WELCOME, DR. PHIL FANS!

Thanks for taking a look at this site. As you’ll see as you poke around, this is the place for thinking about whether we have gone a little overboard in trying to protect our kids. As I say on Dr. Phil’s show, we overestimate the dangers out there, and have forgotten how competent young people are.

This starts at an awfully young age. I was at Babies R Us today and found knee pads for babies. Knee pads! Since when did crawling become so extremely dangerous you needed padding?

At Free Range Kids we are trying to figure out how to separate plain old safety – wonderful safety – from the kind of obsessive worry that can drive a parent, or kid, crazy. Like, for instance, I submit that safety belts in cars make sense. But do children really need to be strapped into strollers as if they’re about to blast off to Alpha Centuri? I’m not convinced.

So take a look around, and join in this re-examination of modern day childrearing. And if you’d like to hear more, please sign up for our mailing list, over there on the left. I promise not to share it with anyone.

Welcome to a new way of parenting…that just happens to be the  old way of parenting. – Lenore  

103 Responses to WELCOME, DR. PHIL FANS!

  1. GWebber September 29, 2008 at 1:05 pm #

    Hi, didn’t want to just read and run… thought I’d leave a comment. Refreshing to know this site is out there on the Net. I’m trying to raise free range kids over here in Australia.

    Have to agree with your comment on the ‘knee pads’ for babies. WTH??? My kids (5 and 8) always have what i call, “kids legs”… you know the legs I’m talking about, scabby, dirty knees, bruises of varying shades of healing. And this is not because I don’t bath them, more for the fact that they are outside playing in the mud, dirt and grass we have around our house. (We have mangroves at the back of our yard, and sand in patches too).

    Great site….

  2. winesaltstars September 29, 2008 at 3:10 pm #

    Knee pads for babies. Good god. When my older child was 7 months old, she was a fiendishly dedicated crawler. On rainy days, I would take her to the huge shopping mall, and put her down on the floor of the main concourse.

    She would take off like a racer, crawling for hundreds of feet without ever looking back, while I trailed a few yards behind her. Close enough to swoop down and remove any small dangerous objects from her path, although the mall floor tended on the whole to be way cleaner than the floor at home.

    One time, a lady told me (as though it was new and deeply troubling information), “Her hands are dirty!”

    “I know,” I replied. “They get pretty black, don’t they!”

    She went off, horrified.

  3. Mark Dominus September 29, 2008 at 6:59 pm #

    When my daughter was around three years old she went through a period when she didn’t want to be strapped into her stroller. One day we hit a bump in the sidewalk and she flew out and scraped her face up pretty well.

    When I put the baby in our bucket-style stroller, I don’t always do the straps. But I think strapping the straps on an umbrella stroller is just common sense.

  4. islander September 29, 2008 at 8:07 pm #

    I live in a place with limited cell service and a pretty strong “free range” mentality.
    The majority of kids who live here are allowed to walk to the candy store by themselves and ride their bikes all over the place. We live near the ocean, and I let my 8 and 10 year old roam free at the beach. There are a lot of people who come to vacation where I live.
    I find it striking that while there are many parents who seem over protective, there seem to be just as many parents who are not able to identify real dangers. I have seen visiting 12 year olds hanging out in a parking lot where there is underage drinking. The parents’ response was,”This is a safe place”. I have seen visiting kids go out alone in small boats in the thick of fog on days when no local kid would be on the water. I have seen unsupervised visiting 5 year olds ride their bikes into traffic. I think it is irresponsible to set kids free with no tools to make good choices.

  5. Mixed Nuts September 29, 2008 at 8:24 pm #

    Knee pads are nothing. Parenting magazine has an add this month for baby’s first helmet. Yep. Headgear to strap on a toddler while they are learning to walk.

    I’m thinking a line of bubble wrap playwear would be a great seller.

  6. Michael Chermside September 30, 2008 at 1:15 am #

    @islander:

    Yes, you have hit the key issue right on the head. It is not a matter of providing NO freedom to children, it is a matter of finding the right BALANCE between offering safety from dangerous situations and giving opportunities for children to learn to take care of themselves and recover from their own mistakes. These days it seems in much of U.S. society the pendulum has swung quite far toward safety, so a proper balance often means giving _more_ freedom than others around us.

  7. Sarah September 30, 2008 at 2:43 am #

    When I first heard about you letting your son take the subway on his own on Dr. Phil today, I thought, “What in the world is this woman thinking?!” But after hearing about how you prepared him for his exploration and hearing him speak I realized that you’re a genius! Most of the 9 year old kids I encounter are nowhere near prepared enough for an experience like that but it’s because of helicopter moms! So many kids are rude and disrespectful and obnoxious because their parents don’t let them interact with people for fear that they’ll be kidnapped or worse. I have no doubt that so many adults are incompetent today because they never learned how to do anything on their own, ever. My mom is and always will be a helicopter mom and I remember how much I HATED it growing up…fortunately, my dad reeled her in a lot of the time, but I still feel that a lot of my shyness and nervousness comes from having an overprotective mom. I love that you pointed out that not everyone is out to hurt other people and that the majority of us would step in if someone were doing anything wrong with a child. I hope even people who think you’re nuts check out your website and learn a thing or two.

  8. ebohlman September 30, 2008 at 3:00 am #

    @Michael:

    I think that a large part of what’s really happened is that we’ve redefined the whole concept of safety, to the point that it now means the absence of anything that’s merely uncomfortable or unpleasant. Sociologists and anthropologists have noted that, in developed countries, actual measure of how healthy the population is and people’s subjective perceptions of how healthy they are are usually negatively correlated. A large part of the reason for this is that when serious disease goes down, people stop defining “health” in terms of freedom from serious disease and start defining it as freedom for minor aches and pains, minor stomach upsets, occasional headaches or periods of feeling run down, and the like. In short, “healthy” comes to mean “inhumanly perfect.”

    Similarly, all objective measures show that in recent decades the developed world has become a _less_ dangerous place for kids. Yet nearly everybody’s perception is the exact opposite. Part of the problem is, of course, media hype (and remember that the worse the real world looks, the more attractive the fake world offered by the commercials looks by contrast). But part of it is the fact that when kids become less subject to real dangers, the ordinary vicissitudes of growing up shift in our perspective to take their place. Keeping your kids safe comes to mean keeping them free of anything that might hurt or disappoint, however briefly. And just as with health, that’s expecting so much perfection as to deny our kids (and ourselves) our humanity.

    It’s important to understand the cognitive distortion called _emotional reasoning_ in which one takes the way one _feels_ about something as evidence about the _nature_ of that something. In this case, emotional reasoning takes the form of assuming that how _scary_ something is is a good measure of how _dangerous_ it is. In the fall of 2001, flying 3000 miles was a lot scarier than driving 3000 miles, but it was actually infinitely less dangerous : nobody died flying after September 12, but it’s been estimated that about 10,000 more people died driving than would have been usual for that period. That’s because someone who decides to drive a trip that they’d normally fly is very unlikely to allow adequate time to make the trip safely. The idea of spending 16 hours a day on the road for a few days isn’t very scary to most people (unless they’re auto insurance agents) but it’s very dangerous. Emotional reasoning completely fails here.

    So the lesson here is that while the world may be scarier for parents, it’s safer for kids. And we must also remember that all the objective evidence says that there’s a 4-letter word for the place where most of the really terrible things that can happen to kids happen: h-o-m-e.

  9. julesj66 September 30, 2008 at 3:11 am #

    Just started watching Dr. Phil (and I will look more closely at this website) … I am not going to judge you by any means! I do not have children but have lived in Manhattan for 20 years. Having said that, my very 1st reaction was “why not just take the bus down 2nd to 23rd, LOL” Looking forward to poking around your blog!

  10. Dani September 30, 2008 at 3:21 am #

    When I was growing up, I took the bus at 9 to go shopping on our Broadway. I walked to school and back at a young age. I was a ‘free range kid’. I have two girls 8, & 10, and I am learning not to be as over protective as I have been. I thought we taught our kids well.
    We’ve said not to talk to strangers and things like that. I’ve told my kids not to help stranger with puppys, but they asked f they could help a guy with a skateboard. Scary! My kids have a little more range, then even 6 months ago, but it’s hard. We live in a small community of townhouses and apartments. We moved here because we loved the fact that the there are kids running all over. Most of the kids here do have free range.
    I am trying, I know I was left alone in the house for hours at their age, and I worry about going around the block with the dog while they are in the house. I’m gettin better, like I said, they do have more freedom.
    I also have the house that kids are always in and out of. I love it! I know where my kids are and who they are with. Their friends tell me things without asking them. Without asking, I get information, I think the trust is great.
    It’s not easy raising kids.

  11. Hope September 30, 2008 at 3:25 am #

    I am a preschool teacher who is watching Dr. Phil as I write this. I just needed to come here and tell you that you ROCK!
    My goal with the little ones that I teach is to begin to help them feel that they are worthy,able and capable human beings.
    It is wonderful to know that there are parents like you out there!!!!!

  12. Melissa September 30, 2008 at 3:26 am #

    No, I think you’re nuts. I was born and raised in NYC. Started taking the bus by myself at 13 and the subway at 16. Still, I usually had a peer or a group with me. There are child molesters everywhere. They are very much willing to follow your child through the subway or into the restroom. You sound just like my professor who thinks the chances of getting mugged on the subway are so slim, students should carry iPods and laptops. Sure, there may only be a few hundred molesters and millions of molesters, but all it takes is one molester to send your kid into years of therapy from trauma.
    NYC is not some small town where everybody knows everybody and everybody sees everything.

  13. Ashlee G September 30, 2008 at 3:26 am #

    I honestly think it is more dangerous to be a helicopter parent than to allow your kids to be free range kids. I totally agree with your parenting style and as a teacher, you can see the kids that are crippled (or are becoming crippled) because their parents smother them. However, you can also see some troubles that arise in the kids whose parents totally let them do whatever, whenever. Your style is still different though as you have raised your son (and other children) with love, respect, and understanding! That’s what makes it so wonderful. Life is way too short to smother your kids and not allow them the freedom to explore and learn what they are capable at any given age. Does it not seem to you that there are way too many kids in the education system these days that are looked at as if they are unintelligent and cant do anything on their own?They are put into “resource classes – another word for special education classrooms”. That is the result of “helicopter parents” who want their kids to feel that they cannot do anything without them. Great Job Lenore and keep up the good work!

    Ashlee

  14. Saara Dutton September 30, 2008 at 3:30 am #

    A friend of mine had a little girl recently, so I’ve been perusing the children’s section of the bookstore. Naturally, I gravitated towards the books I knew from my childhood: “Where the Wild Things Are”, “Green Eggs and Ham”, and of course, “Goodnight Moon”. I loved that book not because of the story (which I thought was boring) but for the black and white photo of the illustrator, Clement Hurd. Unlike grandfatherly Dr. Seuss, he didn’t look like he’d give me a hug. No, he belonged at our house during cocktail hour, sitting in a floral chair on the patio, telling stories by the light of the tiki torches.

    But when I turned “Goodnight Moon” over to look at this photo after all these years, I saw that it had been photoshopped. The cigarette in his hand had been removed, altered to suit modern parenting sensibilities. I stared at it for a while. The picture looked so strange, his hand clearly posed for holding a cigarette, but nothing was there.

    It occurred to me that certain child-protective measures are entrenched today in ways they weren’t when I was a kid. Maybe it’s because people demand a greater level of control now, with the rise of “helicopter parenting”. But it seems like we are cocooning kids too much, and denying ourselves some of the fun of adulthood in the process.

    When I was a child in Honolulu back in the late 1970’s, my parents and their friends didn’t surrender their adult interests and make everything so “family friendly”. The adult stuff coexisted with kids’ stuff. But there was a distinct divide between us and them, and we knew it. Parents and kids both liked it that way. Of course the term “family values” hadn’t been coined yet.

    In the fridge there was Mrs. T’s Bloody Mary Mix next to the milk. Moms had vinyl cigarette purses with golden snaps and a separate little pouch for their Bic lighters. If we asked, they’d take out their Virginia Slims and lighters and let us use the purses for our dolls. Dads often kept copies of Playboy (just out of our reach) in the bathroom. Under the sink, you might find a box of Today Sponges. If you asked about it, you were just told, “That’s for adults.” Believe it or not, that answer was good enough for us.

    People in our neighborhood all had cocktail hours out on their patios, with fully stocked wet bars, olives and colorful swizzle sticks. We kids would color in our books as adults smoked and drank outside. They didn’t try to include us. They told dirty jokes or talked about politics or neighborhood gossip. This wasn’t some type of family fun. Friday night was theirs, distinctly for the adults. When told to go to bed, I’d leave my bedroom door open, loving the sound of all that laughter, the clinking of ice in a vodka tonic. And as they nursed hangovers, Saturday morning was all ours. We’d get up alone, make a bowl of Honeycomb, Lucky Charms or any other cereal that would tear up the roof of your mouth and watch Scooby Doo, Laff Olympics and Superfriends.

    If parents took their kids to an upscale restaurant, there was zero tolerance for misbehaving in that adult realm. Mothers didn’t lecture fellow diners by saying, “You were a kid once too.” When I hear this, I often think, “You’re right, I was. And I had to sit there, sip my Shirley Temple and behave. Otherwise I’d get the evil eye from my mom, and that look alone was enough to keep me in check.”

    Adulthood used to be this amazing mystery. I’d watch my mother put on her disco clothes; sexy sparkly outfits and platform heels as I sat there in my cords and juice-stained t-shirt, dreaming of all the fun I could have when I grew up. Now it seems like some parents are so worried about teaching their kids the wrong message, that “family friendly” activities have overtaken their lives.

    These parents don’t appear to want a separate world for themselves. They are willing to completely morph into “Mom” and “Dad”, leaving nothing left for an outside identity. But I think constantly catering to kids deprives them of the wonder of adulthood. They don’t have the understanding that certain activities are just for adults, and that this unknown world can be something to look forward to.

    When I was a kid, the adult world was visible but not accessible. It seemed fascinating. But I knew that adults had problems, they weren’t always right, and life wasn’t perfect. My parents didn’t try to hide this from me, and neither did their friends. So I don’t think we give kids enough credit these days. We shield them a little too much, not realizing how smart they are. And all the while, toy companies keep scaling back on “traditional” toys, because kids are so advanced now and want cell phones instead.

    So I say put that cigarette back in Clement Hurd’s slender fingers. Call it a cautionary tale. Kids will understand. The photo is creepier now without it, because it’s obvious something is missing. The vice is photoshopped, but the stance remains.

  15. Maria September 30, 2008 at 3:34 am #

    Now that you’ve alerted every pedophile in the tri-State area as to what your son looks like and that he now travels alone on buses and subways, maybe you should take a bow as the world’s biggest jackass. You don’t deserve to be a mother.

  16. margalit September 30, 2008 at 3:37 am #

    I’m a “free range mom” (love that expression) although I mostly think I’m a common sense Mom. We live in Boston and my kids have been going places on their own since they were about 10. At first we used long range walkie talkies, but once they learned that I was looking out for them and that there WERE rules they needed to follow, they were free to go and explore the world as long as I knew where they were. Now they’re 16 and they use the subways constantly, they get around on their own for pretty much everything, they’ve flown across the country on their own many times, and there is pretty much nothing they can’t do on their own.

    My kids are very independent, I rarely worry about them doing stupid things, and when they do, we talk about making bad choices. Because I’ve parented this way forever, my kids can advocate for themselves and rarely ask me to intervene. In fact, they often beg me NOT to intervene because they want to solve their problems themselves.

    Now my daughter has a job (she’s just 16) and she has one particularly heinous boss and she’s learned how to circumvent this person on her own, with absolutely no interference from me at all.

    And my son (also 16) has decided that next year he’s going to take a gap year instead of going to college, and he’ll work for half the year, then travel for the second half. I’m fine with this. Travel at 17 by yourself, when you’ve been raised independently, is a good thing and he’ll learn a lot about the world. I know he can do it, and I am proud that he’s made this decision on his own.

    Good job! We’re out there, us free rangers, and our kids are going to be the leaders of tomorrow’s world.

  17. Jason September 30, 2008 at 3:47 am #

    Love it! Thanks for talking sense in a world of complete nonsense. Can you talk to our government about this “bail out” now?

  18. Karos September 30, 2008 at 3:50 am #

    Hurray for free range families. What a concept. It worked for us, and you know what? NO – it wasn’t different then. Statistics bear out that incidents of child abduction and molestation are no higher — in fact they are lower — than when us kids of the ’70s were allowed to play at the park unsupervised, hit the corner grocer, and walk to school, usually by the age of 6 or 7 years of age. The days stretched out full of endless (nonscheduled!) possibilities for exploration and learning. Nobody had to watch our every moves, and we learned numerous useful skills from this kind of independence, including socialization and effective debate skills. We didn’t require rescuing or being hovered over. It breaks my heart that although my children (10 and 14) are allowed a generous measure of freedom compared to a lot of other kids, that they are not afforded the same experiences as us ’70s kids were — because suburbia and the inner city are ghost towns devoid of young people! They sit pale-faced in front of computers and video game consoles and televisions, and it doesn’t even occur to them to jump on a bike and go see who is at the park, or to use those appendages at the bottoms of their legs to walk to the local 7-11 for a slurpee, or to hoof it to the neighbourhood pool. And part of this, too, is the moving away from building sustainable communities that actually HAVE neighbourhood pools and parks to walk to. Families are not demanding healthy communities that encourage a sense of wonder and exploration.

    While I know I would not put my nine-year-old boy on the subway as you did, I respect that you know your child well enough to know what he can handle, based on his previous knowledge and experiences. I certainly do not think you are the worst mother in the world. I reserve that title for those that parent their children under a microscope.

  19. Tina September 30, 2008 at 3:58 am #

    @Maria

    And the good doers out there also know what her son looks like and that he’s alone. Just because there are a few hundred pedophiles in a city of 8 million does not mean a kid can’t be safe. Lenore’s son is a smart cookie, and teaching your child to be aware of their surrounding and be smart and independent doesn’t make someone a bad mom.

    There’s plenty of rapists out there too, but do you refuse to go anywhere alone? No, you just stay aware of your surroundings and don’t take unnecessary risks (like walking alone in a dark alley with high heels).

  20. chelsea September 30, 2008 at 4:17 am #

    I fully support what you did with Izzy and he seemed physically and emotionally capable of doing it. I was doing similar things by myself at a very young age, and I know it made me a stronger more independent person.

    A few years ago, a coworker of mine was going on her first business trip, at 25 years old. She confided in me that she was terrified as she’d never been in a cab or on the subway and didn’t know what to do. I know this was because she was so sheltered when she was younger and instilled with fear, that at 25 she hadn’t wanted to explore the world outside.

    Again, good job!

  21. Tina Kubala September 30, 2008 at 4:22 am #

    I’m watching Dr. Phil as I type this. I am so glad you are out there saying your piece. The “helicopter” mom is the one with a problem, not you. You kids will be able take care of themselves when they are adults. And isn’t that the point?

    I’ve subscribed to your blog. I hope this is the beginning of a revolution in parenting.

  22. lori September 30, 2008 at 4:22 am #

    you’re brilliant! nicely done on the dr.phil show

  23. Melissa September 30, 2008 at 4:33 am #

    Good for you! I have always been a free range mom. As long as you teach your child about the dangers in life they can navagate the world on their own. I have been to New York about a half dozen times in my life and have never felt more safe. Yes I have given my daughter alot of leeway growing up. She is now an extremely out going, smart, fearless young woman that I am extremely proud of. Kids today need to get off their butts and get out there, there is more to life than the tv and video games. I was a child who could walk to my friends house, play tag at night, go to the store. Kids need to be taught street smarts today. Parents need to teach them that so they can learn about the world.

  24. Penelope September 30, 2008 at 4:54 am #

    Good for you! Love the name Free Range Kids. My daughter is 12 and has been “on her own” for 3 years. There are still times when she is not allowed to leave my site. (Night time Mardi Gras Parades come to mind) But, on the whole I trust her judgement and her thought process. Some of her friends I trust; others ,not so much. I am proud of her and what she is learning. Years ago as a single mom was dating a control freak whose child could not leave his side even while standing in line waiting for the train at the Zoo. I specifically remember asking “how will he ever learn how far “too far” is if you don’t let him make his own decisions?” Yet he let the kid play with a BB gun!!! It did not last long.

  25. relaxedrevolutionary September 30, 2008 at 5:04 am #

    Best. Blog title. Ever.

  26. macewan September 30, 2008 at 5:12 am #

    Currently watching the show. We macewan.tv & my wife macewan.net completely agree wth the message. Thumbs up.

  27. Shirmah September 30, 2008 at 5:13 am #

    I am a 19 year old living in Toronto, when I was growing up, my parents gave me alot more freedom then the kids around me, and to be honest, it just made it so much easier to be truthful to my parents at all times. I could tell them what I was doing, where I was without worrying. But my best friend at the time had the exact opposite, her mother was a “helicopter” parent, and a major one, she wasn’t allowed to do anything, but she did and lied about it, and she still does. I think giving a child freedom, at the right age, is important, and parents need to understand that children need to develop to be individuals and independent.
    Thanks!

    -Shirmah

  28. Dr. Barry Glick September 30, 2008 at 5:15 am #

    Right on… good for you. Both my wife and I grew up in New York City (Queens). We took a bus and a train since we were seven or eight years old from Queens to Manhattan, to visit museums, watch broadway shows, and do most things kids love to do. We have now almost two generations of paranoid citizens…. some for good reason. However, we need to re-establish caring concerned citizens who will help children develop to their full potential.

  29. Hannah September 30, 2008 at 5:16 am #

    Your point of view is refreshing.
    I was a nanny for 7 years and have always been frustrated by the “molly-coddling” children get from their parents.
    I’ve never understood why these parents feel they are doing the best for their children when they are so obviously not thinking of them in the least.
    Independence and self confidence are the best things a parent can give a child.
    I thank you for doing what you’re doing.

  30. Dette September 30, 2008 at 5:33 am #

    I am sorry, I feel this is exactly what is wrong with this society…no, you shouldn’t smother them , but taking care of them and keeping them safe is what a mom, or and parents are supposed to do. This generation that is bringing up children today are only wanting to make them grow up faster and not let them be a kid so they won’t have to take care of them !! Moms used to be moms, not anymore, they are just too selfish to care like they should. Not that I mean all of this parent generation is that way, but a majority of them are just wanting to make their lives easier, and the childs safety and care is not priority at all.
    Of course they should do things as they age and have some responsibility that is age appropriate, but, letting a 9 year old go on a subway alone is NOT age appropriate, and definitely NOT in New York City !!!!!! Let kids be kids and play and have fun like they are meant to do. Don’t make them grow up before they should just to make your lives easier. And I have 3 grown children that do well on their own and have since they were teenagers for the proof of what I say. This world is a lot more evil and crazy than it was even when I raised mine, by a mile, so don’t put them in danger. Be parents and take care of your kids like you are meant to do once you have a child. If you don’t want children, you shouldn’t have had any.

  31. Moni September 30, 2008 at 6:00 am #

    you parent like my parents, at 6 I would walk to school and back through the woods! Take bike rides with friends that would cover many miles and walk around barefoot all the time. I’m only 21 but I feel like I’m so much more stable then others my age who were watched 24/7.

  32. Fenway2008 September 30, 2008 at 6:05 am #

    YOU ROCK MOMMA,

    My 2 boys were raised free range and are now 19 and 23. They are happy, independent adults. My oldest started riding his bike to school in middle school (the elemetary school was too far away). Some of his favorite memories of middle school are of the “Breakfast Club” he and his friends formed when they would leave for school early on Fridays and stop for breakfast at the little coffee shop in town. This is a little rural/suburban town with no sidewalks and bad traffic headed to the city. Yes, I worried , but I am glad I did not deny my son this.
    My younger son did not do this, as I sent him to private school, as he is dyslectic. But they both had lots of freedom and now have wonderful childhood memories. Although our town is a little up-tight, helicoper community, our neighborhood became the “free-range” neighborhood, which all the other kids in town always wanted to be invited to.
    Our kid’s caught fire-flies in jars (yes, sometimes glass), played kickball and baseball in the street, and played flashlight tag until 11 pm in the summer. And somehow this has become the nature of the neighborhood.
    The kids (not the adults) will organize football games. Kids from 20 something will play to with kids 5 or so and nobody gets hurts and the kids laugh themselves silly. The big kids tackle the big kids, the little kids dodge the big kids, and the big kigs pick up the liitle kids and carry them through the goal. The big kids know to look out for the little kids, you don’t need to tell them.
    I feel sorry for the kids sitting inside playing X-Box. How sad. Safe, but not.

  33. Brian September 30, 2008 at 6:15 am #

    I’m glad to see someone putting the fun back into childhood. I noticed that kids today have no where near the freedom we had when we were growing up. If my friends and I were as restricted as kids today are, we would have been called all kinds of names. Now it’s became the norm.

  34. Donna Nichols September 30, 2008 at 6:23 am #

    My name is Donna, I have 4 girls and a stepson, (21 mos, 5 yrs, 11 yrs, 13 yrs, and 19yrs) all beautiful and perfect! Recovered from a very abusive relationship…I totally agree…kids need to know how to wipe their butt, cook and do laundry before we push them out into our society! They’re less likely to be in bad and/or abusive relationships, if they can take care of themselves (or bring something to the relationship) Aren’t we trying to raise responsible young men and women?!?

  35. Kathleen September 30, 2008 at 6:32 am #

    Yay Lenore and Izzy! You were both great on Dr. Phil–I hope it brings even more momentum to the movement!

  36. Val September 30, 2008 at 6:32 am #

    Hi Lenore,

    I am 33 years old and I grew up in Los Angeles. While L.A. is certainly not as concentrated with people in a small space as New York, it has more areas (sprawl) where kids can easily be kidnapped,

    I want to commend you on how you are raising your son. My parents let me run wild from the age of 9 and I rode my bike all over the city. I saw people get beat up, I saw people do drugs, I saw my first porno mags on the street, I saw it all. Basically, I saw things that most kids these days would never get to see.

    For some reason, my brother wasn’t allowed to do the same (he is 9 years younger) and he ended up believing in Santa Claus until he was 13. For some reason, the 90’s weren’t considered as safe as the 80’s, and i still don’t understand why my brother and his friends never roamed the city like I did.

    Although my brother is a good kid, he started to experiment with pot and alcohol in high school because he was so damn sheltered.

    This is what I see.

    You – Mom who is fostering independence and trust in their child.

    Maria – Crazed insecure (but loving) control freak type of mom whose kids could possibly rebel for the worse. Luckily her daughter seems confident in herself and is not trying to get herself pregnant.

  37. Skye September 30, 2008 at 6:47 am #

    I watched you on Dr. Phil today and thought bless this woman!

    I feel insulted when I watch these women hover over their children and talk behind their hands about other women who don’t.

    Not because I am a mother but because my Mother allowed me the freedom to go out and be myself and she had the belief that children don’t grow well in the house.

    I have so many fond memories of my childhood as well as some scary moments but I wouldn’t be the person I am without the freedom I had. I and my siblings are proof of Free Range! I and my brothers not only never did drugs all of us stayed in school and graduated none of us got pregnant or got other people pregnant as teens and we all live on our own.

    Sure there are things I don’t agree with about my rearing and there are things that I see as problems that my parents didn’t have to deal with. But it isn’t anything I can’t handle because My parents gave me something not given to most children called “Common Sense” which comes from trial and error.

    Skye

  38. Patricia McLaughlin September 30, 2008 at 6:48 am #

    While your motives are different then mine were 10 years ago. I too let my son travel back and fourth from Queens to the City on train or bus. I waited for phone calls when he arrived to his distination and was always relieved when I physically saw him again. I went over and over and the different routes and made sure that he knew who to call when he felt that he was in trouble; but that didn’t ease my pain/guilt. I almost doubted myself for letting him go on his own; but now he is 19 years old and while he only needs me every once in awhile; he makes me very proud, not to need me. The only set back was and is, that he feels out of place with the majority of his friends. While they still need their parents guidance, he already knows what to do.

  39. Pat September 30, 2008 at 6:51 am #

    Most child molesters are family members or friends of the child’s family.
    Ah, for the return of childhood freedom! We’ve forgotten how tough and resilient little people are.

  40. Louise September 30, 2008 at 7:04 am #

    I have 5 children 13, 11, 8, 8 and 3 years old. I encourage independence not suppress it. If a baby is ready to walk do we hold them down so they will never learn? No, we provide the tools for our child to stay on the path to independence and a healthy self worth knowing that their parent(s) feel they are a) worthy of this and b) worth it!

    I make baby steps over long periods of time for me to know when they are ready for the next step to independence. I go on personality and character in choosing when a my child is ready and that may be a different age with each child. I feel in doing this I have created the tools for my children to be aware of their surroundings. A smothering parent may not realize that if they make their children feel they are ALWAYS there then they depend on that in every situation and when a real important decision is to be made they are at a lost to what to do. This parent can not test this theory because they won’t give their child that little bit of independence to do so.

    One may say that will never happen, however if it happen to be a situation where the child has to act on behalf of the parent (accident/unconscious) then it may mean life or death and then your child will really be lost and without that parent!

    However we all know we can’t be with our children always and I know that my kids are making good choices based on the experience they have had thus far. Bad things do happen, however they happen regardless of how protective a parent is or not. We know that predators prey on the week and vulnerable, how much more vulnerable can a child be when they don’t even have their parents trust in their independence, their blinders are on and they are afraid in their decisions because they usually don’t make them on their own.

    Independence is a right as well as a privilege, I reward for good decision making. I have check-in times, you don’t make a check-in time you don’t have the privilege to go the next time. I have both come-home and phone-in check-in times depending on the situation. This allows my children to feel safe as well as give them the freedom they need. The most important phone in rule is, if I don’t answer for any reason you may not phone back you come directly home. They know their limits and boundaries and I can honestly say (and their friends, family and teachers will all agree) they are strong and independent children!!

  41. Renate September 30, 2008 at 7:06 am #

    LOVED what SaaraDutton had to say! She’s seems so lovely, go look at her above comment and blog.

    Anyway, I really found what you said today on Phil’s show refreshing.

    I think we should always be praying for our kids to be safe and succeed but always remember that mothers & fathers are not God. Rather, we are all (this includes all of us that are the community to each individual child) to take care and watch over the little ones as they grow and become one of us.

    When I was young (before the age of 11) I lived one block from school. I was probably approached about 3 or 4 times by different pedophiles but my mother taught me how to deal with such situations. I never felt “unsafe” but rather, went home to my mother, told her, and she was able to do a lot with the information! I think I actually helped the neighbourhood a lot. You know kids talk when they hang on the street, and they all new pretty quick who the creepo’s were.

    I’m in my 30’s now and feel so blessed that my mother was such a Free Range Mom! haha!

    Cheers!

  42. Jen Maier September 30, 2008 at 7:38 am #

    I watched what you had to say with an eagerness I can’t explain. I am one of the few parents I know who allows their 9 year old to walk to school, to ride his bike 2 blocks to the corner store, or to walk to a friend’s house. Of course there have been a few times when I worried as I am sure my mom did. But, for the most part, all I see are benefits. My son (and my younger daughter who is often along for the ride) is confident and capable. He shows me when he is ready for a bit more independence and I trust him. We respect each other as individuals.

    However, when it comes down to it, he is my little boy who still depends on his mom for cuddles and reassurance. Just because you allow your children freedom to experience the world does not mean you give up on being a mom. The opposite is true. I can focus on what is important when he truly needs me instead of getting caught up where I shouldn’t.

    I truly admire what you are doing and I am right there with you.

    Jen

  43. Tammy September 30, 2008 at 8:00 am #

    I watched Dr. Phil today, and have been saying some of these very same things for years. I fully support making EDUCATED decisions about what our children do and don’t do. Every child should know their limitations and how to take care of themselves. The only way to know that is by trying.

  44. Cathy Hem September 30, 2008 at 8:14 am #

    How refreshing! I have harbored such guilt for so many years for trying to instill this freedom in my son! My son is now 28, but I, to this day, feel guilt, as though I was not being the cautious, protective, parent! I do agree that it is SO very important to teach our children independance!
    Thank you!
    Cathy

  45. Pam D. September 30, 2008 at 8:19 am #

    Congratulations! It is about time for some common sense. I am sixty years old and grew up in San Francisco. By nine, we were all capable of taking the bus anywhere in the city. We even had Bus Passes that were punched eveytime they were used. Our parents dropped us at movie theaters and pick us up 3 or 4 hours later. Once we had a man sittiang behind us. He kept kicking our seats, so we moved like our parents told us to. He moved too, and continued. We told the usher at the theater and he was asked to sit somewhere else and stop bothering us.. Some of my friends actually made dinner for their entire family because both parents worked. Made dinner and didn’t burn themselves, or burn the house down, because their parents have been teaching them from the time they were little. Parents today are crazy.
    Keep up the good work,
    Pam
    P.S. The majority of our children don’t get killed or molested, unless you listen to TV

  46. Singlemom September 30, 2008 at 8:19 am #

    watching you on Dr Phil now… I tivoed it !! I do not think you did anything wrong at all. Parents hoover too much- like you said Helicopter mom !!

  47. Robin Piccini September 30, 2008 at 8:28 am #

    Hi Lenore,
    I read your story in this month’s Readers’ Digest and then I saw you today on Dr. Phil. I don’t think what you did was awful at all and your story is fascinating.

    I am not as brave as you are but I’m not a hovering mom either. My daughter Lillianna will be 11 this week and I have given her more freedom each year. I don’t want her to be scared to walk the streets when she is 16 because I haven’t let her out on her own in all those years. To me,that is child abuse.

    I make sure she knows how to handle herself in any given situation that I’ve been able to think of. We talk all the time about different things. I want her to be able to make decisions on her own.

    This year she added competition tap team to her list of activities which we try to keep to a minimum….dance,Girl Scouts and Lions Club(which we belong to as a family). She thought she was going to add chorus to her schedule but decided it would stress her out being so busy. I left that decision to her. She’s 11…why be stressed out? I don’t tell her what I think she should do I let her decide on her own.

    So,I’m not going to let my daughter take the train into Boston or anything quite yet but when she is ready she will tell me and then she can go. I’ve never held her back when she said she was ready to do something and I never will.

    I think if we instill fear in our children then they will be fearful teens and adults. Yes,there are pedophiles in this world and serial killers and all kinds of craziness but not everyone is after my daughter. I can’t worry about everything.

    The first time Lillianna fell on her face in the driveway she was 11 months old and I was standing right there and couldn’t catch her. The second time she fell on her face she was 5 years old and her father was right there when she tripped on the cement and he couldn’t catch her either!! Stuff happens. All we can do is our best.

    Sorry to have rambled but this is an important topic and I always have a lot to say!!

  48. Lindsay September 30, 2008 at 8:29 am #

    I do not have children of my own (yet) but I have taken care of children for over half of my life, including my own siblings. We had rules and regulations, but we were encouraged to go out on our own. I was 8 the first time I was allowed to walk to the downtown area where we lived with friends and was 10 the first time I was allowed to walk alone. We were allowed to go out and play for hours in the woods as long as we let mom know which trail we would head down in case she needed to get us for an emergency. She rarely ever used it. There were certain limits, but we certainly were not smothered and were allowed to act like normal kids. Some of the children I take care of now are scheduled into so many things and have so many rules that it takes away from the joys of being a child. While my parents and I have had difficulties as I moved on to college and now graduate school, I believe if my parents had not allowed me some of the freedoms I enjoyed and did a lot more hovering, the transition would have been far worse. I love my parents for allowing me to find my own way in developmentally appropriate ways, and I know that when I am a parent, I will follow the Free Range Kids idea. I’m glad I caught you on the show!

  49. Jennifer September 30, 2008 at 8:30 am #

    Oh my god! This is fantastic. As a young mom of a four year old boy, I often feel like the only sane one in a sea of paranoia. When I start quoting stats (Um, your child is FAR more likely to die in the car, as are YOU. They are actually, more (statistically) likely to LIVE than DIE in America, where our infant/child mortality rate is quite low) when I say this I inevitably get the patronizing clucks from other moms. Doubtless they pity poor uninformed me, whose son is surely in the sights of a “pervert in the bushes” right now. (I call helicopter moms “Pervert in the Bushes” moms, lol).

    My husband was raised by a paranoid mom, and though he’s nowhere near her level, he still has his moments. Okay, helmets on the bike, fine. But knee and elbow pads?! That’s where I draw the line. He’s got training wheels and he’s going .003 miles per hour! And, if he does fall, so what?? I did when I was his age. It made me more careful. The worst he’ll get is a skinned knee, big whoop. Skinned knees are badges of childhood honor, lol!

    Anyway, THANK YOU!!! I will have a great time here:)

  50. Jennifer September 30, 2008 at 8:39 am #

    Louise makes a great point: A fretful, un-streetwise, naive and dependent child sounds like the perfect target for the sickos.

  51. chris September 30, 2008 at 9:05 am #

    I am so happy to hear others are seeing the hovering is a problem , as long as my child is with a friend I allow her to go out and be a kid,I think I have prepared her well for dangers , I have a SIL who is horrified that I allow this , she sees her job as protector , I see my job as teacher , to teach my children how to get on in the world and to empower them to try new things , like riding a bike, I needed to push my daughter , and when she said I will just run I knew she needed me not to give up , she now rides her bike, I didn’t harm her. I babysit and see how many parents coddle their children , they don’t want them to cry or feel any emotional pain , come on , boys especially, they don’t jump in to participate in their lives as their mothers and fathers do everything for them , unitl they come to my house , come on parents our job is to see our children progressing not standing on the sidelines waiting for you to do everything .
    Bravo

  52. Anne Dillon September 30, 2008 at 9:09 am #

    Can’t wait to read more on your website though I don’t plan on reading anymore comments. :) I don’t understand why people choose to spend their time insulting someone. If they don’t agree with you that is fine but to waste a minute of ones life by coming here to post some insult?

    Anyway, this freerange parenting goes along with my belief that we are trying to raise adults here not children.

  53. Charlotte September 30, 2008 at 1:41 pm #

    I just watched you on Dr Phil, and I had to come check it out! Wow, I am bookmarking this site just to keep myself from caving into the helicopter pilots all around me!
    I am a single mom of 3 boys, and I work from my home. If I didn’t let them have some independence and get out of the house, I would LOSE my mind! I often feel and worry about being judged by others though for allowing my boys the freedom to roam. And unfortunately, I think some of us need to be very careful of the people who might decide that our free range parenting is neglect. I honestly worry less about perverts than people calling Social Services on me!

  54. Kaycee September 30, 2008 at 5:13 pm #

    I am so glad I found you! I thought the show was amazing! You are absolutely amazing Lenore! I dont even have children yet- but I am convinced I will raise my children this way!

  55. Sandra September 30, 2008 at 9:07 pm #

    Bless you. I have been attacked many times for my parenting style of letting my children be… well, children. I will continue to do so, and help the “movement” continue! :D

  56. Judy September 30, 2008 at 9:29 pm #

    Thank you so much for being on the show. It was wonderful. I personally feel that all the “DANGERS” have always been around and now that people have the right to know everything they have become parinoid (SP) in just leaving their house. The media doesn’t help much either..

    My ex-husband tried to take custody of my kids away because I let our 11 year old daughter and 3 of her friends walk home from the movies. It was 4 blocks away on a sunny Sunday afternoon in which her route was to go past a police station, a hospital, a pond and a high school. Along that route also is the bank at which her fathers sister works, homes of local firemen my husband works with and the girls know, and the home of one of the friends she was with. I grew up in this community of about 8 thousand people and did the same things at even a younger age because that is how my parents raised me. I was a latch key kid at the age of 8 or younger and knew which neighbors were home if I needed any help or I forgot my key. I also walked home from football games at night with friends and sometimes alone, to McDonalds, the pizza shop and iceskating in the middle of winter. My parents always knew where I was because I told them and I was where I said I was going to be. You wouldn’t dare tell anybody that you let your kid do that now. I very much agree with you about your subway comment about how there are many more good people who would help him than there are bad people that would harm him. I have been to the city many times myself and have felt safe. You can’t turn around without spotting a police officer.

    All I ask of my daughter is this, If you are going somewhere alone, or with anybody else, like the dollar store downtown, 1) let me know your going 2) call me when you get there 3) call me on your way home or if you plan on stopping somewhere else along the way. and last but not least 4) don’t ever lie to me about where you are going, (Karma…the first time you lie about where you are going is when something will happen and then you have to deal with me.)

    I have always banned dvd players and anything with a head set in the car for family trips and asked the kids to help read the directions and the map. How else are they going to learn? My oldest would drive the car to Ocean City alone if I would let her…and she would get there too. We have only been down there 4 times but she knows where every gas station and rest stop are and the name, address, and phone number of her grandpa that lives there. ( that was another battle in itself when their father found out I took the kids alone to O.C, so was the Disney vacation…oh dear…they flew on a plane to Florida)

    Again, THANK YOU!!!

    Oh, by the way, the ex- won’t sign for passports for my daughters….reason being…. “I’m afraid that something will happen since we are at war with Iraq.” We were planning a family trip to Germany to a military base to stay with my sister and her husband who is a high ranking officer. My daugherts response…..”Since when are we at war with Germany?” I think he IS like the other mother that was on the show that didn’t teach her children life skills or trust.

  57. Sinnerviewer September 30, 2008 at 11:13 pm #

    Thank goodness someone is teachiing their child some life skills. So many of my friends have teenagers who can’t even make a simple meal, buy their own gas or follow directions. They are helpless without their mommies and their mommies LOVE being needed.

    I implore you over-protective mothers to ask yourself if your need to be needed is worth crippling your child? Because they aren’t that cute when they’re 25, still living at home with no job and whining for you to wash their dirty clothes. It’s disgusting.

  58. Cindy Bosch October 1, 2008 at 12:43 am #

    I think you are fabulous. I did not watch your show but a co worker told me about it because you reminded her of me. I live in a town of over protective moms many of whom are my friends. I constantly feel like I am a bad mother for allowing my daughter to even play outside without sitting out there with her. I don’t feel I need to watch her every step of her life. Friends come over a reprimand me because, “it is a different time now then when we were kids”. So thank you so much for making my day with your website and now I know that I am not the only one trying to raise a strong, responsible, and knowledgeable kid.

  59. Rebecca October 1, 2008 at 2:42 am #

    As a single parent of a 12 year old girl, I have typically given my daughter more freedom than her peers have received. This approach to parenting, for me, is mainly out of neccessity (In addition to being a single parent, I’m also a graduate student who can’t always control her schedule).
    I sometimes wonder, if not for our circumstances, would I be a ‘helicopter parent’? Unfortunately I think the answer is yes. In part this would be because I’m a worrier and I can see myself overprotecting my daughter in an effort to ease my own fears. However, it would also be in part because of the opinions and judgements of others. I am constantly defending my parenting decisions to others.
    Fortunately for my daughter’s future happiness, sometimes there is no alternative to her taking on more responsibility. For example, when my daughter was 9 (closer to 10 really) she started coming home to an empty house a couple of times a week (she had taken a ‘home alone’ course which provided excellent safety information and some basic first aid training…and I was always home within 30 minutes…and we live in a sleepy little small town…and I’m always reachable by phone). The parents of her friends were almost unanimously appalled at this decision. I had people warning me of all the bad things that could happen (not that I needed warning because I worried constantly) and urging me to reconsider. I had to keep reminding myself that I was a ‘latch key’ kid from the age of 7 and that I really enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time alone.
    Almost 3 years later my daughter has not fallen victim to any of the ‘bad things’ people were so quick to warn me about and now spends a few hours a few times a week on her own. She follows the rules (as far as I know at least!) and has no fears about being alone (unlike some of her friends who are now finding themselves home alone afterschool). Although this is not the only, or the most, controversial decision I’ve made in my parenting life, it has given me confidence that my decisions will contribute to my daughter growing up to be a capable, responsible person.
    On another note, I wanted to comment on the pedophile fears people raised in response to allowing a child to walk/ride the subway or bus home. Yes, there are scary people out there that can do bad things, but the majority of molestors are known to their victims. I would honestly be more worried about leaving my child in the care of a babysitter who would have the opportunity to ‘groom’ my child than I am about someone abusing her on her way home from the bus stop.
    The world can be a dangerous and scary place. I’d rather have my daughter learn how to deal with this world than send her out there at 18 without any real life experience. I give her the tools (including knowledge) she needs to take on each new responsibility and we evaluate her skills along the way. She knows I trust and have confidence in her and this, in my opinion, is the best gift I have ever given her.

  60. Jenny October 1, 2008 at 2:45 am #

    Hey! I love your blog! I also appreciate that there are actually people in the world that trust a mother’s intuition! Seriously, thank you!

  61. DeeDee October 1, 2008 at 3:03 am #

    Passing this on about a coworker I was chatting with during lunch. She’d been asked with horror by another mom “You let your child play in your YARD???” She answers “Yeah…” Mind you, this is a smart, no-nonsense woman, and this was her fenced BACK yard. So a few weeks later she runs across the other mom in a major retailer buying for her son…wait for it…Grand Theft Auto IV. My coworker just gave her a raised eyebrow and the other mom sort of scurried away, head down.
    So…it’s questionable to let your kids play in your OWN backyard…but okay to let them practice murder and robbery in your own living room?
    Somebody’s out of whack here, and it’s not my coworker.

  62. liz October 1, 2008 at 4:48 am #

    Thanks for your site. People act like I’m crazy because I let my 13- (almost 14-) year-old go places on his bike or skateboard instead of driving him everywhere, and because we let him stay at home by himself on occasion. Of course we have reviewed safety rules, and of course we revoke privileges when he’s not where he’s supposed to be at any given time. But how is he going to cope with life if he can’t even cope with skating over to a friend’s house in broad daylight in our safe neighborhood? And he has the safeguard I didn’t have as a kid: a cell phone in his pocket.

  63. Trisch October 1, 2008 at 4:59 am #

    Until I saw the whole “free range” thing brought up on Dr. Phil, I had know idea that there was a name for how I viewed child rearing! I let my 10 year stay home alone if I need to go to the grocery store, and I let him watch my 3 year old if I just have to run a quick errand to the bank or post office. Alot of people think I’m crazy that I think the kids should go outside and get the stink off them! I think kids have to explore in order to know who they are and what they’re made of… at least now I know there’s a forum where, if I have a question, I can count on like-minded parents to chime in.

  64. Stephanie C. October 1, 2008 at 5:25 am #

    Just wanted to say I just finished watching Dr. Phil and wanted to say THANK YOU for making this sort of ideaology available to the public. I hope that over protective moms out there can take a step back and look at their parenting style and hopefully realize the damage they may be causing to their child.
    I think letting your son ride the subway alone was a good idea in your situation and in no way makes you a “bad mom”. Nobody knows your child like you do, and it’s obvious he was more than capable of finding his way around the city and back home. I mean it’s NYC for pete’s sake, there is probably a police officer around every corner for him to talk to if he would have gotten lost, or something had happened.
    I just wanted to thank you for making this blog available to the public, I hope it erases the bad stigma some people have against us parents who don’t hover over their kid’s every move.

  65. Annette October 1, 2008 at 5:42 am #

    I totally agree with you. My kids have a lot more freedom than some of their friends, but I believe that they need freedom to be able to make intelligent choices in life. The freedom must be age appropriate (I would not let my 5 yr old take the bus alone), but my older kids were allowed to be home alone from age 10 on (started off with short periods with longer periods as they got older). I have friends that I grew up with that were not allowed to make any of their own decisions, so they never learned to think for themselves – they are the kids who got into trouble. If you teach your child how to handle themselves in situations, and give them the chance to experience those situations, they will be much more ready to handle what life throws at them.

  66. suzi October 1, 2008 at 6:56 am #

    I LOVE this idea! I live in Aruba and my youngest child ,who is 9, scuba dives 40 feet! I have raised my children to be independent. How will a chlid ever develope self esteem? Be leaders? follow their dreams? It is so sad that there are so many screwed up adults with their own anxiety, fears and low self esteem and then pass it on to their children. Hats off to the parents raising strong, independent, young men and women..

  67. ebohlman October 1, 2008 at 11:01 am #

    I have a copy of a rather old (18 years or so) book called If it ain’t broke, break it written by a sports psychologist (Robert Kriegel) who attempts to apply his insight from working with athletes to business managment. One of the biggest points he made is that people who are publicly perceived as “daredevils” are in fact very cautious people. They take risks, but they don’t take chances.

    Although Lenore may come across as a “daredevil” parent, in reality she’s a careful (as opposed to fearful) parent. She really did her homework before she let her son ride the subway. She actually looked at objective crime statistics (as opposed to news reports and Lifetime TV Specials) and concluded that her son was at negligible risk.of being abducted or molested (of course, she also specifically evaluated her son’s ability to handle novel situations).

    I’d like to try a less emotionally-loaded example of the difference between being careful and being fearful. Consider home fire safety. Careful parents would make sure that both they and their kids knew what fire hazards were and how not to create them. They’d make sure that they had workable escape routes in the event of a fire, and that all the family members knew how to use them. And then they’d go to sleep each night without worrying about a fire.

    Fearful parents, on the other hand, would really lose sleep over the possibility of the house catching on fire. Super-fearful parents would sleep in shifts, so that there was at least one adult awake at any time of the night. Yet they probably wouldn’t have taken any of the precautions that the careful parents did. Their kids would be more, not less, endangered than the kids of parents who didn’t obsess over danger.

    It’s easy to look at highly specific risks and try to minimize them while ignoring overall risks and in fact inadverntantly maximizing them. If you choose to drive 3000 miles with your kids, rather than flying with them, you’ve guaranteed that they won’t be killed in a plane crash. But you’ve substantialliy increased the chance that they’d be killed in a car crash (most people who would consider driving 3000 miles don’t allow anywhere near enough time to make the trip safely). If you try to minimize the risk of your kids getting kidnapped when they’re under 10, you might in fact be raising the much greater (but still pretty low) risk that they’d be kidnapped as teenagers (lack of street-smarts). Kids are at least 3 times more likely to be sexually abused by someone involved in a structured program they’re participating in than by a stranger during unstructured outdoor play (for child sexual abuse, something like 70% of the perpetrators are in a relationship of authority to the kid, 25% trusted non-authority adults (relatives, family friends) and 5% Mister Stranger Danger; the kids at most at risk are teenage girls who hang around with older boys).

  68. Gurl Heroin October 1, 2008 at 11:34 am #

    Congrats!

    It is crazy that in one generation (as a kid I used to be playing hide and seek til dark in the neighbourhood! wow!) we have locked down our children! (we are just now preparing our 10 year old to walk to school 4 blocks away on her own without us, and we are considered mavericks!)

    We need to trust our kids and trust the majority of the population after arming our kids with safety rules and then believing in how we have brought them up!

    You have provided a great example and impetus for (hopefully!) millions of caged in kids!

  69. Loriann Zello October 1, 2008 at 11:47 am #

    Hi, I very much believe that the ultimate goal of parenting is to work yourself out of a job. I want my kids to not need me when they’re adults, except for encouragememt, advice or moral support. I think kids need to learn to take care of themselves.

    I never taught my kids stranger danger. I teach my kids stranger safety. i think it’s important that my kids learn to trust other adults around them. I’m not always there and they need to know that not everyone is out to get them. I’ve taught my kids that when they need help or get lost that they should ask someone with a child for help( a mom) I’ve also taught my kids to trust their intuition and that it’s okay to err on the side of caution. If something or someone makes them feel uncomfortable, then they need to listen to that voice.

    I also believe in natural consequences. If my child asks for a special lunch, I remind the child to take the lunch and the lunch is forgotten, then the child can go through the lunch line. Same with homework. After about second grade, if homework is left at home, it stays at home and the child receives whatever penalty results in that. With my oldest, that happened one time before he became more mindful of where his homework was.

    I also don’t have my kids in a bunch of extra curriculars. They come home from school, do their homework, have a snack, then they play with each other, ride bikes, shoot hoops, or whatever. it does my heart good, to see my daughter and her friends playing dolls on our front porch, very much like i did at her age.

    It is hard though, having a chronically ill child and knowing where to draw the line. we’ve learned over the past few years with our son to let him take the lead and we don’t treat him like he’s sick. When he’s absent, he makes up the work and he gets disciplined and treated the same as his brother and sister. I love my kids so much it hurts. I feel like freedom and learning to live in the world is one of the best gifts I can give them.
    Loriann

  70. eni October 2, 2008 at 12:42 am #

    I get so excited every time I come back here and see how few comments there are against this point of view. Maybe there is hope! I don’t think I need to dig up more anecdotes than I already have, but I wanted to respond to your comment:

    “Since when did crawling become so extremely dangerous you needed padding?”

    Keep in mind that this is more about making money than keeping babies safe. As you can probably tell by all the infomercials- and just plain commercials- people will come up with the weirdest, dumbest things just to make some money. They are capitalizing on this fear that many mothers have, that their babies will get hurt- but of course in some cases they are only creating a fear that did not exist before. “If this product exists, it must be necessary, and I’m a bad mother for not having it.” Not necessarily….

  71. Kate October 2, 2008 at 2:30 am #

    Right on. I call a lot of the over the top baby stuff now a days: “Baby Propoganda”.

  72. julie October 2, 2008 at 5:51 am #

    I disagree with letting a child of 9 ride the subway alone and just call when he gets to his destination. I agree with venturing out to local neighborhoods with a cell phone in his pocket. My husband and the other 6 kids in his family were molested. Half were by family and the other half were by Marines on the Marine base where they were allowed to be free range roamers. Why put your child in harms way? I realize that you have to have a healthy dialogue and balance and education your child on the evils of the world. It’s a balance beam you are walking. It’s an individual choice. I choose to be a little more protective but I am taking my daughter to ride the train to SF and stay in a hostel to show her how to be independent but I would never let her do it alone at such a young age. Kudos to you for being brave enough to do it. I hope nothing bad happens.

  73. JDF October 2, 2008 at 10:07 am #

    You rock; good for you for standing up for your convictions! For those who believe Lenore doesn’t deserve to be a mother, get over yourselves!

  74. Andrew October 2, 2008 at 11:36 pm #

    I find it incredibly sad to witness how increasingly paranoid the world has gotten, especially since 9/11. It is as if all reason has been abandoned, and even perfectly logical people are convinced that around every corner is a rapist/kidnapper/mugger, every Muslim in an airport is planning to blow a plane up.
    And I am sick and tired of our government and our media telling us we should be scared senseless. We are told to believe that terrorists are ready to strike any minute, creepy men are driving around in vans just waiting to snatch up our children (Energizer ad, anyone), and that we can’t trust anyone.
    In reality, you’re twice as likely to be crushed under a vending machine than to die in a terrorist attack. The odds of your child getting abducted are also quite low-certainly lower than the odds of a car accident, sports injury. Statistically, the best way to reduce the odds of your child getting kidnapped is to avoid a crazy-ex situation-the majority of kidnappings are by an acquaintance, usually related to a custody battle. So, if you can keep your relationship together, you’ll reduce the odds of your child getting kidnapped, and provide all those benefits of having a stable two parent home.

  75. Jeannie Phillips October 3, 2008 at 4:36 am #

    Thank God!!!! I thought I was the only one who felt this way. Your son is so lucky that you gave him the Bloomingdale travel experience. When our son was 9, we let him take the underground (subway) system in London to travel from our hotel to Leiscester (sp) Square to see a movie. You see, he didn’t want to go to the museum my husband and I planned to visit. We went to the station together, he showed us his plans for the trip on a map. We gave him money and he had a cell phone in case he had any questions that the locals couldn’t help him with or he just needed to touch base. He was fine and felt so good about himself and his experience. Now, at 13, he can run a small errand at the grocery store on his bike, go to a friends house alone, go to camp overseas for three weeks on his own. Independence is an incredible gift. You go girl!!!

  76. elizabeth October 3, 2008 at 12:34 pm #

    I was really interested in your experiment and your point of view on the Dr. Phil show. One point I think your critics are choosing to ignore is that I’m sure you were not at home, sipping a mimosa and doing a crossword. You did your homework and prepared your child, and made a carefully calculated decision with your husband about what to do, and I’m sure you were thinking of him the entire time.
    I really appreciated the point Dr. Phil made about helicopter moms teaching their children that they are inadequate and unable to take care of themselves. Living life makes you stronger, just like catching a flu bug builds your resistance.
    Dr. Phil recently did a show about preparing for the unexpected, and helicopter moms are in denial that the unexpected can happen.

  77. Mandy October 3, 2008 at 5:04 pm #

    I love this site and have had it bookmarked since its inception… interesting that you are discussing this topic of safety right now… I am having a lively discussion in a chat board regarding the reaction of one mother to a child I was caring for sucking on ice cubes. Interesting reactions, and one particularly ridiculous anti-choking item are included if anyone cares to check out the discussion…

    http://www.lab-retriever.net/board/letting-five-year-t7302799.html

  78. mary October 3, 2008 at 11:04 pm #

    I think there is a happy medium here folks. Somewhere between not letting your 9 yr old child play out in your own neighborhood and letting him ride the subway alone in a huge city. That is absurd. Children at the age of 9 are not mature enough to handle any number of possible situations that could occur in the city/on a subway. You are lucky nothing happened on his trip. There are laws about leaving minors alone for a reason. I for one don’t gamble when it comes to my child’s safety.

  79. joseph October 4, 2008 at 2:47 am #

    Mary,

    Children grow up as fast as people let them, so if a nine year old is told that all he or she is able to do is sit at home under the watchful eye of mommy and play with their toys ( all without sharp edges or swallowable parts mind you ) then sit at home like an invalid is what they will do.

    If instead, they are allowed to be a person, with all the pitfalls and all the peaks, then that is what they will do. and they will be better off for it, as they are able to provide for themselves and others.

    by saying you don’t think a nine year old is mature enough to read a map or get help from a grown up in case of an emergency, you are showing YOUR lack of maturity.

  80. Uly October 5, 2008 at 12:59 pm #

    Mary, I do not believe you happen to live in NYC.

    In two years – or less, I don’t know what grade her son is in – he’s going to be given a free or reduced metrocard and told to get to school using public transportation.

    And at that point he’ll largely be doing it on his own. Nobody takes their sixth grader to the door of the school after the first day. It’s absurd.

    If your kid can’t manage the trains – which are about as idiot-proof as you can get, honestly – you’ve got problems.

  81. Julie October 5, 2008 at 1:38 pm #

    Thought you might enjoy checking out our blog.

    –Julie

  82. Julie October 5, 2008 at 1:39 pm #

    http://www.rationalmoms.com

  83. YouSoSpecial October 7, 2008 at 12:33 am #

    I haven’t read the site or the comments, and I saw only a glimpse of the Dr. Phil episode, but I wanted to come here and say thank you.

    As a mother I think it important to equip my son with the skills he needs to get by in the world. As an adult, I worry about the psychology of children who must have an adoring audience for every tiny accomplishment and a safety net for every minor adventure.

    But as a member of this culture, I am inhibited in expressing these desires and concerns by the dominant paradigm of helicopter motherhood. It’s not acceptable to talk about. So thank you for bringing it out in the open and creating support for both kids and moms who understand that a well prepared child in a familiar environment deserves to be off leash.

  84. Becky Owen October 7, 2008 at 3:48 am #

    We currently live in Germany and it has been wonderful to live in a country where people don’t treat children like helpless babies. They leave their kids in the car if they have to run into the bank or the store. They let them ride bikes, walk to parks, ride public transportation, go to the store, and even watch movies by themselves in IKEA while their parents shop (ages 6 and up). In short–it reminds me of my childhood.

    Of course when I grew up (and I’m only 36!) there were a handful of tv channels, none of which were devoted to 24/7 news. Phones were plugged into walls instead of creating walls between parents and kids who are plugged into their world of texting, facebook and lattes. If I needed to go to the library, I walked the 3/4 mile to get there. I let my older girls (11 and 9) walk to the store to get milk, bread, fruit, etc. They can ride their bikes and the bus and they aren’t fluent in German. They just know how to read maps and ask for help!

    I’m not looking forward to moving back to the States where you can get arrested for leaving your kids in the car for 30 seconds while you run in to grab a cup of coffee at 7-11. Pandora’s Box has been opened and as long as big brother is hovering, and cable news is looking for ratings, I doubt we’ll be able to move fully back to the other end of the spectrum.

  85. Nico October 7, 2008 at 9:13 am #

    My mother let me and my sister roam far and wide as our legs would carry us on our bikes or as far as we could walk.

    I was taking solo bus trips on greyhound to the “big city” to see relatives when I was 11.

    I thanked her this weekend for raising a smart, fearless adult capable of managing life and life’s situations, as I notice that in my university classes now, some of my fellow classmates need an excessive amount of handholding through the term.

    Thanks mom, I said, for raising me to be a functional adult.

    Heck, my mom let us run loose despite there being a string of attempted abductions, we always roamed in packs, and were careful and well, noisy too. It wasn’t a huge fear she put in us. Just “be aware, and yell and run” she said.

  86. daytonsmom October 7, 2008 at 9:54 am #

    Are you people INSANE??? I swear if I ever see anyone of you on the news because your kids have been kidnapped or shot just being at the wrong place at the wrong time…I wont be remorseful. Because it will be your fault.. You had these kids so take care of them, if you wanted an adult you should have adopted not putting your children in danger. How in the hell are some of you not in jail for child neglect? This weekend my husbands friends step son was SHOT WALKING TO SCHOOL…You know the police said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. So, remember that when your 9 year old is on the subway you stupid people.

  87. jana October 8, 2008 at 5:17 am #

    Loved seeing you on Dr. Phil. Great job with your son!

  88. Petula October 9, 2008 at 1:02 am #

    I am in the middle of watching you on Dr. Phil (yes, it’s recorded. Thank God for DVRs!) and I stopped to check out your site. Awesome!

    You may some excellent points and I think one thing that most parents miss is the preparation. I remember doing the type of thing you’re talking about with my teenager (who’s 17) when she was a little younger than your son. Although I still get nervous about her being out and about I know she is well prepared. You should have been inside of my brain when she announced just the other day that she and a girlfriend were gonna get up and run in the morning before school! I guess I wasn’t prepared for what I’d already prepared her for. LOL. The girl’s dad kept calling them and ended up walking to meet them (it happened to be three girls who got together to run!) so I guess he’s the helicopter kind.

    I hope I can be as successful with my other three children (ages 4, 3 and 1)… Oh! and forgive this long comment, but the person who just commented about the stepson getting shot: If someone (say a parent) had been with them then they both would have gotten shot! DUH!

  89. industryfinest October 9, 2008 at 4:54 am #

    Keep up the good work with your Son!!

  90. Parantar October 13, 2008 at 2:56 pm #

    thanks for welcoming us! :)

  91. BMS October 14, 2008 at 11:33 pm #

    Daytonsmom, I’m sorry someone you knew got shot walking to school. But how is that the parents’ fault? Could he not have been shot just as easily with his parents standing next to him? My cousin was hit by a stray bullet from a gang fight that went through the door of her car! So what is the answer: never leave the house? Encase the kids in bullet proof vests morning to night? Or accept that we cannot control everything in the world, and we need to teach our kids the independence and self reliance to deal with what they can control?

  92. Miche October 17, 2008 at 11:38 am #

    I saw you on Dr. Phil and loved you! (BTW, I only caught the show because I was on vacay- I never watch tv at home.)

    As a parent who let my child pilot a plane at 12, start college at 16 and taught both girls to question all authority so they can be their own, let me say thank you.

  93. Uly October 18, 2008 at 8:20 am #

    Not many people get shot on the subway, dayton’s mom. Bullets ricochet, and I don’t know many people foolish enough to bring guns to that environment.

  94. muskaan January 22, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    plz can u tel me that
    a walking chlid is more of a problem than a crawling child?
    prove that………….
    plz i want to knw
    rep me sooooooon

  95. Morgan March 8, 2011 at 8:21 am #

    I have never commented on a blog before, but I just felt like I really should. I just recently saw the dr. Phil show, and I am a girl who suffered from being sexually abused from a stranger. I’m 21 now, but I was 10 at the time this happened. My situation happened in a heavily populated hotel, and I was most certainly aware of strangers and harms. I just want all you parents to know that it was a horrible experience, and I wish my parents hadn’t given us that sort of freedom at the time. I has always said nothing like that would ever happen to me, but that day I learned to never say never.

  96. Janesa April 10, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    Mico1O Real brain power on display. Thanks for that answer!

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