Rage Against The Minivan: Why I’m Not A Free-Range Parent

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It seems like everyone is talking about “free-range parenting” these days. It started in 2008 when Lenore Skenazy wrote a piece in the New York Sun about letting her 9 year-old son ride the subway alone. Her essay made such an impact that Skenazy later wrote a book called Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry). It’s become a popular parenting philosophy, but not without it’s own controversy. Now there are stories of parents being arrested because they let their kids play in the front yard or walk to the park unsupervised..

Personally, I love the idea of teaching kids to be self-reliant. I’ve written about trying to raise independent, confident kids. And I get that free-range parenting is a good way to do it. But it’s not my thing. Free-range parenting is not for us. Yes, I understand that crime statistics are lower than ever. I’m not a hovering mother . . . my concern isn’t coming from paranoia about stranger danger.

But I know my kids. I know myself. And that’s why, if my kids are playing outside, I usually have them in my line of sight. I know who they are with and what they are doing. No, watching them doesn’t automatically protect them from all the injuries that could happen outside. They are kids. Things happen.

And those things happen whether you’re watching your kids or letting them free-range all over the place. But parenting isn’t just about protecting your kids from random accidents or injuries. Kids need more than freedom for outside activities. Our parenting style is about helping our kids be productive now—and then building a foundation so they can become motivated teenagers and independent adults in the future. Giving them the specific structure to develop this way is my job as a parent.

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