Seth Godin on NPR Talks About Free-Range Kids: Being One, Raising Some

Hi Readers — Seth rfytihanbe
, the tech/life/marketing/art guru, was interviewed by Krista Tippett on NPR’s “On Being” show yesterday, and he began by talking about his childhood as a self-described “Free-Range Kid.” (Though I’m not sure he mentally capitalized it.) Anyway, apparently somehow, when he was 14, his dad put him on a boat in downtown Cleveland (?!) at 1 a.m. with a stranger, and he — Seth — ended up finding his way home. It didn’t sound like his dad was trying to abandon him, just that something went awry and it was a formative experience for Seth, who remains grateful for it and for growing up with very open, engaged-with-life parents.

The interview then went a bunch of different directions, often movingly, as Seth described the way every one of us can influence the world by creating and sharing something that has meaning, even for a handful of other people. Don’t measure success by numbers, sales and popularity (said the extremely popular bestselling author).  Measure by whether you make a difference to someone.

At the end, he came back to talking about kids — his own, and the rest of the current generation — who are realizing how connected they are, and how they can create and collaborate with their “tribes,” even if hey never actually meet.  And yet, said Seth, often this new ability of kids to consider countless strangers as “friends” and put their lives out there for all to see worries their folks:

“As parents, we’re often pushed to make this choice, and the choice is  keep your kids out of this the world and isolate them and make sure they’re quote ‘safe’ unquote,  or put your kids into the world and all hell will break loose. Those are the things they talk about at PTA meetings. [But] I  don’t think that’s the choice. I think the choice is everyone is in the world now. Everyone is connected. You cannot keep your 12-year-old from hearing profanity. Get over it. But given that they are in the world , what trail are they going to leave? What mark are they leaving?”

Teaching kids that they are always leaving a mark, from the first second someone snaps their picture, is part of our job, said Seth. But then it is also our job to then trust them to go forth. That trust is what is,

so difficult to do as a parent, because what you really want to do is lock them up until it’s time. But the bravest thing to do is have the Free-Range Kids who are exploring the edges of the universe, but doing it in a way they are proud of, not hiding from it.”

To which I say: Yes. Bravery and connecting  beat the heck out of fear and isolation. Whether it’s downtown Cleveland at 1 a.m. or Tumblr (possibly at the same hour of the night, alas), kids deserve a chance to explore the world and try things out and meet new people and even screw up. Sort of like Seth has done. Sort of like most of us have done. Sort of like kids have always done…till the trembling present.

Be brave. Raise Free-Range Kids. – L


Seth Godin on NPR’s “On Being,” said to trust kids in the world and online.

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13 Responses to Seth Godin on NPR Talks About Free-Range Kids: Being One, Raising Some

  1. Jon January 28, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    Thanks for sharing this! I’ve been a long-time reader of Free-Range Kids and I am also a big fan of Seth Godin and missed this interview. Listening to it right now as I walk and work. Thanks for all of your posts that make me think.

  2. Donna January 28, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    It’s not just kids anymore apparently. I just read an article about a 33 year old wife and mother of two who has disappeared while traveling alone in Turkey. The vast majority of the comments are about how stupid she was for traveling alone (some even went as far as to say unescorted by a male) and how her husband should not have allowed her to go.

  3. Jemma January 28, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    Donna, I agree those comments about the woman missing in Turkey are dishearteningly anti-free range. How many American tourists go to Turkey each year and how many are missing? I think we are back to the “you could also drown in your soup” argument. So now no one, not even an adult, I a supposed to travel? And if something bad happens to her, it must have been her fault? The comments are despicable.

  4. Bernadette Noll January 28, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Now I love Seth Godin even more. Bringing to light the incredible learning experience that comes when parents allow their children to truly experience life. It is sometimes hard to let go, I admit that readily. But the rewards of letting go and trusting that the world is ultimately GOOD are beyond measure.

    And to you Lenore I say, you are doing so much good. And touching so many lives in such a positive way. Beyond measure really.

  5. Kim January 28, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    The boat incident and the 1am one are separate. His dad had him crew on a boat at 14 and in another situation, somehow abandoned him in downtown Cleveland.

  6. hineata January 28, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    Agree with Seth. We need to let our kids out into the wide world, real or Internet, for lots of reasons, not just for their own sakes.

    Connected with connnectedness, if that makes any sense at all, is that kids are a really important part of the family unit, and they had better be able to help it out. Our family would have been really stuck this summer if the kids hadn’t already had a lot of experience getting places themselves, doing the housework and some of the cooking, because I have been laid up with an Achilles in plaster, not able to drive, not able to hang out the washing etc, etc.

    The girls head back to school tomorrow, and I overheard the 11 year old this morning giving detailed directions to the 13 year old about which dry cleaner she’d left the blazers at ( a bus ride away in the centre ‘city’). No big deal, but one or two of the 11 year old’s friends (even in relatively free range NZ) aren’t allowed to go to the corner dairy alone. Heaven knows how those families would cope with any kind of parental mobility issues.

  7. hineata January 28, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    As we’re always talking about, too, much of the freedom/lack there-of that we give our kids is tied up with our perceptions of the world. At the conference I was at last week, a lot of terrible statistics were brought up about New Zealand. We are second or third in the world in some pretty yucky stats. However, most of us still perceive the country to be a pretty relaxed, friendly and safe place, and therefore, for the most part, it is.

    Same goes for how we often perceive the rest of the world, which explains how Kiwis like my sister end up bringing tens of thousands of US dollars in cash into, say, Miami (true story) and then become intimately aquainted with customs officials. That joyful naivety. Not all of us have it these days, but enough that the world seems pretty okay.

    That’s what the world, particularly the US, seems to need – a change in perception. The first world, at least, really is doing pretty okay, and even large swaths of the developing and third worlds are safe enough.

  8. Let_Her_Eat_Dirt January 28, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    Good for Seth — I’m glad he’s helping get the “free range” idea out to the NPR-listening world. “Well-informed” people, such as the type of folks who listen to NPR, are often suckers for statistics that scare them into bubble-wrapping their kids. Don’t get me wrong — I love NPR — but many of my public-loving-friends can’t help but worry themselves to death about all the terrible things that could happen to their children.
    One dad’s take on raising tough, adventurous girls

  9. Dave January 28, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    Good article. The more people who push free range the better. Could we be experiencing a cultural shift? To early to tell but hopeful.

  10. Jeannie January 28, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    FYI I included a link to you on my new blog

    Hope that’s ok, you’re one of my favorites.


  11. Alex Berman March 6, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Learning to live in the world by being IN it is THE most important lesson anyone can learn, and the earlier kids learn it, the better their development. That’s still within reason and common sense should be used when exposing young kids to potentially less ‘safe’ situations. More and more parents seem to be realizing that in this digital age, kids are already in contact with so much more than they ever were before & to coddle them is to hinder them.


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