Free-range kids

I swallowed the book Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy in 2 or 3 days.  I couldn’t put it down.  I highly recommend it!  I was recently talking to my father-in-law about wanting to give my kids freedom to try things and fail/succeed but that our world seems so unsafe now.  My father-in-law thought the statistics showed that this is not true.  I’ll admit I was skeptical of him, but when I read this book, I was convinced!  Now, I’ve relaxed a lot because I can put normal risks into their corresponding fear category and not worry so much about what all could go wrong.  For example, it is much more likely that our children will die in a car accident (sadly) than by the many other fears we contrive, like abduction (extremely rare) to suffocating on a plastic bag (very uncommon). Also, the book is very playful and makes fun of the ridiculous fears and the products that exist to try and assuage our fears.  It also gives lots of statistics.  Here is an excerpt:

“A lot of parents today are really bad at assessing risk.  They see no difference between letting their children walk to school and letting them walk through a firing range.  When they picture their kids riding their bikes to a birthday party, they see them dodging Mack trucks with brake problems.  To let their children play unsupervised in a park at age eight or ten or even thirteen seems about as responsible as throwing them in the shark tank at Sea World with their pockets full of meatballs.

Any risk is seen as too much risk.  And the only thing these parents don’t seem to realize is that the greatest risk of all just might be trying to raise a child who never encounters any risks.”

She also talks about letting go of our desire for control.  We want so badly to overcome our fears that we think the more we can control, the less we’ll have to fear something going wrong.  But control is an illusion because there are so many things out of our control that it is silly to keep our kids locked up in a box in order to protect them from the few things we may have some small control over.

So anyway, I’ll be documenting the types of free-range activities (or actually normal childhood activities that most everyone grew up doing anyway!)

1.  When I go to the library I let Leo (and sometimes Silvia) play in the children’s area while I search for a good book to read. The two libraries I’ve tried this at are small enough that I can go to the opposite side of the room and only be about 50 feet away. Close enough to hear when Silvia starts fussing or when Leo is having an issue with another child. Although I’m trying hard not to swoop in and mediate with him and the other child but to see if he can work it out. It has been a fun experiment! The kids are usually playing happily when I return and I get to peacefully choose a book. Plus, it’s just freeing to not have to worry about the kids being in my eyesight every moment I’m around them.

2. I started doing this before I read the book but now I’m calmer about it. Leo is a careful, cautious and fairly obedient 2 year old. I don’t have to worry too much about him to begin with. So I would let him play in the backyard by himself and I’d just peek out at him every few minutes. He loves transferring water and dirt to different containers or drawing with chalk or playing in the sandbox. Now if I leave him on the front porch I will “lock” the front gate so he can’t go into the street, but he then has free-range of the front and back yard. I left him outside while I put Silvia down for a nap and he was right where I left him when I checked on him. It beats making him come inside for the few minutes it takes to get her down.

I think this concept is much more natural than helicopter parenting, but I believe the reason for helicopter parenting is the disordered fear of risks. Every choice is a risk, but to give my children freedom is a risk worth taking in my opinion.
Summer 2013 039


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Freedom to roam | Mummy Ed

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