I remember walking to school with my younger sister from the time I was in third grade. Our school was just under a mile away from our house. We walked through the neighborhoods and didn’t have to cross any major roads, but it was still a jaunt.
Now that I have my own kids I cannot imagine letting them walk to school alone. Granted, we live in the middle of the city, but times are changing and it just doesn’t feel as safe as it used too. Maybe that’s part of growing up, maybe it’s just reality.
There is a movement among parents called “Free range parenting,” which is rather similar to raising and eating free range cattle (minus the eating part). The idea is that children have fewer scheduled activities and are given more freedom to enjoy the world around them, sort of like the childhood of days gone by.
I’m all about giving your children freedom. I’m especially on board with unplugging the electronics and encouraging imagination through reading and active play. I’m even comfortable with sending my kids outside to play without supervision (They are 8 and 6). But there are limits.
Take the example of the mom who lets her 9-year old ride the subway alone. In New York City. I’ve been to New York City. There’s no way on God’s green earth my child would ever tackle the subway alone at that age. It’s insanity.
I don’t think I’m even all that uptight. I may or may not have left my kids at home (asleep) to drive my husband a quick 10-minutes to work. But, the subway or even walking to school alone in the big city? Nope.
With any style of parenting there are things that need improvement. Helicopter parents have things they can and should reconsider, as do Free Range parents. Stifling your children with unending rules, packed schedules and never-ending attachment to you hip can be just as damaging to your child as letting them parent themselves with no guidance.
I love the idea behind Free-Range parenting: Not treating your children like they are incapable idiots, but giving them responsibilities and letting them learn to handle things on their own. I think kids are spoiled rotten. Even my own! They have access to so many things that we didn’t have and they take it for granted. So, I’m all for letting a child learn to do things on their own, in their own time. But with boundaries.
We need to take our child into consideration: the individual child, their maturity, personality and skills. But we also need to consider the neighborhoods we live in and think about how much freedom is really safe. Are free-range parents crazy, irresponsible whack-jobs. No. I think we could all use a little more free-range attitude in our parenting styles, but within limits.
Do you practice Helicopter Parenting?