Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Free-Range Parenting

We are familiar with free-range chickens, but have you heard of free-range kids? In the age of the helicopter parent, there is a new completely opposite movement emerging.

Free Range Parents are raising free-range kids. And just like the chickens, these kids are free to come and go without parental supervision. The idea of free-range kids came into the media spotlight recently when 2 boys from Maryland were picked up by the police while walking home from a park. The boys are 10 and 6 years old and had permission from their parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, to walk to a nearby park, play for 2 hours and walk home. Their parents had talked and made the decision that their children were mature and smart enough to walk to the park alone. While walking home, just 4/10 of a mile from home and due to a 911 call from a neighbor who saw the boys playing alone at the park, they were picked up by police. The boys were held for hours and taken to Child Protective Services. Their parents, who were obviously out of their mind with worry, were not contacted until hours later. Before they were given their children back the Meitivs had to sign a safety plan that would not allow them to leave their children alone ever again. If they were to allow their children to walk alone they would be taken away again.

This incident made me think of my childhood. My grandparents lived maybe 200 yards from a park. Once in awhile my cousins and I were given permission to walk to the park and play by ourselves. It was totally normal and we saw lots of other kids there without an adult in sight. I remember when I was a kid how some kids walked home from the school bus stop on their own. Would I allow my kids to do this today? HELL NO. Why? Because I am way too freaked out with all the what-ifs and maybe's. Because I would rather be crazy over-protective than sorry. But because I feel that way, should other parents be punished for not being over-protective?

Free-range parenting is obviously highly controversial. There is the pro side who feel that by giving your child freedom you are teaching them a valuable lesson of independence. There is the anti side who feels that allowing your child to be unsupervised is neglect.

What is your opinion on this new (or is it really old?) parenting style?

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