I'd never heard of it, but after Feralxat mentioned it in the "What's the opposite of attachment parenting?" question last night, I was curious and looked it up. The approach makes a lot of sense to me, although there's a fine line between allowing independence and taking what I would consider unnecesary risks. Still, the approach of letting kids learn from their mistakes when possible, entertain themselves at times instead of keeping them in activities and classes every hour of the day, seems wise. What do you all think? I'm truly curious, not meaning to stir up trouble--differen approaches work for different moms.
'free range' parents push independence for kids
Bree Ervin was sitting in the shade at a park when her then-7-month-old daughter climbed a small slide and prepared to go down head-first.
Another mom approached to warn her and was shocked when Ervin didn't rush over to stop her daughter. Instead, Ervin let her go -- and then comforted the girl when she realized that sliding face-first hurts. The other mom castigated her, calling her "one of those free-range parents."
Ervin, who now lives in Longmont with her husband and daughters, 6-year-old Alex and 8-year-old Cody, googled that moniker when she got home and discovered a label that perfectly described her parenting style.
"Whether it is Internet predators, kidnappers, pedophiles, sharp objects, skinned knees or any of the other potential dangers that we are taught to fear, free rangers believe the best response is to prepare our children to cope with whatever life throws at them -- and to give them the wits, practice and tools to do so," she said.
The term "free-range parenting" was coined by Lenore Skenazy, who drew national attention after she let her 9-year-old son ride the New York subway by himself and then wrote a column about it for the New York Sun. She wrote a book, has a website devoted to free-range parenting and regularly proposes events like "take your kids to the park and leave them there" day.
Critics have dubbed it lazy parenting and say parents are taking unnecessary risks with their children's safety.
But supporters say they don't want to let fear rule their children's lives. It's been called the antidote to "helicopter" parents, who hover over their children, ready to swoop in and solve all their problems -- even in college.
"A free-range parent tends to believe that all children, not just their own, are safer and smarter than pop culture leads us to believe," Skenazy said. "We don't think that our kids need a security detail every time they leave their house. We don't think we have to buy a million educational videos, classes and toys to personally knit every synapse in their brain."
Skenazy said media organizations "obsessed" with news of worst case scenarios, especially missing children, have created a culture of fear. When a parent is trying to decide if a child would be OK waiting alone at a bus stop, she said, an image of a child taken from a bus stop is what pops up -- not an image of the millions of children who wait safely every day.
"We see things through the lens of dire risk," she said. "Pretty soon, you're scared to let your kid go to the park or ride a bike."
scared to let your kid go to the park or ride a bike."
Johanna Burian and David James have been staunch supporters of the parenting style since their 18-month-old twin girls were born.
Burian recounted a story about a college roommate who had never done a load of laundry and said she doesn't want that lack of self-sufficiency for her daughters.
"It's a great big world out there," she said. "They need to know how to handle it. You're not sending them out in the world at 18 not knowing how to do anything."
With toddlers, they said, being free-range means not buying knee pads as they were learning to walk and not covering sharp table corners with protective pads.
"We have things they can bump their heads on," James said. "They learn from it and don't bump into things nearly as much as they used to. They can go down the bigger slide. So the girls have a skinned knee every so often. It's really not a big problem. The biggest thing is to make sure they have room to try things that are a little bit of a stretch for them."
There's a lot more to the article at
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