The Next Step: Let Grow!

Readers: Starting today I am president of a new non-profit dedicated to the Free-Range ideals of giving kids — and parents — back their freedom. It’s called aenakyknae
Let Grow
. I’d told a friend about this a few months back and she just informed me that now when her kids think she’s micro-managing them they actually use this phrase, “Mom, let grow!” So let’s hope it becomes a thing.

Anyway, from now on, most days when you come to Free-Range Kids, you’ll find my newest posts are a click away, at Let Grow. I will include a link here each day I post  there. Or, of course, you can go straight to Let Grow.

The organization is a joint effort founded by Prof. Peter Gray, author of “Free to Learn,” Daniel Shuchman, chairman of the free speech organization FIRE (Foundation for Individual Liberty in Education), Prof. Jonathan Haidt, author of “The Righteous Mind,” and me. We are joined by our executive director, the brilliant, funny, and, thank God, very tech/banking/organization-savvy entrepreneur Tracy Tomasso.

All five of us are concerned about the same things.How do we get kids back to organizing some of their own games, solving some of their own problems, following some of their own interests, fighting some of their own battles, and enjoying at least some of the freedom and responsibility that were standard issue childhood until quite recently? A longer version of our vision is the cover story in this month’s Reason Magazine, and in this video interview of me by Reason TV editor Nick Gillespie.

At Let Grow we see our goal as pushing back on a culture that insists we overprotect, even when that protection becomes counterproductive and starts hurting the kids we want to help. We are not hands-off, devil-may-care. But we believe that when adults step back, the kids step up. We want children to read and think freely, to play, to learn, to not be fearful. We think that when kids get more independence, they often end up less anxious — a bonus in these very anxious times.

These are not new ideas on this site, but with a team in place and some funding to do things like start programs at schools, run a website with more forums, and even put some dollars into videos, and contests, and what have you — including, for the first time in 10 years, a salary for your faithful blogger — who knows what we might accomplish?

So please join us on this journey to changing society a little faster. As kids (well, two or three so far) are starting to stay: Let Grow! — Lenore


The movement — and the logo! 


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35 Responses to The Next Step: Let Grow!

  1. Troutwaxer October 27, 2017 at 12:30 am #

    When you started this blog I commented that you were starting a movement. I’m glad that it has finally matured.

  2. Stacey October 27, 2017 at 8:33 am #

    It’s not just about kids either…If people are raising a bunch of scared pansies afraid of freedom, who will stand up for freedom?

  3. Marcus Aurelius October 27, 2017 at 8:55 am #

    This sounds great and I am very impressed and pleased with the names on your board. big fan of Professor Gray and FIRE, and I look forward to great things.

    Serious question – why do you always publish in REASON?

    While I understand the conceptual overlap between free-range parenting and the personal autonomy aspects of libertarian thought….
    Reason is a *libertarian* organization.

    You know, libertarians? “Anarchists who want police protection from their slaves.”?

    Reason used to publish Ayn Rand pieces. They’re funded by the Kochs and both support and are supported by the tobacco industry
    Etc. etc.
    They definitely do not have in mind a society where people come together in groups to solve large collective action problems, or that taxes pay for civilization, and so on – an environment where we acknowledge we’re all in it together.
    Libertarianism as currently practiced in the USA is “fuck you I’ve got mine, and anything between us will be contractual
    I really feel like this is a clear-cut “the enemy of my enemy is not my friend” situation for you.Your ideas and movement are diminished by your association with them.

    It makes me feel queasy every time I see their name,in your posts and is the most powerful factor steering me away from supporting you.
    Although I completely agree with free-range’s ideas and mission re: raising children, and societal expectations on that front, I am extremely opposed to the libertarian ethos.
    I find it largely simplistic, shortsighted and selfishly ignorant, to say nothing of its underlying classist, racial and misogyny issues (at least in the US).

    You’re known by the company you keep. Find a different media channel

  4. Dot October 27, 2017 at 9:19 am #

    I have to disagree with Marcus above. But then I consider myself to be pretty libertarian, and not to be classist, racist, or misogynist (particular as I am female), so perhaps you are painting with a pretty broad brush. There is a huge overlap between favoring a smaller government/more freedom and favoring the government not arresting parents for their parenting choices and more freedom for kids. And as she’s trying to spread the free range message, it makes sense that she should spread it to areas where people are likely to appreciate freedom. I’m sure she publishes in other places that wouldn’t make you so queasy.

    But in any case, Congrats!! this is awesome!! I have a 12 year old and sometimes it’s an uphill battle!

  5. San October 27, 2017 at 9:57 am #

    With the risk of being partisan, I always thought the Libertarian movement was too closely aligned with republicans and conservatism, who in my mind have been the main driving force in this overprotective scare culture that we see today. Agreed, it is mainly liberals talking about safe spaces for college students, but it’s conservatives that constantly believe there’s a predator around the corner trying to snatch your child away from you.

    I grew up in Sweden in the 80’s, I’ve frankly never seen the link between big government and the overprotectove culture in America. We roamed around then and when we visit Sweden in the summers, my friends children have the kind of freedom my son could only dream about here in America

  6. Anne Allman October 27, 2017 at 10:52 am #

    Libertarianism aside, the company you keep for this venture is superb! Haidt and Schuchman! Well done Lenore! Maybe the Atlantic will pick you up soon!

  7. Theresa Hall October 27, 2017 at 11:05 am #

    San it easy to see its called cps and since every time someone thinks you’re a bad parent the cops will show up and probably call CPS and cps given half a chance will certainly put info in their heads that you didn’t want in there till they were grown up. Cps excuse for poking around your house and life is it’s their job. But sometimes I think they just want a excuse to grab the kids and get government money for supposedly looking after them.

  8. Paul October 27, 2017 at 12:01 pm #

    This is great, Lenore, and I hope this organization blossoms.

    Hopefully many will follow you, even if you write for a magazine partially funded by the 59th ranked political donors in the country.

  9. SanityAnyone? October 27, 2017 at 12:13 pm #

    Good luck on your venture, Lenore and Co. I look forward to seeing YOU grow.

    Please continue your two-pronged approach there:

    1) Encourage parents to give their children plenty of room to grow – I mean – we plant those little seeds 24″ apart and put them in partial to full sunlight for a reason! Do we want to raise delicate orchids or hardy sunflowers?

    2) Continue to work on the legal system and system of societal judgments that make parents afraid to allow their children reasonable risk for fear of arrest, CPS, or harsh criticism.


  10. San October 27, 2017 at 12:26 pm #

    Theresa Hall

    It’s a matter of perception I guess. CPS gets disproportionately involved with minority families. As with the case in South Carolina where a black mother got arrested because her 9 year old was playing alone in the park.

    Was that big government or a judgmental conservative who didn’t like the idea of a black child running around unsupervised. I know what I believe it was.

  11. Michael October 27, 2017 at 12:55 pm #

    CONGRATULATIONS LENORE! This is wonderful and promising news.

    It appears that the libertarian-challenged responders above do not have a solid grounding in the libertarian philosophy. Reason Magazine’s masthead proclaims “Free Minds and Free Markets.” A true understanding of both of those concepts is ultimately enlightening, which is why the magazine is a perfect venue for your wonderful articles.


  12. Michael October 27, 2017 at 1:07 pm #

    P.S. And, just for the record, Lenore has also published many articles in the Huffington Post.

  13. Margot October 27, 2017 at 1:15 pm #

    @ Theresa Hall…(sigh!). You have absolutely no idea. As a former CPS worker, i can assure you that, from an ideological point of view, my colleagues and l Iooked for every opportunity not to take children into care if it was at all possible to avoid, as we know well the statistics concerning outcomes for kids removed from their families. Instead, we would prefer to throw buckets of money and casework intervention at the family to prop it up and increase the chances that the child could stay. From a purely pragmatic perspective too though, we also avoided child removal unless it was absolutely necessary, because removing a child created a monster for ourselves. You would not believe the ridiculous increase in work hours, stress, late nights etc that child removal causes for the individual worker. You seem to imagine that individual workers get bonus payments for child removal! How completely ludicrous. Nope, same money for me, just way, way, way more work.

  14. Theresa Hall October 27, 2017 at 3:19 pm #

    Margot maybe you choose to do the right thing as much as possible but I have hard time believing that all workers are innocent when some do take kids on the flimsy excuse. Plus the government does pay a big fat check per kid. Maybe you personally don’t see that check someone does that fat check

  15. Backroads October 27, 2017 at 3:44 pm #

    I’m thrilled about this!

    I wonder if I’ll ever be able to switch my Amazon Smile over to this…

  16. Margot October 27, 2017 at 5:41 pm #

    @Theresa, I’m still at a loss to work out why any CPS worker would remove a child in order for someone else to score a “fat check”. Do you think the worker is being paid off by the recipient of the “fat check”? Never in my 22 years in the job have I heard of that happening. You do realise that the “fat check” you speak of is money to raise the child, right? And that most foster carers top that amount up with a significant amount from their own funds.
    Can I suggest that your difficulty is actually with the decisions made by some workers and in fact, has nothing to do with money but a lot to do with overly cautious decision making on occasion, which in turn is most likely to arise from fear of the consequences of getting it wrong.
    Very occasionally, children die after being left with their family. This traumatises a worker, and even the whole office, in ways you could not even imagine, for a very long time. You have to appreciate that the vast majority of CPS workers are in the job because of a love of children and a strong sense of social justice. Even if the decision to leave the child there was a was a reasonable one at the time, people are always raking over the coals and trying to work out how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Sometimes the response is to exercise a more than the necessary degree of caution the next time.
    Also, can I suggest that you only know the very basic details of the cases that you read about in the media. Privacy and confidentiality provision restricts the information that can be disseminated. There is so often so much more going on than members of the public will ever know.
    These issues are very complex, and your lazy and offhand remarks about “flimsy excuses” and “fat checks” are offensive to people who dedicate their careers to promoting child safety.

  17. Puzzled October 27, 2017 at 8:13 pm #

    >While I understand the conceptual overlap between free-range parenting and the personal autonomy aspects of >libertarian thought….
    >Reason is a *libertarian* organization.

    >You know, libertarians? “Anarchists who want police protection from their slaves.”?

    Just so I’m clear, what’s your political affiliation? I’d like to mischaracterize your beliefs in an irresponsible, silly way, and don’t want to do the wrong one.

  18. Mandy October 27, 2017 at 8:19 pm #

    Hi there!

    How do we help with this? I’m part of a childcare center in Washington State and have a large number of people who would volunteer time and possibly money to get involved, especially one person in particular who is getting their graduate degree in Educational Policy! Please let me know what we can do.

  19. Workshop October 27, 2017 at 8:25 pm #

    I’m glad to hear this, and wish you luck on this endeavor.

    As for Marcus’ beliefs . . .I’d suggest he get his head out of his politics. Reasonable people can discuss politics without calling each other names.

  20. David N. Brown October 27, 2017 at 8:44 pm #

    Re politics I was friends for a while with a way-liberal “trans” who insists I’m a libertarian. This was last year, when I hadn’t voted for a Democrat pretty much ever.

    As for fear of predators, the groundwork was definitely in the “Satanic Panic”. Now, that’s blamed on religious conservatives, but if you look at the primary sources, center-left media probably did as much as anyone, esp to stir up “awareness” in “mainstream” circles. The actual Satanists (who overwhelmingly don’t believe in Satan) can’t be let off too easy either. They prob’ly never had a hand in crime apart from drug use and delinquency, but they did attract a very disproportionate number of people either trying to be offensive for its own sake or looking for excuses to be creeps.

  21. Edward Hafner October 27, 2017 at 11:39 pm #

    Love the pooling of ideas and efforts at LET GROW. Anything that gets the FREE RANGE KIDS mantra more noticed by legislators, law enforcement/courts, schools and news media is a good thing.
    Did you ever think …. almost ten years ago …. that a move like this would be possible – or still necessary?
    Best wishes to everyone who is and will be involved.

  22. Donald October 27, 2017 at 11:59 pm #


    Congratulations! You’re already changing the world. Now you’re in a position to do even more.

    Here is an idea for a short film.

    Billy (a normal kid) moves to a new town called Stepford. He has trouble making friends. All the children in Stepford are too frightened to do much of anything. They are ‘programmed’ to not play outside or do anything that ‘normal’ children do.

    As with the Stepford Wives film, there is a conspiracy to program Billy to be a Stepford child. His programming involves the whole town and consists of things such as:

    Ridiculous school rules. Tag is outlawed and recess is disappearing
    Parents that report Billy to the CPS if he walks 2 blocks to get to the store.
    Police pick him up whenever they see him outside without adult supervision.
    A NEWS report of Billy observed as doing the life-threatening act of doing a cartwheel without a helmet.

    In the end, Billy becomes a Stepford Child and is no longer self-reliant. He’s too frightened to do much of anything. Anxiety is now a major problem with him because he learned that everything is dangerous.

  23. John B. October 28, 2017 at 2:20 am #


    As a conservative person who mostly votes Republican, I believe you are spot-on with your assessment! Conservatives do have this twisted view that there are predators around every corner trying to snatch our children for sex. Then there are the liberals who are advocating for “safe spaces” for college kids and high school and elementary age kids to protect their feelings from getting hurt.

  24. David N. Brown October 28, 2017 at 3:21 pm #

    @John B: If anything, right-wing types have shifted from fears about individual predators to “networks of kidnappers, traffickers and abusers, presumed to be centered on Hollywood and other liberal elements. A clear subtext is that any calls to make the slightest change to consent laws, etc is really being directed by wealthy deviants. I have found it somewhat amusing to compare this vision w/ the likes of de Rais and Bathory, who were monstrous and powerful but completely antisocial.

  25. MonicaP October 28, 2017 at 4:06 pm #

    I want to donate money, but that link seems to be broken.

  26. Anna October 28, 2017 at 10:43 pm #

    I don’t know – obviously this is purely anecdotal, based on my experience, but I would not say that fear of sexual predators/sex traffickers/random strangers abducting kids from front yards is in any way a “conservative” phenomenon. At least in my circle – conservative Catholics who mostly have large families – parents are generally very “free-range” and laid back about supervision. Generally during the coffee-and-donuts hour after our Masses, the kids run free both inside and outside the church hall, and it’s only the most anxious parents who even bother to do a half-hourly head-count. After all, if you have (or think you might someday have) eight or ten kids, watching them 24-7 is not even a realistic option. . .

  27. Marcus Aurelius October 29, 2017 at 11:15 am #

    To “Puzzled”:

    “Just so I’m clear, what’s your political affiliation? I’d like to mischaracterize your beliefs in an irresponsible, silly way, and don’t want to do the wrong one.”

    I’m curious. Which aspects of my description of self-identified libertarians in the USA do you see as a mischaracterization, to say nothing of having been either irresponsible or silly? Can you point to one? Or are you just going to be reflexively defensive?

    To answer you, I don’t have a political affiliation, *especially* one that is inextricably linked to my personal identity. I also don’t consider my opinions on any given aspect of public policy “beliefs.”

    To “Workshop” What names were called?

    to “Dot”, completely separate from what your own stances on women in society, do you really think being a woman makes it intrinsically impossible to hold misogynist opinions? If only that were true.
    also, “smaller government/more freedom” and its implicit obverse is a classic oversimplified false dichotomy.

    Like everyone else taking umbrage, you all have 100% failed to engage with the substance of my critique, choosing instead to engage in obfuscation, reflexive defensiveness, or ad hominem.attacks.

    Sorry the truth hurts, but maybe if you took the time to do even a little reading, you’d see that my comments are valid descriptions and criticisms with which you should engage if you want to defend being a libertarian.
    See below. and here:
    Doesn’t mean there are no answers to the criticisms, but I don’t see you even trying, just getting huffy.

    Maybe….that’s because most self-identifying libertarians in the USA have chosen that label for reasons having to do with simplistic smug virtue signalling and various cognitive biases, rather than any nuanced consideration of policy positions and their outcomes?
    The famous quote about 14-year olds, Atlas Shrugged and the Lord of the Rings comes to mind.
    Just a thought.

    Also, if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Kim Stanley Robinson, and realizing that
    “anarchists who want police protections from their slaves” is a quote from his novel “Green Mars,” then you have a wonderful experience in your future. Get the Mars trilogy and read it!
    Here’s the full quote.

    “Even if you want no state, or a minimal state, then you have to argue point by point. Especially since the minimalists want to keep the economic and police system that keeps them privileged. That’s libertarians for you — anarchists who want police protection from their slaves. No! If you want to make the minimum-state case, you have to argue it from the ground up. ”

    A few links for you.






  28. Donald October 29, 2017 at 3:50 pm #

    Free range, overprotection, and helping children so much that you smother them is a huge topic!
    I don’t understand why complicate this any further by dragging politics into it.

  29. Paul Zummo October 29, 2017 at 8:51 pm #

    Spot on Anna. I’d also add helicopter parenting is just not an option once you get to child number three or beyond.

  30. David October 30, 2017 at 9:08 am #

    @Donald: The reason politics is dragged into the issues you mentioned is that whether you’re allowed to free range your children or have to helicopter them is dependent on politicians

  31. Barry Lederman October 30, 2017 at 9:44 am #

    Yay! Grow and grow and grow!

  32. Mickey October 30, 2017 at 3:17 pm #

    Marcus – perhaps you should actually read some of the Reason articles, rather than painting with broad, inaccurate, inflammatory strokes? A wide swath of the country doesn’t align with either the “right” or the left”, and many of them identify increasingly with the libertarians. Not all (in fact I’d say most) libertarians are not anarchists. Your very first slander talks about slavery – the very idea of slavery is an anathema to libertarians. Libertarian-ism is about individual liberty and responsibility, and about NOT infringing upon the rights of others. Slavery most definitely impinges upon the rights of others. Your obvious ignorance about the BASIC PREMISE of the political system pretty much invalidates anything you might have to say about it.

    Furthermore, why bring up the Koch brothers? They spend literally MILLIONS on charitable causes? Are you now uncomfortable with the New York ballet? Again, the fact that you don’t understand the basic premise invalidates this argument.

    Libertarians have absolutely no issue with people joining together to create a better society. As long as no one is forced to do it. You want to establish a commune with whatever rules you see fit? Fine. Just don’t make anyone else pay for it.

    Here’s the intro to the Libertarian party platform – what, exactly, about this makes you queasy?

    As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.

    We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.

    Consequently, we defend each person’s right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.

  33. Barbara berardo November 5, 2017 at 7:49 am #

    I can’t find let grow on line?

  34. Nadia November 6, 2017 at 5:48 pm #

    Mickey, maybe this is worth a read for you