20 Responses to Home on the (Free) Range, Texas Style

  1. Bose in St. Peter MN January 31, 2015 at 11:13 pm #

    Does it jump out at anyone else that the station went looking for contrary perspectives, but could find only Facebook comments? No child development or parenting experts, because they couldn’t find any, or because even their concerns about free-range parenting would be more boring than over-the-top?

  2. tz January 31, 2015 at 11:18 pm #

    The link is to the generic, overall KYTX site, and either the article has been withdrawn or has fallen off the main list.

    Is there a more specific link? Or at least give a synopsis.

  3. twillis February 1, 2015 at 2:11 am #

    I am the one they interviewed.

    The correct link would be http://www.cbs19.tv/story/27989210/investigation-sparks-free-range-parenting-debate

    What happened is that the local news posted about that MD case, and was asking what people thought of it and also asking for people who were willing to talk about their parenting life, especially if they parented in that “free range” way. I contacted them and said I’d be happy to talk to them. I was, apparently, the only one willing to do so, I’m not sure what that means, but allow me to elaborate a bit, since I spoke way more than what you see, which shouldn’t be a surprise.

    I can say that you do see quite a bit of “helicopter” around here but you do see quite a bit of free-range as well. I see children in a local small city riding their bicycles on neighborhood roads, with no adults around. I’ve seen parents–oh my goodness–yes, leaving their children in the car for very quick post office & gas station errands. I even once observed a lady leaving her car RUNNING while she went to the ATM, but she also locked the doors and had a second key on her. At the same time, unfortunately, I also see things such as parents yelling at their children to stop running–in the PARK, which really saddens me. (If you can’t run in a park, where CAN you run?)

    We raise our children “free range” and have for just about the entire time we’ve had them. We live in a very rural type of area. As I said, our children are 5 & 7. I was letting them play together outside at home while I was inside in stretches starting when they were 2 and 4 years old. Understand–we live in the boonies and have a play area which is fenced-in, and I didn’t just one day toss them out there, I gradually worked my way up to it over the course of much of that year. I let them become muddy, in fact I’d ENCOURAGE it. The play area had a swing set, a Little Tykes slide, a shade tree, a grassy area, a “packed dirt” area, and a tire swing. They did just fine playing there, even playing with temps in the 40s and 90s (obviously, I would make sure they were properly dressed for the occasion and would periodically have them come inside to warm up or cool off as needed). They also did fine, upon waking up, simply finding a toy that was around, or a group of toys, and entertaining themselves until we got up. When our daughter was in Kindergarten, rather than my getting her up for school, I’d set an alarm clock in her room and get up about 10 minutes later expecting that she’d already be ready, and she was.

    The next year, our son was in pre-K, and I figured on them getting themselves up and ready (with her sort of leading the way as this was her 3rd year). They were totally ready, on-time, the very first day.

    To me, the idea is that you teach your children what they need to know and then you let them actually perform the task vs “hovering” over them. I often-times say it is not my job to do my children’s tasks for them, it is my job to teach them how to do them and then it’s their job to actually do it. (That goes for schoolwork as well.) Obviously how that looks in a practical sense is dependent on their age and abilities.

    To that end, I would see other parents holding their children’s hand while crossing the street. As normal as that sounds, I thought of something better–teaching them how to cross the street and then letting THEM do out. I was doing this around 2 and 4, again. I would start out doing so on smaller streets while still holding their hand on busier streets (again, I wasn’t going to expect them to handle busy streets from day one, you work your way up over time). I would say “stop” upon approaching the crossing and they’d stop, we’d look both ways as I was instructing them how to look for cars, and then it would clear up and I would say “okay, it’s clear, now GO” and right on command they’d take off.

    To me, that is a much better way than simply doing it for them and then yelling at them all the time, which is what many others parents I observe commonly do.

    I firmly believe in free-range parenting for several reasons. First, I believe the long-term goal is to, as others have said, make yourself obsolete. The older parents whining “my children don’t need me anymore,” I say to them “that should be a reason to celebrate, not a reason to be sad.” Your children aren’t SUPPOSED to need you as adults–sure they will value you and your counsel and such, but they shouldn’t NEED you. For them to NEED you as adults, I consider that unhealthy.

    Second, a child loves accomplishing things on their own, it increases their feelings of self-worth and their overall confidence in themselves. I told the news person of how our daughter had always worn life jackets in the water for safety, with us periodically instructing her on swimming without the life jacket under our watchful eye, but how she wore the life-jackets otherwise. One day, at age 5, at a hotel’s pool, she suddenly announced to us “I can swim without a life jacket, watch.” Upon making sure I was set to jump in the water if needed, I allowed her to go ahead. She easily navigated the deep end of the hotel pool, going across several times, without the life-jacket, and was doing just fine at it. Upon reaching the other side, her face would light up and she would say, loudly and proudly, “I made it!”

    As I told the news anchor person, to me that is far preferable to never letting a child venture into the water, even responsibly, and forbidding them from fully enjoying it. This is why, I said, I see 9-11 year-olds not allowed to jump off a pier, even with their parents nearby, and I see them frustrated and miserable. Compare that to what we were doing with our 5-year old daughter, and I think it’s clear which way is better.

    Third, with free range there’s a healthier balance between an adult being a parent and an adult also maintaining a sense of their own life even as they are good parents. As I explained to this person, growing up, our parents and aunt/uncles weren’t our entertainment, they simply facilitated the environment by providing the home and refreshments and having their own children around etc. Adults understood the need for having their own lives and interests APART from their children, and we children would play at the relative’s house while the adults sat around the porch and talked to each other, and they basically left us to our own devices, yet at the same time if we needed them they were certainly available.

    Compare that to now where the expectation is that your children have to be this close to you every single minute (that part made the video) or else you must not care for them–well I don’t agree with that standard, and not only is it counterproductive to the idea of a child having free, unstructured play, but it also imposes a life on the adults which, I think, is out of balance and unhealthy. We had our own particular hobbies and interests prior to our children, and we should still participate in those as much as we can, in a healthy way. Most of all, we were husband and wife first, and that relationship has to be cultivated, it can’t sit on the shelf for 18 years while the children receive all the attention, else that’s how people end up cheating, and it would also teach the children that it’s all about them. We are not supposed to eat & breathe our kids every last minute of the day, and the standard that says we should is just ridiculous.

    Also, to me, and in fact this is what I may well be the most passionate about–a parent should have just about absolute sovereignty with respect to these choices. Expect in the most extreme cases (say, leaving a 6 month old in the car for 5 hours while gambling or leaving a 2 year old home alone for 3 days etc), a parent should have the right to make these decisions THEMSELVES, with no interference from the government and certainly not from busy-bodies who disagree with that parenting style. I should not have to worry, or frankly care, what my neighbor thinks of my decisions. I should not have to dilute the level of freedom I give my children based solely on that others aren’t comfortable with it and want to impose their standards on my family.

    In fact, I will go so far as to say that I think it should be established as such in the law, even to the point that people who call or even merely threaten to call social services for seeing someone practice this style of parenting should be arrested for harassment of the parents and interference in their family. It is one thing to become involved if you see a child being beaten, or if a parent is addicted to drugs, or if the child is being left outside for hours during ice storms while barely clothed etc. It is also one thing simply to give your opinion, especially if you’re a close friend or the like.

    However, to involve one’s self and especially the government simply because a parent has decided to allow their child to walk home from the park or to wait in the car for 2 minutes while the mail is picked up, that is nothing less than a criminal-level of interference into a parent’s authority and the sanctity of the family structure, and it should be treated as a criminal offense. If I have to edit my parenting style based on such threats, then such people have done nothing less than kidnap my family in terms of how we work as a family, to subject our family to blackmail, to where we parent a certain way based on threats and duress, and that needs to be established as totally unacceptable. For our society to be that way is greatly wrong.

    I don’t know why the station could only manage to obtain comments from little-old-me. Maybe it’s because, again, you do see a certain amount of free-range around here, and to that end it’s so normal that maybe no one in this area sees free-range as “sweeping the nation” so much. In large cities, that may be the case. However, around here, while you do see some helicopter tendencies, you do see a certain amount of free-range as well. I see trampolines and swing-sets in yard all over the place, and I do see a fair amount of children simply playing among themselves.

    Heck, one small family down the road, their daughter was going to the same school as my daughter, was about the same age, and knew her, and I would periodically have this person watch my children for a bit so they could play. This person would actually leave her own children and ours outside among chickens, goats and small dogs and simply go in and out periodically while our children and her children just played among themselves. Practices like this tell me that, well, I don’t know that I’d say we’re totally free-range in the area, but there is a fair amount of it, and people don’t think of it as “free range,” but just normal living.

    I was happy to participate in their news article, as this is a passionate subject to me and I personally think Lenore Skenazy is just a wonderful ambassador for a most wonderful cause.

  4. BL February 1, 2015 at 5:25 am #

    “Free-Range just keeps looking more and more normal”

    So why is that newsblatherer calling it new and controversial? He’s old enough to have not-prematurely-gray hair. Surely he was allowed to venture past the driveway as a child?

  5. Mandy February 1, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

    Twillis, well-said!

  6. Edward February 1, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

    I nominate Mr. Twillis for Vice-Skenazy!
    Sounded like an acceptance speech to me.

  7. Reziac February 1, 2015 at 3:10 pm #

    Twillis, absolutely right across the board!

  8. no rest for the weary February 1, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

    I’m a big fan of yours, Mr. Free Range sample parent in the newscast.

    That whole “controversial parenting style becoming popular” thing is just so awkward to me. For goodness sakes, isn’t it just raising kids like people have been doing it around the world for the longest freaking time? Like since agriculture?

    I know things got so extreme in terms of societal expectations of supervision of young children that we needed a counteracting movement to bring the issue to light, but it still galls me that we have to have a movement at all, and that regular old “parents” have to identify themselves as “Free Range” parents to explain themselves.

    Still, yes, grateful that the Meitivs are continuing to provide a platform for folks all over to talk about this, and finally say, “Yeah, what’s the big deal?” to kids that age walking around and doing things out of their parents’ immediate view.

  9. twillis February 1, 2015 at 7:34 pm #

    Thanks for the “atta boys” and such. I never figured on being a “Vice Skenazy” though, ha ha.

    Like I said, I parent that way because I think it’s better for the children long term. I have always observed overprotected children as being miserable and frustrated due to what they rightly see as unnecessary restrictions and rules. Children are so proud of themselves when they accomplish something, and that is something which should be encouraged and helped along. Most of all, this is something that the government and strangers should totally butt out of. Except in obvious extreme instances, it should be solely up to the parents.

  10. Erica Kain February 1, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

    Twillis you’re terrific! Thank you for adding another note of sanity into this nutty debate.

    I live in a community with some extremely cloistered children, some of whom are not allowed to play in the front yard because of the feeling that they are under imminent threat from “predators.” After carefully considering the *actual risks* I think cloistering one’s children in our community is just ridiculous.

    I’m proud to buck the trend, and my dearest hope is that other parents will let their children be themselves, to explore and learn on their own just as we did as children, so that my kids will have others to play with and learn with in the community. It’s just difficult for the other parents to see past all of the “scary” stuff that gets played out in the media, and the (completely wrong) feeling that there are predators lurking around every corner. To my mind, it’s almost a form of narcissism…. “My child is so fantastic/cute/special that everyone WANTS HIM!”… wrong…..

  11. Thomas B. February 1, 2015 at 8:53 pm #

    Way back in the 1960s and 70s, sure, you could easily let your kids “run free”… but, that was 50 years ago.
    Times have changed, and although it was much safer and smaller world back then, too.
    Nowadays with regular kidnappings, child rape, bullying, it simply isn’t a smart, intelligent thing to do.
    As a parent you KNOW your primary task is to keep your child(ren) safe and sound.
    Unless it’s a few houses away or across the street, it’s just simply a bad idea.
    I hope something happens to those precious babies of yours so that you get the “wake-up call” you so desperately need with this “free-range” parenting phase you’re going through.
    Oh, and FYI, your kids aren’t poultry, either. It’s not “free-range”, it’s lazy parenting.

  12. Beth February 1, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

    @Thomas B, you know that crime (all crime, not just crimes against children) is at 1960’s levels right now, according to the FBI…right?

    And do you put your kids in the car? Because that’s a huge risk and it’s how most children get hurt and/or killed. So, since it’s your “primary task to keep your child(ren) safe and sound”, I’m guessing you walk everywhere. And if you don’t, then you have no right to tell anyone how to raise their children.

  13. ChicagoDad February 1, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    Thomas B,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Take a look around this site and read some of the archives–you might find some things that get you thinking.

    I disagree with you, though, because as a parent my primary task is to raise my children to be capable, resourceful, self-sufficient and moral adults. Part of that job is keeping them safe, and part of it is fostering their skills and instincts to keep themselves safe. And I’ll tell you, it is hard work!

    When you teach your kids how to cook a meal, it takes twice as long and makes twice the mess as just doing it yourself. The same principle applies to teaching them to thrive out in the world. It is easier, faster and less messy to just “keep them safe”, teaching them to be safe is harder at first, but gets easier as their skills develop.

    I knew kids who were taught to swim when their dads pushed them into the lake–that’s not free range, it’s irresponsible and it’s not what the articles on this site are about. There’s a difference between letting kids run wild, and empowering them to be independent and responsible. Don’t push kids into the lake unprepared, but don’t keep them out of the water either. Teach them to swim, and let them swim.

  14. JKP February 2, 2015 at 12:31 am #

    Why do people who have obviously not read anything on this topic come to this site to spout their ignorance? I wish new posters had to pass through a brief quiz with questions like “True or False: Rates of kidnapping, murder, and all crime in general is lower than it has been in 50 years.” “True or False: Children are more at risk of being abducted or molested by people they know than by strangers.” etc… Then if they pass the quiz demonstrating that they actually understand the facts, then they can post. Otherwise they are redirected to an FAQ to read first. Maybe that would force people to actually educate themselves on the topic before discussing it.

  15. sexhysteria February 2, 2015 at 3:58 am #

    @Thomas B. “I hope something happens to those precious babies of yours so that you get the “wake-up call” you so desperately need…”

    You hope something happens to those precious babies???

  16. MichaelF February 2, 2015 at 8:05 am #

    “Times have changed, and although it was much safer and smaller world back then, too.”

    Oh yeah, much better then when you had Jim Crow laws, Priest Child Sex abuse (basically going back a few hundred years), teachers allowed to hit kids not to mention religious schools were beatings were common, pandemics (influenza, plagues), work houses for the poor, debtors prisons, mass food poisonings before food safety laws.

    Just a little historical perspective there for ya!

  17. Jenny Islander February 2, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

    @ Thomas B.: Here are some more questions you can answer by reading here.

    1. Do you know what the top 5 dangers to children are off the top of your head?
    2. What, according to the best statistics currently available, are the top 5 causes of death to children in the United States?
    3. Were there any matches between the two lists you generated above?
    4. What did you miss?
    5. Have you taken precautions against the statistically confirmed dangers that you did not know were on the top 5? Can you identify these dangerous situations on sight? Please confirm this through research. (Hint: Drowning does not look like the drowning scenes on TV.)
    6. How prevalent are the dangers you listed off the top of your head, according to the best statistics we have? How do they compare to the chance of, for example, being struck by lightning from a clear sky?
    7. How much time and fear have you wasted on extremely unlikely possibilities?
    8. If you’ve made it this far through this questionnaire, are you beginning to understand what this site is for?

    Extra Credit: Why in the world would you wish death on human beings in order to teach other human beings a lesson about protecting those human beings from imaginary dangers?!

  18. Jessi February 2, 2015 at 5:54 pm #

    And in West Texas they’re suspending a child for playing lord of the rings and telling a friend the one ring could make him vanish, because “even magical threats must be taken seriously”.

  19. Jenny Islander February 3, 2015 at 3:30 am #

    @Jessi: In second grade, we went around pointing our fingers at each other and shouting “pew pew.” We also put one clenched fist on top of the other, turned our wrists from side to side, and made “vwooomp, vwooomp, p’chah-chaaahhhh” noises. And somehow, in some way, nobody ever felt frightened of our pretend blasters and pretend light sabers.

    Good grief! Aren’t there actual gravel-throwing or hatebook-publishing bullies these school administrators can go after?

  20. LF February 3, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

    I recommend that everyone look up the local laws in their state for this sort of thing. I found this while trying to make sure my husband and I do not get arrested and/or lose custody of his children for letting them bike/walk to the park. Unfortunately, it isn’t very clear on letting them be outside unattended, so we also called the local Police department to see how the react to these sorts of calls. We were told that as long as they were not causing a problem (throwing rocks at cars, ect) that they should be fine. If they are called, they have to investigate but that having the kid know where he lives, how to get home, who his parents are and how to get a hold of them is helpful.

    It is illegal in Texas to leave a child under 7 years old unattended in a vehicle for longer than 5 minutes. Children under 7 years old must be accompanied by an individual who is 14 years old or older, or you risk being fined up to $500 and investigated by Child Protective Services.

    NOTE: The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services recommends that you DO NOT leave your child alone for ANY period of time because serious injury, death and abduction can occur in a very short amount of time.


    How old does my child need to be to stay home alone?
    Answer: Texas law doesn’t say what age is old enough for a child to stay at home alone. However, adequate supervision is critical to keeping kids safe. An adult caregiver is accountable for the child’s care and inadequate supervision can be a type of neglect (neglectful supervision).

    Here are some of things you should think about when deciding how closely to supervise a child:
    How old, emotional mature, and capable is your child?
    What is the layout and safety of the home, play area, or other setting?
    What are the hazards and risks in the neighborhood?
    What is your child’s ability to respond to illness, fire, weather, or other types of emergencies?
    Does your child have a mental, physical, or medical disability?
    How many children are being left unsupervised?
    Do they know where you are?
    Can they contact you or other responsible adults?
    How long and how often is the child (or children) left alone?