I’m a Free Range Chicken.

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Image courtesy of chrisroll at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Free Range Parenting is the latest methodology on how to grow successful and happy kids.

It centers around allowing your children “age appropriate” independence to learn about the world they live in, but without the obvious safety net of an over-bearing and controlling parent. Think 1950’s. Kids went everywhere by themselves, stepping out the door after breakfast only to return for dinner, hours later. It was considered perfectly normal (and safe) for children to be out in the community without adult supervision. That was Free Range Parenting before it had a name.

By the 1990’s, things changed had completely changed. Remember the Helicopter Mom era? Parents began scheduling every minute of their kid’s day, filling up free time with pre-planned play dates and chaperoned outings, literally “hovering” over their kids to make sure they were safe, engaged, and involved in appropriate activities with appropriate people. Those door to door cookie sales and school fundraisers were kaboshed due to Stranger Danger which meant parents either bought 48 boxes of cookies or begged family and friends to do the same. A child wandering anywhere alone would certainly be cause for concern.

It really was a safety issue. The news was filled with stories of child abductions or worse. Neighborhood Watches were created, teaching Stranger Danger was a priority, and communities were acutely aware of any non-descript white vans without windows patrolling the streets, all in an attempt to avoid more heinous headlines. Spending every waking moment with your children in view was the knee-jerk reaction. The big problem with this type of parenting was the fall out. Those kids never really learned how to successfully manage things for themselves. They looked to others (often Mom and Dad) to accomplish things for them. We sent them in to the real world ill-prepared and ready for failure…to start careers or go to college. Guess where a lot of these kids ended up? Back at home with Mom and Dad, getting their laundry done and the oil changed in their car for free (yes, the car Mom and Dad pay for). The end result grown up kiddo wasn’t prepared for life in the real world.

Now there seems to be a backlash.

Parents and experts alike are questioning all those good-intentioned “helicopter” parents and are reconsidering a Free Range Parenting approach.  Evidently, more parents are practicing Free Range Parenting techniques. And, why not? Crime rates have dropped significantly over the last decade.

Last week there was a story on the front page of our local newspaper that caught my attention. It featured a Free Range Parenting Mom (SunJournal, February 7, 2015) in my community. It explained how this Mom allows her young daughter to interact in every day situations by herself and how she believes it is important for her daughter to learn from real world situations. There are lots of ways to to keep kids safe and to give them the age appropriate freedom that will teach them important life skills. Cell phones and GPS have made constant contact almost possible. It seems reasonable that our kids might not magically manage the world and everything in it at 12:01am on their 18th birthday…without some practice first? But am I ready to let my 5 year old walk to school on her own?

Image courtesy of zdiviv at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of zdiviv at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

According to that same local paper, 8 children were murdered in the State of Maine in 2014. Awfully, all at the hands of someone close to them- a parent, grandparent, caregiver, or other adult living in the same house. No one that falls into the Stranger Danger category.

So, why am I afraid to embrace Free Range Parenting methods?

Here’s the thing:

Eight may be a small number, but for those families, their world has tragically ended. I don’t know that I would survive something like that happening to our family.

While I will continue to encourage and support my children to try explore the world around them…I will be close by. I won’t be sending my child on the city bus at 10 years old to go to the mall. She’ll have to enjoy retail therapy with her Mom. I won’t be letting my 8 year old walk a mile or two to the local swimming hole by herself. I’ll come for a dip too. And, my 5 year old will have to catch a ride to school with me in the mornings. I’m a Free Range Chicken. All because I could never survive being one of those 8.

A quick disclaimer: I don’t profess to be right or wrong in this parenting dilemma. I’m just talking out loud.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the pros and cons of Free Range Parenting.

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19 Responses

  1. Kiwi says:

    Wow I loved this blog post. I dont have kids but I do see lots of Helicopter parenting…for example with fundraiser stuff. I dont see children getting their own profits for it…I see plenty of parents bringing their girl scout cookies pamphlets to work and where ever else and the kid doesnt even try to ask or sell the cookies. That is coddling and it doesnt make them independent…and later on in life you wonder why they can’t get a job because mommy/daddy have to revise their resume for them. Thanks for this because if you start earlier raising your child to be independent…they will be strong independent adults! Let the kids fly from the nest a little.

  2. I think parenting is relative. You will parent each child based on the child needs. So don’t overthink it. If it is working for you and your child, keep doing it.

  3. Kristin says:

    I’m with you! I could never let go that much!

  4. Tracie says:

    I’m really torn on this. In a lot of ways I’m pretty protective because of the childhood I lived. But now that my daughter is in her tween years, I’m trying to back off in some situations and give her more freedom. I think there is a balance in there somewhere, and I’m trying to find it.

  5. lisa says:

    Even when I was a child, my mother never let us run free. We had some freedoms but she always knew what we were up to (until we got older). There is too much going on in the world to let our kids run free. I will give my kids the same amount of freedom I had when I was little. I turned out ok!

  6. Debbie Denny says:

    I think there is a meeting point between the two. Many kids do not know how to deal with the world on their own.

  7. Lexie Lane says:

    I’ve been so fascinated by the history of parenting during those times, especially as I watched a popular show that was centered around that period. Seeing how parents would leave their buggies with their babies outside and not care, no bars were around the stairs, etc. Now we almost completely shelter our kids. This is such a great read. I could go on and on but then I would get really into it! lol!

  8. Cathy says:

    I’ve always tended to be a pretty protective parent, but now that my son is a teenager I’ve done the best I can to give him the tools he needs to be more independent. That doesn’t mean I don’t worry like crazy because I always will, even when he’s 40.

  9. What a fascinating post! I never heard the term free range parenting but it seems to be the natural response to helicopter parenting. Somewhere in between is the perfect balance!

  10. Rosey says:

    It’s hard to find the right balance. My MIL grouches at me for not letting my 1st grader ride the bus, but to me he’s so small. And what would he do if something happened. I’m just not ready yet, and so that’s it. 😉 I do know there are pros and cons to everything though, just like you were noting above.

  11. I am in the middle somewhere- I think it’s important for kids to develop independence and figure things out for themselves, but there are true, safety issues to consider out there.

  12. Melissa Vera says:

    I am a combination of both type of parenting but now that my girls are older it is more free range.

  13. Shauna says:

    I too feel like I am in between… I allow them to explore but to a point. I am always near and watching. Ha! I think each parent should parent the way they seem fit.

  14. Jess says:

    Well, chicken tastes good no matter how you cook it ;). I guess I turned out okay too considering the way I was raised. We all do the best we can, right?

  15. This is an interesting parenting approach. I try to give them independence and guide them

  16. I have never heard this type of parenting before but I have always been one to allow the kids to do as much as they can on their own.

  17. becca says:

    I am somewhere in between I hover a lot but t the same time I teach my son to do for himself. I know I need to let him have more independence but I can’t imagine life without him. So I hover.

  18. Pam says:

    It’s scary to think about your kids being abducted or murdered. My kids got some freedom, but they also got plenty of supervision.

  19. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says:

    I seem to be raising my kids similar to the way my mom raised me. I know her method worked because I turned out ok (I think), so why not?

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