What’s up with free-range parenting?
Choices. As parents we make decisions moment by moment with our kids. We guide their choices on what they eat, how they act, where they are and what activities they are in. Is it too much? Some experts believe kids today are overscheduled. They don’t have time to just be kids. On the other side of the spectrum, many believe free-range parenting builds independence. After all, decades before us kids grew up running around in neighborhoods for hours unsupervised. The vast difference in opinion has sparked controversy. Kids love the freedom to roam, but are the days of “The Sandlot” over?
What does an inch – or a mile – of freedom teach a child?
Parent, author and columnist Lenore Skenazy believes that freedom promotes exploration, creativity and self-confidence. Free-range parenting is not the idea of setting your children free to go wherever they want whenever they want. It’s about giving freedom and responsibility while teaching them how to adapt and respond. Parents believe that children learn and mature quicker when having alone time. Kids will take risk – some calculated and some not – and they learn from consequences. Kids with a bit of independence learn to cope and solve problems on their own.
But is it safe?
Not too long ago, schools approved of children as young as kindergarten and first grade to walk to school if they lived within a mile. Some say the world has changed. Sparked in the late 80s and early 90s when crime was at an all-time high, and the Jacob Wetterling story was a national heartbreak, the safety and supervision of children has progressively tightened up. The reality though, is that Crime statistics are significantly lower than in the past. Kids once again may have room to roam.
Where can we compromise? 3 ideas to consider
Today’s society makes committed efforts to protect children. Some feel we can never do enough. Some say it’s become too much. The balance meets somewhere in the middle.
- Give freedom for activities that are age appropriate. Allow kids to go out a little after dark for some night games. Trust they can bike around the block with a group of friends. It’s important to recognize a child’s need to stretch a bit and know when that child is ready.
- Outline the rules. As with all activities, discuss the rules. How far can they travel? Can they be alone or do they need to be with a friend? When should they return? How can you reach them or find them if needed?
- Know your child’s ability to react. Can your child follow rules? Can your child respond if there’s a problem or issue that comes up? Does your child know when and from whom to ask for help? Talk about these topics. We need to guide our kids to make good choices. Walk through potential scenarios to discuss appropriate responses and ways to handle the uncertain.
Allowing kids to stretch beyond our control is difficult. Parents are programmed to keep kids safe and protected. Extremes on both sides are filled with risk. Choose the right decision for you and your child.
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