Readers — Found this on my “Pro or Con?” page just now:
Dear Free-Range Kids: Your website (granted I haven’t read your book yet) speaks of everything from a parent’s point-of-view but have you considered what Free-Range Parenting looks and feels like according to a child?
I’m 26 years old and was raised with the Free-Range parent philosophy. Now that I’m old enough to begin reflecting with introspection and observation, I’ve come to the realization that Free-Range parenting was founded to counteract helicopter parenting but neglected to recognize its own extremism. I do have great parents who taught me independence and free thinking in that I’ve traveled to 50 countries, obtained masters in both aerospace engineering and sports management, worked with acclaimed businesses in their industries; NASA and Detroit professional sports teams, by all outward accounts I have many great accomplishments due to my parents. But I only look good on paper.
You said, “a Free-Range Kid is a kid who gets treated as a smart, young, capable individual, not an invalid who needs constant attention and help.” And what happens to a child who grows up wondering why their parents were never there for them? Why they were expected to do everything on their own volition? What you may define as coddling, children could interpret as love, support, and understanding. Coddling was once defined as cooking an egg in water below the boiling point. It wasn’t overprotected or pampered because it gave the egg a chance to cook itself under its own free will and its own pace. Free-Range parenting made me an accomplished adult but it brought me to a “boiling point” before I was ready.
I wasn’t given the childhood to learn what support looks like and now I question it with great insecurity in all relationships in my life. I never ask for help and I never allow myself to be vulnerable because Free-Range parenting taught me only about independence. It neglected to teach me how to recognize what healthy dependence on society and humanity looks like.
If Free-Range parenting believes the world isn’t as dangerous as it’s made out to be, it still becomes dangerous because a child grows up believing they have nowhere to turn to for escape if needed. And a child with no place to relax from the world is just as dangerous as a helicopter child not being capable to enter the world. Neither child will survive it.
This is not meant to accuse any parenting ideology as wrong as it may have worked for some children because that is what they as an individual needed. But I am supporting that claim that one parenting ideology is right and all the other are wrong. As I mentioned earlier, I am only beginning to reflect on the world but in this moment I can safely say I am sick of hearing about parenting style. There isn’t a philosophy on parenting. Because each child, each individual, each perspective is different. The only foundation that parents need is unconditional love. An acceptance based on the uniqueness of each child. It’s one thing to tell a child you love them but you have to show them love in a meaning that correlate with what they believe it to be. Not what you believe it to be. – Non-Free-Ranger
Dear Non: Thanks for this note. You’re so right, there is no one “parenting philosophy” that works across the board. Free-Range doesn’t consider itself a parenting philosophy, per se. It’s just a way of looking at a world bent on brainwashing us with fear, and trying to counter that drumbeat of dread.
It sounds like your parents may have been uninvolved to the extreme — or at least it felt that way to you, which would indeed feel terrible. I very much agree that children deserve unconditional love and I think no Free-Ranger would feel otherwise. We also believe in play — lots of it — not the push to “succeed” you may have experienced (and thought was “Free-Range”).
Free-Range isn’t about ignoring our kids, or not “being there” for them, it’s about loving AND believing in them. That is not the same thing as turning a cold shoulder, and it is not the same as answering all requests for help (unspoken or otherwise) with a, “You can do it — go away.”
I’m really sorry this was your experience, and I hope you can go forth and embrace the world in a way that makes you happy. – L