Such Sadness. Leiby Kletzky, R.I.P.

Hello, Readers. It is with an actually, physically aching heart that I report to you the death of an 8-year-old Brooklyn boy, Leiby Kletzky, who disappeared from a short, solo walk yesterday and was later found in a dumpster. Here is the story.

I bring it up because it seems to prove that the incident that kicked off Free-Range Kids — my letting my 9-year-old ride the New York City subway alone — was foolish, or worse. At the time I said that I felt this was a reasonable and safe thing to do, because I believed in my son, my city and my own parenting. Despite the sorrow I feel even in my joints, I still do.

There are horrible people in the world. There always were, always will be. There were horrible people in the world even when we parents were growing up, and our own parents let us play outside and walk to school and visit our friends on our bikes. Our parents weren’t naive. They knew that we live in a fallen world. They also knew that they had a choice: Keep us locked inside for fear of a tragic, rare worst-case-scenario, or teach us the basics — like never go off with a stranger — and then let us out. They let us out.

Today we are faced with a worst-case scenario that could end up re-defining childhood as did the Etan Patz case 30 years ago.  (A case that had no parallel in my city until today. ) That a stranger abduction like Leiby’s is rarer than death-by-lightning just doesn’t seem to matter at a time like this. But it does.

People will blame the parents for letting their son walk even a few blocks on his own. I’ve already read some of those comments. They are like knives. Is it better to have a city — a country, a world — where no child is ever outside again without an adult? Where parents who let their kids to walk to the bus stop are treated like pariahs? Where the parks are empty, the playgrounds are empty, bikes sit in the garage and children hunker inside with their terrified moms and dads?

It is really hard to even suggest that life continue on as normal, but that is what I truly believe is the only response to this crime. Not that we take it in stride — I think it will always hurt. But that we take it in context. Saying that my city’s crime rate is down to the lowest it has been since 1961 seems ridiculous at a time like this. But it is down, and to act as if every block is full of darkness means — to borrow a phrase from terrorism — the darkness has won.

I’m shaken. I’m sad. I’m so sorry for what has happened. And I will send my sons out again. — Lenore

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415 Responses to Such Sadness. Leiby Kletzky, R.I.P.

  1. Dolly July 13, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    How tragic. Playgrounds won’t ever be empty as long as I am around. I take mine to playgrounds all the time. I am willing to stay there with them and play with them till they are old enough to be there on their own.

    You are right that a single isolated incident is no reason for everyone to start freaking out. The statistics speak for themselves. I still understand that none of that matters when it was your child that ended up being the one who got hurt. Those poor parents!

    Makes me glad I have twins and I can make them stick together when they go out alone so they are less of a target with strength in numbers.

  2. LRH July 13, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    Exactly, Lenore. Of course you hurt and hate it whem something like this happens. Yet, as you state, it doesn’t change what is okay in terms of letting kids outside the prison walls of “safety.”

    I pray for the families of this child in terms of their grief & that it not cause them to start thinking it was their fault somehow. They’re hurting bad enough as it is WITHOUT that angle.

    Android 2.2, Virgin Mobile

  3. Dolly July 13, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    I read the article and it is very weird that the boy was way off course seen on security cameras. I wonder what happened? Did he get lost? Did he fall for some kind of trick to get him into a car or to follow someone? I guess we might never know.

    Personally I am about letting my kids get independence like walking to school but I will also make them super cautious about don’t trust random strangers about getting in cars or going into their houses going off in the woods with them, etc. I never understand how predators get kids to fall for their tricks. I know their parents taught them about not falling for it but they still do.

  4. Meg July 13, 2011 at 9:26 pm #

    Thank you so much for the post and your insights.

    I am so heartsick for the parents and the community; it’s so tragic and heartbreaking. Terrible, horrific events like this happened when I was growing up and even when my parents were growing up and will continue to happen in future generations – we can’t eradicate horrible people who do horrible things. It is so,so hard to see outside the fear and outrage to understand that this is an isolated incident. But I have to see around it and can’t succumb to the fear and sadness. I will send my son out alone with the basic knowledge of how to handle himself – it may not prevent against a horrible event like this, but it’s the best that I can do as a parent and a community member. And it’s a frightening thought that this is the best that I can do, but it is all I can do.

  5. pentamom July 13, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

    I guess the thing is just to accept that these things DO happen, and as you say, trying to prevent it by locking up our kids and shadowing them constantly just isn’t worth it.

    If, God forbid, something like this ever happened to one of my kids, it will NOT be “because” I chose to give them a decent normal, childhood, it will be because some evil person did a terrible thing in a broken world. I will take responsibility for watching over my kids to a responsible degree in appropriate ways, and for training them to cope in the world; I will NOT take responsibility for everything anyone “might” want to do to harm them, and I can’t even take responsibility for their carrying out everything I’ve “trained” them to do, provided I’ve actually trained them properly. That’s in God’s hands and on the conscience of the criminal.

  6. SKL July 13, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    You are right, Lenore. What a horrible tragedy, and yet, the first solution that came to my mind was: more parents should be sending their kids out, so there would be more safety in numbers. The fact that the little boy was completely alone on a NY street before 5pm gives me an eerie feeling. Because when I was growing up, practically no child was indoors at that time. In fact, if I wanted to be alone, I would have had to go indoors. And I don’t need to tell you that despite all the “low hanging fruit” for prospective child molesters, kidnapping and murder of children was still quite rare.

    We seem to be relatively good about contributing to causes that can be furthered with money (taxes, charity). But the cause of community? We have a way to go on that. Too many parents are saying “I’m not going to take the slightest chance with MY kid.” And incidents like this, in their minds, prove them right.

    Dolly, I agree with you about having twins / kids close in age. I do sent my kids alone up to a point, but I feel a lot safer sending them off together.

  7. coffeegod July 13, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

    Horrifying and terrible. I grieve for that family as I let my 9 year old walk his dog around our very long block and run to the store for me.

    My only insight to this is the fable of the family who would not go into the cellar for fear of an ax falling on their heads. Life is a crap shoot at best. Good grief, how horrid.

  8. coffeegod July 13, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    @ pentamom – Well said, ma’am. very well said.

  9. MikeS July 13, 2011 at 9:36 pm #

    Something people are ignoring in this: the little boy’s body was found partly because so many in the community rallied around and helped the parents. The good people in this story outnumbered the bad people a thousand to one.

    The proper response to this is defiance: to not let one sick evil individual force all of us to live in fear and terror. Every day of every year, 60 million children go out into the wide world. Of those, maybe a hundred have something like this happen to them. Is preventing this kind of thing worth raising a generation of terrified, helpless, out of shape kids? Better to teach them how to be aware of their surroundings, how to recognize danger and how to ask people for help. The only way to absolutely prevent this is to chain your kid in the basement.

  10. Verena B July 13, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    I really like LRH’s comment that we’re causing the parents MORE pain by seeing this incident as something that could have been prevented.

    We THINK we’re trying to protect children in the future, but at the terrible price of children not learning risk assessment and of parents every where who must carry the burden of fear to parent as their instincts tell them to.

  11. In the Trenches July 13, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    My community recently suffered the loss of a teenaged boy from drowning. He went swimming at a lake with friends’ parents, and when everybody came to the surface after jumping into the lake, he wasn’t there. Of course everyone is traumatised. But I am really disappointed at how many people’s immediate reaction is to somehow blame the parents. As if they don’t already have enough pain! When there’s the assumption of the possibility of a perfectly ‘safe’ world, then if anything happens, it must be someone’s fault, right? If just being ‘vigilant’, or batshit-crazy-nervous-wreck-overprotective-paranoid, is supposed to be enough to eliminate all possible risk, then if ANYTHING at all unforeseen happens, it just means SOMEONE wasn’t being crazy-‘vigilant’ enough. I wish we could stop generalising individual tragedies. I wish we could stop intellectualising things that the mind simply isn’t -can’t be- in charge of. I wish we were more comfortable with the whole process of life and death and joy and pain and grief. It’s like we don’t even understand what it means to be alive anymore. I wish we educated our kids to FEEL what it is to be alive, part of the world, connected to others…maybe then when something sad happens to one of us, we’d get support and compassion instead of blame.

  12. paul July 13, 2011 at 9:47 pm #

    You are doing a great thing here and have changed the way many of us think about childhood and life in general: one murderous creep cannot change the value of the work you’ve done. You can’t take the blame for this any more than a parent can protect their child from all hurts. It’s a world of risk and as tragic as this is, it’s not as any of us who encourage free range engagement with the world would argue against an 8 year old taking a walk by himself.

    The blame lies with whoever did this and no one else. I haven’t read the story (too early in the day for that kind of detail) but if as alluded above he was alone on the street before 5PM in Brooklyn, that tells us something about our world. If we turn over the streets to bad people, we can only expect bad things. We need to take them back and make them stay in their houses.

  13. dmd July 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    So sad.

    I saw a news article recently about a missing child cold case from the 50s that was recently solved. Girl went missing from the front of her house. The finally found out that it was a neighbor, who was also a former cop.

    This kind of thing is as old as time. We want to *believe* we are always safe or that we can make our selves always safe. But just as eating all the organic, healthy food in the world doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get cancer, there’s no way to completely insulate yourself from harm. Stuff happens.

    This week, I sent my son, just a year old than this boy, to get a snowball from the stand about 3 blocks away. Have actually been trying to get him to do this for a while and he finally did it. It was a big moment for all of us. He was proud. We were proud. Yes, “anything” could have happened. But the vast majority of the time it doesn’t. And he’s taken another step on the way to learning some confidence and independence so that one day he can stand on his own.

  14. mme6546 July 13, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

    In the Trenches-
    well said.

  15. Jackie July 13, 2011 at 10:25 pm #

    I deal with teenagers (high school teacher) and not young kids, but quite a few of these teenagers are restricted from biking or walking to school because their parents are afraid of things happening like the incident here. Our school is in a residential, low crime neighborhood just north of Detroit. Abductions DO NOT happen here-not that they couldn’t, but it would be like getting hit by lightning 3 times. We do not have HS busing, so parents drive them. Less than 2 miles. Ridiculous.

  16. Mike July 13, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

    People die in car accidents. Therefore, we must ban cars.
    People die in homes. Therefore, we must ban homes.
    People die outside. Therefore, we must ban people being outside.
    People die inside. Therefore, we must ban people being inside.

    People die. Therefore, we must ban people dying.

    Are you getting the theatre of the absurd yet? Sometimes, bad stuff happens. Like Lenore said, we live in a fallen world. Choose to live a bounded, terrified, cowering life of fear, or choose to live.

    Me, and my family, we’re choosing life. Sometimes, extremely rare bad stuff happens. So what? Life goes on.

  17. socalledauthor July 13, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    And of course, when a child is horrible killed in an avoidable car accident, no one ever says that children should never be allowed in cars. It’s the illusion of control… since we can’t control big, real dangers, like car accidents, some parents wrap themselves in the illusion that “it will never happen to me.” This is compounded by the media, who LOVE to run special stories on “how to avoid this [pseudo] danger!!!

    This boy’s death IS a tragedy, but his freedom was not a mistake.

  18. Rachel July 13, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    I’ve been crying about this all morning. I have been trying to get my husband to go along with my Free Range thoughts (I have a daughter the same age as Leiby, and two younger ones), and he’s adamantly refused. I have to say, when I see this story, I want to keep my kids home too. Leiby’s parents did everything right. They let him go on a short solo walk. They rehearsed it with him. But he was young, maybe got a little nervous, maybe got lost from nervousness, and made a bad decision to follow a trusty-looking stranger (the video evidence did not reveal that the stranger approached him). Really horrible bad luck.

  19. Queen of the Click July 13, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

    I’m horrified that a child was taken right from us like that in daylight. He was obviously seeking help and had the awful luck of running into a very sick person.

    I can’t stop crying thinking about all he had to live for and his family.

  20. Molly July 13, 2011 at 10:43 pm #

    The person responsible for this is the vile murderer of this little boy. HE heinously chose to destroy a tender life, and the sense of safety an entire community. Letting a boy walk home from school had nothing to do with that evil act, and we only wish it did, because then it would make us feel we had some control over the horribleness lurking in the world. But we don’t. All we have is our common sense, the capacity to teach it to our children, and the courage to focus on holding the right people accountable for their actions when we have to.

  21. J Steinberg July 13, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    This dear child is from a very close knit community as evidenced by all the people who came out to look for him. Sadly, I’m willing to bet this comes down no to a stranger abduction but the work of someone the boy knew or at the very least recognized from his community.

  22. hope July 13, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    I think it is important to remember that victim blaming is a defensive reaction to insulate us from pain and fear. We want to believe that bad things only happen to people when they do something wrong– when they are bad or stupid. WE aren’t bad or stupid, and so we reassure ourselves that we are safe. It’s callous and it happens again and again. I wish we’d evolve, but I guess that takes a long time.

    But I also have to say to MikeS that the little boy wasn’t found because of the good people searching for him. He was found because of security cameras. One of those other signs of the fearful society we are becoming. There were no cameras for Etan Patz, but there were for Leibby Kletzky, and without them his parents may never have known what happened to him.

    I let my kids range free partly because of new safety measures like cell phones and security cameras.

  23. apr426 July 13, 2011 at 11:25 pm #

    Haven’t read all the comments so maybe someone has mentioned this. The boy and that man lived in a large, but relatively tight-knit community. The man was known to be a little “off-kilter” but was likely recognized by the boy.

    The reason the crime was solved so quickly is because he was known in the community.

    My point is I’m not sure this qualifies as “stranger abduction.” So perhaps, as tragic and scary as this story is, it *supports* the idea of the rarity of stranger abduction.

    I cannot imagine what his parents and family are going through.

    May G-d comfort them among the mourners of zion.

  24. Lollipoplover July 13, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

    We also had an abduction/murder in our community of an 11yo girl, Skylar Kauffman a few months ago. A man in her apartment complex was responsible for the heinous crime. I was furious every time someone mentioned why the girl’s mother wasn’t watching her while she was playing, as we are so obsessed with finding blame for every crime.
    The crime against this poor boy in New York is atrocious. It makes you hug your kids a little tighter, but appreciate the childhood you are giving them. Life for some may be short, but hopefully sweet. I hope the memory of this beautiful boy will outshine his horrible death.
    Also, why was it necessary to note the religion (Jewish) of the alleged perpetrator?

  25. SKL July 13, 2011 at 11:50 pm #

    Lollipoplover, I don’t know if this was the reason to mention the perp is Jewish, but one of my first questions was, could this have been in any way a hate crime? So maybe noting the man’s religion clears up that question.

  26. Kevin Bracken July 14, 2011 at 12:21 am #

    Well said, Lenore. We must always remember that extremely rare behavior can not be prevented.

    Recall that after Columbine, while many schools around the nation were implementing metal detectors and remaking themselves into fortresses, Columbine High School actually did quite the opposite and made it a more welcoming, inclusive place.

  27. oncefallendotcom July 14, 2011 at 12:27 am #

    I can already see the backlash coming.

    To paraphrase a certain loudmouth HLN talking head< "When will Leiby's Law be passed and what will it do?"

    Don't expect a lot of reason and common sense in the days/wekks/months to come.

  28. Mrs. H. July 14, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    I’m in Brooklyn too, and I really hope this doesn’t change the friendly, casual way people interact here or the interest everyone takes in the community’s children.

    Today I let my three-year-old run half a block ahead of me while returning from our errands, and every step of the way there were grown-ups watching her, standing between her and the next corner so she wouldn’t go into the street, or spotting her and then obviously looking around to ensure someone was with her. A couple admonished me to keep her under closer control, but even that didn’t bother me. It really made me feel great to know I’m not the only person out there keeping an eye on her, and then I came in and read the terrible news about Leiby.

    If anyone hasn’t read Protecting The Gift by Gavin de Becker, I’m halfway through it now, and I really recommend it (along with Free Range Kids, of course). It’s all about assessing risks rationally and freeing yourself from fear of the unlikely so that you can listen to your intuition. Outstanding, practical information that has already made me feel better equipped to bring my daughter up to feel safe and self-reliant in the world.

  29. Jen July 14, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    Wow. I can’t imagine being the mom of that young boy. My sympathies to them.

  30. Jen July 14, 2011 at 12:33 am #

    (Correction to first post)
    Wow. I can’t imagine being the mom of that young boy. My sympathies to the family.

  31. anonymous July 14, 2011 at 12:36 am #

    A metropolis of 10 million and this happens twice in a generation or two? Why aren’t people paying more attention to drivers who drive while drunk, while texting, and run lights and ignore crosswalks? Those not only kill a lot more people than stranger abduction, they involve an overall lack of adult responsibility.

  32. Melissa July 14, 2011 at 12:37 am #

    Lollipoplover, the boy and the kidnapper were both members of a close knit Hassidic community in Brooklyn. I think that’s why his religion is mentioned.
    G-d give the family of this dear boy peace and strength beyond measure.

  33. Childless Stepmother July 14, 2011 at 12:38 am #

    I pray the Mother does not blame herself for letting him walk alone. I am thinking since it is a tight knit community, he knew his attacker!

  34. anonymous July 14, 2011 at 12:38 am #

    “Also, why was it necessary to note the religion (Jewish) of the alleged perpetrator?”

    Because, in Brooklyn, this may be a case where a tightly knit and tight-lipped religious community sheltered a known-to-be-dangerous person for too long.

  35. Kim July 14, 2011 at 12:39 am #

    Just think about the thousands of people who get in their cars and speed every day, or those who drive while impaired. Or those who text or distract themselves in other ways while driving. Yet we pile our kids in vehicles and take them out on the streets all the time without a second thought. We all know someone who has been killed in a car accident. Yet, for some reason we think that risk is somehow preventable …. a risk we are willing to take. How many people know someone who has been abducted and killed? Why should we be more afraid of that? I like to put these things in perspective. ANY death, especially that of a child, is a tragedy. This story is horrifying, yet is it any more horrifying than that of a child killed by a speeding motorist? There are a lot fewer “evil” people in the world than there are “normal” people who do stupid things….I have two points to this. First, we must use reason when calculating risks and our reactions to them. Second, think a few minutes before you decide to drive down the highway like you are in Nascar. A speed limit is not a minimum!

  36. anonymous July 14, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    One of my friend’s son’s classmates drowned recently. She was playing on a Pacific ocean beach where rip current and undertow warnings are prominently posted. She and several other kids were playing on an inflatable toy, she couldn’t swim, and wasn’t wearing a life jacket. The tide turned, a wave knocked the kids off the toy, and she got sucked down.

    I refrained from commenting what was obvious – in an area known for treacherous tides and surf, you don’t let kids use an inflatable in place of a life jacket. It seemed grossly unfair and unkind to do so when it was too late to save the kid.

    I did, however, note the wisdom of how every child in another friend’s pictures of a swimming outing was wearing a life vest so they could play and goof around as much as they wanted. Positive reinforcement of appropriate risk management is much more effective – even the friend whose son lost a classmate replied positively to what I said.

  37. Lara Wechsler July 14, 2011 at 12:51 am #

    This happened in an orthodox neighborhood, in general those neighborhoods do let their kids walk around by themselves or mostly with their brothers and sisters. I have seen it a lot when going through their neighborhoods. Sometimes there will be a kid like around 13 watching all their younger siblings that are as young as a baby in a stroller to toddlers and up (watching and taking care of 5 or so kids on their own). The families in those neighborhoods usually have as many kids as is physically possible having 1 a year to where they have around 12 or 13 kids. I also think it is important to note the religion of the perp, because usually the people in these neighborhoods do think their neighborhood is insulated towards things like this because they live in an all orthodox neighborhood and that one of their own would always watch out for each other. These neighborhoods have an Eruv around them (a way to extend one’s home beyond just your own families walls to be able to follow laws in the Torah about keeping the Sabbath). So it is interesting to note, not only that the man was Jewish in Borough park, but if he was orthodox too is interesting to know. Of course no matter what religion or creed there is always people that are just off mentally no matter how “religious” they may seem.

    I do agree though that terrible things like this should not deter giving your kids freedom. Things are way more publicized now then before, I actually got a text from Notify NYC about being on the look out for a missing child by the name of Leibby Kletzky yesterday.

  38. free-choice parenting advocate July 14, 2011 at 1:04 am #

    You are free to rear your children the way you want, I get where you are coming from and would not call you a child abuser. Conversely, I will not let my young children walk home from school, which doesn’t make me a prison guard or helicopter parent. My kids don’t watch videos and are not obese. So I do think you have to be more free-choice parenting rather than pushing your (attention-grabbing) child-rearing agenda, which comes across as fanatical, though precious.

  39. Kim July 14, 2011 at 1:07 am #

    This little boy’s death is so tragic and sad, but Lenore is so right- these panics don’t make any kids any safer anywhere. All they do is criminalize the parents of the children who will unfailingly become victims of tragic circumstances- both preventable and un- every year.

  40. anna July 14, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    With such a tight knit community it may just be that this poor boy knew his killer. If that is the case I am hoping that the papers will report this fact. This obviously will not help the pain of his grieving parents but may allieve the fear of the masses that this was not a random abduction. My 13 year old daughter travels all over the city by herself and I must say that although I have more fears about her getting hit by a car or bus than anything else, I still feel a need to let her go. I can’t imagine the guilt I would feel if she were abducted and/or killed but I don’t want her to grow up sheltered and fearful.

  41. EricS July 14, 2011 at 1:15 am #

    Far too many perpetuating the problem of “worse case thinking” and “blame”, without ever using common sense and logic. This incident is no more tragic than a child sleeping and never waking up, or a child that innocently and mildly bumps their head only die a couple of days later from internal bleeding. Its sad, and something no parent ever wants to go through. But it is reality that tragic things happen everyday, all over the world. Whether they are intentional, accidental, or even freakish in nature. It is no reason for people to become extremely fearful. Although it is a natural human trait, it is not unfixable or uncontrollable. When first time learning to ride a bike, we’ve all fallen, some have fallen and injured themselves. We suddenly get the fear of getting back on because we MIGHT get hurt again. But what do most of us do, we get back on, overcome the fear and eventually learn to master riding the bicycle.

    Life is no different. Just 20 years ago, most people were far less fearful than they are now. So much less that, stories like this rarely deterred them from letting their own children walk to school by themselves. If anything they taught them even more how to protect themselves. But never once giving into paranoia. 30 years ago, it was even less. 40 years ago even less than that. Yet crime was much higher as we go back in time. It’s not the world that’s changing, it’s us, and how we see things these days. We all need to start re-educating ourselves. The more a community is stronger mentally and emotionally, the more they will be susceptible to the influence of fear that today’s media instills in everyone. Tragedies like this should only make us stronger, and smarter, not less. It’s ironic that when things like this happen, it’s always the family that holds up stronger than the people looking in.

    MikeS: “The proper response to this is defiance: to not let one sick evil individual force all of us to live in fear and terror.” Well said.

  42. brad July 14, 2011 at 1:19 am #

    Why take the chance? The child is 8 YEARS OLD!

    “Where the parks are empty, the playgrounds are empty, bikes sit in the garage and children hunker inside with their terrified moms and dads?”

    This is overt over-dramatizing. Actually our family does spend a lot of time at the parks and playgrounds – TOGETHER as a family should do! I think the “free-range” concept is over the top. Somehow I think this website is actually against the concept of family. Like I should send my 7 and 5 year old out with their buddies and wave goodbye and say “have fun at the playground!” Be safe! Come back at dinner!” NO thanks – I’d rather spend my weekends as a family unit – not break it up like most of these “free rangers” are implying in these blogs

  43. EricS July 14, 2011 at 1:23 am #

    @ free-choice parenting advocate: “fanatical”? And what do you call your helicoptering parenting mentality? Regardless of how you look at it, you raise your child based on YOUR fears. That is the base of helicopter parenting. Whenever you give into fear and paranoia, you are that “prison guard”. And if you really feel strongly about “You are free to rear your children the way you want…”, then why even criticize those who believe in the free-range mentality? You shelter your child the way you feel you should. And we will empower ours the way they should be. Funny how people like you, like to think you have it all figured out, and fool yourselves like you do. But your words are complete contradictory. lol No we aren’t fanatical, we are logical, use common sense, and see the reality of things. We don’t hide behind anything, and neither do our children.

  44. Rebecca July 14, 2011 at 1:34 am #

    It’s horrible. But also very strange.

    The latest news stories say the murderer acted out of panic when he realized that the community was in such an uproar. Surveillance cameras show the boy waiting for the abductor outside a dentist’s office … The reference above to “Protecting the Gift” seems to me very on point. This boy got lost and confused and trusted the wrong person. If I were to speculate (which isn’t healthy), it seems like the kid’s radar was off in terms of who to trust and what to do when lost. De Becker talks about teaching kids to ask a woman for help if lost. Going into a store would also be appropriate. Instead this kid tragically trusted someone who looked like part of his community (he wasn’t known to the kid or family according to reports) and got into a car. Kids have to know NEVER to get into a car.

    I firmly believe in a free range approach and hope this doesn’t make things to crazy for us parents with even more double thinking and nosiness about our choices — but free range comes with the responsibility to teach kids how to handle themselves.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the perpetrator turns out to be somehow mentally limited — there doesn’t seem to have been a sexual assault. He picked the kid up, drove him around, then panicked when he realized there was trouble … it doesn’t make any sense.

  45. Ann July 14, 2011 at 1:34 am #

    My heart goes out to this family, and my prayers that they can somehow come to terms with this tragedy. I can imagine no greater pain than losing a child.

    Last night in our very small town, while me and every other parent of a 9 or 10 year old boy was watching a little league game, a mother was called home by her husband because a car pulled up out front and asked their daughter to come over. She immediately ran back to the house and told her Dad. Because of where they lived, and where we were in proximity, the car was stopped, the police were called, and charges were filed. I don’t know what the intent of the person in the car was but I do know that we will trust our children to ride to the ball diamonds, or the park, or the corner store, on bikes again, because if we don’t… that person would win by frightening us all into submission. Believe me, we all had talks about what to do in a situation like that last night, but we have to trust in our children, and the good of society in general to keep our children safe.

    These situations are horribly tragic, but they ARE random, and if I was on the street in either scenario… I would protect someone else’s child as if they were my own flesh and blood and the attacker would have to get through me first. I have to believe I am not alone…

  46. Tuppence July 14, 2011 at 1:36 am #

    I have to think of something that I heard Lenore allude to in a radio interview, about how ironic it is that parents who fear child abduction so much that they won’t let their children go outside of the house alone, are, in essence, forcing these children to live EXACTLY as they might be were they kidnapped: Unable to move freely. Under lock and key. Not allowed to go about without their “keeper”.

    It’s a disgrace to allow evil and villainy dictate how we live our lives. To circumvent how we go about our business. To stop us from allowing our children to realize their potential. To make parenthood more about “protection” and less about “teaching”. And turn what should be the wonder years into the worry years. It is nothing less than our duty to push back against it as much as we possibly can. I imagine this is how previous generations perceived things, and why they “kept calm and carried on”. Are we any less capable than those who went before us? We are not. Thank you Lenore for playing your part in reminding us of that.

  47. LRH July 14, 2011 at 1:36 am #

    brad Frankly, sir, you’re an idiot. Lenore is NOT advocating “breaking up families,” and anyone with a brain bigger than a pebble would know this. It’s about not hovering over your kids and letting them have a childhood by letting them hang-out with kids their own age without being joined at their hips, or them at yours.

    You have your idea of a family, other people have yours. Live yours, and grow something bigger than a pebble.


  48. SKL July 14, 2011 at 1:39 am #

    So we don’t even know if this family was free-range or not. Can we not use this particular column to bash either parenting style?

    I would note that growing up in a big city, life is going to get more risky, not less, after age 8. Parents have to let go at some point. There is no point at which this is going to be 100% safe.

  49. socialjerk July 14, 2011 at 1:41 am #

    I grew up in Brooklyn in the 90s, and walked home on my own from CCD starting when I was about Leiby’s age. I also walked home from school starting at age six, with my eight year old brother. When I was 11 he was in high school, and I walked home on my own. The only times I ever felt unsafe were after I watched a “stranger danger” special on Oprah, which convinced me I had about a 50/50 shot of making it home alive each day.

    I heard a woman lamenting today that she grew up running the streets of NYC as a child in the 70s, but kids can’t do that anymore, because “it’s not the 70s anymore.” Thank goodness for that! Anyone wishing for the safety of New York City in the 1970s is engaging in some pretty serious revisionist history.

    What happened to Leiby is horrifying and heartbreaking, but it is not indicative of a sickness in our modern society, as I’ve heard people saying. It was a freak occurance. There have been sick individuals who want to do other harm throughout civilzation. It’s not an indictment of a culture or time period.

    We should be focusing on mourning for this poor child, who must have been terrified and suffering, and on feeling sympathy for his parents. I’m sure no one could make them feel any more anguish than they already do, but some certainly do seem intent on trying.

  50. Alisa July 14, 2011 at 1:43 am #

    No it is not right that the world is as it is. But sadly, it is not changed, yet. It is not a world in which we have clean air, clean water, clean politicians, clean fun and clean streets. We can choose to live in a world as if all these dangers and wrongs do not exist, but they do. We work for change and then live it. If we live it before it IS, there will be sad horrible cases like this. We live in a world where our food and environment is so polluted that we have cancer at alarming rates. Do we live like this Eden? No, we create Eden, and then we don’t have to buy organic because everything just IS organic. Until then, the price is TOO HIGH.

  51. Alisa July 14, 2011 at 1:44 am #

    No it is not right that the world is as it is. But sadly, it is not changed, yet. It is not a world in which we have clean air, clean water, clean politicians, clean fun and clean streets. We can choose to live in a world as if all these dangers and wrongs do not exist, but they do. We work for change and then live it. If we live it before it IS, there will be sad horrible cases like this. We live in a world where our food and environment is so polluted that we have cancer at alarming rates. Do we live like this is Eden now? No, we create Eden, and then we don’t have to buy organic because everything just IS organic. Until then, the price is TOO HIGH.

  52. Me July 14, 2011 at 1:45 am #

    Someone above mentioned the parent blame, and the following is interesting to me: we blame parents when something happens to their kids when they kids were just leading a normal life, walking home from camp, swimming, jumping on the bed. But we DON’T blame the parents when a child is injured from something the parents SHOULD have prevented (i.e., properly constructing a crib, installing…using a car seat, not following basic and common sense instructions like buckling the straps for the high chair or stroller) instead we blame the manufacturer of the product and recall the product.

    My heart aches for the parents and the whole community. I linked to this story on my FB and I am waiting the firestorm from people who are already posting how they won’t let their kids out of their sight ever again.

  53. Uly July 14, 2011 at 1:46 am #

    Brad, were you with your parents every second of your childhood? Absurd! Everybody, no matter how loving, needs some time apart from their families or with their friends.

    For that matter, do you play with your children all the time? What do you do when you’re cooking, peeing, sick, cleaning the house, working in the garden, fixing the car, going over your bills…? Sure, kids can (and should) help out around the house, but not ALL the time.

    The child was eight years old, exactly! He’s already halfway through his childhood. How long are you going to make your children act younger than they are? Why, because a tiny, tiny proportion of the population is dangerous? That’s like staying inside because of fear of lightning. It happens, but it’s hardly common.

    Sometimes it happens that grown-ups go out and get harmed by strangers. Should they all be escorted everywhere as well?


    I don’t know why they listed that the killer was Jewish as well, but it’s probable that SKL is correct – the fact that he’s not just Jewish but part of the same religious community shows that it’s not a hate crime.

  54. dahozho July 14, 2011 at 1:48 am #

    Dayan HaEmet.

    This shows us, that even in such “close-knit” neighborhoods, we need to make sure our kids know that just because someone might be IN our community, we don’t ever GO somewhere with that person if we don’t know them.

    As I was reading the story this morning, I was thinking Lieby z”l must have been comfortable with the murderer, enough to follow him even though he may have been a stranger. Sure enough… The worst is that the child had JUST convinced his parents to let him walk home from the day camp, they were waiting for him halfway.

    He was off the route he should have been on. Tragically, only the murderer and G-d know how Leiby z”l was convinced to not get straight to his parents.

    I’m still not going to helicopter, but I will make sure my son understands that unless I tell him ahead of time that someone else will pick him up or meet him, he declines offers of rides. May his parents be comforted along with all who mourn in Zion…

  55. Wendy Kelly July 14, 2011 at 1:52 am #

    Wow. I just sent my 4 kids down the street to play at a friend’s house, and waved goodbye as I was finishing reading these comments. I would say I live in a Free-Range friendly town, and I very much support your attitude toward parenting.

    I understand the comments of the more sheltering parents, that we should be able to choose our own comfort level, but I so appreciate that you are out there as an advocate for allowing our kids to leave the nest slowly, bit-by-bit, as their readiness allows.

    I agree that we must use reason when forming a response to this event. Obviously we grieve, but that should not frame our response. It was an isolated incident, and, as apr426 pointed out, this may not have been a “stranger abduction” I hope we can stay clear about the dangers of acquaintances, too…that the vast majority of the time, the perpetrator is known to the child.

    I hope this comment is not too jumbled. I am really overwrought by reading about this event.

  56. Mary July 14, 2011 at 1:52 am #

    I am noticing a trend with regards to comments on this site… If you do not agree you are deemed an idiot or moron by a few of the prolific posters… Very sad for a community of “open minded” individuals.. Is it that maybe you are unsure you are making the right decision for your child so to make yourself feel better you lash out? I thought brad’s comment was dead on and heartily agree with him, so that makes me an idiot? Wow, applauds to you ms. Skenazy for the little cult you have here, following your every word and bashing those that oppose you! You must be proud!

  57. Jenne July 14, 2011 at 1:55 am #

    I’m terribly sorry for Leiby and his family. However, it’s important to realize that these sort of things have been happening– once in while– for as long as people have been living in groups. There are documented cases in the Middle ages, in Greek and Roman history, and certainly in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. In a lot of ways, our kids are safer now than they ever were. It’s a terrible thing that happened to this child. But he could have been hit by a runaway delivery truck while walking with his mother, and been killed too. And his parents would still have blamed themselves.

  58. Dolly July 14, 2011 at 1:56 am #

    In reaction to what anonymous said sometimes deaths could have been easily avoided when tragedy strikes a child. Letting a child who can’t swim in dangerous waters without a life vest is just f-ing stupid. No way to argue it isn’t. When things like that happen, I still feel sorry for the parents and I definitely mourn the child, but I also judge. Criticize all you want but I guarantee many think the exact same thing. What were they thinking? Like if a child was not wearing a seat belt and then died in a minor car crash when a seatbelt would have saved them? What were the parents thinking? Sometimes tragedies are avoidable.

    I don’t think this one was avoidable. It was one of those fairy tales where a horrible monster came out and attacked a sweet little boy.

    The only thing that might have been done differently is that since it may have been someone the kid knew, we are parents do need to teach our kids to be cautious of others. Just because they know them and its a person their parents talk to or wave at does not mean you should trust that person indefinitely. I know that might be an anti free range attitude. However, I have been screwed over by enough “Nice” people I knew to know to be wary of others. My kids are taught to never go anywhere with anyone, but me, my husband, or my mother. Everyone else is suspect. They can talk to them and approach them but never follow them anywhere or go inside with them or go somewhere secluded or alone with them. My kids still go and play and be free, but I do warn them that sometimes someone who seems nice is a monster inside and that is a good lesson we all need to learn.

  59. brad July 14, 2011 at 1:56 am #

    LRH – I beg to differ: Blogs posted on this website:

    Nice Idea: Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt – without parents of course!

    They Left Their Kids at the Park and Then…

    SATURDAY! Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day!
    Posted on May 20, 2011 by lskenazy

    “You’re a Horrible Mother” — PART II

    Actuall you are a horrible mother for leaving your kid in the library while you wandered off. Most library policies state explicitly that you should not leave your child unattended. NOT because a stranger may whisk you off, but what if they need you for something? Oh wait, the librarians job description included babysitting your child while you look for a book.

    You ever answered my question on why you should take the chance with an 8 year old walking alone? You may win the “lottery” and as in the case – you don’t get a 2nd chance.

  60. Uly July 14, 2011 at 1:58 am #

    Let’s see, Mary. Brad came here and said we’re against families and we don’t want kids to be with their parents (ever, apparently) and that eight years old is equivalent to five years old. (And also, the implication is that we’re all terrible child abusers.) He also managed to imply that the world is very dangerous, something not backed up by the statistics, aka the facts.

    But we’re supposed to fawn over, or at least be more than marginally polite to, somebody who starts off insulting us?

  61. crowjoy July 14, 2011 at 2:00 am #

    I can’t even form words about this, it’s too awful and too easy to put myself in the parents’ shoes. It’s going to be that much hard to let go of my kids every time I have to, because I know I have to.

    All I can say is, Ann – you are not alone.

  62. crowjoy July 14, 2011 at 2:01 am #

    That much harder, that is… emotional typo.

  63. Dolly July 14, 2011 at 2:05 am #

    Ann: So glad your daughter did the right thing by not approaching the car and telling her father. I don’t know if calling the cops was appropriate but I don’t fault you for it. You now know you CAN trust your kids to be smart and not get tricked into being abducted.

    Another thing I heard from a cop. If someone in a car or wherever pulls a gun on you and does the whole “If you come with me I won’t hurt you but if you run or scream I will shoot you/stab you/ etc.” You are better off calling their bluff and running away screaming or fighting back because most times they want you to come quietly so there won’t be neighbors witnessing it when they hear the screams or see you running. Also even if they try to shoot you as you are running away the chances of them hitting you fatally are small in most scenarios. And in most cases, they will just go off for another victim who cooperates and just leave you all together alone.

    I am teaching my kids this bit of info.

  64. Uly July 14, 2011 at 2:10 am #

    Most library policies state explicitly that you should not leave your child unattended. NOT because a stranger may whisk you off, but what if they need you for something?

    What is an 8 year old going to need you for in the library? Because they wet their pants? Heck, what is a five year old going to need you for, when you’re still in the library, that can’t wait two minutes?

    MOST libraries have this rule? Have you checked them all out to see? The NYPL library doesn’t – I checked, actually. Neither does the Brooklyn Public Library, but don’t ask me about Queens. (Yes, NYC, the city so nice we have three library systems.)

    I don’t know if most do or don’t, but then, I don’t claim I do either.

    You ever answered my question on why you should take the chance with an 8 year old walking alone?

    Repeatedly, actually. Unless you mean “did you answer my question right now?” in which case – no, and it’s a little strange that you think she WOULD have in such a short time since you posted it! Most people aren’t online 24/7, after all.

    But let’s just sum it up:

    You “take the chance” because your 8 year old will one day be a 12 year old and then an 18 year old, and sometime in that period they need to be independent. You “take the chance” because children need to be trusted to grow up, and they won’t if you don’t let them. You “take the chance” because it may be more convenient for your family and less stressful for everybody if you don’t have to drag all the kids with you every time one of them needs to be picked up or dropped off somewhere. You “take the chance” because it’s not actually dangerous most of the time.

    I know, “What about this kid?” Well, what about all the kids every day who die in car accidents? Every time you drive your child somewhere, even in a carseat, you are taking an INCREDIBLE risk. Car accidents are the leading cause of injury among children too young to drive. Abductions? Not even in the top 20.

    So you “take the chance” because your child is safer walking than being driven. And you “take the chance” because that is normal. Insisting that your older children walk everywhere with you and go everywhere with you and be everywhere with you is NOT. It may be normative in some parts of the US right now, but it’s not normal – not in the world, and not historically speaking either. It’s not normal development for children.

    You may win the “lottery” and as in the case – you don’t get a 2nd chance.

    You may “win the lottery” when you drive a car. You may “win the lottery” just having a kid. Lieby could’ve easily been born with, say, Tay-Sachs syndrome (or any of a number of conditions, but given his ethnicity* that one sprang most instantly to mind) but we don’t say that people shouldn’t have children unless they can guarantee no birth defects! You may “win the lottery” when you visit the park or the beach. (You may win it when you win the lottery, and that’d be great!) You may do everything perfectly and then one day your kid trips over his own two feet and falls on the dishwasher as you’re loading it and stabs himself with a knife. (This has actually happened.)

    Unfortunately, life isn’t perfect. It’s not reasonable to let a small chance of something bad happening (and it IS a small chance. I know, as a human being, that you’re bad with statistics, but really – the odds are miniscule) keep you from living your life – or worse, keep your kids from living their lives.

  65. brad July 14, 2011 at 2:15 am #

    See this is what I mean about this website. They take a comment – basically I’m saying it’s irresponsible and lazy to make a librarian watch your kid; or it’s “rolling the dice” sending an 8 year old alone (buddy system anyone? Never seen that system mentioned on here at all funny enough!) – and turn it into something else. “Child abusers” ULY? Seriously? Try reading comprehension.

    And yes I am saying this site is “implying” (look the word up if you don’t know what it means) that kids are adults and we should treat them as such. THEY ARE NOT. If you didn’t think it would be hard to raise kids and you had to attend to their needs (not 24/7 – I never said that) then don’t have kids!

  66. Uly July 14, 2011 at 2:15 am #

    Whoops, I forgot that asterisk!

    *Although Ashkenazi Jews are the ones most known for Tay-Sachs disease, it’s just as common among Cajuns, and about half as common among Irish-Americans. In the general population it’s much, much less common.

    Fascinatingly, the disease can be caused by several different mutations, though populations known for it tend to all have the same one.

  67. Uly July 14, 2011 at 2:19 am #

    Brad, what else are we supposed to take from comments that “you’re a horrible parent”? Or that we advocate “breaking up families”? You question my comprehension? No. You were unclear if that’s not what you meant. I know what you said. There’s a record.

    Never seen that system mentioned on here at all funny enough!

    Really? Because I’ve seen the phrase “safety in numbers” at least once a week.

    We’re reading something else into your words?

    Nobody said the librarian should watch that child.

    not 24/7 – I never said that)

    So you DO let your children play without you? And you DON’T think it’s bad that sometimes other people let their kids play with their friends instead of tagging along?

  68. Christine July 14, 2011 at 2:20 am #

    This is very, very sad and I feel terrible for the family of Leiby. What a nightmare.

    I’m a worry wart, as many parents who read the news today can get to be. So, yes, my 11 year old probably enjoys less independence than I did at that age, a fact that troubles me deeply, but I am working on improving that. However, having grown up in Chicago, things ARE different today in terms of gun violence. That is a serious problem in certain neighborhoods here.

    Child abductions, I’m not so sure. I just think we read about them more often than before, so it makes them sound more common.

    I agree as pentamom said “If, … something like this ever happened to one of my kids, it will NOT be “because” I chose to give them a decent normal, childhood, it will be because some evil person did a terrible thing in a broken world”

    I try to teach the kids to know that most people are decent, to not be naive about living in a big city, to understand when a situation is making them uncomfortable and what to do about it and to always stick with their friends. They are also going to learn how to use physical force if necessary and basically not be afraid to fight. I know some people would not agree with this, but skills like these are pretty valuable when you grow up in the city.

    It makes me nervous to let them walk around alone, but in a group of friends is better.

    We’re car free, so we take public transit everywhere. I hope that helps teach my kids street smarts too. We encounter many different people each day and most are very decent people. Once in while there are crazies, but I think my husband and I model the appropriate behavior about giving those people a little distance.

  69. Sky July 14, 2011 at 2:21 am #

    “Also, why was it necessary to note the religion (Jewish) of the alleged perpetrator?”

    I imagine it was to clarify that this was not a hate crime and also to suggest the possibility of some level of recognition between the victim and murderer. It’s a bit unclear why the kid waited seven minutes outside for the murderer and then got in the car with him if he didn’t have some reason to trust him. In this case, he may have simply trusted the man for no other reason than that the man was also Jewish.

    “Like I should send my 7 and 5 year old out with their buddies and wave goodbye and say have fun at the playground!”

    How about your 9 and 8 year old, how about from say 3:30 PM when they get off the bus until say 5:30 PM when they need to set the table? Tell me what’s wrong with that and how that’s “breaking up the family”, exactly? Are you home every afternoon and willing and able to take your kids to the park daily? How can families spend every second of every day together, especially when one or both is working 40+ hours a week? Are you “breaking up the family” by sending your child to daycare or after school care or camp, because you are not participating in that particular activity with them? I’m quite sure “free range” families spend time together on the weekends, but there are many, many hours in the week when kids are not in school and adults are busy with other things than providing transporation and direct supervision to their children. Why shouldn’t the children be permitted to spend some of those hours outdoors instead of being required to spend every single one of them indoors?

  70. B.S.H. July 14, 2011 at 2:24 am #

    I happen to belong to the Orthodox community and I am one of the few free rangers. This community is very insular and very protective of their kids. I am in NO WAY saying this is anyone’s fault but the man who killed Leiby, however, the boy was 9 years old and got lost because it was his first time walking alone from the camp to a doctor’s appointment a few blocks away. I know this is going to sound horrible, and I swear I dont mean it to be, but if that boy had more experience in walking alone and learning the streets, he might not have gotten lost. Again, i DO NOT blame the parents or the boy in any way, just saying this will make it seem like free range is bad, when in fact it is an important life skill to understand directions, and be able to walk alone at age nine, in the day, in one’s own neighborhood.

  71. Dolly July 14, 2011 at 2:33 am #

    Brad: Not all the commenters on this site are like that. I am middle of the road about free range. Happy medium. I would let my boys walk to school at 8 but only because they have each other. If it was alone I would make them wait maybe till 10 for example. I am with you that I thought the library argument was stupid and that if the rules state not to leave a kid alone in the library, you should follow it. I also know that unattended kids can cause problems and that is not the librarians job to deal with that. When I take mine to the library I am no more than 2 shelves away from them. Not so much for fear of them being hurt but to make sure they don’t mess anything up.

  72. Edward July 14, 2011 at 2:35 am #

    I read the post, the story and the comments and I realize I’ve just been staring at this empty box for 30 minutes.
    Decades ago I made the decision never to have kids because of an incident that convinced me I could never prevent them from being hurt. Over those decades I’ve realized what a bad decision that was.
    I mourn for this Family, this Community and pray they find the courage and support to live beyond the tragedy. And I hope those outside of the incident won’t twist it and turn it into something it should never become.
    Please, Lenore, don’t ever stop what you are doing.

  73. Uly July 14, 2011 at 2:35 am #

    It does sound kinda horrible, though it goes along with my own horrible thought: If he’d been taught what to do when he got lost (I was taught to ask for help from somebody in a store, on the theory that they were stuck behind the counter and couldn’t do anything even if they WERE sick, other people encourage their children to ask help of uniformed police officers or parents with children) it might not have ended badly.

    But then again, maybe he was raised to trust other Orthodox Jews, in which case he would’ve been out of luck anyway.

    And that’s all it really is on his part and his parents. Just poor bad luck. He could’ve been walking ahead of them and hit by a car jumping the sidewalk, something which happened in the city just a few years ago. (As I recall it hit a preschool class. That WAS tragic, but it’s not the parents fault for sending their children to preschool, nor the teacher’s for walking the class to the library!) He could’ve been clunked in the head by falling masonry, something which happens every few years. (People think NYC is so modern, all the skyscrapers, but they forget that we have some of the oldest skyscrapers in the world. That means a lot of scaffolding and construction work, all the time, and still, accidents happen.) He could’ve been murdered right in front of his parents, as far as that goes, though I can’t think of any recent case of THAT, thank goodness, or died in any number of freak accidents.

  74. Free-choice parenting advocate July 14, 2011 at 2:36 am #

    @Eric s: your post is fanatical. I’m not sending my 8-year-old w/ my 4-year-old. Period.

  75. Nanci July 14, 2011 at 2:38 am #

    @ B.S.H. I agree. If he had been walking alone since he was 6-7 he would have had much more confidence and been more street wise. I’m not blaming the parents in any way. I commend them for realizing at 9 that he should be able to walk alone. It is an incredibly sad irony that his first attempt at freedom ended so horrifically. I want my kids to have lots of different experiences under their belts so they are ready when different situations come along. I have attempted to do this by continuously expanding what they are allowed to do and what they are expected to do. A with freedom comes responsibility type of thing. The kids that are most at risk are the ones who have never been exposed to risk. The 13 year olds allowed out of their parents sight for the first time are much more likely to do stupid/dangerous things than the ones who have been taking care of themselves for quite some time and are confident in their abilities.

  76. Dolly July 14, 2011 at 2:38 am #

    Sky: In his defense, I have been attacked on this site too for saying that I don’t mind playing WITH my kids at the playground and pushing on the swings etc. Then I had a bunch of posters jump on me like I was calling them a bad parent just because I enjoy playing with my kids and helping other kids out blah blah. So yes, sometimes posters on this site can come off that if you spend time with your kids at all that is helicoptering and bad and I don’t agree with that. I enjoy being around my kids and will spend a lot of time with them, but I give them alone time and independent time too. Happy medium. That is not helicoptering. I don’t know if I would just drop them off at a playground when I could just as easily be there playing with them or reading my book getting some fresh air while they play. I don’t need to leave them there 100% alone to be giving them independence. I like playgrounds too.

  77. Dolly July 14, 2011 at 2:41 am #

    Sky: and ps- when you are a stay at home parent it is very easy to have plenty of time to get things done while your kids are at school or napping or playing indoors so that the rest of the time you can be with them. I imagine it is harder for working parents. I get everything done and still do activities like a playground or a children’s museum or the zoo multiple times a week or even everyday. From your post you were acting like that was not possible and for me it is. I don’t care if my house is spotless, I would rather play with my kids.

  78. Uly July 14, 2011 at 2:47 am #

    Dolly, you were attacked because you went on and on and on about how EVERYBODY loves you and how you feel SO SORRY for kids who aren’t being pushed on the swings or helped on the monkeybars at all times and how it’s TERRIBLE that some people take their kids to the playground and then do anything other than play with them and how you’re just SO GREAT with kids.

    Brad at least hasn’t given the impression he thinks he’s perfect.

    FCPA, where did anybody say that you must send your four year old out with your eight year old in any and all circumstances?

  79. Budd July 14, 2011 at 2:53 am #

    Adults get abducted too. Just recently two college kids were abducted/murdered.

  80. brad July 14, 2011 at 2:57 am #

    OK – I admit my assertion of this site “breaking up families” was a little over the top as well. I guess I can agree that there’s too much black or white arguments here. I personally wouldn’t let my kids walk to school 2 block away because that main street is too busy. I still maintain that many of these blogs are too “laissez faire” attitude for me in how to raise kids. Again – “kids” not adults! Not even young adults!

  81. Jose B Rivera July 14, 2011 at 2:57 am #

    The idea that small children should be allowed to roam the city because they would give them a “normal” life is naive at best. I raised three childre and they never went anywhere without an adult until they were almost 15 years old. Although we live in East Harlem, that has nothing to do with it. My wife and I would have done the same thing even if we lived in Albany, NY. Which we did when I was in the milltary. Or if we lived in Florida, which again, we did. And never did my children walk alone. Remember, you can’t go back in time and undo a tradgedy. Regret is forever.

    My children are now college grads and about to start their lives. But you can’t let an ideal of “normal” dictate safety. So what if they are home until you can take them out. That is the way it is.

    This reminds me of 20 something women who against better judgement choose to jog in Central Park at night or just before the sun comes up and ends up being a victim of a crime. Everytime I this happens I just shake my head. Native New Yorkers know better. And the little boy’s parents should have known better than to let him walk alone at such an early age. They are too too little to defend themselves. Buy you all can be naive and “wish” a better world on your children. That world is not out there.

  82. Wendy Kelly July 14, 2011 at 3:01 am #

    Ummm. I absolutely love the idea of this site and I think what is behind all of our comments is an incredible love for our children, but it seems to me that a bit of stepping back for a bit of perspective may be in order.
    I may be overstepping my bounds (I hope not) but perhaps we could try for a little tolerance and acceptance of different parenting styles. I am under the impression that all the commenters are within pretty sane parameters, and no one is asking anyone to change their parenting styles.
    Again, excuse me if I have overstepped my boundaries. I just feel like there is such great potential here and we are not living up to it.

  83. Uly July 14, 2011 at 3:05 am #

    At 15, Jose, people are ready to start their lives. In the not-so-distant past people got married and had kids at that age! They had jobs and careers!

    Treating your teenagers like toddlers is nothing to be proud of. Making them wait until they graduate college – graduate college! – to start their lives is appalling.

    Regret is forever.

    And some of us would rather not regret caging our kids up like they’re criminals or can’t be trusted!

    That world is not out there.

    This world looks a lot better than the one you postulate.

  84. Uly July 14, 2011 at 3:14 am #

    Brad, the thing is, none of us are raising kids. We’re raising future grown-ups… and part of that means teaching them how to be grown-ups.

    It’s fair and reasonable to make an individual choice like “Dude, this street is waaaay too busy for them to walk on alone!” or “We’ve had a mugging a week for the past year, they should be a little older/stronger before they go out unattended, this is a high crime area”.

    It’s equally fair and reasonable to say “You’re a little older than you were, I think you can handle this street, but we have to practice first” or “Okay, this is how you handle it if you get mugged. It’s not very likely, but this is what you do.” especially as your children get older.

    It’s not reasonable to say “OMG! One kid got kidnapped once fifty miles away and twenty years ago! I’ll never let my kid out of my sight again!”

    Some people think it IS reasonable, but it’s not.

  85. Andy July 14, 2011 at 3:17 am #

    In response to Jose: My parents were not naive. We were expected to become streetwise by the time we were eight years old. They worked hard on my oldest brother, and he worked on his younger brothers. By the time my kid brother was born, there were three big brothers drilling him in street smarts. For me this was in the late 1960s, leading into the bad old days of high crime rates.

    We were not chaperoned anywhere – period! We explored the city and boroughs using the subway and we knew to only ask for assistance from cops, firemen, subway conductors, or people we met on a busy street. We never followed them anywhere, and we didn’t give a damn if their puppy was missing. These same street smarts were known by every kid in the neighborhood except the one who was sheltered by his worried parents. When disaster did strike, guess which kid had the funeral.

    My heart goes out to Leiby Kletzky and his family, and I hope his killer gets the worst possible punishment. If that’s life in prison, good. However, let’s not imprison our children along with him

  86. Emiky July 14, 2011 at 3:45 am #

    This is heartbreaking and my prayers go to this family.

    But this is not the norm.

  87. Noemi July 14, 2011 at 3:54 am #

    How could you responsibly encourage parents to allow their Children as young as 8 or 9 yrs old to rome the streets and ride subways unsupervised?? Are you crazy? Very irresponsible of you, very sad

  88. Uly July 14, 2011 at 4:03 am #

    Because it’s mostly safe. One rare tragedy doesn’t undo the fact that few people get murdered by strangers.

  89. jen July 14, 2011 at 4:08 am #

    “This reminds me of 20 something women who against better judgement choose to jog in Central Park at night or just before the sun comes up and ends up being a victim of a crime. Everytime I this happens I just shake my head. Native New Yorkers know better. And the little boy’s parents should have known better than to let him walk alone at such an early age. They are too too little to defend themselves. Buy you all can be naive and “wish” a better world on your children. That world is not out there.”

    @Jose. I’m sorry I find this statement incredibly offensive. It is attitudes like that that stop women who have been assulted or victimized from coming forward because of shame and because of the arachic thinking that it is the victims fault for being victimized.

    Your comment is at the top of a very slippery slope. Next you’ll be saying, well she wore a tank top so she was looking to be raped….you know she wore blue and the rapist has a thing for blue….it was her fault.

    Also you say that kids shouldn’t be let out because they can’t protect themselves. Okay. These women can’t protect themselves at night in the park so they stay inside – fine. Okay, so if I get mugged in broad daylight, I can’t protect myself so I stay home in the day now.

    So who’s allowed out?? Men who are six feet tall and killers? Is that your proposal for stopping crime??

    Finally, How dare you blame this boys parents. For shame. If that’s the kind of compassion and serves them right kind of thinking you’ve been teaching your kids while you had them cooped up untill they were fifteen, I’m glad they were kept inside.

    There is no reason why this tragedy happened. It was horrible, random and psychotic. Trying to find blame is narrow, fablistict and fatalistic thinking.

    Well it’s four o’clock better lock all my doors and shut the blinds. Because if I leave a blind open and a robber sees inside my house it’s my fault if I get robbed because I let the robber see in. Actually I’d better turn my self in for tempting criminals.

    And to Leiby Kletzky’s family. I am sorry for your loss. You are in my thoughts. (That is the only acceptable message to his parents.)

  90. Robin July 14, 2011 at 4:11 am #

    So when are we going to hear the statistics of how many kids did something by themselves and didn’t get killed? I can see the headlines, “In NY Today, 2M Kids Make it Home Alive”

    This is a tragedy BECAUSE it’s so rare.

    I read the words of Elizabeth Smart’s mother. For the 18 years Elizabeth was missing, her mom regretted not kissing her goodbye that morning because she was in a hurry. She didn’t say she regretted letting her walk to the bus.

  91. zawjis July 14, 2011 at 4:15 am #

    I agree Jen. Risk factors for being a victim of violent crime are being a young adult, male and having a low income, among other things. Let’s keep young poor adult males inside for their own protection.

  92. Uly July 14, 2011 at 4:16 am #

    It’s not only offensive, it’s factually wrong.

    Most people who are raped, or robbed, or killed? They’re harmed by people known to them – not by strangers. For every one woman raped or mugged in Central Park early in the morning (and who knows how many dozens were jogging there that same day and nothing happened, same as most days?), there are several more raped or beaten by their boyfriends or husbands. For every kid killed by a stranger (disregarding the hundreds of children in the exact same situation who are just fine) there are dozens more who are molested or beaten or starved by their parents, stepparents, foster parents.

    You can’t dwell on this too long unless you can provide a real solution that targets the source – how to stop people from doing evil things. (And that doesn’t mean we’re saying that you should allow your eight year old the same freedom as your 15 year old, or your two year old the same freedom as your 10 year old… except maybe Jose, that is.) It’s tragic when children die. It’s tragic when ANYbody dies, except maybe very sick 100 year old grannies. (And even then, we’ll still be sad unless they were really really mean.)

    But that doesn’t mean that being with parents would’ve kept the kid safe OR that the cost of limiting your child is worth it.

  93. Uly July 14, 2011 at 4:17 am #

    Robin, you have Elizabeth Smart confused with that other girl… the one I always think of as a missing Duggar, what’s her name? Elizabeth Smart was taken from her bedroom, a very VERY rare occurrence.

  94. damselindefense July 14, 2011 at 4:35 am #

    I just wanted to say that while being chopped up by a stranger (though it seems like this was a known person) may be rare, having terrible things happen to you because your parents aren’t around is not rare at all.

    I can’t number the kids I pulled out of a pool drowning when I was a lifeguard because their parents left them there. I can count the number of kids I rescued from a pedophile that was touching them in a pool, because that stood out a bit more. But still happened more frequently than people like to think. It always ended the same, asking the kids for their parent’s phone, the parent swooping in, berating me for interfering when their kid was “fine”.

    Do I agree with locking kids up in a basement? No. But I have to think there is something between that and sending your kid on a New York Subway alone.

    It’s physically painful to see some of the attitudes here and know that what happened to me, and many of my friends, happened because of my parents abundant trust in themselves, myself, and society, the same trust I see validated here. Do I believe children should be educated not to go with strangers, and on how to navigate a city or find their way home? Yes. Do I think about the lifelong effects of what could have happened to your child that day? Yes. And I don’t think it was worth anything he could have gained from it. I remember being nine, I just wanted to be a child. In trying to attribute adult trust and adult responsibilities to me my parents effectively let someone end that childhood.

    I don’t know what the answer is. After all of the evil things I’ve run up against in just day to day speaking with people, I think anyone having children is brave. Though I made it through what I did, I’ve seen numerous friends fail to make it through the same. The other victim of my abuser killed herself.

    My parents were good parents. But they didn’t plan on someone evil with precise plans for taking children targeting their daughter. I was ahead in my class, a free spirit, and a tomboy, allowed to stay after school and walk home alone.

    I do value my independent nature, but I don’t think it was given me by what turned out to be neglectful parenting. Every day I am affected by what happened for those 2 years, and I just want to say, I am not an exception. All parents play a roulette when they decide to care for small suicide machines in an era of rapidly escalating sexual abuse, as the cycle perpetuates more and more offenders and internet child pornography creates new recruits at a rate that wasn’t possible before. It’s a little baffling to see someone adding to the risks rather than minimizing them.

    Walking alongside my precious 3 year old niece, and wondering if I could ever have a child, whether I’ll ever be a fit mom with my issues, wondering if I could ever bring someone into the world when they could end up going through what I did, I feel an intense need to protect her. The question of what is controlling and what is overprotective in this world is an important one, but from my vantage point, I have seen far, far greater damage done by neglect than by over-protectiveness. The rare child who was actually carefully watched, maybe too much, grows up and rebels when they get to college. My friends who were neglected (expected to be out and alone and an adult when one is a child is included in that) fared much worse.

    I think I will probably err on the side of overprotective. But perhaps that is just because it’s what I wish I had.

  95. Mary July 14, 2011 at 4:44 am #

    damselindefence… Thank you for saying so eloquently what I could not through my anger today. I appreciate your words and wish you nothing but the best in life. You sound like a wonderful Aunt and really amazing person. I wish you peace on your journey…

  96. Uly July 14, 2011 at 4:45 am #

    Damsel, I have to say I think the pool is probably less of a safe place for kids than the subway! I have nothing against letting your child take the train unattended (I was on the train alone at 11, and 11 or 10 seems like the sensible age to me, that being the age when yellow school bus service stops), but I’d be hesitant to send the nieces to the pool alone! People drown in pools. (Today, in our local pool, a lifeguard drowned, and another man, while lifeguards were on duty.) People don’t drown in trains.

    As far as pedophiles, most pedophiles target children known to them, usually family members. I have never heard that pedophilia or sex crimes in general are on the rise, can you back that up?

  97. Robin July 14, 2011 at 4:50 am #

    Uly, thanks for the correction. It was Jaycee Dugard, not Elizabeth Smart. Everything else is correct :)

  98. Uly July 14, 2011 at 4:55 am #

    Abduction cases will tend to blur together. (I’d put a smiley, but it seems really inappropriate.)

  99. Robin July 14, 2011 at 4:57 am #

    Damsel, what happened to you was wrong. But you say you were a free spirit and a tom boy. If your parents had tried to keep you “safer” would you have been happier? Would you have had to stay inside more until your parents had time to take you somewhere? Would you have been happy then? Some kids are more tolerant of being tied to the apron strings than others. Events in your life will change how you perceive the past. Now you see that past as underprotective, but was it really? Or were you just in the wrong place a the wrong time?

  100. N July 14, 2011 at 4:58 am #

    I let my 9-year-old run around and play outside because otherwise she’d have to sit inside bored while I prepare dinner every night. It’s much better and healthier for her to run around playing outside with her friends. The chances of her getting abducted are very very small, but the chances of her having problems due to being stuck inside all the time are comparatively much higher.

    I feel terrible for the family of this poor child. How awful. Obviously his parents are not at fault. Terrible, tragic things happen in this world sometimes. No one is to blame but the person who committed thee crime.

    And yes, this is where overprotectiveness comes from. We want to be able to protect our kids from anything that could possibly happen, but we just can’t. So many cases of abuse happen from people who are known and trusted – not from strangers, but from an adult the child is being supervised by to keep them protected from other adults. And people forget the law of unintended consequences. Keeping your children within view of adults whenever they play means they only play when an adult is available, and that isn’t going to be nearly as often as otherwise. Kids deserve the freedom to play outside instead of being stuck inside in front of a TV or video games alll the time.

  101. brad July 14, 2011 at 5:01 am #

    damselindefence – hallelujah! Most eloquently put, thank you as I could not have stated it better. Let kids be kids! Do not “assume” like many on here (ULY especially) that kids can think and react rationally in extreme circumstances. Yes we can try to prepare them, but ultimately they are smaller and have less life experience than us as adults.

  102. Arielle K July 14, 2011 at 5:20 am #

    how tragic and how horrible for the parents…imagine them being blamed for his death on top of everything else. I don’t even want to think about this happening to our girls. And apparently this guy had no priors. I really hope this doesn’t make the world scream at the top of their lungs “see! if only the parents had been MORE VIGILANT!!” as if! When a woman is raped, do we blame what she’s wearing? No!! (or at least, we shouldn’t!). In Israel, the people have had to deal with suicide bombers. That doesn’t keep people inside. If anything, they feel the need to show the world that their lives are not going to stop because of these maniacs. We need to teach our children the same.

  103. Noemi July 14, 2011 at 5:21 am #

    Why so rushed to send the little ones out alone and unprotected? Sugar coat it with all the “independent thinking” ” street smart ” talk you want to, but rushing them out alone is exactly what your doing! I honestly believe it’s selfishness on the parents part ,if your freedom is what you crave too bad and too late , as a parent young ones safety comes FIRST, and why would that equal “stuck inside all the time”? Go out WITH THEM

  104. N July 14, 2011 at 5:32 am #

    They aren’t being rushed out if they want out, and parents don’t have unlimited time to spend outside with their kids. I can and do hang out in the yard with my kids when I can, but I have obligations in the house as well, such as meal preparation. My older child at 9 is plenty old enough to play without adult supervision outside. Otherwise, she’d be stuck inside way too often dealing with boredom by zoning out in front of a TV. Instead, she is playing creatively and cooperatively with neighborhood kids.

  105. michelle July 14, 2011 at 5:41 am #

    I just heard on CNN about an hour ago that the man accused is KNOWN by the family. He was NOT some random stranger that just plucked this little boy off the street. And I was very happy to hear a woman interviewed from that neighborhood who said that it was a very safe neighborhood and it was very appropriate for an 8 year old to walk home there. That was nice to hear!!

  106. Arielle July 14, 2011 at 5:51 am #

    as N said, no one is rushing kids if they don’t want out, but it’s important to give age appropriate kids tools so they can develop freedom and independence

  107. Tuppence July 14, 2011 at 6:21 am #

    Uly — you feeling the love? Doing a great job calmly responding to those who, it could be argued, don’t deserve as much. Ask we respect their opinions, but do not return same – too “angry” apparently. Anger misplaced (or could it be they are actually using the brutal death of a child to justify their parenting style and attack those that disagree with it? No, that’d be too disgusting), but there you go.

  108. Lisa July 14, 2011 at 6:27 am #

    Your children are statistically more likely to be killed or injured in a car accident than abducted by a stranger – yet we put children into cars every day. in fact many parents drive their children to school in a car as a “safe” alternative to walking. What happened is an absolute tragedy but still it is a very rare tragedy (and yes it has made the news here in Australia – front page).

    My friends son was recently left a partial quadraplegic after playing with friends in a swimming pool and another friend her son is also a paraplegic after a pushbike accident – unfortunately we can not protect our children 100 per cent of the the time, sometimes terrible things happen. I remember the advice of a friend (actually a lady from New York) who advised me when my kids were young – she said “you can not be there to protect your kids all the time so you must teach them how not to be victims” – wise advice I believe.

  109. Uly July 14, 2011 at 6:42 am #

    Noemi, I’m glad you don’t have to cook dinner, and I’m glad you never have one child sick when the other is well, and I’m glad you never have three children running in three directions at the park, and I’m glad you can baby your children.

    The rest of us don’t have that luxury. And really, keeping your kids with you all the time when they’re old enough for a small, age-appropriate amount of freedom? That’s potentially damaging. We don’t know how damaging because, until recently, large numbers of people didn’t attempt it.

    Brad, we don’t think kids can always think and react rationally in extreme circumstances. Most grown-ups can’t. We do think that those extreme circumstances are very rare, and not worth structuring our lives around. And where they ARE common (say, earthquakes in California), it’s better to teach children how to react to them rather than thinking they’ll just magically develop those skills without practice when they turn 14 or 16 or 21.

    Oh, well, Tuppence, you have to try. And I understand why they’re angry. It’s scary to think that this could happen to you. And it *could* happen, no matter how careful you are, that your child dies in some freak accident or some rare crime. (Or in a car crash – very common!)

  110. AdaC July 14, 2011 at 6:43 am #

    Hi Lenore- I read your articles over a decade ago and only recently picked up your articles again on your Free-Range kids project starting with the one letting your son go by himself on the subway. I cheered you on then but that was before I gave birth recently to our first child…at age 38. My mother raised me liberally and I traveled the NYC subways every day by myself beginning at age 14 (for high school) and thought it was no big deal for your nine-year old to do so. What a different perspective I have today especially on the poor Leiby Kletzky case. I would not let an elementary-school age child walk by themselves along any street in the world, no matter how reputedly safe the neighborhood is. Children have their whole lives to explore and be independent…if given their whole lives to live. We parents have but a short time on this earth to guide them. You mention ‘context’ in your defense of your project. Well, nine years in the context of a lifetime is a drop in the bucket. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering of a parent losing their young child and I bet that almost all of your bloggers cannot either,as evidenced by all their callous, gratuitous comments such as how this was a random occurrence, what a safe neighborhood Flatbush is, wrong-place-wrong-time, etc. Are you all kidding me? Do you honestly believe the Kletzky parents can ever be consoled with thoughts like that? The sad but brutal truth is that if the boy was not allowed to walk home by himself he would be alive today. And at the end of the day, ask the Kletzkys if they would rather their son ALIVE and home right now and resenting the heck out of them for not letting him walk home alone.

  111. Uly July 14, 2011 at 6:48 am #

    Ada, you call our comments callous. They’re not nearly as callous as “Oh, what do you say now???” which we’ve seen several times already.

    They are, however, honest. It is a generally safe neighborhood. It was just bad luck. No matter how careful you are, sometimes things can go wrong – and it is age appropriate for a child almost in middle school to be able to travel a short distance unaccompanied. Nearly all children who do that on a regular basis are never, ever harmed by it.

  112. Uly July 14, 2011 at 7:15 am #

    And really, Ada, the more I think about it, the more I’m stunned at your comment. It’s callous to say “Look, it’s bad luck”, but not to say “Gee, if those parents had watched their child more and taken better care of him and never allowed him out of their sight he’d hate them be alive, guess it’s ALL THEIR FAULT!”? In what world?

  113. pentamom July 14, 2011 at 7:32 am #

    “Do you honestly believe the Kletzky parents can ever be consoled with thoughts like that? ”

    Of course they can’t. No one thinks that. No one who thinks about it for a moment thinks they can EVER be consoled with ANY thoughts, other than just a gradual acceptance of the horrible, sad reality of their loss.

    But as Uly says, if the thoughts offered here are not consoling, how much less consoling is the blame game?

  114. Stephanie Sullivan July 14, 2011 at 7:39 am #


    Thank you for your sensible and sensitive commentary on this terrible and freak murder of the Kletzky boy. My sympathies go to his family, friends and the whole neighborhood impacted by this incident. God bless them.

  115. Chanie July 14, 2011 at 7:51 am #

    In the story Death Comes to Samara, a servant comes home from the market and tells his master that he met Death at the market and she made a threatening gesture toward him, so he flees Baghdad for Samara, where he thinks she won’t find him. The master goes to the market and asks Death why she threatened his servant. She answers that her gesture not a threat, but rather that she was surprised to see the servant in Baghdad because she had an appointment with him that night in Samara.

    Do we know with absolute certainty that Leiby would still be with us if his parents hadn’t let him walk home? No, we don’t know anything with absolute certainty.

    Based on the information I’ve seen so far, it seems that Leiby’s fatal mistake was not walking home, but getting into the perp’s car. He wasn’t abducted. No one grabbed him off the street, like a Third World kidnapping. He (tragically, stupidly) willingly went with someone who, as it turns out, was a really really bad man.

    I explain personal safety to my kids using the weather safety analogy. The chances of getting hit by lightening are miniscule but they have to know how to seek shelter in a dangerous situation. We cannot keep our children locked up forever – at some point they will leave home!

    May the family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

  116. stevefakeballmer July 14, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    So sad!

  117. mollie July 14, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    “The sad but brutal truth is that if the boy was not allowed to walk home by himself he would be alive today. And at the end of the day, ask the Kletzkys if they would rather their son ALIVE and home right now and resenting the heck out of them for not letting him walk home alone.”

    Okay, deep breath here. There are so many variables here to consider. As a grateful participant in this community online, and someone who really values health, well-being, growth and development in kids, I have to say that this particular case does nothing to deter me from sending my kids out into the world to navigate alone from one adult-supervised setting to another.

    What it does instead is highlight for me how imperative it is for parents to not only support a child’s request for some freedom and choice, but to offer skills and information along with that freedom and choice.

    When my nearly-7-year-old daughter eagerly advocated for herself to be allowed to walk 2km to school alone recently, I knew she was ready to try it because she had made the trip both ways with her older brother several times, had demonstrated safe street-crossing skills, and had been coached on how to respond if someone offers her a ride or an adult approaches her. Still, I went to the school after the bell rang to make sure she’d arrived. She had. She was chuffed!

    The main theme that I repeated to her is DON’T GET IN THE CAR. DON’T. GET. IN. THE. CAR. If you are merely lost, seek help from a woman or enter a store. If you are injured, accept help. There’s a difference between adults offering help when you are in serious trouble and adults offering gifts, rides, or treats.

    I’ve also drilled the girl on what to do if someone comes up to her somewhere and urgently says, “Your mom told me to pick you up. You’ve got to come with me right now, she says it’s important.” What are the chances of this? Slim to none. But at least I’ve said something to her about this remote possibility. “Ask them, ‘What’s my mother’s name?’ and even if they know, ask, ‘What’s the secret word?’ because I won’t send anyone to get you unless they know our secret word.”

    Does all of this preparation guarantee she will never come to harm? No way. But just like I mitigate the dangers of riding in a car by providing a booster seat, driving the speed limit, and having her buckle up, I’ve done my bit to support her in exploring her world and taking some steps toward independent decision-making. It’s not without any worry on my part, but hell, if I subjected her to the irrationalities of every worry I have, that would be some kind of great life for her. Not.

    My son has been subjected to my ex-husbands irrational terror of abduction since he was a tiny infant. He’s ten now, and has totally bought into the idea that every person he sees on the street is plotting to kidnap him. I’ve explained to him recently, when he balked at riding a couple of stops on a public bus alone because of this perceived threat to his life, that I, too, am equally vulnerable to every danger he is, and yet I venture out into the world.

    It’s an important point to bring out, I think, that any man (okay, painting the men with a broad brush here, but I haven’t heard of a grown woman being abducted by another woman alone) who wanted to abduct me could do it if the circumstances were right. Let’s say I was walking down an alley downtown here in our small ville, in broad daylight, but out of the sight of passers-by, because I’m delivering something small to a back door at an art gallery. And let’s say a man, 5′ 10″, about 38 years old, 160 lbs, wearing a dark blue uniform with a badge and a sidearm says to me in a loud, stern voice, “You’re not permitted to walk here! This area has been cordoned off! You have to go this way!” Well, I would likely feel flushed and embarrassed and say, “Oh! I’m so sorry, I didn’t know,” and then as I walk by him down the next alley, he puts a chloroformed rag over my face and stuffs me into a panel truck. No more me. End of my life as I knew it.

    And so what? Does that mean I’ll never go anywhere again? Sure, I take general precautions in my life; I don’t walk downtown alone in the dark, I don’t walk around in parking ramps alone at night if I can help it (got assaulted in one years ago, though I was with another woman)… there are certain situations I avoid. But walking around in broad daylight isn’t one of them, and I really don’t believe my children are at any more risk than I am IF THEY HAVE BEEN COACHED THOROUGHLY ABOUT WHERE THEY ARE GOING AND WHAT TO DO IF THEY ARE LOST OR APPROACHED BY AN ADULT.

    For whatever reason, my daughter is not paranoid like my son. I thank God for that. And if something happens to either one of them, sure I’ll have regrets. I’ll regret that they were in the wrong damned place at the wrong damned time, but then again, I don’t believe in wrong. The way our lives unfold is not completely in our control; this is our spiritual journey as sentient beings, to accept this fact.


  118. socalledauthor July 14, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    Let kids be kids? What if my definition of being a kid is different from yours? I don’t tell others that they should force their kid into the same level of self-sufficiency as I (will) expect from mine, and in return I would appreciate not being instructed how to love, enjoy, or raise my children– such as being told that I should let them “be kids.” See, in my world, being kids, includes ever-increasing levels of independence and self-suffciency, gradually preparing them for adult hood.

    A hundred years ago, “kids” that today aren’t even allowed out of our sight were married and successfully raising children. But somehow in 100 years, we’ve managed to reduce many of our teenagers to low levels of maturity and responsibility. I work with many who can’t be bothered to remember their own homework… I don’t believe they are biologically or psychologically different from their historical counterparts, however, society treats them far different– expecting far less from modern teenagers. I disagree with what I see as infantilzation of our youth. Furthermore, I think this contributes to the problems so many of my peers (and younger) have with relationships and parenting– they had to grow up in a short, sudden event, with little to know guidance OR have never grown up. All other growth is done in small increments as the child is ready for it, but current culture says that independence, responsibility, and maturity are to come only on the cusp of the age of majority.

    Unless you can prove that my method of parenting is harmful to my child, than I appreciate being left to do as I see fit. Without laws, at least, and in some cases without draconian rules that impinge on my ability to raise my child. I may not agree with actions of other parents that I see as crippling their child’s growth, but it’s not my child. We DON’T have to agree on parenting methods! We SHOULD all be free to raise our children– and since all actions include a degree of risk, we all have to pick the risks we deem necessary or acceptable, such as taking a child in the car or swimming or even letting the child walk the stairs. Yet, increasingly, there are laws and rules, born out of fear, that subtly imply that a free-range parent is negligent or reckless, and thus, without facts, restrict me. Keep the laws and rules out of my business, and then feel free to feast on my tortured remains if I make a fatal error.

  119. LRH July 14, 2011 at 8:33 am #

    socalledauthor Keep the laws and rules out of my business, and then feel free to feast on my tortured remains if I make a fatal error.

    Exactly. I could not have said it better myself.


  120. Cheryl W July 14, 2011 at 8:34 am #

    How sad that that one child, of all the kids walking around, happened to pick that particular man (whom he would have been lead to believe he could trust due to his religion) to ask the way home.

    My heart goes out to the family.

  121. Joanna July 14, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    I guess it’s foolish to believe in humanity and human kind. Children are citizens and have every right to safety with or without an adult. Moreover, this is a really tight knit community (lived a few blocks away) and very safe. The disgrace if a human should be shunned not parents for trying to raise independent confident children. I hope the Mom finds peace in her heart. Momma Bear doesn’t have to keep her cub at all times. Aren’t we supposed to be civilized? My children will play. Teach street smarts. I will not succumb to these monsters.

  122. Cheryl W July 14, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    Molly, I am reading from the bottom up, and it sounds like you are doing a great job of raising self reliant kids.

    But, I do know of a case where a woman, a mother known to the child, abducted, sexually abused, killed and then hid the body of the child who was her own daughter’s friend. It happened in CA a year or so ago. There was a lot of shock when the mother was charged, and I am not certain if it has been to trial or not.

    But, that said, I am still going to tell my kids if they are lost to talk to a policeman (despite one molesting girls here,) a mother with kids (in spite of the case above,) an employee (like the one in Brooklyn), or a biker guy on a Hog. (Most of those biker guys are actually very nice and helpful!) Most people are actually helpful and want to help other people.

  123. Donna July 14, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    Elizabeth Smart, Danielle Van Damm, Polly Klaus, Stephanie Crowe, JonBenet Ramsey all got kidnapped from their own beds. All but Smart are dead. I guess parents need to sleep in shifts so that that risk is gone. Single parents better hire a night nurse.

    Horrible tragedies happen. Kids are not more likely to be kidnapped off the streets than they are to be kidnapped out if their beds. Polly Klaus’ parents are not less devastated than Leiby’s because she was kidnapped from home. I’m sure her mother has spent many hours blaming herself for not waking up, just like Leiby’s parents will regret their decision to let him walk and just like the parents of the two boys killed in a car wreck last month in my town regret letting them go on that outing. It is human nature. (I’m not blaming these parents in any way or indicating a belief that they should be blamed).

    As for 8 year old abilities, at 8 I walked to school as did every kid in my neighborhood. There were no buses and a parent would have sooner grown 2 heads than driven her kids the few blocks. I stayed home alone after school. We all wandered the neighborhood and roamed into each other’s houses with the only requirement being to be home when the street lights came on. We got dropped off at the skating rink. We would go to kid’s movies while our parents went to something more adult. No kidnapping ever occurred.

    Since every statistic says that the US is SAFER than it was in the 70’s when I was 8, have kids just gotten dumber and less competent so that they can no longer do these things? If so, whose fault is that and wouldn’t the proper response be to increase competence instead of continuing to infantisize our children?

  124. Uly July 14, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    Cheryl, I remember that case. Wasn’t the woman also the girl’s Sunday School teacher? More than a year ago, I think.

    But who could’ve predicted that? NOBODY would think twice about entrusting their daughter to a neighbor, the mother of her best friend, the woman who taught her Sunday School. Not unless their neighborhood and church were REALLY screwed up. It’d be like doubting your own brother’s ability to care for your child (and yet, people have been harmed by aunts and uncles in the past). It was totally unpredictable, and short of never trusting anybody, up to and including her own spouse, I fail to see what the mother could’ve done to prevent it.

    I mean, you can say “Not trust that specific person”, but who could’ve possibly seen that one coming?

  125. Dolly July 14, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    I don’t automatically trust people. That is just how I live my life because I have been burned a lot. I also am a pretty good judge of character, I can assure you I do not trust my inlaws wiht my kids. I don;t like them and I don’t trust them. I don’t trust some of my friends with my kids alone or some of my relatives alone with my kids. Just because and that is my right. I am not paranoid but I am playing it smart. Someone has to earn my trust and if they do anything fishy or something seems off about them, they have lost that trust. It is not just about molestation but just with their ability to care properly for my kids or their general trustworthiness and responsibility.

    So I guess my kids will never be molested by an uncle or someone we all know because I am pretty cautious about it. You can have people in your life and be close to them without allowing them 100% trust. Still can play things safe. I like to get to know people really well before giving them trust.

  126. UWS Mom July 14, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    So tired if everyone, most of all Lenore spewing their unsolicited advice and opinionon other people’s parenting choice. You never miss a beat and the opportunity to catch the limelight, do you, Lenore? You just love seeing your name in print, even in the most offensive newspapers in NYC. How about keeping the family in your heart and being quiet, just this once?? The funeral started at 8:30 and is still in progress, you know?

  127. baby-paramedic July 14, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    On the same day on the other side of the world (In my little district in Australia)- a child was killed by a drunk driver. Do any of you know the child’s name?

    RIP Leiby. I hope you find peace. And I hope those left behind do too.

  128. Gabby July 14, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    One thing we all forget is that every single tragedy that occurs now seems so close at hand because the internet and cable TV makes it possible to read/hear/see info about horrible crimes that happen in every corner of every state and every country, 24/7. It’s shoved in our faces every where we look (and click) Surely terrible things happened prior to the early 1990s, but we only heard about them if they happened either close by or were so rare and freakish that they made national headlines. Therefore, we we able to keep them where they belonged – in the category of the very rare, unusual, atypical, abonormal occurance they actually are. Now, we see/hear about these crimes so often, we begin to believe they are happening all the time, right around the corner, when in fact, they are not.

  129. vzwriter1 July 14, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    Of course you feel for the family, we all do. The mom thought her son would be ok, but it didn’t work out, no blame on her.
    But had it been your child, you’d be shutting down the site and recanting these opinions.
    The reason many of us played outside alone, as did our parents, was lack of information: back then, people thought children just “ran away,” maybe to join the circus.
    These days, we know that they are abducted, sexually abused and/or murdered when they disappear.
    Age-appropriate safety is what’s important to us “overprotectors.” My two-year-old wasn’t left alone with the TV because she had no clue that pulling the TV off the table might crush her head; at three, she could understand that and could be left alone.
    Instead of staying inside cooking, cleaning and reading, as my mom did, I’m at the playground with my six-year-old.
    She will be left outside alone with adults when she is physically and psychologically prepared to defend herself against adults. That’s far beyond age 8.

  130. mollie July 14, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    “So tired if everyone, most of all Lenore spewing their unsolicited advice and opinionon other people’s parenting choice… How about keeping the family in your heart and being quiet, just this once?? The funeral started at 8:30 and is still in progress, you know?”

    UWS mom: To me, Lenore is cheering this family’s parenting choice, and is more than keeping this family in her (broken) heart. She is celebrating their love and care for their son, their support of his emerging independence, their willingness to allow him to take on the challenge of getting himself from here to there alone.

    All this while the rest of the media wrings their hands and questions the viability of any parent anywhere’s choice to allow children even a modicum of unsupervised freedom in their worlds, even for a moment, casting into hysterical doubt this particular family’s decision to allow their son a few blocks of freedom in a close-knit neighbourhood.

    Following any major media’s reporting of this on the internet, you will undoubtedly see venomous threads of comments rebuking these parents mercilessly for what was a loving, reasoned decision to nurture their son’s development. What you see here is an overwhelming pouring out of support for this family, not pity for them, but the message of solidarity, that their choice was a sage one, even in the face of this one-in-a-billion tragedy.

    I can think of no better tribute to this young boy’s life and his family’s love. We can all imagine that things could have been different, but in the face of what is, Lenore’s message of respect, reason and hope is one that I dearly cherish.

  131. Jp Merzetti July 14, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Lenore, your post makes me ponder just what a logical rebuff would be…that any risk whatsoever is unacceptable.
    What popped into my head was this: Suppose any loving husband refused to let his wife navigate our society for fear of what may happen to her on her own (and the statistics for these types of assault, murder and mayhem must indeed overwhelmingly top statistics of crimes against children.)
    Yet we don’t question the decision to accept necessary risks in this case – why? Is it because that wife is valued any less? Is it because she is simply adult, and as such, the risk of victimization less traumatic? Is it because somehow, her freedom is “necessary” and the freedom of a child, somehow…expendable?

    And Donna…….I couldn’t agree with your sentiments more…perhaps as a society, something which is in the process of atrophying – is the combination of parents within a community demanding it be safe for their kids and accepting nothing less / combined with kids being smart enough to handle the freedom they do acquire, young enough to have built up competent layers by the time they’re old enough that it really matters.

  132. Estiban July 14, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    I live in a relatively small town in South Australia. We don’t have a lot of crime here. But occasionly something terrible does happen in our state, and occasionly this involves a young person.

    I have an eleven year old daughter. Our local grocery store is a three minute walk down the main street of our little town, we live on the corner of the main street and a side street. The playground is about three minutes further on from the store.

    Until this year I would not let her walk to the store by herself. She enjoys this new freedom. It does not extend to other towns or situations. I don’t let her go to the playground without a friend and they must stick together.

    I don’t gel with the phrase ‘the world has fallen’. The population of the world is always increasing and there seems to be an increased amount of mental health issues in society.

    I am a progressive thinker and parent. I enjoy this blog ‘Free Range Kids’, however my daughter will not be walking around by herself, or going to the playground by herself. She needs to be with a freind or I’m taking her myself.

    It’s not that darkness has won. We live with darkness. It is part of humanity. Let them out in pairs with other kids who are also intelligent, or in threes. At our local pool every kid and adult has to get out of the pool when there’s a storm. Lightning hasn’t come near the pool yet and probability suggests it may never do so, but the kids will always be asked to get out anyway.

  133. LRH July 14, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    mollie That was so well said, I could not agree more.

    vzwriter1 Lack of information? I seriously doubt that. It’s been shown here ad nauseum that crime is no higher now than then, and the information you applaud basically it’s more sensationalism than actual information, making it seem that crime etc is too high to allow kids time outside etc.

    Wait beyond age 8 if you will, it’s your child to parent as you please, I can tell you that practically all 8 year-olds I’ve ever seen are far & away ready to spend some time alone without somoene hovering over them every second, and they rightly can’t stand the hovering.

    Most of all, though, I seriously doubt Lenore would shut down this site & recant her opinions if something happened to her child. I seriously think you’re way off on that.


  134. Michelle July 14, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    RIP Leiby. May your parents get through this horrific time, safe in the knowledge that they allowed you to really live your life. God bless you and your family xx

  135. vzwriter1 July 14, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    So is everyone here also skipping babysitters when you have an important meeting or other obligation, or maybe even for nights out on the town? I suppose that starts at what, age 4?
    If your kid is safe alone at age 6 in a city of 6 million, where they could encounter anyone and everyone, they’re certainly safe in their own home at age 4, no?
    Here are the bad things that could happen to your children if you don’t let them roam unaccompanied in public where they could meet encounter any and every conceivable kind of adult or teenager: they might feel a little less independent until you let them out alone in middle or late adolescence.
    Bad things that could happen to your children if you let them roam unaccompanied in public while they’re still children: robbed, victimized by a bully or murderer, stolen for child sex slavery, rape, murder, or simple disappearance.
    Children who have been fully instructed in “stranger danger” have yet disappeared. They are physically smaller and their brains are far less developed, so yes, they are in more danger than a grown woman.
    If kids are really this self-sufficient, why do we bother with schools? Just send them all to the public library every day and tell them to educate themselves. Heck, Abe Lincoln did it, and not only was he never abducted, he became President of the United States!

  136. vzwriter1 July 14, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    LRH you’re right in that crime is no higher now than it was then. Back then, the facts were the same but we didn’t know them. Now we have information — sensationalized and otherwise — about what happens to kids. Specifically, we have information about how pedophiles operate: they target individual kids and look for the moments when those kids are unsupervised, then swoop in.
    These days, you can’t avoid getting that information, and I won’t avoid acting on it. Peace on the rest of you, but I’ll worry for your kids when I see them on the street.

  137. Michelle Smith July 14, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    May his memory be for a blessing, and may his family find comfort among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

    Why did this happen? Because, as other posters have noted, there was a very sick/evil/terrible person who decided to harm a child.

    When my daughter (10) started taking public transportation by herself in San Francisco, we prepared her for things like “what if the bus breaks down?” and “what if you realize you went in the wrong direction on the bus?” and “what if you get sick on the bus?” We didn’t focus on “what if someone tries to abduct you?” because… it’s just not high on the list of things that are likely to happen. We did throw in “if someone threatens you and demands your phone, give it to them,” but in general I don’t think you can prepare for all the crazy things that *could* happen, and if you tried, you’d probably manage to prepare for all but the one that *does* end up happening.

    Leiby’s parents will suffer enough from their own doubts of whether they did the right thing… they don’t need *our* help blaming them. It wasn’t their fault. That won’t bring him back, but neither will casting blame on his parents and his community.

  138. Uly July 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    Specifically, we have information about how pedophiles operate: they target individual kids and look for the moments when those kids are unsupervised, then swoop in.

    Except that’s NOT how pedophiles operate, not usually. Most pedophiles target children known to them and under their supervision – not unsupervised strangers.

    Bad things that could happen to your children if you let them roam unaccompanied in public while they’re still children: robbed, victimized by a bully or murderer, stolen for child sex slavery, rape, murder, or simple disappearance.

    Dude, seriously, have you ever heard of ANYbody selling children of American strangers as sex slaves? There was that one case where that woman sold her own daughter, but less supervision would’ve been a boon for that girl.

    Of course, abductions, rapes, and murders of minors by strangers are all more likely to happen to preteens and teens than smaller children. I know this because I actually bothered to look up the facts. You clearly didn’t.

    If your kid is safe alone at age 6 in a city of 6 million, where they could encounter anyone and everyone, they’re certainly safe in their own home at age 4, no?

    I didn’t realize we were discussing six year olds and four year olds. I thought we were still talking about children aged 8 and up! But thanks for jumping off that slippery slope for us. Saves us the trouble of pushing you.

    there seems to be an increased amount of mental health issues in society.

    Based upon what evidence?

    Lightning hasn’t come near the pool yet and probability suggests it may never do so, but the kids will always be asked to get out anyway.

    Sure – in a storm. Closing the pool and keeping children inside ALL the time because even on sunny days lightning can (rarely) strike would be madness, though.

    These days, we know that they are abducted, sexually abused and/or murdered when they disappear.

    Well, some are. Perhaps as many as 200 or 300 a year in the US.

    However, most missing child cases are errors (kid is at the mall) or double reports (both mom and dad report the kid missing), or they’re familial abductions (mom knows dad has the kid, dad is NOT supposed to have the kid), or they ARE runaways or “throwaway” children. (And some of those runaways are escaping abusive situations at home, including molestation.) The vast majority of missing children aren’t kidnapped by strangers, and most children who ARE abducted by strangers are returned alive to their parents.

    Instead of staying inside cooking, cleaning and reading, as my mom did, I’m at the playground with my six-year-old.

    You NEVER cook and you NEVER clean and you NEVER read? Wow. I’m impressed. If I did that, we’d live in squalor and starve while I screamed from boredom.

    You never miss a beat and the opportunity to catch the limelight, do you, Lenore?

    You know, FRK is the first – and so far ONLY – place I’ve heard this news.

    And while you might say that proves your point, after reading comments I’d missed I realized that no sooner was this boy found than no less than two different commenters stopped by specifically to say “Hah, told you so, you suck!”

    I don’t know if Lenore would’ve posted about this anyway. It seems to me, though, that this is less a manifesto and more a response to the rude and reprehensible people who took a tragedy as a chance to attack her for something she didn’t even do.

  139. Heather C. July 14, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Reading all of these posts I have come to the conclusion that no matter what I decide is best for MY children I will be criticized. Having said that, here goes nothing. I started following this blog out of sheer curiosity, I am ALWAYS open to other points of view that don’t exactly align with mine. I don’t think I am on board with this free range parenting, but I would also think calling cautious parents helicopter parents is just another way of criticizing a fellow parent with harsh words. Afterall, isn’t the whole idea of an opinion that we aren’t all going to share a certain view, but that’s ok, because I live my life my way, you are “free- range” to live yours your way. I never have, nor ever will allow my 6 & 9 year old to play outside alone, unsupervised in hopes that everyone in my community gives a second thought about their safety, because most people DON’T CARE, whether they are a decent person or not. I believe soon enough my children will be old enough to not need my constant supervision, but I am in no rush to force independence on them just because it may give them what some view as an invaluable life experience. It isn’t my communities job to watch over my children for me- they are under my charge. Yes, my children ride their bikes, (on the sidewalk) & they even go to parks, (with my supervision). They are children, not little adults, & expecting them to think like an adult, or remember what they have been instructed to do in an unforeseen situation is a risk “I” am not willing to take. I could never handle the guilt if something like what happened to that poor child happened to one of my own. That is MY choice. I am in no way criticizing his parents choice (my prayers are with them), i feel if I have chosen to be with my children, leading them, until the day when I feel they are ready by MY terms, I do not deserve to be called unkind names- just as I would never call you ignorant for your choices.

  140. vzwriter1 July 14, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    @ Nanci, @ BSH: “If he had been finding his way home alone since age 6 or 7, he wouldn’t have gotten lost; this wouldn’t have happened to him.” Or maybe he would have gotten lost at age 6 or 7 instead of age 8; maybe his predator would have snared him a year or two earlier.
    “If he had been instructed on what to do…” maybe he was. Yet this still happened to him.
    @Uly: I’ve been in NYC public libraries where parents send their children in lieu of personally supervising them or arranging/paying for appropriate supervision, so I can tell you what they might need you for. They might need you to tell them to stop telling dirty jokes loudly, rolling on the floor loudly laughing and blocking the aisles while disturbing other patrons, stop violating the time limits on computer use so other patrons can have a turn at the computer, stop kissing boys in the stacks, stop making loud fart jokes so other people can read…all of the normal but annoying kid things that are the job of parents to address, not the job of perfect strangers to put up with and address.

  141. Heather in Texas July 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    I subscribe to your posts because I like your ideas and thoughts. I’m not quite there with you, but I’m open minded enough to read your stories and imagine how they would work out if integrated into my and my children’s lives. I agree we cant shelter our children from everything. My children are by no means shut-ins. They are fairly independent. But as a parent you want to prevent your kids from being in any situation that might or could potentially harm them. It’s just not worth the risk to me to let my 8 or 9 year old walk the city streets. Odds are they would be fine. But again, I won’t gamble with my children’s lives. I protect them as much as I can whenever I can. I don’t suffocate them. I protect them. Anything can happen at any time. “Bad guys” are everywhere and I won’t put the life of my children in anyone’s hands but my own. I will still continue to read your blog. But I’d expect this particular death of a child to hit you close to home and maybe change your mind a bit. Crime may be at it’s lowest in your area, but that’s still not good enough to gamble your child’s life.

  142. Uly July 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    Well, vzwriter1, then it is within the rights of the library system to alter their rules. As they haven’t, and they still permit unattended children (so long as they are behaving), they must feel there is some value in allowing children to visit the library without their parents.

    And you know, honestly, if your child is old enough to want to go kissing boys ANYwhere, your child is too old to have a constant nursemaid. Sooner or later you have GOT to cut the apron strings. I’ve seen grown-ups kissing passionately where it’s wildly inappropriate. I don’t look around for their parents, I just make my snide comment and move on. (I’m not in any position of authority over them, unfortunately.)

  143. Uly July 14, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    Heather, you gamble with your child’s life by living in a place where you have to drive. EVERY time you strap your kid in the carseat (or don’t), you’re gambling with your child’s life. Car crashes are THE leading cause of death for children under the age of 16. (And over the age of 16. Actually, they’re the leading cause of death for all Americans, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.)

    Hate to tell you (well, I don’t, but I hate that you won’t listen), but your kid is probably safer walking home unattended than riding in a car with you.

    “Bad guys” aren’t everywhere. (And most of them target people known to them, another fact most people try not to know.)

    But as a parent you want to prevent your kids from being in any situation that might or could potentially harm them.

    Well, that’s one philosophy. Some people prefer their children stretch themselves, even if it increases the risk slightly. These people take their kids to playgrounds (could break a bone!), sign them up for sports (could die in a freak lacrosse accident that gives them a heart attack (yes, this has happened!) that could in no way have been prevented!), teach their kids how to build things (your kid could get tetanus from a puncture wound!), send their children to school (could get bullied!), take their children camping (could wander off a cliff and die!), allow their children to cook (knives! fires!), encourage them to make friends (they could get hurt feelings!), and, yes, let them make short trips alone at a reasonable age.

    (And what IS that reasonable age? Heck if you know. I note that lots of people say “this age is too young, that age is too young”, but none of them says “okay, that age is okay!”. Well, except for Jose, and just between you and me, I think 15 is absolutely crazy.)

    that’s still not good enough to gamble your child’s life.

    You started gambling with your child’s life the day you conceived. That pregnancy could’ve miscarried at any time (most successful conceptions do, generally before the woman knows she’s pregnant), the child could’ve had any number of birth defects, genetic or otherwise, the kid could’ve gotten sick and died, or been premature, or injured in normal childhood activities. Or, very possibly, died in a car crash.

    But you know what? You stop driving, and you start advocating for a decent public transportation system in your area (or sidewalks and bike lanes, whatever suits you), and when you’ve eliminated that MAJOR area of risk in YOUR life, then you can talk to the rest of the world about “gambling with your child’s life”. Because until you fix that big problem, take that beam out of your eye? I’m not going to listen to you pontificate about much smaller and less likely dangers.

    Deal with what’s most likely to kill your kid rather than telling us to worry about something that happens so rarely it is international news when it occurs. (You would never, EVER hear about a car accident that killed a single 8-year-old New Yorker in Texas. Because fatal car accidents are so common that they’re not newsworthy, sometimes not even in the same area they occurred.)

  144. Estiban July 14, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    My comment: there seems to be an increased amount of mental health issues in society.

    Uly: Based upon what evidence?

    Based on Australian statistics. It’s a hot topic here in Australia. Our mental health system is overwhelmed. Additionally, my friend who works as a social worker who specialises in mental health has noted a dramatic increase in young people with serious mental health problems and she reports first hand that her unit has gone from coping to being overwhelmed.

    There seems to be a culture developing on this board that anyone who has a different opinion incurs the wrath of the one-eyed supporters.

    I’m going to say what everyone knows to be true. Leiby shouldn’t have been walking several blocks by himself in Brooklyn at age eight. His parents (all the love in the universe to them and his family) know this, we all know this. The world is not safe. This lack of safety increases in large cities because there is simply more people, and hence more people with mental issues.

    They don’t need parents hovering. They, the children, need to be in pairs or threes, at least until they are teenagers.

  145. SgtMom July 14, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Some legislators in the Palmetto State are already talking about introducing a bill next legislative session, and it would make leaving a child in a car a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of about $1000.

    The bill would be sponsored by Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D- Charleston) and would most likely apply to children under the age of 7. Gilliard says similar legislation was discussed last session, but never made it on the pat to become law.

    Gilliard and the bill’s supporters say it would hold parents responsible for being negligent in caring for their children.

    Tragedies associated with kids being left unattended in cars are making headlines across the state, from the Grand Strand to the Midlands. Just last week in Richland County, a baby was kidnapped after her parents left her in a car parked in a driveway. In North Myrtle Beach about a month ago, officers responded to a report of two children under 6 who were found red and sweating in a hot car in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

    In both those cases, the children were OK, but there’s not always a happy ending.

    Many parents say a law to keep parents from leaving their kids in the car is the right thing to do.

    “I wouldn’t leave it completely to parental judgement because some people don’t make good decisions, but I definitely think there needs to be a minimum,” said Loryn Vaughn, a mom of four.

    Some opponents though, say there are already laws on the books to address child neglect and the legislature doesn’t need to get so specific.

    Dennis Cangelosi is a former New York police officer and president of the Coastal Carolina Shield, an organization of retired law enforcement. He says the legislation could serve as a tool for law officer in trying to educate parents and caretakers about their responsibilities.

    “You want to be proactive with law enforcement and not reactive. There are plenty of laws on the books if a child is injured or killed that would cover that, but a proactive law would be good,” said Cangelosi.

    The soonest the bill could be introduced would be when session begins again in January.

    That $1,0000 fine would have made a nice investment in the kid’s college fund…IF they live to go to college, you silly, silly parents!

  146. David July 14, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    “The reason many of us played outside alone, as did our parents, was lack of information: back then, people thought children just “ran away,” maybe to join the circus.
    These days, we know that they are abducted, sexually abused and/or murdered when they disappear”

    No it wasn’t lack of information, it was realism. When I was growing up in the seventies I recieved all the usual warnings about not going off with strangers or getting into cars because of the ‘bad things’ that could happen. Parents then were perfectly aware of of the possibilty of abduction by paedophiles; they just looked at it realistically and didn’t consider the risks high enough to justify restricting their childrens freedom.

    In discussing the past, one of the most dangerous assumptions we can make is that people ‘back then’ had different social mores because they were ignorant or unenlightened, that our present society represents the pinnacle of human achievement.

  147. Heather C. July 14, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    @Uly You seem to have a very strong opinion that most of us are raising our children the wrong way- I guess we are all just going to have to agree to disagree. Seems to me you bring up more reasons for me to “nursemaid” my children & to not “cut the apron strings” so soon because, as you say, there are dangers EVERWHERE. You parent your kids your way & I will my way. Afterall they are MY children. Being free range should also encompass the allowance of opinions that aren’t yours without berating and insulting them because in your “humble” opinion they are WRONG. Pontificate that.

  148. Uly July 14, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Estiban, it’s not an attack. If you’re going to make a statement like “Oh, mental health issues are going up”, well, this is the sort of thing people say all the time, along with “Oh, English language is deteriorating” and “Oh, crime is much worse than 15 years ago”, and they just make up facts as they go along. You can’t be surprised if you’re asked to back it up.

    If it’s young people who are more and more being diagnosed with mental health issues nowadays in Australia, what is the reason for this?

    Could it be recent (say, within the past two decades) parenting practice? If so, given that increased supervision is more recent, that would suggest that it may actually be doing harm.

    Could it be that they’re NOT increasing, but that people are increasingly seeking help? That seems more likely to me – how is “mental health issues” defined?

    Could it be that the diagnostic criteria for many disorders has changed, or that your health care covers more conditions than it used to?

    And if there IS an increase, is there a corresponding increase in violent crimes? How is the crime rate in Australia, anyway? Oh, let me go look it up.

    Ah. Well, I’ll eat my hat. Seems violent crime in Australia may be increasing somewhat (but not greatly) in recent years, and that it may be a little more prevalent than in the US.

    No information on how mental illness intersects with crime in Australia there, though. (And how IS mental illness defined?)

    The world is not safe.

    No, it’s not, though for us in the West it’s safer now than it’s ever been. The sooner you start teaching your children to live in this world, the better. (After all, the zombie apocalypse is coming! But seriously, people, your kids have got to learn to be adults before they’re forced to be adults.)

  149. Uly July 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    You seem to have a very strong opinion that most of us are raising our children the wrong way

    No, Heather. That’s your opinion.

    See, you’re in a place where people are all “Hey, let’s give kids more age appropriate freedoms!” and you’re saying “Oh, no, I don’t think so”. One of us disagrees with the majority here. That person is not me.

    Seems to me you bring up more reasons for me to “nursemaid” my children & to not “cut the apron strings” so soon because, as you say, there are dangers EVERWHERE.

    Heather, if you’re following your kids around when they’re teenagers so they don’t kiss, and you’re not letting your 15 year olds outside the house without you, you deserve the criticism.

    Right now, it seems you don’t have teenagers at all, so it’s never come up!

    You parent your kids your way & I will my way.

    I think that’s most people’s plan, actually.

    Being free range should also encompass the allowance of opinions that aren’t yours without berating and insulting them because in your “humble” opinion they are WRONG. Pontificate that.

    My opinion isn’t all that humble, mostly because it’s not based on random unsubstantiated feelings but on facts.

    If you think driving your child anywhere is safer than letting them walk outside, unless you happen to live in the middle of a drug war you are wrong. This is not an opinion. It is a fact. And I’ve got the numbers to prove it.

    If you think children are likely to be abducted by strangers and harmed, you are wrong. This is not an opinion. This is another fact. And again, I’ve got the numbers to prove it! I’ve actually looked up these numbers! Repeatedly. It’s like that time in high school when I had to take music history three times. It didn’t change from one term to the next. (Heck, it didn’t even change in college. I don’t know why I bothered.)

    If you think that all parents everywhere want to eliminate all risk and danger from their children’s lives, you are wrong. This is one more fact, and I can scroll through the comments to prove it (or, heck, check out the rates of injuries in child sports and note that parents still sign their kids up for those things).

    And if you think it’s better to eliminate all risk… well, that one is an opinion, and I think it’s a very silly one. A life without any risk or danger at all would be hardly worth living. Last week the older niece ran down one of the rocks at Central Park and scraped her knee. Really scraped it up bad. I bet it hurt, too – but she learned something new (don’t run full-tilt down steep inclines) and valuable, and she had fun the other three times she did it. Next time she’ll take it a little slower and won’t fall.

    But, you know, it’s easy to attack me rather than disproving my arguments. Discount me as a person and I guess you don’t have to! You can safely ignore me because you don’t like me.

    That’s all right. It’s easy to attack you too, but that’s because you’re ignorant. I don’t have to dislike you to do it, I just have to know more than you do. And that’s not hard, all it takes is a few google searches.

  150. Party Piper July 14, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    Know what else is weird? The fact that all of the link stories at the bottom are some horrible fear-inducing story. The sex-trade thing is the child-molesting satan-worshipping daycare worker story of the current generation. Yeah, all those Satanists didn’t really turn up when I was a kid. Who knew?

  151. Myriam July 14, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    This tragedy is sobering. I also agree with people who have suggested that it is something of a false dichotomy to present the choice as either: “freerange” child/helpless obese child sitting in front of the TV all day.

    I do however object to the suggestion that if I let my nine year old go to the park without me it is because I am lazy or not interested in spending time with my child. My children are the most important thing in my life and I enjoy going to the park with them. But at some point I have to go home and do other things FOR MY CHILDREN such as cooking and working (from home) to keep a roof over their heads.

    We don’t have much of a back yard and they can’t run around inside as we are in an upstairs flat and the neighbours will complain. Much better for my nine-year-old to be at the park (his friends have to be there too) than watching TV for three hours in a row.

  152. Carl July 14, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

    As the helicopter was about to land, instead I have performed in-flight refueling and will be hovering over my 7yo for a few more years.

  153. SKL July 14, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    People keep saying our parents were naive about pedophiles. I don’t believe that. Both of my parents had things happen to them personally when they were kids. My dad was about 4 when a man came chasing him and his siblings, who were playing on a hill in a park – the older siblings ran and left him behind, so he picked up a big rock, flung it down at the man, and ran like hell. He knew that man had no good intentions, even then, and he remembered that when he had kids. He also used to tell us the cautionary tale “Dr. Stockingtoe” which was full of examples of how a stranger could lure a child away to a life of horrors. The point was to remind kids to obey their parents over strangers, and never go off with a stranger.

    Speaking of cautionary tales, quite a few old fairy tales also have kids abducted by strangers (who are sometimes animals, sometimes humans). Remember Pinocchio? Hansel and Gretel? And of course Little Red Riding Hood. I could probably go on all day with this. Point is, our ancestors were not naive.

    The difference is that before today, the norm was to teach your kid about safety and take calculated risks. Today, calculated risks are not accepted in some circles.

  154. Heather C. July 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    @Uly You can spout all the facts you want, I am not arguing facts. I am a parent not only in my “ignorant” mind, but in my heart. Once again, you parent the way you choose, I am not criticizing that, & didn’t, I parent the way I choose. I am thankful that I have this freedom & in no way take your narrow view. I don’t want or need your list of Googled facts to be a parent, I was unaware that my kids came with a manual that I am obviously not intelligent enough to interpret. Life cannot be lived without some sort of risk, therefore it is impossible to hover over my children so much so that they not experience the good and the bad. No one is attacking you as much as you seem to be drawing on their points and “proving” them wrong. My children play sports, get bumps and bruises, make decisions, & live as other children do. I even let them do these things outside of the bubble I force them to live in, like a prisoner to my ignorance. I will be patiently awaiting your definitive, based on facts, with the numbers to prove it, guide to parenting best seller in the near future.

  155. Uly July 14, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

    Heather, you don’t need to be intelligent to look up some information and make your choices on information instead of fear.

    But, again, you keep trying to discredit me instead of making a real understanding of the difference between real risks and imaginary ones. Keep reassuring yourself that you can’t possibly be making mistakes.

    My children play sports, get bumps and bruises, make decisions, & live as other children do.

    So you lied when you said that…

    Oh, hell, that’s the other Heather. Well, honestly, you’re going around acting as though I’m talking to you when I’m making comments clearly directed to other people, so I’m sorry that in this case I made a comment to you that should’ve been sent to that other Heather.

  156. Renée Schuls-Jacobson July 14, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    I am heartbroken over this.

    I cannot rant.

    What is the point in turning against each other?

    I let my 11 year-old son run about. I don’t always know where he is. I send him to overnight camp during the summer (because he loves it).

    Things happen to people during this life. Sometimes terrible things. We can decide if we want to run with the big dogs and get scratched and bitten and — yes — possibly mauled or even killed by that bastard of a pit bull that lives down the street. Or we can stay on the porch and watch it all. From the sidelines. Or, worse, we can sit on the porch with our iPods and not even watch. We can pop into a virtual world which teaches isolation and ivery little positive stuff when it comes to human interaction.

    So I am grateful my soon-to-be 12 year old has learned his lessons well. But never do I believe that he is safe. None of us is. The world is not solid.

    Bless Leiby Kletzky for having such an open heart. For trusting in people. And may G-d grant his family peace. They were not doing anything wrong. They had given their son roots, and they were letting him try on his wings.

    Isn’t that we are supposed to do? Give them roots AND wings?

  157. Mary July 14, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

    Seems to me that a few of the poster’s children have to be free range as their Mom/dad are really busy on the Internet disputing every single opinion that differs from their own… To spend so much time researching facts to be able to “other mother” another parent is just sad. I seriously hope Ms. Skenazy giving you a cut of whatever she is making from this nonsense…

  158. Julia July 14, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    I am a parent of three kids in Brooklyn in a neighborhood near where this tragedy took place. As is often the case, people have a very inaccurate idea of what it’s like in the city and in Brooklyn in particular. It is fairly standard for children to be allowed out unsupervised and 8 years old would be a common age to allow your child to run to the corner store or go a few blocks to a playdate. This is especially true in the summer.

    Because middle schools are often a good distance away from either home or where parents work 10 or 11 is not an unusual age for kids to start taking public transportation alone. Riding the bus or subway at 3pm amply demonstrates this. Brooklyn is, somewhat by default, a free-range borough.

    Also, the streets in the neighborhood where this child was walking would most likely have been well populated, not empty and deserted, especially at 5pm on a summer afternoon.

    Much farther up in the comment thread a mother talked about walking down the street and having all sorts of people keeping an eye out for her small child. Her description exactly reflects my experience here. I’ve been both the mother with the running child and the person at the corner keeping an eye on someone else’s child. People are always keeping an eye out, whether to make sure kids are safe or to make sure they’re not acting up. Brooklyn is in many ways like a bunch of cliched old-fashioned small towns crammed up against each other.

  159. Uly July 14, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

    LOL, Mary. It doesn’t take that long to look up a few facts. That’s why I have no patience with people who think that they don’t need to know things. Why would anybody want to be ignorant? Why would they want to make their decisions based on ignorance instead of knowledge? That’s not what I call adult thinking.

  160. socalledauthor July 14, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    Mary: is that the best you can come up with? If you’d like to join the discussion, perhaps you could add some information and facts rather than a little mudslinging. You don’t know when or under what circumstances ANY person here is posting, but you put on your self-righteous hat.

    Some of us research facts for our OWN interests so that we can make INFORMED decisions (you know, ones based off more than feelings.) For example, ask me about the history of potty training… I didn’t research this so I could argue with people who have a different opinion, but I will mention it if the topic comes up. In this case, the topic of child dangers IS relevant, so those of us who have figures and facts are including it in the discussion as rebuttal against those who are repeating misinformation. The only way to stop misinformation is with truth, but that only happens when the other party is willing to listen…

    As we say in our house you can lead a horse to water… but you can’t stop him from drowning himself.

  161. Jennemmy July 14, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    My first thought after reading the sad ending to Leiby’s short life was to see your pov. I have to say that in many ways I want to be a free range parent. I let my kids play outside, they are free to go wherever they please at the summer pool club and to wander around Old Navy while I shop. But, I thought your opinion would change after hearing about Leiby. To be honest, when you actually have someone die due to a misfortunate accident, my guess is you will change your behavior. It is how we evolve. No one wore seat belts 30 years ago, now we do. Overprotective or smart? Bike helmets? Kids riding bikes alongside cars on the roads? My sister died two years ago in an unlikely accident. It was hard to move forward. My guess is if I sit at the park reading a book while my kids play or I let them skip ahead of me thru the mall as long as they are in eyeshot, I am not being overprotective, I am doing my best to keep them from harm. Leiby’s story isn’t unusual just reported. Kids get hurt, drown, disappear and killed every day. I, in no way, blame Leiby’s family for allowing him to walk home. If anything, it proves that even the safest place will have accidents that happen. And I too, have let my daughters do things because they have asked even if I worried it might jeopardize their safety. Today, I won’t just run to the corner store while they hang out at home. I will keep an extra watchful eye on them at the pool. And my vigilance may lapse as time passes but the next parent who loses a child will renew my desire to do everything to continue to be their parent for as long as possible.

  162. Herbert Arp July 14, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    Poor, poor parents. I am sitting here fighting back my tears. My son is 3 1/2 years old and we live in a big city, too. Of course, Hamburg (Germany) is not as big as New York, but I admit, even if I am called a helicopter dad now, I am scared of the world outside and I fear to let my son walk alone when he will be older. But I guess, even when I read this tragedy, your way and thoughts are essentially right, Lenore. And reading all the comments here, I am confident to dispose my son for the darkness of the world. But besides that, it must be allowed to be afraid or worried without being stigmatised. Most important is, to let children make their own experience without the parents, isn’t it?

  163. socalledauthor July 14, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    Jennemmy– were you always within eyeshot of your parents? My parents let me browse the toy section while they grocery shopped and then had the cashier page me. I was on the opposite side of the store and they trusted that I would be safe. Where is the line between protective and overprotective? You appear to place it, maybe, with having the children within reach… I place it farther (of course depending on the age and maturity of the child [though maturity tends to expand with increased responsibilty, a catch-22]) So you say you’re not being overprotective– but by me definition, you are. If you truly believe your actions are correct, then don’t let others dissuade you!

    Also, do the stories of car wrecks keep you from taking your child in the car? Plane crashes keep you from ever flying with your child? The problem with the argument, imho, of a parent “doing everything they can” to keep the kid safe is that these “safety measures” are all over small, controllable unlikely activites– things that statistically have no risk. It makes the parent feel better but in actuality, does little to nothing to reduce the risk. Which is your right. I just take offense to being told I can’t decide for myself what risks are acceptable– I am bound by legislation and chastized as lazy or negligent or unloving.

    Now, I could say: “I disagree with keeping children in eyeshot all the tome (for example) because the danger is no less than if they were not– if they were grabbed, I wouldn’t be likely to stop the perpetrator anyway. Not that it would matter if I was closer, as a determined person with speed, strength and surprise could snatch a child from my hands, anyway. And since people are convinced that others aren’t going to help, bystanders will stand their rather than protect the child, even though it goes against biology.” If I say that, then I’m the bad guy. I’m taking unfair risks. I’m assaulting the parent who believes otherwise. But, take away the knee-jerk defensiveness, and we CAN just disagree. You can say the reasons why you think it works, we shrug and say, “Well, at least we’re free to raise our kids as we see fit.” Except, I’m not anymore. My actions are increasingly criminalized because of some people on the other team, the same people who resort to insults and attacks rather than facts. Just because I offer my reasons as to why I think yours is a bad idea does not mean I am attacking you. That’s not how rational discourse works. Offering my opinion of an action is not the same as labeling you a bad parent who clearly doesn’t love their kid (again, I’m NOT saying this, because while I disagree, I don’t judge you for your actions. You are doing as you think best… as am I.)

  164. Zan July 14, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    Leonore, I wish my Yiddish were better so that I could translate your blog post and mail it to the parents. I think this would be a comfort to them (perhaps not today, but in a little while). I can only imagine how they must feel, but this is so common in hassidic neighborhoods — children walking together alone, without adults, around the neighborhood — and nothing like this has ever happened before. And yet, they must blame themselves. Those poor people and that poor boy.

    Thanks for your words of sanity Lenore.

  165. Christine July 14, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    This story has hit me hard as well. And as I was just writing my own post on the subject, I thought of you. Good to read your thoughts on the subject. My immediate reaction is to stay inside and hide but I expect that will pass.

  166. AdaC July 14, 2011 at 10:14 pm #

    Geez! Yesterday was my first time on Ms. Skenazy’s site and I am shocked by so many self-righteous, insensitive comments by people who obviously have never experienced a child abduction or had one near their family. I was allowed “free range” privileges starting at age 14 by riding the NYC subways to high school (I’m 38 y/o now.) But ELEMENTARY-school age children simply do not possess the mental capabilities to understand all the ways pedophiles and other criminals will use to commit their heinous acts. A parent can give as many directives as possible but the criminals always have one better. Obviously many of your bloggers don’t get it but claim to know exactly what’s in a predators thought process. Really? I’m no expert but I do know a Brooklyn sergeant in the special victims unit covering Park Slope and attempted child predatory crimes HAPPEN QUITE OFTEN there (and that’s a so-called “great” neighborhood.) Just get the ComStat reports and you will know that this is NOT fear-mongering. Be willing to shut your mouth, open your eyes and LEARN. People (especially children, girls, young women and other vulnerable groups) should travel in at least pairs. Most crimes are crimes of opportunity and there is less so when there is a crowd. Same is true even when yours is a drunken teenage girl in a nightclub or traveling around the world. A lone kid presents prime opportunities for criminals. I know because a family friend’s daughter disappeared while running an errand for her parents when I was a kid in Queens. Her name was ANTONELLA MATTINA and my parents and I (and the whole community who searched for her for months) will never forget her. Seeing someone we know lose their child to MURDER is a heart-wrenching memory especially since I have just had my first child 6 months ago. p.s.- her remains were found in a wooded area far away from her home over a decade after her disappearance.

  167. "Overprotective Mother" July 14, 2011 at 10:24 pm #

    First, I think it is dangerous to talk about the low statistical probabilities of anything occurring. Bad things happen on a case-by-case, individual basis. Just think about your group of friends and coworkers and things that have happened to them, and you’ll quickly realize that hey, maybe bad things do happen more frequently than you would expect based on statistics.

    For example, I know of 3 individuals in a nearby town of fewer than 50,000 who are all afflicted with a very rare form of cancer which is only supposed to occur in 13,000 annually in all of the U.S. … despite the statistical probability that this would occur. And no, this is not a “cancer cluster.” So, I think it is irresponsible parenting to make choices for your children based on the “low statistical probability” of something bad occurring. Statistics cannot reliably predict the safety of your children.

    Second, there are many different parenting styles. To be extreme at either end is not a good thing. And, yes, your community norms are going to define what is extremely lax or extremely overprotective parenting. Ultimately, you and your children will have to live with the decisions you will make.

    That said, I don’t think any child will be permanently damaged by having a cautious parent before adolescence. Problem-solving skills are still developing (well into adolescence). As children mature and demonstrate that they have good judgment and can handle different situations, then it seems appropriate to let them have more freedom. Some children will mature sooner than others. A parent’s job is to model how to make good choices … this includes providing lots of guidance. It is not easy to learn how to make the right choices in all situations (just look back on your own life!).

    For example, Nightline has had several shows during which it is clearly demonstrated that children are easily lured by strangers. This is all despite the education we give them about “strangers.” It is absurd to think that children are going to make the right choices in these situations. The poor victim in this case approached a stranger (tragically, the very wrong one) for help because he was lost. Do you think he would have done this if he believed that this man was one of those “strangers” he had been taught about?

    There are many ways in which children can be provided with freedom … and “freedom” for children should be a relative term. For example, it does not have to mean allowing a child to go on a subway at the age of 9 by himself … but maybe it could mean letting a 9 year-old walk a few blocks from school to home.

    I think the bottom line is to trust that feeling in your gut … if you are comfortable, then what you are allowing your child to do is probably okay.

  168. pentamom July 14, 2011 at 10:56 pm #

    “but maybe it could mean letting a 9 year-old walk a few blocks from school to home. ”

    Which is EXACTLY what Leiby was doing. Or rather, he was supposed to walk seven blocks from his departure point, to where his parents would have met him.

    The point is not that we should never carefully consider what each of our children is capable of, and that we might not misjudge that sometimes (99.99% of the time without serious consequences.) The point is that THIS CASE shouldn’t entirely make us rethink the idea that kids are capable of *some degree* of independence before age 16.

  169. Donna July 14, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    I guess should clarify for vzwriter1 that I was allowed freedom at 8 and none of the kids in my hood ever ran off or “joined the circus” either. None were molested by strangers that I know of. One was shown a penis by a stranger but that was in the girl’s bathroom at school so not a free range activity. The idea that parents of the 70’s were naive about all these dangers and just thought their 8 year olds ran off and joined the circus is ridiculous. The fact is that 8 year olds are very safe, not perfectly safe as nothing can be perfectly safe, but amazingly safe nonetheless.

    Further vzwriter1 says he will let his daughter out alone when she is physically able to defend herself against an adult. Really? So I guess that means never. Last I checked most women are physically weaker than most men. The odds of me successfully defending myself against a man trying to rape me are small. Especially if he’s armed. I guess I should not have ever been allowed out and about by myself, although I’m not sure what mommy could do since I outgrew her by 14 or so.

  170. AdaC July 14, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    Well said, Overprotective Mother! There IS some common sense around here.

  171. "Overprotective Mother" July 14, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    @Pentamom. Walking a few blocks from school to home in any part of NYC is far, far different from the walk to home that most school children experience outside of an urban environment. In NYC there are many more factors to consider … from the number of individuals one would encounter, to the traffic, to the confusing environs (one block after another looking the same, often without any obvious landmarks). BTW, I have such extreme anxiety that no, I would not let my 9 year old child walk a few blocks home, but I can’t judge others for doing the same if they feel comfortable doing so.

  172. AdaC July 14, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    Some perspective: an 8-year old has only lived one-tenth (read: ONE-TENTH) of their expected lifespan. Why is that “old enough” to begin experiencing walks alone? They hopefully have 90% of the rest of their lives to explore the world without you. What’s the rush?

  173. LRH July 14, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

    AdaC First-off, what relevance is there in terms of someone having never experienced a child abduction? It seems you are suggesting that ONLY people who HAVE experienced this have valid opinions on what’s appropriate or not, a common position I’m, frankly, tired of hearing. (E.g., only parents’ opinions about parenting styles are relevant, unless you’ve been the victim of a rape you aren’t qualified to speak of what type of punishment should exist for the criminal, etc.) Well if you are, I REJECT that. You do NOT have to have experienced a child abduction to have a relevant opinion on either (a) how often the incidents actually occur and (b) what style of parenting is okay in terms of free-range vs helicopter etc. Further, as sorry as I am for your experiences as you mentioned, this does NOT make you a more qualified commentator on this topic.

    Your opinions, frankly, seem tainted by your experiences and by your association with someone in the police department. I’m not slamming the police per se, but it is common for many of them, since they deal with the worst of society as a daily job, to have a somewhat skeptical view of the “inherent goodness of mankind” as it were. It helps for one to have some perspective, and frankly it sounds as if your friend and you have neither, especially if you really think these sorts of thing happen THAT often.

    Maybe YOU and perhaps even your friend, depending on their views, needs to be “willing to shut your mouth, open your eyes and LEARN.” And who are you to suggest that the persons here, including myself, don’t have open eyes? It could just as easily be suggested that you (and possibly your friend as well) have your eyes shut and are responding in an emotional, non-logical manner in regards to your experiences, taking them as an indictment of the entire planet around you. Again, your experiences such as the one you mentioned regarding Antonella, that is unfortunate, but this is NOT an indictment of free-range parenting in & of itself. Not to be cold, but in the larger scheme of themes, it’s but a mere grand of sand on a very large shoreline of life out there. I’m sure that’s not how YOU and/or the parents of said child feel about what happened, and that’s totally appropriate, but it’s true just the same.

    Jennemmy You’re wrong. In response to But, I thought your opinion would change after hearing about Leiby. To be honest, when you actually have someone die due to a misfortunate accident, my guess is you will change your behavior. It is how we evolve. No one wore seat belts 30 years ago, now we do. Well, first-off, I congratulate Ms Lenore Skenazy for NOT changing her opinion based on one single-isolated and relatively rare sort of occurrence, tragic as though it is (and her “such sadness” tone of the post should make it clear she sees the obvious sadness here). One single incident should not define a parenting style, or much of anything else for that matter.

    Second, there is no parallel here–e.g., seat-belts/helmets vs letting a child walk alone at an appropriate age. It is not “evolving” to go from letting a child do that, at an appropriate age, to no longer doing that because of a few relatively rare incidents that shouldn’t be defining how our society operates. Leiby’s story isn’t unusual just reported. Kids get hurt, drown, disappear and killed every day. Again the statistics show this statement to be wrong. This story is unique & sad specifically because of how rare it is, and because of how the parents did nothing wrong yet STILL have this to suffer. Kids die everyday in car crashes, even AFTER car seats and seat belts and speed limits and school zones etc–and in FAR larger numbers than incidents of this type cited here. What, if anything, should we do about that–accept that, however unfortunate it is, such things happen and not be foolish and start walking 15 miles everyday, or to indeed ditch cars altogether or enact ridiculous 25mph speed limits on wide-open, deserted roads, and make people park & walk upon entering the city?

    Think people, THINK–quit letting single isolated incidents cloud your judgment and condemn those who don’t succumb to it. Frankly, I think that’s one of the main points of this post to start with.


  174. AdaC July 14, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    LRH- It’s very easy to judge any situation with your “odds-are-low” argument when you have no emotional or personal stake in the matter, which obviously you don’t. I’m sure the Kletzky family will NOT be comforted by your online comments that their tragedy is “but a grain of sand in this whole shoreline of life.” Sad to know there are actually people like you who think like that but glad that you are not my friend!

  175. "Overprotective Mother" July 14, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

    @LRH … Life is all about single, isolated incidents on a day-to-day basis, and certainly not the aggregate data reflected in statistics. Again, it boils down to you, as a parent, making decisions that you can live with at the end of the day … what risk/reward ratio works for you as an individual.

  176. Beth July 14, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

    I have read all the comments, but it seems I have missed where any of you anti-free-range-I-will-not-gamble-with-my-child’s-life people have addressed the car issue – that you ARE gambling with your child’s life every time you put him or her in the car; that he or she has a better chance of injury or death in a car than anywhere else he or she might be.

    So, instead of repeating that we are all lazy parents who dislike spending time with our kids and want to wreck families, please explain your justification for driving with your kids in the car, same as you’d like to hear mine for letting my child walk to school.

  177. Uly July 14, 2011 at 11:41 pm #

    AdaC, making choices based upon a single bad incident – even a horrifically bad incident – is folly. I knew a woman who was killed in a car crash, but I do occasionally take car service here and there (and that one happens all the time, car crashes). I live in a city where ten years ago some people crashed planes into skyscrapers. I still take planes and enter tall buildings. (Kinda have to, really.) I didn’t move.

    You should make your choices based upon the weight of evidence.

    As far as callous or heartless, listen, we’re not the ones saying that the parents made the wrong choice or they were at fault. You justify your comments, then you can criticize ours. Because when I compare yours, the ones YOU have made, to mine? It doesn’t make sense to me.

    As far as the crime rate in Park Slope, let’s see. There were 507 crimes reported in that precinct between January and August of last year. Within the last year there were a total of one murder and five reported rapes, and forty-five assaults. That’s less than one a week, in a densely populated neighborhood. We should all be so lucky.

    There is no listing for “attempted child predatory crimes”, but I assume that they’re folded in under one of those three categories. If not, please, by all means, pass me to more accurate information. Because what I’ve got doesn’t match up with what you said, and while I have heard that precincts occasionally fudge crime reports, I find it hard to believe they managed to fudge it THAT much.

    (And no, your friend is not, to me, a reliable source. I don’t know this guy, I don’t know if he even exists, I don’t know why he gave you this information (I’ve found in the past that people often will make things up or exaggerate them to get you to do what you want, which is why it’s ALWAYS necessary to do your own research and check out the actual numbers), I don’t know if he’s any good at math.)

    And then we have to ask what “child predatory crimes” even means. Or, rather, who is perpetrating this crime. If there’s a high rate of child abuse, but that abuse is largely perpetrated by family members (which, sadly, would be typical), that’s unfortunately, but it has no bearing on whether or not it’s likely to be safe for a kid to be outside unattended. I’d like it to stop, but for my own life, I’m not going to spend my time worrying about it.

    Just think about your group of friends and coworkers and things that have happened to them, and you’ll quickly realize that hey, maybe bad things do happen more frequently than you would expect based on statistics.

    No, they don’t. That’s how statistics work. Sometimes you get weird anomalies, but they can easily work in the other way.

    So the people I know who have been raped, I have actually run out the numbers. It’s not any more than I’d expect from the statistics. Robbed recently? I know maybe two people who’ve been robbed or mugged or otherwise stolen from in the past decade. No, wait – three! Died or injured in car crashes? That number jumps up somewhat, though if anything it’s a bit lower than I’d expect (but then, I live in a city where people don’t always drive places, so that may be skewing the numbers).

    So your little thought experiment has pretty much confirmed what I already knew.

    (There is an exception, and that’s people with disabilities. I *do* know more disabled people than you’d expect… but this is because I’m autistic and have met several people through autistic or disability communities. It’s no longer statistically improbable when you consider the circumstances.)

    For example, I know of 3 individuals in a nearby town of fewer than 50,000 who are all afflicted with a very rare form of cancer which is only supposed to occur in 13,000 annually in all of the U.S. … despite the statistical probability that this would occur.

    Are these people related? Some cancers are hereditary.

    But yes, statistics can’t predict whether or not any individual will get cancer. What of it? I assume you aren’t getting yourself checked out for this rare form of cancer every month just because you know three people who have it. Why? Because you know it’s unlikely that you’re person number four! (Unlikely, but not impossible.)

    And anyway, we’re not talking about entirely random chance here. We’re talking about odds as they apply to humans making human choices – a somewhat different kettle of fish.

    Statistics can’t tell me if it’s safe to cross my street. I have to actually look and check first. Statistics may not be able to tell me if any random person is safe at any random moment – but they CAN tell me if a certain activity is more or less likely to end badly. And then I can use that knowledge to make an informed choice as to how to act. (And I *can* use statistics when crossing streets, just not as my sole arbiter. I’m more careful crossing the corner up the hill than I am crossing right in front of my house. Why? Because I know how many car crashes have happened right there within the past three years.)

    As children mature and demonstrate that they have good judgment and can handle different situations, then it seems appropriate to let them have more freedom.

    That’s what we all say. We agree! Nobody here thinks you should just throw your child to the wolves. We do think that when they are showing good judgment, you should let them exercise it. It’s not overprotective to, y’know, protect a child who clearly is going to run out into traffic after that nice stranger with the lollipop and the lost puppy. It *is* overprotective to show the same level of hovering over your eight or twelve or fifteen year old as you did when he was two. No matter what your exact rule changes have been, if you haven’t made ANY there really is something wrong. I’m not going to shy away from saying that.

    Do you think he would have done this if he believed that this man was one of those “strangers” he had been taught about?

    What of it? I ask strangers for directions all the time. I have to, I get lost VERY easily. If he’d asked a different person, he’d be home now. Almost any time you ask for help, you get helped. It’s not the asking a stranger that got him in trouble, it’s having the bad luck to pick the one stranger who would do him harm. You WANT kids to know what to do if they get lost, because even if you DO try to be with them all the time, they might get separated from you at any moment.

    Where this boy went wrong (as much as he can be said to have gone wrong) was not in asking for help, but in going with the person he asked. Which is why I’ve taught my nieces not to avoid strangers (pointless) but to try, if possible, to pick strangers who are in stores (with cameras on them and a counter to mind), or who have children (and are less inclined to hurt you in front of chatty witnesses), and to ask to use a phone rather than asking for help finding us. (Less able members of your party should always stay put rather than looking for more able members. In most situations, that means the kid waits while the grown-ups find them.)

    And we have drilled and talked about this, over and over again, going through the steps. It’s not as simple as “avoid strangers!”, you have to tell them what they SHOULD do instead. (Similarly, we’ve talked about what to do if there’s a fire in the home, another unlikely event, and how to PREVENT fires in the home. These are things they just have to learn, and you have to hope that, god forbid, if it ever comes up it’ll stick. But you don’t keep your stove off because if things should catch fire and you pass out or are injured, your child might not do what they should to get out safe.)

    For example, it does not have to mean allowing a child to go on a subway at the age of 9 by himself … but maybe it could mean letting a 9 year-old walk a few blocks from school to home.

    Well, that’s what happened in this case. The kid was allowed to walk a short distance from one place to another unattended. And he made one bad choice (not the choice to ask for help, but the choice to go with the person he had asked) and it ended badly. But you know what? The vast majority of times when you ask a stranger for help, even if you’re small and helpless, all they do is point you in the right direction. That’s the thing to remember. It’s unfortunate, and tragic, and sad, but I don’t think that it necessarily merits a change in *my* behavior.

    As far as the subway goes, personally, I would find that safer than the street. Subways go from here to there and don’t make side trips. And if you DO get lost making a transfer, there are payphones so you can call your parents, and there are token booth clerks who can point you to the right train, and there are cops around, and in a pinch you can ask the conductor or driver of a train. These people really *are* safe to ask because they’re on the job in a little booth filled with windows and cameras for their safety. They can’t go anywhere or harm you. (Most people are safe to ask, because most people are good – looking at your argument, I’d be surprised if you know ANYbody who is a child murderer. Statistics works in our favor on this one – but it’s reasonable to try to pick the safest option out there.)

    if you are comfortable, then what you are allowing your child to do is probably okay.

    Well, sure. But your intuition is going to work better when you know things. This is actually why all of us, even here, trust OUR intuition better than our kids’ intuition. We know more simply because we’ve been hanging around longer. Doing research means learning means being better prepared to make good choices.

  178. brad July 14, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

    ULY would be happy if we anoint all children over the age of 3 as full-fledged “adults” capable of being completely independent and not bothering us “parents” any more. It is clear from each post that is made. And please, that analogy of kids being in more danger every time we strap them in a vehicle – sorry but that analogy is completely BESIDES the point and unrelated to kids being kidnapped or harmed by other people.

  179. brad July 14, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    To add to the point of kids in vehicles… I AM IN CONTROL of the vehicle. Yes I can get hit by some idiot drunk driver, but I still have 90% control of the safety of my children.

    Lettting them walk alone… I am not in control AT ALL. Think about it.

  180. sonya July 14, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    I’m a free-ranger in principle, but find myself fairly cautious in practice, partly because there aren’t many other kids for mine to hang out with in walking distance, and few places close by for my kids to go to, as well as busy roads around us. My younger daughter (age 7) plays in the yard unsupervised, and stays at home on her own with the doors locked for short periods (e.g. while I pick up her sister from music lesson). My older daughter (age 11) bikes to the park on her own (after having biked the route with me many times). I find myself trying to take small steps toward ensuring they are independent adults once they get to adult age, always making sure we’ve done the thing I’m suggesting together often before I ask my kid(s) to do it alone. If we lived in a city and took the subway together a lot, I would let my older daughter take our usual subway on her own. But since we don’t, I wouldn’t let her wander NYC on her own on the weekend. I think being free-range for most of us is a series of gradual steps toward letting go, always testing the waters and making sure our kids have the appropriate tools and maturity for the activity they are doing.

    One area I feel I’m not so good at is preparing them for the worst – I hate scaremongering, and find it hard to talk about what they should do in a worst-case scenario without feeling like I am scaremongering. Yet I can see that the drill of what to do if a stranger offers to help you when lost is an important one to go through (of course better still would be to make sure they know the neighborhood well enough to not get lost). Any suggestions?

  181. LRH July 14, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    AdaC Well, yeah, that’s the point, emotions aren’t supposed to play a part in the analysis. It’s called objectivity. When we let our emotions cloud our judgment, frankly, said judgment is way off kilter. I’m proud to be exhibiting this quality (of objectivity) & understanding in this situation. If you want to operate based off your emotions, it’s your call–just as NOT operating off my emotions is my call.

    Beth Exactly right about the car thing. And if their rationalization is “well, a car’s a necessity”–really? What did people do 200 years ago, to say nothing of the entire time in our history prior to this? I sort of agree with them actually, meaning that if our 2 cars were to be non-functioning tomorrow we’d be scrambling really quickly to replace them, but then again–we live in the boonies. We once lived in the city and at one point my wife worked barely 2 miles from where we lived, and my job was 7-10 minutes away by bicycle. We had a car, but for getting to-from work–didn’t actually need it.


  182. Beth July 14, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

    But brad, it’s not beside the point at all. You are back on the hating our kids kick, but you will not justify that while you are staring at your kids every minute of every day, you also (most likely) drive with them. “Besides the point” is your way of avoiding the issue, and it just doesn’t fly.

  183. "Overprotective Mother" July 14, 2011 at 11:48 pm #

    @Beth, I am not taking a stance on either side when I address the car issue … just an insight. I think one explanation is that when we are driving a car, we feel we are in control of events to a degree (e.g., using “defensive driving,” airbags in the car, using carseats, etc.). We have absolutely no control over events that take place while our child is walking alone to/from school and we cannot observe what is happening. Additionally, there is something inherently more horrific with respect to the circumstances of losing a child to an abduction-murder.

  184. Cheryl W July 14, 2011 at 11:50 pm #

    Overprotective Mother, from reading an account today, the police said that this was a VERY safe area. In fact, they said that it was a “zero crime area” based in part on the tight knit community. Letting this child walk those blocks there may very well be safer than letting a child walk the same number of blocks in a smaller community.

    What you are doing, in fact, is blaming the parents, something I most certainly don’t want to do. This child had the bad luck of getting lost and asking for help from the ONE wrong person out of many others that he could have asked. Had he asked say, the girl/grandfather/man/mother in the next store, he would have gotten home safe. This one being that he did ask…is not representative of the human race.

  185. sonya July 14, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

    brad, Isn’t the problem that your child will become an adult one day, and need to get around on their own? How do you prepare a child for getting their drivers license for example if you don’t let them out on their own little by little? I find the idea of a 17 year old suddenly being allowed to drive wherever they like after never having previously gone anywhere alone rather terrifying. College campuses are becoming filled with kids who’ve never been unsupervised before, and hence are unable to cope with the responsibility that goes with it. Everyone becomes an adult eventually, so we need to prepare our children for that responsibility little by little, rather than expect them to suddenly acquire it at age 18.

  186. Uly July 14, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

    Oh, Beth, they never will. Because they do that every day, and so they rationalize that it must be okay. Well, fine – but then they use a different standard for things they DON’T do.

    Ada, it’s extremely unlikely that this boy’s family will read any of our comments. I’m not very concerned with how they’ll take mine, certainly, because they’ll probably never read them.

    However, if you think we should be concerned with comforting them, by all means, you go first. Stop saying that their kid would be here if they’d done something differently, and that therefore they SHOULD have done something differently.

    And yes, an eight year old has only lived 10% of his expected lifespan… but he’s already halfway through his childhood. He only has so much time to learn to be an adult! Can’t put it off too long.

    Walking a few blocks from school to home in any part of NYC is far, far different from the walk to home that most school children experience outside of an urban environment. In NYC there are many more factors to consider … from the number of individuals one would encounter, to the traffic, to the confusing environs (one block after another looking the same, often without any obvious landmarks).

    You know, as a New Yorker, I have to say that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    First, the blocks don’t look the same. And they DO have obvious landmarks, in the same way that every place does. My block in Brooklyn where I grew up (in Bensonhurst, so not that far from this neighborhood), I knew where I was on every part of my street by paying attention to the Queen Anne Ravioli store across the street from my apartment, or the travel shop a block down, or Alba’s Ices two blocks from that. (God, Alba’s ices are delish. They’ve moved to Staten Island now, and it’s the one good thing about my niece’s new school, it’s in the same neighborhood. Haven’t had one of those in AGES.) I could even tell where I was just by looking at the sidewalk! When it started to sparkle, I knew I was close to home.

    It’s been over a decade since we moved. Nearly two decades, actually. And I… I can still see the street in my mind. I can still see the cross-street where my friend Natalie lived, with the different fences in front of everybody’s houses. I can still see the path I took to get to my bus stop, full of landmarks like “that trunk I always climb on” and “the place with the cats” and “that curvy cool wall that’s great to walk on” and the crazy woman with the mean chihuahua’s house”.

    No, NYC has as many landmarks as anywhere else. Mind, when I visited my grandmother and uncle in Escondido, THAT was a place that seemed to have no landmarks. All the houses painted the same color, built to the same design? Beats me how people don’t get lost THERE every day. But I don’t live there. If I did, I’m sure it’d make sense.

    As far as having so many people, I consider that a plus. If I get in trouble, I’d much rather be on a busy street filled with homes and stores and people than on an isolated road where nobody can hear me scream.

  187. LRH July 14, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    brad Maybe, at some point, you’re not SUPPOSED to be in control. If your life goal is to be in control over every faucet of your child’s existence 24/7, that’s folly–no, it’s not “responsibility,” nor are people calling this folly being irresponsible. That’s the whole problem Lenore is always talking about–the expectation that you MUST, MUST, MUST be hovering over your children 24/7 and be in absolute control over every tiny thing day & night, morning and afternoon, while at school or not, while having sex or not–ALL of it.

    It’s about balance. You have to be in control in the general sense yes, but not to the level you appear to be advocating. And no, no, NO!!!–no one is suggesting 3 year olds be declared “adults” & turned loose. You’re full of shit to say this & you know it.

    The numbers don’t lie, buddy–in control or not, your child is more likely to die being in a car than being kidnapped. Your car probably isn’t the necessity you THINK it is, not that you have to justify whether or not it is to me, you don’t nor should you–but still, that contrast (car is a necessity, walking to school etc isn’t) just isn’t flying with us, nor will it ever. We know better. Paint us with that brush of recklessness all you want, it doesn’t make you right–it just makes you a reckless painter.


  188. brad July 14, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    My point is.. many free rangers are so “flippant” about their kids safety, and then justify it by “well they can die in a car” or “get struck by lightning tomorrow”. They toss out random events to justify lazy parenting for the most part. Even the term “Free range” is ludicrous.. what are our kids.. cattle?

  189. brad July 15, 2011 at 12:00 am #

    Also, I’m done with this website.. too many free rangers seem to have all the answers. I never said I was a perfect parent, but at least I don’t carry this “holier-than-thou” attitude.

  190. sonya July 15, 2011 at 12:04 am #

    Free-range parenting is not at all lazy parenting, because it requires preparing and training your kids to do things for themselves. I find it much more work than just ferrying them around with me.

  191. Uly July 15, 2011 at 12:04 am #

    Brad, don’t make things up and don’t put words in my mouth. Thanks!

    And the fact that you’re in control in the vehicle (but not the other cars on the road, of course….) doesn’t make you safe. No, the truth is that most people are really sucky drivers, they just haven’t had the bad luck to crash yet. (And this is assuming ideal circumstances, btw.)

    It’s not irrelevant to bring up the reality of how dangerous it is to drive around anywhere. (It’s not the leading cause of death for no reason!) You just don’t like to hear it because you drive places. But let me tell you, everybody who has crashed a car thought they were an above-average driver. And they weren’t as in control of things as they thought.

  192. LS July 15, 2011 at 12:05 am #

    There is no one way right way to raise a child. I just have to wonder why Uly feels the need to defend his views so much. Good grief! He has a response for just about everyone with a view point that is different than his own! It’s kind of funny. Uly, are you the self-appointed guard dog of this free range philosophy or is it an official assignment?

  193. Dave July 15, 2011 at 12:05 am #

    Thanks for such an insightful response to a tragic event. We can not let darkness win. We do live in a fallen world but nevertheless we are relatively safe. There are always evil people but not in the numbers that we fear. Many of us share your perspective I am just so glad you have the forum to speak. I will still let my grandson roam off in the park, push the limitations of his freedom and and enjoy being a live as he learns to take control of situations he finds himself in.

    I am so sorry for the family who lost their son. But I will not let one evil man destroy the community. Evil can not win. We must not turn back in fear.

  194. Uly July 15, 2011 at 12:06 am #

    And you, Brad, toss out random and rare events to justify fear. I’m not afraid of lightning strikes, and I’m not afraid of shark attacks, so why should I be afraid of equally unlikely events?

  195. Uly July 15, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    Uly has girl parts, please try again later :)

  196. Myriam July 15, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    Brad I think you’ve misunderstood the car argument. It’s meant to expose the fact that human beings in general are not very good at assessing risk, not a suggestion that “oh well we might all die tomorrow anyway, so what the hell, might as well let the kids out to play.”

  197. Donna July 15, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    @overprotective mother- The environs if NYC are familiar to kids raised in NYC. There is nothing between school and home that those kids don’t encounter every day. I would not let my 8 year old walk alone in NYC because I don’t live there. I’d question a New Yorker who let their child walk around Athens GA by herself on first visit too and I consider it a relatively safe town. But a NYC kid walking in NYC is just not a big deal.

  198. SKL July 15, 2011 at 12:27 am #

    Ugh! I’m a free range parent, and I’m very involved with my kids. I work with my kids on things that others leave for a later age. The reason is that I am consciously preparing them for more freedoms. I don’t let my kids say “I can’t – do it for me” because someday soon, they will be out without me and they will have to know how to think for themselves. I wish people would stop calling this a “lazy” parenting style.

    I fully accept that there is a range of reasonableness between bubble-wrapping and kicking the baby bird out of the nest. Kids are all different and they need different parenting styles. Yes, I judge people who are too far toward the “bubble wrapping” extreme, but mostly I take offense at people at all points on the spectrum judging my choices.

    I think sometimes it’s hard for us as sensitive individuals to distinguish “what’s right for me” comments from “what you should do” judgments.

    I think it really sucks that people are being so rotten to each other on this column. What if the parents or family members read these comments? Can we take it somewhere else??

  199. "Overprotective Mother" July 15, 2011 at 12:31 am #

    Wow, clearly on this board you have to be an extremist or get out of Dodge, which I plan to do after this final post. So much animosity. (@Cheryl … I certainly did not mean to come across as blaming the parents. It is painfully obvious that it is not their fault that this occurred). I have to wonder if some of you are out-of-work or wanna-be attorneys looking for a fight.

    @Uly, Regarding being a New Yorker. I used to be one too, so you don’t need to take that tone. (And, for clarification… are you a “Free Range Parent” or a “Free Range Uncle” … it’s an important distinction to me.) Did you see the path the kid took in any of the newspapers? He was very lost. For him, there were no obvious landmarks. I have two children. One would be able to walk home by himself after one trial run, using the most subtle of landmarks along the way. The other would never learn the subtle landmarks, no matter how many times he had walked the route. Additionally, I think you have to admit that some blocks look very similar and have fewer obvious landmarks than others. This kid did not appear to be in his “home environment” so wouldn’t have been familiar with particular shops, etc. He typically took the bus home, if you read the reports. (BTW, I would like to point out that I liked what you said about talking to strangers vs. going with a stranger … very important distinction which I really need to consider more often.)

    Going to a friendlier place …

  200. Uly July 15, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    Humans in general are worse than “not very good” at assessing risk. We absolutely SUCK at it. Our brains tend to work on pattern recognition, not risk assessment.

    This helps us sometimes. Among other things, it means we rarely eat the same poison twice! It also allows us to learn language. And it allows us to make up superstitions, and makes it harder to assess risk in some situations. Nothing is perfect.

  201. AdaC July 15, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    Uly- Sorry but the so-called statistics you cite do not include attempts such as approaching kids in the park or calling them over to cars. That is not the definition of “assault” under the New York criminal code. Since you seem to love spewing your research, I am surprised you didn’t even know that basic definition. Furthermore, Park Slope is a geographically small area of Brookyn covering approximately ONE square mile and about 70,000 adults and children. According to your “statistics”, almost 600 felonies occurred within only an eight-month timeframe among this tiny portion of Brooklyn, which is one of top three elite areas of Brooklyn (in terms of income per capita, housing prices, school stats.) Hmmm…it’s actually worse than I thought.

    My point is that predatory attempts on children are not one-off events in Brooklyn and those that claim it is are giving parents a false sense of security. Like I said, I am no crime expert but I ask people more knowledgeable. Better yet, ask Shomrim who have even more detailed reports of such crimes. After all, WHY does Shomrim even exist if it truly were a ‘zero-crime’ area? Anyone who knows Brooklyn knows that Shomrim knows more about crimes in the Jewish-populated areas than even the NYPD (as does Hatzollah than the FDNY when it comes to emergency calls.) I also don’t consider myself better-qualified to opine on the subject of leaving children alone but I am a tad more sensitive to it, having been personally exposed to the worst-case situation. My infant will not live under lock and key, but I certainly won’t be allowing her to walk by herself anywhere during her young years without telling her to stay with her group of friends…even as a teenager or, God willing we get to see that day, as a woman.

  202. Uly July 15, 2011 at 12:39 am #

    OM, I’m neither, actually. Because I’m not a man :)

    Sure, this kid didn’t have landmarks to rely on. Because he was lost. If I were plopped down in Paris, land of the landmarks, I’d be lost too! or if I were moved to another part of NYC all of a sudden.

    That has nothing to do with the city he lived in.

    Sure, some blocks are boring and bland and have no landmarks. Again, this isn’t a NYC thing – it’s an everywhere thing. All places have some areas that are more distinctive than others.

    And yes, some people are better at recognizing landmarks than others. I’m actually pretty bad at it, suffering from some kind of spacial agnosia. We lived on 18th Avenue 5 years, that’s why I remember it so well. It took me that much time, nearly, to be able to navigate my current neighborhood, where I finished growing up.

    If you’re bad at it, you need to learn to cope with that. (Mostly, I ask directions a lot. And a LOT – I also have a bad sense of direction. Terrible combo.)

    But, again, none of this is proof that NY is specially hard to get around in, which is what you actually said. If you didn’t mean that, you should not have said it. I know this is all very upsetting to all of us (myself included, though it’s a bit numbed by other events closer to home for me, other equally unpredictable events), and it’s hard for us all to be civil (and social skills are never my strong point… though admittedly, I don’t always try hard), but we should at least try to restrict ourselves to being clear when we type.

  203. Uly July 15, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    After all, WHY does Shomrim even exist if it truly were a ‘zero-crime’ area?

    Because we use neighborhood watch type programs to help keep crime down?

    But you know, again, if you have more information (not unsubstantiated “Oh, I heard this, I heard that”) that the rest of us can see, by all means, share it. Give me a link, give me a phone number to call, give me a print journal to check out that will verify what you say. Or give me a good reason why there IS no record of this.

    Ask Shomrim? You told me you got this information from a cop! If he knows about all these attempted crimes, where is it recorded? How can I confirm this?

  204. Mollie July 15, 2011 at 12:58 am #

    Ah, Brad, I can hear that longing in you for acknowledgement, to be seen as you are, a loving, warm parent… And I am guessing that you’d also like to know that there is choice and freedom in your life as you raise your kids.

    To me it seems this online community, hosted by Lenore, is an answer to the longing for these things. In my life, if I let my 2nd grade child walk to school (I walked alone the same distance in similar conditions when I was in kindergarten), or send my 9-year-old to his baseball practice on his bike 1/4 mile up a quiet street, I get told that maybe Child Protective Services will be called in.

    I, and many other parents who make these kinds of reasoned, loving choices to support their kids’ growth and development, are facing more and more legislated constraints on our parenting. We are deeply longing for acknowledgement, to be seen as we are, loving, warm parents… And we’d also like to know that there is choice and freedom in our lives as we raise our kids.

    Law after law is being passed to restrict away what used to be the standard maturing into adulthood, the legislation inspired not by actual facts but by media reporting of crimes that are happening in no greater frequency now than they were in the 1940s. No one is waving the book at parents who drive kids everywhere, even though it is statistically more harmful, but we who want to wave goodbye with a smile from the front step are being threatened with legal action.

    Brad, I see you, I see your love and care and concern. We here in this community want that too.

  205. ThatDeborahGirl July 15, 2011 at 12:59 am #

    i read this story and the first thing I thought is, I wonder what FRK is saying about this. Because it does seem to make, even a parent like me, who has been free-range since before free-range was a buzzword, that all my instincts are wrong and that maybe I should keep my kids under more supervision.

    And then reason kicks in and I know better. People die in car accidents and we don’t stop driving cars. People die in all sorts of ways and we take the risk. I also think the comment about how we make kids less safe by making it abnormal for kids to be outside at all is the sanest thing I’ve read in a long time.

    It’s long past time we started sending all our kids outside again. There is safety in numbers and we need to remember that when we’re tempted to keep them inside….alone.

  206. LS July 15, 2011 at 1:04 am #

    Uly, so what is it? Autism, Aspergers, OCD, or some other some other personality disorder? I’ve never seen anything like what’s been going on with these comments! It’s fascinating.

  207. David July 15, 2011 at 1:36 am #

    “For example, I know of 3 individuals in a nearby town of fewer than 50,000 who are all afflicted with a very rare form of cancer which is only supposed to occur in 13,000 annually in all of the U.S. … despite the statistical probability that this would occur. And no, this is not a “cancer cluster.” So, I think it is irresponsible parenting to make choices for your children based on the “low statistical probability” of something bad occurring. Statistics cannot reliably predict the safety of your children”

    overprotective mom, that is not surprising at all. Given the frequency of the disease there is an approximately 35% chance that three or more cases of that disease will occur annually in a town of 50,000. Given the nunber of such towns in the US it would be astonishing if such clusters did not occur.

    The argument you are using is the inversion of the justification many give for smoking. We all know people who have smoked all their adult lives and lived into their nineties. I dare say there are a few families where whole generations have smoked without any apparent harm. But those are statistical flukes which do not alter the fact that smokers have a 50% chance of dying prematurely from their habit.

    If children of 9 or 10 had a 50% chance of being killed from going out on their own I would be the first to demand that they not be allowed to do so. But unless you live in an actual war zone we all know the odds of anything untoward happening are miniscule.

    If we don’t assess risk using statistics what alternative is there? Only going by the noteriety of events rather than their frequency. By that logic, if we hear of someone choking in a restaurant we should give up solid food and have everything pureed.

    Of course it is for a child’s parents to decide how much freedom they should be allowed and at what age. But I would urge them to make those decisions rationally and not allow themselves to be panicked by reports of tragic but rare events like this.

  208. Uly July 15, 2011 at 1:39 am #

    LS, none of those are personality disorders – nor any of your business. You really are ignorant, aren’t you? (And no, I don’t care to enlighten you. I don’t play those games where you pretend to ask for personal information but what you really want is an excuse to discredit others. And if I did, face it, I could easily just lie.)

    And Overprotective, the same answer goes for you, before you ask again. Either I’m right or I’m not, and either you can prove I’m wrong or you can’t. The facts don’t change just because you think the person giving them has the right or the wrong credentials.

  209. Uly July 15, 2011 at 1:40 am #

    Thank you, David. I myself can’t always manage the math. (Okay, my math skills are weaker than they should be. And I went to a mathy school!)

  210. pentamom July 15, 2011 at 1:45 am #

    Where are people getting this idea that Uly is not allowing people to have different opinions, or parent they way they feel is right?

    When I read her comments, what I see is someone contesting other people’s assertions that so-and-so is reality, with attempts at factual refutation. She doesn’t appear to be contesting either anyone’s right to promote a different opinion, or to make different choices based on information. She just appears to have this “thing” about information actually being real.;-)

  211. Uly July 15, 2011 at 1:48 am #

    Thanks, pentamom :)

    She just appears to have this “thing” about information actually being real

    I do at that. Also, I read a lot and type 92+ wpm, which (for anybody wondering) is the reason I *am* so prolific here right now. I can get my thoughts out faster than a lot of people! That’s really all it is.

  212. Don Saxton July 15, 2011 at 1:48 am #

    It takes bravery to be a parent, even more when your teen has a driver’s license.

  213. Wendy Kelly July 15, 2011 at 1:50 am #

    Yes, thank you Pentamom : ) You said it perfectly.

  214. LS July 15, 2011 at 2:02 am #

    Yeah, I didn’t really expect an answer. I was just wondering if there was something behind the obnoxious obsessive vibe coming from your many, many comments. But to quote you “social skills are never my strong point… though admittedly, I don’t always try hard.” So, I guess that’s all there is to it.

  215. Uly July 15, 2011 at 2:03 am #

    LS, let us not confuse “social skills” with “good manners”. There’s some overlap… but not as much as you might think.

    For example, you may have good social skills, but you surely don’t have good manners.

  216. brad July 15, 2011 at 2:10 am #

    “Humans in general are worse than “not very good” at assessing risk. We absolutely SUCK at it. Our brains tend to work on pattern recognition, not risk assessment.”

    I’m sure you have statistics to back this up??? LOL.. you really do hate humanity don’t you. I’m sorry couldn’t resist making one more comment about this site. Seems a little bit to cultish to me – hey if we don’t let our kids walk down the road alone we don’t belong in this “free range group”. So long..

  217. Uly July 15, 2011 at 2:49 am #

    Brad, again, don’t pretend you know what I feel or think. You threw a little hissy fit when I pointed out that your comments paint everybody here as a bad parent, but you’re going to act like you know me? Hypocrisy is an ugly, ugly thing.

  218. Uly July 15, 2011 at 2:51 am #

    And, because *I* can’t resist getting the last (er) word in – nobody said you have to make this or that specific choice to be a good parent, or to be free range.

    What we said is what we’ve said repeatedly, over many different posts and many months and years: allowing your children MORE freedom does not make you a BAD parent.

    Nobody here has said “Brad, you have to allow your kids exactly this degree of freedom”. You’re making that up.

  219. Ray Ray July 15, 2011 at 3:02 am #

    Came here just to link this story. Thought of your son. I’m glad you were so lucky.

  220. Cheryl W July 15, 2011 at 3:03 am #

    OK, it wasn’t the police that said it was a “no crime area” but it was someone who should be aware of the basic facts of the area:

    “This is a no-crime area,” said state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose district includes the area. “Everybody is absolutely horrified,” he said. “Everyone is in total shock, beyond belief, beyond comprehension … to suddenly disappear and then the details … and the fact someone in the extended community … it’s awful.” (

    I really appreciate that I have not yet read that a police officer suggested that the boy should not have been walking alone. That tells me a lot about the community.

  221. ZS Dyllen July 15, 2011 at 3:07 am #

    “trying to prevent it by locking up our kids and shadowing them constantly just isn’t worth it.”

    Do you really think his parents would agree with this?

    “Just isn’t worth it” is easy to say when it’s not your child who was dismembered this week. Sorry, but most of these comments seem like a lot of whistling in the dark.

  222. LS July 15, 2011 at 3:12 am #

    I would never have guessed that you were the type who liked to get the last word in, what a revelation! This is highly immature and probably not appropriate, but I triple dog dare you not to reply to my comment.

  223. Cheryl W July 15, 2011 at 3:13 am #

    Overprotective Mother, had you made that comment about not letting the kid walk home to the parents, how do you think it would have come across? They would have felt that you were blaming them.

    I am not trying to be a lawyer, but you are on a debate style board, and of course, you will be debated if you make comments like that for an event that could not have been reasonable anticipated given the nature of the neighborhood. I hope that you will be very careful with your words should someone close to you have something bad happen to their child.

  224. LRH July 15, 2011 at 3:32 am #

    Uly‘s words made me chuckle–92 words per minute? Wow. I thought I was something being able to type 75-80. But I understand–people often-times here or wherever talk about how long my comments & emails etc are, and I always tell them–it’s that 75 words per minute thing. Maybe in some ways it’s a CURSE (ha ha).

    And again ZS Dyllen the whole “that’s easy for you to say when your kid wasn’t the one shot” is a common rebuttal that I hear, and it’s irrelevant. Yes, it’s irrelevant. People who have had their children murdered–yes, they deserve our sympathies, most totally. That said, I don’t deserve to have their point of view about such issues elevated as being more important and relevant, because they’re not. The rest of us–our opinion is just as relevant & qualified. I don’t have to wait for my child to be harmed to have the points of view I have, and anyone who would alter their points of view emotionally that way isn’t being logical to start with.


  225. pentamom July 15, 2011 at 3:34 am #

    Actually, ZS, I’m NOT convinced that Mr. and Mrs. Kletzky wouldn’t agree that it’s not worth it to lock up your kids, and my kids, and everyone else’s kids, for the next 18 years, forever and ever, world without end, because Leiby met a horrible end.

    If they had known Leiby would be hurt walking home that day, of course they wouldn’t have let him do it. Of course. But I DO know that my kids will be hurt without having a reasonable amount of freedom and learning to take care of themselves *in age appropriate ways* if I don’t give them that freedom and teach them that independence. Therefore, I will not do that to them in the name of preventing something that will almost certainly not happen even if I give them freedom.

    Just like I don’t agree that it’s worth never getting out of bed so that I don’t ever have to worry about being hit by a car. Doing everything possible to avoid some risks really is not worth the actual cost, and it only becomes more the case when the risk is small. Leiby was the sadly unfortunate one who got the downside of the risk, but that is *nobody’s fault but Levi Aron’s.* It did NOT happen to him because he walked home that day; it happened because Levi Aron did an evil thing.

  226. anon July 15, 2011 at 3:41 am #

    I chanced upon this website, and as an impartial outsider I have to say that the views of the freerangers are expressed in a belligerent and self-righteous manner, even to the point of denigrating the views of those who disagree.

    It doesn’t have to be one extreme or another the way the freerangers present it here. I was brought up in a rather sheltered way, but as an adult (female) have travelled solo around the globe.

  227. Tsu Dho Nimh July 15, 2011 at 3:54 am #

    Leonore –
    Levi Aron is more a reason for funding better mental health services than for locking away your children. He’s a classic paranoid schizophrenic, hears voices and see things that aren’t there.

    The horror of the crime is mind-boggling. But it wouldn’t be horribly mind-boggling is it were not also exceedingly rare.

    Polly Klass and Elizabeth Smart were asleep in their own beds.

  228. Wendy Kelly July 15, 2011 at 3:57 am #

    Hi anon : )

    I was also brought up in quite a sheltered way & then traveled the globe.

    Interestingly, the only horrid things that ever happened to me happened while I was being “sheltered” (the typical acquaintance abuse)

    I do think that how we were brought up influences how we raise our kids.

    I also wish we could accept different parenting styles…

  229. "Overprotective Mother" July 15, 2011 at 4:07 am #

    @ Cheryl, First: this is not written in a confrontational tone. I am so confused by your comment. Could you please explain where I made a “comment about not letting the kid walk home.” I have gone over and over my comments and do not see what you read. Could it be that you interpreted things in a different context than was intended? Are you referring to the comment in which I said that I personally have such extreme anxiety that I wouldn’t let my child walk home? Or that NYC is different from non-urban environments (and if that is the case, have you ever travelled 30 mins. outside of NYC???) (Probably should not even have commented again after saying I was done with this thread ;-).)

  230. A Let-Them-Be Mom July 15, 2011 at 4:16 am #

    I feel so affirmed about my parenting style after reading bits of your blog. I found you via your comments regarding the tragedy of the young boy in Brooklyn this week and it has me questioning my natural “let them be” attitude towards parenting. I have always felt very comfortable just letting my kids go off and explore the world around them, climb at the playground without my hands on their butts…even after my daughter broke her leg off a slide! Just a month ago my 11 year old asked if he could bike to the store, I gave him $5 and sent him to get me laundry detergent. The most dangerous thing about that was that he bought sugary gum with the change! But then something like this happens and I wondered…am I crazy to not be like my neighbor who followed her kid’s school bus in her car on the first day of kindergarten? She has very enthusiastically stated to me how she would NEVER let her kids play out in the front of the house unwatched. Yet my kids are often outside on their own and quietly her parenting style irritates me. Yes, my stomach turns into a giant knot at the thought of Leiby’s tragedy, but I think you are very right that it should not change us as parents. I only pray that Leiby’s parents wouldn’t question their decision. Yes, I commit to always protect my kids from harms way, if and when I can, but I also hope my kids can learn to navigate the roads of this world with or without me.
    Thank you for your much needed voice!

  231. Catherine July 15, 2011 at 4:42 am #

    “And please, that analogy of kids being in more danger every time we strap them in a vehicle – sorry but that analogy is completely BESIDES the point and unrelated to kids being kidnapped or harmed by other people.

    To add to the point of kids in vehicles… I AM IN CONTROL of the vehicle. Yes I can get hit by some idiot drunk driver, but I still have 90% control of the safety of my children.

    Lettting them walk alone… I am not in control AT ALL. Think about it.”


    You are working on pure emotion here, which is very understandable. But the vehicle analogy is NOT beside the point….it IS the point. It’s about the safety of children. And children are hugely more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle than than are to be killed by a stranger.

    Now, several factors go into the car thing. First, it is the social norm for people, including small children, to be transported in a motor vehicle fairly frequently. Because it’s the social norm, it “feels” right, it “feels” safe, even if statistically, we’re aware that it’s not.

    Second, it’s been explained to me (I believe it was my GP when I casually mentioned my fear of flying while going for travel vaccines) that we’re unable to really comprehend the true risks of car travel because they are so relatively high and car travel is not optional for many of us that we just subconsciously choose to ignore it. There was a term, can’t remember it. Cognitive dissonance, maybe?

    Third, think about your position. You’re in CONTROL of the vehicle so therefore you feel you’re in CONTROL of your children’s safety. That is a purely emotional response. ANYTHING can happen. Freak accidents happen. They are MUCH MORE likely to happen (and have fatal consequences) in a motor vehicle than they are to happen at the hands of a stranger. That’s just how it is. You FEEL better transporting them by car than you do allowing them to walk alone, but statistics show that you’ve got it backwards.

    Of course, parenting is all about going with your instincts and doing what you feel is right for you and your family with your circumstances, temperaments, abilities etc, so approaching your decision with your emotional response is fine…just try to realize that it IS an emotional response that does not necessarily apply to others and their circumstances. I do not dare to claim that people who choose to transport their children in cars (which I do not, we are car-free, and walk/transit/bike everywhere) are “bad parents” or “endangering their children”, but objectively, they ARE taking a larger risk than free-rangers (and cycle families! Can’t tell you how much grief we get on that one!).

  232. gramomster July 15, 2011 at 4:48 am #

    Just to jump in a bit on … I don’t even remember who posted it way earlier … that if one has had something like this happen, they have a better perspective on it.
    We have. My youngest brother was abducted from the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park. He was 5, with his best friend who was 4, and teenage sisters of both boys. Did my mother then not let him out (or our baby sister, now almost 28), when she came along? Nope. Even in 1983, she recognized that it was rare and random, and did not disallow the girls from taking the guys to the park. She let my sister and her friends go to the playground when they were 7 or 8ish. This was also the year that Kevin Collins disappeared and was never found. The older of my two brothers rode the same bus, got off at the same stop as Kevin. Was the same age. She didn’t move him to another school, or pull him out and homeschool him. She talked more to the kids, discussed strategies, taught them what to do. The abducted one did get home, and is 33, with a wife and two kids of his own now.
    So, to say that living through such a terrifying event will change a person’s behavior, or beliefs, is, at least in my family’s case, simply not correct. It changed an area of focus, not the mode of parenting.

    Uly, I love reading your comments. Always. Thank you for continuing to look at the facts, the rational, reasoned side of things. It’s really easy to get pulled into the sensationalistic perspective, as it is emotion-based, and hits all those who have children close in their lives very deeply.

    I don’t even have words to express my sadness for the family of Leiby. So so sad.

  233. joseph July 15, 2011 at 4:58 am #

    Thanks for this response. After I heard about the abduction, I instantly thought about the story of your son which was the impetus for this blog. I am truly saddened by Leiby’s death. It is a painful reminder that we do indeed live in a fallen world. Thanks for sticking true to your conviction in spite of this awful story.

  234. mollie July 15, 2011 at 5:07 am #


    The community here may seem a bit feisty, perhaps because we’d like to enjoy the acceptance, freedom, and choice that other parents who choose to align themselves with the prevailing culture enjoy.

    When it becomes forbidden by a school to allow your kid to walk a few blocks or forbidden by a state law for your child to stay home alone for an hour or wait in a car (in the shade, on a day that the high temp is 55º) for five minutes, well, there’s bound to be a bit of an uprising. After all, unlike scientific discoveries about microbes that led to hand washing and gloves in surgical practice, *nothing* has been discovered in the past 30 years about the frequency of harm coming to children as they acquire life skills or fend for themselves in time-honoured ways, and yet “protective” laws and parental persecution continue to proliferate at an astounding rate.

    A dialogue about our lives, values, and experiences is what we’re having here, and sometimes, we cite statistics to try to communicate why we insist on having the freedom and choice to raise kids in a way that accepts risk, encourages reasonable precaution, and celebrates life and growth.

    When someone comes to this site after an event like the one featured in this post and writes, “Well, I’ll be his parents wish they’d never allowed him to walk alone, and you’re all just baiting disaster every time you let your child do something dangerous like that at that age,” there’s bound to be dialogue about it, because that’s what this site is for: to challenge the now-prevailing logic that if anything bad happens to a any child that appears to have been somehow controllable by the parents, then all parents have an obligation to take action to prevent any possibility of it ever happening again to another child.

    In this case, that would mean than no 8-year-old should ever be permitted to walk anywhere alone, and that any loving parent wouldn’t allow their 8-year-old to walk alone. That axiom is not one I am willing to live by, and hence, I don’t live by it. But more and more pressure is coming from society, law enforcement and the courts to do exactly that. If someone *chooses* to live by that axiom, well, I think it might be difficult for the child to develop in certain ways, but I wouldn’t call it criminal negligence. But if I choose *not* to live by it, outside of this “circle” of self-described “free range parents,” I am derided, even though the statistical benefits of walking far surpass the statistical risks.

    I come to this place for some sense of shared reality, celebration, mourning, sharing, support, fellowship and connection. I care about kids, I care about families, and I absolutely cherish this site, Lenore’s book, and her willingness to be the “public figure” of this “movement” (which to me is actually more of a call for acceptance, in its broadest psychological, spiritual and philosophical terms).

    It’s too soon to ask Leiby’s grieving parents whether they think no child should be doing what their son was doing… walking a few blocks on their own. But I’d love to know what Stan Patz has to say about it. Does he see what happened to his son as a call to have better criminal investigations, or a call for all parents everywhere to “learn from his mistake” and never allow any kid to walk anywhere alone? Stan, if you’re out there, tell us, was it a twist of fate or bad parenting that led to your son’s disappearance? And if it was bad parenting, how come so many of us are here today to type comments on this blog?

  235. alice pngen ..... July 15, 2011 at 5:32 am #


  236. Tsu Dho Nimh July 15, 2011 at 5:37 am #

    vzwriter said, “Bad things that could happen to your children if you let them roam unaccompanied in public while they’re still children” … robbed, victimized by a bully or murderer, stolen for sex slavery, rape, murder, or simple disappearance.You know what, that’s the same list of things that can happen to your teenagers, or your 20-year old children. Just how long do your expect to keep your offspring at your side in public?

  237. Kelsey July 15, 2011 at 5:39 am #

    My husband is a police detective and he says letting your children come and go as they please, and wander around the city without supervision as “avoidable risk”. I don’t think you should be wrapping your kids in bubble wrap and putting gps locator’s on them, but I think a little supervision is in order. Putting a 9 year old on a subway, by himself is an “avoidable risk”, you would never know what became of him if he did not get off that train. He is not equipped to defend himself if someone attacked him. You can argue till you are blue in the face, but we do not live in decent times anymore. Kids cannot walk anywhere by themselves, believe me it is very sad. I grew up free and happy, and my poor kids have to have a ride everywhere. But I know what is out there and it is scary. My husband said that for every pedophile that is listed on a website, there are hundreds that don’t meet the requirements for listing.

  238. debbie July 15, 2011 at 5:54 am #

    As difficult as it might seem to accept this, there is NOTHING practical to learn from this poor little boy’s death.

    Abductions of young children by strangers are astronomically rare. Abductions that end in death are rarer still. The chances of this happening to a child are much, much smaller than the child being killed by lightning, and nothing at all could have been done to protect Leiby Kletzky without stunting his growth into maturity and happiness.

    Nothing should have been done. His loving mother was right to let him try his legs on the streets of Brooklyn at age 8 after he begged her to allow him. Leiby’s tragic fate has not changed the obligation of other American and NYC parents to nurture and respect their kids.

    What happened to Leiby’s family is truly something from the Book of Job. It’s only significance is religious, and matters of God are strictly for religious people. For the rest of us, I hope we will leave the Kletzky’s to their strong faith, that we’ll mourn their child in our hearts, continue to let our kids grow, and remember that some things are just beyond social and mortal control.

  239. LRH July 15, 2011 at 6:08 am #

    Kelsey I will respectfully, I hope, respond to your posting. First-off, almost anything is an “avoidable risk,” including–yes–riding in a car. I would imagine eating, drinking, and sleeping inside the home is probably not “avoidable risk,” but that’s about it, I’d say.

    Second, just because a risk is avoidable doesn’t imply negligence if one doesn’t avoid it. I just saw a YouTube video of Devil’s Pool/Victoria Falls in South Africa (if I remember correctly), it’s a high 100+ foot waterfall that nonetheless, at certain times, you can swim in & go right up to the very edge before it drops off, as a rock ledge keeps you safe. This video showed a screenshot of a parent having their child, probably age 2-3 or so, sitting on that very ledge.

    A commenter, predictably, saw that as “sorry parenting.” Someone else posted that they could think what they want, but that to them it sure beat having a child spend its entire life in front a computer or TV screen because of the fear of the risk.

    I would say that situation surely is avoidable risk, but does that mean a parent is a horrible parent for exposing them to that?

    Third, again, the idea that times have really changed THAT much from 30 years ago to where your freedom is now not appropriate for a child–that’s just not true. It’s perspective which has changed. To wit: how else do you explain my mother, and others, allowing me to play on 55mph rural streets at age 8, contrasted with modern parents not letting their even play on a private dirt path? Parents not letting their kids play in the woods because of wild animals–do you mean to tell me wild animals suddenly came into existence around 1990?

    So it is with perverts, pedophiles and kidnappers too. It’s just the perception, not the reality, that things are worse.

    The pedophiles that “don’t meet the requirements for listing?” Then I’d suggest they’re not even pedophiles and don’t belong on the list to start with–or even if they do, I can almost guarantee you many of the ones who ARE on the list don’t belong there.


  240. mollie July 15, 2011 at 6:12 am #

    “You can argue till you are blue in the face, but we do not live in decent times anymore. Kids cannot walk anywhere by themselves, believe me it is very sad. I grew up free and happy, and my poor kids have to have a ride everywhere. But I know what is out there and it is scary. My husband said that for every pedophile that is listed on a website, there are hundreds that don’t meet the requirements for listing.”

    I’m not the statistics expert in this community, but please, tell me, what supports your impression that “we do not live in decent times anymore”? I just finished reading a book called “Kidnapped” that documents high-profile cases of child abduction and murder that date back to the 16th century and before!

    From what I understand, all the research and statistics bear out the fact that there is no higher prevalence of “those who would do harm” among us than there ever has been in human history. A kid was abducted and murdered in my town in the early 1980s and we continued to walk to school.

    The only thing that has changed in this world is our attitude toward random violence. Today, we imagine that we can protect completely against random. Back in the day, people didn’t have this notion, and if they did, THEY were the crackpots, not the folks who let their kids walk home!

  241. Lisa July 15, 2011 at 6:27 am #

    Kids in America are 12 times more likely to be killed by a gun than kids in 25 other industrialized nations combined ( – OK this comment may upset a few of you as I know you guys in the US like your right to “bear arms” but here is food for thought – people out there are stopping kids walking to school, want legislation to stop children from attending playgrounds without adult supervision, are horrified that a child may catch a train or bus without parental supervision YET there does not appear to be the same concern about firearms in your homes – your children are statistically more likely to be killed be your own firearm than abducted by a stranger. Why is there not the same outrage against parents who have guns in their homes as there is against parents who allow their children to walk home from school alone?
    This is a comment from someone outside the USA so if I am wrong then please feel free to correct me because it really does not make sense to me as someone who lives in a society where generally people don’t have guns at home or have never even seen a real gun.

  242. Donna July 15, 2011 at 7:03 am #

    Brad, you have 90% of the control in a car? Wow, you are amazing beyond belief to be able to control OTHER people to that extent. A driver averages 10 accidents a lifetime. I’ve had 7 already – 1 was my fault, 1 was caused by a drunk driver and 5 were caused by normal, distracted OTHER people. One if the car that hit us had been going 5 mph faster, it is highly unlikely my daughter would be dancing in a fountain at Legoland right now. 3 boys (10, 10 and 2), have been killed in the last year in my town in car wrecks (compared to 0 kidnappings). All were the result of the parents’ cars being struck by a driver who simply took his eyes off the road for a second (all rear end collisions).

    I’m still wandering how you are controlling OTHER people’s lack of attention, distraction, cell phone use, racing to beat the red light, misjudging time to turn, and the myriad of other things completely out of your control when you are in a car.

  243. brad July 15, 2011 at 7:48 am #

    Donna, please re-read my post. I acknowledged the fact that some idiot could hit me.
    “Avoidable risk” – I couldn’t have said it better myself. Summarizes this case perfectly

  244. gypsybiker July 15, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    Not to mention your own talking (or texting) on a cell phone! Anyone who does this with their children in the car puts their childrent at immediate and great risk.

    So, Brad, please tell me you never take a call while driving your car.

    Another thing that has changed in the last 30 years is wall to wall, 24 hour news that can be gotten instantly anywhere. No wonder people are freaked out! Crime is everywhere! The killer’s at the door! We are all doomed! Turn off your TV and stop watching the news.

    How about 5 million children played safely today and came in for dinner!

  245. "Overprotective Mother" July 15, 2011 at 9:45 am #

    I have to say that I am confused by the fact that commenters on this board compare the risks of riding in a car versus the risks of allowing a child to walk around unsupervised.

    The figures I looked at gave me the impression that there are approx. 60 million children in the U.S. right now. Of these children, I would guess that at least 30 to 40 million ride in a car at least twice daily, for a very, very conservative total of 21 billion car rides annually. The statistic I found indicated that car accidents annually result in 1,335 child fatalities. (I know someone else on this thread will be more than happy to do the math here …)

    I would guess that there aren’t 30 to 40 million children making multiple unsupervised trips on foot each day, so obviously there would be a smaller number of children being the victims of an opportunistic crime. You simply aren’t comparing apples to apples when you talk about car accident victims versus abduction/murder victims.

  246. SKL July 15, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    Overprotective mom, I would guess that there are in fact tens of millions of kids making multiple unsupervised trips on foot each day. Granted, it used to be a lot more – as in, nearly 100% of the kids who were able to walk and talk – but it’s still fairly common.

    Fact is, a very high percentage of child deaths happen in traffic and at home.

    Remember, this tragedy didn’t happen when the child was walking on the street. It happened after he got into a car with someone he trusted.

  247. "Overprotective Mother" July 15, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    I am confused about a lot of things regarding this site in general. If it is true that there are tens of millions of kids walking about freely, making millions of trips daily, then I would guess that free range parenting has already taken over and therefore wonder why there is so much debate on this thread.

    I would say that in my town and the surrounding towns, free range parenting is not the majority style. I see many adolescents with freedom, but no 8, 9, or 10 year olds are walking by themselves from one place to another unless they would be visible to their parents. Again, I think the communities in which we live typically set the norms … and I am curious about the notion that it is the norm in this country for children below the age of 10 to have much independence and freedom (at least in suburban areas).

    Of course, this may differ based upon where one lives. So, maybe there are hundreds of thousands of kids walking on their own at the ages of 8, 9 and 10 in NYC … but again, it wouldn’t really be representative of the U.S. as a whole.

    Sadly, each time I think that I can rely on the “statistics” that things are safer than my anxiety allows me to believe, something else happens just a stone’s throw away from where I live: from an attempted rape of a 13 year old boy in a local mall’s bathroom, to the 3 occasions within an 18-month span on which I have received a notice from my children’s schools that children have been approached and told to get into a van. I think, in total, the incidents exceed what should be statistically expected (though maybe I am wrong). So, my parenting is guided by the fact that many of these crimes are purely crimes of opportunity … and I try to limit the potential opportunities that I’d present to the wrong person.

    I don’t have the chops to tangle with any of you debators, nor do I really care to do so. I have commented only to provide alternate viewpoints because there are a lot of people who seem to see just one side.

  248. Uly July 15, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    I would guess that there aren’t 30 to 40 million children making multiple unsupervised trips on foot each day

    Why would you guess that? Because that is not what YOU would do?

    Other people will make different choices, and in other communities the norm may be different. (For example, in my community, all the kids over the age of seven play outside alone every day, often after dark. I call them vampire children because of the after dark part! The ones with big siblings, or who can be trusted to stay on their own stoop, play outside alone at five or six. Many of them walk to and from school alone, crossing quite a busy street, by the fifth grade. It’s not uncommon for one child to pick up another at a different school. Certainly they all do minor shopping trips. If I were to extrapolate from my experience, I’d assume that all children make multiple unsupervised walking trips, because that’s what nearly all the children I know do!)

    Plus, we don’t just have to look at today’s statistics. We can compare statistics from, say, the 1980s (a very dangerous time compared to today, but children apparently walked around more… or so I’ve been assured, anyway) and see if back then children were more likely to die in crimes than in car accidents.

    so obviously there would be a smaller number of children being the victims of an opportunistic crime.

    If your numbers are correct – sure, that makes sense!

    Except that most crime against anybody (including children) is committed by people known to them, people in a position of trust and power, who have frequent access to them.

    The number of abductions of minors by strangers is very low. Extremely low. And I will leave finding what that number is as an exercise to the reader. It’s not difficult to find, and it will probably shock you.

  249. "Overprotective Mother" July 15, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    I guess it depends upon the statistics you look at. The numbers presented in this article are not comforting and are not very low, in my opinion.

    From this website:

    Parental abductions and runaway cases make up the majority of missing children in the United States. In 2002 there were about 797,500 children reported missing, or nearly 2,185 per day. The vast majority of these cases were recovered quickly; however, the parent or guardian was concerned enough to contact law enforcement and they placed the child into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center – a computerized national database of criminal justice information. It is available to Federal, state and local law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies.
    Each year there are about 3,000 to 5,000 non-family abductions reported to police, most of which are short term sexually-motivated cases. About 200 to 300 of these cases, or 6 percent, make up the most serious cases where the child was murdered, ransomed or taken with the intent to keep.
    The NCMEC analyzed more than 4200 attempted abductions from February 2005 to March 2010 and found that 38% of attempted abductions occur while a child is walking alone to or from school, riding the school bus or riding a bicycle; 37 % of attempted abductions occur between the hours of 2:00pm through 7:00pm on a weekday; 43% of attempted abductions involve children between the ages of 10 and 14; 72% of attempted abduction victims are female; 68 % of attempted abductions involve the suspect driving a vehicle.
    Research shows that of the 58,000 non-family abductions each year 63% involved a friend, long-term acquaintaince, neighbor, caretaker, baby sitter or person of authority; only 37% involved a stranger.

  250. Cat July 15, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    Lenore, how do you explain your statement that the Etan Patz case had no parallel until the Leibby Kletzky case? How do you define “parallel” in terms of children and harm? Etan Patz disappeared in 1979. He has never been found dead or alive. Are you implying that no other child has disappeared in NYC between then and now? Or just white children whose disappearance reaches the media? I ask because MANY children have disappeared (often children of color)– look at and plug in a NYC locale– in the intervening 32 years. SHAME ON YOU for overlooking those not deemed interesting or appealing enough to make the national news. Or, if this is truly a case where you did not know, learn to CHECK YOUR FACTS.

  251. Uly July 15, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    If it is true that there are tens of millions of kids walking about freely, making millions of trips daily, then I would guess that free range parenting has already taken over and therefore wonder why there is so much debate on this thread.

    No, sad to say, that’s not the case.

    The real problem isn’t people who are overprotective of their own kids. The problem is with people who take their overprotectiveness, call it the new norm, and decide arbitrarily that the way we grew up (in a much more dangerous era, no less!) is abusive or neglectful and must be prevented.

    (And of course this is a very big country. Unless we’ve been in all parts of it – extremely improbable – we can’t really definitively say what is the norm EVERYwhere. I can suggest that poorer areas tend to be more “free range” than richer ones (at least in my experience), but that’s just anecdata really.)

    And it only takes a few in power to do that.

    to the 3 occasions within an 18-month span on which I have received a notice from my children’s schools that children have been approached and told to get into a van.

    Who reported this crime? I once had an earnest child tell my brother-in-law this whole story about some “guy in a van” trying to kidnap his beloved daughters. After much berating and yelling and worrying and fretting, I finally headed over to my paranoid neighbor’s house. Woman has six cameras on her tiny, tiny property. And you know what? She said she’d seen the whole thing and it was a total non-event. The construction workers who had been working in our backyard-neighbor’s house had driven by, and the older girl waved and yelled hello to them.

    It happens sometimes that children, primed to perceive stranger danger everywhere, are not too trusting but too cynical. They assume danger where there really is none, and because they are imaginative and get attention for this they describe what happened as much more interesting than it is. Such events have been posted about on this very blog, in fact, where a child started a panic and then after-the-fact it was found out that it didn’t really happen.

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trust your child when they say something terrible happened. But, as the expression goes, you should both trust AND verify.

    As far as the attempted rape in the bathroom story goes… it’s not impossible, but in my experience these stories are spread about more often than they actually happen. Sometimes they DO happen, but unfortunately, because many people uncritically pass on vague “news” they heard from a friend, I refuse to believe any of it unless I see a news article or it comes from a trusted source, somebody I know well and who tends to be levelheaded about these things.

    I don’t know you well. This isn’t to impugn your character, but I wouldn’t expect you to trust me implicitly either.

  252. Jeannine July 15, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    I had once heard of your website, visited, and dismissed you out of common sense. When I heard about this tragedy, I had to see what you had to say.

    “I’m shaken. I’m sad. I’m so sorry for what has happened. And I will send my sons out again.”

    Well, what a terrible waste of a precious lesson that came at a dear price.

    But, of course, you must hold your line, because you have based your livelihood on a ridiculous notion. For your sake, I pray dear Leiby’s parents were unaware and uninfluenced by your movement.

  253. taradlion July 15, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    This is so tragic. My heart breaks for this family. Horrible beyond words.

    I am sure Leiby’s parents will second guess their decision. I think any parent that has the heart break of losing their child or having their child seriously injured will play the “if only….” game. It does not make the decision to let their child walk home from camp a bad decision.Parents who have children tragically die in their sleep will say, “if only I had checked on them”…parents who have their child tragically killed by a drunk driver will say “if only we left 5 minutes earlier/later” or “if only that jerk had thought about the possible consequences of getting behind the wheel.” If only we could really control and prevent tragedy…

    All parents (people) have different levels of risk tolerance/aversion. There are many risks that are “avoidable” but it does not mean that every situation that involves risk should be avoided. Should parents avoid the (minute) risk associated with taking children to baseball games because they could be injured by a foul ball? Should solid foods be avoided because a child might choke? Preventable? Avoidable? Neurotically overprotective?

    What one parent views as hovering, smothering, and overprotective and feels will inhibit a child from developing skills, another parent might see as taking necessary precautions. What some see as forcing a child to grow up prematurely others will see as giving their children the opportunity to develop confidence and independence. Unnecessary risk versus wonderful experience.

  254. "Overprotective Mother" July 15, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    Unfortunately, UIy, the 4 incidents were all substantiated and fact-based. The man who attempted to rape the 13 year old boy was found with “supplies” and was apprehended by mall security during the attempt. The other 3 incidents (van) were all real, as well, and occurred to adolescents. None of these things were rumors. The police here don’t send out such parental notifications based merely on a rumor, nor would the paper have published the story about the attempted rape had it been made up.

    As for free range parenting, I do not think it is right for one parent to judge another. Parenting is too hard a job and children are all too individual for such judgments to be made. We just have to make the choices that we, as individuals can live with, and hope for the best. It is just unfortunate that there is evil out there in the world and that it can create such divisiveness.

  255. Wendy Kelly July 15, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    I can’t believe I am jumping in with my own stats now : ) !

    But I found a great report you all might enjoy.

    Here is the link: (It is long and unruly, sorry)

    From the report,

    There are 115 stereotypical kidnappings each year in the U.S. (Where the perpetrator is unknown or only slightly known to the child and the child was transported more than 50 miles. In forty percent of those cases, the child was killed.

    Teenagers are “by far” the most frequent victims.

    Interestingly, of the 115 kidnappings, 71% are complete strangers and 29% are slightly known to the victim.


    I did a fairly intensive paper on child acquaintance sexual abuse last year, and one of the reports I thought was most helpful was this great personality profile of the typical child sexual abuser. One key point the author tried to make was what a mistake the old-school “stranger danger” message has been.

    I certainly respect whatever level of protection a parent wishes to provide for his or her child. I think it must have a lot to do with how dangerous the place is where the children are being raised (or the perceived danger) I certainly feel quite lucky to live in a very safe community where most people know each other and look out for the kids. I really can’t imagine raising kids in a place where I didn’t feel that level of safety and community.

    But as for the rarity of being abducted by a stranger, it happens 115 times per year. So I would say it is pretty rare.

    Fatal car accidents are the number one killer of children under 15, at about 1451 per year.

  256. anonymous July 15, 2011 at 11:22 am #

    I have a point of view…you have a point of view…only G-d has a view.

  257. NZ mum July 15, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    I am a mother in NZ and am so sad for the poor family that has lost their beloved child. The loss they must be feeling must be unbearable.

    After reading all the comments on this post (and it tooks AGES) I cannot believe that people have turned this tragedy into a forum for justifying whatever parenting style they choose for their family. A child has died, a family and community are in mourning. And people feel this is the right time to preach their own parenting style? What is wrong with you people?!

    Today I will hug my children a bit closer, thankful they are still here. Maybe instead of grandstanding about what your parenting beliefs are, you could do the same? Maybe people outside of NZ don’t do this, but maybe take some food to the community? Do something to help others, not to fight amongst yourselves.

    This is a sad day for the global community of parents when you would rather fight about something than grieve with those who have lost their precious child.

  258. LRH July 15, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Jeannine Lenore was right before, she is still right, and this tragedy, while tragic (hence the name tragedy), is not an indictment on free-range parenting. Lenore is “holding her line” NOT to save face, but because she sees the bigger picture–and very wisely, I might add.

    Keep on Lenore, you’re still right and you know it. The others who don’t it–many of them will eventually come around, the ones who don’t–don’t concern yourself over them. You’re never going to please everyone, but then I’m sure you already know that.


  259. mollie July 15, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    I have to say that I am encouraged, as I search the web about this case, that the pundits in the mainstream media seem to be coming out strongly in favour of encouraging parents to TALK with their kids about what to do / not to do when lost / approached, but to LET KIDS WALK PLACES ALONE!

    Whew! Lenore, I think that your book, your presence in the “ether” and on TV, radio, and print, has made a tangible difference in the way popular culture in the US sees the issues around children’s safety and development in this era of wide reporting of rare crimes.

    So even if there are parents out there, and regular folk without kids, who are sure that these parents were to blame for their own son’s demise, the overwhelming slant of the media coverage seems the opposite to me.

    Anyone else notice this, or am I only seeing what I wish to see?

  260. Estiban July 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    I’m sorry if this causes offence but I don’t think those who are taking others to task and writing massive essays are doing this community a service. It looks like a lot on one-upmanship and self congratulation.

    I want to share a passage from the ‘The Lovely Bones’, the book by Alice Sebold. Some of you might know the film adaptation. The book is exceptional. From chapter 16, Susie who was brutally murdered at 14 is watching the people in her neighbourhood from her place in the ‘in-between’:

    “But the fathers, coming home from their offices, parked their cars in their driveways only to get out and follow their neighbours. How could hey both work to support their families and watch their children to make sure they were safe? As a group they would learn it was impossible, no matter how many rules they laid down. What had happened to me could happen to anyone.

    No one had called my house. My family was left undisturbed. The impenetrable barrier that surrounded the shingles, the chimney, the woodpile, the driveway, the fence, was like a layer of clear ice that coated the trees when it rained and then froze. Our house looked the same as every other one on the block, but it was not the same. Murder had a blood red door on the other side of which was everything unimaginable to everyone.”

  261. Donna July 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    Actually Brad, maybe YOU should reread your post about cars. You indicated that you could get hit by an idiot drunk driver. That is the least risk, in terms of numbers. You also stated that you are 90% in control of your children’s safety in a vehicle. Other driver’s impact our safety in vehicles a whole lot more than 10%. Unless you meant that you are only a safe driver 90% of the time.

    Any risk is avoidHow is an car accident caused by another person an unavoidable risk but a murder committed by another person avoidable? Your theory seems to be that because we don’t have to let children out by themselves at 9, the risk should be considered an avoidable risk. Is EVERY trip you take in a car absolutely, positively necessary? Is it to someplace you MUST go that is not within walking or biking distance and no public transportation is available. If not, then the wreck was an avoidable risk in your definition.

  262. Donna July 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    Since all risks are avoidable, I think you actually mean unacceptable risk. If the risk of allowing your child to walk alone is unacceptable to you, don’t do it. There are many risks that others engage in that I find unacceptable to me, say bungey jumping. I, however, don’t spend my time on bungy jumping blog telling them how foolish I think they are for bungy jumping and getting upset when they are insulted and don’t agree with my opinion.

  263. mollie July 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    😀 @ Donna!

  264. Estiban July 15, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    Hold on… There are Free Range parents with Free Range Kids who have strong feelings about how old kids should be before they walk alone several blocks in a large city. This blog is not the property of only people who agree with everything Lenore says.

    It’s not us and them, bungey jumpers and non-bungey jumpers. It’s just us parents. Or are you saying some of us should f off and create a ‘slightly less free range than you’ blog

  265. FrancesfromCanada July 15, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    This is a very sad story.

    I’m sorry to say I find the general argument in the comments disturbing. I can’t even imagine what this family is going through, but somehow we seem to be making this all about ourselves.

    If the tragic ending of this child’s life makes some of us draw our children closer for a while, is that so wrong?

  266. Dp July 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    Lenore, why does it have to be all or nothing? No kids on playgrounds vs. free range. I realize the chances of a child being abducted are extremely rare, but what about the other statistics? 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be molested by someone they know. While your children are wandering around who are they making friends with? My father told me about an incident that happened when he was a kid. An older brother of one of his friends joined them to play. They were all free range back them. Well, my dad and his friends caught this guy behind a large rock having one of the youngest boys give him a blow job. We found out that a similar thing happened to my cousin on a school bus, when an older boy made him perform oral sex. A little girl in my 2nd grade class was caught in after school care with a little boy with his hand up her skirt. Your argument seems very shallow to me. It does not have to be all or nothing, but we do need to be wise.
    It seems to me that these parents of the little boy in the news were being wise. All the reports I’ve seem indicate that. But even in our wisdom, very bad things happen. I feel incredibly sad for this family.

  267. Myriam July 15, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    Playgrounds ARE relatively deserted. The streets ARE relatively devoid of children. In other places and in other times there are/were far more children around. We in the Anglosphere don’t notice the dearth of children any more because we’ve got used to it. It’s the new normal.

  268. SKL July 15, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

    Overprotective mom: “If it is true that there are tens of millions of kids walking about freely, making millions of trips daily, then I would guess that free range parenting has already taken over and therefore wonder why there is so much debate on this thread.”

    Where I live, people go both ways. Countrywide, people go both ways.

    The reason I participate in this movement is to stop the pendulum swinging too far in the bubblewrap direction. The Internet feeds the idea that if you “can” protect, you should, regardless of the balance of risks. More and more judgment is directed toward those of us who are following time-honored parenting styles – including the styles which made us the successful adults that we are. And more and more, we hear of cases where the government authorities are enforcing an overprotective parenting style that we consisder unhealthy for our kids.

    There is research to back up our position that overprotecting kids is risky, as well as that the risk of something random happening to our kids is extremely low. We want the right to weigh the risks and make our decisions without interference. Just like parents are free to decide how much literacy they will bestow on their kids before KG – although there is a wide spectrum of opinions and styles in this regard, I have not heard of any parents losing their kids or being arrested for making one choice or the other.

  269. Myriam July 15, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

    The notorious Moors murders in the 1960s were absolutely pivotal in the subsequent curtailment in children’s freedom in the UK. So not only did Brady and Hindley kill their victims but they had a detrimental impact on the childhoods of millions of children afterwards.

    I feel it’s wrong to pour scorn on fearful parents themselves, such fear is only natural. However, I would recommend the BBC’s documentary Hop Skip and Jump – that is to say I would if it was still available – which documents children’s outside play until the 1950s, but which does not romanticise the past. It really does make you question what we have done to our children.

  270. socalledauthor July 15, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    Oh, good, now I’m mourning the death of a child wrong. I can hold my child close AND still protest the claims that, because of this tragedy, that ALL children– mine included– must be kept within arms’ reach at all times. I protest not because I don’t feel sorry for the death (Honestly, I can’t even read the articles about the boy because it tears me up to read about someone’s dead child.) I protest because the self-righteous are going using this in attempt to curtail MY choices as a parent, with laws and with judgement and with hassling free-range children (or trying to undermine the parents by sending the kids home to be ‘safe’ even though the parents have okayed them being out.)

    I mourn all dead children– whatever age. The day that Lieby died, there were four people in my county that died in separate car accidents. We make a big deal about Lieby, but in my little neck of the woods (half a country away from Lieby) FOUR people died, but no one gives a damn about them. They barely made a blurb in the skimpy local paper, and I believe that two of them only got a longer story because of the “poorly marked” railroad tracks. that may have been a contributing factor. Why is Lieby’s death more tragic and more noteworthy than the young people who died in my county? Why don’t the people from my county get mourned across the world? Because it’s “just” a car accident, and therefore normal, imho. While Lieby’s unfortunate end is both sensational AND sells to more readers because people want to find out how to keep their own child safe, and look for clues in the Leiby’s story on what “went wrong.” In my world, all deaths a tragic. II mourn them all… but when others are going to use a death against me and my choices, then I still have to stand up for what I believe in!

    Seriously, I don’t understand the animosity. The vast, vast majority of the free-rangers here are, imho, politely asking that Lieby not be used as a club to beat us into a fear-mongering submission. And yet we are accused of sending 3 year olds out into the world to wander the city streets. We’re accused of not wanting our children around. We’re accused of being cold, heartless, irresponsible. All we are is trying to be parents we feel our children need. We’re not telling others how to raise their children (you want to keep your child in arm’s reach until high school– go for it. I sincerely hope that it works as you hope it will… just as I really hope that what I am doing IS the right choice for my child.) Heck, free-rangers are not homogeonous (nor are helicopter parents OR all the parenting types somewhere in between.)

    One thing free-rangers have in common, though, is the strong desire to be allowed to raise our children as we see fit. We generally do not attack other parenting styles– though we will provide rebuttal (there’s a difference) and counterarguments when others come here and tell us we’re wrong, irresponsible, heartless, stupid, or whatever. Unfortunately, with emotions so strong, sometimes even polite words are taken as an assault.

    No one has to agree with us– but can’t you disagree with attacks, accusations or logical fallacies?

  271. Uly July 15, 2011 at 8:46 pm #

    I want to share a passage from the ‘The Lovely Bones

    A passage from a fictional book about a murdered girl is supposed to convince me that those of us who have not had a tragedy in our lives should live as though we have?

    If the tragic ending of this child’s life makes some of us draw our children closer for a while, is that so wrong?

    No, of course not. I’d say that’s a normal response.

    But if it makes you draw your children closer and not let them go until they’re grown – that is wrong. If it makes you treat them like younger than they are, not for a short period, but forever – that is wrong. If it means that other parents have their rights curtailed, or are judged for doing normal things – that is wrong.

    1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be molested by someone they know.

    Mostly by their own family members. (Where did those other children in your example learn to act like this, and why were they doing it? I don’t know myself, but I can make an educated guess based upon the warning signs for sexual abuse, and it’s not a pleasant one.) How much freedom outside the house they’re allowed, unfortunately, doesn’t do one thing to protect them. (You might even make an argument that abusive families are more likely to allow LESS freedom, although it doesn’t go in reverse. But I don’t know if that’s true either.)

  272. Dp July 15, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    So that’s your counter argument. Hmm
    All I’m saying is that we should be wise and take off our rose-colored glasses before we send our children out into the world. There’s more to be concerned about than the unlikely chance of an abduction. Btw, my sister-in-law would allow her 14 year old son to stay gone all the time. This is an age when friends are so important, right? During these times, he was introduced to drugs. He really enjoyed getting high. Maybe she knew his friends, but did she know the cousins of his friends? The girlfriends of his friends? The friends of his friends?
    We all know that this world is not a Leave it to Beaver type place. We can talk with our kids, coach our kids, warn our kids, but in the end, they are kids. They will most likely make decisions like kids. We must be wise with our children. That’s all I’m saying.

  273. faster prey July 15, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    stranger abduction is rarer than getting struck by lightning. Do you all let your children out in thunderstorms?? I think free range parenting is for parental convenience, not in order to raise independent adults. After only 8 years on earth, one has not developed enough common sense and reasoning skills to cope with life situations, nor have they been exposed to the reality of human perversion. That is a parents job to protect them from that. That little boy was probably terrified at being lost, to the point where this stranger was a relief. I’m sure he had no idea that there are people out there that would chop his little body up in pieces. It was a crime of opportunity, and I certainly take steps of precaution with my belongings- I don’t leave my car unlocked at the mall, my garage open, or my registration information in my car with my garage door opener- I can certainly take precautions with my most precious gifts, my children. Criminals will just have to settle for easier prey, which is obviously abundant from the comments on this site.

    Intresting thought, that the author will advocate still letting 8 year olds out into the city on their own…. but don’t forget- don’t let them take a cell phone, as they might loose that! God forbid you have to run an errand to the verizon store and shell out $80 for a new phone. Again, it strikes me as its all about your convenience, obviously not the child.

  274. canadian step July 15, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    many people have asked what the harm is in holding your children a little closer, or protecting them a little longer.

    The harm is, IMO, in that doing so you are not showing your children that they are capable of handling the world. You are not teaching them, in increments, how to handle more freedom and more responsibility. As a child I was taught to not go anywhere with strangers, that grown ups don’t ask kids for directions, what appropriate touch was, etc. I was taught how to react if someone were to attempt anything with me. I remember learning to say “this man is not my father”. .There was one occasion where I was approached by a man in a car who asked me for directions. I quickly said “I don’t know, I’ll go get my mom.” as I had been taught to do. He was gone by the time I we came back outside. I was proboably 7 years old and I handled it appropriately. This didn’t cause my parents to then start keeping me inside – they were able to feel pride in the fact that I had learned from the lessons that they had delivered.

    Many people will respond that I never would have had to deal with this incident if I wasn’t outside alone. However, I wouldn’t trade all of the wonderful experiences of my childhood because of this small incident that was far from tramautic. As a kid I was outside jumping rope, playing hide and seek, looking for tadpoles in the creek, going to the park, trekking to the store for popsicles, etc.

    I have had the same conversations with my sk’s. We give age appropriate freedoms in increments.

    I feel saddened by a society that has stopped raising children and has decided that parenting only means caring for children. I’m very worried about the future.

  275. socalledauthor July 15, 2011 at 9:57 pm #

    Faster prey– actually, I think the analogy is not playing in thunderstorms, but playing in RAIN (or even a cloudy day.) A thunderstorm is an obvious and indisputable danger and I would bring my child into safety. Rainfall is generally safe from lightening strikes, so I would let my child play in the rain. To keep your children inside because of the rare chance of predator is akin to keeping your child in on a cloudy day for fear of the rare chance that lightning might strike.

    10 year-olds- led a Crusade in the Middle ages, marching across parts of Europe without adult supervision (look up the Children’s Crusade). Do YOU believe that our children are less capable than their historical counterparts?

  276. canadian step July 15, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    this concerns me greatly

  277. Douglas John Bowen July 15, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

    Lenore, take heart that you (and perhaps the folks collectively here at Free-Range Kids) may have influenced the media discussion and parsing of of this tragic event for the better. A network TV reporter Friday (July 15) allowed that children should be counseled or coached to “seek out *some* strangers” in case they became bewildered or needed assistance. The advice, a bit sexist per Lenore’s constant observations, urged approaching “a mother with children, or a neighborhood retailer” (don’t go to a dad, oh no!). But at least the advise wasn’t the old sweeping chestnut, “Don’t talk to strangers!”

  278. pentamom July 15, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

    socalledauthor, much as I agree with you generally, I wouldn’t use the Children’s Crusade here.

    Those kids wound up being sold en masse as slaves when they reached the Mediterranean ports (those that survived that long), so I don’t think that example would really help our more protective friends see the light. 😉

  279. pentamom July 15, 2011 at 10:18 pm #

    canadian step — THAT’s what Free-Rangers are up against. That’s what we get defensive about. Not that there are moms like that, but that on that whole thread, nobody told her she was nuts, because it’s too “normal” to be like that.

    Does she not send the child to school or ANY other activity where she’s not present? And unless the child has special needs, how badly must she have failed in raising her not to be able to be trusted for a couple of hours at someone else’s home, with adults present, without being “monitored?” Oy vey.

  280. Mike July 15, 2011 at 10:23 pm #


    Good for you for not allowing this tragedy to cause you to turn your back on the principles you feel so strongly about. Yes! It is a horrible, horrible thing. But, as you have so wisely pointed out many times, given the number of people in the city (in the world), it’s an exceedingly rare occurrence. I truly believe if you give your children the tools to fend off a would be attacker (if someone were to attempt an attack) they will use it. If you give them the common sense to get away from where they are if something doesn’t seem right, they’ll be safe, and they’ll be independent. Because, isn’t the ultimate goal of parenting to guide your child to be an independent functioning adult who can get by in the world without reliance on someone else to solve their problems?

  281. Wendy Kelly July 15, 2011 at 10:40 pm #

    Actually, Canadian Step and pentamom…though that thread *was* a bit weird and I do basically agree with you, I have to admit that I often go to birthday parties with my kids (though I wouldn’t if it were and obvious drop off invite like that one) and we are often together. In fact, though, I think that is what drives us to be more “free range” than we otherwise might be.

    I guess I am just pointing out the nuances that free range might take…we homeschool, so there are lots of chances for our kids to be with us as a family…many children’s parties include siblings and parents.

    But, then again, this also allows for our kids to be out wandering with their friends during the day, *unsuperivsed* Yesterday, for example, we had a house full of 9 boys (4 are mine) as they all congregated at our house. Three came in from the local park, one rode his bike over, and my 9 year old walked the 4 year old over.

    I think as we re-learn to build communities, they will become more natural again, with a flow to them…I think one of the main reasons we are so safe where I live is that we *do* know the kids so well. We *do* know who the kids know, and the kids know us. When my kids go downtown, I invariably hear about it from friends : )

    One thing that makes it very easy for people to prey on children is that in modern “communities” adults often aren’t home, and so there really aren’t adults to turn to when needed. There are no witnesses, because everyone is living insular lives.

  282. N July 15, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    Around here, parents only stay at parties until about 4, and then only so they’re there in case of a tantrum or potty accident, not to protect them from molesters.

  283. Dp July 15, 2011 at 10:54 pm #

    And yes, taking off the rose colored glasses means realizing that children who are not sexually abused come into contact with children who are (not that all abused are abusers, of course.) I work in an inner city school, and I must always be aware of what is going on with my students in my 2nd grade classroom. The amount of knowledge they have about sex is shocking. Most have unrestricted access to explicit sexual content on television.
    I guess I’m coming at this from a different angle. I teach in an area where a child’s innocence is not preserved. Three of the children in my classroom actually explained to me how they had been taught by adults to shoplift. I’ve moved my own family to a different school district, and the parents here raise their children much like I raise my own. Watching them walk out the door here isn’t as much of an issue for me at all, but in the area where I used to live….there was a bountiful array of bad situations and mindsets they could encounter.
    You see? It’s not always all or nothing. There are things to consider…

  284. canadian step July 15, 2011 at 10:55 pm #

    Wendy – read the rest of the thread. She later mentioned that her husband wasn’t even allowed to change the kids when they were small and that in her eyes “everyone is a potential molester”.

  285. Wendy Kelly July 15, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    DP、I think that is an excellent point about knowing your environment…and that free range shouldn’t mean teaching your kids to shoplift (I hope my humor came through there…) It really is a lot about context.
    Canadian Step, O.M.G. That poor woman. One wonders what she must have been through in her life to get to such an untrusting, scary place. (I thought I read fairly carefully, but must have been skimming. Need more coffee ; ) )

  286. Donna July 15, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

    @ Estiban -No, I’m wondering why all the clearly non-free range people have flocked to this site with this news story to seemingly gloat for days, tell us how wrong we are, insult us, call free rangers anti-family, etc. I don’t understand the motivation any more than I understand the motivation of someone who hates bungy jumping taking days to insult people on a bungy jumping blog. A reasonable debate of the age at which it is appropriate to allow a child to venture out that ends with agreeing to disagree (because, frankly, your not going to change anyone’s mind) is fine. Endless debate about how wrong free range parenting is is just useless anger. I don’t go to helicopter parenting blows (assuming they exist) to mock them after listening to a college professor tell a story of how he was planning to allow a student redo a project he had failed until his mommy called and asked him to at which point he let the student fail (although I did laugh to myself). I’d like the same respect from others.

  287. Donna July 15, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    That should be “helicopter parenting BLOGS” not blows.

  288. pentamom July 15, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    But Wendy, that’s the thing — it WAS an obvious drop off thing, and you wouldn’t, in that case. But this woman said she wouldn’t trust *anyone* to “monitor” her six year old without her. That’s what’s over the top — and that kind of attitude, not *existing* but being considered *normal* is what makes Free Rangers get kind of antsy sometimes. Maybe we over-react, but we’re not reacting against nothing, KWIM?

  289. SgtMom July 16, 2011 at 12:06 am #

    Overprotective Mother”, on July 15, 2011 at 10:51 said:

    I guess it depends upon the statistics you look at. The numbers presented in this article are not comforting and are not very low, in my opinion.

    From this website:


    The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

    Embedded within this name is the true motive of the organization. A fantastic example of truth in advertising. This organization and it’s board of directors receive millions of dollars every year from federal contributions (over $32 million alone in 2005). An incredible example of capitalistic individuals pushing their own agendas through perversions of truth and the exploitation of the very children they claim to protect.

    The power of this organization should not be underestimated or overlooked. Their lobbying activities play a pivotal role in shaping public policy as it relates to peoples’ privacy, liberty, and freedoms. They are transforming the very foundations of our nation. Their testimonies to congress are frequent and lengthy, which is not only questionable but also likely in violation of IRS requirements and lobbying regulations as a 501 ©) Non-Profit organization.

    The NCMEC serves as the central catalyst for the perpetuation of moral panic through the use of a “Deviancy Amplification Spiral”. The spiral starts with some “deviant” act. Usually the deviance is criminal but it can also involve legal acts considered morally repugnant. Such as a missing, murdered or exploited child. The mass media report what they consider to be newsworthy. For a variety of reasons, what is not frightening and would help the public keep a rational perspective (such as statistics showing that the behavior or event is actually less common or harmful than generally believed) tends to be ignored.

    What the unsuspecting public fails to realize, is the far reaching consequences of these laws and the impact it has on the country as a whole as well as to law abiding citizens. Some argue that if you aren’t doing anything wrong then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. If this were a perfect world that might be true, but it is not. Add a little corruption to the access of people’s personal information and problems can and will arise. We are ALL vulnerable to abuses of power and most anything can be bought and sold, for a price. Make no mistake, Big Brother is looking out for himself, NOT for you.

    Simply taking a look at the board of directors and partners for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reveals much about the organization itself. Included are FBI, Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Former CIA director, Data miners, and corrupt politicians who are also paid lobbyists (like Dennis DeConcini). Suddenly it starts to look more and more like a para-military organization than a charity.

    The board members are heads of federal agencies as well as business owners with their own agendas, who gain both money and power through the work and lobbying efforts of the NCMEC. Mass media corporations who also have vested interests in the scheme (like Fox and NBC), help perpetuate moral panic (a mass movement based on the false and/or exaggerated perception that some group of people (in this case, registered sex offenders), are all dangerously deviant and pose a menace to society. Fear is a most awesome motivator whether real or perceived.

    Registered sex offender, child molester, and violent predator are now all interchangeable terms, yet all have very different meanings. The NCMEC, John Walsh, and other board members/spokespersons seize upon every tragic case of an abducted and/or murdered child, whether committed by a registered sex offender or not, as an opportunity to lobby for even more, tougher, stricter, and overtly retroactive laws and punishments aimed at every individual registered sex offender, no matter what their actual crime or how long ago it occurred. There are even children as young as 8 years old on the registries now. Mr. Walsh frequently testifies “under oath” that our streets are littered with “mutilated and decapitated bodies of children”. Not only have I never tripped across one lying in the street, but no one I know has either. There are but a handful of stranger abductions and murders each year, yet the media plays upon them repeatedly, almost obsessively at times. Their mantra a flat out lie that “they ALL have high re-offense rates and cannot ever be cured”. If you don’t believe that this is a lie, simply try getting someone that purports this as truth to quote their source.

    The mass media has done a fantastic job of spreading unfounded fear, distrust, and hatred throughout communities across America. It is what keeps then in business. No attention is ever given to the fact that NO child has ever actually been saved by any of these laws. Of paramount importance to them is that is perceived that the laws are working.

    With 600,000 people on the sex offender registry in this country, all of Whom are so very dangerous, we all ought to be neck deep in bodies of dead children simply upon walking out our front door. But we aren’t of course, and the reason for this is that the information we are receiving is nothing more than pure propaganda.

    What is also interesting to note is how all of these new laws Mr. Walsh and the NCMEC advocate all lead to the same place…prison. Registration is not suppose to be punitive yet the penalty for failing to meet any of the requirements carry a penalty of up to ten years in prison. Even if the original crime was a misdemeanor and the individual was sentenced to probation. Additionally, the registration requirements are constantly being piled on. Miss one thing, such as giving a phone number or license plate number of any vehicle you have access to driving and you are “failing to register”. You are arrested, go to prison and can now be counted as a repeat sex offender. Not because you committed another sex offense, but because of some “technical violation”. This is another effective way of duping the public and getting those “high re-offense rates” up to where the powers that be want them so that they can justify all of this madness.

    Going back to the Board of the NCMEC. It is no secret that the prison industry is a booming business. Because of this there is a growing market for private prisons and wouldn’t you know it, many of these same board members and supporters have stakes in that as well. The Florida Correctional Privatization Commission is run by an attorney by the name of Samuel A. Block. Mr. Block is listed on the Florida Corporation Commission website as being a co owner of a company called “Correctional Concepts Inc.”- Mr. John Walsh is the other Co-owner.

    Mr. Louis Freeh is also a NCMEC board member as well as the former head of the FBI. Mr. Freeh’s leadership credentials include overseeing the Ruby Ridge and Waco Texas incidents which says alot about his character and compassion for the safety of children. It also raises some serious questions as to the reason for his involvement with the NCMEC whose actual caseload overwhelmingly consists of runaways and non custodial parental interference.

    Why the bulk of their caseload is not the focus of the organization is a red flag in and of itself. Their focus has NEVER been on parental abductions or runaways. Instead they focus on prosecutions, sex offender legislation, case preparation, interrogations, pornography and cybercrimes. The latest crackdown is on viewers of pornography, which should net lots of new registrants and prisoners considering that the porn industry is a multi-billion dollar business. Isn’t it ironic that the focus isn’t on the really bad guys,those that actually manufacture it?

    What exactly constitutes illegaly pornography may surprise you and all readers, especially parents with teenaged children, would be well advised to follow up on and pay very close attention to these anti-pornography laws so that your child doesn’t end up on the sex offender registry for downloading the wrong images. Ignorance of the law is no excuse and there a many teens in prison right now throughout this country, (some for LIFE) for doing just that. Each picture is a seperate count. If 25 images are downloaded then they are charged with 25 counts and most likely will never see the light of day again. Be especially cautious of websites like whose pages are filled with images of scantily clad and even unclad young men and women who may or may not actually be 18. Minors posing and photographing themselves CAN and HAVE been charged and convicted of child exploitation (of themselves), imprisoned and put on the registries. What about the exploitation of these children? It seems as though exploitation of children, lives, families, facts,and the criminal justice system is fine as long as it’s the government (or the NCMEC) doing the exploiting and using our tax dollars to do it.

    On the local level it is no different. In Phoenix, AZ the local political thugs have their hand in the cookie jar too. Former Arizona Governor Fife J. Symington III (who himself is a convicted felon) defrauded thousands of union workers out of their retirement pensions by falsifying documents and lying on loan applications. Mr. Symington partnered with Maricopa County Deputy attorney and Pro tem judge Norman C. Keyt to form a company called Hummingbird Defense Systems Inc.

    Hummingbird Defense is a security company which managed to illegally and for commercial purposes, purchase the entire database of registered sex offenders in the State of Arizona which included some, if not all, of the low risk individuals who aren’t legally subject to community notification. They are not subject because they pose no threat of re-offending.

    Hummingbird’s scheme was cooked up in conjunction with Sheriff Joe Arpaio of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Mr. Arpaio was instrumental in getting the database for Hummingbird Defense Systems. Together they tried (unsuccessfully) to win a contract with the State of Arizona to install cameras throughout Arizona schools and hook them directly to the database. Each time someone entered the school their phot would be taken and compare to photos of the registered sex offenders in the illegally obtained database. If a match was made, school administrators were alerted and a police officer dispatched to the school to investigate. The problem is that many of these people have been on the registry for 10,20,or 30 years. Many have children or even grand-children and have perfectly legitimate reasons for being at the schools.

    Hummingbird’s and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office little scheme backfired however because Sheriff Joe got sloppy again. He was so eager to promote himslef and get in front of camera that he tried promoting the scheme on a news broadcast. The illegality was immediately recognized and a lawsuit followed. The Sheriff’s office pulled out and the Arizona schools system rejected the whole idea.

    -Operation Awareness

  290. Dp July 16, 2011 at 12:06 am #

    About the debating…
    When you make your opinion public with a website, you must expect this. It is a sort of unnerving to me that people who are so surprised that your public site would be visited by us, are letting your children roam range free. Are you so sure that you and your children are prepared for encounters with the various adults and children with all their varied life experiences? Heck, while a friend of mine was watching my own 7 year old son while I attended a meeting, he was allowed free access to her computer. She never thought the following would happen. We discovered that he spent an hour surfing hard core porn. He was actually told about these sites by his 2nd grade peers at school. He couldn’t check them out himself on our home computer because we always had filters, but as soon as he had the opportunity, he was…free range.

  291. Donna July 16, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    I’m not surprised Dp, I simply wonder what you get out of doing so. Blow off some anger that can’t be released elsewhere? I simply don’t have the time, desire or pent-up hostility to spend time on blogs berating the usual readers. Your actions make no sense to me whatsoever.

  292. Donna July 16, 2011 at 12:23 am #

    And my child is more than prepared to deal with encounters with mean people. She probably will not understand any better than I do why people go out of their way to look for a fight and look for people to insult (in person or on the internet) because that is not the person I’m raising her to be.

  293. Dp July 16, 2011 at 12:27 am #

    But the world is full of mean people who’s actions are senseless to some degree. You know that I am right. I will leave you all alone, now. Good day.

  294. ThatDeborahGirl July 16, 2011 at 12:27 am #

    anon, on July 15, 2011 at 03:41 said:
    “I chanced upon this website, and as an impartial outsider I have to say that the views of the freerangers are expressed in a belligerent and self-righteous manner, even to the point of denigrating the views of those who disagree.”

    Actually I think it’s quite the opposite.

    I’m really sorry about what happened to this child. It makes me ill and sad to think that any human being can do what that man did. But if he had raped a woman, we would admonish people “not to blame the victim” but in the case of a murdered child, it seems oddly fair game to blame the parents, and by co-relation, the child, for having the audacity to do what kids and parents do – learn to navigate the lines between holding on and letting go.

    I think a lot of people don’t come here to get information about how to let your kids be more free-range despite the risks and attitudes against it. Instead, they come here to wag a finger and express the “how-dare-you-let-your-kid-be-unsupervised” point of view, “especially in light of (insert example here).” Those comments are argumentative and petty and they do not add to the conversation in any other way.

    If free-rangers get defensive in expressing a view that, despite this tragic example, we will continue to raise free-range kids, I think it’s because those types of comments are meant to make us defensive and feel bad about our choice to give our children latitude and raise them the best way we see fit.

  295. faster prey July 16, 2011 at 12:35 am #

    @donna- your site is a link on news articles about the crime. So when normal parents natural reaction is “who in the world would let their 8 year old roam free around NYC”… and the article explicitely says that there is a movement supporting this, and here is a link….. we are in disbelief and click on the link to see how someone could think this was responsible parenting. The author of this site is clearly giving interviews and using this boys death to publicize this site and her views.

    Very logical people out there…. 10 year old crusadors. Yes, and there have been kids married off at 10, sexual slaves at 10, giving birth at 10, child labor at 10, living on the streets at 10, taking care of younger siblings at 10 while their drug addicted mothers are prostituting themselves. Your point…… ???? Mine is… not good enough for MY children. You continue hanging that low lying fruit for those predators, it will divert them from my children.

    No defense yet on how the author won’t risk her cell phone, but easily risks her 9 year old???

  296. Leah July 16, 2011 at 12:50 am #

    Your piece is the first writing on this tragedy that has made me cry.

    I spent large parts of last month living in the West Village, attending classes at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and spent last night composing my final paper on Jewish group historical memory. So, when I read your post, I hear it as a mother, as a Jew and as someone who has felt safe in New York.

    Too often our People turn blind eyes inward, refusing to see that evil exists within as well as without. It is a reflex remaining from the times of the shtetl and the ghetto, when the actions of one could bring down wrath from the outside upon us all. However, in refusing to see what is within our own midst, we do our children a great disservice, often to the point endanger their well being. This particularly holds true of the insular ultraorthodox community.

    My heart aches for the families in Borough Park, and for the grieving mother who will always question if she did the right thing. But you are right in saying we need to believe the light within each other. We need to remember that sometimes lightning strikes despite our best precautions. We are charged with empowering our children, with giving the the freedom to find their own path, and to do otherwise would allow for the darkness to always, always win.

  297. mollie July 16, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    I guess I would think that parents who enjoy the idea of having their mid-to-late-elementary-aged children either in school, at home with their parents, in a structured, supervised, sanctioned activity, or out and about in town under their own—the parents’—watch, would have an astounding amount of opportunities to get that sense of “shared reality” I referenced in my earlier posts on this thread.

    They certainly could get it from speaking to the principal of their child’s school, the local law enforcement, or probably 80 or 90% of the parents in their own community. Well, maybe it’s only 70% now, since there has been an effort to get it out there what the actual statistics are on who harms children and how often, and how allowing kids to have some moments to develop independent decision-making might actually be a good thing.

    There wouldn’t really be a longing, I would think, for a sense of community or sharing or support in what has become society’s prevailing culture of child-rearing: the culture that says, “Any risk is too much risk, why take the chance with your child? Anyone who would do that is crazy!”

    Why, you might only need to look to your own spouse or mother to get affirmation on this idea. Or chat up any parent standing with their 9-or-10-year-old that they have just driven three blocks to school and now waits with them for the bell to ring—that also would be an excellent choice to foster that sense of shared reality.

    After a tragedy like this one in Brooklyn, it would be a pretty safe bet to look wide-eyed at the mother of two sitting next to you at church and whisper, “Did you hear about that awful case in New York? What parent in their right mind would let a child walk alone in a big city like that?” and get the same wide-eyed expression and a response of, “I don’t even let Hannah walk alone to school—she’s ten, and we can see the school from our driveway! Some people are just insane!”

    You’re safe to chat on and on to anyone in the world about how dangerous it is these days, how kids just can’t have the same kinds of freedoms we did as kids, that there are too many crazies out there, that all you have to do is read the paper or watch TV to know how it’s not responsible to allow kids to play alone outdoors, that there are registered sex offenders everywhere now, and that you personally know someone whose kid was molested by their friend’s older brother, which, of course, proves your point. You’re safe to tell everyone that you never let your kid out alone, even for a minute, from your house. The law will leave you alone, society will celebrate you, and your kids will be who they are, but no one is likely to fault you.

    Unless you happen to meet me and started to chat me up somewhere. I wouldn’t seek you out to start hectoring you about your parenting style, but if you and I ended up chaperoning the same grade 4 field trip, say, and the conversation about supervision began, I would be quite open about decisions I make with my own kids, and be be prepared for the requisite shock and horror (it’s always a delightful surprise when I meet another parent who hears my honest description of my decision-making and lights up like a Christmas tree and says, “Oh! It’s so great to hear someone say these things!”). I would know instinctively when to give you empathy, to say, “I can hear how important it is to you that all children be safe; this is a concern I very much share. Would you like to hear more about how the decisions I make are contributing to safety?”

    After a bit, it might become clear to me that it’s okay to change the subject to other things, to pave over the raw, exposed gravel of our rocky discourse, to smooth things over with a chat about upcoming vacation plans. And you could go probably four feet to the next parent in the group and find that sense of shared reality around your views on raising kids. I come to this website.

  298. LRH July 16, 2011 at 1:17 am #

    faster prey You know what? SO WHAT if convenience plays a part in it. We are entitled to a certain amount of it, even if we are parents. We’re not just slaves here.

    And isn’t it wonderful–as it turns out, these things that make life more convenient for us also makes the children more independent, ready to face the world, and a funner childhood to boot. Sounds like a win-win to me.


  299. Rebecca July 16, 2011 at 2:23 am #

    Thank you so much for this post. I am a parent who has a huge potential to be overprotective. I am an anxious person by nature and must work to overcome it. This is why I read your blog regularly. You help to keep me in balance. Yes, we should have reasonable protection for our kids, but to overprotect presents a different kind of danger. Thank you for helping to remind me of this on a regular basis. May we all keep Leiby’s parents in our prayers.

  300. faster prey July 16, 2011 at 2:23 am #

    @mollie….good lord…. you are allowed to chaperone a fourth grade field trip? Is that not against your very principles of self convenience and childhood independence? I can’t fatham the thought of my fourth grader under the “supervision” of a free range parent, that sound like quite an oximoron.

    @LRH …Convenience, now entitlement. Ok, hard for me to digest relating to parenting. Sounds like a very selfish way to parent. Yes, that 8 year old boy was ready to face the world….. what a fun childhood he had! Good point.

    And regarding the freedom’s back in the day. Statistics are overwhelming at how many adults have been sexually abused as children, it wasn’t all that safe back then either. It just wasn’t as public. You all obviously survived without seatbealt laws….. doesn’t mean others didn’t.

  301. brad July 16, 2011 at 2:47 am #

    Ah yes.. we’re now reducing our children to a series of statistical probabilities. I was told I had too much “emotion” invested in this case – however I think the real agenda of free range parenting is to be able to have automatons raise our children. Because I cry when an 8 year old gets snatched when he had NO business being by himself – I am “too emotional” as a parent.
    I’m sorry – part of raising a children DEMANDS emotion we are human after all. As soon as you strip that away and tell me that I should just “look at the stats” you are taking my humanity away. I should look at the tragic case as an “otlier” – be damned if we actually lost a young human being in it all.

  302. LRH July 16, 2011 at 3:07 am #

    Well faster prey maybe it SOUNDS like a very selfish way to parent, but it’s hardly that. If anything, adults having no life of theirs anymore because it’s all about the kids–sounds like a way to way selfish brats if you ask me. Or, if anything, often-times the helicopter way can be selfish for the PARENT, because it goes something like this–I am so big on “looking good” to others & making sure my child doesn’t ever get hurt even in the most minor of ways I’m willing to totally trash my child’s fun childhood spirit to get that.

    No thank you.


  303. Sky July 16, 2011 at 4:08 am #

    ] “however I think the real agenda of free range parenting is to be able to have automatons raise our children”

    Automatons like bicycles, creeks, pools, and peers?

    When are children more likely to make use of “automatons,” do you suppose – when they spend hours alone (save for perhaps a busy adult) inside their houses, or when they are outside on the sidewalks riding their scooters?

    “Because I cry when an 8 year old gets snatched when he had NO business being by himself”

    I really don’t think anyone is suggesting a person shouldn’t respond emotionally to the horrific murder of a child. But your phrasing makes me wonder – are you crying for the loss suffered by these parents, or are you crying because you’re upset they aren’t suffering enough and should be made to suffer more – made to feel intense blame for allowing their child to walk the crowded streets in broad daylight at the age of 8 or 9?

  304. taradlion July 16, 2011 at 4:42 am #

    Just a thought….for me Free Range Parenting is not about convenience (or entitlement or a wish that automatons could raise my children)…it is about my children and the type of adults I would like them to become…I do spend a great deal of time with my children, but when I give them some independence, it is not because I need a break

    Lets just remember in THIS VERY CASE, Leiby’s mother was not waiting at home for him to come home on the bus (where, assuming she was not caring for other children, she could have taken a little time for herself), she walked 1/2 way to meet him….she was trying to help him learn a skill

  305. brad July 16, 2011 at 4:55 am #

    Sky you just exposed your IQ to the world:

    automatons plural of au·tom·a·ton (Noun)1. A moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being.
    2. A machine that performs a function according to a predetermined set of coded instructions

  306. brad July 16, 2011 at 5:04 am #

    And no… not “respond emotionally to the horrific murder of a child” – what I meant was that it is inferred we should not let emotions affect any decisions we make as a parent. As in “let’s send Johnny out today to teach independence. I’m a little afraid – but let’s completely discount it because there’s a 0.0005% chance he’ll be picked up by a stranger”. Emotions clouding thinking? – That’s not allowed in the free range world.

  307. UptotheChallenge July 16, 2011 at 5:07 am #

    What self-serving faux-sympathy. This editorial was just to protect your investment in being the shock-jock “free range kid mom.” This incident proves what everyone else but you and your lazy fans get- you have to make your life child-centric so they can safely enjoy the world. There is a false dichotomy you establish: they are free to be out on their own or everyone is “hunkering at home in fear.” BS. YOU have to have at least one parent, or two who collaborate, who make facilitating and supervising a rich and wonderful life for these vulnerable little people. Wah, I know, sucks to have to have to parent. Shouldn’t have had them if it is too much to have to protect them.

    These poor parents that just lost their child do not need you being whoring their suffering in efforts to defend your feeble position.

  308. walkamungus July 16, 2011 at 5:15 am #

    Here’s an excellent idea, free-range or otherwise: Teach your kid(s) to read a map. It can be a commercially produced map, e.g., Rand McNally; it can be the map of your town or neighborhood out of the phone book; it can be one that you and the kid(s) produce on construction paper, or on your computer with photos, or whatever. (Or, obviously, a transit system map. I didn’t grow up in a place with public transportation, so I never think of this.) Show them Google Maps and how to print out a map of a place.

    Make sure that the street layout is accurate. Depending on the kid, put landmarks like businesses, notable buildings, and/or house numbers on the map. I had great spatial perception even as a kid and pretty much taught myself how to read a map and a compass before I even started school. My sister, on the other hand, gets lost even *with* a map…but almost always finds herself, eventually.

    It’s really empowering to be able to look at a map and say, “If I’m at the intersection of streets X and Y, and this is building Z, then the street I want is one block *this* way and two blocks *that* way.”

  309. Donna July 16, 2011 at 6:14 am #

    Yes, faster prey many adults were molested as children – 98% of which were molested by family members and close friends, not strangers. I’ve worked as a public defender for years. We’ve never had a single case involving a stranger molestation for our entire jurisdiction. We have many involving family members (predominantly stepfathers or mother’s boyfriend), a few involving neighbors, a few involving friends of parents with a very occasional teacher thrown in. No stranger kidnappings. No stranger molestations. No stranger rapes. In fact, stranger-on-stranger violent crime is a rarity. The vast majority of violent crime is between people known to each other. Sure those things could happen but I don’t let fear of distant possibilities rule my life, nor do I want my child growing up with the belief that she should let rare possibilities rule hers.

    The fact that there’s a link to this site (which is not mine but Lenore’s) is not persuasive to me. You are still taking the time to read, post and respond to comments. You are not going to change our minds. I will continue to be a free range parent and allow my child to have what I believe to be age-appropriate freedoms. Just as you will continue to believe what you believe. You are not interested in learning about free range parenting, just in attacking it. It seems like a pointless waste of time to me.

    As for the cell phone – Lenore was confident that Izzy had the skills to get him home safely. She wasn’t so sure about his skills to bring the cellphone with him instead of leaving it on the subway and she didn’t believe that he’d need the cellphone. She was correct. Izzy got home just fine and didn’t need a phone. I agree with her. I’m mpuch more confident that my child will take care of herself than that she will take care of MY possessions – HER possessions may be another story but she doesn’t have a cellphone.

    I also wonder how many people berating us live in or have ever been to NYC. Many seem focused on the big city part – as if it would be okay in a small town. It seems to be NYC they fear as much as pedophiles. It’s not really Law & Order SVU. There aren’t rapes and murders every day.

  310. LRH July 16, 2011 at 6:20 am #

    UptotheChallenge Who in the FUCK are you to come in here & act all high & mighty? May the white horse you ride in on trample your sorry ass into a mess of pebbles.

    I’m sorry to the rest of you here who can deal with this sort without sounding like Eddie Murphy in “Delirious,” please feel free to chip in with a more level-headed rebuttal, but I am really getting tired of judgmental, holier-than-thou assholes like this piece of trash coming in here & ranting their nonsense. I fully respect their right to free speech, but I have the same right to call them out as jerks & morons.

    How dare you call us lazy, you self-righteous bitch/son-of-a-bitch. Who died & made you the judge of what’s right in parenting? You didn’t write the book on parenting, and even if you did write on, I’d burn the stinking thing in effigy. You have your way of parenting–the kit probably includes a set of apron strings, an Aunt Jemima-style maid uniform, GPS-tagged clothes and backpacks, paper and computer-copies of the teacher’s email address so you can berate them for not spoiling your child, cameras in every room in the house, a “sunglasses monitor” so that you can view the feed from said cameras everywhere without having to be glued to the living room TV, and a neglected husband/boyfriend etc relegated to jerking off to images of Beyoncé ever since you dumped him for the eggs he fertilized for you. I mean, we have to be child-centered, don’t we?

    And yes–the kids, who can never go piss in a pot without you hovering over them in case they fall in & drown in the toilet.

    Well, let me tell you sweetheart–if that’s your way of parenting, you go right ahead, I’m not condemning you even while I parody it in hyperbolic sarcasm. But that style doesn’t suit everybody, and excuse to hell out of us for finding ways that DO work for us and that don’t harm our children, either. I can promise you this–you are NO less likely to suffer a horrible tragedy of this sort than the subject of this article, or any of us. You can’t control everything. Your son or daughter may die from the school bus crashing–does that make it your fault because you let someone else do the shuttling for you? Maybe the school is bombed circa the 1927 Bath School Disaster (yes, school bombings actually occurred in 1927, they didn’t start with Columbine–imagine!), care to comment on how you could’ve prevented that? Maybe a drunk driver hits your car and kills your child, care to comment on how you could’ve prevented that?

    You can’t–no, not even you.

    This woman did nothing wrong, and we aren’t doing anything wrong either. Feel about it however you must, news flash–I don’t give a fuck whether you approve of my parenting style or not. You ain’t my momma or my wife, thus rendering your opinion as totally irrelevant.

    Take those apron strings and tie your fucking mouth shut with them.

    I feel better now, time to cool off, and sorry if I acted like an ass, my fellow “lazy-ass” free-rangers. Please, go back to neglecting your kids and fucking up your job as parents {sarcasm off now}.


  311. Donna July 16, 2011 at 6:25 am #

    Brad, there is a difference between emotion and fear. I let emotion control everything I do with and for my child. I try not to let irrational fear control my decisions. Worrying about minute possibilities of danger is irrational fear in my opinion. There are enough real worries in the world, I don’t need to manufacture more.

  312. LRH July 16, 2011 at 6:27 am #

    PS–excuse my typos, and Donna–thank you for a rational, level-headed and absolutely dead-on correct rebuttal. You are one of my heroes here–smart, successful, persuasive, and coldly logical in your absolute defense of this wonderful cause. If there were such a position to offer, I’m humbly suggest Lenore ought to hire you as an assistant or “co-blogger” of sorts for this site here.


  313. mollie July 16, 2011 at 6:30 am #

    “let’s send Johnny out today to teach independence. I’m a little afraid – but let’s completely discount it because there’s a 0.0005% chance he’ll be picked up by a stranger”. Emotions clouding thinking? – That’s not allowed in the free range world.”

    Brad, I’d say that this quote from you does accurately represent a lot of what I experience when I send my 9 & 10 year old boys out on an errand or to the park. Any time my kids are not with me, I have a kind of torn feeling about it; on the one hand, it’s a risk, since I am not there to remind them about all the myriad things I have been coaching them on, from bicycle safety to healthy eating habits. Waaaaaaaaaay in the back of my mind is the fleeting concern about some random adolescent or adult who might mean them harm, but that concern is so very alive and present for my 10-year-old son (who imagines that nearly every person he sees that he’s never met before is plotting to snatch him, thanks to his dad’s fearful influence), so I’d say my son is just about the least likely candidate for a stranger abduction, especially if he’s in a public place like a grocery store or a park.

    The other side of my emotional sense of being “torn” is the celebration side… the euphoria I can see on my sons’ faces when they triumphantly return from one of their little adventures in the neighbourhood, and the enormous pride I feel that these two boys are finding out what they are capable of… because they have had a taste of being out in the world, of having that little bit of responsibility, they are already less inclined to be destructive toward themselves, others, or property. This is one of my goals, to keep them a little bit toward the edge of their ability to handle the challenge so they can be engaged and aware instead of bored and restless. Bored and restless, as I’ve seen in many adolescents, seems to lead to serious problems with drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, depression, overeating… I want more for my kids.

    So no, it is definitely not without emotion that I send my boys out into the neighbourhood, or send my 7-year-old around the corner to knock on her friend’s door to see if she’s home—but this idea that we “know more about the dangers today” and thus cannot and should not allow kids to do the things we did—things that were some of the high points of our own childhoods—doesn’t seem fair to the kids. The truth is that kids have always been harmed by people they know, love and trust. That danger has not been eradicated. And kids have always been harmed by strangers; that danger has not been eradicated either. But neither of those dangers is any more prevalent or looming today than they ever were, i.e. no more children are being harmed today than were being harmed decades ago, so why would I rob my own kids of the joys of a healthy and balanced growing-up?

    I have emotions, yes, but I am not consumed or paralyzed by fear to the point that I forbid what came so naturally to me and my friends when we were in elementary school. This is not about actual hazards, but about willingness to embrace life in all its uncertainty. A young child walking hand in hand with his mother on the way to school was run over by a semi truck as they traversed the sidewalk. The bottom half of his body was crushed. The driver had taken the corner too tight. No one exclaimed that it would have been safer to drive that child to school; everyone just mourned the tragedy and agreed it was one of those freaky things. Freaky things happen, sometimes when we’re with out kids, sometimes when we’re not. That is the truth of our lives. I’m all for living fully, at any age, even if it exposes me to the possibility of death sometimes… after all, what kind of life would it be to structure every day around remote possibilities of harm? I don’t want to find out, even if it’s working well for others!

  314. mollie July 16, 2011 at 6:51 am #

    @mollie….good lord…. you are allowed to chaperone a fourth grade field trip? Is that not against your very principles of self convenience and childhood independence? I can’t fatham the thought of my fourth grader under the “supervision” of a free range parent, that sound like quite an oximoron.

    LOL faster prey! I am so far still eligible for the task of helping to shepherd a bunch of 9 and 10 year olds to a museum downtown, if I’m willing, and yes, once in a while, I am. :-)

    It would seem to me one of the greatest dangers for kids that age out in the world is crossing streets, especially when they are in pairs or groups. If one kid runs ahead and darts across the street and barely makes it, and then another or others try to follow, well, that’s a recipe for disaster. So taking a group of 25 kids on a 1-mile walk in a small city is a great opportunity for adults to support them.

    I actually think my own kids are safer on their own crossing the street. When they are with me, they delegate the task of being aware and vigilant. When they are with another friend, they might forget how dangerous the road really is as they enjoy a connection with each other. But alone, just my kid and the road, well, I know they are giving it the respect it deserves.

    One of those interesting counter-intuitive discoveries I’ve made about safety as I raise four kids!

  315. pentamom July 16, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    brad, nice way to be insulting. Sky was saying we don’t want “automatons,” we want those things she listed. Therefore, in your mind, bicycles, creeks, pools and peers must be “automatons,” since it has been made AMPLY CLEAR that those are the things we want our kids to engage with. Nothing anyone has ever said here implies we “want automatons to supervise our kids;” that’s something you made up out of your own mind, and it is so far from being based in anything you have any reason to believe that it is pretty darn close to being an outright LIE.

  316. N July 16, 2011 at 8:22 am #

    I don’t let my older daughter (9) play outside unsupervised with neighborhood kids due to laziness. I do it because I want her to have the kind of childhood I had in the 70s – summers of play from sunup to sundown, and school years of throwing the backpack in the house, grabbing a snack, and running out to have fun. She is very happy and well adjusted, and has learned how to cooperate and negotiate with other kids because that’s what they have to do when there aren’t adults around overseeing their interactions. I believe it’s been great for helping her develop her social skills.

    Also, I do know lots of people who were molested, but everyone I know who has talked about it to me a was molested by someone they were entrusted to, in almost every case a close family member or someone at a babysitter’s home, like a babysitter’s husband or older child. I don’t know anyone personally who has told me they were nabbed by a stranger and molested, and everything I’ve read tells me that is a very rare circumstance, so it isn’t something I’m worried about. I’d be more worried about my daughter’s joyful and fun-filled childhood being sacrificed. I have a toddler as well and I just am not able to be outside watching her as often as she’s able to play without me watching her. I am very confident it helps her physical health (she has no interest in TV at all when the weather is nice and is not at all sedentary or overweight, a risk that actually has increased in recent years) as well as the previously mentioned social skills. Those are absolute circumstances, and they hold more weight with me than a very improbable potential circumstance. Why would I sacrifice so much definite good because of the very slight likelihood of something bad happening?

    Luckily my neighborhood always has packs of kids running around together. The culture here seems to be free range, and thank goodness.

  317. NZ mum July 16, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    I discussed this blog at my work today with my old people who I take care of. They meet to discuss current events and their opinions are invaluable. The overall opinion was that this was a horrible tragedy. They also discussed how when children were abducted or hurt or killed in their neighbourhoods that parents usually reviewed what their children would be allowed to do. This was during the 60s and 70s in NZ. They said they would do things like make sure kids walked places together or played in groups. They said it did change their perspective on how safe their neighbourhood was. They also said that there was at least one parent (usually a mum) keeping an eye on the kids in the neighbourhood.

    When I told them this happened in NYC they weren’t surprised. In NZ we have a perception of NYC being unsafe (whether this is right or not, I don’t know but this is the perception). Their real surprise was the comments on this blog of parents not even entertaining the idea of reviewing their own ideas. That is not to say that they should change, because that would be arrogant, but to not review your own decisions seems a little arrogant.

    Be gentle commenting on this because I will be showing this to my residents and they don’t need any bad language 😉

  318. Donna July 16, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    @ NZ mum – the operative phrase being “in their neighborhood.” In the 60s and 70s, all you heard about were abductions in your news area. You didn’t hear about those all over the world. Surely an unresolved child kidnapping or murder in you neighborhood would impact your view of the safety of your neighborhood. NYC is not even close to being in my neighborhood. I’ve already evaluated the safety of my child in my neighborhood. The death of a child a 16 hour drive away doesn’t impact my view of the safety of my neighborhood.

    It is not as though we were ever in denial and believed that these things never happened. We are well aware that approximately 115 kids are kidnapped by strangers each year. A very small number but not zero. This incident saddens us but doesn’t shock us so that we reevaluate our lives because of something that happened far away. Unlike, for instance, the World Trade Center which suck everyone in the country to the core because it was something we never thought could happen here.

    Also, the killer is in jail. It is not an unsolved crime. The killer is not looking to prey on other children. Yes, more could be out there but the threat level has not changed.

  319. Uly July 16, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    Their real surprise was the comments on this blog of parents not even entertaining the idea of reviewing their own ideas. That is not to say that they should change, because that would be arrogant, but to not review your own decisions seems a little arrogant.

    But years and piles and tons of data doesn’t convince the more hovering ones to review *their* decisions.

    Emotions clouding thinking? – That’s not allowed in the free range world.

    It shouldn’t be encouraged in ANY world.

    Brad, I thought you were done here. I, for one, am getting a little tired of your personal attacks, hyperbole, and lying. You have repeatedly attributed thoughts and words to others that were never said and probably not thought. You’ve been called out on this several times, and have not once apologized. If you’re really done here, go. Go and learn some manners before you come back.

    stranger abduction is rarer than getting struck by lightning. Do you all let your children out in thunderstorms??

    No, and if I knew there was a child molester standing on my corner waiting to swoop up and grab the next kid, I wouldn’t let them out there either.

    But I DO let them go out on sunny days, and I DO let them go where child molesters are extremely unlikely to be, ie, just about everywhere most of the time.

    I think free range parenting is for parental convenience, not in order to raise independent adults.

    Believe it or not, something that makes your life easier is not morally suspect for that reason.

    That little boy was probably terrified at being lost, to the point where this stranger was a relief.

    No doubt. And if the first time he ever got lost he was 18, would it be any different?

    I’m sure he had no idea that there are people out there that would chop his little body up in pieces.

    There was one such person in his area. I very much doubt there was more than one. People is stretching it somewhat.

    It was a crime of opportunity, and I certainly take steps of precaution with my belongings- I don’t leave my car unlocked at the mall, my garage open, or my registration information in my car with my garage door opener- I can certainly take precautions with my most precious gifts, my children.

    But your children aren’t your belongings. They aren’t things. They are future adults. Your car is never going to need to learn to drive itself, your home is never going to get lost and need to know how to get found. You don’t have to teach your possessions things, and they never will grow up.

    (For that matter, living in the big bad city, I have a door made of glass, so breaking in would be trivially easy.)

    Intresting thought, that the author will advocate still letting 8 year olds out into the city on their own…. but don’t forget- don’t let them take a cell phone, as they might loose that!

    Well, yeah. Kids getting abducted by strangers? Really, really, really rare. People of all ages losing phones? Staggeringly common. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.

    I work in an inner city school, and I must always be aware of what is going on with my students in my 2nd grade classroom.

    Are you implying that you think children in rich families are never harmed by their parents, and that rich people are never criminals?

    And a lot of you drop-ins have called us naive!

    Btw, my sister-in-law would allow her 14 year old son to stay gone all the time. This is an age when friends are so important, right? During these times, he was introduced to drugs. He really enjoyed getting high. Maybe she knew his friends, but did she know the cousins of his friends? The girlfriends of his friends? The friends of his friends?

    And? In four years he would’ve been off at college. (Unless his mother went crazy and locked in the basement, I suppose….) That could easily have happened at 18 instead, or at 21, or at 25, or whenever he got his freedom.

    I don’t know how parents can reduce the likelihood of drug use in their teens. I do know that by 14, I knew that at that point my mother couldn’t really stop me from doing what I wanted. I was a pretty good kid, but if I really wanted to take drugs or skip school or get into fights, I could’ve done it. After a certain point, your children get too big to be manhandled into good behavior.

  320. Dp July 16, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    Checked back in after a long day. You’re all lunatics. Lol. Love that there are only white kids on the cover of lenore’s book. Does your premis work for every neighborhood in the US ? This us just rediculous. You are all so white! Lol

  321. NZ mum July 16, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    Uly, actually we did discuss parents that overly hover. And they also agreed this was dangerous too. It doesn’t help the child to develop if you do EVERYTHING for them.

    So there was some balance :) My residents are smart people who have seen a lot and have been around a long time.

    The way that some comments read implied to us involved in the discussion that people had a ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude and while it is unlikely to happen, this kind of attitude seems a bit naive.

    Again, it has triggered conversations in NZ among parents and grandparents (and even a great great grandparent!) about free range parenting and what that means for families here. As you can imagine there is a different culture and legislation here so how we modify it may not be the same as in other places.

  322. NZ mum July 16, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    LOL DP I ain’t white. I ain’t middle class and I live in a dangerous neighbourhood.

    Some of the ideas don’t work for me, but I don’t live in the US either!

    Just thought I should clear that up.

  323. Dp July 16, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    And I don’t give a damn about abductions. It’s all the other twisted crap I’ve written about in previous posts. Really interesting that no one has commented on that. Ignorance is bliss? My sister in law thought so and now her oldest son us in jail for selling drugs. I’ve got stories for days iit seems. But in your world, I seem to be on the fringe. Really? You all must live in paradise. Can I get your zip code? Cause I’ve been living in a pretty twisted and perverse place. Btw some older kids in my former neighborhood asked my younger son to get on all fours while a large dog humped him and they video taped it in their phone. I had to go to the parents down the street to have them erAse it. I lived in hell. Don’t preach your shit to me until you walk in my shoes. It is NOT all or nothing You MUST consider the environment.

  324. Dp July 16, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    All I wanted was the best for my son. I let him go. I let him play free outside and that happened with the dog. Also a neighbor boy talked to him about oral sex. He was only in 1st and 2nd grade . He was practically molested by a boy in his 2nd grade class room when they would take restroom breaks together. The teacher let my good son go to the restroom with the bad kid to keep an eye on Jim, but little did she know what was happening in there. There is so much more to consider than abduction. I can’t stress it enough. My heart aches right now because I was so niave and my son was made to suffer.

  325. LRH July 16, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    Okay Dp so you’ve got stories to tell. And? What are you suggesting we do–change our parenting based on your racism?

    Who CARES about what color the kids on the cover of the book are? It’s irrelevant, as is what race we are. Would you like us saying “wow, how black or negro or ghetto of you?” Didn’t think so, now, keep in mind–mocking someone for supposedly being white, or a honkey, or a cracker etc as you seem to be doing is NO different from that. This idea that it’s okay to poke fun at “whitey” but we “white folks” better keep our mouths shut and not dare use such words as you have–it’s a double standard I’m most assuredly calling bullshit on.

    Me: I’ve always thought of free-range as being colorblind, frankly. And I promise you–come here, in a blog that’s all about free-range, and people most certainly WILL “preach [their] shit,” and rightfully so.

    Consider your environment, you say ? Well YEAH! But you’re never going to sell that 1/4 or 1/6 of girls/boys etc are molested. I call “bull” on that. I think you’re suffering from Nancy Grace psychosis, frankly. It sounds as though some gross things have happened to you and/or others around you, and that’s unfortunate–but as I said about the original poster’s death, in the grand scheme of things it’s nothing. It’s infinitesimally small in the overall sense. It’s a small single grain of sand on a large beach full of great experiences otherwise. I prefer not to be base my parenting style based on the one grain of sand, but I respect your right to do otherwise.


  326. Dp July 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    Wow, btw, I’m white. And is not EVERY child precious? You’ve shown you’re true nature with that last revolting post. And I’m sure, not even Lenore would claim you as one of her followers.

  327. Dp July 16, 2011 at 12:54 pm #


    Is your child simply a grain of sand?


  328. Mary July 16, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    It has been so hard for me to read through the comments posted here. Leiby was not hit by a car, he was not struck by lightning, was not in a vehicle that was in an accident. He was lured with the promise of a safe ride home to his family by a man 26 years his senior. I am NOT blaming his parents for this; it was a tragedy that happened to them all. Their only boy is DEAD. If an adult was with him this would NOT HAVE HAPPENED to him. Maybe to another unfortunate, but not to him. He would be at day camp today enjoying his friends and the unseasonably beautiful Brooklyn weather.
    I am another Brooklyn mother, I know where this happened. Not far from me. Last night when his funeral started the helicopters hovered for hours over us. The thought of what his poor parents were going through was too much to bear. The sound of his father’s voice over the loud speaker, crying while speaking of his only son was heart wrenching.
    If one more person uses the argument that people who watch their children and escort them to school or to playgrounds or anywhere for that matter are ignorant fools I wish you could hear that father’s voice last night. Not safely from your most likely suburban home, but here in Brooklyn where this horrible tragedy happened. I would want you to tout out your statistics to him, ramble on and on and on about how he could have died in a car or hit by lightning. Look into his mother’s face and explain to her how “You need to teach them independence!”
    That’s not going to happen but you armchair warriors sit in the confines of your home while your free rangers roam the world (backyard) and you type, type away about what other people are doing wrong.
    Ugh…. I quit, I give up… Oh and I think Uli is Lenore, you always have to have a badass, big mouth alter ego. How else could she afford to sit online all day and respond to each and every person’s post? Oh wait; do you have a Nanny Uli? Maybe that’s what you mean by free range! I get it, wink, wink.

  329. LRH July 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    Dp In the GRAND SCHEME of things–yes, both of my kids are but a grain of sand. Yes, that’s right. Now, to ME, of course, they’re much more than that. Your children are certainly more than that to you as well, and the same applies to the subject of this post. But it helps to have perspective about the scale of everything around you & to not be misled into thinking that just because something bad happened to you that it means the world is a crazy mess and/or your parenting principles need to be redefined.

    And by the way (not BTW, I hate Internet acronyms, ugh!)–yes, every child is precious, but none is more precious than the other. They’re all equally important, and yet, as Lenore always says, they don’t need a security detail nor do they need to be bubble-wrapped.


  330. Beth July 16, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    The real problem here was that the poor boy GOT IN THE CAR! I teach people (kids and girls) to never get in the car with strangers, basically no matter what.

  331. Dp July 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    Mary, thank you for your insight.

  332. LRH July 16, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    Mary–please, yes, by all means, GIVE UP, because you’re really irrational.

    OF COURSE no one, not even Lenore, would tell the parents of this tragedy right to their face “you need to give your children independence.” That has nothing to do with whether or not other parents need to change their parenting. No one would tell the parents of a child who drowned in the lake “swimming is fun, especially at THIS lake”–but does that mean the rest of us have to stop going to the lake or encouraging others to go? A child who dies in an airplane crash–naturally, we’re not going to, on the day of the child’s funeral of all days, preach to the grieving parents about how “air travel really is safe,” but that doesn’t mean we should lose our perspective regarding that either.

    And: If an adult was with him this would NOT HAVE HAPPENED to him. . You just said you didn’t blame the parents, I call bullshit on that, because otherwise you wouldn’t have said that. It sure sounds like you’re IMPLYING that the parents made a poor choice, and as Lenore said–shame on ANYONE who dare suggests the parents are to blame or even made a poor choice that could’ve been done better. And what if the adult who was with him had done been the murderer–which, statistically speaking, is more likely, since most children are hurt etc by someone they KNOW? What would you say then?


  333. Dp July 16, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    Mary, no,I think LRH is Lenore, or at least someone in the big money chain. I really hate this unreasonable all or nothing approach, but the greed has blinded them to reason. All we can do, now, us hope that others see it for what it is.
    The parents of this boy are obviously not to blame. I feel so sad for them. This is just a messed up world we live in.

  334. Mary July 16, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    LRH, Leiby’s parents made a tragic mistake. I don’t blame them. Who am I to blame anyone? I am a bystander watching a tragic show that is their life. Their only boy is dead. I have no statistics to back me up, I have nothing. I know that my child can be coerced if she ever feels scared-be lured with the promise of coming home to me and her dad and grandparents. I can talk to her until she is blue in the face but when the real world hits her and if she is ever lost (God willing it never happens) I worry the stress of it could knock her off course of what she knows and had been schooled about. I am afraid that my child may not be savvy enough to talk or walk her way out of a bad situation. I grew up here in Brooklyn and maybe things were different when I was young – I have seen too much bullshit in my life to treat my child as an experiment … Try to screw with my words if it makes you feel better, I do not think that Leiby’s parents are at fault at all – Call “Bullshit” all you want… I am broken for them, I cannot even imagine what those poor souls are going through as we type -his siblings, his grandparents his friends.. Anyone who knew him and the (thanks to the media) graphic way that he died. It is heartbreaking…

  335. Dp July 16, 2011 at 1:50 pm #


    Your message still has merit. There are people in this country who are way too protective of their children. Your TV show has a clientele, but for the sake of those of us who have live in the trenches, keep in mind the very real mine fields we face. Your show will be be much more valuable to the masses if you take everyone’s experience into account. I had a wonderful parent this past year of one of my second graders. Her 2nd grade daughter had been asked to engage in sex by a boy at her child care providers. He wanted to put his penis in her vagina. She told another girl in my class who told me. I had to call the mother and tell her this. She immediately called the child care provider and handled this. There is a very deep problem in our US culture and you can tap into this. It would be SO helpful at lest to educators who deal with this so often in inner city and rural communities. Please don’t be so narrow but widen your scope. You already have a base. You can really help bring awareness. Watch Oprah’s episode about the 200 men along with Tyler Perry in her audience that were molested as children. You can puck up where she left off. Find a reasonable angle and run with it. It really isn’t all or nothing. For a parent, there is much to be considered.

  336. Estiban July 16, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    Uly, when you say, “A passage from a fictional book about a murdered girl is supposed to convince me that those of us who have not had a tragedy in our lives should live as though we have?”, you’ve taken it completely wrong, I am not trying to make a point. I just wanted to share with a community I felt some connection with. I thought the author captured something tender and true.

    The quote from the book is neutral or actually supports the concept of Free Range Parenting, it says, “How could they both work to support their families and watch their children to make sure they were safe? As a group they would learn it was impossible, no matter how many rules they laid down. What had happened to me could happen to anyone.”

    The passage, “Our house looked the same as every other one on the block, but it was not the same. Murder had a blood red door on the other side of which was everything unimaginable to everyone” expresses my personal horror and the empathy i feel for Leiby’s family.

    I am a Free Range parent. My personal view is that children should be travelling in twos or threes until high school (with exceptions for kids who show early street smarts, proper street smarts not just concepts). I always express this as my personal view and I don’t put others down who think differently. I do not consider myself in conflict with other Free Range parents becuse of this view. Others may feel differently.

  337. Dp July 16, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    I, myself, was a poor parent who had latch key children. I had to make money to bring to the home and my kids had to get off the bus, walk down the street, and let themselves into the house in a not so great neighborhood. Later, I found out that the house two doors down was a drug house. At the time, my kids were a kindergartner, 2nd grader, and 3rd grader. I told a co-worker about it, and she instantly judged me. But I was poor, I needed the job, and there was no way I could get home on time to meet the bus. I took my chances. I discovered that many addicts would park their cars a block away and walk to the drug house which was two doors down from mine. Btw, the mother in that home had been a fairly decent mother to her children when they were young, but when the (incestuous…yes) boy and girl twins turned 10, she began to go out partying and proclaimed them grown. One time she was at the club late and the boy couldn’t get in the house. A friend of mine in the neighborhood let him use her cellphone to call his mom. She bluntly told him to figure out how to get in the house. He then proceeded to find a window he could climb through.

  338. SKL July 16, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

    Mary, everyone who loses a child thinks “if only.”

    I understand that you are grieving and feel a need to point anger in some direction. I happen to agree that some of the comments here go to both extremes instead of keeping the situation in perspective. We are an easy and to you, inanimate target.

    But it’s still wrong to expand this tragedy into a greater tragedy. What we need more of is kids going out together and solving problems that they can solve. If Leiby had been walking with friends, or other kids were out playing in groups along his route, maybe he would be alive today. Maybe.

    I totally understand the temporary reaction to hold your children closer in times of tragedy. I agree that it’s wise to revisit and reassess. But ultimately, we need to remember that there are also risks to not letting our kids out, and weigh those in the analysis too.

  339. ConcernedMom July 16, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    You really think you know it all, don’t you? The issue is that at age 8, obviously Leiby did not have the social skills to defend himself against a predator. I’m sure his parents probably have warned him about not talking to strangers and not getting into people’s cars he doesn’t know. But often children do not listen. That is the point people are trying to make about “free range parenting” being irresponsible. Yes children are intelligent, but they are also naive, lack worldy experience and aren’t as quick to think quickly about solutions to surprise situations.

  340. gap-runner July 16, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    I’m coming into this discussion very late. First of all, my deepest sympathy goes to Lieby’s family. A parent should not have to bury a child.

    The last thing that Lieby’s parents need is to be blamed for his tragic death. They are in all probability blaming themselves enough and feeling guilty for their decision to let him walk partway home. As parents we know our kids best and we’re the best judges about when they are ready to try something on their own. In Lieby’s parents’ judgement, he was ready to walk halfway home on his own. Unfortunately, something went tragically wrong.

    I live in a very free-range country (Germany) and don’t believe that free-range parents like myself are lazy and negligent. On the contrary! To me it’s more effort to teach my son how to keep himself safe when he’s out by himself than to plop him on the couch in front of the TV or with his Nintendo. Over here people see little first graders walking to school alone. But they have been prepared by both their parents and their preschools to do this safely. When kids here are in their last year of preschool, they go out with their teachers to practice crossing streets only at marked crosswalks or green lights. They also learn about looking both ways before crossing the street. A policeman comes to the preschool and explains about only riding with people that the child knows and also what to do if a stranger asks a child if he needs a ride or otherwise approaches him. The kids then do a lot of role playing in class and are asked to practice at home with their parents. The first impression may be that the kids walking to school alone have lazy parents who are “teaching them independence” by kicking them out the door. What is unseen is the preparation. I think it takes a whole lot less effort to put Little Herkie in the car and drive him to school than to teach him basic safety measures for walking to school and back.

    What is also bothersome about a good percentage of the comments to Lenore’s post about Lieby’s death is the judgemental attitude of the people on both sides of the free-range issue. While I agree with Lenore and the regulars who post on this site, there also needs to be room for those who disagree with her. Lenore’s site would be a very boring place if the only people allowed to post on it were those who agee with the free range philosophy. But the disagreement and judgement of others should be phrased in a respectable manner without name calling or having an “I’m right, you’re obviously wrong” attitude. As parents it seems like we spend a lot of mental energy judging each other instead of finding common ground. If we free-rangers want to educate helicopter parents on giving their kids more freedom, we need to do so in a friendly, non-judgemental manner. As my mom used to say, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Or maybe we should all just take up running, as I blogged last month.

  341. Donna July 16, 2011 at 10:43 pm #

    Dp, I’m not sure what your point is with any of your recent posts. Neither Lenore nor anyone else ever said that letting kids run free in crack town is a good idea. Nobody here ignores their children and makes them crawl in through windows and nobody here advocates doing so. Leiby lived in a nice, low crime area, not crack town.

    I’m a public defender so the world you are talking about is the world I work in and the people I interact with on a daily basis. Yes, there are a lot of really shitty parents in the hood and trailer parks. Those parents aren’t reading parenting books and blogs. Yes, three are some really scary neighborhoods in America. Nobody is advocating allowing children to traverse them alone. I’m not naive about the fact that there is a whole other world out there, although I think many people, including some here are. But my child doesn’t enter that world and I make decisions as to her safety based on where she lives.

    Free range parenting is about defeating irrational fears, not ignoring valid ones. Not letting your children outside in crack town due to fear of gang violence is a reasonable fear. Not letting your children outside in a low crime area because pedophiles are waiting behind every bush to steal them is not. We all have different situations. I’m free range and won’t let my child walk to school alone. I think the routes are too dangerous traffic-wise until high school. The problem is when people start saying that NO child should ever walk to school alone and schools prohibit walking to school alone or where parents refuse to allow their children to walk two quiet, residential blocks because pedophiles lurk everywhere and if you take your eyes off your child for one second, he will be snatched. Nobody on this blog has ever once said parenting was a one size fits all for every circumstance. No one parenting guide is ever going to fit every circumstance.

  342. Nanci July 16, 2011 at 10:58 pm #

    @ Donna, I agree with you. Free range is variable. Even in our own family with my 2 children it’s different. My YOUNGER son is allowed to do more than my OLDER daughter. They are 17 months apart, but he has an incredible sense of direction and is very observant. My daughter is not allowed to roam as far because she gets turned around and just doesn’t pay that much attention to what’s going on around her. I also agree that there are trashy parents out there who give free rangers a bad name. There are a lot of parents who don’t watch their kids or pay any attention to what they are doing, not because they are trying to raise independent well-adjusted children, but because they are too busy partying and getting drunk or worse. People seem tho equate free range parents with these pathetic excuses for parents.

  343. gap.runner July 16, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

    @Nanci, your last sentence is right on the money. There is a big difference between a truly negligent parent and a free-range one. Unfortunately, people think that free range parenting is the same as totally ignoring your child. Being free range is not lazy or negligent parenting. It’s about teaching your kids to be independent and equipping them with the means to develop that independence. When Lenore let Izzy take his first solo subway ride, she made sure that he was really ready to do it and gave him the means to contact her in an emergency. Free range parenting is also parenting that’s not governed by irrational fears, such as believing that there are pedophiles hiding behind every bush just waiting to snatch your child.

    Even though I’m a proud free range parent, there are still some places where my son is not allowed to go alone, like the public pool or local ski hill. He doesn’t necessarily have to be with an adult; he can go to those places with at least one friend. Also, when my family goes on vacation, I prefer my son to stay with either my husband or me until we all become familiar with the area.

  344. mollie July 17, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    “You really think you know it all, don’t you? The issue is that at age 8, obviously Leiby did not have the social skills to defend himself against a predator. I’m sure his parents probably have warned him about not talking to strangers and not getting into people’s cars he doesn’t know. But often children do not listen. That is the point people are trying to make about ‘free range parenting’ being irresponsible. Yes children are intelligent, but they are also naive, lack worldy experience and aren’t as quick to think quickly about solutions to surprise situations.”

    You know what makes this case kind of easier for me to grieve as an individual tragedy rather than take it on as a warning that no child of 8 should walk alone in Brooklyn, or anywhere else? Well, it’s the fascinatingly unique circumstance of having such a homogenous, visually-identifiable population in the area. I have no idea what Leiby’s parents told him about getting lost and who to turn to for help, but I can’t imagine they were pointing out middle-aged Hasidic Jewish men on the street and saying, “Now you’d never approach that man.”

    Leiby might have had some wonderful social skills. He might even have had a pretty developed “creep radar,” which is one of the essential things we teach children to ignore when we insist that they hug or kiss friends or relatives they don’t feel comfortable hugging or kissing, insisting that they be polite and obedient. But in this particular community, in this particular case, where I don’t think it’s going too far to imply that the whole community sees itself as an “extended family,” Levi Aron was more of a distant uncle than a complete stranger, and no child in a Hasidic community is warned to be on their guard against other Hasidic Jews who might harm them… am I wrong?

    So perhaps Leiby’s “creep radar” kicked in a little late because he was so sure that he wouldn’t ever be harmed by someone who belonged to his extremely religious and homogenous community. My guess is that most adults in that community would have fallen prey to a Hasidic Jewish predator who aimed his sights at an adult victim of either sex. When you’re thrown off by the tacit understanding that someone dressed that way would never do you harm, you might ignore your own intuition, even for one tragic moment.

    My example earlier of how a man in what appeared to be a police uniform could quite easily attack me is a somewhat related phenomenon—assigning authority and trust to someone who is technically a stranger, but DRESSED like an advocate.

    Really, I think this case has far more in common with the “funny uncle” syndrome than stranger abduction… a child fell prey to a member of his own “family,” as it were.

    One way to protect a child falling prey to this is to accompany them everywhere. This has its own drawbacks, whether acknowledged or not. Another way is to teach children to truly honour their own “creep radar” and intuition, to never force them to interact with or touch ANYONE, family members included, who they are shying away from. To suggest to them that it is very important to notice that funny feeling inside that you get sometimes about people, and to not worry about being polite, just get away.

    Too often we train children to go against their gut feelings in the name of politeness. We might not realize just how dangerous this is, but a few posters here seem to think than no “free range parent” is taking the wider dangers to children into account, so as a FRP, I’m letting you know that I DO see the dangers and to explain my choice to prepare my kids for the far more likely event that someone they know, love and trust, rather than a stranger, would mean them harm.

  345. Uly July 17, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    I have seen too much bullshit in my life to treat my child as an experiment

    Unfortunately, childrearing is, by its nature, a big ol’ experiment. Keeping your child close is an experiment too. And you and I and none of us has any idea how it’s gonna turn out. We really don’t have any control over it, much though we may wish we had.

    Love that there are only white kids on the cover of lenore’s book

    I thought there were only two children on that cover…?

    At any rate, yes, racism in book covers is a real problem. Booksellers and publishers have this believe that books with non-whites on the cover are “genre” books and won’t sell well, certainly not to white people.

    However, I’m not convinced that this problem with the publishing has any impact on the inside of the book, nor with the concept itself. And, of course, I don’t know the race of every poster here, no more than you do.

    Does your premise work for every neighborhood in the US?

    If it doesn’t, it’s not because of race. Unless you’re suggesting that one race grows in maturity faster or slower than the others, or is more or less predisposed to violent crime.

    . Really interesting that no one has commented on that.

    I did, actually.

    My sister in law thought so and now her oldest son us in jail for selling drugs.

    Of course, I’ve always thought that what we really need is reform of the drug laws. But that’s another argument for another day.

    It is NOT all or nothing You MUST consider the environment.

    Which we’ve all been saying, repeatedly, on this very comment thread (not to mention on all the other posts that have been made in this blog).

    The teacher let my good son go to the restroom with the bad kid to keep an eye on Jim, but little did she know what was happening in there.

    So you’re saying nobody should send their kids to school? I fail to see the relevance of this comment.

    Leiby was not hit by a car, he was not struck by lightning, was not in a vehicle that was in an accident.

    And all of those things were more likely to happen to him than this. I’m not going to make my choices as though rare and unlikely possibilities are common and frequent.

    Oh and I think Uli is Lenore, you always have to have a badass, big mouth alter ego.

    Badass? I’m badass now? COOL!

    But I’m still not Lenore. Sockpuppetry is really pathetic.

    How else could she afford to sit online all day and respond to each and every person’s post?

    Aside from the fact that I haven’t done that? I repeat: I type fast and I read a lot. Also, the nieces get to bed late and swimming lessons were cancelled two days this week because of a drowning in our local public pool.

    Oh wait; do you have a Nanny Uli? Maybe that’s what you mean by free range! I get it, wink, wink.

    You think that what I mean is hypocrisy? God, you really don’t know me, because as far as I’m concerned, hypocrisy is a hanging offense.

    But don’t worry. I don’t feel any animosity towards you because that whole post was an obvious appeal to play on our emotions and, once again, discredit me personally. (And Lenore, I guess….) Why? Because you know you can’t argue the facts.

    As far as “Say that to Lieby’s parents”, I’m sure they’d rather hear “You did nothing wrong, you made the right choice, I’m sorry that this improbable tragedy happened” than “You know, if you hadn’t said he could go alone, if you’d walked with him, then he’d still be alive today!”

    Maybe that’s just me.

    The real problem here was that the poor boy GOT IN THE CAR! I teach people (kids and girls) to never get in the car with strangers, basically no matter what.

    Agreed. Him asking for help wasn’t the problem. Even if he’d been walking with his parents, sometimes children get lost. It does happen. Asking for help is one way to get found again.

    But I’ve carefully taught my nieces that they should not go LOOKING for somebody to ask for help (if they’re lost, the last thing we want is for them to go wandering around getting loster while they try to find a cop!), and that they should ask for somebody to call us (any of us), and that they must never ever EVER go ANYwhere with ANYbody, that if somebody asks to help they must say “My aunt/mom/dad/grandmother said I need to wait here, and they’ll come and find me. Can you call them for me?”

    The only change I feel compelled to make after this tragic case is more careful instruction in reading street signs and understanding how a numbered grid works. We spend a lot of time in Manhattan, and if they get lost there they should be able to find Broadway or any specific intersection simply by remembering that the avenues and streets run in a determined and predictable pattern. (Though when it comes to that, I never can remember which direction the avenues run, and I always end up asking a cop. I feel silly, but it’s better than walking a long block out of my way and having to backtrack! But the point is I know that if I thought was going from 6th to 7th, and I end up on 5th, I have to turn around.)

    Mary, no,I think LRH is Lenore, or at least someone in the big money chain.

    Again, sockpuppetry would really be pathetic… but I doubt it anyway. Aside from the fact that I’ve seen them disagree, they have totally different writing styles.

    I can talk to her until she is blue in the face but when the real world hits her and if she is ever lost (God willing it never happens) I worry the stress of it could knock her off course of what she knows and had been schooled about.

    Exactly! That’s why we, as a rule, want to encourage age-appropriate levels of independence as kids grow up. It’s not that you take a four year old and dump them in the middle of Times Square and tell them to get home, but you start out letting them go a little bit, and then a little more, and so on (using your own circumstances and neighborhood etc. as a guide for when it’s right to do so) so that if they DO get in a bad situation they have more practice in smaller, less scary situations and are less likely to panic.

    You can talk and talk and talk, but there’s no substitute for experience. When your kid learns to drive, you’re not just going to talk and talk and talk, you’re going to expect her to learn to drive, and teach her how, and allow her to take more dangerous trips (with you!) until she’s ready to take her test alone.

    This is kinda the same thing. When your kid is ready to travel alone a little, you let her do it a little so she learns how.

    Estiban, I’m sorry I misunderstood you, then.

    You really think you know it all, don’t you?

    No. Do you?

    The issue is that at age 8, obviously Leiby did not have the social skills to defend himself against a predator.

    The issue is that predators of this nature are, thankfully, rare and uncommon.

    Yes children are intelligent, but they are also naive, lack worldy experience and aren’t as quick to think quickly about solutions to surprise situations.

    And how do they gain worldly experience without ever being able to experience the world? And how do they learn to think on their feet when their parents do their best to do their thinking for them?

    Sure, as humans we want to keep our children safe. We have so very very few of them. But safety is more than just surviving until you’re grown.

    As my mom used to say, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

    But you catch a lot more of them with horsepoop 😛

    Actually, fun fact, cider vinegar makes a great trap for fruit flies. Lots of people don’t know that!

  346. gap.runner July 17, 2011 at 1:13 am #

    @Uly, here it seems you can catch the most flies with cow poop. Also, I thought all this time that Lenore had multiple personality disorder and you and LRH were one of her personalities. :)

    Seriously, I liked the points that you made in your post. In Germany kids practice with their teachers and parents about what to do if someone offers them a ride or a stranger otherwise approaches them. By the time they’re in first grade and old enough to walk to school on their own, they have had a lot of practice and are better able to think on their feet. Over here people realize that the only way for kids to learn is by doing and through practice. As kids get older and gain more experience, they are given more age-appropriate freedoms.

  347. Ryan Hartwig July 17, 2011 at 1:58 am #

    I think the news, and the media have a lot to do with our fear.

    For the newspapers, bad news is good news. When people hear about bad news, more similar events occur.

    Let’s not end up like the humans in Wall-E, fat, lazy, and afraid of trying anything new.

    There’s a family at the end of the street, and they have many children. They have a soccer net set up in their backyard, a trampoline, etc. The last time I drove by, they were having a water fight in the street.

    I think if we interact more with the people around us, we’ll feel safer.


  348. angelina July 17, 2011 at 2:11 am #

    What a tragic and horrible situation. I decided to read these comments because would it not be interesting if Lenore actually could take a step back and concede that sometimes, some child, somewhere, should not be allowed the latitude of being free-range. Just maybe there is not a one size fits all when it comes to parenting.

    Uly: You have been quite entertaining. One day, when you have children of your own, you may have a different perspective on parenting. I think you are an intelligent and spontaneous person and see this as a game of sorts. But it is time for you to stop because from following the discussion it appears that your words are hurting people who are genuinely doing their best to be great parents.

  349. Sera July 17, 2011 at 2:26 am #


    The fact of the matter remains that the kid:

    Got into the car of someone he didn’t have a good reason to trust
    Let this guy take him back to his home.

    Any child of that age should know that you never, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER get into the car of someone you or your parents don’t know and trust well. You sure as hell don’t let that person take you back to their home! You double sure as hell don’t do any of that if the person is showing any signs of being mentally abnormal (which the murder in this case may or may not have shown).

    This is not a call for “never let your children outside alone”. This is a call for “make sure your children know how to recognise the red flags of dangerous situations and know how to act accordingly”.

    Insisting that a child is never allowed out of the company of an adult is completely disempowering and teaches fear. It says, “There are dangers out there that you can never possibly recognise or deal with. You always need me to protect you.”

    Teaching a child how to stay safe while out alone is empowering and teaches judgement, which is a very, very important life skill. It says, “There are dangers out there, but with some learning and good sense you can avoid them by yourself.”

    Seriously, if you think that it’s too dangerous for a child to walk around outside alone, say this aloud:

    “Walking down the street by himself is an unacceptable risk for my child to take.”

    You may realise then how incredibly absurd that sounds.

  350. Tsu Dho Nimh July 17, 2011 at 2:43 am #

    Seriously, if you think that it’s too dangerous for a child to walk around outside alone, say this aloud: “Walking down the street by himself is an unacceptable risk for my child to take.”

    And then read this story:

  351. Dp July 17, 2011 at 2:53 am #

    Donna, thank you for taking your attention off your own situation for a moment to acknowledge the situations of others. I’m glad to see my reality grenades got you to widen your response. But you know, all that crap I described didn’t happen in crack town. It happened in a middle class community.

  352. Sera July 17, 2011 at 3:06 am #

    Tsu Dho Nimh:

    I can’t tell whether you’re trying to support or refute my point…

    I’m sure you must be aware that a 2-month-old is physically incapable of doing any sort of walking by itself. Moreover, a traffic collision cannot be averted by any sort of adult escort. If a car is going to crash into a kid, it’s going to crash into a kid, whether or not is has to go through an adult to get there.

  353. Donna July 17, 2011 at 3:41 am #

    Dp, your “reality grenades” did nothing for me. I still don’t get the point. Also, not my fault I assumed a low income area since you have been talking about the underpriviledged neighborhoods you live in and schools your children attend whete your second grader learned all kinds of evil things. But I agree there are crappy parents everywhere. Drugs and porn exist everywhere. All we can do is hope to give our children the fortitude to make good choices before they hit the college campus at 18 and are completely out of your control. They are not going to learn that if you are always there to make decisions for them.

  354. Dp July 17, 2011 at 3:50 am #

    Uly, don’t be silly. Minorities are more likely than whites to live in more unstable communities. Just say it, this whole free range deal is for stable middle class to upper middle class communities which are for the most part white. The publishers obviously knew it when they decided on that cheesy cover.

  355. Dp July 17, 2011 at 4:12 am #

    Donna, yes, it was a middle class community that had low income housing interspersed throughout, so all the kids went to public school together. My husband lost his job, so we struggled to keep our house in a middle class neighborhood. My point in bringing these events to light is show some pretty disturbing interactions children can have with oneanother when set out on their own. Isn’t that what free range is all about? Kids going out and having experiences. Well, I’ve shared with you a great deal of experiences. When sending children out into the world, I think a parent should have a clear understanding of just how messed up the world can be. If they think their child can handle it, then go for it. I on the other hand was naive and sent my son out with freaks who on the outside seemed like normal kids.
    Btw, my only reason for bringing up the kid who my son had to monitor in the restroom at school, was to show that if this cam happen in a supervised environment, imagine a free range environment. Just wanting parents to see the wide expanse of possible encounters as they decide to give their children more freedom.

  356. Tsu Dho Nimh July 17, 2011 at 4:53 am #

    Sera – Support your point. Sometimes you ARE walking under the safe when the rope breaks. The child was accompanied by its mother, and crap still happened because of uncontrollable factors.

    If Leiby had left camp a couple of minutes earlier or later, if he had walked at a different pace, or if he had stopped or not stopped to look at a window display – any of those factors would have meant that his killer walked in, paid his dental bill and left. Perhaps he would have been a danger to another child, another time, but he would not have killed that day.

    Angeline said, would it not be interesting if Lenore actually could take a step back and concede that sometimes, some child, somewhere, should not be allowed the latitude of being free-range. It’s “free-range”, not “feral”. It means that a child is given all the freedom he/she can handle in a given environment after appropriate training by the parents. Depending on the child’s personality and abilities and their environment, “free range” for them may be playing in a fenced back yard during daylight hours with a couple of friends.

    @ UptotheChallenge: Free-range is not a low-effort parenting commitment. My parents spent far more time teaching me how to safely free-range than it would have taken if they had banned me from going anywhere without an adult, or even restricted my ranging to the town’s limits.

    We had frequent discussions before I was roaming, about whatever the current situation was and what would I do “if” something happened. They were willing to watch me get cold, hungry or even injured (slightly) if it was going to be an important lesson. My dad said nothing when I grabbed a brightly colored desert insect – it stung me. It hurt like hell, but that was the first and only time I grabbed anything without knowing exactly what it was capable of doing. Better a velvet ant than a scorpion.

    By the time I was about 8 I knew what to do if I saw a bear, how to find my way back out of the woods, how to check a pasture for dangerous livestock, and under what circumstances to accept if someone offered me a ride.

    By 10, my potential range was over 50 square miles of small towns, farms, ranches and bear-infested forests. Did I ever get injured. Of course – I have the scars. But we ranged in groups (it’s more fun) and carried a few first aid supplies. The only time I recall someone getting badly hurt (busted arm), someone went to the closest farm house for help.

    Sera said, Teaching a child how to stay safe while out alone is empowering and teaches judgement, which is a very, very important life skill. Yes!

    I stayed out of a lot of trouble in high school because I was accustomed to evaluating the potential problems in a course of action. And I was more likely to get out only slightly singed if things went bad, because of my parent’s frequent discussions of having a “plan B” and when to bail out of a situation.

  357. Staceyjw July 17, 2011 at 5:22 am #

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU to the regular posters here- Uly, Larry H, SK, Pentamom, and many, many, more. I don’t have the patience to reply to all those who came here to fly in and criticize. People like them are never satisfied.

    The murder was a tragedy, a rare tragedy. What do we call the clipping of wings that will accompany this story, as paranoid parents decide to keep their kids supervised 24/7, until they are 18?

    And to those who say free range is lazy: obviously you know nothing about it.

  358. pentamom July 17, 2011 at 5:39 am #

    “Just say it, this whole free range deal is for stable middle class to upper middle class communities which are for the most part white.”

    That’s about 180 degrees different from my experience. It’s generally the lower income, and frequently minority, folks who let their kids out and about, finding their way around town, even in the more, shall we say, “challenging” neighborhoods — and no, I’m not talking about neglectful situations. It’s a middle/upper-middle class conceit, possibly a race-neutral one, to believe that you must and can shepherd, entertain, and “monitor” your kids 24/7. That’s partly because it’s something of a luxury to live like that, and it’s a common human trait to discover that once you have the ability to do something, it suddenly becomes a “necessity.”

    I’m not saying it’s universal either way, but I’ve noticed that most of the stories about crazy things like schools not letting kids walk or bike *ever at all,* or neighbors calling the cops on kids for walking two blocks under the age of 12, happen in middle to upper middle class communities — don’t know about the racial angle. Where I live, in a racially mixed, economically depressed community, such notions would be laughed right out of the school or the police station.

  359. pentamom July 17, 2011 at 5:43 am #

    And I second, or 99th, or whatever it is, all the comments saying that Free Range can be harder than highly protective. I know I was a lot more protective with my older kids when they were little than I am now with the younger ones, and while it did tie me down more, it was just “easier” to keep them close to me, than to teach them and trust them to have some (notice the some, and it infuriates me that we have to keep pointing out that we’re not advocating feral children) independence before age 16, or 18, or whatever it is that some people think we should do.

  360. SKL July 17, 2011 at 8:22 am #

    Dp, your “horror stories” about other kids don’t surprise me, nor probably most of us here. Kids get weird ideas. Actually, the more you try to suppress these ideas (e.g., by supervising them ALL the time), the more likely they are to try engage in bad behavior when they do find a few minutes alone.

    It actually surprises me more that you went into parenthood so naive.

    So kids get weird ideas, talk about them, and sometimes attempt to act them out. This is not uncommon. What does a good parent do about this? Your comments imply that the only remedy is to never let them alone until you can trust them to never have a friend who might get a weird or bad idea. The problem is, as kids get older, these things don’t magically go away. More kids know about sex, drugs, etc.; more of your kids’ classmates and besties will have experienced these first-hand and be tempted to share them with your child. That’s life.

    The first thing we as parents need to do is give up the very naive idea that our child would be an angel if it weren’t for all the “bad influences” out there. Second, stop looking for blame in other parents and their kids. Third, talk to our kids and make sure they have a clue how to think about these things for themselves.

    Every parent I know who constantly blamed her kids’ problems on “that bad child down the street” ended up seeing their child pregnant, in prison, on drugs, or all three. For your kids’ sake, come down out of your cloud and get real.

  361. cherryblossomlife July 17, 2011 at 8:31 am #

    We know now that women are more likely to be raped and murdered by men they know, usually their husband, and NOT some stranger in the bushes.
    Taking this though to its logical conclusion, I would imagine that child abductions and murders are also committed by men who know the child. The more I read news items like this, the more I’m noticing the pattern of it not being a random stranger, but usually someone who has staked out, or watched the child.
    People who blame the parents (or let’s be honest, usually the mother) completely forget that we’re talking about predatory men, who plan and scheme these horrors.

  362. Kate July 17, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    Am I the only person completely baffled by the comments left by Damselindistress who claims to be a lifeguard at a pool routinely visited by pedophiles who molest children openly in front of her?

    Good lord damsel, maybe instead of confronting the child’s parents you should call the police and have all these pedophiles arrested.

    I’m kind of shocked by this. Why would someone choose to yell at the parents of some poor kid who was just molested rather than the pedophile still standing in the pool touching kids? That’s too insane to believe.

  363. mollie July 17, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    Kids of the same age having sexual “play” together: from what I have understood from my own research and, yes, experience, is that it is not the “sexually-themed play” itself that is necessarily harmful to the kids, it is the adults’ sometimes extreme reactions.

    Two seven-year-olds engaging even in penetration of some kind where both are equally curious about it are not forever scarred by the event. Only relatively recently (oh, heck, I’ve come to see the entire development of humanity as a “recent” event) have we come to the conclusion that this kind of behaviour among consenting, same-age children is “molestation” or “sexual abuse” or “terrible trauma.”

    I will also assert that any child of any age can be encouraged to say no if the game goes in a direction they are not comfortable with… keep in mind, though, that exploration of genitals and other sexual play is often something the child very much desires. If they feel strange about it later, for whatever reasons, they may say, “Jimmy started touching me, and it was really weird,” but it may only be along the same lines as, “Jimmy put rocks in his mouth, and it was really weird.” It’s just that penises are a lot more alarming to us parents than rocks, unless we’re dentists, I guess.

    Our idea that children have no sexuality until puberty is, frankly, oddly dehumanizing, in my opinion. I’ll be honest: it’s not comfortable for me, as an adult, with all of my Western cultural conditioning, to accept my kids as sexual and curious beings, but it’s clear to me that I have to do this to some extent to support them in their own healthy development. If I am alarmist about the things they tell me or that I see, it merely breaks down vital trust and communication, and teaches them to be more secretive and ashamed, something that contributes to the possibility that they might end up in a situation where there is a power imbalance and there IS actual abuse.

    I know, it’s not a popular idea, especially in this era of “all sexual touching is bad for kids” (even if they instigate it themselves with a playmate their own age), but gadzooks, this, too, is as old as humanity, and our fear and hysteria is what harms kids more than their own experience.

  364. Dp July 17, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    Skl, yes, I was naive. Never dreamed I’d have to have conversations about oral sex with a 7 year old or explain why a woman was allowing a man to shove a bottle in her vagina. Yes, I was a bit surprised by all that.

  365. Dp July 17, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    Mollie, at last someone responded to this concern. As a new parent, it did throw me for a loop. I just hope parents are aware of this type of thing happening at a perhaps earlier than expected age especially in such a sexually charged media world. I know that older people talk about how they were in the dark about specifics of sex until much older. In today’s world, though, hard core pornography is just a click away on an unfiltered home community. My children have been taught to embrace their sexuality and not be ashamed. The conversation just had to begin (and very graphically) at a younger age than I was expecting. Again, abduction is not my main concern in this movement of yours. It is that parents be aware of this particular aspect. It just so happens, I’ve seen so many examples of this reality with my own family and my work. So of course, it concerns me for others.

  366. Michelle the Uber Haus Frau July 17, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    My condolences to the family of the deceased child, may the perp get whatever’s coming to him. Those who put blame on the parents should be ashamed of themselves. Whether this could or could not have been prevented will never truly be known, and debated over for all eternity just like any other heinous crime.

    On a reservation in British Colombia a small child was killed while he was asleep in his own bed. A car drove by the house and shot into it, the bullet went through the wall. Was it the parents fault for not having thick walls or living somewhere with gang violence? (as far as I know they weren’t gangbangers themselves).

    doesn’t matter what kind of crime, everyone plays the blame game, and unfortunately alot of the time it’s the victims(She shouldn’t have walked home alone so late), family of the victims(they should have watched them better), or family of the perps(they screwed them up).

  367. LRH July 17, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    SKL tell them about it. Dg, among other aspects, you seem to–frankly–be a racist. I can tell you that Lenore Skenazy certainly doesn’t strike me as a racist, she inspires & instructs how people of ANY race can be free-range. She certainly hasn’t been race-specific.

    I’ve had a good day full of great experiences and I’m getting back to it. SKL and Donna seem to be doing very well without me rebutting the nonsense I keep seeing here, great. Frankly, Dg, it seems there is no hope for you at this time, so–for today anyway–to heck with it.

    Well I will leave with this observation: I believe Martin Luther King Jr spoke of a world where people were judged for their character and not their race, and that means not only not putting a minority down, but also for we in the majority to no longer have to apologize for what we are either. We can’t help being born white anymore than you can help being born Latino, African-American etc. If we’re supposed to be color-blind, then do it, else you’re here just to divide and create class warfare that is EVERY BIT as bigoted as the racists of yore were.


  368. vk July 17, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    It’s good to see the debate about the degree of free-range that’s appropriate for kids. I wish there were less ad hominem (personal) and profane attacks by posters- it really makes reading this otherwise informational blog very unpleasant. This is addressed to both for and anti free-range posters.

    Thanks for being here.

  369. Donna July 17, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    Dp – You live in a middle class neighborhood in a mixed school district and you’ve had negative experiences with families that your kids met at school. Why is this a free range issue? Sounds like a public school issue. Seems like your kids get their negative influences at school – the most highly supervised environment on the planet – and not walking around their neighborhood alone. It sounds to me that you don’t like your neighborhood and the influences of the kids your children go to school with. There ain’t nuthin free range about that.

    Honestly, nothing you shared is shocking or scary. Nor is it anything new. I still remember my cousin teaching me the word “blow job” when I was 8 – in the van driven by my parents on the way to the skating rink so not a free range part of the day (although we were just dropped off at the skating rink). She never told me what it was so my parents had to explain later.

    I also live in a middle class neighborhood in a high poverty city – I’ve heard we had the highest poverty rate of any city with over 100k residents in the latest census. My kid’s classmates range from children of college professors, doctors and lawyers to kids whose parents sell crack out of their homes. There will definitely be friends who are our-house-only friends for my child. Whatever. I choose to live where I live because it’s where I want to live. I could live in the lily-white, all middle class, homogenous suburb next door that is closer to work but that’s not the environment I want for my child. I don’t choose to shelter my child from the realities of the world, including poverty, crappy parents, homelessness, crime. My daughter has a good friend who lives in bad circumstances. We’ve had numerous conversations about his situation. She comes to work with me occasionally and knows about crime, bad choices and jail. She’s been through some hoods and has interacted with homeless people. She’s not old enough to leave the block by herself yet but by the time she is ready to leave the neighborhood she will have a wealth of experience navigating societies problems with me such that she’ll be able to handle them on her own. That’s kinda the point of parenting – to give children the skills they need to succeed on their own when they become adults.

  370. Donna July 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    And it’s not just other kids who put you in the position of teaching your children stuff before you are ready. I had to explain “mating” to my 5 year old today because we took a trip to the zoo and we were blessed with the rare opportunity to see rhinos mating. This would not have been an issue if this had not been the guided part of the tour with the tour guide excitedly pointing it out to everyone. Not what I wanted to talk about on vacation but it happens. I also walked into a conversation about genitals by asking my child if the stuffed cheetah we bought was a boy or a girl. It was an interesting ride back from the zoo.

  371. Dp July 17, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    Donna, it has been so interesting watching how you pick and choose what you respond to. You got to explain mating to your five year old after witnessing two rhinos at the zoo, and I got to explain to my 7 year old why a naked woman let a man shove a bottle in that hole between her legs after he visited a friend’s house who had an unfiltered computer. Remember?

  372. Dp July 17, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    LRH, whatever, what you have to contribute has become meaningless to me anyway.

  373. LRH July 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    Well I think just about ALL of the people feel much the same about your “contributions” at this point also. Donna has certainly explained how she’s had to explain things that are similar to what you’ve experienced–maybe not QUITE as outrageous in the specifics, but the general idea was the same.

    Regardless, you’re holding to the same position–I’ve been through hell, all of you here are a bunch of ignorant fools for daring to free-range in this extremely crazy world, we’re in a dream-world, and most of all–it’s all “so white” of all us. How “whitey” of us? How about how “racist” of you?


  374. Annarose July 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    This is so tragic. Poor Leiby! I watched the surveillance video of him standing on a street corner and then following the man who would kill him. What an evil person. I’ve heard about people being afraid of helping children in case they get accused of trying to abduct the child, but I have and will continue to stop to help lost looking children.

  375. zawjis July 17, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    I agree with Pentamon about the class issue. Middle class children tend to be more cloistered than their working class counterparts. ‘Twas ever thus. Even when it was normal for children to play outside unsupervised, the upwardly mobile liked to boast that they didn’t let their children play in the street.

    I live in a working class innercity multicultural neighbourhood with pockets of gentrification. I know that on some of the worst council estates there are cases where parents buy their children electronic gadgets specifically to keep them inside and away from gangs. I agree that people, especially politicians, should think about these sorts of pressures before they start wagging their fingers at people who keep their children cooped up inside.

    However, the few children I see out on their bikes unaccompanied tend to be the children of the longstanding working class inhabitants or recent Eastern European immigrants. The middle class children are all at some hideous craft workshop or such like.

    Also, we’ve heard from our German contributors that the majority of German parents would think that allowing an 8 year old to walk around unaccompanied was normal and appropriate. Anyone here prepared to call the entire nation of German parents lazy and irresponsible? Go on, I dare you. So much for the famous Teutonic work ethic.

  376. Myriam July 17, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    Sorry, that last post was by me.

  377. SKL July 17, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    One thing I will say, after this I will be that much more careful to go through the “what ifs” with my children before sending them off. For example, even if I think they know the route, what if they wander off of it for any reason? Will they know the right thing to do in order to get back on track? What if they are approached by a seemingly nice person they have seen me greeting in church? Will they consider that person’s car or house safe to go into? Will they be afraid to say “no”? What do I need to do to reinforce lessons in this regard? I’m thinking it’s worth going through a few extra practice runs before sending them off.

    Reminds me of a potty training method I read of, for early training or for special needs kids/adults. After an accident, you have the trainee go through the motions of what to do next time he’s in that particular room and needs to go. You physically run to the bathroom from there. And then you do it again from various other locations. “What will you do if you’re in the living room and you need to go? What if you’re at the dining table and you have to go?” And you go through the motions until it sticks. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it.

  378. kaleete July 17, 2011 at 8:46 pm #

    Dp: I think Donna did a fine job of addressing your concern of having to talk to your kids about stuff earlier than you intended. Free-range is not so much about kicking your kids out the door and not caring where they go, but letting them get there on their own if they want to and are ready to do it. I am really sorry about what your child saw on the internet and that you had the awkward task of trying to explain it. But I don’t think that means you have to start following your child everywhere they go to make sure it can’t ever happen again. It is not against free-range philosophy to know where your child is going when they go someplace or require them to check in if they change locations. That’s common courtesy when you live with people. In the spirit of what Donna said, the friend with the unfiltered internet may need to be a your-house-only friend. I don’t think the porn surfing makes the kid evil or a pervert, it just makes him curious as all kids are. It’s all about working within your comfort level and letting your kids do what they have shown they are ready to do.

    Further, noone on this site has a problem with with you raising your child as you see fit. What we have a problem with is parents who never let that chain of adult supervision be broken, ever, start telling other parents who don’t choose to parent that way that they MUST parent that way, going as far as to push for legislation that CRIMINALIZES not parenting that way when statistics show it’s not necessary. Heck, I had to stop at the post office a couple of weeks ago to get some stamps. My 7 year old did not want to come in and practically begged me to let him stay in the car. I did an assessment of the situation. I had the keys with me, he could get out if he needed to, I had line of sight with him the whole time I was inside the post office, and it was maybe a 2 minute transaction. Well, all went well until the moment I got in the car and the woman in the car next to mine was glaring at me. Free-rangers are not against children having adult supervision, what we object to is being raked over the coals for not being hypervigilant.

  379. Donna July 17, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

    Dp- yes, that sucks. Is that what you want? Sympathy? Getting on a computer at a friend’s house and looking up websites he learned about at school is still not a free range problem. It can happen to anyone. It can happen in helicopter parent households. As a matter of fact, those are the sneakiest kids I know.

    I don’t have or intend to ever get a net nanny, but even if I did, I have a work laptop that occasionally comes home with me that can access the internet and I can’t install a filter. If my daughter and some friends really wanted to get to some website, she could get that computer and hook it up while I was asleep. I suppose you think a “proper” parent would have that under lock and key. I don’t live my life or want to raise my child that way.

  380. SKL July 17, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    You would never believe this, Dp. My own parents had actual sex a minimum of 6 times, including at least 5 times under the same roof with their kids – and they didn’t have a door that locked. And, I actually remember once walking on on my dad in the bathroom.

    Worse. When my kid sister was 6, her best friend’s sister – age 16 and unmarried – became pregnant. She and her bestie wanted to know how that could have happened, so bestie’s mom told them.

    I also somehow learned “on the street” (or from my older brothers) what “dirty magazines” were, and my next-door neighbor had a raunchy but “informative” book that she would report about when no adults were listening (I recall it included bestiality, for instance). I was also introduced to Spin the Bottle and similar games well before age 10. When I was about 8, a boy grabbed my crotch. Another boy in my Lutheran school was always trying to grab girls’ [undeveloped] breasts, right in the classroom.

    I’m pretty sure my parents and grandparents would report similar things.

    While internet porn wasn’t around when I was a kid, sex goes back a little further in history, as does “learning it on the street.” Personally, I don’t see a problem with information trickling in from various “unauthorized” sources. I mean, this is something that is out there, an kids are going to have to learn it sooner or later. As a parent, I don’t look forward to having to integrate that into my parenting, but I know it’s inevitable and I’m up to the challenge. Somehow I got through childhood “on the streets” with no lasting scars that I know of. I didn’t develop a taste for porn or a desire to experiment with sex while still growing up. If anything, seeing/hearing that as a child intensified my belief that sex is “gross,” and I didn’t venture out on my first date until college. I could make similar comments about addictive substances, etc.

    But I agree with others – this really isn’t a free range issue. Kids who are very sheltered still figure out ways to access information and act out. If anything, I worry more about them because their curiosity is not satisfied in bits along the way, giving them time to think it over gradually before being confronted with scary choices.

  381. Uly July 18, 2011 at 12:20 am #

    Angelina, believe it or not, my words do not hurt anybody. I spend all day, every day, in charge of two young children, and make the decisions their parents agree to. I refuse to have this “Oh, you’re not the parent, you don’t know anything!” conversation because their parents, on the whole, take the same stand I do with regards to child freedom.

    You think I think this is a game? Well, fine. How do you explain all the parents who agree?

    Just maybe there is not a one size fits all when it comes to parenting.

    Just maybe nobody ever claimed there was, and everybody here has insisted that there isn’t. Just maybe you should read before you make things up.

    Uly, don’t be silly. Minorities are more likely than whites to live in more unstable communities. Just say it, this whole free range deal is for stable middle class to upper middle class communities which are for the most part white. The publishers obviously knew it when they decided on that cheesy cover.

    I have no idea what the publishers were thinking, because I was not privy to their conversation. I doubt they were thinking anything deeper than “Hey, this is a cool picture”, with maybe a side of “Well, we know how pictures with non-whites sell….”

    I do know that my neighborhood, which is largely black and Hispanic, and certainly not wealthy has kids playing outside unsupervised every day.

  382. Dp July 18, 2011 at 12:55 am #

    Lol…here’s something we can agree on…we have nothing left to say to each other. :) Have a wonderful life fellow debaters, and it is my sincere hope that your children never encounter anything so severe as to make you reflect on anything I have posted here. You’ve given my mind a good workout, and for that I am grateful. Good day.

  383. Tsu Dho Nimh July 18, 2011 at 2:01 am #

    DP – maybe if you took your kid to the zoo more often ?

    Ever think how much sexual activity children were exposed to back in Tudor days, when the farmer laborers were living in 1-room hovels, no one but the nobility and thee wealthy had a bed or bedroom to themselves, and the footmen were tupping the maids in the hallways?

    Donna – You have the same attitude as a wealthy doctor I know, who was sending his children to the nearby mostly poor and black kid public school instead of off to the all-rich-white-kids academy like most of the neighborhood. They had to learn to deal with it, and it’s better to learn while they have a parent around.

  384. Taradlion July 18, 2011 at 7:20 am #

    Just fyi: There is only ONE child on the cover of the book (happens to be white), but seriously?

  385. Uly July 18, 2011 at 8:58 am #

    Well, Taradlion, there *is* such a thing as institutional racism, and racism is not exactly the same as bigotry (well… not officially, though language is more fluid than that, so when speaking to people you first should figure out what meaning of racist they’re using before you continue the conversation, and that is really, really tricky), but… yeah. To extrapolate from a single cover image is shaky, shaky reasoning.

  386. pentamom July 18, 2011 at 9:01 am #

    Especially when the whole thing (meaning the whole movement/mentality the book is about) because a big issue because Lenore let her own (white) kid take the subway. Granted that’s not Izzy on the cover, but there is sort of that implied connection of the book with Lenore’s kid, and a non-white kid might just be a bit subtly incongruous in that context.

  387. Michelle the Uber Haus Frau July 18, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    SKL,(and everyone else talking about this) I don’t condone exposing children to sex or anything like that, but going way back to the ape days of the human species, the young have been exposed to sex early and knowledge only extended to “sex makes babies.” It wasn’t until the last while(I can’t say how long, but I’ll guess when we built multi room homes) that they’ve been sheltered from, and even then people have would pair off/get married just after puberty hit. We keep raising the age to which we think kids should learn about sex, but nature instilled in us the curiosity which won’t go away anytime soon. So, yeah, kids are gonna sneak under the bed for daddy’s magazines and talk about sex on the school bus for eternity.

  388. taradlion July 18, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    At Uly, agreed.

  389. pentamom July 18, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

    And here’s another angle on the white kid on the cover thing — OF COURSE the book is aimed at white parents. That’s because white parents are the largest group of people who actually need to/are likely to read a book telling them it’s okay to let their kids out of the house unsupervised! It’s NOT the minority community that this is an issue for.

    So in that sense, Dp is right — Free Range is an issue for middle class white people. But not because other people aren’t Free Range, but because it’s not a issue for them,/i> generally speaking. It’s normal life.

  390. pentamom July 18, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    BTW, when I say the book is “aimed at white parents” I’m not saying only white parents can profit from it, or that Lenore had any such thing in mind when writing it. I just mean that if a publisher is going to make that kind of marketing decision, it makes sense to realize that white people are probably going to be the primary market.

  391. Dee July 19, 2011 at 4:20 am #

    I haven’t read all of the comments so maybe someone pointed this out but Leiby’s story is actually quite exceptional precisely because both the child and the perp were both members of the orthodox Jewish community. Because the perp looked “orthodox”, Leiby trusted him. I doubt Leiby would have gotten into a car with a black or hispanic man but the orthodox Jews are raised to believe that they are all part of the same family. This is great community values but parents, even in a tight knit and safe community, still have to teach their “free range” kids what to do when they get lost because every community has deviants.

  392. Balanced July 21, 2011 at 3:52 am #

    Hooray, LRH! You win the most-free-range parent award! It’s truly a wonder how much you have written on this topic! Thank you for showing us how to use all that time we unwisely waste walking our kids to school, having picnics with them, playing UNO with them, talking with them, and sitting next to them on the subway! Please, if there is a work-at-home position where I, too, can be well compensated for ignoring my children and serving as Lenore’s online advocate, please leave me a post!

  393. Beth July 21, 2011 at 5:54 am #

    @Balanced there are, as of now, 404 comments on this story, and I’m pretty sure not one of the impassioned free range parents, who want their kids to grow up strong, confident, competent, and able to handle the world, spoke of ignoring their children, much less never talking with them.

    It’s sad that that’s all you took from this discussion.

  394. Balanced July 21, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    Hi, Beth. Sorry to have been so very unclear, but I was addressing LRH only. Don’t you think that person spends a vast amount of time (therefore my “ignoring” comment) putting forth an oddly black-and-white defense of Lenore personally?

    Oh, and don’t feel sad for me, but please direct that energy toward my aunt. Two weeks ago, at her son’s wake, she gave me some advice. Just feet from his dead body resting in a casket draped with his martial arts uniform, she told me through gritted teeth and tears, alternately pointing at me and wiping the blood from her nose, raw from nonstop crying, “Stay close to those kids! Know what they’re doing! Know who they’re with!” I’ll never forget that moment.

  395. Buffy July 22, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    Ok Balanced, you win. You are 100% correct. We are an underground movement of people who never talk to their kids, never go on picnics, never play games, and never sit next to our kids on public transportation. Nor do we ever want to know who are kids are with nor what they are doing; we don’t want to be anywhere near them.

    You have probably now ruined any chance we had of recruiting others into our evil organization by your reasoned and logical analysis of our beliefs.

  396. Uly July 23, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    Just feet from his dead body resting in a casket draped with his martial arts uniform, she told me through gritted teeth and tears, alternately pointing at me and wiping the blood from her nose, raw from nonstop crying, “Stay close to those kids! Know what they’re doing! Know who they’re with!” I’ll never forget that moment.

    What an evocative pile of total illogic. I’m sorry for your Aunt’s loss, I truly am, but I don’t often take advice from people who are currently barely keeping it together due to grief. They’re likely to try blatant appeals to my emotion rather than reasoned thought. I don’t blame them, but I don’t take advice from them either. I just hug them and wait to get advice from people who are calm and in a position to think things through.

  397. Jane Howard July 27, 2011 at 5:53 am #

    If an almost nine-year-old child was unable to walk seven blocks home without getting lost, then I have to wonder about his emotional maturity and how prepared he was to attempt his solo journey.

    However, the worst part is now the knee-jerk reactions from idiots like Geraldo Rivera who, in his infinite wisdom, lectured parents the other night about they can NEVER let their children out of their sight. How ludicrous. If someone dies in an automobile accident or plane crash, does that mean you should never ride in a car or plane again? I think these guys need a dose of cold, hard crime facts and a copy of your book, LS.

    After the death of Adam Walsh and the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, we are bombarded with these kinds of stories non-stop, making parents paranoid. I, for one, am not buying into it.

  398. DavidPNyc December 8, 2011 at 1:07 am #

    So tragic. Hearing about this brought back childhood memories of a 13 yr girl from Flushing Queens who disappeared back in 1984 after running an errand for her parents. She was found 3 yrs later 50 miles away. I remember her vividly. She lived just blocks away from me. The neighborhood seemed so safe and kids roamed playing in the streets. Does anyone remember hearing about that case? Antonella Mattina.

  399. michelle December 17, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    David, I total remember the story of Antonella Mattina. I still occasionally look on the internet to see if they ever found who was responsible.I remember her poor parents on the news. Do you know if they ever solved her case?

  400. PaHM April 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    The boy’s killer, Levi Aron, had mental problems stemming from a head injury he sustained at age 9 when a car struck his bicycle. But I don’t hear anyone blaming his parents for letting him ride his bike unsupervised. Following the blame-the-parent logic, aren’t Levi Aron’s parents the real murderers? Absurd.

    All the same, this has me second-guessing SOME aspects of free-range parenting. Namely, the assumption that because we teach our kids safety tips against abduction and exploitation, they learn how to be safe. On the contrary, I’ve been surprised to read the studies showing that most kids do not have a clue, even though it’s been drilled into them to memorize their addresses and phone numbers, to never speak to strangers, to never accept a ride from a stranger, etc.

    Surely there must be some middle ground between helicoptering and free ranging.


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