Is Raising Free Range Kids Irresponsible or Brave Parenting?

How to parent has always been a hot topic and there are plenty of self help books, full of instructions. Well over 40 years ago parenting expert, Dr. Haim Ginott, referenced a client who described his mother as a helicopter, hovering over him. And the term ‘Helicopter Parenting’ was defined as an ineffective parenting style in the 1990 book, Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility.

Journalist Lenore Skenazy has recently put this subject, once again, in the limelight. She set her 9-year-old son free by himself in the New York City subways and then wrote an article that created a lot of controversy. Her book, Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worryis based on her actions as a parent and the public reactions about what a terrible mother she was.

Skenazy has a term for those who buy into a money-making market aimed at parents and driven by fear – she calls it ‘parental mania.’ She now has quite a following and you can read about what she and her fans have to say on her blog, Free Range Kids.

Parenting at its best combines a gentle delivery but firm conviction. Not always easy. And as your kids want more freedom, you may find it’s hard to let go. How do we decide when to allow our kids to go places alone? How old is old enough? And how much protection is overprotection? These are hard questions, to be sure. Read this blog post by Jennifer Gresham, a new mom who is trying to figure it all out. And then begin to step back from your growing kids by following these practical tips:

Let your kids make some decisions on their own. In the beginning, these can be as simple as yogurt or nuts for snack, alloted screen time after breakfast or before dinner. It will make them feel more involved, confident and prepared to make choices as they get bigger. It’s been said before, but experience is a great teacher.

Resist taking on chores that now should fall to them. These too can start small. As much as putting their clothes in the laundry, setting the table and making their beds have been part of your job description so far, it may now be time to pass the baton.

Focus on their positive qualities. Think of reasons to support their evolving ideas as they begin to feel better about expressing themselves. And remember that another part of their training right now is to learn about the joys and responsibilities of more freedom and independence.

Practice open and honest communication.
Talk out any conflicts or misunderstandings. Use the same conversational etiquette that you would with anyone else you care about and respect. Teach your kids active listening skills and sending I-messages – it’s a gift that will last a lifetime.

Of course, there is no one right way to parent. But growing children need to learn to rely on their own instincts and independent problem solving. Instead of overprotecting them, let’s get back to teaching children how to safely take risks and take care of themselves.

Want to read a delightful article by Roger Ebert? It’s in the Chicago Sun Times, entitled Remember When – and has over 350 comments. Log on the rest of the week as we further explore this subject using, as examples, sailor Abby Sunderland and’s matchmaking service for her 31 year old son.

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3 Responses to Is Raising Free Range Kids Irresponsible or Brave Parenting?

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