Dr. Phil Going Free-Range!

Or rhkyhyytey
at least his show is looking into it tomorrow (Tuesday).
Check it out! He even gets the capitalization and punctuation of “Free-Range” right! Of course, the idea that Free-Rangers may be “under-involved” in their children’s lives is something we heartily dispute, but  I have a feeling Dr. Phil will, too. When I was on his show last year he seemed very much on the side of fostering independence. I’m not on the show tomorrow but I’ve got high hopes. We are movin’ into the mainstream! — Lenore

New Parenting Styles

Are you a parent who is over- or under-involved in your child’s life? Dr. Phil talks with a self-proclaimed over-protective mother, a Free-Range mother and two experts to help you find a happy balance while raising your kids. First up, you won’t believe what happened to Lori when she let her 10-year-old son walk to soccer practice by himself. Next, meet two moms with opposite parenting approaches: Kristen lets her kids walk to friends’ houses on their own and make their own mistakes, while Beckie says she can’t imagine letting her kids walk around the neighborhood or even to the school playground unattended. Find out what Dr. Phil has to say about these parenting styles. Then, Linda Murray, editor-in-chief of BabyCenter.com and Dr. Michele Borba, a parenting educator and author, weigh in with the pros and cons of different parenting styles. And, Dr. Phil checks in with Teresa, who became known as America’s Most Over-Protective Mom. Find out if she and her daughter, Ashlee, who’s now 18, are getting along better.

38 Responses to Dr. Phil Going Free-Range!

  1. aDad January 5, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    It’s just a shame that parenting advice from “experts” seems always to be couched in the “pros” and “cons”.

    Are you doing it “right” or “wrong”? Find out if Dr. Phil thinks you’re screwing up your children’s lives, news at 11.

  2. LauraL January 5, 2010 at 11:17 am #

    hahah I was JUST coming to remind you of this! 😀

  3. LauraL January 5, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    forgot the box…

  4. Nicola January 5, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    The only problem is that he’s bringing together what he considers two ends of the spectrum. So – we’re considered “extreme.” I guess by definition of our over-paranoid society… we are. Ugh.

  5. HappyNat January 5, 2010 at 8:55 pm #

    I’d watch this if wacthing Dr. Phil didn’t make me want to stab my own eyes out with a fork.

  6. Dragonwolf January 5, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    Speaking of shows you’re on/about parenting, my husband and I were watching through a few seasons of Penn & Teller’s Bullsh*t and found the episode you were in (Season 6, “Stranger Danger” if anyone cares to watch it). My husband officially likes you now! 😀

    A little more on topic — @Nicola, Unfortunately, that kind of pitching is what sells and gets people to watch (then, of course, there’s the fact that to a lot of people, we indeed are extreme).

    You know, I wonder what would happen if we put you and Teresa (“America’s most over-protective mom”) in a room together or a day…

  7. Olivia O. January 5, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    I kinda think parents who are “under-involved” by the standards of parenting today are probably doing their kids a favor. Just my two cents.

  8. MFA Grad January 5, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

    Hmmm… the suggestion of putting Lenore and “America’s most over-protective mom” in the same room calls for only one thing: THUNDERDOME!

    And there’s my nerd reference for the day.

    Seriously, I’m with HappyNat – I’m curious to see the outcome of the show, but with very few exceptions (such as his amusing cameo on Fraiser), Dr. Phil usually makes me want to hit my own head with a brick. I’m also a bit skeptical that there will be an actual DISCUSSION about parenting styles and rational evaluations of risk according to individual circumstances – usually these things tend to degrade into a shouting match with lots of finger-pointing and nobody learns anything new. But I’d love to be wrong about that. 🙂

  9. ejly January 5, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

    @MFA Grad I’m LOL at the idea of a Thunderdome faceoff between a free-ranger and an over-protective mom. Thanks.

  10. Marion January 5, 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    Hmpf! The same Dr. Phil who chewed out the mom who threw her two bickering teenagers out of the car? (“Anything could’ve happened! It was lucky that she – the one kid who didn’t follow the car but walked away and got lost – was picked up by a Good Samaritan, but there are a lot of dangerous people out there!” He proclaimed)

    On an unrelated note, I just came across this story:


    A bike-thief in Denmark stole a cargo-bike which turned out to have three sleeping children in it. He woke the kids, asked where he lived and returned them home. He was then arrested for theft. Turns out that this sometimes does happen (that bike or car thieves accidently steal a ride with kids in them) and they ALWAYS return the kids home.

  11. Jen Connelly January 5, 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    2 moms enter, 1 mom leaves, lol
    I’m going to be giggling about that all day.
    I can’t stand Dr. Phil or any of the talk shows. Wanting to gouge my eyes out is an understatement.

    And I sort of agree with Olivia…what society considers “under-involved” is probably a good balance for most kids. Unfortunately my most it’s considered down right neglect. Because I don’t get up at the butt-crack of dawn to make a hearty, hot breakfast for my kids every morning and let them just pour the cereal themselves I’m considered lazy and neglectful because I should be sacrificing everything I am and doing everything perfect for my kids because only the very best is “good enough” (recently read a debate like this on a parenting site…made me ill). Why should I have to get up when they are perfectly capable of getting their own breakfast, and they happen to like cereal (today I made them scrambled eggs and toast because we were out of cereal and only had 4 pieces of bread left…one for each kid).
    I get slammed because I don’t think I have to spend every waking moment of our lives with my kids. They have their lives and I have mine. They do their thing most of the time and come to me when they want/need attention and I do my thing. I would go insane, literally, if I had to spend the entire day with my kids and so would they. they need their space and time to themselves and I sure as heck need to be locked in my room for part of the day before my head explodes from the noise and chaos of 4 kids and a husband.

  12. LauraL January 5, 2010 at 11:39 pm #

    @Jen Connelly, I’m with you! My mom told me some years ago that she regretted not teaching my sister and I more in the kitchen – that she felt it was more important that we be out and playing and not worrying about mundane things like cooking when we were kids.

    That looks at this whole thing crossways! One, that we were off playing with friends all afternoon and evening until dinnertime when she’d call us in (We were three properties and a field away); Two, that she felt she hadn’t taught us enough on how to take care of ourselves. Interesting dichotomy.

    Of course, we’re both just fine in the kitchen. Eventually we taught ourselves or she did teach us the basics, anyway – she doesn’t it see it like that, lol!

  13. MFA Grad January 6, 2010 at 12:05 am #

    Oh, it just warms my little nerdy heart to see that the Thunderdome references are still recognizable here.

    @ Jen Connelly – good for you for not “sacrificing everything [you are] and doing everything perfect for [your] kids.” You’re not neglecting your kids, you’re taking care of them AND showing them by example that they are not the center of the universe and that they can take care of themselves. You had a life before you had them, and although parenting is now a very large part of your life, it does not mean you have to give up your independent self to cater to their every need – how else are they going to learn independence? My mother was the same way – I knew she was there for me when I really needed her and that she cared for me, and the security provided by that knowledge gave me the courage to try things on my own and helped me grow into self-sufficient adult; I’m sure your kids will feel the same way. Besides, how can you take care of anyone else if you’re not taking care of yourself? Don’t let the naysayers get you down – sounds like you’re doing a great job.

  14. Nancy January 6, 2010 at 12:17 am #

    You know, the fact that they said you won’t believe what happened to what’s her name’s kid when he walked to soccer practice scares me. If it’s something truly awful……. well guess which momma’s gonna win the battle?

  15. Nancy January 6, 2010 at 12:19 am #

    Oh wait… nevermind… Lori’s kid walking to soccer practice resulted in the police being involved.

    Does it seem to anyone else that certain neighborhoods are more freerange than others? Because I see kids walking by themselves, or skateboarding, or riding bikes in my hood pretty regularly, and I do live IN Minneapolis, not a suburb (but a relatively nice part therein).

  16. Sky January 6, 2010 at 12:37 am #

    “Unfortunately my most it’s considered down right neglect. Because I don’t get up at the butt-crack of dawn to make a hearty, hot breakfast for my kids every morning and let them just pour the cereal themselves I’m considered lazy and neglectful”

    I’m curious–WHO considers you lazy and neglectful for THAT? Have people really suggested that to you? I’ve never been called either by anyone for letting my kids make their own cereal in the morning. My 6 year old does sometimes make herself a “hot breakfast” also – oatmeal in the microwave (I wouldn’t let her boil/pour boiling water at this age.) Usually when I tell people I do that they say something more like, “Oh, I should try that. I never really thought of having them do it themselves…”

  17. Jenne January 6, 2010 at 1:29 am #

    Underinvolved parents are the ones that aren’t there when their kids clearly need them– like talking to the school about bullies, like helping with homework (or enforcing doing the homework), like keeping track of money needed for school trips, getting the kids to the doctor when they need it, taking the kids’ problems seriously. That’s *under* involved.

    Overinvolved parents can also be underinvolved– not teaching your child to do the basic tasks they need to survive, like cooking and feeding themselves, doing laundry, walking/biking to errands– that’s underinvolved.

    Free range is not laziness; it requires helping your children learn skills to manage on their own; and believe me teaching your kid to make ramen for a snack is more trouble than just making it.

  18. LauraL January 6, 2010 at 1:32 am #

    Did anyone watch “Desperate Housewives” on Sunday night? Lynette’s got a medical emergency with one of her in-utero twins and imagines life with a disabled child.

    In one of her scenarios, she expects him to take care of himself. Feed himself. He is capable, and just because he’s got to use a crutch doesn’t mean she has to drop everything to make lunch for him. And he does it. With pride in the end.

  19. Brian January 6, 2010 at 2:44 am #

    LauraL – that’s an interesting analogy – comparing children to disabled adults.

    I remember hearing a story about a soldier who came home from Vietnam missing his right arm. The nurse asked him if he wanted a cigarette, and when he said yes, the nurse threw him a pack of cigs. No instructions, no assistance.

    Eventually, he gets the pack open takes out a cigarette and then asks for a light. Nurse tosses him a pack of matches.

    The soldier who recounted this story (and it may have been exaggerated) expressed pride that he was able to figure it out and get his own needs met. He described the moment as where he stopped pitying himself and decided that he needed to be able to handle whatever his new life was going to throw his way.

    I’m frequently torn between how much I require my kids to do (do the have to have a sport every semester? a musical instrument) and how much I let them pick (guess how many hours of TV and video games they would choose if allowed). But I never ever doubt that my job is to make sure that they have all of the emotional, intellectual and physical skills necessary to survive without me. I figure that if I can get that done by the time they reach their 18th birthday, then I can, in good conscience, kick them out if they turn into the surly, impossible to be around 18 year old that I surely was.

  20. Dona January 6, 2010 at 3:18 am #

    Hi Lenore,

    You’re going mainstream alright. You’re even mentioned in the Toronto Star today. Here’s the link: http://www.parentcentral.ca/parent/newsfeatures/article/745862–parenting-trends-hot-news-from-the-home-front

    Happy new year!

  21. Kevin V Russell January 6, 2010 at 7:25 am #

    I just heard Lenore on the wireless in Australia, I was very impressed and just had to come visit the website. The level of paranoia which is fed by the media is just disgusting. Why when I were a lad, it was nothing for us to come home from school and play for hours out on the street or the house of a friend with no parents in sight. I was a latch key kid from a very early age and I can tell you I haven’t suffered as a result. If anything, it made me much more self reliant. The future is bleak if we continue down the path of taking control of kids lives away from them.

  22. bequirox January 6, 2010 at 7:52 am #

    So how was the show? I missed it.

  23. Jen Connelly January 6, 2010 at 8:54 am #


    Yes I have been called lazy, neglectful and selfish because I expect my kids to do for themselves the things they can (like get their own food, clean up after themselves, do their own laundry, etc).
    They consider that the mom’s “job” and no kid should have to do those things and only selfish moms make their kids do it. Never mind I don’t “make” my kids do it. They like to be independent. Well, I do make them do their laundry but they don’t really mind, they just don’t always want to do it when I want them to.

    My 9yo has started making instant oatmeal in the microwave. I’ve discouraged it until now because it tends to boil over all over the microwave (I do it all the time myself) but she figured out how to watch and when it started to overtake the edges to stop the time. She makes 4 packs, one for her and each of her siblings.

    My 3yo made toast the other day. I reminded her to turn it to 1 and that it would be hot when it came out. She came in to tell me that she burnt her finger (only slightly…no mark or anything) on her toast. I told her to wait a minute and try again and to be careful not to touch the metal. She got her toast, put peanut butter on it and was happy and proud she did it herself. (setting 1on our toaster just barely crisps the bread and it doesn’t get really hot).

    I was also told that allowing kids to play outside unsupervised is lazy and selfish because we should drop everything to be with our kids at all times. I just don’t understand how those women function. When do they find time to do everything if they spend every waking moment entertaining their children. I would just go insane if I had to spend that much time with my kids.

    Basically, my style of parenting is just plain lazy and selfish because I don’t want to do everything for my kids and protect them from everything. There was just a topic started about that quote about not child-proofing the world but world-proofing the child.

    Most of the people agreed but there is always at least one (usually numerous women) that say if you don’t child proof and protect your child from every injury you are lazy and selfish because we’re not doing the “best” for our kids.

    I responded with “it’s not my job to protect my children from every potential hurt or injury; it is my job to prepare them to be adults some day and leave the house and my protection.”

  24. Lisa Zahn January 6, 2010 at 9:12 am #

    Saw the show and it was okay. Dr. Phil did a good job with the free-ranger whose kid was stopped by the cop. Not so good with the mom that lets her kids walk 9 minutes to their friend’s house and doesn’t call to make sure they got there. I mean, she called before she sent them out, so I’m assuming the other parent knows to call if they don’t show up. sheesh! How many checks and balances do we need?

    It’s great to see Free Range out there, but they still think it’s extreme and that those who espouse Free Range are letting their kids do whatever they want…

  25. Steve January 6, 2010 at 9:22 am #

    Hi Lenore!

    I’m glad that your movement to raise kids free range is attracting more attention and raising awareness that you do not have to helicoper parent your kids.

  26. Gail January 6, 2010 at 10:40 am #

    After reading Jenne’s post, I’d like to suggest a new term: differently-involved. Neither under- nor over-involved, simply choosing different things to focus on.

  27. Alison January 6, 2010 at 12:42 pm #

    You better believe it re: the breakfast issue. I was told that letting my children make their own breakfast (at the ages of 9 and 7) was “unmotherly”. To my face!

    I replied, very politely considering the nature of the insult, that I thought it was very motherly of me to teach them to look after themselves so that one day they could be independent adults.

  28. Stassja January 6, 2010 at 1:08 pm #

    I hate when he does these types of shows as some way of contrast/comparing two things, when they always pull the most extreme people and the majority of us that subscribe to either side are horribly mis-represented.

  29. LauraL January 6, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    I felt the show was shown that while there are some extremists, the majority of parents are falling somewhere between the two.

  30. frances January 6, 2010 at 8:59 pm #

    Funny story. My ex boyfriend was on Dr. Phil two weeks ago because his soon to be MIL thinks he’s a mooch! I dies laughing, but was impressed on how objective Dr. Phil actually was. I think beyond his showmanship (which is necessary for a good show) he is pretty fair.

    That being said, I am interested in seeing how this is played out.

  31. BMS January 6, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    I had a conversation with the parent of one of my second grader’s classmates that revealed for me the gap in thinking between ‘normal’ and ‘free range’. He was floored, jaw dropping on the floor, when I told him that my second grader often made his own lunches. Quote:” You mean he gets out the bread..and the peanut butter…and makes a sandwich?” This was just a total revelation to him. Kids can do things for themselves – a radical idea. I went on to say that he also swiffers the floor, does laundry, runs the dishwasher, etc. The guy just could not believe it. The idea of NOT doing everything for his kids just simply did not occur to him, at all. How totally sad.

  32. Lori January 6, 2010 at 10:28 pm #

    Hi all you free-rangers! Glad you watched the show. I thought Dr. Phil was fair. Not perfect, but pretty balanced. And, I would love the idea of putting Lenore and Ashlee’s mom together. I’d watch it!

    My favorite story, that they alluded to but didn’t have me tell, was of my 8-year-old daughter cooking. I had left the two oldest at home while taking my youngest to her horseback riding lesson. On my way home, I called my children and asked what they wanted for dinner. My daughter offered to cook and I told her that she could help me when I got home.

    I walked in the door and found the table set (that was the big bonus – amazing what they will do when it’s their own idea and not me asking!), scrambled eggs cooked, ramen noodles cooked and green peas cooking on the stove. I was so impressed!

  33. Rich Wilson January 7, 2010 at 3:20 am #

    We’re all always learning and adjusting. I used to try to keep my 3 year old son from plugging things in. Nothing was going to stop him from plugging in the Christmas tree, so instead I taught him how to make sure he doesn’t touch the metal prongs when he does. I’ve watched him since, and he’s always extremely careful about not touching the metal.

    I can’t watch the show, but I just saw the ‘gasoline fillup’ clip. Nicely done Lori. I think cooking is a great skill to teach kids. I scrambled eggs at 4, and ever since then whenever my mom wanted to remind me that I was capable of something, she’d bring it up. “If you could cook eggs at 4, you can do laundry at 12!” etc.

  34. Rich Wilson January 7, 2010 at 3:37 am #

    “You don’t know who your neighbors are. You could have a pedophile living two doors down from you. There are 40 sexual predators living within a 10-mile radius of our house. I’m beginning to wonder if our children are going to grow up here, or if we’re going to have to move away for safety,” Beckie says.

    Wow. First of all, know your neighbors! Second of all, where is she going to move to? Where is this mythical safe place she’s talking about?

  35. Dave January 7, 2010 at 4:43 am #

    Lenore I love the fact that Free-Range is going mainstream. It is a sign that you have struck a nerve and people are responding. Keep up the good work.

  36. Lori January 7, 2010 at 5:24 am #

    With no offense to Beckie, who is a really nice woman who had a bad experience in her childhood that made her overly cautious, 10 miles is a big radius. Where I live, a 10 – mile radius from my house would put me halfway to the next town in the middle of a field. My entire town would be covered.

    When I check the sexual offender database, I go out about a mile from my house. There are none in that area. I’ve checked.

  37. LauraL January 7, 2010 at 5:26 am #

    And beyond what Lori says, what are they on the list for? Are they pedophiles, or did they just get caught up in a stupid situation and they are not PREDATORS of any sort?


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