Kudos to Parents Magazine (Yes! Parents Magazine!)


I was giving my Free-Range yeseehayhy
Kids talk
 at a suburban New York school the other night and one of the audience members kept smiling as I whipped through all the reasons we’re so afraid for our kids. This lady was clearly on my side — speakers are always gauging the audience, by the way — and then I found out who she was.

Chandra Turner.

Executive Editor of Parents Magazine.

Well, that made me gulp. Some of the props I bring on my talks are, well, let’s just say periodicals for people with children.  Maybe I poke fun at some of their articles and tips. Like the list of items one magazine suggested parents  take on a trip to visit relatives: a portable crib, baby monitor, stair gates, faucet covers, door handle covers, an inflatable tub, a night light and “plastic zip ties to secure cabinets.” Another mag gave this timeless advice for avoiding bug bites: “Bathe the kids before going out and try to keep them calm.” Have a fun summer!

But darned if Turner wasn’t laughing along. In fact, she seemed so game, I had her come up and play my child as I acted out the tips from a now-defunct parenting magazine’s “Hug How-To.” “Wrap your little one in both arms with chests touching….” (So THAT’S how you do it!)

She let me hug her, chest to chest, and the audience whooped. A few days later, a package arrived in the mail.

Parents Magazine. Two issues. With little Post-It tabs on them.

Open to the tab in the March issue and there’s a huge piece by Cara Birnbaum: How to Let Go of Your Fears (And Give Your Kid More Freedom)

The April issue has a huge article: “Gotcha! How Parent on Parent Tattle-Telling Has Spun Out of Control.”

Reading them was like reading this blog.

The “Let Go of Your Fears” piece actually quotes me talking about how the media has created our conviction that predators are everywhere. But the whole article sounds like everything we’ve been saying here for eight years: “Kids are living in a safer time than we were…so why are we so scared?” “Beginning with pregnancy, we …monitor our children’s every move.” “You could argue that all the hypervigilance is exactly why kids are safer today — except crime again adults is also down.” “Parks that were teeming with kids a generation ago feel eerily quiet…”

And the “Gotcha!” article running next month seems momentous, too, urging parents not to turn on other parents simply for letting their kids play outside, or wait in the car. Perhaps it is petty of me to point out that just a year ago Parents ran a 7-page opus on the dangers of letting your kid wait in the car. But perhaps it is also even more of a credit to Parents that it has done what looks like a U-Turn. Instead of urging worst-first thinking, they have cast their vote for rationality. The benefit of the doubt. Free-Range Kids.

This is a thrilling development for everyone who believed that the media was enslaved to fear-mongering.  It’s like when Macy’s Santa sent the mom to Gimbel’s. It’s like when the Democrats and Republicans both started saying we have to change the drug laws. At some point, things can change, dramatically and fast, for the better. At Parents, that point seems be right in front of our eyes.

Makes me want to hug ’em. – L


Hats off!

Hats off to Parents Magazine! 


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33 Responses to Kudos to Parents Magazine (Yes! Parents Magazine!)

  1. Workshop March 21, 2016 at 9:00 am #

    That’s great news. I hope the momentum can continue.

    A new tidbit for people to counter the “OMG PANIC!” people:

    A possibility is not necessarily a likelihood. And a likelihood is not necessarily a fact.

    As in, it is possible to win the lottery, but it is not likely. And while it is likely that an asteroid will hit the planet and wipe out life in the next seven billion years, it is not a fact.

    Glad to hear that Parents Magazine is coming around.

  2. BL March 21, 2016 at 9:10 am #

    “And while it is likely that an asteroid will hit the planet and wipe out life in the next seven billion years …”

    What??!! In seven mil … !!??

    Oh, billion. Not million. I was worried there for a minute.

  3. AmyO March 21, 2016 at 9:17 am #

    I’m glad to hear this. I always like Parents for some of the product reviews and kid project ideas, but I had to stop reading it when there was one to many “how you’re secretly killing your baby” type articles. Maybe I’ll try it out again.

  4. jb March 21, 2016 at 9:25 am #

    This XKCD is applicable: https://xkcd.com/558/

    Most people can’t tell the difference between very large numbers anyhow.

  5. Workshop March 21, 2016 at 9:27 am #

    XKCD. So much right in that comic.

  6. BL March 21, 2016 at 9:38 am #

    “XKCD. So much right in that comic.”

    This one is such a classic:



  7. Anna March 21, 2016 at 11:29 am #

    Good for her, though surprising, as you say. Is she new at the magazine or something?

    Just have to mention my latest little free-ranging run-in here: we were at Outback Steakhouse a couple of nights ago, and after my 4-year-old was done eating, he asked if he could go play with the bead-maze in the waiting area at the front – about 15 or 20 feet from our table, although admittedly out of sight around the corner. I said yes, but he should come back in a few minutes to check in with us.

    A couple minutes later I went to check on him and found another mom there with her toddler, giving my son the third degree, which she turned on me when I got there. At least she remained (mostly) polite, but she clearly thought I was irresponsible. To prove to me that the waiting area at Outback is a hotbed of child abductors, she mentioned that a snow-plow driver in her dad’s neighborhood was shot the previous night. (I was a bit mystified about the relevance of that, but I guess the point was that the world is full of bad people…?)

    Apparently she had asked my son if his mom knew where he was, and he said yes and told her where our table was. Then she told him bad people might try to kidnap him, to which he replied that in that case he would kick and punch them because “I’m a lot stronger than you think I am.” I enjoyed my son’s reply, but I’m kind of shocked that nice, normal people like this mom don’t think twice about teaching other people’s children to have such an attitude of suspicion and fear toward other people.

  8. Catherine Caldwell-Harris March 21, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

    Media outlets, including parenting magazines, stoked child danger fears to get readers and sell advertising. Now they sell the opposite view for the same reason.

  9. Catherine Caldwell-Harris March 21, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    My latest in free range world: my family recently returned to our home in newton, MA after a year in Pasadena, CA. The northeast got a big snowfall last night. This morning,waiting for the bus that was 15 minutes late, a dozen kids and their parents around, guess who were the only kids throwing snowballs, on the ground making snow angels? My two boys. The other kids just stood meekly, waiting.

  10. JS MacF March 21, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

    Nice! Well done 😉

  11. Brian W. March 21, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

    Hope? A sliver of hope? I’m almost afraid to believe it.

  12. Jessica March 21, 2016 at 1:01 pm #

    As long as we’re sharing stories… My husband was out walking the kids right about the time school was letting out. My two boys, four and six, caught up with a few older boys, about 11 or 12 years old. They spoke briefly, and my husband couldn’t hear what was said, but caught up after the older boys had gone ahead. Both boys were upset, with the 4yo saying the older kids were rude and the 6yo saying they were mean. Turns out when my kids tried to strike up a conversation, the older kids told them that they don’t talk to strangers.

  13. Havva March 21, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

    We shall have to see about the general tenor of the magazine going forward. But I’ve been saying for a while that I’ve been seeing signs of hope. About 4 years ago, I started responding to requests for parenting advice from pregnant ladies and their husbands with “Don’t read the parenting magazines, especially Parents, they will make you neurotic.” At first I got very strange looks for that advice, and a mild “how odd.” Then about 2 years ago, someone said. “Funny, that’s what my sister told me too.” Then last year someone said, “Oh, of course, that’s what everyone says.”
    I think when “Avoid Parents magazine” becomes “what everyone says”, (at least among high earning new moms) it becomes high time for the executive editor to find out what is so repellent about the magazine. And who better to teach the lesson than Lenore? 🙂

  14. Donald March 21, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

    Congratulations Lenore!

    When you first started this there were few articles that agreed with your philosophy. Years later they became as common as celebrity ‘accidental’ wardrobe malfunctions. Now, the free range idea is mainstream.

  15. olympia March 21, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    Jessica- I’m wondering if those 12-year-olds weren’t just trying to give your sons the brush-off, similar to how, as kids, my cousin and I told our younger sisters they couldn’t play Monopoly with us because “Look! It says on the box you have to be 10 years old or up!” Still rude of course, but brush-offs are, I dare say, pretty developmentally normal. Hopefully that was the case and the 12-year-olds weren’t THAT neurotic.

    As to the turn around by parenting magazines, I think they may have realized they’ve ridden the fear mongering train as far as it’s going to go and it just isn’t profitable any more. I mean, how much more fear do they think they can monger?

  16. Kacey March 21, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

    Fantastic news, here’s hoping this is part of an industry trend!

  17. Barry Lederman March 21, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

    Hurray for common sense!

  18. SanityAnyone? March 21, 2016 at 2:34 pm #

    As if we need Parents Magazine to legitimize our convictions…

    But really, it’s nice to see a chink in the armor of outrageous and profitable fear-mongering. It feels great to see society begin to reflect and help promote what we feel are healthful ideas. Kudos to the eminently huggable Cara for taking a chance on us.

    If there were Free Range products that could be marketed, we’d probably be home-free, and there are – sneakers, scooters, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes and house-keys (rite of passage here) are all a good start.

  19. Papilio March 21, 2016 at 4:42 pm #

    Lenore! Don’t you see? She was a spy! 😛

    Anyway – how did you find out who she was? Did she introduce herself when you invited her onto the stage?

  20. EricS March 21, 2016 at 4:53 pm #

    I believe almost every single parent out there understands the “Free-Range” mentality. They grew up with it. But the minds of many can easily be conditioned and manipulated. That fear becomes more common than common sense. So after a just a decade of being bombarded with hearsay, propaganda, sanctimonious posters, and insecurities, many people have just become fearful. Any psychologist or psychiatrist can tell you, when you fear, you lose your sense of reasoning. It becomes a primal instinct to fight or flight. And most people will chose “flight”. And never know exactly why, because their fear just makes them do illogical and unreasonable things. Keep doing that to yourself, it becomes habit. Then that habit/conditioning is passed on to unknowing children, who would end up passing it on to their own kids one day. That’s when these fearful people become in a position of authority, and decide to create new laws to satiate their fears. And they still have no idea what and why they are scared. They’ve just been told to do so. Fear, it’s a hell of an emotion.

  21. Havva March 21, 2016 at 4:54 pm #

    To add to @SanityAnyone? ‘s list

    Really good out door wear (rain coats, good winter coats, rain boots, snow pants, etc). Bus/train tickets, bicycles and bicycle maintenance classes, taxi companies willing to give rides to minors, cell phones (not that they are necessary), emergency contact/info bracelets, fun backpacks for the weekend, that are more focused on carrying water bottles and a lunch, rather than pencils and calculators. Snacks that travel well (or a kid’s kitchen tools to make their own snacks). Maybe local maps in nice big, laminated format, complete with grease pencil to plan adventures.

  22. Donald March 21, 2016 at 5:43 pm #

    “Gotcha! How Parent on Parent Tattle-Telling Has Spun Out of Control.”

    That’s an excellent way to describe it. Many busybodies have the maturity of a 3 year old tattle-tale!

  23. Sarah Fiske Williams March 21, 2016 at 6:09 pm #

    You’re a force for Good in this world, Lenore!

  24. Papilio March 21, 2016 at 7:04 pm #

    Completely off-topic, but I’ve got to say, Lenore, they did find a nice picture of you here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEgZAst5l4g 😛

  25. bmommyx2 March 21, 2016 at 7:57 pm #

    Glad you are posting this. I’m a long time subscriber to Parents magazine & have a like, love, hate relationship with it. I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the March issue. My first though was to email you, but since they quoted you I assumed you were involved. I’m so happy to see them evolving over the last few issues. This magazine was always fluff to me, more entertainment than knowledge. I loved Mothering which is long gone. They did a long detailed article about a few families that homeschool.

  26. BPFH March 21, 2016 at 8:02 pm #

    @BL: Admittedly, if XKCD had been a thing when my son was born (I’m pretty sure he predates it), I’d have given thought to naming him Robert Tables [BPFH’s last name].

    Or Robert’); DROP TABLE Students;–

    As the case may be. Little Bobby Tables, that’s what we’d call him. 🙂

    (If you don’t know what we’re talking about, see https://xkcd.com/327/ .)

    That having been said, it’s nice to see Parents coming around. My wife and I dropped our subscription when they asserted that if your kid was over the 95th percentile for weight, s/he was obese. Nevermind that our son was (IIRC) 95th percentile for weight, and 98th for height at the time…

  27. Betsy in Michigan March 21, 2016 at 9:00 pm #

    The tide is turning! (I hope)

  28. Anna March 22, 2016 at 1:23 am #

    ” My wife and I dropped our subscription when they asserted …”

    Wow, real people actually subscribe to this magazine? I’d always assumed it was one of those rags whose whole subscription tally consisted in subscriptions by pediatricians and other folks with waiting rooms to stock with discounted periodicals whose content consists in thinly veiled advertising.

  29. Brenna March 22, 2016 at 9:48 am #

    @BPFH – I had the same thing happen wrt to the weight percentile. My daughter was also at 98/99th percentile for height, and 95 for weight, and I had some nutritionist I was referred to (insurance thing) lecturing me for a good 30 minutes about how she was obese. I could NOT get her to understand that she was quite proportional, and there was a big difference between being at that percentile for her height, than if she was in the 15th percentile. She kept telling me it didn’t matter how tall she was, she was obese. Lost pretty much all faith in nutritionists after that.

    Congrats on the article – I fear it will take a long time to turn the tide, however, and right now we’re still fighting too many bureaucracies that want to institutionalize fear, and want to persecute for the possibility of harm, rather than actual harm.

  30. LGB March 22, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

    Very insightful, Lenore. The anti-free-range movement reeks of privilege, doesn’t it?

  31. Ryan March 23, 2016 at 9:24 am #

    Remember. Both arms and chest to chest! Lol

  32. Janifer March 26, 2016 at 12:21 pm #

    I love all of these. Except the whole sleep-when-baby-sleeps. That was the time I had to myself. Whether it was scrolling through FB on my phone, doing a load of laundry, or just spending two seconds sitting down. But I do get the advice though. I just never, ever napped when my baby did. But I surely slept like a baby at night! –

  33. Willumson March 26, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

    I give my kids total freedom. Thank you so much! There is someone out there feeling the same way as I do! So lonely. I have a 3 year old and a 1 year old. I greatly need a mommy friend as we recently moved but it is so hard getting together, with nap schedules and colds!