Thursday, March 5, 2015

I am not a Free Range parent.


There's a lot of talk right now about the "Free Range" style of parenting.  Supporters claim that backing away from children and giving them more independence fosters strong character and personal responsibility.  Free range parents point out that the fear of disaster is out of proportion with actual risk.  There is an incredibly minute chance that your eight year old will be snatched by a stranger while walking home alone from the park.  Don't the benefits of free play outweigh the small risk?  Stories of parents being penalized for letting their children be alone in public have been trending.  These parents feel they are being unjustly punished for their parenting style.  Lots of people agree with them.  Well, I don't.  Not totally, I suppose.

Do I think CPS has more important things to do than go after the parents of a child who walks a mile to a playground by himself?  Yes.  Do I think it's a smart thing to do?  No.  

Just hear me out..

I know what you're thinking.  But parents of a few decades ago would have thought nothing of this situation!!  Random crimes against children are way DOWN from those times!!  Parents worry needlessly because they are constantly inundated with bad news!!  Perhaps those things are true.  I just think that by arguing those facts, you've basically made my case.

Let's take children out of the equation, shall we?  Use your imagination with me..

Thirty years ago people rarely locked their doors.  Only local crimes made the newspaper and you rarely heard of a B&E.  Then one year several homes in a nice quiet neighborhood are robbed.  In a single summer alone 10 homes, left unlocked while their owners were out, were broken into.  Several irreplaceable items were taken or ruined.  Homeowners are frantic.  They've never felt so vulnerable.  Police are baffled.  Case files are piling up.  Often there is no way to solve the case because there was no forced entry.  Homes would be robbed in the morning and not discovered until the afternoon, by that time the thieves were no where to be found.  They could be states away before anyone knew a crime had been committed.  

Detectives begin issuing warnings to concerned citizens.  For the love of all that is holy.. LOCK YOUR DOORS.  Newspapers advertise constant reminders, an unlocked home is an easy target.  If you care about your belongings, please remember to lock your door each time you leave home. An open house is an invitation to a criminal.  Everyone takes notice.  Homes are no longer left unlocked.  Alarm systems are installed.  

Lo and behold, it works.  The next summer only one home is broken into.  Apparently there was some confusion during the morning rush and a husband and wife each thought the other locked the door as they left together.  

"All it takes is one mistake", the neighborhood whispers, "Those poor people.  They'll never be able to get back what they lost.  Let this be a reminder to double check our doors when we leave home.." 

 After years of safety it's easy to forget the risk.  Occasionally someone leaves their home unlocked and is unlucky enough to fall victim.  But for the most part, as time goes on, the days of rash burglary are a distant memory.  The community feels so safe now. 

Would you say that it would be a good idea to go back to the days of unlocked homes?  Do you really believe that there are less evil people in the world now because random crime has decreased?  Is it that we're safer or more vigilant?  What is the difference between today and thirty years ago? 


Replace home with child.  THIS happened.  The horrible reality is that when children were left unattended wandering around, they were easy targets.  Abductions happened.  They rocked small communities and shattered families.  The news just didn't travel much further.  People didn't realize.  Until they did.  

As media because more efficient, parents came face to face with what they were truly risking when they let their preteen daughters walk to the mall alone.  Parents wised up. "Not on my watch", they said.

Not my child.

And do you want to know what happened?  Random crimes against children have decreased.  YES.  Our children are safer today than they were thirty years ago.  They are much less likely to be taken from a public playground, BECAUSE their parents are standing nearby.

Children are also much less likely to go flying through the windshield in a car crash because they are strapped securely into car seats until age 8.  If motor vehicle injuries involving children become increasing rare, should we stop using child safety seats?  Of course not, that would be absurd.  The seats are keeping them safe.  

I refuse to let the whimsy of a parenting trend obscure what I feel is the obvious truth- our children are safer because they are protected.  To get to them, you'd have to go through us.

My kids can learn independence and responsibility in my presence until they are truly old enough to protect themselves.

What say you?  Am I paranoid?  Do you agree?


  1. I think you make a great point here (and one that I worry is lost upon "free range" parents): you can instill in your children independence while still ensuring their safety. There's a huge difference between being a "helicopter" parent and a parent that has just plain ol' common sense.

  2. This is essentially "herd immunization" but applied to child safety against violence and abduction rather than viruses.

  3. Wow. Wow. I remember the days of us walking to school on our on, and riding bikes, and hanging out. I wonder if part of it too is that our neighbors back then were more involved in the lives of all the kids on the block. This meant that we all kept an eye out for each other, and that the adults had permission to correct and tell on us if we were in the wrong places. I wonder if us being so insular and insulated now creates an atmosphere in which kids on their own or more of a a target because no one else is looking out, or on their porches, because we are all inside watching TV and on the internet. Just a thought. But I like your approach.

  4. Yes. I totally agree. I feel the same way.


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