“Wish I’d Been Raised More Free-Range”

Hi hkykftsrfd
Readers — Just got this note from a gal named Heather. You know I don’t dwell on, or even endorse, the idea that kids who have been overprotected  will turn out badly, because, first of all, that would mean that parents are solely responsible for how their kids turn out — a notion I don’t subscribe to. Secondly,  I really do believe that, in the end, most everyone turns out okay, so long as their parents loved and fed them.

BUT helicoptered kids do miss out on a lot of childhood, and they may have to overcome some hurdles that Free-Range Kid don’t, as this letter illustrates. – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: I’ve been following Free-Range Parenting since Lenore appeared on the Today Show. I was already a Free-Range parent at that point, but didn’t have the verbage to describe my philosophy.

I grew up with helicopter parents, to some degree. They didn’t get as involved with teachers/grades, but they certainly restricted my independence. I remember with irony, having to drive home on the freeway as an 18-year-old to go to my father’s funeral. It was my first time driving on the freeway because I had never been allowed to do so by my parents.

I’m sure my experience was unique in that my dad died when I was 18. But, I remember feeling completely unprepared to be an adult and having no one to turn to once he was gone. I also have vivid memories of my mom telling me never to talk to strangers. Strangers were BAD!!

After my dad’s death, I struggled for two years. With therapy, things have turned out okay, but I certainly struggled with low self-esteem and anxiety. I have taken the opposite approach with my 10-year-old son. He started walking home from school alone in second grade. He’s an amazing kid with lots of independence. I enjoy watching him thrive as a Free-Range Kid! — Heather

The road to independence, for one helicoptered kid.

39 Responses to “Wish I’d Been Raised More Free-Range”

  1. LRH January 17, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    As sometimes happens, you learned from your childhood what DIDN’T work, what you hated at the time & as an adult still hate (vs things you hated as a child but now as an adult agree with what your parents did). Thus, you vow to do nothing of the sort now that you are the parent.

    It happened with me, in terms of many in my family were racist (appropriate to bring up today on Martin Luther King day) and my parents didn’t give their marriage much attention. Instead, I’m very anti -racist and my marriage comes before my children even. I’ve learned from their mistakes.

    And so has this woman, and good for her.

  2. Nanci January 17, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    I’m curious how many free-range parents have turned into hovering grandparents? I was fairly free-range growing up. My mom now cringes at what I allow my 8 & 9 year old to do. She goes along since I’m their mom, but she shakes her head.

  3. Sylvana January 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    As parents we do what we believe is best for our children. I am somewhere in between free range and neurotic lol. I am not comfortable for my daughter to walk alone to school She has poor communication skills, gets distracted easily and lives in her imagination. What bothers me about these movements is the polarizing viewpoints. If you don’t comply in a particular way then you are labelled or put down. When I was growing up I also was free range and allowed to go places by myself. It didn’t help my confidence as many people mention. I was shy and self conscious and was faced with situations I didn’t know how to handle. I felt abandoned and ackward. and wished that I had more parental guidance.

  4. Kenny Felder January 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

    I promise to shut up about Pinker soon, but his previous book, “The Blank Slate,” provides a lot of hard evidence that parents are not solely–or even mostly–responsible for how their kids turn out. It turns out genetics have a lot more to do with it. The fascinating thing is how well that kind of thing can be studied scientifically; it isn’t just a matter of “Well, I watched my kids, and it seems to me that…”

  5. Marcy January 17, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    I am the oldest of seven children. My parents were strict with the first three of us (1 and 2 years apart), although still relatively free range. With the last 3 (born 10 years later) their philosophy changed. You see, the first three of us grew up to be as opposite as you can imagine and they figured that how they raised us had nothing to do with how we turned out so why bother trying. I tend to agree that when you get down to it, genetics will trump parenting. I disagree that this means you don’t have to try. Genetics might be the driving force but it is certainly not the only force. I guess I’ll know in another 10 years when the last 3 are well into adulthood if my parents were right.

    With respect to the original post, I tend to think that, free-range or bubblewrapped, any child who lost a parent at age 18 would feel unprepared and lost. That is such a tragic loss.

  6. Elisa January 17, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    Hi Sylvana, I related to what you wrote — I was also very free-range in the way kids were in the 1970s and felt very alone and unprotected. However, in my case I think the issue was that my parents did not give me any guidance or appropriate models for how to relate to people and handle situations that arose, and as a result I felt frightened much of the time. I guess there can be a fine line between “free range” and neglect.

  7. Puzzled January 17, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    Walking through a train station the other day, I noticed a man shouting at a ticket agent. I hung back to watch since he didn’t seem dangerous, just annoying, but I figured I’d stick around in case he turned violent. Anyway, among the profanities he uttered, one stuck out at me: Do you know who my father is? He’ll have you fired so quick… This man (sic) appeared to be about 35.

  8. kiesha January 17, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    I grew up pretty free range in the late 80’s and early 90’s and it had an interesting outcome. I’m fine when I’m by myself, but the minute I have to interact with other people, I become shy and withdrawn. I’m not sure if this is because of all the stranger danger rhetoric of my childhood or if I just have social anxiety. I moved to NYC two and a half years ago and I love exploring the city on my own. Drop me off most anywhere in the city with a book about its history and I’ll wander for hours, not feeling the least bit scared. Drop me in the middle of a birthday party where I only know two other people and I’ll sit in a corner and not speak.

  9. Brian January 17, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    Kenny–the problem is that if taken too far, genetics becomes a deterministic view (almost a scientific Calvinism). I urge you to read some Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel) in addition to Pinker. He has a more nuanced approach.

    The expression of genes changes greatly depending on environment (you can be genetically disposed to being tall but a lack of nutrition can stunt growth). We being human beings are particularly difficult to study as learned behavior greatly mimics inherited traits.

  10. Cheryl W January 17, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    Genes or rearing, I don’t care. I am going to teach my kids skills so that they can function in the world.

    The choice to use those skills is up to them. But they won’t be able to blame me that I didn’t teach them. As the original writer points out, it is harder to face the challenges of the world without being prepared.

  11. Havva January 17, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    Sylvana & Elisa,
    I was a pretty shy kid, and also raised free-range. You are right that guidance matters a great deal. Thankfully my mother was also a shy kid who grew into a bold woman. She used to give me little tasks to do (like paying a bill in person). She would carefully walk me through a little script of how the conversation would go and what to do each step of the way. It was terrifying at first, but she stayed as close as necessary to help me keep my courage up. By the time I outgrew the need for these exercises the clerks and tellers were pretty accustomed to me. Mom would also take me with her to DAR meetings (which were great for that guidance and modeling).

    Going free range was a step by step process. Each time I showed willingness to move to the edge of the previous boundaries, mom would start talking up the next step, how to take it, what do do, what to look out for. She would expand my boundaries and give me a gentle push. Until she no longer had to, because I learned to make reasonable challenges to my own fears and ask her for the help I needed.

    Lenora often says that it is key to know your kid. I am fortunate my mother both understood me, and understood how to help me.

  12. DH January 17, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    “I’m curious how many free-range parents have turned into hovering grandparents? I was fairly free-range growing up.”

    I think it’s more that people who were somewhat hovering parents have turned into extremely hovering grandparents. I hear the stories of what my husband got into as a child (when his mom was working and he was supposedly under the watchful eye of his older sister who was instead on the phone or watching soaps) and I kind of have to laugh at my MIL having freakouts over what we let our kid do.

    My mom, in contrast, was pretty free-range and remains pretty free-range. In fact, I’m going to say that in belief, she’s more free-range than I am. (In action she’s a teacher who has to deal with the growing number of dumb rules about supervising her junior high school students.)

    But her free-range philosophy was party formed by having 5 kids all close together in age. You can’t haul 5 kids into the bathroom or the gas station, that’s simply idiotic.

  13. Nikky January 17, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

    Re: The genetics vs. rearing thing, I don’t think that’s always true (not that anything is always true, though).

    I had an extremely varied childhood… a few years with mom and grandparents together, a few with mom, stepdad and siblings, a few with just grandma and I, back to mom, stepdad and siblings after her death, and finally just my mom, my younger siblings and I after stepdad took off (by this time I was only 13).

    Long story short: my siblings are all VERY much like my mom… loud, opinionated, gutsy, bold. I am almost identical to my grandma, who I spent the longest stretch of my young childhood with (6-10 years old). I’m quiet, have trouble saying no, almost no backbone, and I try to get along with everyone no matter what. Almost the total opposite of the rest of my family and my mom. Mom was adopted, so my grandma-like nature is totally based on rearing, unless my mom’s birth parents were carbon copies of grandma too.

    We were all very lucky to have been raised free range though. More so with mom than grandma, but both of them pushed us to do things for ourselves early on, and to trust ourselves.

  14. EricS January 18, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    I do believe over protective parents aren’t the sole reason many over protected kids grow up with fears, insecurties, and even anxiety. But they do play a big role. They are the “first line of defense” in preparing their children for what they will experience and learn as they grow up. They are the base of which their children will follow. Sure, even Free-Range parents have to deal with rebelliousness, tantrums, disagreements, but that is just a normal part of raising children. But what they can avoid, is the mental state of their children growing up. Dealing with a confident, independent, overzealous rebellious teen, is much easier to deal with an insecure, unsure, spoiled, dependent rebellious teen. What they learn now, they bring with them to their adulthood. That’s just fact.

    With that being said, I truly commend Heather for her overcoming her struggles and insecurities. People can always bounce back. For some who were prepared, it’s easier than for those who weren’t. Heather had to deal with many insecurities, and therapy. Something, she probably wouldn’t have had to go through had her parents been less overprotective, and more supportive in her independence. The great part of this, is that she realized that she didn’t want her own kids to grow up like her, and is raising them how she wished she was. A break in the cycle! Good for you Heather. Keep up the great work, for yourself and for you child.

  15. Becky January 18, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    A friend of mine is currently pregnant with her first. She’s a nervous, worry-wart by nature, and she’s likely to be any less so with her kids. She wants to not be a complete helicopter parent, but she’s just not sure how to avoid it. The other day, when discussing this with her, I asked whether she felt that her parents were overprotective when she was little. She said yes. “Well,” I said, “Then whenever you find yourself asking ‘Should I let my kids do this?’ ask yourself ‘Would my parents have let me do it?’ If the answer is yes, then your answer should be unequivocally yes, because you already know it comes pre-approved by overprotective persons. As for anything else, then you have to make a judgment call.” It was like a light went on in her head.

  16. BMS January 18, 2012 at 12:40 am #

    My little psychology experiments (aka, my adopted kids) are poster children for the nature vs. nurture argument. There are some things that are just bred into these kids. But there are other things that I am equally sure would not be there if they weren’t raised by us, nerds that we are.

    In the end, I guess I don’t care. At the end of the day I ask: Are they behaving, doing their share of the chores, not bleeding, and solving their own problems as is appropriate for their age? If the answer is yes, I am doing my job. If the answer is no, I’m either hovering too much or too little, and I adjust. I tend to err on the hovering too little side (compared to my parenting peers) – so far, everyone’s still alive.

  17. EricS January 18, 2012 at 12:41 am #

    In regards to Genetics vs Rearing, I would have to agree with Brian. Yes we are inherently predisposed to certain characteristics. But with anything else in our lives, we are primarily conditioned. Like pets, dogs for instance, they are predisposed to characteristics of a pack (back from wild dogs and wolves days). But they can be trained to suppress those natural instincts, and become great pets and companions. Like I said, what parents teach their kids growing up is used as a base, and should be a solid one at that. And as they grow up being instilled for years with positive attitude, confidence and independence, it doesn’t matter what else they pick up along the way, they will always (at least in the back of their minds) have that conditioning that they were taught. I grew up Free-Range, but my parents were still a little apprehensive, but as I got older, they became more confident in my abilities and know how. I was the black sheep of my family, I rebelled (a lot), I got into arguments (a lot), I even ran away a couple of times as a teen. And yes, I got into drinking and smoking weed, and I got into fights (sticking up for myself), I even got nabbed for shoplifting. But always, always, there was that little voice in my head that kept me from going to the point of no return. I knew when to draw the line. In hind sight, had my parents been too over protective, I would have never gotten pass the point of sticking up for myself, and surely have been constantly bullied, and never learning how to cope. On the other spectrum, had they been pretty neglectful, letting me do whatever I wanted with no consequence, I probably would have gotten in much, much trouble than I did. To the point of jeopardizing my future. If your talking genetically, I’m different than my parents. They are both reserved individuals. Doesn’t like confrontation with others. Except when my mother argues with me. lol As I child, I was pretty steadfast. Don’t know where I got that from. But ever since I can remember, and from what my parents tell me, I’ve always been the type of kid who didn’t allow anyone to push me around. Their guidance as I was growing up, truly helped me focus that assertiveness to something I can understand and use. So yes, rearing plays a very big role in a child’s development. Even if they are predisposed to genetics, it’s still a base for which they place everything else on.

  18. Heather G January 18, 2012 at 1:57 am #

    On the free-range vs unsupervised vs naturally shy train of thought: I’m shy by nature. Painfully so. I was raised free range by an outgoing mother. My mother worked to teach me not only independence but how to deal with people despite my natural shyness. Just like we don’t drop our kids off in the middle of the woods with no training and expect them to find their way home, she didn’t drop me in the middle of social situations she didn’t prepare me to deal with. She taught me how to deal with people in much the same way she taught me how to brush my teeth, drive a car and read the fine print. My mother was much like Havva’s in how she took a step by step approach taking increasingly bigger steps as I became ready and willing.

    I’ll always be shy by nature. However I can, and do, still manage to thrive in my social interactions because just like learning to travel by myself I learned how to deal with my shyness too.

  19. socalledauthor January 18, 2012 at 2:26 am #

    I’m wondering if some “free-range” parenting is actually missing a key component of the Free Range Kids philosophy: guidance. It’s one thing to kick the kids out of the house and tell them to figure themselves out. It’s a whole other thing to teach in small moments and steps, guiding towards independence and increased confidence (though personality will also affect the end point.) Pseudo-Free Rangers can end up in a sink-or-swim method of teaching independence while helicopter parents are too busy protecting their kids to teach them. The ideal, imho, is in the middle– a relaxed attitude towards the so-called dangers of the world (using facts not feeling, or the news!, to guide risk assessment) PLUS guidance in appropriate steps and involvement.

  20. Michelle Potter January 18, 2012 at 2:46 am #

    @ kiesha, since you mention social anxiety, it is entirely possible that your awkwardness has nothing to do with the way you were raised. I have pretty severe social anxiety disorder, and I have a very hard time interacting with people. People I don’t know are the most difficult — I dread paying bills over the phone, and I actively avoid the chatty cashier at the grocery store. Recently I was reduced to tears trying to write a Thank You note to my husband’s grandfather, who I have only met once. Of course, I also have difficulty talking to people I have known for years. I’ve been playing Words With Friends with a woman I’ve known for almost a decade, who I often see socially and whose company I really enjoy, and I still show my husband the chat log and say, “Look, here’s what Laura said. What should I say next???”

    I seriously doubt any of this had anything to do with my upbringing. I had plenty of opportunity to learn independence as a kid (with the support of a large extended family who were all willing to help me with any problem), and neither of my brothers has these issues. (I suppose it’s possible that a less supportive upbringing could have exacerbated the problem, but I don’t think my family could have CAUSED this.) It’s just the way I am wired.

  21. kiesha January 18, 2012 at 2:56 am #

    Michelle – I hear ya. I absolutely HAAAATE talking to people I don’t know. I hate the phone. I hate small talk. I know that people think I’m rude because I don’t talk, but I would rather people think that I’m rude by staying quiet than think I’m dumb by saying the wrong thing.

    I am Twitter friends with a couple of people I’ve never met. The idea of meeting them in person scares the crap out of me. I have one close female friend (who now lives 500 miles away) and I’m pretty sure I’ll never have another because I can’t fathom hanging out one-on-one with another adult woman at this point in my life.

    I don’t know that my family had an impact on me. They never taught me how to deal with these situations. I always got the “Go say hello”, “Give your aunt a hug” through clenched teeth sorts of things.

    Again, if I don’t have to interact with people (beyond buying a bottle of water from a non-English speaking bodega owner), I’m fine. But put me in Chatty Cathy’s line at the grocery store and I am reduced to mumbling and one-word answers.

  22. Lollipoplover January 18, 2012 at 3:20 am #

    @socalledauthor- I completely agree. I think being a free range parent is actually MORE work than a helicopter approach because it involves actual hands-on teaching and guidance vs. the “let me just do it for you, it’s safer this way” auto-pilot parenting.

    Heather, I can relate to you as I also lost a parent (my Mother) at a young age too (I was 22) but was not at all unprepared to be an adult. Being the last of a dozen kids, the simply didn’t have time to hover! From an early age, I was expected to do things (mowed the lawn at 12, babysat at 11, rode my bike to swim practice 3 miles away on busy roads) most parents would never allow kids to do today. But we were taught how- running a household this large was a ton of work- and we did everything- from cleaning the gutters (I think I was 9 when I was first on the roof) to changing the oil in the car, and fixing a flat tire, and jumping the car (this was required to get our drivers permit.) We were also given a lot of freedom I am so grateful for today and a true childhood. I now proudly teach my kids how to ski, skate, surf, bike, and will gladly show them how to change a flat someday!

    The day my Mother died, I had stopped home after getting a promotion from my first “real” post-college job to the area I grew up. I found her dead of a massive brain aneurysm. I tried CPR and called an ambulance, but she was already gone. My Dad came home as the ambulance was taking her away, and had a heart attack. I moved home to take care of him (though I had lots of help from my siblings) and was able to cook (heart healthy), clean, wash, and keep the house up and running thanks to how my parents raised me. Pop went on to live 20 great years and be a wonderful grandfather to my children and left an incredible legacy. Life can take a turn on you in the blink of an eye. Yes, let them be little and have fun adventures outside, but by all means teach them to cook, clean, and fundamental life skills as they grow.

  23. EricS January 18, 2012 at 5:05 am #

    Free-Range upbringing isn’t about letting your kids go off and do their own thing. That’s just irresponsible. I’m surprised the some people really think that is what it’s all about. Not at all. Free-Range is about instilling the knowledge (guidance) in your children to learn, tackle and overcome everyday situations in their lives as they grow up. I would never let my kid just go off and play in an unknown place, with unknown people without letting him know what things he can expect to happen, and what to do should they happen. I would have also let him know how to observe and assess situations. Children have an uncanny ability to sense when something isn’t right or they are not comfortable with. I just guide them to understand those feelings and teach them how to use it to their advantage. And yes, you can even send them to courses for other useful knowledge, such as CPR and First Aid, Scouts, even sports leagues are good for the mind and body. You don’t need to even hover for these. Unless your just watching on the side line out of support and/or curiosity, you can take off go for coffee, do some shopping, and come back to pick them up. Or better yet, if they are confident and ready, go home by themselves. No we don’t just throw our kids to the lions. We teach them how to “kill” lions first. 😉

    @lollipoplover: I don’t think FR is “MORE” work than helicoptering. Helicoptering involves constant supervision, at every possible second of the day. And during a busy day, that’s pretty much impossible. And trying to accomplish that would drive anyone insane. FR, you teach, even test a little, then you let them be. Unless they come to you for questions or assistance, the rest of your day is free to do what other things you need to do.

  24. Steve January 18, 2012 at 5:53 am #

    kiesha, said:

    “I’m fine when I’m by myself, but the minute I have to interact with other people, I become shy and withdrawn… Drop me in the middle of a birthday party where I only know two other people and I’ll sit in a corner and not speak.”

    Kiesha, partly because your parents didn’t teach you how to interact with strangers which you admitted when you said, ” They never taught me how to deal with these situations.”

    But…This is your lucky day! There’s a very famous book called: How to Win Friends and Influence People,” that can change your life for the better in a huge way. This book has been in print for many years and millions of people have benefited from Dale Carnegie’s wisdom. All libraries have copies of it, or you can download it in PDF format here:


  25. mollie January 18, 2012 at 6:26 am #

    While I can’t know what my child would be like had he stayed with his birth family in Vietnam instead of being raised by two North Americans, I think I can say with confidence that his phobia about being “kidnapped” is not genetic.

    From the first moment we took over care of that child at six months, his dad showed a lot of anxiety. On day one, it was, “Is he still breathing?” (healthy child is asleep in the crib.) When he was a toddler, any time we were in a shopping mall or public place, he didn’t want the kid to stray more than 18 inches away at any time, even if he was in plain sight, because “someone might snatch him.”

    I did my very best to advocate for my own reality, to offer the view that the world and the people in it are not out to get you. Still, having a parent broadcast their paranoia day in and day out, and then having that parent’s ideology backed up by the culture at large, including television, teachers and coaches, well… this isn’t genetics, folks. This is conditioning.

    When we went back to Vietnam, we saw how it is for kids in big cities, and kids in the countryside. They are allowed out of their parents’ sight, and they play in ways that North American parents would gape at (impromptu soccer game in traffic, for instance). I am a free-ranger myself, and I just shook my head sometimes. The Vietnamese DOTE on their children, but they certainly don’t helicopter them or train them to be scared and reactive.

    Interestingly, both my son and other girl who had been born in Vietnam and adopted at six months shared the seemingly innate ability to navigate street crossings safely in both Saigon and Hanoi. Throngs of speeding scooters, bicycles, even cars now… those vehicles do not stop or even slow down for pedestrians. I found myself paralyzed on the curb, moaning softly, and then, once I stepped out into the road and tried to stay calm and walk at a steady pace, I kept yelping with terror and cursing and freezing and running, all things that detract enormously from safety in that situation.

    So why was my son not yelping and freezing and freaking out? Why was this other girl so calm, so confident walking in front of speeding motorbikes? I remembered back to the orphanage, where the nannies were caring for my baby boy. These loving women would, at times, clap loudly, right in front of the baby’s face. It seemed bizarre to me at the time, almost violent. What are they doing? I wondered.

    When I brought the baby home, we were standing on the sidewalk, he was in my arms. The neighbour’s gigantic dog was standing behind us. Out of nowhere, there was a tremendous, unexpected WOOF! I reacted, but my son didn’t flinch. It was if he didn’t have a startle reflex.

    Crossing those streets was very alarming to me. My adrenaline was coursing through me. Being a passenger on the little tour bus, with the driver veering into the oncoming lane of traffic to pass, getting out of the line of fire at the last possible second, never a curse or a fist raised or any fuss or bother or reactivity at all… were all these drivers crazy? I had to stop looking out the front windshield, lest I faint!

    Seems to me there is some kind of combination of genetics and conditioning at work in that culture. Showing anger is discouraged. Being reactive can be deadly, so it’s imperative to develop grace and equanimity. To be constantly alarmed, startled or scared… there’s just no room for it there, it would seem.

    So perhaps these babies were conditioned out of their startle reflex, just as my son was conditioned to expect that every person riding the public bus in our small, Canadian city was a potential kidnapper. Oh, please. Spare me.

  26. Andy January 18, 2012 at 6:28 am #

    @kiesha maybe you are an introvert? There is nothing wrong with that. It may pay off to investigate a theory that there is nothing wrong about you. Just because all those noisy extroverts somehow think that being extrovert is one and only way, it does not mean it is so.

    Most people in a lot of countries do not like to talk to strangers. In a lot of ways, it is an American thing. Not saying that it is bad, I actually liked all those small talks when I was traveling alone.

    How to Win Friends and Influence People is interesting, worth reading and all that, but crosses to manipulation sometimes. Not everything in it is worth doing in long term or at least requires a strong stomach. I would never trust If I would catch you doing some of tricks described there.

  27. Andy January 18, 2012 at 6:31 am #

    @LRH your wife must be a happy wife. Congratulation to her :).

  28. Steve January 18, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    Andy, the reason I mentioned “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is because the author talks a lot about how you need to forget your self-consciousness and think about Other People. Ask them questions. Show interest in other people and you will forget yourself.

    Introverts tend to think: me, me, me.
    I feel uncomfortable.
    I feel odd.
    I don’t know any of these people.
    I’m afraid of interacting with these strangers.
    I wish I weren’t here.

    The problem is also about FEAR… fear of being criticized, fear of not saying the right thing…fear of _________. (You name it.)

    Ask questions like: How long have you lived in the city? Or if it’s a party, ask how the person came to know your host. What would you like others to ask you? Ask strangers those questions. I’m not saying to act like an investigative reporter, just ask a question to get a conversation going. The primary thing to keep in mind is how you can make the Other Person feel good.

    Amazon.com has over 700 five star reviews of “How to Win Friends…” at: http://amzn.to/wJxiNL

  29. Donna January 18, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    Keisha –

    It sounds like you are an introvert. While people do become slightly more introverted as they age, introvert v. extrovert is the trait that is most stagnant from birth. It can be identified in newborns and that remains the side of the coin that you will occupy until death. There is nothing you or your parents did to create introvertedness. It is what you were born to be. There is also absolutely nothing whatsoever wrong about being an introvert. About 40% of the population are. All introvert means is that you prefer solitary activities and small groups to group activities and large crowds. Crowds physically exhaust you and you need downtime to rejuvenate after spending time in groups (as compared to an extrovert who gains his energy from being with others and is actually exhausted if alone).

    It sounds like you are also very shy. Unlike some believe (including whoever wrote that book Steve recommended) introversion and shyness are not one in the same. Most introverts are not shy and some extroverts are. You can certainly work on your shyness if it is negatively impacting your life or is making you unhappy. As an introvert, you can get better at talking to others, but you are never going to be the life of the party or come to love large crowds. It’s not in your nature. Your parents also likely did nothing to create shyness. It is also just your nature.

  30. North of 49 January 18, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    I’m a weird mom here. I don’t follow in my children’s footsteps. I also don’t schedule “play dates” because that’s helicoptering imo. Kids need and should be outside playing, but because of all the “OMGOMGOMG” out there, especially from the media, the streets are empty. I live next to a school playyard and it is quiet. If there are any kids playing there, it is when the parents drop them off for school and just before the parents pick them up after school. Any other time and it is probably a parent with a stroller and a young child. I remember playgrounds being filthy with kids when I was growing up, and parents were rare. Now? Parents are more common than the kids.

  31. Uly January 18, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

    Or, Steve, introverts tend to think “Well, a party is nice, but I’d rather be at home with a book.” and extroverts tend to show off and think “I want more people to see and notice me!”

    I don’t particularly like other people. I’m not scared of them or of embarrassing myself, I just prefer to be alone. It’s not a character flaw, it’s a personality trait.

  32. pentamom January 18, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    It is a misconception that introverts are more self-focused than extroverts. Introverts think “me, me, me” no more than extroverts — it’s just that extroverts think “*I* like talking to people” and “*I* feel good when people interact with me” and “*I* enjoy meeting new people.”

    Neither one is inherently more selfish or other-focused — it’s just that extroverts’ felt needs are more satisfied by interaction. Of course, selfish and giving people exist in both types.

  33. kiesha January 18, 2012 at 10:09 pm #

    I will say that my mom has told me that for the first three years of my life, I was the life of the party. I loved being with other people, loved talking to strangers. Somewhere around three, though, it changed and I became incredibly withdrawn. I have no idea what sparked that.

    I would seek out therapy if this was a huge burden on me. But part of the issue is that I am an introvert and don’t necessarily want a lot of people in my life. I’ve *always* been a one-friend kind of person. (When I was young, I thought you were only allowed to have one close friend, maybe because my mom only has one close friend) I’m fine not being one of those women who has 5 close friends who all go out shopping together and take ‘girls’ weekend’ trips.

    What I do want is to be able to pick up the phone and talk to someone without feeling anxiety. I want to be able to function at a party and talk to people without blushing and feeling like everyone thinks what I just said was stupid. I’ve tried tricks and tips, but as soon as I feel that blush coming on, I just shut up and decide it’s better to go away from people than to keep talking and feeling like a moron.

  34. Michelle Potter January 19, 2012 at 2:32 am #

    I completely understand what you are saying there, Kiesha. It can be very difficult to *want* to talk to someone and not be able to.

    I also want to agree with everyone who said that being an introvert and being shy (or having social anxiety disorder) are NOT the same. Introverts are *happy* on their own, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Personally, I am an extrovert. I get depressed and miserable if I spend too much time alone. I used to be stuck in this awful cycle, where I isolated myself because of my anxiety, then got severely depressed because of the isolation. Then I’d try to go out to parties or bars and hang out with my friends, and end up spending the whole night sitting in a corner alone. I’d come home and cry and feel even MORE depressed. Luckily, with therapy, medication, and very supportive friends and husband, I am slowly getting better.

    One thing that really helps, at least when it comes to your friends, is flat out telling them what is going on. People used to think I was stuck up or just didn’t like them. Now I tell all of my friends that I do like them, I enjoy their company and would like to be closer, but I am struggling with an anxiety disorder. (I think this would also be useful if you are an introvert, to just tell your friends that you enjoy spending a lot of time alone. Good friends will understand.) Some people aren’t interested in making the effort to get past my issues and really get to know me, but plenty of others are. And at least then you know who to bother with and who to just let go.

  35. BMS January 20, 2012 at 12:54 am #

    I’m one of those phone phobic types. I don’t own a cell phone (for many reasons). My best friend knows that if I don’t call her, it’s not because I don’t like her, it’s because I just don’t ever think to. So she calls me, we have a great chat. I can talk to my relatives just fine. If you ask me to call a vendor for information, I will put it off for weeks before doing it unless it is mission critical. Having to call another country puts me in a cold sweat. Some of this I have forced myself to overcome for job purposes. Some of this I have learned to sidestep through the beauty of email (if I could do everything by email, I would). And some of it I delegate to husbands, technicians, and secretaries.

    I also don’t need a million friends (I’m not on facebook either. Antisocial? Me?) I have 2-3 good friends. I have ever been thus, and I’m happy. If I wasn’t happy or otherwise felt my quality of life was diminished, I might take steps to fix it. But I won’t let others make me out to have a complex just because I have a lower need for interaction.

  36. ariel January 20, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    heather’s situation is something ive been told by my parents that they worry about; and in turn, i worry about it too. ive imagined myself far ahead into the future, when my parents are goneor maybe even just me being on my own, and wrote about it in a notebook my former therapist recommended it write in. basically, the idea was that if something happened to me post-living with my parents, no one would know about it, because no one reads/writes on my facebook wall (i call my fb account “useless”, btw), i havent talked with any of my old friends from when i was in youth group because my parents say they’ve grown up to be bad influences. the most ‘conversation’ i have with non-family, right now, is a girl who lives in europe, who talks to me semi-often on dreamwidth.

    i read a devotional the other day that said ‘in order to make friends, be a good friend yourself’. we just moved to a new state, and there is SO MUCH that i wanna do here, but, i chicken out before i can ask, because its like freakin’ RADAR: soon as i think about going someplace (i have a license but they wont put me on their insurance) where i think i might have a chance of making new friend(s), one of them bring up something they saw on the news/a lifetime movie channel movie/a law & order episode/whatever, and i say forget it. i was thinking about asking to go to the local roller rink today. before i can even open my mouth, (mom, to dad:)”so, i was watching that movie they made about ted bundy…” and they go back and forth to each other about different parts of the movie.
    then they wonder why im always in my room. if i didnt have my laptop, id be even more screwed.

  37. An Onny January 24, 2012 at 6:01 am #

    “I do believe over protective parents aren’t the sole reason many over protected kids grow up with fears, insecurties, and even anxiety. But they do play a big role.”

    I’m not so sure I agree. I am middle aged and know lots of adults my age and older who had pretty free-range childhoods and have lots of anxiety issues. And why did so many of the kids who did have the happy, free-roaming childhoods grow up to be these overprotective soccer moms, hovering at every opportunity? Why are they not trying to replicate their childhoods?

    And I’ve been watching and observing these protected kids grow now, and the ones I know are college aged, and seem well-adjusted and happy and doing well with their independence.

    So I’m trying to figure this all out still. I’m on the fence. I’m probably a little more protective than most on this website, but of my group here, I shake my head at the extent some parents DO go. Driving their kids literally 3 blocks to preschool because it’s raining out? Nope, nope, I made a stand and never did that, much to the protests of my kids….and now they walk to elementary school 2 blocks away no matter what the weather. But…they see what other parents DO do and I wonder if they’re going to grow up with a complex because they had the mom who wasn’t quite as caring enough to drive them in the pouring rain? Does coddling equate to how much you love your kids these days? Cuz it sure seems that kids don’t care that much about independence. I TRY to be the mom that says “Go out and PLAY!” to which they wander around and hover by the back door wanting to be back inside. Anyone else deal with this?

  38. udlrdm February 4, 2012 at 1:50 am #

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  1. Growing Up: Free-Range Kids or Smother Mother? | Healthland | TIME.com - January 28, 2012

    […] On Jan. 21, Dutch teen Laura Dekker, 16, glided into St. Maarten and proclaimed herself the youngest person to sail around the world. A few days before that milestone, over at the-kids-are-alright Free-Range Kids blog, author Lenore Skenazy published a note she’d received from “a gal named Heather” entitled “Wish I’d been raised more free-range.” […]