am  

Perhaps you have hit on why members of the previous generation are still living at home at age 30-35. They lack the confidence and skills to be independent. It never occurred to me that I would live at home after I was no longer in school.

Nor did I doubt that I could survive alone if necessary after I reached age 16.

By Krista Collins Sun May 18th 2008 at 1:45 am  

My children are now 21 & 24. I was a “Free Range” single mom, of course I wasn’t called that in the community we lived in.

I had to deal with MY fears about letting my children be free in spite of all there is to be terrified about in our society. I had to have faith that my ability to stand for a greater expression for my children would prevail in spite of the huge abuse projected on me and my children from all sides. The estranged father, the schools, and worst of all the superior, self righteous parents that would not allow their children to associate with mine.

Irony, the worst of these parents, I learned about a year ago are suffering the anguish of the son they so controlled and suppressed is now serving a prison term for trafficking cocaine.

There are no guarantees in parenting, if we could just listen to what Kahil Gibran imparted and consider that the souls that grace our lives as biological children are not ours and not an extension of our ego identity. I do not take blame, nor do I take credit! What an extraordinary gift it is to know, to have shared in the experience the two people I call “my” children

has been and continues to be. They are exceptional people who truly are connected with what is true for them, fearless!

By Natalie Sun May 18th 2008 at 1:45 am  

I’m almost 13, and in theory, I agree with everything posted here. Kids should have freedom — my friend has been traveling home alone since she was eight, and she’s still alive. In fact, despite someone’s comment that “A scared child is going to behave LIKE A SCARED child, filled with panic and possibly frozen in fear,” that particular friend was threatened at age 9 on the subway alone. She yelled, kicked, and punched, someone heard her, and she continued on the NYC subway home. The truth is, the comments about “€¦a gentleman was beaten and murdered on a subway platform€¦” may be valid, but need to be considered. What time was this, honestly? How many people were around? Because I personally would much rather be in a chaotic train station, such as the one at Union Square, then a calm, empty one where if some crazy guy came in, no one would be there to witness it.

I’ll admit that I’m personally paranoid, but being a rather intelligent person, I know enough to analyze the chances that I’m going to get home alive, and I’m reasonable. I’m not comfortable on the 6 train alone, but I’m more than happy to take the 1. I spent an hour walking around the Bronx Zoo area of the Bronx with friends, and the adult with us was blocks away. I feel comfortable in ANY situation if I’m with a friend, because I know that in a rare case where one of us is molested and no one listens to us yell, the other can run and get help.

This Halloween, I went around my 500-apartment-building alone with my 3 friends. My mom was reluctant to let me do that, but did she? Yeah. Did I come home alive? Obviously. Let me point out that my friend’s aunt was scandalized when she heard, because our building in Greenwich Village has a rather large gay population. She was horrified to hear that we went 2 feet inside a gay couple’s apartment to collect money from UNICEF. But guess what? They didn’t molest us, murder us, or abduct us. They’re nice people, and they’re not any different from a normal couple.

Children nowadays are equipped to deal with problems that may come up. Last year in sixth grade, half of our class was waiting in an empty classroom for the teacher to come, and a girl choked on a Starburst. She solved the problem herself by self-Heimliching, but I guarantee you that if she hadn’t done that, we would have stepped in reasonably. And that’s not just because we’re a “gifted school”: any kid is intelligent enough to solve a problem like that.

On the other hand, a couple things HAVE happened to me: a guy winked at me on the bus and walked to stand close to me (his breath smelled like weed), I was outside my piano teacher’s house and a guy biked past, mumbled something, then swung back around immediately and started to slow down when he got to me (I ran inside), etc. I took a self-defense class that made me more paranoid because we didn’t talk at all, just fought. So if anyone has anything encouraging to say, that would be appreciated. I can reason it out by myself, but I still don’t like taking the 6 alone, and would love to be comfortable doing that.

By Dave Murray Sun May 18th 2008 at 11:23 pm  

For the “times have changed” folks I can only say that the big change is the constant drone of “fear, terror, fear, terror, fear, terror…” The purpose of that is to cause us to be willing to give up our freedom for the protection of the great government nanny.

By Kelly Sun May 18th 2008 at 11:34 pm  

It’s going to be hard to break the fear grip so many moms are caught up in. My neighbor doesn’t even feel comfortable walking down the street for a visit after dark. She drives the 200 feet instead. How’s someone that fearful ever going to let her kid out alone?

By Melody, CA Mon May 19th 2008 at 2:26 am  

I just read an article about free range kids and “amen”! I have three children and I watch over them, not hover over them. Their ages are 11, 14 and 17. They are all happy and healthy and they have all been allowed to roam and play outside in the neighborhood, parks and even ride their skateboards and bikes downtown which is about 8 miles away – all on their own! I gave them the tools early on and then let them go! That is the job of a parent in my view.

I have been told time and again how mature, independent and self sufficient they are. They know how to behave in an adult world without my constant hanging over their shoulders reminding them over and over. My job as a parent is to prepare them for that world and that is exactly what I am doing and it is such a pleasure to see someone like Lenore Skenazy putting herself out there with such a bold mission. Carry on!

By Johanna Mon May 19th 2008 at 2:31 am  

It’s almost like fear-based parents think that if they do everything just right, their child will live forever and ever. They never stop to think, “Who wants to live in a bubble?”

I was a free range kid, and have years of happy memories exploring my city, and am not scared of the world like so many people my age!

My son loves being able to explore the woods near our house, making up his own games and playing to his heart’s content.

By Janet Mon May 19th 2008 at 3:19 am  

My sons are raised but I totally agree with your perspective. Even though we live in a changed world from our childhood, we are part of that fear and paranoia when we super-protect our kids. i love Rosa Brooks’ article on Lenore’s movement. Go, Lenore, with a dose of balance!

By Kilissa Mon May 19th 2008 at 4:47 am  

I love the idea of “free-range” children… glad to have a name for it now. My son is 7-1/2. He enjoys going outside to play with the other children. They stay in front of the house. It’s a small street, with little traffic. They know how to get out of the way of cars. They ride their bikes, play ball, play secret agent games, and have a great time. They are being active and creative (and not playing video games or watching tv!!). I also have stuff for them to do in my back yard… behind a closed gate. If there is a stranger walking by, they have the sense to come in the yard.

My only problem … and this is a big one … and I want to know what other parents are thinking about it. … the problem is with OTHER FREE RANGE CHILDREN!!

I have very clear limits … boundaries… he can’t go past “Chelsea’s House”. I also expect him to be respectful to others. But other parents don’t do the same thing. There are parents around here that seem to send their kids outside and … don’t want them to come back! These kids are out there bullying other kids…and the teenagers are really annoying… with fire crackers, throwing bricks.. .some running around with knives. If certain kids are out there, I don’t let my child go out… or just have him stay in the yard… or come in right away if they come around.

I’m trying to figure out what to do… because their parents are not in control of them! I’m going to talk to the block club lady… when I get her number… but also thinking about calling my city council member… or police.

What do other people do??

By Cindy Mon May 19th 2008 at 7:16 am  

My husband and I are all for free range kids! As I often ask other parents, “How can you possibly feel comfortable about letting your “child” behind the wheel of a 3,000 pound vehicle when you won’t even let them ride their bike in their own neighborhood.?” It’s insane! We are failing our children because we are not teaching them to be responsible. As a result, when they are allowed that freedom, (at a much older age) they are horribly irresponsible!

We have a 12 year old and a 9 year old, and while we worry about their first steps toward independence, it is crucial that they learn to be responsible. We allow them to ride to a friends house (with helmets) or to their school playground. They have to call before they leave for home so we know when to expect them or let us know when they arrive at their destination. If they are going for a walk, we ask that they take a two way radio with them (no cell phones, yet).

To all the parents out there: please consider for the health of your children and your family, that they be allowed to prove that they can be responsible. It will go a long way toward creating a happy and healthy teenager and adult!

By Joe Kavanagh Tue May 20th 2008 at 12:15 am  

It sounds all well and good but my son is autistic and the idea of setting him free and just saying ” Hey good luck” is not appealing to me. I think parents should be able to raise their kids as they see fit. Apparently, you are one of those people who hates autistic kids and considers then inhuman and thus do not count in these sort of ” feel good” adventures. Let me clear something up. My son IS a human. He does matter. The idea that you wish he were dead is disgusting.

By Anon Tue May 20th 2008 at 3:37 am  

Did you see this last night on PBS?

If not, keep an eye open for a rerun.

http://www.wttw.com/main.taf?erube_fh=wttw&wttw.submit.EpisodeDetail=1&wttw.EpisodeID=169598&wttw.Channel=WTTW

By catpax Tue May 20th 2008 at 5:58 am  

I was raised free range – used to leave on a Sat. morning on my bike and go for miles all day. Always made it home by dinner or just before. Raised a free range daughter.

I believe one of the unintended consequences of raising a “non free ranger” is that the child/adult never learns self-control. Look at the “spring break orgy fests.” Those didn’t happen in my time, but then when I was a college student, we didn’t go on “spring break” the way it is now either as most of us had to work part-time just to be in college. If children are micro-managed their entire lives and then finally “let loose,” is it any surprise that they might do everything to excess? Nobody is there anymore telling them what to do or not do, and they have absolutely no idea about what to do or not do themselves as they’ve had zero training. When I left my home state for college, college students didn’t have cars, so we walked, took buses, trains or whatever, and during my tenure at a major university in a large city, not one student was “abducted.” It’s a tragedy, and there have been and will always be a criminal element in our society; however, it’s possible that people in my generation had learned to take care of themselves and depend on their own instincts, weighing negatives and positives and then making a decision which young people today don’t seem to be able to do. Again, they’ve had no practice.

There is also a psuedo-free range parent from my observations. Those are parents who hover and interfere when they think their kids have made them look bad, like yelling at coaches or teachers for having the audacity to discipline or expect something from their kids, but who let their kids roam endlessly or drive endlessly with no observable rules. These are parents who think nothing of taking off for a weekend leaving the kids home alone to fend for themselves and age has nothing to do with it. They also tend to use their kids to do the chores around the home like mowing the lawn, etc., etc. while the parents just stand around yelling at them to work.

I liked growing up the way I did because my dad always took us camping, skiing, hiking, traveling or whatever, and he taught us about lots of things along the way – useful things which have come in handly over the years, so I can repair my own flat tire, fix a sticking door knob, take care of myself if I became stranded, etc., etc. I think my life was far more interesting and enlightening than the lives led today by most young people.

By jezebel Tue May 20th 2008 at 11:18 am  

I am for freerange kids!

I do have a child, but he is less than two months of age – not exactly prime candidate just yet. I have every intention of allowing him the freedom to make decisions for himself and learn from his mistakes.

I grew up in a half and half world, as far as freerange goes. My mother raised me for the first years of my life in a moderate sized city in the 80s. I was allowed to run and play and climb and bike to my heart’s content. I had a little brother to keep an eye on, and lots of other kids to play with. Our mornings were spent at home, doing our chores, and after lunch, we got out for as long as we possibly could. There were rules – call home if anything bad happens, and be home by the time the street lights come on. That gave us a good 6-8 hours unsupervised.

I moved out to the country when I was 7, and my father raised me entirely differently – no going more than 4 houses away (less than a city block) and call to check in every hour, curfew of 6pm. Basically, be in sight, or we want to know where you are, what you’re doing and who you’re with every hour. If plans change, we want to know that, and OK it first.

I have friends with older kids, and they take parenting overboard as well. My one friend’s son was about 3 1/2 years old, and I was babysitting him. It was mid-July, but raining outside. He wanted to play in the backyard. I told him to put on his pants, a shirt and his rubber boots and sent him out to splash in the mud puddles to his heart’s content. When he came back in, covered in mud from head-to-toe, I picked him up, and carried him (clothes, rainboots and all) straight to the bathtub for a good hose-down. She came home as he was getting in the tub (still fully clothed) and lost her mind. She screamed and asked me just what the hell I thought I was doing? I told her he was playing, and he was going to clean up now. She berated me for about an hour about how he can’t go outside, and certainly not when it’s wet.

I reasoned that he is 1. a child, 2. a boy 3. not allergic to fresh air and 4. wanting/needing to play and have fun.It was warm summer rain, and he was fine, just a bit dirty. She did eventually calm down, but to this day, he is still only allowed to play in his room.

Who’s crazy?

By Irene Tue May 20th 2008 at 9:33 pm  

I’m all for free-range kids!!

I was raised by an overprotective father. Although I always walked to school the proverbial miles in the snow, I wasn’t allowed to ride a bike on the road until I was 15!!

All those years of protection based on fear seriously influenced my self esteem. How can a child believe he can handle a situation, if he is constantly protected from the chance of failure?

I am now consciously trying to raise my young teenage sons without the cloak of fear that I always felt around me. (With one of them allergic to peanuts, it takes even more courage for me to let him own the responsibility for his condition.)

No one said parenting was going to be easy, but we need to show our kids that we believe in them. It’s the best gift we can give them!

By Rob MacI Wed May 21st 2008 at 12:31 am  

When I was a kid, I routinely left the house in the morning and stomped around our rural neighbourhood all day, playing in the woods, throwing pebbles int the river, riding my bike for miles and miles and miles.

When I was 10, we moved to London, England for a year. I walked to school every day, as did all the kids. Again, I’d routinely leave the house to go to the park, go to the shops, go visit friends.

I’m astonished to see how over-protective parents have become. In a misguided effort to protect their children from the extremely remote possibility of harm, we’re raising a generation of diabetic couch-potatoes with diminshed life expectancy and a severely diminished prospect for quality of life, but health-wise and in terms of their sense of independence and self-reliance.

Stop child abuse. Let them out of your sight.

By Nick Danger Wed May 21st 2008 at 1:23 am  

To those who posted ‘Something bad happened to a kid alone when I was young’ — do you realize how stupid this reply is? Of course something bad MIGHT happen. You know what that situation is called? It’s called being alive. If you drive down a highway with your kid instead of letting him walk, do you think that somehow you can guarantee nothing bad will happen? Have you ever seen that stats on auto accidents? Yet I bet you safety nuts think nothing of driving 65 for four hours to go visit grandma!

And you know what else — if you over-protect your kid, something bad WILL happen — they won’t know how to deal with the world independently.

By Cathern Wed May 21st 2008 at 3:58 am  

I cannot agree more that our children are not being allowed to simply play especially outside. Free Range children sounds like a lovely way to describe what our children and we were as kids but seems to have disappeared lately.

We have four young grandchildren and our aim for gifts is toward the great outdoors and/or outdoor exercise.

When our grandchildren are with us we limit their TV, video games, computer time and make them amuse themselves or spend time outside…

The two eldest are old enough to go off together in our neighborhood so when they are here in July I will let them do just that using the buddy system of course, as they are not here often so not familiar with the area.

We have four year old twins next door and you are right about how they are given an adult world of stress and organization, while not being allowed to just play… They have been in organized activities such as swimming lessons, skating and now soccer since they were able to walk it seems. Their parents are stressed out and I see the girls going down the same road already.

By Henrike Wed May 21st 2008 at 8:45 am  

I think we are so overprotective because we only have one or two children per person. That’s why I’m going to have at least twice as much. I guess if you have several children you don’t worry more but rather less, as you realize that you can’t control their lives anyway…

By Rachel Wed May 21st 2008 at 10:39 am  

When i was 10, my 8 year old sister and I flew on a transatlantic flight from Albuquerque New Mexico to Hawaii. Someone was supposed to meet us in Los Angeles, but when we arrived the person wasn’t there. I had my tickets and my luggage, and managed to get my sister and I to the correct terminal (if you have been to LAX there are different terminals, we walked from 1 to 4 to catch the plane), but we also made another transfer in Hawaii. We made it. Was it terrifying? Yes, but it also gave me a gift that I have carried with me through my life: the ability to remain calm and problem solve in times of crisis.

My situation was an accident, and the same situation would never happen now. I do think that children need to learn how to think on their feet. I often think of my own sons and wonder if they could have done the same thing I did as a kid. I honestly don’t know. My boys have flown all over the country alone, and I have allowed them to do things that other parents have told me is risky. Life is risky, and there is only so much we can protect them.

Another incident that comes to mind, when my son was 5 we went on a cruise. He and his older brother were with a group of kids for a supervised event. My youngest son, who has always wandered, got separated from the group. The leaders called security, and a 3 hour search went on as they looked in the water with search lights and were convinced he had gone overboard. In a panic, I went to my room to find a picture of him that I had in our travel documents. I found my son, in bed, crying. This 5 year old got lost and had the foresight to go to our room, unlock the door and wait. He was worried because I had been gone for 3 hours. I realized then that this kid listened to me, and was much more competent then I had ever thought.

I agree with you wholeheartedly. Only you know your son and his abilities, and you have obviously done your job as a parent.

By Hawaii paniolo Wed May 21st 2008 at 12:12 pm  

I asked my two 20-something daughters if I was a Bad Mom — starting about the time they could walk, they grew up on horseback doing feeding, grooming and mucking chores at 6AM and 6PM before THEY ate; I forced them to read ME bedtime stories take the bus to school and walk a whole mile uphill, and I put them on airplanes from age 8 (alone) from Hawaii to California. When they thought they were getting away with being AWOL on curfew, I would call the parents of all their friends — at 2AM, or the other parents called me. We all survived through a CONSPIRACY OF CARE … not fear, not over-protectiveness. They told me to tell you to LET THE CHILDREN GO!! If they are still talking to me after all these years, and if most of these website responses agree — then let’s DITCH THE CYBERNANNY AND LET THEM BE GOOD, RESPONSIBLE, FEARLESS YOUNG PEOPLE! Me ke aloha pumehana — Hilo

By Mom of 3 Wed May 21st 2008 at 9:56 pm  

Thanks for establishing this website; it helps me to see the other side, helps me to understand what some other parents must think of me. I am the mother of 3 children, ages 9, 5 and 1.

Here is my own perspective on the subject:

I truly doubt that the people who post for children to be left unsupervised are personal survivors of childhood abuse; if so, their comfort range would probably be quite different. I suffered the life-long scars of it, and unfortunately have several family members who have also been victims. I have a number of friends who have also survived abuse. One of my own predators was a Baptist “youth group” leader who sexually assaulted me; another was a total stranger who exposed himself to me. Within my close circle of friends and relatives, I know people assaulted by family members, by a scout leader, by a babysitter and trusted family friend, etc. Most were men, but two were victimized by women. So I know that child predators come in all shapes and sizes. I know to be exceptionally wary of those adults who go out of their way to be allowed unsupervised access to children. Sometimes the predators are strangers; more often they are acquainted with their victims. A child left alone can easily be influenced by an acquaintance that they have learned to trust; they can be lured into a compromising and dangerous situation. If this happens, they could survive, but it is a horrible loss of their innocence. The damage will never be undone, even though the child can learn to live with it.

My view is opposite of what seems to be the prevalent view from posters on this website; I think that more children are victimized than people realize; I think that it has always been that way. Personally, I didn’t tell anyone about the worst things that happened to me until almost 8 years after it occurred. I carried a deep sense of shame that it was somehow my fault; that I should have been able to prevent it, even though I was only 11 and he was an adult. How many other children are also suffering in silence? All of these victims do not appear in the statistics that posters on this website want to cite. I tell you now from what I experienced, if you praise your child for their strong, independent spirit and they do become victims who survive, they will probably never tell you about the incident. They will do as I did; they will carry the shame in silence, so as to never disappoint your perception of them.

I also think that there are more child predators now than in previous times, due to the vast array of child pornography available on the internet, which makes perverse gratification just a mouse-click away from anyone. This sort of material was always out there to some extent, but it was harder to obtain in the past. People might have had general perverse thoughts, but it wouldn’t become a compulsion as quickly without the ability to so easily feed the beast within them. Now they can easily view limitless images in the privacy of their homes every day; it is changing our society. It is a natural progression to go from visualization stimulation to acting out the things that they see. I do believe that the mother who posted here that she dropped her 9-year-old son off alone at Bloomingdales in NYC to enjoy a day of shopping and left him to take the subway and bus home alone was taking an unnecessary risk with her child’s life and well-being. He came home safe; they were both lucky. I really doubt she would have made that choice if she had ever been assaulted; that experience proves to you that crime is real and it doesn’t just happen to other people. Perhaps it is a rather remote possibility that an individual child will be abducted by a stranger. It is also a very remote possibility that an individual child will be struck by lightning, but I don’t allow my kids to play outside in a thunderstorm. Am I being overprotective then also?

I also try to shield my kids from the bullying that many children endure at the hands of other kids when left on their own; again my views are based on my own life experience. My dear sister suffered such terrible teasing from other children at school that she still has absolutely no self-confidence, even though she is now 48 years old. Children often fall into a “pack” mentality when they are in an unsupervised group setting; they often turn viciously on anyone who seems weak or easy prey. They pump up their own self-esteem by tearing down someone else. Some children suffer through the taunts and end up stronger for it; but others are crushed and never fully recover emotionally. My sister’s lack of self confidence has prevented her from achieving her full potential in the job market; she doesn’t speak up for herself and her accomplishments are overlooked. If she had been spared this early trauma, I think that her whole life might have been very different; and her own children might not have had to grow up in poverty. To this day, my sister is much more comfortable in the presence of animals than people.

We have all seen the news stories about the children who suffered bullying and reacted violently instead of shutting down emotionally like my sister did. They might have been different people if an adult had been there to stop a negative situation from escalating into the trauma that destroyed these kid’s compassion and sense of the value of life.

The trauma that I have seen in my life experience has made me wary, but that doesn’t mean that we sit home in the house all the time to stay safe. We are very active and do lots of activities outside. The kids do play in the back yard on their own. They play at the park with other kids, but I am on a bench within distance to hear and see if they get injured. In my opinion, children have plenty of time in their later teen years and early twenties to learn to deal with life on their own. I don’t see any need to rush things by setting them out alone in their most vulnerable young years. This is when they are setting their emotional foundation. I hope that my own children have a solid foundation on which to build their lives, without the devastating cracks left by abuse. I hope that they will have more joy and confidence than those of us who were victimized. Of course I can’t protect them from everything; they get injured and have already been bullied at times; they have even behaved poorly or aggressively at times themselves, but I am glad that I was close enough by to be able to address the poor behavior promptly, so that they could not set down bad patterns.

I have great difficulty in trusting others with my children; I am the sort to want to be nearby to watch out for them until they are physically old enough to really defend themselves; probably somewhere around their mid-teens. They are able to do things for themselves, but I’m close enough to step in if needed; I think of it as being a safety net for a tight-rope act.

For all our children, I hope the views expressed by the majority on this website are correct and that I am wrong. I hope that I am just paranoid. Perhaps I am risking emotionally scarring my children by protecting them more closely than my own parents did me. I’ll take that risk, though. I know what it feels like to live with the consequences of being given my freedom to learn to get along in the world on my own before I was truly able to protect myself. I sincerely hope that none of these “free-range” kids learn that horrible lesson.

This is just my view, based on my life experience. Each of us must make the choice that seems right for their family.

By Joe Kavanagh Wed May 21st 2008 at 11:19 pm  

An addendum to my prior post. What is it you suggest be done to those parents who have the audacity to

diagree with you and raise their kids in a different

fashion. Prison time? Death? Sodomy of their children? Which of these choices do you think they

deserve for having the insane idea of bringing up their

children as they see fit instead of bowing down and

obeying your instructions on how to bring them up. As always I think parents know best for their individual kids and should be able to raise their kids how they want to. I know you disagree and want to tell us how

we should all raise our kids so please answer my

question and let me and my son know what our punishment will be. Thanks!

By Marie Thu May 22nd 2008 at 1:37 am  

I’m 25 (so a young mom). When I grew up, my mother was a lazy mom. They type who would say “go to your room or go outside but go away from me” because she didn’t’ want to deal with us. She’d leave me along with several younger siblings so she could go to the bar. I learned a lot of things and am very independent€¦but I learned hard and fast with no safety net because mom didn’t care.

I’d say my daughter is fairly free range€¦but she does have a safety net. Me. And it’s harder to let her be independent than to over-protect her. Over-protecting is EASY! Letting my 6-year-old (a 1st grader) do things on her own is HARD.

She talks to strangers while I’m with her so that if we get separated, she knows who to talk to and what to say. We’ve practice a lot. How else would she learn to interact with them safely? And she does occasionally get lost because she’s not afraid to wander off by herself.

I bite chew my nails every day from 8:15 when I know her father leaves for work until she walks in the door at home having walked the ½ block home from her school bus stop. She leaves for the bus stop when her dad leaves for work and she stands and waits with the other kids. If the bus doesn’t come, she knows she can let herself in at home and call me or she can go into B’s house for his mom to call me or she can go into “nice old neighbor lady’s house” and call from there. She knows what to do because we talked about it and she’s proven she can do it.

If I’m browsing for books, I can send her with money to go grab herself a snack from the bookstore’s coffee shop when she gets bored. She can sit by herself at a restaurant table while I go use the bathroom€¦and on nice days she can ride her bike down the street with the other neighborhood kids while I sit on the deck and read without interfering.

The main difference that I see between “free-range” and “neglect” is that free-range encourages independance within reasonable limits and teaches childrenhow to cope when something goes wrong. My daughter knows she can ALWAYS call me or come to me for help but for the most part, she doesn’t need it or want it. My mother didn’t/wouldn’t help; she could barely take care of herself.

By Alaska Mom Thu May 22nd 2008 at 3:12 am  

I am for Free Rang Kids, and until today I didn’t realize that was how I was raising my daughter. Reading an article in my local paper sent me here. I will be passing this on to all of my friends-with or without kids.

I let my daughter ride her bike around the neighborhood. Every so often I am on the back porch calling out her name. She yells back, “I’m over here!” and that’s all I need. On the weekends she only comes inside to eat and then she’s off to the wide world of bugs, bike races, and tree forts. I don’t have to see her but, she has to be where she can hear me. She often walks (alone) the few blocks from our house to the convenience store with a pocket full of piggy bank money. I am comfortable with all of this because I have taught my daughter about safety. Safety with strangers, roads, dogs and anything and everything I can think of to help her keep herself safe. I believe in giving boundaries but, withing those boundaries is the freedom for her to make her own choices. Freedom to grow, learn and become better for having to learn something on her own.

Children are little people with wonderfully working minds, not cattle to be herded and fenced. Teach them the skills and they will put those skills to use.

By A Dad Thu May 22nd 2008 at 4:06 am  

Joe Kavanagh,

Of course you can raise your kids as you see fit, and some kids with disabilities may have special needs. The only punishment for “parents who have the audacity to diagree [sic] with” free range parenting is having to live with the kids they raise. In many cases those kids will be fine, but how many 20-somethings are living with and off their parents instead of starting families of their own? At some point you do indeed need to send them off on their own and say “good luck”, and they’ll do better if you prepare them beforehand.

By Karen Thu May 22nd 2008 at 8:15 am  

I am so thrilled that sanity is starting to return to parenting. My kids have been free range for several months now, even before I read Lenore’s column. It seems to be the general attitude in the neighborhood I live in. However, it’s been a real hard concept for my husband. On Easter, he brought the kids in the house and told me they were grounded for the day. What could they have done wrong, to be grounded on a holiday? They saw a friend across the street, and they crossed the street to talk to him. (My kids are 8 and 5). After about an hour, I had to tell my husband (at the risk of getting in big trouble myself) that I ALWAYS let the kids cross the street, as long as they stick together and tell me where they are going. The fact is, I simply can’t keep them locked in the house all the time, and I certainly can’t follow them around everywhere, or I’ll never get anything done.

By Day Thu May 22nd 2008 at 8:22 am  

I’m really surprised at the reaction that this is getting..I haven’t seen anything that points to letting our kids do anything that would endanger thier lives on this site! I let my 6 yr old play outside…ALL DAY….. she checks in every hour or so…and if she decides to switch houses where she’s at….she knows my phone number…and manages to come home when it starts to get dark. granted ..we live in a gated apartment complex…and maybe thats why i feel she’s safe doing this. the only negative response I have gotten is that my children could possibly be taken from me for ” neglect “….this confuses me….somewhat frightens me…but in the end my lack of paranoia wins. I had a wonderful childhood….I roamed the neighborhoods and was never abducted….sure things happened, but things happen to kids…..keep it up lady! you’re fighting the good fight…..

By Day Thu May 22nd 2008 at 8:33 am  

reply to ” anonymous on april 14th ”

I WISH my kids WANTED to stay in with me….they want to play out side …in the sun…with children thier own age! my kids wouldn’t be at you house for snack time…because they bring the whole neighborhood home to get snacks at my house ….leaving barely enough time to kiss my kids goodbye as they race out the door ! I’m sure there are a bunch of lazy , wierd, parents out there….but not everyone who believes that children deserve some responsible freedoms…enjoy having thier children away from them. I miss my kids…and another thing…I ALWAYS make time for ” family time”…..which DOES NOT include television and video games…..

By a mom Thu May 22nd 2008 at 10:03 am  

I wish you would do an article on all the germ freak moms. Here’s the title: Let them Eat Germs. I think we are killing our kids with Purell. We didn’t have that stuff.

Thanks for the perspective.

By Chris McManus Thu May 22nd 2008 at 10:06 am  

WOW!!!! Finally an honest piece on how ridiculously ‘parental’ we’ve become as a nation. I hope this is indicative of a growing trend. I’m so glad to see that there are still people out there who don’t consider parental discretion A CRIME!!

First you should know this: I’m 43 years old and a father of 5. Free range is a term I’m used to hearing in conversations about farm animals — but I’m all for the notion of helping our children learn to behave independently — THEIR LIVES MAY DEPEND ON IT SOME DAY — MINE DID!!!

I grew up in Baltimore City taking the Public #8 bus up Greenmount Avenue with my two sisters (me 7, them 8 and 9) by ourselves for a 30 minute ride to school (if you know Baltimore City you know the route). It was frightening at times, admittedly; we were offered things that children ought not be offered, we heard things that children ought not hear and God knows we saw things that children ought not see – but we survived, our ears didn’t permanently close and we weren’t blinded by what we saw — we learned how to respond, how to think on our feet, how to keep our eyes and ears open, how to interpret our environment, how to interact (or not) with others, how to always know a €˜way out’, how to help keep an eye on our brothers/sisters (or friends for that matter), how to spot trouble and avoid it, how to spot safety and get it, how to count on ourselves, how to be confident in ourselves, how to grow up and live, HOW TO BE FREE, and we were and are better for it.

We took that bus every single school day, in the 70′s (you know — the time of inner city curfews, bussing, desegregation and every kind of social unrest you can imagine) – and WOW, look, we made it. We had a few bumps and bruises, but you know what, that’s part of life and we’re OK. Yes it would have been horrible if something truly bad had happened to us, and yes, truly bad things can happen — but the point is, they didn’t. I could have choked on a hotdog or uncut grape at two years old, but I didn’t. I could have fallen down the stairs and broke my neck when I was learning to walk, but I didn’t. I could have been seriously injured or died in a car crash on thousands of occasions, but I didn’t. I could have electrocuted myself playing with the outlets in my home, but I didn’t. I could have died of massive brain hemorrhage when the limb my father was cutting from the tree came down on my head, but I didn’t. I could have been hit by that car and died when I was riding my bike across that busy street, but I didn’t. I could have cried my eyes out until my parents decided they should drive us to school instead of making us ride that dirty, smelly, disgustingly wonderful bus, but I didn’t. I was a young man at 7, with my young lady sisters at 8 and 9 — we weren’t just children, we were people, we were real, we knew things, we were strong and brave and smart and streetwise and we were FREE and we knew it.

When I was 10, after 3 years of riding that bus, I could have let that man who swore he was a Policeman take me off that #8 bus. To take me God knows where to do God knows what, BUT I DIDN’T — I didn’t because I understood how things worked, I had seen so much with my very own eyes. I understood how things worked, I had heard so much with my very own ears — I was allowed to have the experience — and that experience helped me develop the WISDOM that saved my life for sure that day — no doubt about it!!

By Nicole Thu May 22nd 2008 at 1:05 pm  

As a child of one of the original helecopter parents, I must comment not for this idea, but against those that think helecopter parenting is the norm or should be. As a teenager I was not allowed to go anywhere with out parental suppervision until I was 17 (I was walked to and from school by my mom). At 16 I was grounded for mentioning getting my driver`s licence. At 23 I was diagnosed with Agoraphobia and I consider myself lucky. I`ve had a friend comit suicide rather than live with the fear, and depression that her parents instilled in her and I`ve known of others by reputation. I`ve known others that have had their lives ruined because they just didn`t know what they were doing was stupid.

By Will Fri May 23rd 2008 at 12:13 am  

Parents today are so paranoid that they are raising a generation of incompetant kids uncapable of taking care of themselves. I am the proud parent of an independant 19 y.o. kid who can take care of himself – feed,clothe, deposit his money, etc…and we let him have as much freedom as we could – he flew to Chicago on his own and met his friend and parent- at the airport and came home in one piece.

We get complimented on how our kid is so nice and respectful that we cherish the fact that we let him be free and “LEARN” how to take care of himself. He doesn’t ask us for HELP, just ADVICE because he wants to take care of it himself without his parents showing him how. Paranoid Parents SUCK!

By B Freer Fri May 23rd 2008 at 3:06 am  

For:

Of course, both of my kids started martial arts at age 4, swimming lessons at 5 and safety lessons all along. But now at 19 and 16 both are sensible, adventurous free-range teens. Neither can skate board worth a darn, though.

By Jenn Fri May 23rd 2008 at 9:00 am  

Um, for. And really glad to see I’m not alone. Thanks for starting this blog! Great stuff. Where can I get my “I Raise Free Range Kids” bumper sticker?

By Joe Kavanagh Mon May 26th 2008 at 12:16 am  

A Dad,

You replied to my post that some kids with disabilities may have special needs. You obviously must be an expert on the matter! I would say all or

most kids with disabilities have special needs . I get your message that my punishment is that I am stuck with my kid and I know that. Yes, A dad, I have a child who is disabled and it is my problem and I will deal with it. Sure, I wish from our society or from other parents I could get some help but alas most people are like you. He’s your problem. You deal with it and we will just look the other way and not give any thought to kids who need assistance. You are very cold-hearted but most people are so I suppose that is to

be expected. As far as how many tweny-year olds are living with their parents, well I do not have those statistics here. I think you are implying that there are alot of them. I don’t know I guess 50 million or more. I would say that if their parents are fine with them living at home still then what businesss is it of yours? You do not want to help disabled kids but you feel the need

to judge other parents’ style of raising their kids. How sweet. Lastly, I hope some day that my son can go out into the world with good luck and everything else I have given him but realistically it probably won’t happen. He is profoundly autistic. He will probably never get to go to college, have a career, go on a date or fall in love. What could be worse than that. I realize that most of the “free range parents” are enjoying a

laugh now at my son’s expense and that’s fine; your kids do it all the time at school. I honestly hope none of you ever have any kids with developmental or physical limitations. It’s difficult. It’s even harder knowing that people who wouldn’t help me in a heart beat are so very happy to judge me and tell me I should throw caution to the wind and let him drive a car or own a gun or whatever it is you think a 10 year old autistic boy should do. Finally, I also know from

reading online postings that alot of people do not even

think autism is real. They think the kid just needs a spanking or something from what I have read. Rest asured, autism is real. My son doesn’t need discipline.

He’s a great kid. He is going to go as far as he can and I will be behind him 100%. So choke on that, free rangers!!!

By rhoda Mon May 26th 2008 at 7:36 am  

I’m even against laws for car seats and seatbelts, actually. I used to sit with my legs ticking straight out for days as we drove on. What seatbelt? When I learned that kids were supposed to have carseats until they reached 50 lbs. I thought it was ridiculous. I weighed 50 lbs. at 10 1/2 years old. I had been holding the brake for Mom way younger than that. It should be the child and parents’ and other loved ones’ judgment that figures out how long to use a car seat. They are very expensive, uncomfortable and immobilizing. What does it teach a child to be padded and armored every hour? That ordinary, slight risks are terrifying? That one must neverr try to judge danger for oneself? That invisible all-knowing experts control every second of life in every way? I faced danger and sometimes was hurt growing up, but I escaped the damage of an unlived, unconfronted life. Thank God.

By rhoda Mon May 26th 2008 at 7:44 am  

I have to rant over the parenting-of-adults craze, too. You overprotective parents out there: Your adult children aren’t children. They are adults. It’s sickening to do their homework, fill out their parework, and call their bosses to argue for raises for them. You are treating 19-year-olds like 15-year-olds, 15-year-olds like 12-year-olds and 12-year-olds like 8-year-olds by any measure. You could actually make a case that some of you are treating 19-year-olds like 3-year-olds, and the result is rebellion and madness for everyone.

By A Dad Tue May 27th 2008 at 5:43 am  

Joe Kavanaugh,

I’m very sorry that you took my response the wrong way. Clearly, your son, because of his disability, is not prepared to be sent off on his own, now or, as you suggest, ever, and your recognizing and accepting this reflects well, not poorly, on you. That is why I said specifically that many kids with disabilities have special needs in this department, and your son clearly fits into this category. I certainly don’t look down on or judge parents of kids with disabilities like your son’s. Indeed, I am somewhat in awe of the effort required, and am myself profoundly thankful that my children are healthy and capable of ranging free. I’m not sure why you think that anyone here is laughing at you and your son, but rest assured, I certainly am not.

I do think, however, that the vast majority of children who don’t have severe disabilities would do better if they were allowed to range free. I’m sorry that your son is unable to do so, and I hope against hope that his condition will improve. Good luck to you and to him.

By Lola Tue May 27th 2008 at 1:11 pm  

I had a helicopter mom and guess who ended up sexually abusing me? My stepfather. Most children who are hurt are hurt by someone they know and trust.

I don’t think I would let my four year old go to the park (because of a major intersection between the house and the park) but my sister won’t even let her twelve year old take out the trash alone. Everything should be taken in moderation and with some common sense.

Silly the things we worry about and the things that completely slip our minds.

Go FreeRange!

By S Tue May 27th 2008 at 2:14 pm  

My daughter has been walking to school since September; she was 7 and some months at the time she started.

We don’t live in the States, but I would let her walk with a friend there.

A couple of days ago, I witnessed a birthday party for a 3 year-old. It starts then. While my 2 1/2 yo is perfectly capable of eating on her own and drinking out of a normal glass, this set of kids needed their mothers for every move, for every bit and for some sips even though they had straws. The mothers hovered the entire time. Amazing.

By cband Wed May 28th 2008 at 3:52 am  

My college-age daughter tells tales of kids who e-mail all of their term papers home for their parents to edit.

I think job of a parent is to put yourself out of business. The way you do that is to let you kids go…little by little. They walk to the school bus stop, they go to the corner grocery for milk, they ride their bike to their friend’s house. After each of these little successes, they feel confident about their ability to do stuff and so do you.

Soon, they are independent, fully-functioning adults who are able to make dinner reservations and pick up the check – without your help.

Carol

http://www.carolband.com

By CB Wed May 28th 2008 at 5:12 am  

More food for thought :

What is missing is that this is not a one size fits all- I lived in NYC and in small towns- NYC is 24 hrs a day alive with regular safe people and stores, transportation open at all hours-In NYC I never felt unsafe despite 2 run ins. But isolated stretches in small towns can be worse than NYC- so I do think parents need to guage what they alow their kids to do the situation.

I am in my 40′s- I do not think parents are over worried, but at the same time kids do need freedom – as a child I had a few close calls in my free roaming- surrounded by 3 men in the woods, a man chased my younger sister and at 8 my presence scared him off. As a young adult I have been chased down in my car, followed, surrounded on a subway, had someone try to jump in my back seat at a stoplight. I do not go out of my way looking for trouble and fortunately I was able to escape each time

I do think kids vary- I was 1 of 6 in a middle class suburban town and some of us were streetwise, some not and some could get lost 2 blocks from home.

There are predators at church, at events- I do not want to create a fearful child, and keeping a child home does no good- but I want to raise a smart one- we go through scenarios on what to do and how to recognize bad guys. We teach how to be safe as a kid and not to make themselves a target. But I do not want to put down the legitimate fears of parents- the internet has created a culture addicted to abberent behavior- kids need to be trained to keep away from this growing segment in our society.

Chris’ post is I think the most rationale- know how to be safe, learn and teach those skills- but do not pretend they do not exist.

By David Pinto Wed May 28th 2008 at 6:00 am  

Hi, I’m posting from Montreal, Canada, but this really has to do with New York City.

In the 1950s, I used to spend my Christmas and Easter holidays visiting my late grandmother, who lived at 382 Wadsworth Avenue, near 193rd Street, in Washington Heights (far uptown Manhattan). Washington Heights in that era was a quite heavily Jewish area.

I can distinctly remember travelling around New York on the subway by myself between the ages of 13 to 17 years old, and maybe even slightly younger, although I can’t really be sure. In fact, I was as familiar with parts of New York as I was with the Montreal suburb where I grew up.

By Joe Kavanagh Thu May 29th 2008 at 1:12 am  

A Dad

Well, thank you for the kind words. Perhaps, I misjudged your comments and postings. I am unsure

how far he will go but rest assured my son will succeed and go as far as his abilities let him. To be honest, who can say anymore than that with any certainty. I suppose I expect laughter and ridicule when I discuss my son’s autism because that is usually what I get. I have gotten some terrible and cruel replies from my postings here ( not from you ) and alot of scorn in the real world. It is bad enough when kids make fun of my son but when the parents join in or encourage it well that is just very disappointing. The upside of autism is that you do not

care what other people think in fact their opinion does

not even rate a response in most cases. Thus, my son is fairly unaware of this behavior. But I see it and it does bother me. That is my weakness. I get insulted when people ( adults and children ) make sport of my son’s condition. And yes, you may have trouble believing this but most of these parents consider themselves free range parents. So, I am not against your movement at all. Just against the idea that parents should not raise their kids the way they want to but they should raise them the way YOU want them to or the way Lenore Skenazy wants them to. I think parents know best what’s right for their kids. I know I do for mine anyway. I was definitely upset by this site but in retrospect it was mostly just the notion that here are parents who have almost nothing to complain about( I know everyone has problems but sorry if a disability is not involved ; it’s not that much to complain about ) and thus they complain about the way other people are raising their kids. It just seems to me if I was in your situation I would just thank God or Vishnu or Fate or whoever that my kids are healthy and just keep quiet. If someone is bringing their kids up differently, well, just accept it and maybe they have their reasons for this and just leave them alone and keep quiet. Everyone has their right to voice concerns but sometimes I wish people would walk in my shoes for just a minute then I think you would grab your kids and hold them close. Then, think there but for the grace of god go I. I say that and believe me I am not a religious guy ok? So, anyway, best of luck to everyone and just try a little compassion and understanding with people like my son. Treat me however you wish; LOL. But my son, cut him some slace. He’s doing the best he can. Thanks.

By Curmudgeon Gal Thu May 29th 2008 at 1:26 am  

When I see the fear in parents today I can’t imagine how their children will grow up. It will be a generation of cringing adults, locked their homes in fear and tied to their computers, afraid to go out into the streets because they might be mugged, breathe Raedon, take drugs, be bombarded by UV rays, fall in a sidewalk crack, be abducted, meet a terrorist, get AIDS, suffer an attack by free radicals, have cellulite or wrinkles, get caught in non-designer jeans, meet Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan, become homosexual, get pregnant, move out into their own apartment, find love, leave home and make mommy fend for herself.

Get a grip parents! The only way kids can grow into responsible adults is to learn to take care of themselves and start making their own decisions by giving them the right to do so bit by bit as they grow up. Hot house plants can’t survive in the wild and kids who have been overly protected have no life survival skills.

If you have done your job as responsible parents, you have taught them ethics, street smarts, how to take responsiblility for their own actions and choices, civility, manners, respect for themselves and others, how to have a loving and giving relationship, and how be behave as thinking adults. If you haven’t done your job correctly, then perhaps it’s better to keep your dreadful progeny off the streets!

By Joe Kavanagh Thu May 29th 2008 at 1:42 am  

Curmudgeon Gal

So, you are saying since my son has autism he is my dreadful progeny? I guess he can not be allowed out in public. Aren’t you sweet? You picked the right name. That part I feel certain of. This is what I was talking about earlier. There is a wide spread scorn and

prejudice against kids with disabilities. Please, just get off our backs. Okay? I thought for a minute that maybe I was wrong about this site. But I post and not 5 minutes later I have one of you free range parents who hates autistic kids. Curmudgeon Gal; I hope that you and yours are all healthy and successful. How you can call my son dreadful is, well, appalling.

By Joe Kavanagh Thu May 29th 2008 at 9:22 pm  

Curmudgeon Gal

I misunderstood your post and thought you were

replying to mine. I sincerely apologize and wish you

good luck then. In fact. good luck to all the parents and their kids. Thanks.

By Rnz Fri May 30th 2008 at 12:12 pm  

Interesting; I can see both sides on this you know;

parents want to protect their kids but kids should be kids too; I think; that’sa fine line I guess; I say go for it;

By ttoo Fri May 30th 2008 at 12:13 pm  

Yes;

How else will kids grow up?

This is great

Thanks

By Lynn Chapman Tue Jun 3rd 2008 at 10:17 pm  

Thank you for this fantastic website! Can you believe there were women in my Mom’s group who were upset that I let my 1st grader ride the school bus to school? Unbelievable!

By Gozu666 Tue Jun 3rd 2008 at 10:57 pm  

I just heard you on RTE1 radio in Ireland and would like to commend you on your fresh and intelligant approach to parenting.

Well done.

By Ray Wed Jun 4th 2008 at 1:25 am  

I support your efforts 100%. Kids today are not allowed to have unstructured playtime.It is hard for me to believe that so many of our kids today are select material in sports, music, dance, cheerleading, horseback riding, etc. The only thing that is select is which credit card you select to pay for them to do the activity.

Why are we so afraid of letting our kids skin their elbows and knees? No wonder we as a society are not making gains, when we refuse to let our kids feel some pain growing up.

What really shocks me is how we now have a generation or two who thinks it is no big deal to cheat. And since we have stopped our kids from meting out kid justice (growing up in the 50′s and 60′s, we would take care of those kids who cheated and they did not cheat again), I am afraid we will see more Enrons in the future.

Parents set parameters, but kids need to learn all the other parameters that have been set out in the world. The only way to do that is to let them go and find out first hand.

You are fighting the good fight. Keep it up.

By anomynous Wed Jun 4th 2008 at 2:17 am  

I’m totally for Free Range Kids and I’m sick and tired of paranoid, overprotective parents and government. I was happy when I see a group of kids taking a short walk, alone without adults, to the store, or to the playground, or to school, like I used to do as a kid. If there is anybody who is a threat to children it is not strangers, but the new generation of paranoid parents who are breeding the next generation of rebellious youth who will be frustrated at their parent’s over zealous protectiveness. Also, kids need to learn how to be self sufficient. What happens if a kid gets lost or separated from his or her family at let’s say , a State Park, or at a Mall.

Will the child just sit alone and whine and cry for their mamma? Or will that child use their heads and try to survive and seek help! I keep on reading articles or hearing news stories about stranded kids who have survived in the wilderness, alone, and who survived. We need to stop raising wussy children who are a reflection of their over protective, Soccer Mom-Yuppy wimp parents!!!

By MMM Wed Jun 4th 2008 at 2:41 am  

I worked at a Theme Park in the mid 90′s. Sure, there were idiots that insisted that their kids ride the rides that they were not tall enough to ride, and that is too overindulgent because the Park could have been sued if their children were hurt o one of those rides. However, there were perfect examples of “overprotective mothers, especially the one mom

who wouldn’t let her child ride next to a black child. You see, most of these “helicopter parents” are just a bunch of stupid, redneck racist idiots who also physically and verbally abuse their children, and who raise those children to be idiotic or hyper paranoid redneck idiots . I grew up myself not only to be independent, but tolerant and open minded. I also believe that parents and others who believe that every stranger is a pedophile is a paranoid lunatic. When I was a kid me and my peers actually feared harm from the police, and from police brutality, more than we feared harm from strangers.

By Steve Wed Jun 4th 2008 at 3:13 am  

Thanks for going public!

I was a “free range” kid and worked a paper route with my 10yr old brother when I was 8. In the 80′s I got caught up in being overprotective of my daughter but learned to let go eventually. My daughter seems fairly well adjusted and “free”, but I can see that she still has an overdependence on societal safety nets.

I wonder if the liberal “cradle-to-grave” agenda has anything to do with fostering our “no-child-left-alone” mentality?

Maybe if we can foster independence and responsibility in our kids we can convince our government that we don’t need a nanny anymore.

Keep up the good work and thanks again!

By ebohlman Wed Jun 4th 2008 at 5:14 am  

Lynn: I’ve got a hunch at what was really going on with those women who were upset that you let your first-grader ride the bus, namely that the “safety” concern is really a manifestation of something else. I suspect that they feel that in order to be good parents, they really have to knock themselves out for their kids (this is largely media-driven). And as a result they feel stressed, and they feel guity over feeling stressed about it (anyone see a vicious cycle here?). So when they see a mother like you who’s responsible but doesn’t exhaust herself doing everything for her kids, they get uncomfortable because they can see that they’re really unnecessarily stressing themselves out. The psychological theory of cognitive dissonance (see Mistakes Were Made (but not be ME) by Carol Tavris and Eliot Aronson) predicts that when one experiences a conflict between her beliefs (i.e. I’m not a good mom if I don’t do everything for my kid) and evidence (that you’re being a good mom despite not doing everything for your kid), the beliefs will usually win (cognitive dissonance explains, for example, why people will “throw good money after bad”).

There’s also the factor, alluded to by several people in these fora, that some of this overprotectiveness reflects social competition between parents, with the kids as pawns. Here’s a half-joking thought: if you’re in the sort of community where letting kids get to school by means other than driving them is taboo, get a beater and drive them to school in that.

Another good bit of reading is Jeffrey S. Victor’s Satanic Panic. 25 years ago, the big parental fear was that their kids would be harmed by Satanic cults, and Victor documents the whole panic. Toward the middle of the book, he advances the idea that at the time parents had genuine, but unarticulated, fears about their children’s futures (mostly economic, but also because of the specter of nuclear war and the like), and those fears “spilled out” in an irrational form (similar to the phenomenon often seen in workplaces where “undiscussable” issues often get “displaced” into big arguments over trivial matters).

By Susan Wed Jun 4th 2008 at 9:30 am  

I think I am somewhere in the middle here. I was definitely a free-range kid. I have recently gotten more comfortable with my own kids being free range. This summer my twelve year old is responsible for her 9 and 3 year old younger brothers. They have very specific rules and I call often. I rarely work more than 5 or 6 hours, often fewer. Still, some people I tell look ready to report us to child protective services. The interesting thing about that is I happen to know what cps’s guidelines are and any such report would be dismissed and not even investigated (I’m an attorney who does CPS cases as part of my practice). Also, the degree of alarm seems to decrease as income levels decrease. Is there a correlation between the amount of money we make and the amount of security we expect? Some kind of expectation of perfect lives? The fact of the matter is that tragedies happen even when we are most careful and prepared. Any parent who has lost a child to SIDS or household accident can tell you that. Just the other day my three year old managed to climb onto the kitchen counter and fall off before I could get to him. Both my husband and I were in the house. He hurt himself, but luckily not badly. And I do mean luckily. He easily could have hit his head or fallen in such a way as to break his neck. Sometimes I wish I could prevent each and every accident my children might have – and yet I know that it is not possible and probably is not ultimately a good idea. My daughter is proud that she can be trusted to look after her brothers for a few hours. My nine year old loves being free over the summer to play and not be required to go to a day camp which is often little different than school. I’m happy that all three have down time and a true summer vacation. Up until recently they have definitely been over scheduled.

By ebohlman Wed Jun 4th 2008 at 8:59 pm  

Susan: you’re definitely on to something about the relationship with income: irrational parental fears are typically an upper-middle-class thing (not just worries about kidnapping or molestation, but about vaccines, household cleaning products, non-organic food, etc.).

I can see several reasons for this:

1) The one you mentioned, namely that our expectations get higher as we make more money. A similar phenomenon applies to perceptions of health: as a society’s objective measures of health improves, people’s subjective beliefs about how healthy they are worsen.

A pretty ugly undertone to this rise in expectations is that in many cases people think that because they’re capable of earning lots of money, they should somehow be exempt from all the vicissitudes of life.

2) Poor and working-class parents literally can’t afford to have fears like this. Their kids face too many real dangers, and they don’t have the time or money to drive their kids everywhere or keep them in costly structured activities.

This one also relates to my health example: when people are dying of rampant diseases, people don’t worry much about minor aches and pains, stomach upsets, or headaches. It’s only when the major threats are gone that we start thinking of the latter as “ill health.”

It’s almost as if we have a “fear quota” that we fill with unlikely dangers as the likely ones go away.

3) I suspect that as income goes up, “street smarts” are less valued.

4) Narcissism. Lots of helicopter parents act like their children are endangered, not just by kidnappers/molesters, but by kidnappers/molesters who are targeting their kids in particular. That comes from feeling more important than you really are.

I wonder if the perception that today’s world is far more dangerous for kids than the world we grew up in was is similar to the perception that today’s kids are much worse behaved than the previous generation in that everybody throughout history has believed it.

By Jay Are Thu Jun 5th 2008 at 1:34 am  

My wife and I have two free range kids.

Our 13 year old regularly takes public transportation, rides his bike all over town and runs his own lawn mowing business in our neighborhood. He is allowed to roam the neighborhood and land at any of his friends’ homes. I let him choose to wear a helmet, or not, while riding (bike, scooter or long board) in the neighborhood. Of course I try to convince him that wearing a helmet is a great choice. Some of his friend’s parents think we are crazy.

Our 7 year old rides his bike to school most days and is allowed to walk home by himself. He regularly walks, or rides (bike or scooter) to his friend’s (another free range kid) home in our neighborhood.

We often take both kids to movies, give them money, and tell them we will pick them up after the show or let walk home if they want.

By SDS Fri Jun 6th 2008 at 6:50 am  

As a kid in the 50′s and 60′s I had to get myself places on public transportation, bike, or foot. No one thought anything of it.

My brothers and I did stupid things, and we got hurt. We also got hurt doing nothing stupid (like riding the school bus). In the process we learned that we were responsible for out actions. We all grew up to be responsible adults.

In the 70′s we put our 9 year old son on a plane by himself to meet my parents. They were in South America at the time. He had a great time, as did my parents.

Thank you for your sanity.

By Ellen Sat Jun 7th 2008 at 4:49 am  

Thanks for this site. I have an 11 year old daughter who I allow to walk to the center of our town, perhaps 10 blocks with a friend. We have a park across our street and I allow her to roam around without me hovering. She loves it! And I have seen her become more responsible and less hesitant to try new things.

I think the point about narcissistic tendencies in helicoptor parents is a very interesting point. I work with college age students and we have parents of 22 year olds still making decisions for their “child”. It is quite sad. It isn’t about not letting go, it’s about control and about the parents’ ego.

By Jill Sun Jun 8th 2008 at 9:55 am  

Maybe I’m paranoid, but I’m thinking all this FEAR about having to watch one’s offspring 24/7 which the media are so fond of is a distraction from telling about our gov’t being hijacked, so to speak, by, well, not to mince words, facists. Think about the fact that the media worked so HARD to ignore the fact that Dennis Kucinich, Dem-OH, was running for President last fall.; the court cases that were fought by TV networks to keep him off the Presidential debates. The lack of news coverage of the NH Primary recount. The near total media blackout on computer voting machine fraud. If moms are watching their kids every moment to make sure they live till the next day, they haven’t any time to monitor what’s going on in their country or do anything meaningful about it. (Of course, if you’re wealthy enough to hire a nanny, this does not apply–so really, it’s an attack on the non-wealthy, just as lack of reproductive rights or health care are attacks on the non-wealthy, since the wealthy can get anything they like, whether it’s legal or not. Also the Iraq war is a non-issue for the wealthy, because THEIR kids don’t need to earn livings, and aren’t so impacted by the utter lack of jobs that they have to enlist in the National Guard or any other armed force just to be able to earn their bread.)

Personally, I don’t think letting a normal 10-yr old kid out of my sight for a while is bad, but I wouldn’t try it in eastern Massachusetts if I were you. I had the misfortune to have our 16-yr-old car die in Plymouth, “America’s Home Town,” while on our way back to upstate NY after visiting my dad on the Cape. While the car was at the garage, the mechanic having given me to understand that he could fix it that day, we whiled away some hours at the touristy places near the waterfront, and on heading back to the garage to check the car’s progress my son, who was 10 1/2, wanted to sit and rest his feet. HE wanted to sit on a bench outside a nice little candy shop & wait while I took his smaller brothers (aged 6 & 8) back to the garage with me, 3 blocks away, and yes, he knew the way back there himself; we’d tavelled back and forth that way several times that day already. I’d pick him up when the car was done, and it was supposed to have been done by then. Got back to garage, not done. (Mechanic barely spoke English, by the way, but I thought he was trying to tell me that repair was imminent.) Half an hour later (car still not done), police cruiser comes along with son (who was fine) & FURIOUS cop, who was definitely young enough to be my son (I was 50), who proceeded to SCREAM at me with his face about 1 foot away from mine for the next 10 minutes about the Danger, Bad Mom, Kidnappers, Fear, etc. etc. etc. I think the only reason he didn’t arrest me was because I was, at the time, visiting from out-of-state; perhaps the fact that I hadn’t planned on our car breaking down was a mitigating factor. So, well, yeah, there ARE predators around, but the kid was half a year from being legal baby-sitting age… (and was no shrinking violet!). So, maybe Massachusetts is the most dangerous place in America, or maybe it just has a very zealous constabulary…I’d also read newspaper articles, while we were living there, about a woman who got dragged off to jail in chains because she hadn’t renewed her dog’s license on time, ditto for a woman who hadn’t paid her parking ticket because she hadn’t RECEIVED NOTICE OF IT because it had been sent to the wrong address.

So yes, it’s crazy; we rode in cars without seatbelts and rode bikes without helmets, and walked MILES to school without supervision and had paper routes without supervision. Are there more predators now than then? Is it possible there would be fewer if there were more real jobs available, an accountable gov’t, etc.?

By ozsport Mon Jun 9th 2008 at 5:06 pm  

Thank god for the voice of reason. I have always been a firm believer in letting my kids be independent. they have been doing there own laundry since they were 4 – my 11yr old now does it all on his own including sorting and what can and cant go into the tumbledryer. My 8yr old is almost at this stage. What i have found amazing is the number of mothers who have called me cruel and uncaring!! They have to cook once a week and have to do their share of the house work. We are lucky enough to live next to a wonderful forest and they love playing in there as they have got older I have allowed them to go further – they know the rules and have always returned safely. I think we have become obsessed with our children and do not give them the freedom to discover who they are!

By Nicola Braden Mon Jun 9th 2008 at 5:19 pm  

I’ve just read your article in The Times and I couldn’t agree more – how did retarding a child’s development through over-protection become ‘good parenting’ in the eyes of so many?

Personally, I believe a major cause of this is a total lack of understanding of risk in the parents. There is an assumption among some adults that keeping children in cars or indoors under our noses every minute of the day and night is helping them somehow. Wrong! We are crippling their development by doing this.

It is also pretty LAZY parenting because it is actually meeting the misinformed needs of the parents, rather than the emotional and developmental needs of the children.

As a parent, far more is required of me to allow my (just) 7 year old to cross the road and walk around the corner to the shop than it is to lock the front door and keep her inside. My husband and I have worked hard to teach road safety to both our daughters from the age that they could walk. Other parents I see just make their kids hold their hands or pushchairs and head across the road, between parked cars, in front of moving cars themselves, running across the road etc. I just don’t understand how they believe this is helpful for their kids – role-modelling the very behaviour you don’t want!

Our younger daughter has just turned 5 and it won’t be long before we let her go too. She already gets to be the one who tells us all when it is safe to cross much of the time. She knows that it is much better to wait a little longer than take a chance if a car might be coming. She knows where to stand so she can see clearly. She knows that she needs to listen and keep looking while she crosses the road. It’s only by having this hammered into her (and role-modelled by us as parents EVERY time we go out) year in and year out that she learns this. She knows that SHE will have to use this herself very soon so there is a point to her learning it.

The helicopter parent thinking is the same as that surrounding the MMR ‘scare’. Only people who have not got a clue about interpreting information to assess risk in context were concerned about that. And by being ‘cautious’ and avoiding the vaccination, they actually put their kids at risk of serious and sometimes fatal diseases, rather than being smart and reading the information properly. Even a quick glance would have shown that this was the work of a very inept scientist and scare-mongering, ill-informed journalists so should be ignored.

I am not at all worried about my kids being kidnapped – this would only cross my mind if we were celebrities and even then it would be really low on my list! The chances of anyone else being snatched is so minimal that I might as well worry about finding them dead in their beds one morning as this is far, far more likely to happen and who can live their life happily like that?

Your son is very lucky to have a mum like you…ignore the mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers or neurotic emotional retards who try and say otherwise!

By Rosalind Mon Jun 9th 2008 at 5:32 pm  

I used to think that it was just the British who had this dirty minded obsession that children were going to be abducted for unspeakable purposes if we allowed them out of our sight ever ever ever, and that it was the wonderful education system in the UK that ended up with people who didn’t get statistics. I don’t know whether I should be comforted or depressed that the rest of the world is just as stupid.

Of course we need to worry about our children, but this wrapping up in cotton wool is worrying about the wrong things. A classic example for me came from visiting theme parks in continental Europe. After a couple of such trips we noticed that the locals had a clever idea of putting a label on their kid’s t-shirt with their name and the parent’s phone number. The idea is that if the kid gets lost, someone phones the parent and says “Your child, Mary, has lost you and is by the carousel”, and you go and pick them up. What a great idea, I thought, but then I mentioned it to parents back in England. The response was uniform “But what if someone wants to abduct them, they will know the child’s name and the child will go with them.” Leaving aside the fact that my kids would be supremely unimpressed by someone knowing their name (they are still at the stage where they think they are world-famous), do these people really think that every theme park/children’s play area is full of people trying to abduct children? Do they not realise that, like rape and murder, assaults against children are primarily carried out by people who know the victim, not some random stranger? If we talk about probabilities, the chances of my children being abducted are miniscule, but I know that my older son (in particular) will one day get lost (why? because he has his head in the clouds and is always wandering off to look at something, without checking where everyone else is, and his father has yet to grow out of the same habit, so I am not holding my breath about coming through this phase). I need to focus on what is likely to happen, not what isn’t.

When each of my boys was born, I spent the first six months convinced that they would die of cot death (sudden infant death syndrome), because it is the greatest fear of new mothers. Now, I am terrified that they will get lost, fall and hurt themselves or be hurt by someone else, but I can’t let these, largely irrational, fears dominate their lives – that isn’t fair and it certainly wouldn’t make me a better mother.

We have to put our instinctive fears through a rationalisation process and stop glorifying our hysteria as a form of parenting. The number of 17 and 18 year olds who have no street sense, the number of people in their early twenties who have no idea how to cope if they find themselves in the wrong part of town late at night are testaments to a muddled idea of parenting being good only if the child never has to do anything for him or herself, and therefore develops no confidence that he or she can be self-sufficient. I don’t think any of us enjoy letting our children out of our sight, but this isn’t about us, it is about them. Parents (especially mothers) need to get over themselves and realise that children can cope perfectly well with small tasks alone if we let them. Parenting is a series of goodbyes in which we give our kids more and more freedom to be themselves, and so become the independent adults we want them to be.

By IVAN CARNEGIE Mon Jun 9th 2008 at 9:51 pm  

Hi Lenore

Just read your article in Tmes 2. Good for you!! We also live in a “nanny” culture in the UK with more and more parents scared off allowing their children to enjoy their childhood.

By Kay Sprenger Mon Jun 9th 2008 at 10:29 pm  

Just read your article in Times 2 this afternoon and thought, “At last”! I have raised 5 kids and from the earliest age have encouraged them to walk to school and back by themselves and go into town and back using public transport. No harm ever came near them. In my own childhood I would go off all day by myself and my parents never worried about me – just giving me a packed lunch and saying, “See you later.” By encouraging our kids to do small tasks by themselves gives them a measure of confidence that will stand them in good stead in later years. From the moment our children are born, we need to be prepared to let them go….by letting them do things on their own it will then not be so hard on us when they do eventually leave home.

By Steve P Mon Jun 9th 2008 at 11:05 pm  

In an every increasing sanitised, homogenised world I was pleased to read of your vilification by the press.

Not because I believed you should be vilified for your views, far from it, but because once down on paper (and internet) the absurdity of such irrational behaviour might just make those who spout such garbage to re-think what is and isnt dangerous.

How is a child to grow, to learn, to develop if its parents wrap him in cotton wool? Where will the ability to think through everyday events come from if the child is cosseted from the realities of the world?

Fat, scared, timid and frightened of their own shadow. The thing is does this describe the parents or the future generation?

By Bettywillow Mon Jun 9th 2008 at 11:13 pm  

Hi! I live in the UK and have 1 daughter & 2 stepdaughters. From an early age I encouraged my daughter to be independent & resourceful (with quite a bit of supervision & nail-biting on my part!) Now my daughter will happily take a bus to wherever she needs to go (she’s 15), go into cafes & place an order when she’s alone! She is very aware of possible dangers & pitfalls & is incredibly smart when it comes to reading situations. My step daughters, who are older have been molly coddled all their lives won’t even walk to the school bus stop alone(100 yards) & most days have to be driven to school! The eldest at 17 won’t even ask for a burger in McDonalds but sends my daughter instead! I say, bring your kids up ‘Free Range’, They become strong, mature & resourceful instead of wet wimps!

By Heather S Mon Jun 9th 2008 at 11:44 pm  

I live in a small town in NW Iowa, and our house is 2 blocks from the school. This year I began to let my son, in first grade, walk the two blocks to and from school. He usually walks with one or two other kids on the block. I cannot tell you how many people have commented on his walking- usually in a concerned or negative way. Their fears range from potential abductions, to “he’s going to get sick”, to traffic concerns (he cross two streets- one immediately in front of our house and one with a crossing guard and cross walk). I have second-guessed this decision constantly and I continue to be nervous about letting him walk the (gasp) two blocks to school.

By Sharon Tue Jun 10th 2008 at 12:47 am  

Free range!!!!! What a breath of fresh air your colum in the Times was today.

My elder son who is 10 has always been independent and sensible, and has had a lot of freedom to eg go to the shops to buy his comic and scooter to school from the age of 7. My younger so is not as independent, does not want to to do those things, but does want to walk alone to his soccer c,ub which is only baoutt 500 yards away, so he does that.

Two years ago wwhen DS1 was 8, we were on holiday & he wanted to take a cliff path back from the beach were on by himself to the vilage. (I had to go by car because of logistics.) I said no. Last year when he was 9 he asked the same question. this time I considered it and thought it reasonable. We arranged the rendez-vous, and he should have got there first. he was not there when we arrived, and I cannot tell you the inner panic I felt ( reamining calm for DS2.) After an interminable ( 10 mins!) he emerged from a different direction. He had missed the runing off the path and gone to far – when he realised he then took a shorter route back from where he was.

He grew taller, and I was proud of his resourcefulness.

And has evanyone who has read ‘My family & other animals’ must surely wish a more free range chldhood on their children?

A few weeks ago, we were on another beach, and there was an island some way out. the boys took their rubber dinght y out to explore. they found a place to secure it on the rocks. I]They were out of earshot so I could not tell them that i could see as the tide was coming in it would soon float free and float away. I wondered to my husband if one of us should swim out. He said, no – whats the worst that will happen? If it floats away they will have to swim back, and they will learn an improtant lesso about anticipating events around them to make decisions. We lose a £10 , three year old boat, they learn an invaluable lesson. As it happened, they go back in time, realised what was happening, and learned that lesson anyway.

By Jess Tue Jun 10th 2008 at 2:10 am  

I let my son walk to school with a few of his friends. He meets his friends a block from our house and then walks about 5 blocks to school. A neighbor down the street will not let her children play with my son because I am a “bad mother.” I try not to let it get to me but I think I am anything but, I love my children and like all mothers, only want the best for them. Why can’t a fifth grader use his legs as intended and walk to school as so many others have done?

By Bob Tue Jun 10th 2008 at 2:21 am  

Power to you Lenore! There are thousands of helicopter parents whose overprotected children will grow up afraid, bratty and obese, but nobody’s calling them the world’s worst parents. Rational argument and genuine thought on a subject always beat irrational, knee-jerk, media influenced response; you are proving that ecery single day.

By Conn Buckley Tue Jun 10th 2008 at 2:30 am  

I am not a parent so I probably don’t yet have the protective emotion that comes with having a child, but I appreciate the responsible way in which you have given your child the chance to explore his own boundries and to learn to make responsible decisions. My uncle takes a similar hand in raising his two young daughters, in the town that I live in. His assuring and assisting style of parenting gives those two girls the best chance of making the most of their lives and finding their own destinies.

Thank you for bringing this issue of overparenting to the public light.

By Kendal Tue Jun 10th 2008 at 2:50 am  

For! My children are 10 and 7 1/2 and are free as birds. They get themselves to school every morning by taking the bus, then catching a train, and walking the couple of blocks to school. (They reverse the sequence on the way home) Our difference is that we live in Switzerland where free range kids are the norm; kindegarteners are pretty much obligated to get themselves to school.

We have lived in Switzerland for almost a year now. In that time, my kids have become significantly more responsible, mature and confident. Plus, they are probably a little more fit!

Thanks for the blog! Let’s start a revolution!

By Lin H Fisher Tue Jun 10th 2008 at 4:41 am  

As a new Granny, I was very interested to read your article in The Times2 British newspaper, today.

I applaud your common sense – and genuine bravery in this day and age – to parent as you see fit and allow your son to expereince an element of responsibility and ensuing sense of achievement.

I hope my daughter adopts a similar view when my Grandchildren are of an appropriate age as how sad it would be if so many of the things we took for granted as kids were lost to our new generations in the future. Good for you!!

By Vanessa Stabler Tue Jun 10th 2008 at 4:20 pm  

I read the article about Lenore and her son in the Times 9thJune. Pleased to hear there is a mother with sense to let her son do things alone. I wonder if these mothers who have to check on their children will continue to do so when they are grown-up. I have heard that there is now a generation of children growing-up who can’t even cross the road on their own.

It also works for adults too. I live alone, so if I am not meeting my boyfriend I will go out in the evenings on my own. I have travelled to London often to go to art galleries, and even the other year went to Egypt for a week on my own. Women I work with won’t go out unless they have someone with them. I don’t think that I am any braver than other people, just make sure I’m aware at times what’s going on around me.

By UK Parent Tue Jun 10th 2008 at 7:55 pm  

For, without reservation!

If you can’t trust kids to cross a road, play in a safe street, make their way home or go to the store. How will you begin to trust them to go on vacation, go to college, get a job, run a business or inherit the country!

There are times when you may have to pause for breath, feel a cold shiver, or let your heart skip a beat. Not easy, but ask yourself; how can a generation rased on fear ever have the courage to walk in the world and make it better.

My little boy is the future, with a frog in his pocket.

By julie ryan Tue Jun 10th 2008 at 7:58 pm  

I read Skenazy’s article in The Times (UK) on 9th June in the staff room of a top London day school. The school is in the city of London and virtually unaccessible by car and the boys nearly all travel by public transport. Because of the huge popularity of the school the boys travel from considerable distances and , certainly in the the winter, return home after dark. The youngest boys are 10 years old and their parents are generally loving, well-educated and intelligent . I have never heard of a serious incident with any of our student whilst travelling to school. The prospectus certainly doesn’t say, ‘only dreadful parents need apply’! Is London really so much safer than New York?

By alane w Tue Jun 10th 2008 at 9:44 pm  

I don’t have kids so I don’t know what impact my opinion will have, but here it goes. I grew up a latch key kid, “come home when the lights turn on”, and growing up in New Mexico “we live surrounded by mesa what trouble can happen.” I had fun running around learning about snakes, lizards and Roadrunners, I know see my friends and neighbors kids on leashes and house arrest in fear of what MIGHT happen. Children are meant to get dirty, have scratched knees, and be outside in the world. If parents do not cut the cord and let there children live as a child how are they to learn about the world and themselves. If or when I have children I will be raising them the best I can and will experience what I experienced as a child, being free of the TV and video games.

By David Poole Tue Jun 10th 2008 at 11:31 pm  

I read the article in the Times (UK) and was delighted to see you doing what is a truly sensible. Keepig children locked up in cotton wool behind fences won’t give the world the next generation of confident adults. This will lead to yet more suspicion and distrust of strangers in other parts of the world and of course yet more conflict. I was brought up in the 40s and 50s, was a latch key kid, which at the time was said to be bad. Well we all survived, I have grandchildren who I hope will be confident adults. When we are in the USA, on visits, I allow my Grandson to wander some of the time in Santa Monica, San Francisco or even NYC. He love the freedom and responsibility and is I think the better for it. The kids bike miles and miles and so far at least come home happy.

More power to you and keep up the pressure.

By Ginger Wed Jun 11th 2008 at 7:01 pm  

Wow. It feels good to see that I am not the only “free range parent” out there after all the critical looks and comments I have endured. I always knew I wanted my kids (now 4, 6, 8, and 10) to have as much independence and confidence that I could give them, but after having so many people question my methods, I was starting to doubt myself. I also adhere to your philosophy that our world is not as far removed from the past as we have been convinced that it is. My kids walk to school (I usually walk with the younger ones), and I try to give them as much freedom as possible. I am amazed at the over-protective parents I see everywhere.

I have to comment also about the responses on here that cite a specific tragedy. No one is saying that these things don’t happen. I am not that naive. But I also know that it is impossible to eliminate every possible danger from my kids’ lives, and if I try to, I will raise fearful, shy, ill-equipped for society children.

Thanks so much for the website. I love it!!

By Amanda Jacks Thu Jun 12th 2008 at 2:51 am  

Please come to England and spread the word here!

Want to work within a mile of a child or ‘vulnerable’ person here and you have to be subjected to an intruisive police check; ‘health and safety’ has virtually put a stop to all manner of activities; we’re producing a whole generation of kids who won’t have the first class clue how to take a risk and sadder still, we eroding those simple instincts of trust and instinct.

By Dot Thu Jun 12th 2008 at 3:29 am  

I remember being 6 years old (1979) and playing wth a few neighborhood children. We would run into the field next to our dead-end street and play for hours. Paint rocks and throw them as far as we could then ‘hunt’ for them. We’d make forts out of old scrapwood and escape to different worlds and times. We’d hike, make mud puddles to play in, etc. My mom would occasionally come to a window and yell my name – I’d answer from afar, “I’m ok, Mommy!” and that would be that.

I never got into trouble, I made good choices, I’d sometimes have a bruise or a cut and would run home knowing that in a few minutes I’d be patched up and ready to get back to playing.

How would my days have been back then if my mom didn’t allow me to leave the house or travel more than a few yards from our home? Stifling & boring.

Your blog and my own wishes for a more freedom-and-fun-filled childhood for my 6-year-old daughter have caused me to take action. I consciously make an effort to allow for opportunities each day that will help her blossom into a free-range kid.

Thank you!

By Andy Thu Jun 12th 2008 at 5:04 pm  

As a father of 3 (14/9/7) I congratulate you on putting forward a voice of reason amongst the media hype. As I often try to remind people Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist based on how children lived many years ago. To say it is more dangerous now is simply incorrect.

To say the Media have made parents totally paranoid is however very true though and I thank the Internet for at least allowing this message to get out. In the so called “good” old days the media would never have allowed a view to be aired that was so contrary to their rantings.

By Tracey Thu Jun 12th 2008 at 5:07 pm  

Just heard you onTodayFM (Irish radio station).

I can’t agree more! I am a safety consultant and am forever explaining to other parents that there is no conflict between me insisting on the school preparing a risk assessment for a school trip while allowing my son to play rugby and my daughter to try in-skates (with apropriate training, supervision and safety gear). The other parents are too scared to allow their kids any freedom, but at the same time they let then travel in the front seat of the car with no appropriate restraint and an air bag.

I am looking forward to reading through your web site.

By Ali Thu Jun 12th 2008 at 5:17 pm  

For free range, definitely. My childhood in North London was amazing, I could play in the woods, get on buses, take the tube to central London, walk to school when the bus didn’t come. There were ‘incidents’ – we had a rope swing over a stream in the park and a man stood by with his trousers and pants down. We didn’t think dirty old pervert, we just thought he was a bit retarded. The saddest thing was when one of the girls told her mum and then the stream and the swing were out of bounds.

Another time a man with yellow teeth chatted me up on the way home from Brownies. I was nearly home, but I saw a bus coming and ran for it. Then I went two stops to my friend’s house and walked back home a different way. I was 9

Children need street-wisdom. They can’t get that if we stifle them.

By Derek Readman Thu Jun 12th 2008 at 6:10 pm  

I just listened to your radio interview on Irelands Today FM and spent most of the time laughing. I laughed because you were a brilliant and funny and SENSIBLE!!.

I live in Ireland and there is ever growing fears that you cant leave your kids walk to or from school or go to the local park with their friends. I let my 11yr old walk to school which is under 2 miles away or go to the park with his friends (1/4mile away). I have even sent him to the local shop to buy milk for me 1/4 mile away).

One parent told me recently that she did not accept an invitation for her 11yr old to come to our house to play after school, because she knows that we allow our kids to go to the park without supervision. I told her that I respected that she was not ready to allow her kid that level of freedom.

People need to respect how others bring up their kids and the freedom we give (or not). As parents we never deliberately put our children in harms way, but we dont need to over protect them.

If something bad is going to happen, then it will happen no matter what you do, there are no paedophiles and child kidnappers behind every tree, on every bus and driving around just waiting to snatch your child. It does happen, but not to the extent that everyone would like us to believe.

I firmly believe that as long as you explain the dangers to your child, what they should do in dangerous situations and who they should and should not engage with, then they will be fine.

We are going further and further down the road towards social insanity. I dont want my children unable to leave home at 18 (not planning to kick them out either!) because they have have never learned to be streetwise and able to manage on their own.

By Shona Thu Jun 12th 2008 at 6:17 pm  

I just heard you on Today FM. I totally agree. I do have a tendency to over protect my children, but lately have been trying to find ways to give them a bit more independence, and they LOVE it! The media does tend to paint a very bleak picture, but we need to talk more to our kids, explain about freedom and responsibility, and let them get out there and learn a bit more. Our kids tend to be different people when they are not with us, so they need to find out about things on their own, but know they can come to us and talk about whatever happens. Like Ray said, there aren’t bogey men hanging around waiting for a lone child to appear. Bad things can happen to children at home too.

By Tom Scheren Thu Jun 12th 2008 at 8:17 pm  

Finally some sanity. The only difference between when I was a kid ( and a total free range one at that ) is that today we are inundated with information. Pedophiles and child abusers existed when I was young, you just didn’t hear about them every thirty seconds. Today we are so paranoid about everything that our children can’t do anything for themselves. They need us to entertain them. Let the kids live and learn about the real world. Maybe they won’t spend so much time in front of a television watching reality TV or playing virtual reality video games.

By Carol McCreary Thu Jun 12th 2008 at 8:20 pm  

We raised free range kids and they are thriving. They grew up in Yemen, Iraq, and Pakistan. As they got older – starting about age 10 – and wanted to spend summers with grandparents they managed the overseas flights on their own.

Public transportation is a great way to teach kids to focus, concentrate, and use their judgement. The fear factor would not have taken such a hold on Americans if more had had longer leashes when they were kids.

I was delighted to see today that Portland, Oregon Mayor Tom Potter and Mayor Elect Sam Adams are advocating to make the public transit system free to kids in the 6th to 12th grades. It’s time for us as a society to cut out unnecessary trips by parents accompanying kids and move away from the culture of coddling for the next generation.

By Deirdre Earls Thu Jun 12th 2008 at 8:22 pm  

If I were a kid today, I’d be thanking my lucky stars for a mom like you.

By cponk Thu Jun 12th 2008 at 8:40 pm  

Hooray for free range! I also heard you this morning on the Ray D’Arcy show and jumped for joy because, at last, someone has the balls to speak out about this issue. I was a free range kid and am trying to raise my 3 children the same way but find that I restrict myself from allowing them to do things by themselves for fear of other peoples’ attitudes. I cannot understand why in this day and age when we push our children to do better in school, providing tutors and grinds for children in Primary School and pushing them to excel academically, we turn around and think that they are not smart enough to walk to school or take a bus. Kids today are way more clever than the last generation of kids ( ie mine). Surely if we clearly explain to our children the dangers that are out there, how to avoid them, what to do in a situation, and constantly remind them of safety issues from an early age they are intelligent enough to be able to cope. It is very sad that so much emphasis is placed today on academic ability and achievements that the importance of developing Social Skills is forgotten. In my mind, social skills in the preteen years are more important than academic skills. Children need to learn how to cope with difficult situations whether it be a child calling them names or someone pushing them around. The best way for children to do this is by playing out and left to figure these things out by themselves. They need to learn life skills.

I do understand that there is the fear of abduction etc but the risk of that is very small. That risk was there when we were children (look at the Catholic Church), but the medai coverage wasn’t there.

It is time parents got over “bubble-wrapping” their children and allowed them to grow up. I personally glow with pride when one of my children take another step towards independence. Of course I still worry a little and hang around for a bit in case something might happen but on the whole I find it very satisfying to see them confident and happy as they skip off with their friends to the pictures unsupervised for the first time. In fact I congratulate myself on a job well done. I have brought them one step closer to being strong, healthy, confident and independent adults, and isn’t that exactly what we as parents are supposed to do?

By Halvdan Thu Jun 12th 2008 at 8:59 pm  

Yes – all for it. When I was a kid I went to school on the subway and walked across town. I started when I was 8. I travelled with a friend around another country (in Europe) during my summer break when I was 15. We never thought it was unsafe or strange. I don’t believe we are doing our kids any favours by over protecting them. On the contrary. The ‘what if’ argument is exaggerated – there has never been a safer time to be a kid. How many parent grew up playing on building sites, un-protected back yards, streets, etc.? These days all that is available are sanitized and prefabricated playgrounds. How dull.

By Joe Kavanagh Thu Jun 12th 2008 at 10:47 pm  

I keep reading your postings and though I am happy

that so many people are so proud of their kids’

accomplishments, I still think parents should be

able to raise their kids as they see fit. I DO NOT

think legislating a free range upbringing is the way

to go. I think some folks may have good reason to

raise their children in another fashion. Ofcourse, I

would also say if you go by the responses to this

website, I must be the only non-free range parent

out there. Everyone seems to be in agreement with

you. So, perhaps, this is much ado about nothing.

I say good luck and best wishes to all the parents and

kids but there is no cookie cutter way of bringing kids

up and what works for one child and parent may not

work for all. Personally, I would love to hear from some

non-free range parents and get their perspective on

this. But, based on this site, I would say that there are

not as many as people seem to think. Perhaps, what

you folks are calling “helicopter parents” are, in fact,

parents like myself whose kids are disabled or

” special needs” kids. If this is the case, I certainly

think other parents should maybe cut them and me

a break about this free range approach. Remember,

not all disabled kids are in a wheelchair. As a parent

of an autistic child I can tell you that I don’t tell my

story to every parent out there. It’s not shame or

embarassment but just because I don’t want to go

into it and have to “explain” my son to every person in

the neighborhood and every parent I meet. So,

as I said, some parents have good reason to be a bit

more cautious. Now, ofcourse, some free range

parents ( I can attest to this) think I should let my son

do alot more than I think he could handle. In fact, I

have been told by some that there is no such thing as

autism and it is all the result of my parenting. This is

absolute nonsense. I am absolutely sure that I know

his limitations and believe me I am always trying to

stretch them. But he has far more pronounced

limitations then most children. I know what is best for

him and I know that offends many of the free range

parents on this site including Miss Skenazy but,

unfortunately , for now that is how our society works.

I am his father. My wife and I will dictate the best for

him and believe me he will excel and he will go as

far as his abilities allow him. I hope I have not

offended too many free range parents but that is just

the way it is. Good luck to all of you.

By Thomas Thu Jun 12th 2008 at 11:56 pm  

I read about this website in a newspaper on my flight from osaka, japan to dubai. Isn’t it amazing that somethng that should be a normal thing – let kids grow up in freedom, responibly – is able to provoke so much diskussion? Our litel one has just turned two and we try to encourage him exploring the world on his own whenever there is a chance. Wasn#’ that something we wanted ourselves when we were young?

By willam pocrnich Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 12:23 am  

Dear Mrs. Skenazy, I applaud you & your husband,(as well as your son), for several reasons; 1. you obviously discussed this decision at some length first. 2.you actually communicate with your son(s), rather than always just tell…3.this type of parenting will naturally lead to a much more well adjusted child, then adult ( nothing like leading by example) I could go on…but you already know all this. I was born & raised in northern Minn., was a teen in the 70′s , hitch -hiked all over the place from the age of 10, we lived about 12 mi., outside of town…no subway,buses,etc., my folks had raised me to be aware of my surroundings, to stop & get a sense of things & situations , & most importantly to not live in constant fear of….. (fill in the blank) I had one person stop to give me a ride..,I was 12 @ the time, & the warning bell in my gut told me not to get in, so I didn’t. I also had a small notepad & started writing down the license #….the guy couldn’t take off fast enough…I also could outrun most any adult back then, so even in that situation I can honestly say I wasn’t overwhelmed with fear ( a small healthy dose yes) .I’ve turned into a healthy, well adjusted, reasonable adult with, I believe ,numerous friends…many with children, and it’s funny to me, they all at one time or another have commented on how I interact & treat their kids like little adults…I say, full disclosure, lead by example, & discuss as opposed to tell….best way to earn a child’s trust… kudos to you & yours sincerely, William Pocrnich Namaste

By Tom Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 3:55 am  

Congratulations, at last someone who talks sense, a voice 0f sanity in a sea of madness. Yes children should be protected but not to the degree that their every move must be overseen & every stranger is a preditor, yes there are preditors out there but they are not under every bush & lurking around every street corner, if kids are not allowed some degree of independence HOW ? will they ever become rational adults. Parents are so paranoid now that we are going to end up with many stunted adults in the future, let’s hope that reason will soon take root over this issue & stop the madness.

By rupert small Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 4:47 am  

I only just heard of this subway ride fiasco via the BBC and would like to say I am shocked!.

I am shocked by the reactions of those against, what I see, as a very sober attitude to parenting.

As a New Zealander who grew up in Manhatten in the early 1970′s I had every possible freedom and in fact spent most of my time running all over the city.

It was the greatest adventure of my life, sometimes I was apprehensive, sometimes even scared, but above all I had a blast discovering New York by myself-aged from 7 to 12 years old.

I have spent too much of the rest of my life trying to get back to that state!

Children need to discover and learn for themselves, to overcome fear sometimes, to gain confidence and enjoy a sense of freedom and wonder.

New York and New Yorkers’ are marvelous.

All best in your struggles with some very uptight people.

rupert

By Jon W Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 4:59 am  

I once took the bus 5 miles from my house to the shop my mother worked at when I was 7 years old. My mother was surprised to see me of cours, I lied and said I was with an older friend of my brother.

I’ve spent my life since travelling the world and living overseas.

That first bus ride was my first adventure.

By sascha Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 5:09 am  

Totally For!!! I have been raising my 13 & 11 yrs (Boy & Girl) as “free rangers” since day one. When does the book come out?

“Free rangers “are actually “safer” then their over parented, over protected peers because they are confident, socially responsible kids who know their own limitations and are out there making careful and calculated decisions regarding their own safety and the safety of others every day. The only way to help them develop their instincts is to let them exercise them., Try them out. Test them. AND let them make mistakes. Are there risks? Of course. Can bad things happen? Sure they can. But I am more scared of what will happen if I hold onto my kids too tight and watch them too closely…a generation or two of unmotivated young adults who can’t take risks, make decisions or leave home for that matter – its becoming an epidempic in the US and its not funny!

By sascha Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 6:16 am  

PS

For the one or two dissenters on here. No one is advocating foolishness and stupidity! No one is saying: shove em out the door and let em sink or swim! It seems to me that we are advocating responsible parenting: giving guidelines, establishing open lines of communication, and taking baby steps (and give them a cell phone if you absolutely have to). Yes, and if you live near a frozen lake – explain the dangers to them for crying out loud! My four year old wasn’t riding the bus alone, but my 11 yr old (who is small for her age, is!). And I didn’t just drop her at the bus stop one day, say “ug” , point North and walk away. It was the next step for her. She’d already been taking it with her brother or a friend for a year, she’d already been walking to the corner store or her friend’s house alone for some time, she’d already been riding her bike to school for ages (about 15 blocks away), and she had already been left at home alone during the day – many times I might add! She is completely comfortable dong it because she is that confident, experienced kid I was talking about…

By Steve Sims Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 10:00 am  

FOR!

When I was 10 I would routinely take the bus. One day I got on the wrong bus and traveled miles in the wrong direction. I finally got off, went into a store and used the phone to call home. Fear shackles and controls. Cut the chains.

By Dallasite Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 11:31 am  

People who are quick to say they would never do what you did in allowing your son to have some freedom, probably shouldn’t. Mostly because their kids, raised in an environment of fear and over-parenting couldn’t handle it. Good for you! I have no problem with this. New York city is probably a heck of a lot safer than many suburban neighborhoods with nobody around and block after block of houses with people too afraid to answer their door.

By Sandra Niklaus Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 12:31 pm  

What’s the big fuss? In my homeland of Switzerland, many parents still DO let their kids walk to schools and back home by themselves. From the age they start primary school (at 6/7 years old).

- Also they play in the grounds around apartment blocks / nearby playgrounds without parents “hovering around”. Its great, because the kids get to play with other kids of varying ages – not just their own friends of the same age.

By Anonymous Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 12:36 pm  

My parents have experienced the horrors of civil war, yet, when they raised me they chose to let me be free and experience the wonderful things that childhood can offer.

Overprotecting a child, i believe, causes more psychological trauma. Raising a free range kid does not signify abandoning your child, as most against people would believe, but means nurturing and teaching independence safely.

By Susan Haywood Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 12:41 pm  

I live in Australia. I do not condemn you in the least for letting your child grow up. I know the dangers out there but we cannot wrap our kids in cotton wool for the rest of their lives. Never letting them try makes them less street smart when they rebel to go out, by letting them catch public transport, and as long as they know “Stranger Danger” I think that you are teaching your child an important lesson in growing up. Please there are many of us out there that do not agree with the way parenting has smothered our children.

I had lots of freedom when I was a child is the world really so different now or are just our attitudes.

By Darryl (Australia) Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 12:51 pm  

I think people (especially Americans) always expect the worst in people and assume everyone is a rapist or murderer. Like everyone is out to get you. The number of normal, sane people out there, far outweighs these “bad guys” you all seem think are lurking behind every door.

Unfortunate things have been happening all through the ages. Nothing will change. More fatal accidents happen per capita in the home or around family and friends than abductions, rapes or murders.

30 yrs ago, 9 year olds had their own paper run amongst other things. We all know from a young age not to walk alone at night or down quiet streets etc and to stay where it’s busy (lots of witnesses if anything does happen).

You are all way too overprotective.

Kudos to the parents who allow their children to have a life.

By Vivienne Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 12:57 pm  

GO THE FREE RANGE KIDS!

As the 5th child, my parents only had 1 ‘rule’ left when I came along and it was this …”when you go out, let us know where you’re going in case there’s an emergency and we need to contact you”. That was easy to live with.

No one told me to be home by sunset, I just came home because I was hungry. Where was I? With friends in the street or climbing trees.

All my playtime was spent either climbing up in trees or carthweeling, or playing on the swings. No one told me I could fall, so I didn’t.

Please let your kids make their own mistakes, give them boundaries that are slightly out of their sight, trust them to go to the shop and get the right change.

If they make a mistake, they’ll learn from it!!! Please get this: you can’t teach a chid from a mistake, they need to learn from it themselves as their own brain develops.

By Kirsty Hallett Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 1:01 pm  

I live in Sydney , Australia and have 3 kids aged 14, 12 and 11. I have to get to work each day and it isn’t possible for me to take the kids to school. My kids all make their own way to school each day, with my 11 yr old going the furthest. she has to catch a bus and then a train to get to school. Her brother goes with her until his train stop and then she gets off 2 stops after him. My other daughter catches a bus to yet a different school!

I have received alot of negative feedback, but also some positive ones too. My kids are still kids even though they make their own way to and from school. We talk alot about safety issues, and all look out for each other. My son even waits 45 mins each day at the station for his sister so they are on the same trip coming home.

I agree that there may be more ‘in your face’ dangers in our society now, but I also think that my kids are also alot more aware of them and know safety precautions to take alot more than other kids who aren’t allowed out the front door by themselves. How the hell are these kids going to react and cope when society eventually does throw something at them and mummy or daddy isn’t there to protect them?

My kids and I are very close and I would do anything to protect them and am a great mother. I think part of that is that I am teaching them life skills and the different between right and wrong etc, by letting them grow and mature naturally as we did when we were kids. It doesn’t mean that parents like us aren’t there for our kids, as some like to infer, in fact I believe we and our kids are better for it. My children still have strict rules to live by and (most of the time lol), respect them.

I’m proud of me, and also of all of us who haven’t pandered to public criticism and wrapped our kids in cotton wool.

By Philip Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 1:06 pm  

Well done! I applaud your bravery and your desire to raise children who are free of the un-necessary burdens of hysterical, fearful parenting. There is far too much unwarranted fear from parents who lack the back bone to raise great children who can make their way, and their mark, in this world. I believe very much in encouraging my children to be brave, and to step outside the weak limitations of the fearful, and to grow beyond even my broadest hopes for their future.

The world is now full of young adults who cannot cope with the real issues and realities of life because their parents wrapped them in cotton wool and stopped them from growing in such a way that they could master this short life span that we have.

I work within the funeral industry and I can say beyond a doubt that there are far more young people who commit suicide because they have been sheltered by fearful, over-protective parents, and then cannot cope with the realities of life, than there are children killed simply because they are “Free-range” and free to live life to the full.

I deeply believe there is a very wide chasm between being a caring parent and a fearful parent, and the negitive results of fearful parenting far outweigh the positive benefits of letting your children grow. And they can only grow to their fullest potential by being supportively exposed to many varied and sometimes extraordinary experiences.

Life is a risk every single day we live it, and we cannot afford to cripple our childrens development by not allowing them to investigate and experience life to the full – and that includes the risks.

I am also a firm believer that our lives are mapped out in advance and when our time comes to die, we cannot avoid it regardless of how young or old we are. Life is for living and experiencing and growing. It is not for cowards.

Shame on all the cowards who are destroying their children with their fear. Your hysteria is shocking, and totally unnecessary. Take the time to learn the difference between care and fear.

By Lydia Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 1:09 pm  

My grandparents were children through the second world war in The Netherlands. Both of their villages were bombed and my grandfather was rounded up by the Nazis to help with their war effort (he escaped). Now I would have thought the risk of something happening to child in an invaded country, when air strikes were common, health care was poor and money was very tight would be somewhat higher than the risk today. Yet my grandparents were not tracked with mobile phones, and they weren’t walked to school, or to the shops. Actually at the age of 12 my grandfather was stealing food and wood to help support his 4 siblings, father and 2 aunts. And my grandmother was having equally exciting adventures. We reap what we sew. If you want your children to become resourceful, confident and brave adults you cannot bring them up in a cotton wool cocoon.

By Charlyne Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 1:22 pm  

You are all asking for trouble. There is no way in hell that my daughter (currently aged 4) will be allowed the “freedom” we had as kids.

There are too many dangers lurking out there in the real world that I will not willingly allow her to experience.

Saying that, she is not a “cotton wool kid”. I encourage her to explore her environment – but in a safe way with one of her parents on the sidelines. And no, we are not “helicopter parents”. Sidelines is exactly where we stay – words of encouragement or disapproval are all she needs.

By Tarn Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 1:32 pm  

Fear breeds fear. Kids are too pampered and fed our fears. They have never learned to assess risk, take due care and think for themselves. Modern western cities are the kids parents making. The parents grew up wanting this and that liberalised, they screamed about their rights and civil rights and look where the cities have ended up ? Crime infested, impoverished haves vs. have nots. Neighbours are a joke, people have no idea who their neighbours are, instead of helping each other out and supporting each other like real communities once did ( and many small rural communities still do ), people expect something for nothing. Get a life people, unwrap your kids, give them a chance to understand the real world. That doesn’t mean having them running around as disrespectful little ” me me me ” ” my rights my rights my rights ” or terrified of their own shadows like they are rapidly turning into or that fear turning into resentment of the world and anger that leads down even darker paths. Their right is to be kids and carefully and cautiously enjoy the world, not suffocate in their parents fears and phobias. Stand up to the problems in this world and show any lower life, you wont be intimidated and cower in a corner, show your kids you trust them. Find the balance, its so simple and easy to fear, its harder to trust and go cautiously forth and give our kids a REAL chance to survive in this world. Kids in 3rd world countries, with even less societal control and structure survive, kids in war zones have survived and our kids will survive if we are reasonable and balanced, not irrational, paranoid, phobics, who are trying to overprotect their kids to make up for what’s lacking in their own lives; control ! PS: We have lived in major cities around the world, including communist and Islamic, between my partner and myself we have 7 healthy well adjusted kids and 2 grandkids. We taught them caution, to assess risk, but most importantly to enjoy their life and be creative, knowing they were loved and trusted, including to do the right thing and be open and honest when things hadn’t gone right.

By Barbara Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 1:36 pm  

Greetings from Sydney, Australia.

When I was a kid we hardly ever played indoors. We rode bikes, built billy karts, went fishing, climbed trees, and went to the beach on our own .. no adult supervision!

I don’t have any broken limbs, I didn’t drown, and I was never attacked by anyone (although, Mum and Dad always reminded us about ‘stranger danger’).

Why are there so many potential dangers out there now? Has our world changed so much?

By Elisa Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 1:40 pm  

the news of this has made it over to the other side of the world all the way to Australia.

there is no doubt that the world has changed over the years but in saying that so have the people, kids these days are much more educated then the ones of even one or two generations ago. i can not speak about what happens in the ‘big apple’ because i have never been there but i live in the biggest city in Australia and every day i see kids catching buses, trains, trams and taxi’s on their own, some of these kids are in primary school still so they wouldnt be much older then this lady’s son. i do not see the harm in letting them do this on their own as long as they have respect for what they are doing, if they respect the fact that there are some f**ked up people out there who get off on little children then they will no not to let themselves get in a situation where that could happen. its all about educating them on the world they live in and if they have the right education they will know how to look after themselves.

PS who ever is against this woman, get over it, both her and her husband made the decision to let their son do this, they didnt do it in the middle of the night or anything like that to make it more dangerous for him. they have him a values lesson and now he has the confidence that he knows how to get home on his own if he needs to

By Fabian Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 2:02 pm  

I was riding buses and trains at the age of 7 by myself in NY. I let my kids explore and this is how they learn to be self efiicient. Listening to some of these parents, at least I know my children will be way more successful then theirs will ever be because they will have smarts these kids will envy when they’re ready for the real world. I am also from Australia and was born and bred in NYC, but if we keep our children under a strong strangle-hold, they’ll never learn and be street smart

By Barry Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 2:05 pm  

G’Day i just came across this artical and i found myself compelled to say something on this matter i can not believe they have labled this lady americas worst mom for crist sakes come on and the moms that have there babys addicted to crack are bloody angels BAH!!

I come from a small town called Rockingham about 45mins south of perth Western Australia kids roam the streets on the way to and from school and shopping centers all the time i cant believe this lady is copping so much flack about this its mind boggling.

When i was a lad my perents didnt mind what the hell we did unless we wernt home befor 7pm it didnt matter we always knew how to fend for ourselves seriously its called life expirience how do you expect kids to grow and learn when they arnt out doing these things yes there are some dangerous people out in the world but you cant moddie coddle your kids cause they will never leave home and be 43years old sitting in the attic playing video games and who in their right mind would want that.

By Ursula Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 2:10 pm  

I live in Sydney, Australia and the kerfuffle that this issue has raised world wide just reinforces my view that Americans are insane.

You are doing your kids NO favours if you do not allow them to learn the skills they need to negotiate the world safely, and no child will learn these things by being told – they have to experience them and build confidence by overcoming obstacles and proving their ability to be self-sufficient. How can they do this if you wrap them in cotton wool?

I do not agree with feral parents letting their kids be exposed to unacceptable risks with zero guidance, but I DO believe that you must show your child that you have respect for them and their ability to make choices – because if you have brought them up right the choices they make WILL be the right ones.

It is entirely possible to bring up sensible children who are aware of potential dangers and are taught how to deal with them but are still awake to the fact that the world is an exciting, wonderful place and that some people are generous, kind and caring.

Giving children some freedom to catch the bus home from school and walk down to the local shops to buy an ice cream is in part a validation of your own confidence as a parent. Those parents who are unable to “let go” clearly have no confidence in themselves, and are raising another generation who will have no confidence in their abilities either…

By carol freestone Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 2:30 pm  

I have just seen this and all I can say is good on you for allowing your son to gain independence. Being a couple with 5 children we bought them up free – range and they are now parents themselves and hopefully they will allow their children to have fun, freedom and adventures. Working with young teenagers in the work place you can see the difference between those who have been wrapped up in cottonwool and the ones that have been allowed to have a free range childhood. Cottonwool young adults have problems with relating to authority, push the boundaries in everyday life (binge drinking, anti-social behaviour, dangerous activities) or the reverse they can have phobias about everyday normal life experiences. Free- range kids usally grow up to be good adults understanding the boundaries in work and social occasions. The reason for this is that they have experienced most things in life and have the survival skills to know what is dangerous and what is not.

Yes our kids did things that we were not aware of but we had given them the skills no when to stop and that is the difference.

Please let your kids have a childhood because very quickly they become young adults and you can no longer smother them.

By Lisa from Australia Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 2:38 pm  

I RAISE MY CHILDREN FREE RANGE TO A DEGREE, BUT WOULDNT ALLOW A TRAIN TRIP, AT THIS STAGE.

BUT I DO GIVE MY CHILDREN THE CREDIT TO HAVE A GO AT THINGS. I TRUST THEM. THEY HAVE GOOD PARENTS !!!!!!!!

GOOD ON YOU FOR RAISING THE TOPIC.

By Mark from Australia Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 2:42 pm  

GOOD ON YOU !!!!!!! I have always believed that kids enjoy the freedom of getting away from mums and/or dads control. As a kid I was basically pushed out the door in the morning and told to go and enjoy the outdoors. With all my friends in the street we would set off to go and climb tree’s, ride our bikes, build billy carts, catch tadpols, yabbee’s, rabbits and field mice. Yes, I got plenty of cuts breaks and bruises but it builds character, the adventure of all the silly things you do together builds great friendships. I now have three little girls(ages 2, 5 & 8) that I always push out the back door to go have some fun outside, unfortunately they cannot go out to play with friends as they are all too far away but they still enjoy riding there bikes, jumping on the trampoline, skipping, playing hop scotch and for the 2yo eating snails, worms and playing in puddles (yeehhh!!). People need to get there kids to enjoy time outside with other kids as they do silly things that bring smiles to remember.

No play, No way….

By The Lads from Australia Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 2:49 pm  

Im from Australia, and have grown up in one of the worst places in Australia as far as word of mouth goes, I was free range, and as far as I know I am still sane, reading the news article on this story annoyed a few of us here, I mean wake up to yourselfs kids need the knowledge and skills to get about as safe as possible, I think people with psychological problems usually become NBC TODAY Show talk show hosts dont they? Sounds like it too me.. over protecting kids will not help them in the real world and they will have no chance!

By Angelique Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 2:53 pm  

Times have changed. IT HAPPENS. Get over it. Ever heard of the concept that different contexts (times) change values placed on issues? Obviously not. Our context has changed from yours!! The world is not like it was 50 or so years ago.

Fine, go ahead, let your children ‘go’ and ‘experience’ the world… until they DIE by some horrible accident.

Then I’m pretty sure your change your fucking mind.

By Sarah Morgan Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 3:38 pm  

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

I do not understand you people. It is our responsibility to protect our children, not to put them into a situation that can hurt them or potentially end their lives. Yes give them a little freedom, but not enough that it is them who suffer for it.

I have lost a friend whose parents gave her the freedom to do what she wanted at an age where she was not old enough to defend herself.. I have seen her parents and they are not good, they now live with the guilt that they didn’t protect their daughter.

Grow up, protect your kids, if they aren’t in that situation in the first place they can’t be hurt…

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOX

By Stewart Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 4:04 pm  

some comments from nine MSN Australia

free ranging kids.Posted by: sian, Sydney, Australia, on 13/06/2008 4:56:20 PM

As a Mother of five and a grandmother of four, I think that bringing up kids these days is no more dangerous than when I brought up mine, or back in the sixties when we were brought up. the most dangerous thing back then, was the hiding you got from Dad or Mum when you were caught doing something ***. I caught the school bus from the age of five in a city to go to school, and that was a good way to make friends of the local kids I met on the way to school and back each day. We can stifle childrens natural curiousity and decision making abilities by suffocating them with dont do that, its too dangerous type of talk. We see too much media coverage of child abductions such as Madeleine McCann, in Portugal, and because the coverage is so extensive and goes on for months, it makes the amount of abductions look more prolific than what they truly are. Of course things can an do go horribly wrong and common sense must prevail. Building self esteem in kids is also important.

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free range kidsPosted by: umm, brisbane, on 13/06/2008 4:45:40 PM

i dont see what’s so bad. there’s kids at nine who travel home all by themselves from school. i go past them everyday. there’s even a kid that’s up to my knees, i see her walking. i was sitting on the bus the other day, this kid looked about 10. she was able to have a conversation with the lady sitting next to her. i wouldn’t see my mum for like one second in the shopping centre, i would cry my eyes out, and panic because i was always with her, i needed the freedom to learn.

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free range kidsPosted by: dizzie, sydney, on 13/06/2008 4:43:23 PM

good on you mum. we are now wrapping our kids in cotton wool, and not letting them doing anything. when i was a kid of that age my friends and myself went to the national park by our selfs. so give the kids of today more freedom to make ther own mitakes how else will they lurn

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freerange kidPosted by: tegan, adelaide, on 13/06/2008 4:41:52 PM

thats stupid. she doesnt deserve the ladel worst mum. its not like she dropped him off on the other side of town where he had no idea where he was and said ‘find your own way home’, it was planned, he want to do it, it was only a few k’s. im 15 and ive been catching the bus for 5 years, theres no harm. theres nothing wrong with teaching you kids at an early age how to do it because i have friends that are 16 or 17 and cant ride the bus or train by themselves because they dont know how

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hahaPosted by: Affgar, Southern Highlands, on 13/06/2008 4:38:43 PM

Glad the media can have such fun with this a create such an stir. Children have to make their way home from schools or events all the time. Shame parents now days are required to conform to the normal practises of working a 40 hour week. Parents have much less time for their children, unless one parent has the luxury of earning heaps of money to support the family. I find it so funny how many people are fooled by the media

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Free Range KidsPosted by: Me, Here, on 13/06/2008 4:36:56 PM

All I know is I purposefully took my 11 year old daughter to Victoria to visit a friend of mine and her family and left her to catch the plane home from Melbourne to Sydney alone (under the normal airline restrictions for such an age) because she was afraid of anything new or different, a hang over from her mother not me. At 12 I let her catch the train to school and back every day, alone, and even go into the city to meet her friends (who I knew) for an afternoon. She is now in her late teens and quite capable of going anywhere she wants to alone, or with friends, she can navigate and find her way home from anyplace. The ONE important thing I DID teach her was that stupid things happen to people who put themselves in STUPID situations. Always stay where there are a lot of people, dont walk down dark alleys alone, and if you have a problem with someone, SCREAM, yell, make as much noise as possible because no one will ignore a young girl who is being harrased. She is fine, go for it.

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I don’t see a problem with what she didPosted by: shiska, gold coast, on 13/06/2008 4:36:45 PM

I don’t see a problem with what she did. I used to travel using public transport when I was that age or maybe younger.I remember asking adults to pull the cord for my stop on the buses. Being responsible or making a child responsible, should not be condemed but applauded.

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Free Range kidsPosted by: Mum, Bris, on 13/06/2008 4:34:43 PM

She wasn’t irresponable in that she supplied the child who asked to be allowed to try, with sufficent money and a map to navigate his way home. Whats the problem???

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OverprotectingPosted by: A teenager wrapped in wool, Melbourne, Australia, on 13/06/2008 4:31:23 PM

Though I do not agree with the lack of supervision, it does go to show that parents today are far too overprotective of their children. As one of these children, I believe that we are capable of making our own decisions, and that holding hands with our parents all the way through does not teach us anything at all about survival and life. It is fine to criticise her method of parenting – however, you can not brand ANY parent “the worst” if they made the choice to place confidence in their child. In fact, the worst parents have absolutely no confidence in their children! In this case, the mother has confidence in her son’s ability to survive, and thus has allowed him to grow not as a sheep but as an individual.

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we do put the fear in our kidsPosted by: penni, wanneroo, on 13/06/2008 4:25:29 PM

I think that in today’s world there needs to be caution…but not fear.Subsequently many kids get driven to School,or mum walks them everyday to School…how do I know becuase that was me… I was always telling the kids watch out for strangers don’t do this and don’t do that….whats happened is they now believe that if I’m not with them..then something is going to happen to them. We as parents need to prepare our children for circumstances should they arrive..what to do,but we should’nt be putting fear in them that every adult out there is out to molest or kill them.. We need to help them become Independent so that it refelects in their whole life..that they can do things and do things successfully and that they need not be afraid.

By Sylvia zammit Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 4:06 pm  

I am from Australia, i was a freerange kid. Lets face it, we may as well not send our kids to school because how are we supposed to protect them there? Being freerange never hurt me and i hope my kids have the same experience. As for some of the mothers who say we need to protect our kids. Keep yours at home, that is the only way you will be able to protect them, and even then that is debateable.

Good on you.

By aimee Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 4:08 pm  

i’m 18 and i believe i am somewhat a freerange child, from the age of 12 i got myself to and from school everyday, when i moved a bit further away from my school i mearnt to catch a bus and i’ve never been hurt in public, from when i was 15 i was allowed to catch trains and sometimes there are homeless people but theres nothing to be scared of, i see the way my mum “babies” my 11 year old brother and it makes me wonder if he’ll ever be independant like me… when i have children ill slowly introduce them to responsibility, freedom and independance as they grow up because i know that if i shelter them they’ll lie to me to get out of the house and ‘hats more scary because then you dont know where they are, i think as long as a parent knows where their child is then all is fine.

By Lucy Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 4:18 pm  

Uh Hey. I’m a 13 year old kid who lives in australia. i TOTALY suport FreeRangeKids or whatever its called. i really wish my mum found this website before now.

In my opinion FreeRange kids are healthier and have a better sence of the world around them. Freedom for children opens our minds and lets us be more creative than being stuck in side watching T.V or playing on the computer.

my mum always tells me “When i was your age i’d be outside, or down at the park, playing softball with my friends”. and i’m all like, you tell me this, but you’d never let ME do it. i don’t think she quite undrestands when im comeing from. Frankly i’d LOVE to be at the park playing with my friends……

By Juliet Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 4:34 pm  

Thank you, this is so important. How can we expect our children to be safe as young adults if we keep them cooped up and ignorant when they’re younger? Everyone’s different, so there can’t be a definite age. My son – now 24 – was roaming around the inner-city area we live, from about 8 years old – going into the city centre from about 10 – and travelling independently to other cities from about 13. Most often he explored first with friends. Now he’s a confident adult happy to travel independently, he has moved from England and now lives in downtown LA, and I know he can look after himself.

By Al-star Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 4:35 pm  

Im 14 and i support freerangekids cause its awesome. My mum lets me go lots of places and i learn city smarts and how to get myself from ‘a’ to ‘b’. Besides “Safety” has taken the fun out of everything these days- a swing cant be more than 5 centimeters from the ground =p. lol.

By peterp Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 5:05 pm  

what a joke

free range my ass

By Nick Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 7:37 pm  

I cant believe what people are saying about you.

I have become a well adjusted and confident 26 year old because my parents knew when to leave me to walk home from school, and when it was important to have someone with me.

Mt parents trust in me has earned me respect for them.

Please try to ignore some of the horrible things that are being said. you are doing right!

By katee Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 7:43 pm  

‘Helicopter parenting’ produces a breed of children who, as adults, find it difficult to act independently, problem solve and have confidence in their own decision making abilities.

I believe that ‘free range’ parenting teaches children ‘survival skills’ and helps them to have belief and confidence in themselves. It not only provides a smooth transition into adulthood but also prepares them to deal with issues or problems that life can throw up at us.

The key is to find some common ground between these two methods of parenting. Extremes in either direction are going to exhibit ill effects. Maybe there should be a third option termed ‘safety net’ parenting. Let the children walk the tightrope with the knowledge that they can be safe when they do have a fall. Each year the tightrope can be raised a little higher but the safety net will always be there. With this knowledge children will then have the confidence to strive to new heights and develop their own style of walking the tightrope.

By Jenni, Sweden Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 7:44 pm  

I just wanted to say that this free range thing is a GREAT thing! I have worked with Kindergarden groups for 20 years and I have seen very clearly how parents have become more worried and much, much more over protecting of their kids. Its really heartbreakig to see, beacuse I think that you ruin the kids lifes if you don’t teach them to be independent. Imagine having no sense of independence, of self esteem and control… So, keep up the good work! :) :)

By Scott Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 7:46 pm  

What a great site!!!! I’m a teacher in Australia and a father of two kids. We have parents at our school who think its okay for their 7-year-olds to watch MA15+ rated movies and play MA15+ shoot-em-up computer games, but at our recent swimming program the same parents were out in force DRESSING (yes, dressing) their kids and not giving them a chance to be independent. It seems that many parents are protective when they should be backing off and backing off when they should be independent. The biggest problem today – childhood obesity. Where does it come from? Parents not letting their kids out!!!. I love this site!!!! Stay strong and know that if we work together we can do something great for our kids.

By Bridget Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 8:24 pm  

Great idea. My parents realised that after over parenting their first child she still ended up dropping out of school, having a baby, smoking, drinking and experimenting with drugs. I’m now 18 and because they relaxed with me I found it easier to grow and experience life.

By Elizabeth from Sydney, Australia Fri Jun 13th 2008 at 9:46 pm  

PRAISE THE LORD! Finally someone else who thinks that letting their kid play in the dirt, roll on the lawn, and play in their own yard without Mum and Dad breathing down their necks is NORMAL!

I didn’t sterilise my kid’s pacifier, nor do I disinfect every surface in my home. He plays in the yard and gets filthy dirty. And guess what? He’s healthy and happy with an amazing sense of adventure and an awesome imagination!

The headline I saw was “Is this woman America’s worst mother”? .. and to that I say “HELL NO!”. Thank you Lenore for saying on national (international?) television that allowing your kids to do stuff without you watching 24/7 is NORMAL. The world is full of fear-mongering panic merchants. It’s about time we told them all to SHUT UP and let the kids be kids.

Sure I’ll worry when my boy gets the school bus by himself, but I bet my mother worried about me when I did the same and I had exactly ZERO incidents in all my school years. Nor have I had any incidents in all the years I’ve travelled on public transport … regardless of the country! (And yes, I rode the NYC subway when I was there in 2000.)

Good on you, Lenore!

By 150% for Sat Jun 14th 2008 at 1:21 am  

Oh, Lenore. Lenore! You are a gift to me right now. Thank you for bringing this issue into the light in a way that gets people talking, and, most of all, advocating for the health of all children.

Affluence has bred danger. It’s counter-intuitive, but truly, a child who is not given a chance to “meet his growing edge” and learn independent decision-making is at grave risk. Physical health risks like diabetes and obesity, mental health risks like depression and suicide. I find myself longing for more research to show what I intuitively sense: that over-protection is killing our kids… slowly.

It’s also killing families. Financially, spiritually. Being held accountable for your child’s whereabouts every second of the day is a burden that was not part of past generations’ experience. I lament about this to my mother, who remembers seeing me eat my cereal in the morning and then arrive home for dinner. She assumed I was safe, around, knew my way home. And this began at age 4 for me.

I live in what is probably the ideal town for raising independent kids: it’s like a model train-set town, planned out to be walkable. Most people who live here rave about how much they love it for that reason, but the children are not being given the wonderful opportunity to develop independence… they are driven 4 blocks to school, they are always accompanied.

My greatest fear is that in my zeal to offer my children the beautiful, healthy experience of age-appropriate independence, I will be denied custody of them. My ex-husband has threatened to bring in the authorities to “report” me for sending my gorgeously capable son to the grocery store 4 blocks away, or allowing him to walk to school. When asked if he really feels it is so dangerous, he says, “There are cars being stolen all the time here,” (how does that relate to children’s safety, I wonder) or, “There have been a lot of robberies lately [in neighboring affluent area]” or “There are lots of kids who have disappeared and never found around here” (one stranger abduction in 20 years).

He is nearly frothing at the mouth when he defends his strategy of keeping our children “safe.” And I find myself nearly frothing at the mouth to defend what I see as their “long-term” safety. If they are merely kept alive, but not allowed to LIVE, they will be at great risk for a broad range of suffering.

I think what I mourn the most these days is that my desire for autonomy is met with threats of legal action. In generations past, the “over-protective” parent was the pariah everyone rolled their eyes about. Now it is the parent who says, “you can get yourself to school,” or “go out and see if your friend up the street is home,” or “could you please run to the store and get some milk? Here’s $5, bring me the change,” who is scrutinized, criticized, and called irresponsible, even dangerous.

Dear God, save us from ourselves. Let us trust in the fact that we cannot and are not meant to control everything, for ourselves or for our children. Let us see how beautiful the rewards are of living life fully, and share that with our kids.

By Karen Sat Jun 14th 2008 at 1:43 am  

Yes, yes, yes! I raised my now 26 year-old as a free range kid. He was taking buses to and from school in Washington D.C. at 7, and navigating his way accross Hong Kong on his own at 10

Waris Dirie describes her life as a nomadic child in Somalia where ,at age 6, children take the camels, alone, out in the desert for food and water, sometimes for several days. Compared to that, a few buses or the underground are really rather tame.

What freed me from the climate of parental fear (yes, we had it back then) was the death of a 7 year old girl in our area. She was standing at the school bus stop one morning with her mother, holding her mother’s hand. Out of the blue, a drunk driver knocked her down and killed her.

Why was that reassuring?

Question to myself, “Could that mother have been doing anything else to prevent the tragedy” Answer, “no”. Q, “Would it be reasonable to keep a child indoors and homeschooled on the minute chance that a drunk driver might kill them at a bus stop?” A, “no”. Suddenly it was clear that if bad lightening strikes, one lives with the consequences, but one should never live in constant fear of the potential for tragedy.

So I asked myself if I could live with myself if I let my son do something and a tragedy occurred, and I realised that I could. I also realised that I could not live with myself if I kept him caged up, afraid of the world. After all, we are raising children to be competent adults, not incompetent ones.

Interestingly, my son learned early to cope with risks. At age 7, he once refused to get on a bus because the driver was drinking out of a paper bag and smelled of alcohol. By age 11 he could cope with household disasters such as cobras in the kitchen and toilet tanks that fell off the wall. By age 13 he had helped the local fire department put out a hillfire and “save” our village. So by the time he hit 15 and started having to cope with the real dangers of sex, drugs, and social pressure, he was ready. He also knew that mistakes had real consequences. Other kids came to him with their problems.

With respect to the fear of a child being molested, as a child welfare professional I am well aware that most pedophiles are in the child’s family or immediate community. Those pedophiles or potential pedophiles can be watched and children can be educated to treat them with some caution without getting hysterical about the issue. Yes, there are the rare people who snatch children off streets, but no amount of coddling will totally protect from them and I just file those people under the “bad lightening ” category.

I remember seeing an interview with the English neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, in which she bemoaned modern restrictive childhoods and credits some of her creativity and thought processes to a childhood free to experiment.

Let children free. Thank you Free Range Kids.

By Jessie Sat Jun 14th 2008 at 4:40 am  

As a parent of a three year old, I hope to have the courage and good sense to let her experience the world on her own (within reason). We live in a great walking area of Los Angeles and her elementary school is four blocks away.

When I little I played in the neighborhood out of my parents’ sight all of the time and when I was 13 I went by myself to a day concert at CBGBs in NY from the Upper West Side. These and other similar experiences helped me to become confident and enjoy and appreciate new adventures and travel.

My nieces, now 13 and 15, have rarely spent any time alone, and don’t like to be in the house by themselves during the DAY. The youngest told me that she wants to live at home until she is married, and then always live in the area. I know this comes from overprotective parenting, and feel sad that they lack the confidence to go out on their own. Will they ever travel around the world, as I did at 23, without a cell phone, computer or other easy ways to instantly communicate? Will they travel at all?

Thanks for the blog and risking the label of America’s Worst Mom. You are quite the opposite.

By chaya Sat Jun 14th 2008 at 5:54 am  

I grew up in a third world country with a terrorist problem. I was allowed to play outside by myself, ride my back to other neighborhoods, take the bus home from school and drink from the water hose. And no, I never had a cell phone or pager or any way of being contacted while I was out at play. And here I am, alive and well and hoping to fight off the resistance to raising my children with some of independence and a healthy sense of adventure.

By Kathleen Sat Jun 14th 2008 at 8:38 am  

Hi

I just wanted to share an experience i had with my daughters aged 9 and 7.We live in Sydney Australia in a good neighbourhood.I allow my children to play outside unsupervised on most occasions.The catch a bus to school and walk to and from the bus stop by themself which is about 2 blocks.On Wednesday afternoon both my daughters came running home crying screaming that a man tried to kidnap them.The were 4 houses from ours and a man pulled over beside them and opened his door and told them he would take them home.My oldest said thats ok we can walk and he started to get out of the car.Both my daughters ran as fast as they could.My husband ran out to find the man but he was one.The next day a letter was sent home from school about another little girl just around the corner from us that was missing presumed kidnapped.Im ever so thankful that my children remember all their stranger danger lessons and put hem to use when needed.It scares me that something like that can happen right up the street.For now my children are not allowed to walk home by themselves and if they are playin outside myself,husband or a neighbour are outside with them.I hope to one day become the same mum I was a month ago allowing them more freedom but until i feel secure again,Ill be watching them like a hawk.

Im all for free range children,how else are they going to learn street smarts,but for now ill be a nervous mum and keep them close.

Thanks sorry its so long

By Karen Sat Jun 14th 2008 at 8:53 am  

I was proud to let my kids walk to school from the age of 7. They are now confident, independant young adults who always find their way home and let me know they have arrived safely.

By Tom Sat Jun 14th 2008 at 10:53 am  

My best friend and I roamed the city of 2 million we lived in when we were 9 years old. It was in 1963 so some will say that was a different time. But the city was Lahore Pakistan and I had seen more of it than my parents by the time we moved back to the USA.It was a wonderfull experience and a wonderful time in my life. I’m very happy my mother was willing to let me do those things. I gave my sons the same freedom when they were young and they are now very competent citizens who were excited and happy to get out on their own and willing to live where ever they needed to further their careers.

By Lynette ..Rockhampton Australia Sat Jun 14th 2008 at 11:38 am  

I am the over protective parent and due to things that have happened in my life I over protect my daughter, to the point that she can not think for herself or do anything by herself and this being over protective means it is child abuse. I was always alone after school and walked to school but coming home to an empty house is not something I ever enjoyed it was just life. So I admit that I have to let go alot, but unsure of how really. All my fears are not from the media but all in all it made me the strong person I am today even with dealing with a gang rape, home invasion and in the end drug use but all these I have oversome and I am a good person and a very strong one, but I do have alot of memories that were very fun and I learnt alot from. So any advice on how to let go when you are over protective I would be grateful as letting go seems to be harder in pratice than in thoughts….

By Tonya Sun Jun 15th 2008 at 10:19 am  

I am so for this!! I was raised a free range kid and I want my son to have all the fun that I was able to. I live on the same street that I was raised on. (Just across the street from my childhood home.) My son is 6 and stays with my parents while I work the night shift. When I wake up in the mid afternoon, I walk my son home but he tells me when to cross. When we go to the store he goes to different isles to get the things that I forgot. I know people who are still watching over their kids like crazy, these kids are 18 and 22 years old. When will they ever grow up? I wasn’t sure if I was a bad mom? I was wondering when I could let my son stay home while I work, while other mothers are taking off work because their 22 year old was sick? I wouldn’t even do that and my son is only 6. More people need to let their kids grow up! Kids don’t have as much FUN when you are watching over them always!!

By Craig Little Sun Jun 15th 2008 at 5:48 pm  

I am all for Free Range Kids and it appears a vast majority of other Australians are in the same boat. In today’s ninemsn.com.au article about your cause, just under one hundred comments were received from readers before they stopped taking comments. Of these over 95% were in favour. I suspect they stopped taking comments as they were all supporting you. We have three children and don’t wrap them in cotton wool. Keep up the fight.

Craig Little (Brisbane, Australia)

By Karla E. Mon Jun 16th 2008 at 11:51 am  

Lenore,

An interesting experience. This week I let my 9 year old walk to and from our house to golf camp. We live on the golf course, so this is not even really “free range”, but very different from everyone else in our suburban over-protective neighborhood. Each morning, he stayed at our house for about 30 minutes after I left for work, walked to the clubhouse, did his camp thing, then walked home afterward. One day he called me on the cell phone to tell me what his coach said (honestly, he wasn’t checking in…he was just proud of his accomplishments)…all of a sudden he says “OH MY GOD!” In my mind I freak out (pervert, stranger, drunk golfer, rabid animal)…he’s quiet for a couple of seconds, then says “Mom, I just saw a snake, a HUGE snake….I backed away and the snake slithered away…that was SOOOO cool!” Turns out it was probably a 3-4 foot water moccasin who was way more interested in the water hazard (drought in Texas) than it was in my little golfer.

So, anyway, he may be way more prepared for free range than I am….I’m learning.

By Shari Mon Jun 16th 2008 at 1:28 pm  

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could let kids go out alone and have the independence that we had when we were children? But the fact is that things have changed. WE have to face that. There are a lot more nutjobs and sick people preying on children out there. Why take a chance? You can still raise perfectly independent and happy well adjusted children without playing with their lives.

By SANDRA BROWN Mon Jun 16th 2008 at 4:34 pm  

Well done ,

To those who haven’t / wont let their kids “fledge”,don’t criticize other parents behaviour….I allowed my son at 10 to come home and be there for about 40 minutes a few times each week when I went on to further education to allow me to return to work and, along with my husband provide that wee bit more for us.

He will 14 in October and he is a polite,well mannered,level headed boy and I have had many comments from strangers and teachers on his “mature sensible” outlook on life.

On the other hand he is a “daft”snow boarding, footballing ,off to the cinema or Mac D’s with his friends sort of boy and in recent weeks…that other “interest”, girls, is the theme at the moment.

I too had strange looks and comments when other parents became aware my son was at home alone on the dark winter nights. We have a good relationship with our son who is a normal kid in every way.

We did what was right for our situation and we were all ready for it.

I also “stalked” him when he first went to school with his friend on their own. School was less than 5 mins away. I was worried sick if he was more than 10 mins coming home.

Parents worry…..I bet you were too.

Your son will feel like a “man” I’m sure. We wish you well.

Sandra Brown

Glasgow Scotland UK

By Joe Kavanagh Mon Jun 16th 2008 at 9:23 pm  

Okay; Here is my standard posting. Parents know what is best for their kids. Whethere it be the freedom to roam and play or the disernment to determine that the child is not ready for such freedom. I do not believe that Miss Skenazy is the worst mom in America. I think she decided what was best for her son and acted on it. Nothing wrong with that at all. Now that much said, I do not think we should worship her as a god. She should not get to decide how everyone in America or the world raises their kids. I , for one, would not trust her with my kids. But this is how I feel about most people. Most people do not have the experience to handle a disabled child and to understand that if you tell an austitic boy like my son to jump on the subway well you are just asking for trouble. This would be abandoning him and believe me I wish he could handle riding the train home or whatever. He just lacks the communication skills and the understanding of what to do. I know his limitations and capabilities and I am always trying to expand them. But I will always be cautious with him, this I know angers the free range crowd. Sorry,but I will not follow Miss Skenazy’s advice here. I believe I know what is best for him not MIss Skenazy or other parents on this site who have never met him. Most of them have very limited experience with special needs kids. Personally, I think it’s great to have this pride in your children’s accomplishments. Ofcourse, there is a fine line between pride and bragging. On this site, that line is quite blurred. I do think that if my son could do some of these things that are discussed on this site, I would just smile and be happy. Not feel compelled to gush over and over in order to make the parents of less fortunate and disabled children to feel bad. Perhaps that is just the stoic in me. Good Luck to all parents whether free range or not. I give the benefit of the doubt that they are all doing their best for their kids.

By Shari Tue Jun 17th 2008 at 2:05 am  

Amen Joe. I couldn’t have put it better myself. Our child is also on the “autism spectrum” and I completely agree with you.

By Joe Kavanagh Tue Jun 17th 2008 at 2:49 am  

Shari,

Thank you. It’s great to have someone understand my position, someone in a similar situation. Take care and good luck to you and your

family.

By Shari Tue Jun 17th 2008 at 4:00 am  

Joe

Same to you. All the best for you and your family. Good luck and I’m sure you will do a great job raising your child!

By Joe Kavanagh Wed Jun 18th 2008 at 1:54 am  

Shari,

Same to you. Your child is lucky to have you!

By Snafu Suz Wed Jun 18th 2008 at 10:49 am  

Dumbass? Seriously, that’s your comment? I love it when people are offensive and then have nothing intelligent to say, all while posting cowardly as “anonymous”. Yep, there’s a dumbass here and it’s definitely not Lenore.

By Shari Wed Jun 18th 2008 at 1:18 pm  

Joe

Thanks. Likewise I’m sure. This is a great website and I’m sure all these parents are doing a good job with their kids. Let me know if you know of any websites for children on the autism spectrum.

Take care All.

I think we all agree on one thing. We all want the best for our kids and we are all doing our best!

By Kim Aliczi Fri Jun 20th 2008 at 4:24 am  

When I was a kid, my siblings and I were literally feral children. I grew up in a rural community.

Today, I homeschool my three children, and I cannot tell you how many people assume it’s because I’m over-protective. Nothing could be further from the truth. I honestly feel that my kids are safer riding their bikes around the block unsupervised than they are in the public school system – but that’s a whole nuther topic, hee hee.

The twins just turned 10. I live in a nice New England suburban neighborhood. There was a home invasion several months ago 1/4 mile from my house, they haven’t caught the guy and they now believe this to be a serial case with other invasions/rapes dating back to 2001 in MY TOWN. My husband is now freaking out about my letting the kids ride their bikes around the block alone.

Of course I am protective of my kids, but I want them to have the same freedom I did as a child. How does one fight the fear? Or get over the fear? Or do you ever?

By Joe Kavanagh Fri Jun 20th 2008 at 11:48 am  

Shari

Sorry I do not know of any sites for autism spectrum

children. More proof that we have to raise awareness

and understanding for our kids’ sake. But let’s keep

having fun with them, that’s the best part you know!

Thanks again.

By ebohlman Fri Jun 20th 2008 at 8:20 pm  

You might want to try out autism-hub.co.uk, if you’re not the sort of parents who believe that autism is the result of vaccine poisoning and that you could receive a large settlement from “Big Pharma.” It’s an aggregator for blogs dealing with autism, particularly for parents who have autistic kids and deal with it, rather than trying to grasp at straws for a “cure.”

By Joe Kavanagh Fri Jun 20th 2008 at 8:33 pm  

ebohlman,

Thanks I will take a look. I do not blame the vaccine

poisoning. I feel like no matter what speculation

goes on that we have to trust the doctors and the CDC.

However, I guess I am foolish enough to “grasp at

straws” and hope for a cure. Sorry, but that would be

my dream if there was a cure. I know that at best it

would probably be preventative and more than likely

not help my son. It’s just hard to give up that dream.

I do think I am ” dealing with it”; whatever that means

exactly. I do wish that there were more services

available for my son or more medical coverage. But,

that is not the case. If you mean, I should drop those

thoughts as far as ” dealing with it” goes, well it’s just

not going to happen. I can’t help but wish there was

a better system in operation to aid my son and other

kids like him as they get older. I do not expect it to

change though. There are still too many people who

think we should just “deal with it” and then shut up.

They do not want to hear it after all it’s not there kid.

Also, too many people who do not even think autism

exists. They think we just need to discipline our kids

more. That is absolute nonsense. I will keep doing

whatever is necessary to help him go as far as he can.

I know I will get no help from my government or my

community. I don’t like it but that is the reality. I will

take a look at the site though so thank you.

By Rosalind Fri Jun 20th 2008 at 8:47 pm  

I posted on this when I first read the article about you in the Times in the UK, but I have to post again because I am really proud of myself.

Spurred on by this website, my husband and I last Sunday did something we’d been talking about (and then conveniently “forgetting”) for months. We sent our seven year old to the shop to buy his comic alone.

We live in a very nice neighbourhood – unlike friends who live where the middle class kids are targetted and mugged by teenagers on the street – and the shop is three minutes walk away long slow roads where cars slow down further if they see you want to cross. My seven year old is also very sensible about roads and is naturally cautious (unlike his brother, who never takes anything seriously and will not believe something might hurt him until it does).

All this means there is no reason why I shouldn’t have done it before and I am really proud, not just of him (he is walking around ten feet tall right now) but of me (and my husband), because we hated every minute of it. Parenthood is about letting go and it is not fun – It was just like first day at school, first day leaving the baby with my husband to go to the shop, first day going back to work – sheer, complete, terror (I’m starting to tremble just thinking about it now), but it was worth it, because it reminded us that he is a person in his own right and that we have to trust him.

Thank you for pushing me to do this – it was so worth while. I have been preaching this type of thing for years, but it is harder to carry it through!

By Teresa McConville Tue Jun 24th 2008 at 5:55 am  

I cringe when I hear that some kids are in a house all day playing video games! They have no idea the fun they are missing. Their parents are taking the best part of childhood away from them.

Which is imaginary play, have a space rocket that goes to the moon (but is a delapidated car), being an indisn princess, being on a pirate ship, skateboarding down a really steep hill crashing getting really hurt and bloody going to your friends house to wipe the blood off then going home and having your parents say “either in or out, go out and play again” they have no idea what just happened and it is your duty to not tell them it’s a kid thing you know.

To all of the freaked out parents, there are bad people out there and if they want to get you they will break down your door, so why not live your life?

By Anna Tue Jun 24th 2008 at 7:01 am  

Teresa

What you don’t realize is that there are a lot of special needs children out there and TONS on the autism spectrum (as you can see from the above postings). A lot of these children just don’t have that capability of imagining things like being pirates ..etc.. Each child is different. Now if you are talking about the lazy parents who just sit on the couch all day and let their kids play games that is quite a dfiferent story and I agree with you BUT special needs childen find comfort in computer games and video games. It is calming to a lot of autistic children. Also I would hardly compare a burglar breaking down your door with a molestor who is prowling the streets.

By caroline Tue Jun 24th 2008 at 8:57 am  

I can understand why parents would be fearful. There are, if you think about it, a lot of things to worry about. But maybe one should also try to see one’s child’s point of view – how would you like it if you didn’t have the freedom to go anywhere unattended? Kids are better than we think at protecting themselves, and if one gives them good advice on staying safe, they’ll probably understand. Pay attention to your child and gradually give them more freedom as you think they can handle the responsibility

* :)*

By David Wed Jun 25th 2008 at 2:04 am  

Caroline

I see what your saying its just that really what power would a young child (who is taught how to protect themselves) really have over a grown man? That is the scare now a days. There is a happy medium with raising children that doesn’t involve putting them in harms way.

By nbrown Wed Jun 25th 2008 at 6:55 am  

I absolutely agree with freedom for kids, letting kids be curious, letting them learn, and letting them fall sometimes so that they may learn even more. However, I believe that a certain degree of supervision is required according to age. For instance, I have a 4 year old boy (soon to be 5) who is not allowed to go down the street to the park or out in the unfenced yard by himself. We play with him, or merely step back and observe. Our 15 year old daughter has much more freedom than him, and this is as it should be. It is neglectful to not supervise children so young. Think of the consequences that could happen…

By nbrown Wed Jun 25th 2008 at 8:36 am  

This is also for Teresa…

While I completely agree with you that some parents are in fact taking the lazy way out by plunking their youngsters in front of a video game console, or a television…what would you call those parents (and we know that they are out there..) that sit around inside watching t.v. themselves, and or yack on the phone smoking cigarettes or what have you while their children are outside unattended? I would call this extremely lazy, as well as neglectful.

By Johan Ottosson Wed Jun 25th 2008 at 5:17 pm  

i grew up in a small town in sweden, i started walking to and from the school and anywhere else i wanted at 6. im all for freeranging kids

By Joe Kavanagh Wed Jun 25th 2008 at 10:25 pm  

Anna,

Cudos! You are so right. My son loves the computer and for him it is relaxing and something he

can excel at and be successful. He needs that for his

self-confidence and just to have fun. One of the things

autistic kids do miss out on is FUN. So, why not let him do something he enjoys. Now he also plays baseball and bowls ( both leagues for special needs

kids and a godsend to me) plus we play in the yard and he likes walking around the creek, going to the

movies, etc. But without a doubt, his favorite thing is the

computer. What people like Teresa don’t understand is

that the computer or video game is something he

connects with much more than other people. Sorry, but

that is a fact of autism. Ofcourse, it would help if the

other kids in the neighborhood ( free range no doubt)

would ask him to play or include him in something.

Obviously that is not going to happen since mostly they

ignore him or make fun of him. I suppose that is the

free range way. So there is something for the free range parents to try: Have your kids include children like my son or hell atleast have them stop making fun of him and kids like him. Autism is a tough thing. Our family deals with it and we are doing okay. For me, what is really heart-breaking is my son is 10 and he

has no friends. We have tried but kids and the parents

too just keep him at arms length and will not let him play with them. I suppose they think autism is contagious. The upside of autism is that, if you have it,

you don’t really care about other peoples opinions. So,

none of this bothers my son. He does not care if they make fun of him, call him “retard” , “idiot “or whatever. He just wonders why they are doing it in an analytical sense. Now, it bothers me; it bothers the hell out of me. But my priority is taking care of him so I try to ignore it. So there is the challenge free rangers; don’t be so cruel and mean to less fortunate kids. Hell, try including them. They don’t bite; well usually not.

Good luck to all parents. I do not think there are that many lazy parents out there. Sometimes if you see them on the playground or in the neighborhood, maybe they are raising their kids different then you.

So what! They are allowed to raise them as they see fit.

Besides, maybe they have a reason for doing so; maybe there is a developmental disability or some other reason. You just don’t know. My son does not have a big “A” on his forehead for autism and no one else does either. I say the vast majority of parents know what is best for their kids. They know the whole story. Maybe you don’t and honestly it’s not really your business. Take this from someone who knows. I am proud of my son; I am not ashamed but I grow weary of explaining my son to strangers sometimes. It’s not really their business and I have seen what my wife and I call ” The Look” enough times. It’s this look back from other parents; a mixture of fear, pity and even disgust with a heaping pile of “thank god not me”

I don’t need ” The Look” anymore. I have seen it enough.

Good luck all! Keep on parenting as you see fit. Do the best you can and hopefully everyone else can shut up and mind their own business. Thanks.

By Stacey S Fri Jun 27th 2008 at 4:27 am  

I am steadily but surely encouraging my 6 year old to venture out past the front yard and ride his bike around the block without mom and dad hovering. My only issue is that it would be much easier if the other parents on our street would do the same. Our neighborhood is full of young, school age boys (6-10) and you would swear that we didn’t have a kid on our block. I admit in Louisiana, most kids wait until early evening to venture out of the house, it is pretty hot and humid, but they don’t do that most times. I would have no issue with my son hanging out and riding his bike outside without us if there were more kids out there. My parents always said there is safety in numbers. It just breaks my heart that my son is forced to ride his bike alone most afternoons, because other parents are scared stiff to let their boys out to play on our very quiet and isolated block.

By Joe Kavanagh Fri Jun 27th 2008 at 8:14 pm  

Stacey,

That sounds just terrible. Imgine how my son feels. The parents of the kids in our neighborhood

don’t want their kids to even talk to him since he is

autistic. I think they don’t want to have to explain him

to them or it’s that ” But for the Grace of God goes

my child” mentality or that the diabled should be unseen and unheard or they just hate autistic kids.

So, maybe, you don’t have it so bad. Atleast your son

will grow up with all the opportunities of a normal

social life ( career, marriage, being in love, kids), my

son is almost assuredly going to miss all of that. But

right now he is the one who doesn’t get invited to

birthday parties and we invite 10 kids and none show

up. He doesn’t have any friends and it doesn’t get him

that upset. He just wonders why. He’s funny. He still

calls all the neighborhood kids his friends when he

sees them. But he does ask, why don’t my friends want

to come over. No doubt they are all free range kids and

parents. What are they afraid of; he’s just 10; he’s not

crazy; he’s autistic. So my deepest sympathies Stacey.

I have afeeling your son will be fine. I really do hope so.

I hope that for all the kids and parents on this website.

Good Luck.

By Anonymous Sat Jun 28th 2008 at 5:15 am  

JOE

I understand where you are coming from. You sound like a great dad and your son must love you very much. Don’t worry about the other kids. I know our hearts break when we see our children being left out because they are different. It isn’t fair yet this is what life has dealt. The good thing is I’m sure your son is very happy. He doesn’t know any better and I bet he smiles every time he sees his wonderful dad come in the door.

GOD bless you and your family. Keep your faith. He will do well.

By Not Stacy Sat Jun 28th 2008 at 9:43 am  

Several years ago we moved to a home a half block from our public library. I thought it would be great to let my 9 & 6 year old daughters walk the 1/2 block alone, with me watching from the yard. But it turns out the library does not allow “unattended children,” so I’ve never been able to let them go. It used to be that kids were free range and all the adults in the community stepped in as necessary. Now adults/organizations will not accept the responsibility (liability?) of having kids around. Oh, except for when the kids are dropping dime at the mall: that is totally OK.

By kelly Mon Jun 30th 2008 at 2:07 am  

Just to let you know, my husband is a police officer, and it is a well known fact amonst them that the best place to find a sex offender is in the local public library, many times they do not have residences to speak of, and they spend the day in the library reading magazines, and using the computer. I alow my kids to do many things unattended, however the library is one place I take them.

By Joe Kavanagh Mon Jun 30th 2008 at 12:20 pm  

Anonymous:

Thank you for the kind words. My best wishes

and hopes for your family as well.

By Glen Evans Mon Jun 30th 2008 at 11:05 pm  

I created a child safety seminar in our city called ASSERT Super Kids. The big idea – Kids can go out and play all day and you don’t have to worry about them – when you train them to know what to watch for and how to respond to suspicious behavior. My message to kids is that nearly all adults are great and like kids, but there are a few out there we should know about. When kids are assertive, confident, and know self protection skills they are less likely to even be approached.

I allow my kids to go out and play unsupervised. They play all day, run around, get into trouble, and do dangerous things…come to think about it, that is what I did too! There is nothing sadder than driving around a neighborhood (I am a cop) and seeing no children outside playing. Parents need to do some simple training and then they need to release their kids out into the world to explore.

I am always telling my kids to turn off the TV and go out and play, that is the same advice I give to parents – the media reports every weird thing in America – less TV=less worry -when kids get hurt it makes headlines and headlines mean $.

Kids need adventure without parents approving every move. They need to know how to solve their own problems. The only way they learn that is by a little parental coaching and life experience.

By Joana Tue Jul 1st 2008 at 12:22 am  

I’ve just stumbled upon this website and I’m definitely telling my friends about it. I’m all for free range kids.

Although I live in Portugal, a mild mannered country compared to the US (crime statistics, I mean), I come across the same kind of arguments against raising my kids with as much freedom as I have enjoyed. I had my home key set when I was 10, walked to and back from school and hope my kids will do that too.

Now, my oldest in only 3. I’m still waiting to know if I will actually meet my parenting expectations. I can’t really let him take the tube or the bus on his own yet. But I did let him go out and meet dad at the cafeteria while I was changing the younger one at the changing rooms in the swimming pool. He went out the door, all the way along the corridor, took 2 turns and found his dad. Completely out of my sight, surrounded by strangers, and so proud of going on his own. I just told him “If you can’t find dad, just come back here”.

I think he will be playing outside as soon as he is tall enough so he can reach the doorbell.

By hayley Wed Jul 2nd 2008 at 6:49 am  

not smart joana. not at all.

By Karla E. Wed Jul 2nd 2008 at 11:42 am  

Just want to let you all know that this week my 9 year old will be flying on an airplane from San Antonio to Denver…on his own! Some of my friends think I’m crazy…he thinks he is King of the World (or at least King of his group of friends). Thanks to this website for giving me the courage to let him exercise the independence to make some of his own decisions.

By Joe Kavanagh Wed Jul 2nd 2008 at 8:22 pm  

Karla,

I can see you are very proud but not very stoic.

Congratulations. Keep raising your children as you

see fit. Regardless of if you agree or disagree with

this website. That goes for all parents out there. I

think we are all doing the best that we can.

By Dawn Fri Jul 4th 2008 at 4:36 am  

I understand that you probably don’t want your children to grow up afraid and not able to survive as independent adults. On the other hand, I think you’re also teaching them that there is nothing to fear and that isn’t correct. It’s survival of the fittest and if they don’t know who/what the enemy is, how will they avoid it? There are many, many dangers to protect them from and it does take work – that’s what parenting is. If you want them to run wild and stay out of your hair, you shouldn’t have had them.

Think about those girls in Oklahoma, walking on a dirt road in a small town. Within a few minutes of leaving home, they were brutally murdered possibly by a thrill-seeker. Free-range didn’t work there, did it?

By Kim Hermansen Sat Jul 5th 2008 at 6:18 pm  

I teach special needs kids aged 12-17 at a public school in Gothenburg, Sweden. When I started three years ago, all the kids were pretty much kept on a leash and there where no independence worth talking about. Consequently, none of the kids dared to do anything on their own, they were afraid of most things and especially of other kids at the school. To get to the school cafeteria, they had to walk in line, etc. I removed ALL of the safety nets, opened up ALL of the doors, invited ALL of the school staff and other students to our class rooms, spent a few months guiding the kids around school for various activities, they all live nearby so I started taking them to school by public buss and tram. Today? Now they are all over the school, they have made tons of new friends, most of them now have keys to their homes, they transport themselves, they laugh, they have made plans for their future and bring tons of good vibes to the entire school. Not to mention new students! They have started dreaming about jobs and family and careers at an age where most other kids don’t have a clue. Starting this fall they even get their own school budget for pencils and books and such as there is no point in us telling them what they need, they already know that themselves! . What did we add to our daily work to accomplish this? Nothing, we stopped doing things! We now in fact have much more time to do creative and “crazy” things with these kids. Like travel to Spain, USA, China and Belarus. Something that would have been completely impossible just two years ago.

Freedom!

By ashley 16 Sun Jul 6th 2008 at 11:44 am  

Iam all for free range. I watch out my window as kids are picked up at the bus stop by their mom’s when they get home from summer school (daycare for 6-13 year olds). It is bad enough that the school puts kids on buses and drives them a 1/2 mile up the street, but for parents to meet kids at the stop and drive them home 1 block in a suv with their little brothers and sisters (most of the time still babys), then they get there kids in the house and keep them there until it is time for summer school the next day. When I was there age(now just 16) I lived in Des Moines,IA where I had free range of the aera of over 400 houses plus my emel school. From age 6 mom told me to grab my bike and go play, some times this ment riding little more than yesterday, somtimes this ment just up the street, and somtimes riding alone all afternoon til it was almost dark. When we moved down to Kansas City,MO in 4th grade (I was 9 and it was on halloween) I saw a lot of kids getting candy, next day mom took me to enroll in school they said I had to get a shot before I could go to school. Two weeks later I finally got the shot and whent to school, it was different from my old school everyone was white like me. They only had one playground and only let one grade have ressce at a time when it was over we had to line up so they could count us. After about a month we had a drill they came over the loud speaker and said “lock down” before I knew it the teacher had the lights off blinds shut and all the kids were hiding ware we hung up are coats, so I got up from my desk and hid with them about 5 min later we heard all clear over the P.A. system so every one got up and sat at there desk . After all of that i sat down and asked the girl next to me what that was all about. She looked at me like I was stupid and said “we were practing for when a man with a gun brakes into the school”. So when I got home I told my mom about that day, before I knew it she was on the phone to ask them why I was not told about the drills, being from a state ware they don’t do that. Next day my teacher said she was sorry and forgot that in IOWA we don’t lock down drills. I had no more problems. NEXT YEAR WHEN I CROSSED THE STREET. It was early moring no crossing gaurd yet so instead of turning left at the end of my street I stop looked both ways and crossed the street (not a big deal for me had done it all summer to go to the school play ground), however as I walked down the sidewalk in front of the school the busy body office lady came outside and when I got up to the school told me I was in trouble for crossing the street alone. They gave me moring detintion which ment I had to come to school 1 hour early to sit in the office.They showed us the body changing flim, good choice I think. THEN CAME SUMMER so free but so quik playing in the woods by the park riding all over a good 800 plus house area lighting firework with friends but without adult help. going up to the mega market just because somtimes staying out til mid night with friends (and moms okay), and of corse taking my 2 dogs for walks miles on end. Then coming home to do my laundry and mow the grass.THEN CAME MIDDLE SCHOOL which was more freedom. walking around in the halls, having a locker, and of course cute boys from orther schools. THEN IN 7th GRADE I SKIPED SCHOOL FOR 1 DAY. Told mom i was sick from week before and stayed home but she didn’t call school and tell them so the princapal put me in ISS (IN SCHOOL SUPENCEION) pretty much kids in a room doing school work all day even eating lunch in there after two days I had all my school work done so on finally day I read two long books. then in eight grade my moms job ment we whent down to Coliumbal,MO (collage town Missouri State and all) but after 5 months of travel my mom let me stay for a week at a time alone in Kansas City,MO (JUST HAVING TURNED 13). She left me with cell phone, laptop, cable, pizza/chinese money, and two weeks worth of food and my dogs, cats, and bird she said mow grass once week and don’t answer door to anyone. I never burnt down the house or even hurt myself. If someone saw me and asked were my mom was I just said she was out for a few hours. Here I am today Having just moved to a new town mom she is getting ready to leave for Batton Ruge,LA for two weeks at a time, next week not at all worried about me as long as I call ever 6 hours.

By Ayoungone Sat Jul 12th 2008 at 9:55 am  

I love this site. I read it periodically just to stay encouraged on the free range movement. I wanted to report to you all, that my daughter’s father and I allowed her to fly (on a commercial airplane) home from Detroit to Atlanta. My daughter is a very smart and confident 5 y/o. My work colleagues thought I was nuts, some of them have never spent even one night away from thier children. My daughter had spent 3 whole weeks with her grandparents, enjoying a new city and meeting new extended family. She had a total blast and she came home even more confident than when she left. I will admit it was not my first choice for her to fly alone but the tickets were expensive and we could not afford to fly up there to get her, just to return home. We made the executive decision and she did great. We are SUPER proud of her. She is learning to fend for herself a bit at a time. Oh yes, I thought it was so funny and cute that while on the plane she ordered a Sprite to drink. We don’t drink soda at all at home but she had the presence of mind to get herself a Sprite b/c that is what she wanted. Now, that’s my girl!!!

By Chillalot Mon Jul 14th 2008 at 10:57 am  

I live in Detroit. Many of you may have heard of the “gritty/mean” streets of urban America. Likewise I have heard of the almost utopian society of suburbia. (LOL) Then to my surprise I stumble upon this website where suburban parents are grappled w/ fear and/or guilt over allowing thier children to walk to school. I always thought that was the point of moving to the burbs. To be so close to parks and schools that children wandered freely throughout thier homogenous neighborhoods. Yet I find that all of us-regardless of race or economics are struggling to balance our duty to protect our children w/ our duty to raise self-sufficient children. I have a 9 year old daughter who rides her bike alone throughout our diverse neighborhood. My neighborhood is filled w/every kind of person imaginable. We have church folk, regular working folk, rich folk, winos and hookers.She is enjoying her summer of newfound freedom. I don’t want her to grow up being afraid of other humans.

By Linda Tue Jul 15th 2008 at 5:24 am  

I love this “new” concept of free-range children. Years ago we wouldn’t have even thought childhood would ever be anything different.

I grew up in a very small post-WWII suburb of Minneapolis where I and my siblings were encouraged to “go out and play” all the time. We biked everywhere, got involved in scouts, delivered newspapers, roamed all over town with friends.

Summers and holiday vacations were even more fun: We’d take turns staying with Grandma in the city, where we’d bike, ride the bus and walk all over town. We learned that city inside and out. To this day (I’m 53), I thrive on being an urban nomad: finding obscure spots in the city; biking, walking, bussing all over town.

Here’s the thing: I never panic over the thought that I might be lost because I learned to experience travel as an adventure, not necessarily a destination. I ALWAYS see and appreciate new things I’ve never noticed before.

I raised my two (now grown) sons to be independent this way too, knowing that I survived (and thrived on!) the experience of wandering aimlessly.

I’ve run into very few potentially dangerous situations, but know 2 things: 1. I’d be bored to death if I were half as afraid as a lot of people I know. 2. When my number’s up, my number’s up. I’d hate to fear dying so much that it would keep me from really enjoying life.

By Marcy Tue Jul 15th 2008 at 10:35 pm  

I believe in free range children. My 5 year old has and knows the limits where he can ride his trike, but within those limits he is free to go where he goes. I can see him if I go outside. He is constantly having other adults tell him that he is too far from home! It’s annoying to him because he’s not supposed to talk to people he doesn’t know. It’s annoying to me because he is NOT too far from home. Most of the people who tell him so are grandparents who probably walked to the store to buy food when they were his age. So irritating!

By Linda Wed Jul 16th 2008 at 3:16 am  

Here is a REALLY GOOD article about the big picture of unsupervised, unstructured play for kids and what it means for the future of our planet …

“The Death and Life of American Imagination: How a generation is squandering its most critical resource”

http://www.rakemag.com/reporting/features/death-and-life-american-imagination

This is where I started being fascinated with the concept of free play for kids.

By Charlotte Sat Jul 19th 2008 at 12:34 am  

i’m not a parent, i’m 17 and far from it!

but i totally agree, i have 5 other siblings, so in our house, there just wasnt enough time to worry or mollycoddle all of us, and i think its ridiculous. i have friends my age, whos parents STILL instist on driving them into the town center, if they have no-one to catch the bus with, and demand to know where and what there doing if they go out for a night. a year from adults and still, under bubble wrap by there parents.

i enjoyed my childhood, and because i was allowed to roam the streets and do what i wanted (within reason) i enjoyed it so much, i wanted it to last forever. the reason kids are wanting to grow up so fast is because thats the only way they’re gonna be able to get out and do what they want!

like i said, at age 17, and i still LOVE dressing up for halloween.

so i AM a free range kid, and i’m totally world wise, and ready to go out and make something of myself, i know my limits, i can fend for my self, and i’m not stupid. i happy to say i know myself, what i like and what i want, which cant be said for some other people my age.

By Mindy Wed Jul 23rd 2008 at 2:57 am  

Dawn said:

“I understand that you probably don’t want your children to grow up afraid and not able to survive as independent adults. On the other hand, I think you’re also teaching them that there is nothing to fear and that isn’t correct. It’s survival of the fittest and if they don’t know who/what the enemy is, how will they avoid it? There are many, many dangers to protect them from and it does take work – that’s what parenting is. If you want them to run wild and stay out of your hair, you shouldn’t have had them.”

I completely disagree. I am NOT teaching my children that there is nothing to fear. I AM teaching my children what the enemy is, how to look for it, and how to protect themselves. I absolutely do not want my children to run wild. I want them to be responsible, respectful, reliable, SELF RELIANT adults when the time comes. And that means teaching them NOW to make choices all by themselves.

Those two girls in Oklahoma is not proof that free-range parenting doesn’t work. It’s proof that we live in a sick world full of sick individuals – and try as you might – you can’t protect your children from everything, all of the time. I understand the knee-jerk reaction to never let your children out of your sight again, but the fact is that even if they had been accompanied by their mother while taking a walk – the same thing may very well have happened to the three of them.

By Cheryl Sat Jul 26th 2008 at 1:44 am  

Comment to ayoungone:

Recently I flew home from Chicago to Atlanta and found myself sitting beside an unaccompanied 13 year old. Nice girl, very bright. Seemed quite self assured and mature.

The plane had a mechanical problem that resulted in us waiting 45 minutes to leave. Then we went out to the runway but weather issues required us to return to the gate. Once that cleared, there were clearance issues. Long story short, we were on that plane over 4 hours before takeoff.

As the hours passed, this girl became more frantic and upset. I was able to help her and calm her but who can rely on the kindness of strangers nowadays? She did not have the life experience to handle this situation. And what if the flight was ultimately cancelled? Would she have known what to do then?

Everything may have been fine if it’s smooth sailing, but too many things can go wrong in this situation to rely on a 5 year old’s judgement. I was unaware the airlines would even permit a 5 year old to fly unaccompanied. And let’s not even discuss the fact that navigating Hartfield-Jackson Airport is difficult for adults, let alone kids.

I’m glad everything worked out for your daughter.

By Volly Mon Jul 28th 2008 at 2:14 am  

Wow – great blog and great concept.

I strongly favor encouraging independence and competence in children. My parents were quite over-protective, and this was in the ’60s. True, I was an only child; they were older than average and knew they couldn’t have another to replace me if something happened. But I got way too many “cautions” about getting kidnapped, molested, and murdered. It made me very timid, growing up with a sense of myself as being fragile. I didn’t leave home until I was 22, and got married very soon afterward, having internalized my parents’ idea that I needed to be taken care of and protected.

My son is now nearly 19; he has lived on his own since before he was 18. This was, unfortunately, due to the fact that he did not like living under the same roof as his stepfather, but he would not have been able to even think about such a thing if he had not been encouraged over the years to take some risks and think for himself. I started teaching him how to drive when he was 11. He took his first flight from Atlanta to Florida as an unaccompanied minor at the age of 4. The airline didn’t like it and insisted that he be escorted back home, but his grandmother was waiting for him in Florida; he did fine. We lived in NYC for awhile when he was 10 and he was taking the subway back and forth from Manhattan to Queens whenever he needed to meet me. Again, it was no big deal.

I have no patience with friends and co-workers who brag about how vigilant they are, keeping an eye on their kids “every single second.” How boring. How monotonous. How oppressive.

But then, that’s just us.

Thanks,

Tennessee Mom

By Cecilia Forsberg Sat Aug 2nd 2008 at 6:37 pm  

I grew up in Lappland and was allowed to travel alone by train to Stockholm from I was six.

My parents knew that I of course would talk with a lot of people but choose to give me trust and space to take own responsabillity.

When my own son grew up the world was different, but I allowed him to travel by subway from he was nine.

Our children are little grow-ups-to-be, and they do have a brain of their own.

Keeping them under supervision 24/7 will teach them fear!

Best regards from Sweden

By Ken & Tammi Sun Aug 3rd 2008 at 2:31 pm  

We caught much flak for giving our 12-year-old a cell phone, but we though it was a necessary accoutrement, given that he was commuting daily (albeit with a friend) to his yeshiva from Suffolk County, via the Long Island Railroad, and was changing trains at Jamaica to boot. We had taken into account all of the negative downsides the rabbis warned us about, but decided that, in light of the LIRR’s track record (pun intended), there likely would be, at the absolute very least, one occasion where our son would need to contact us promptly and efficiently.

That day was September 11th, 2001! Our son’s cell phone was one of the comparatively few in the vicinity that was operational, being through a Long Island-based service instead of a cell phone service based upon the antennae that had been mounted atop the World Trade Center towers. Accordingly, we were able to maintain communication with our son while getting him safely home.

Since that time, he has done an Outward Bound expedition in Canada, and, more recently, spent a year away abroad before starting college. More importantly, he is a confident and competent young man who can make his way about without micromanagement from his parents.

So yes, we do support your decision to let Izzy do the subway ride alone.

By Stephanie J. Tue Aug 5th 2008 at 12:20 pm  

Okay, I grew up free to roam, so long as I told my parents who, what, where, when, why. They trusted me because I was trustworthy. I played flashlight tag after dark with the neighbor kids. I was home alone all summer long from the age of **gasp** 9 on. I worked in my parents 1-acre yard (I loved gardening even then), helped out with household chores, taught myself how to bake apple pie using the apples on our trees, took the bus to the library, rode bikes with my friends to the drugstore for candy, etc…

Now that I am a mom, I have adjusted my opinion as to what level of parental supervision is required. First of all, I grew up in a next-to-nothing crime-rate environment. Idyllic doesn’t begin to describe how safe it was.

I now live in an area where we daily see border patrol helicopters monitoring the desert floor. Children are snatched so often that it doesn’t make headline news. My husband’s line of work has given him insight into JUST HOW BAD it is out there. We do NOT live in a safe society people. The neighborhood you live in is NO guarantee of safety. You can’t buy safety. Don’t get me wrong…our neighborhood is beautiful, but it is also 1 mile from the onramp to a major freeway to nowheresville desert…my beautiful little daughters get snatched, and they are GONE BABY GONE.

I’m not overprotective when I am at the playground with them…they fall, I let them dust themselves off. I don’t hold their hand when they go down the slide. They ride their bikes on our sidewalks (the neighbors are way too fast, play with the neighbor kids, but I’m on the front porch with my cup of coffee and book. And everyone who drives by can see that I am there. This is not being a hoverparent — this is being responsible.

So I guess I’m 50/50 on this topic…be protective on the big stuff, but HANDS OFF on the little stuff — let your kids pinch their fingers in a carabiner (ha ha, I laughed at that post above), let them get scrapes and bruises playing on the playground, let them learn by doing.

By critical thinking Wed Aug 6th 2008 at 4:13 am  

Excellent response to Dawn (by Mindy).

Also loved Linda’s axiom ” When my number’s up, my number’s up. I’d hate to fear dying so much that it would keep me from really enjoying life.”

And Volly’s: “I have no patience with friends and co-workers who brag about how vigilant they are, keeping an eye on their kids “every single second.” How boring. How monotonous. How oppressive.”

People like you have given me faith that society may actually turn itself around and realize that it is impossible to protect against every potential negative action. Hopefully kids (and parents) will know to be able to analyse situations and make appropriate decisions to mitigate dangers, and be prepared to deal with the the unprevented ones. Maybe common sense and critical thinking will make a comeback in this hyper-regulated, legislated and regimented (i.e “oppressive”) society.

By Askmieke Wed Aug 6th 2008 at 5:12 am  

I had no idea this was a movement… COUNT ME IN. I’m so tired of laws that try to keep me safe, when I know how to think and read for myself.

Just fodder for the lawyers…

By Rob Wallace Thu Aug 7th 2008 at 6:16 am  

Couldn’t be more FOR. Thanks for articulating what I’ve long believed.

Case in point: I was raised in a household with guns – lots of them. My father was a gunsmith by trade, and my wife continues to be horrified that I owned my first rifle at age 5, and by 6th grade had quite an aresenal.

Today, I’m not a gun kook – haven’t shot in years. But what I learned from my dad (and his dad too) was an intense respect for firearms, and a whole lot of incredibly practical safety. I was and am much the better for it. Even as a kid, I knew VERY well what to do if I ever came in contact with a gun, how to disarm it (permanently if need be), and how to keep my friends safe too.

Anyway, it’s a rather extreme illustration, and I know it’s not for everyone, but it illustrates the principle that a little freedom coupled with wise parental oversight is a powerful thing. Thanks for the blog. I’m sending it to lots of friends and saying “toldya so.”

By Kim Fri Aug 8th 2008 at 2:10 am  

Couldn’t agree more with Rob “that a little freedom coupled with wise parental oversight is a powerful thing.”.

I too grew up with guns and although I haven’t been around them for years, I appreciate the knowledge gained ‘way back when’.

By Carrie K Sat Aug 9th 2008 at 9:35 pm  

At the park a few days ago, the mother sitting near me on a bench at the playground shouted to her three-year-old, “Don’t run honey, you’ll fall.” I actually turned to look at her because I thought for sure she was just joking, but no…she was completely serious. Don’t run? On a playground? That’s when I realized that as a society, we have gone WAY too far. Our want to protect our children from EVERYTHING is also going to protect them from being able to deal with ANYTHING. As a mom of a five-year-old and a four-year-old, I worry about my kids’ safety and I occassionally have panicky moments when they are out of sight in public places just like everyone else, but I also know that I have to let go of the reigns little by little so they can grow independent from me over time. And I’m not just talking about doing things by themselves either. We are scared to let our children FAIL at anything, too. I allow my daughter to go into stores by herself in the mall to pick out and buy items for herself with her own money while I wait outside. Will she have enough money for what she wants? I don’t know, but she’ll figure it out. Will the sales clerks be kind and patient with her? Most likely, but there are mean people out there–she’ll have to deal with all kinds of people in her life. Will she come out in tears because she’s confused or something didn’t go right? Possibly. At that point, I’ll step in. But I have to give her the chance. If she fails, then she fails, and I’ll provide her with ways to deal with this failure. When my children do something very mature and independent, people are amazed (just like the above mentioned scenario) They can’t believe my children are so “smart.” Honestly, my children are not any smarter than anyone else’s children. They just have been given little opportunities to become self-sufficient, and they are proud of themselves when they do something without their parents hovering and guiding them. If more children were provided the opportunities to be independent and free from constant parental control, they too would learn to act “smart” and in control of their own selves. I applaud Lenore on allowing her son to ride the subway. I’m sure her son was very proud of himself and I’m also sure that such experiences will serve him well in the future. If he does ever have to deal with a difficult situation that requires him to act for himself he will be confident and able enough to do so.

By Martah Sun Aug 10th 2008 at 9:47 am  

I just ran into one of the helicopter parents. I was waiting for our public transport, and, as usual, she asked me what my son was ‘doing’ this summer. As usual, I answered, ‘relaxing’.

So I bit. I asked her what her daughter, who is the 16 – 2 years older than my son, was ‘doing’ this summer; and the response amazed me.

Tennis camp; volleyball camp; swim meets; babysitting. Then, proudly she said, ‘she calls me at least 10x a day to let me know where she is.’

Dang! When I was 16, I was working in a restaurant on the weekend nights; going swimming and playing golf. I would let my mom know my plans if I was leaving and when I was expected to come home. I was driving and working out my own schedule.

She said that her daughter pleaded with her, for her to allow her to go to a midnight show, and instead of ALLOWING the girl’s friend to drive her home at 2:30am; she got UP and picked her up – because the kids would be tired, and who knows WHAT would happen, they’d probably end up in a ditch!

Wow. My son is 14, he stays at home alone during contract days and vacation days. He tells me his plans, if he is leaving the house- such as ‘I am going to go and see XXX movie tomorrow afternoon.’ NO, he doesn’t have to call me when he leaves the house or when he comes home.

I have raised him to be a responsible youth, and I expect no less out of him. Unreal.

Of course, her daughter has a cell phone that she uses to call mommie to make sure that she is safe.

(We live in a small town of less than 10,000 people). How is this little girl going to navigate adulthood without mommie right there!

By mamabeeotch Mon Aug 11th 2008 at 5:47 am  

I am completely for free range… I have a 14 year old daughter that I used to let loose in the fenced backyard to explore when she was 2. She loved it, she discovered so many things on her own. I sent her away to camp when she was 7 for 4 weeks. She was fine. I am proud t say that now she is an independent minded young women who can say NO when she wants to. I believe I helped give her the skills to be independent and have the self awareness to be herself in spite of what she is confronted with.

Halleujuah Free Range… you are my new BFF.

By Rhonnie Mon Aug 11th 2008 at 2:02 pm  

I am emphatically FOR! I have an adult friend (in her 40′s) who is terrified of everything. As a child she was supervised from morning to night, accompanied by her mother any time she wasn’t in school, scolded for any hint of independence and free-thinking, and rewarded for obedience and docility. She has a good job and does well at it, but every change is a life-threatening event that requires hand-holding from friends and co-workers, until she is certain that she has the new “rules” firmly in her mind and will do everything “right.” Every attempt I’ve made to push her out into the real world has failed–it’s too late for her now. She’s probably an extreme case, but I’m betting there are going to be a lot more like her in a few years. It’s time to start letting our children grow up.

By luvbrooklyn Mon Aug 11th 2008 at 2:22 pm  

I really worry about this generation of kids and how they will fare when as adults in the real world when the time comes. Besides instilling a paralyzing fear of the outside word into them, their parents micromanage every aspect of their lives: they aren’t allowed to figure out anything for themselves, and they therefore remain dependent, fearful, clinging, narcissistic children instead of growing into resourceful, socially adjusted adults.

I am probably an extreme example of a free-range child, at least by middle-class standards and certainly by today’s standards, as I grew up in another time–the late ’60′s and early ’70′s ( I was born in 1960, moved here from Paris in “67). At ten, I rode the city bus to school in Clinton Hill, accompanied only by a classmate neighbor. I had been riding in for two years accompanied by our au pair so it was hardly an unknown routine, the trickier bit was the high crime in the surrounding neighborhoods. I once accidentally rode the bus too far and got off in Bed-Stuy, and figured out how to get back—not without some tears and fear, but without mishap, and I learned some self-reliance, some street-smarts, and some people skills. There were other incidents, certainly, over the years. Some were very, very bad and scary, but there were more good incidents than otherwise and I would not trade my upbringing for a sheltered one.

My brother feels otherwise. He experienced a very scary incident when a stranger pretending to be a friend of our parents’ came up to him and said he was there to pick him up, the au pair was late and came running in just in time to see my brother leaving with this guy, the au pair started yelling and the guy ran off. Who knows what could have happened, it’s awful, but it has given him such a fear that he is raising his children in the leafy suburbs under the illusion that he is keeping them safe there. They are such cautious parents that, for example, the kids are not allowed to eat anything at all when the parents aren’t at home, for fear they might choke on it. Even with a babysitter there. The oldest is sixteen, the youngest is nine. (!) Fear, fear, fear.

Most parents I know are stiflingly cautious, and yet of course with the best intentions. The hardest thing is letting go, seeing your kids as independent of you and letting them try things. I was talking to a contemporary about how a generation ago we travelled the city unsupervised from ten or so onwards, and how now teenagers aren’t permitted to ride the subway (much less the cars of friends with recent licenses!). Her response? “Yes, but it’s so much more dangerous now.”

I was taken aback. I pointed out how much crime rates had decreased since that time, and the kinds of things that used to go on on the streets that weren’t exactly crimes but were scrapes and close calls, that we don’t see anymore. She had to agree, it is irrefutable, and when we discussed it we concluded that we talk about these crimes more—though I would use the word “obsess.” This of course wouldn’t change her parenting style, and I am convinced that the fearful parents of today are unwilling to look at the facts, preferring to focus on feelings.

Look, it was a completely different time—I know that by today’s standards, the upbringing I and my peers received was criminally neglectful. However, I am grateful for the confidence, skills, and education a city upbringing gave me, grateful that I was exposed to many kinds of people and situations, grateful that I learned to think on my feet, and I now still live in Brooklyn (though not in the now-thoroughly-affluent Heights), not being scarred enough to flee for some fortress of mediocrity in the ‘burbs.

That being said, even city parents—who chose the city for the well-rounded environment it would give their children—stop short of allowing them to experience their surroundings, so that they create a suburbia of the mind, where their children are living in the equivalent of a gated community.

To my mind this goes hand in hand with the tendency to micro-manage every moment of children’s time, to interfere with every activity and experience their children undergo, all in a well-intentioned mother-hen way that will end up undermining their children’s ability to function as adults. One wonders if these child-obsessed parents are fostering the dependency so that they won’t have to feel the post-partum blues when their kids fly the nest—those insecure, clingy children who call their mothers ten times a day and have never had an idle afternoon without every activity planned—-those children will always be children, dependent on those parents, and will never fully flee the nest. To their own detriment. In this way the fear factor in child-rearing is selfish, as it undermines these kids’ ability to fend for themselves.

Congratulations on raising a free-range child. The bumps and bruises of life are necessary steps to adulthood, they teach us confidence, how to avoid and deal with bumps and bruises in the future, and how to solve problems for ourselves. Free time is creative time, a child who spends an hour watching a spider or just playing an unstructured unsupervised game is using his or her brain and developing the ability to imagine. I shudder to think what the caged children( the non-free range, that is) will be like as adults.

Sorry to go on so long, it is amazing how this subject resonates with all of us, pro and con. You sure have touched a nerve.

By Greg Wed Aug 13th 2008 at 1:15 am  

Wow, I started reading through the site here about two months ago. All I can say is “Right On!” and “Thank God!” I am a firm believer in the free-range philosophy raising children. If you do not allow your children to take small risks (walking to a friends house by themselves, ect.), how can they develope any sense of accomplisment? Without risk…there can be no reward. I fully understand that this concept can be obsessively frightening to some parents. I am the parent of a 10 month old, and every time she pulls herself up and sways back and forth to find her balance I have to force myself not to steady her. Letting her find her balance on her own is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but if I don’t….if I steady her every time she stands, then she will never stand on her own. I know that my situation is very simple for now, and that there are many more situations (probably much more scary) that I will face with my child and I hope that I will make the same decision. I hope that I will be strong enough to let my child grow through experience. I think THAT is our primary job as parents…helping our kids learn to stand on their own.

By Martha Wed Aug 13th 2008 at 9:25 pm  

I am SO glad that I found this website.

I guess that it depends upon what your end-goal is for your child.

Mine is to raise an independent person who will bring value to our society.

I figure that it was my job to keep him safe from age 1-12 and then from 13-18 it is his job to learn how to keep himself safe.

To get to that end, I have been giving him more and more independence from about age 8.

It is funny — people say that he is so mature, he is so independent – that I am so ‘lucky’.

Sorry folks, that has been my plan. I don’t want my son dependent on me; I want him to sail off to college and make his OWN journey into life.

I remember how EXCITED I was when my mom dropped me off at the dorm back in Sept 1975. What a freaking ADVENTURE I was going to have! I was venturing out into a world and I was going to make my life my own – and yah, there were alot of bumps in the road of my life; but I managed all of them.

So sad that all these kids are destined to live in their parent’s basements, getting free food. How do you learn the value of ANYTHING if you don’t work for it?

Argh. Well, I am off to the salt mines, speaking of working for a living.

By Anonymous Thu Aug 14th 2008 at 8:22 am  

I was a free range kid growing up, I will not let my kids grow up the same way. I am not saying lock your kids up in a padded house. I just want all of you to be aware of your surroundings, know your neighbors, be in tune with your children. Numerous bad things have happened to me growing up, here are SOME examples: I had been chased by people with knives. I have been raped. I had been molested. I have been followed by cars with strangers trying to lure me in, on the way to school. I have been offered drugs, and because I was scared for my life if I didn’t take them, I took them. I have had the crap beaten out of me. And so on and so on. And that is just what happened to me, there is a crap load that had happened to my brother too. Sounds like we hung around rough areas, we didn’t. If my parents were more watchful and aware of our whereabouts and concerned for our safety by enforcing boundaries, etc., none of that crap would have happened. Personally, I call free range parenting, lazy parenting.

I am glad nothing happened to any of you free range parents, I hope you are lucky and nothing happens to your children.

By Helen Fri Aug 15th 2008 at 11:28 am  

I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to agree with the anonymous poster here and say that SOME of this “free range” talking is all about LAZY parenting.

I grew up “free range” and so did my husband, but we have to be REALISTIC and look at the world around us —TODAY.

Not all of us live in the country anymore. We live in towns that have CURFEWS. As a homeschooling family, I keep my children busy with lots of field trips, sports, and volunteering. As they grow older, they acquire bigger responsibilities — working at the library on summer programs, employment, etc.

It isn’t poor parenting to expect your kids home before midnight, nor is it POOR parenting to insist on knowing where and what our kids are doing. This is called PARENTING. It is a SHAME when we call PARENTING, “helicopter patrol€¦”

Yes, I agree the media HAS become hysterical about safety and due to the Internet/technology, EVERY crime that happens feels closer to home, BUT, this does not warrant any reasons for people to criticize those of us who actually PARENT our kids!

I’m totally against LATCH KEY parenting, and I’m against placing my kids in daycare for someone else to raise them. PARENTING is our God given responsibility and if WE don’t raise our own kids, the government will — it’s called, IT TAKES A VILLAGE.

And believe me — the government DOES want to PARENT YOUR kids… Just like they want to leave Parents out of the KNOW so our kids can seek abortions, sex ed, and everything else under the sun.

So, let’s not go to the extreme with this “FREE RANGE” thing. Nobody’s against our kids learning/practicing INDEPENDENCE… That’s all COMMON SENSE.

So don’t bash parents that actually PARENT their kids.

By KellyBelly Sat Aug 16th 2008 at 4:40 am  

Oh my gosh I am so glad to have found this website! What a relief… I’ve spent 9 years worrying myself sick about every thing imaginable (which is a lot!)

My free range kid story: Our family of 6 was getting in the van to go to some yard sales one Saturday morning at about 6:30 am. My 8 yo was sick and just wanted to lay on the couch and watch Harry Potter. DH and I thought, why not? We live in suburbia, have a home alarm system, smoke detectors, he had the phone next to him and we also left him one of our cell phones ‘just in case’. We told him not to eat anything (he could choke!) and we just figured how many “bad guys” are prowling around at 6:30 am? So we left him home alone. I reported this to my group of mom friends a week later and was verbally admonished. They were shocked at the danger I put my child in, informed it was illegal for an 8yo to be home alone, and asked what would happen if a fire broke out, someone broke in… blah blah blah. I was crushed and hurt by being so harshly judged! We have since allowed him this freedom (which he desperately craves!) of staying home alone a few other times. He loves it and needs it! I just keep my mouth quiet now and don’t let other moms know. But I am ticked off that it’s illegal – where is my freedom to parent how I choose to parent? The world has gone off the deep end! Thank goodness for this site!!!!!

By Mara Sat Aug 16th 2008 at 10:36 am  

I was raised a free range kid :) I just hope that when I become a parent I too will muster up the courage to allow my children to be independent confident free range children, it may be harder than it looks.

By Liz Mon Aug 18th 2008 at 6:49 am  

I am SO for the idea of independent children!!! Being a step-mom I often get told, that if they were ‘my own’ I’d feel different. Frankly I think that is insensative. I know plenty of incredible parents that have kids that are not ‘biologically’ their own. I don’t feel its being careless at all, to have faith and disciplined values intrusted in your children. They only know what they see in our lives and what we can teach them, so if you’re paranoid and freaked out about crime or what the latest media is talking about, then your children will grow up to be insecure in unsafe enviroments, which most likely could be they’re own front yard. They can’t filter information or have facts like we do. So why cause them to fear things that may or may not exist. They are people, they need to learn for themselves. It is our job to be smart and teach them, because we’re not ALWAYS going to be there to remind them to wash their hands or eat their dinner.

By Liz Tue Aug 19th 2008 at 1:31 am  

Until today, I didn’t know I was part of a movement. My two kids have been free range since they could move.

When my daughter was a walking 10 month old, I was sitting in a park with my parents. O started walking away from us, and I was about to jump up and get her. “Sit down”, my Dad said, “She’ll reach her limit and come back.” You know what? She did!

O will be 13 this fall … she walked 3/4 mile to/from school when she was 10, rides her bike 2 miles to the center of our small town, takes the small town bus … this summer we let her go further. With a friend, she took the T into Cambridge (Mass.) and back, just the two girls. I was nervous, but I survived, and so did the girls.

My son is 7, and a bit less responsible than O at that age. Still, he has free range on our street, and in the nearby park. When he was 5, he followed a neighbor and got lost … but got a ride back home with the school librarian.

I’ll routinely leave the kids home alone for a couple hours … they behave better when I’m not home.

I don’t have to worry about other parents, because the parents who live on our street are rearing free range kids too. We let each other know about our kids, and watch out for all of them. I’m glad we found a house here.

By Rob Tue Aug 19th 2008 at 3:10 am  

Great site. My wife and I have young children and it’s good to know we aren’t the only ones taking the radical approach of raising our children the way we were raised.

Fortunately, we’re on the same wavelength when it comes to letting our children sometimes fail and sometimes take risks while playing. I know other couples where the parents are not in agreement on child freedom and unsupervised outdoor play. It can be a real strain on a marriage. And it’s the parent who defies the conventional modern wisdom about how ‘the world has changed’ who has the toughest row to hoe.

Fact is, North America is not more dangerous for children today than it was 30 or 40 years ago. The incidence of child abducation by strangers is not up. In Canada, it’s as extraordinarily rare an occurrence as it was in 1964.

It’s the dramatic increase in media coverage of each of these extraordinarily race incidents which has inspired today’s mass hysteria over paedophiles and child abduction. Each of those incidents generates 50 or 100 times the coverage today as they did when I was a kid in the 70s. Back then, if a child was abducated in Arkansas, it didn’t lead the nightly news across Canada for several days running. In fact, it probably wouldn’t even make the news.

Childhood would be far happier experience for kids today if more parents understood a simple truth: the increased media coverage of a crime does not mean increased incidence of that crime. The media chooses its stories based on audience ratings, not on any objective standard of importance or likelihood.

And yet when I point out the role of the media in spreading mass hysteria (I used to work for a newspaper), parents get extremely defensive. It seems they need their fear, and need to be protective.

So even once we get past the media’s role in creating mass hysteria, we’re left with a difficult question: why do today’s parents need to be needed much more than parents in previous generations?

By Sasha Thu Aug 21st 2008 at 10:55 am  

I live in NYC, and my son has been running around outside since about 6-7. He is now 12 and still has all the freedom he wants or needs. Granted he is not allowed to ride the subways or leave out neighborhood (which is an island) no heading to the city along (tramway only) but he can go with a friend to the movies, no walking across the bridge into Queens (because we don’t know anyone over there). But is is able to run around from sun up to sun down, he is able to make is own rules, use his own judgment he is in charge of him. With this he has never broken a bone being unsupervised (he always saves the good stuff for mom) he has never had a fight or been in a situation laced with fear. He has always come home with great adventure stories about finding a great spot to build a fort or finding items to make a treehouse.

I am lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where every adult looks out for every child. Kids over here roam around in packs of 5-25 at times. Summers are filled with manhunt games that last until 11pm.

By Mandy Fri Aug 22nd 2008 at 12:21 am  

I just watched you on Penn & Teller’s “Bullshit” and just had to write to say that I appreciate your common sense, logical approach to parenting. I think you are doing the entire world and favor by raising well-adjusted kids. I’m not in favor of EVERY woman having children simply because of their biological desire to do so, but if every parent were like you, I don’t think I’d be as opposed to it. Izzy, by the way, is utterly adorable!!

I should add that I am glad you aren’t simply parenting “free range” because it’s easier for you to do so, as some parents will as an excuse to parent less, – nor are you doing so because you believe in backwards “character building” bullying and abuse, E.G. “Why when I was his age, I was plowing the fields with my bare hands!”

No, you are a contemporary parent with the sense to keep “old-fashioned” views that should have never gone out of style.

Crimes happen, and there is a very real danger out there – there’s no denying that. I think it’s important to emphasize for the sake of people who will misunderstand, that you are not playing the odds in hopes nothing bad ever happens to your son, but rather, you aware that they are no less likely to happen to a frightened, unprepared, recluse of a child. He might as well live his life.

By Kelly Sat Aug 23rd 2008 at 4:35 am  

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I had started to become one of those paranoid parents asking my 3-year old to stay within 10 feet of me at the park. Your article has liberated me. He still needs supervision at 3, but I will supervise at a longer distance without constantly worring about a bad person jumping out of the bushes.

By Suzanne Mon Aug 25th 2008 at 9:21 pm  

So right on! And has anyone mentioned the part about free range kids are good for free range parents too? It is not just the children who need to learn to be on their own. After years of being a unit, what sort of shock is in store when these kids go to college or get married?

I will post my stories about playing outside, unsupervised for hours, taking the bus and forging my independence and good sense of team play without the benefit of AYSO soccer, but in the meanwhile, for those who are afraid consider this:

‘Urban, suburban, and even rural parents cite a number of everyday reasons why their children spend less time in nature than they themselves did, including disappearing access to natural areas, competition from television and computers, dangerous traffic, more homework, and other pressures. Most of all, parents cite fear of stranger-danger. Conditioned by round-the-clock news coverage, they believe in an epidemic of abductions by strangers, despite evidence that the number of child-snatchings (about a hundred a year) has remained roughly the same for two decades, and that the rates of violent crimes against young people have fallen to well below 1975 levels.’

I am sure someone else posted this but read this article: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/240/

By Chris Mon Aug 25th 2008 at 10:39 pm  

To all the naysayers who cite specific examples of how free range kids ended up dead or raped or whatever it may be:

Yes, those are very sad stories indeed, but you’d have to admit that those cases are far and few between, and to screw up an entire generation of children just to save a couple of lives is wrong on so many levels. I won’t even go into how many lives might get ruined in future because oh, a couple hundred million kids never had a decent childhood.

I’m not saying the children who died deserve to die – I’m saying shit happens, but for the greater good of humanity it’s better to have a couple of lost lives than an entire generation of messed up kids.

By brooke Tue Aug 26th 2008 at 1:42 am  

i am SO for this whole idea. i’m only 24 and don’t have children yet, but i loved running around as a kid. and i also recognize that my parents grew up around lead paint, second-hand smoke, and they’re STILL not dead.

the most repulsive thing to me is that i have friends that say that they will never let their children go to sleepovers because they are afraid they will be molested. a childhood without a single sleepover sounds very sad indeed.

i plan on raising my children with some common sense and letting them free to make their own choices. the only way to grow is to learn from making your own mistakes. the only reason a person should be so overly paranoid about their children is if they lack the confidence that they raised them to know how to make the right choices for themself.

By Bernardo Tue Aug 26th 2008 at 3:15 am  

I would like to reccomend a nine minute TED talk delivered by Gever Tulley, titled “Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do”. In it, Gever Tulley promotes his “Tinkering School”. The talk revolves around giving children control of the basic tools they will use throughout their life: light fires and put them out, use knives, throw spears and other things, deconstruct home appliances, break the DMCA and drive a car.

By Sally Tue Aug 26th 2008 at 5:30 am  

I am for freedom – with communication. I ask my kids to let me know where they are and who they’re with out of respect.

And I totally love that you left *all* the comments, especially the first one that calls you a dumbass. What a commentary on the commenter! lol

By Simon Tue Aug 26th 2008 at 3:58 pm  

If we do not give our children the freedom to experience the real world how can we ever expect them to cope as functioning adolescents or heaven forbid adults.

Yes this needs to be kept reasonable, yes we need to know where they are and what they are doing but i really worry about how many of our younger generation are going to grow up.

I have two daughters, 10 & 13. Both ride the bus to school, both are able to walk or ride to friends houses on the weekends.

I think i’ll be more concerned when they are 18+ and going out with friends to clubs and parties. Hopefully by gaining some basic life skills now they will make sensible decisions as young adults.

By Nancy Wed Aug 27th 2008 at 1:20 am  

Kudos to you! I am all for freedom and allowing our children to be, well, children. Now if we could simply tackle the “trophies” for everyone concept!

I truly believe if you coddle kids you end up with adults who have never really accomplished or achieve anything.

By Jon Wed Aug 27th 2008 at 3:19 am  

Parent of two babies. Our oldest is a year and a half, and we already send him out to the back yard to play. Free range is the RIGHT way to raise children!

By Cristina Wed Aug 27th 2008 at 4:34 am  

I am the mother of a 4 month old who has been contemplating the various issues of raising an independent child with boundaries, communication, and freedom. I grew up in Los Angeles as the youngest of 6 children to parents (actually, just a paranoid mother) who were uber strict. I never got to do anything. I got good grades, had common sense, and knew my boundaries yet was stifled from enjoying my younger years. I don’t want to do this to my child. Funny thing is, I married a man who grew up in the Bay area in the 70′s also and he had lots of freedom. He would take off on his bike for the whole day and ride around (he explored and figured things out). Heck, he even got to sell seeds door to door when he was 7! I am jealous that his parents gave him the freedom to explore that I didn’t get (for me, I had to sneak around if I wanted to do something – I wished I could have gotten their permission!). I think freedom with communication is important (especially if the child can handle it and parents are aware enough to recognize it!). Thank you for this website. You’re doing a great thing. Thank you for making my day.

By G P Thu Aug 28th 2008 at 1:24 am  

Parent of 7 (yes, 7) boys, from 14 down to 2 1/2. My wife and I made a conscious decision *not* to overschedule our children. They can each pick one activity to be involved in, provided it fits into the overall family schedule.

Most of the time, they play. Outside.

The youngest has to have an older brother if he wants to cross our low-traffic street to the park, but other than that, they spend a lot of time playing with each other, exploring, and generally just being kids.

Not sure I’d put them on a subway though.

By Angel Thu Aug 28th 2008 at 5:35 am  

It’s interesting to look back at the comments. Only the folks who are against “Free-Range Children” are using profanity and calling folks names. None of them have provided a good set of hard facts to rival the facts on the site. It’s all been examples of how irresponsible parents have created hazardous and deadly situations. Free-Range parenting is all about responsible parenting. Yes, you give your children leeway, you give them freedom, but you also give them responsibility and you carefully monitor what they do with the freedom. You build slowly, giving them rope as they need it, and taking it away when needed, too. You’d never let a baby who can’t even walk yet cross the street unattended. But neither would you make the baby crawl until they’re 5. When baby is ready to walk, you let them walk, you give them the freedom and responsibility that they can handle, on a child-by-child basis. Your child may not be ready to ride the subway alone at 9, especially if he grew up in the backwoods of Oregon. But the city kid may not be ready to pack a weeks worth of food in a backpack and set off in the mountains.

I was raised free-range, and my parents would lock me and my brother out of the house on a regular basis. Not once did I ever think that they weren’t available if I needed help, and not once did I really think they weren’t paying attention. They just did it in less obtrusive ways. They had the parents network and they seemed to always know where we were and what we were doing. They also made sure we knew how to get help if we needed. We always had to tell them where we were going. When I was 16, I told my parents that my friend and I were driving to Kansas (I lived in Colorado at the time), and we did. Got the picture to prove it. We discovered that we could travel ourselves and get ourselves places when we wanted to. It helped instill the independance I rely on today.

It’s not about leaving your kids to their own devices, it’s about letting them challenge themselves and find for themselves what works and what doesn’t.

I’m not a parent, but when I am, I fully intend to utilize this parenting method. I will teach my children to ride their bicycles the correct way (as a vehicle, in the street, following traffic rules). I will teach them to climb rocks and mountains. I will teach them first aid and how to read a map. I’ll let them make their mistakes the same way my parents let me make my own mistakes, and I will help them learn life’s lessons from those mistakes.

I see too many parents bringing their kids into the ER where I work because of something stupid. If I’d have gone to the ER for this stuff, I’d have gotten a good lesson from my parents. Skinned knees, coughs, sniffles, scrapes, little things that need a band-aid and a little anti-bacterial ointment. They create long lines for folks with really serious injuries, and they take time and nurse attention away from those serious injuries. Kiss it, make it better, stick a band-aid on it and let them get back out there. If it’s serious, then bring them in.

Way to go, and keep giving your kid more responsibility! He’ll be the better for it.

By nutmeg Thu Aug 28th 2008 at 7:43 am  

I thought I was a bad mom because I let my kids do ‘dangerous’ stuff like play in the fenced backyard alone, or drive 1/4 miles in our gated community unbuckled to the pool.

Thanks Lenore. You rock.

http://www.materialmama.com

By Kate Fri Aug 29th 2008 at 2:15 am  

I have no problem with Lenore’s decision to let her son find his way home. And who knows, there may be some occasion in the future when he’ll unexpectedly have to find his way home on his own. So it is good to get experience.

But I think that the freedoms we can give our children are very much a function of where we live.

I’ve been wondering if I have to move to find a place where I can let my daughter roam more freely.

I am not so worried about pedophiles, but rather my child being run over by a car, truck, or bus.

When I was a kid, we played in the street. We jumped rope, rode bikes, roller skated, rode big wheels, and played tag in the street. And if a car drove too fast through our neighborhood, or failed to stop at the stop sign, they were yelled at by lots of people.

Today, even on quieter side streets we have a problem with speeding and driver inattention. Perhaps one of the most important differences between now and the “good old days” is that roadways have become the exclusive domain of automobiles. Not only have the number and speed of cars increased, but drivers no longer expect to see bikes, pedestrians, or a kid riding her big wheel down the street. I think the expectation to see people in the street makes a huge difference in driver behavior. This is why it is so safe to be a pedestrian in Manhattan, and why it is so perilous to be one in Atlanta, LA, Dallas, etc. etc.

As my child grows up, I hope that she will get to walk to school, ride her bike to her friends’ houses, take transit all by herself, and have lots of exciting parent-free adventures, just as I did. But I don’t think the fear is entirely in our heads. The country has changed. For one thing, we’ve lost our largest and most convenient playgrounds – our streets.

By Kit Carlson Fri Aug 29th 2008 at 10:22 pm  

Please keep on raising your children to be free and responsible for themselves. I’ll tell you what happens to these hyper-protected kids when they reach college (I live near a large state university) … they take their new found freedom and immediately spend it on binge drinking and partying.

If they had been given more repsonsibility for themselves earlier in their lives, perhaps they would not think the first reaction to being away from mom and dad for the first time is to get blind stupid drunk.

(Not to mention the helicopter parents who continue to try to micromanage their children’s college careers by talking to professors, supervising homework, etc.)

Keep up the good work!

By angela Sat Aug 30th 2008 at 4:03 am  

I chanced across this article and was struck by the asinine comment about ice cream trucks being “hazardous when children run at them.” Absurd!

http://www.wdtn.com/Global/story.asp?S=8862853

By Jacquie Sat Aug 30th 2008 at 10:17 am  

When I first read about you letting your 9 year old son ride the subway alone. I thought it was crazy. But it really made me stop and examine my attitudes about letting my 3 and 8 year old daughters have more independence. And it made me realize that I really do want them to be able to go to the park, explore through the forest and down the river, and ride their bikes everywhere when they are ready. Preferably with friends because it’s always more fun to do things with a best friend.

But what really strikes me is the absolute absence of kids outside in the neighbourhood and makes me think how can my girls be safe if they are the only ones out there (my mind quivers a bit and thinks that they are practically walking targets – with bulls-eyes stamped on their backsides – for any crazy people because with such slim pickings any kids out there must be a target – okay I know that’s absolute paranoia but it’s still in my head). So I think that one of the first things we need to get parents to believe is that when the streets, parks, buses, subways are filled with kids (like they used to be), then the kids are safe(r).

Lenore thank you for being so brave and for helping us all see how absolutely crazy paranoid we’ve become.

By Steph Sat Aug 30th 2008 at 5:45 pm  

While I agree with many of your ideals, nobody around here seems willing to admit that the world just isn’t what it was when we were kids. Things are changing for the worse. Kids are bringing guns to school and massacring other kids, for heaven’s sake! There are more cars (and, therefore, careless drivers) on the road than ever before, more pedophiles and sickos, more drugs, more alcohol, more everything.

As much as I appreciate the way I was raised and the freedoms I enjoyed, I would never let my own children do some of the things I was allowed to do. Just like my parents probably did things differently with me than their parents did with them. The world is a changing place. And, as much as we would all like to deny it, it’s simply getting scarier every day. Parents have to be more vigilant than ever before. But, I agree that it can be carried away and it is a matter of balance. EVERYONE needs balance and moderation, along with a healthy dose of common sense.

By blackgirlinmaine Mon Sep 1st 2008 at 2:50 am  

Growing up in Chicago by 10, I could navigate the buses and trains. I have a 16 yo who does the same thing here in New England but his best friend’s (also 16) Mom refused to let her son take a bus to meet my son 50 miles away… what has the world come to when kids are old enough to drive yet we are scared to let them take public transit.

Anyway I read the piece about you last month and thought bravo, there are sane parents in the world. Glad to see your blog.

By Jacquie Mon Sep 1st 2008 at 6:56 pm  

In reponse to Steph’s post August 30th.

Here’s an astonishing thought which came to me as I was hovering near sleep this morning – but what if the radical change in the way children are being raised over the past 10 to 15 years is actually a signficant factor in the rise in school shootings/youth violence over the same time period? That the stunted social development and serious social disconnect that young children/teens today are experiencing is because of our hyper obsessive over-protective parenting? Perhaps their anger is primarily about a complete lack of control over their own lives – because they are never allowed to make decisions for themselves. That in our effort to keep them absolutely 100% safe by not letting them do anything we are actually the main source of the problem?!

Has anyone studied this possibility? Are there any psychologists out there reading this who could provide insight/reference to research.

If it’s true, then this could be the most persuasive argument we can find for getting the general populance to give their kids the freedom to grow independently…

By TransitionGirl Wed Sep 3rd 2008 at 12:35 pm  

When I went to college, I saw overprotected kids who suddenly had tons of freedom, no parents watching them 24/7. So what did they do with this sudden burst of freedom? They got drunk, drove drunk, did drugs, slept around and got into many trouble. They couldn’t handle freedom. Why? Because they were never TAUGHT how to handle freedom growing up.

My parents started giving me small doses of freedom when Io was young. Then as I got older and earned their trust, they gave me more. When I broke their trust, they took away my freedom to do things and I had to earn back their trust. This made me appreciate this freedom and learn about being responsible with my freedom. It made me learn that freedom wasn’t a right, it was a responsibility and I had to make wise choices for myself, because my parents cannot always be there with me 24/7 (and neither did they want to be).

To parents who think that they are being good to their kids be over protecting them, I plead with you to open your hearts and see what damage you’re doing to your kids.

By Steph Wed Sep 3rd 2008 at 6:26 pm  

Jacquie,

While you raise an interesting issue, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to blame the degradation of modern society on over-protective parents.

But I do think that while many parents might be focusing all their time and efforts on sheltering their children from physical harm, they are completely ignoring other things that might be causing emotional damage…divorce, parents that drink heavily, parents that are work-a-holics, etc….not to mention the violence and sex that kids are exposed to on TV and the internet nowadays.

And, of course, if you’re a Christian, you know that this world will only get worse before it gets better.

No, I think that if the biggest problem in society was parents being over-protective, we’d have a pretty darn good society.

By Trying not to be overprotective mom Thu Sep 4th 2008 at 11:55 pm  

I have a daughter who will turn 9 next month. She was the victim of a devious 12 year old boy when she was only 5 years old. The worst thing was that it was my soon to be step-son. He had taken pictures of her naked and then was found in the closet with her pants down. Needless to say, I have had a lot of difficulty not being too overprotective. I got a divorce and the people that were in her life before, that hurt her, are no longer around. We moved back to my old hometown which is a small community that I remember always feeling safe in. She has adjusted great and seems to really be happy and carefree. I now find myself trying to remember at what age I was allowed to ride my bike around the block, ride it to school, ride up to the local grocery store, etc. Part of me wants to give her that freedom but the other part worries that because I have been so protective of her that she won’t know how to handle a situation if it arises. It has been hard for me to just let her play outside with all the boys around the neighborhood that are her age. There are other girls that play also but I am constantly worried about her being hurt again.

She just started the 4th grade and is asking to ride her bike to school which is a mile away on the other side of our small town. Really not that far, I rode mine all the time, just can’t remember at what age. I just let her start going to a boy’s house a couple of houses down from ours as long as she stays outside. I did meet this boy’s mother and she seems okay. Now the two of them want to ride to school together. I just don’t know how I feel about it still. Any thoughts from anyone?

By Cheryl Fri Sep 5th 2008 at 10:27 pm  

I found your blog through a friend on twitter (@phatmommy), who tweeted your LA Times Ed Op piece from May. I’m 41 years old, a Southern CA native and now mother of a fearless two year old daughter. I enjoyed your LA Times piece & I’m thrilled to find this blog!

I wish more than anything that my daughter could have 1/2 the experiences that I did growing up in CA in the 70′s. Running barefoot (yes, we stubbed our toes and stepped on nails). Climbing trees, riding our bikes without helmets, piling into our parents heavy steel American made cars for 2 week long road trips without car seats (or even seat belts sometimes), hunting for tadpoles in gutters or park ponds, taking the city bus to the beach BY OURSELVES every day, all summer long. Having limited amounts of television b/c frankly mom wanted us OUTSIDE playing, as long as we were home by dinner time. We walked to the corner to take catch the school bus, mom only walked us down if there was someone that had been bullying the little kids lately. We learned to drive at 15, got our drivers licenses at 16. We also got part time jobs at 16, and baby sat the younger neighborhood kids when we were 12 or 13. No one was afraid we’d be molested (though I’m not saying it didn’t happen), no one was afraid to have the kids playing out front without constant supervision. We took piano lessons, or played AYSO soccer on the weekends, but it wasn’t part of some rigid hectic weekly schedule that our harried mothers adhered to. It was just something fun we did. We didn’t have homework until at least the 3rd or 4th grade. I remember class projects, and animals or other cool science stuff in the classrooms, our teachers seemed to have FUN teaching us. And when we were “bad”, our parents were called into the principals office to discipline us, and they DID.

But you know all this.

All I can do is try, to the best of my ability, to not buy into the Fear Factor that seems to run rampant in the popular parenting style of today. I often am out front bringing in groceries, or watering the lawn, etc. and my kiddo is playing around the yard while I do so. Sometimes, I’ll even run inside to grab something without picking her up to come with me (GASP!). I’m careful to make sure she knows that the street is dangerous (cars!), and that she knows what “No!” and “Stop!” and “Come here now!” mean.

Mostly, I want her to know how wonderful it is to play without structure or direction, to use her imagination, to not be afraid, to enjoy being a kid. She has a LIFETIME ahead of her to be stressed, working 45+ hours a week, sitting in hours of traffic, etc. so why on earth would I want to replicate that in her life right now?

Thanks again,

C ~

@Jasperblu

By Kate Tue Sep 9th 2008 at 12:32 am  

Jacquie,

I think you’re onto something. I don’t know if psychologists have studied this, but I think it is a great topic.

If indeed research shows a connection between the degree of dependence/protection and the incidence of antisocial behavior as a teen or adult, then this is a strong argument for “free range” parenting.

My own bit of annecdotal evidence…

When I was a kid, there was a boy my age who lived down the street. He had good, loving parents who, unfortunately, were very overprotective. He was not allowed to go outside the chain link fence around his yard. I can still remember him standing behind the fence watching the rest of us ride our bikes and play in the street in front of his house.

When we were six, we both got new baby brothers. His parents must have noticed the ill effects of their parenting style by then (a physically weak, uncoordinated, and socially unskilled child) so they radically changed their style with the younger son. The younger brother was allowed to terrorize the neighborhood with my brother and their buddies.

Throughout their childhoods the elder brother was always far less coordinated, more prone to accidents, remained socially inept, and just wasn’t a very happy kid.

Today, as adults, these differences remain. The elder son is still an unhappy person, while the younger son is a happy, well adjusted adult.

By Amy Wed Sep 10th 2008 at 10:15 pm  

Hi Lenore

I just read your article in Reader’s Digest and it really struck a nerve for me. I grew up on a farm and now my kids are growing up on a farm. I drove tractors, loaders, semis, lawn mowers, pick ups, etc long before (at least 6-8 years before) I earned my drivers license. I spent HOURS outside playing (all by myself) without my mother checking on me – in fact, that’s the way she preferred it. Now my kids are doing the same things – my 7 year old can mow my lawn with our riding lawn mower, my 10 year old can drive a pickup truck, my 12 year old drives tractors, loaders, pickups etc on a regular basis. I send my kids out (together) but still unsupervised by an adult when we are at the State Fair (as long as I know where they’re going). I let my kids explore the local Sam’s Club alone (again together) and tell them to come find me when they’re finished. And you know what? I’m sometimes scared doing these things, but usually not because I’m worried something will happen to my children. I’m more scared of what someone will think of me and my parenting skills. I’m more scared of someone passing judgment on me and saying I’m endangering my kids. My children are not allowed to go willy-nilly into these new experiences – they are taught the correct and safe way to do things before they are let loose. They know (I think) how to be smart and advocate for themselves. And this is how I want my children to experience life – to not be afraid, but rather to be smart and to know the risks. I applaud you for standing up and admitting (!) that you let your children do things and experience things for themselves – and not bowing to the peer pressure among parents to smother our children.

By Joe Kavanagh Wed Sep 10th 2008 at 10:49 pm  

I think it’s great that people are raising kids as they

see fit. But, I must comment on this ” peer pressure”

to smother our children? As a parent, I have never felt

pressure to raise my kids in anyway excpet the way

I want to. Ofcourse, perhaps, I just ignore people trying

to get me to raise my kids their way. I am not a “free

ranger” that’s for sure. I mean I do let my kids try new things and so forth but I do not tell people how to raise their kids. That’s up to each parent. In fact, the closest

thing I am aware of as far as “peer pressure” goes is;

well , this website. I guess I am wondering what is the

difference between “parental peer pressure” to free range or not to free range. Aren’t they both wrong?

Shouldn’t people raise their children how they see fit?

Do the folks on this site and Ms. Skenazy herself really

think they know more about how to raise a particular

child then that child’s parent? I am not trying to cause

trouble. I was just hoping Ms. Skenazy or some other

free range parent would explain how their is a difference there. Thanks alot. As always, best of luck

to everyone with their kids.

By Kate Thu Sep 11th 2008 at 9:30 am  

Joe,

I definitely agree that parents know their kids best and should decide how to raise them. I don’t think that people here are trying to forcefully change anyone’s parenting. If you’re happy with how it is going, then don’t change a thing.

But I disagree with your “peer pressure” argument. Since, as you say, you’re “not a free ranger,” your parenting style more closely matches the majority style today. When one is in the majority, it is very easy not to realize there is pressure on those who are not in the majority.

The pressure that exists to be “overly protective” can take many forms, some overt and intentional, and some subtle and unintentional. For example, neighbors may threaten to call children’s services. Parents of kids’ friends may forbid their child to play with yours. People may react in horror if you merely suggest walking to school. An article about letting your kid take the subway home alone may spark a firestorm. Also, people just naturally tend to do what they see others around them doing. (If everyone’s doing it, it must be right – I’ll just ignore that nagging feeling I’ve got.)

That nagging feeling. I think that’s what most of us on this site had been experiencing. And Lenore Skenazy finally gave a voice to it. So I think the objective with this site is to reach out to all those with the same nagging feelings so that we realize we’re not crazy and alone in our views. And we might become a little more courageous.

On the other hand, this site could potentially create a reverse peer pressure. I have seen a couple instances on this site where people say “inspired by reading these comments, I let my kid do —- .” I think people need to be careful not to go off the deep end. If it’s not something you’ve taught your kid how to do, it might not be wise to suddenly let them do it.

By Modern Teenager Thu Sep 11th 2008 at 10:40 am  

I believe the biggest reason so many kids are protected is because society has shifted its thought. Kids are considered retards in their ability to solve problems, and in general just think. People assume a two year old will walk off a cliff without thinking and so they constantly guard the edge etc.

It really gets annoying when adults treat me like an infant incapable of reasoning or deep thinking. So many people are amazed when they let their kids go and they see what they can do. Kids are people too, just minus the experience. Depending on how much freedom they got will be just how much experience they have.

By Joe Kavanagh Fri Sep 12th 2008 at 12:00 pm  

Kate,

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I can see where I might not be aware of the “parental peer pressure”

that others might be feeling. I just hope everyone here

is able to ignore such pressure and do what they think is right. I may not agree with those parents but I trust that they know what is best for their kids. Whether they are free range or not. Thanks and good luck.

By Older Mom Mon Sep 15th 2008 at 4:48 am  

My husband and I go back and forth and really struggle on what’s safe and what isn’t. It is easy to buy into the fear factor that can be triggered so easily on the internet: no doubt there were kidnappings and child molestation when I was a kid, but my parents didn’t hear about every episode; they only heard local incidents, which were pretty rare. Today it is easy to get the sense that a would-be molester is right around every corner.

On the other hand, there are some dangers that are greater now than when I was a kid (50s-60s). We rode our bikes helmet-free all over the place. But there were many many fewer cars (one per household) and fewer people than now (when the population is 50% greater and the cars are about one per every adult). So I do think that bike riding for my kids is much more dangerous. Heck, it is more dangerous when I ride my bike! And for driving . . . yes, it is more dangerous too because of the additional numbers of vehicles on the road.

I think it is good for this topic to be brought up and discussed. I think there is a middle ground where parents have to have the good judgment and critical thinking skills (and perhaps arithmetical skills) to distinguish real threats from perceived threats.

By MikeOnBike Mon Sep 15th 2008 at 11:33 pm  

I agree with Older Mom that many of the dangers today seem worse because we hear a lot more about them.

And that’s exactly what has happened to cycling in America. I disagree that cycling is any more dangerous today than it ever was.

I’ve made a point of teaching my kids good cycling skills.

By Rainlady Wed Sep 17th 2008 at 12:40 am  

I have two boys who play outside w/ their neighborhood friends. They ride their bikes (without parents!), build forts, catch frogs in the nearby duck pond, climb trees, play ball, and come in dirty, hungry, tired, and happy. Children learn through play in a way that videogames, televistion, and organized sports cannot match.

All a parent has to do is watch and listen through an open window to appreciate what “free range play” hones — imagination, leadership, working out differences of opinion, respect, hum