Free range kids coming to a neighborhood near you

Local

Parenting styles differ from one home to the next. While so-called helicopter parents have taken center stage the last couple of decades, more and more moms and dads are embracing a hands-off approach, begging the questions, “Will we see a return of free range parenting?” 

At least one mom has made it her mission.

Of course, all parents want their children to grow up to be independent, but letting go can be difficult. 

“To say that you want to raise a problem solver, but you’re always there with your kids, solving all of their problems, how are they going to learn that skill?” Lenore Skenazy said.

Skanazy is calling for what she calls common-sense parenting in these overprotective times.  She calls it free range kids. It’s a movement she started a decade ago.

“It was 10 years ago that I wrote a column in the newspaper here in New York City–I’m a columnist–called ‘Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone,'” Skenazy said.

Some thought Skenazy was crazy to let her child ride the subway alone.   

“That’s how I got the nickname ‘America’s Worst Mom,'” Skenazy said. 

She has championed the movement for more independent children as she travels the nation to encourage like-minded parents to get on board. 

Skenazy said parents allow others to shame them into parenting differently.

“Our job as parents has always been to teach them how to make their way,” Skenazy said. “Not to be Velcroed to them every single second, because if you are, how do your children learn how to cross the street safely, how to deal with people, how to deal with disappointment or fear?” 

Angie Messina walks and drives her children to and from school every day.  She admits she’s hesitant to let her children out of her sight. 

“I like to be around them, to tell you the truth,” Messina said. “I like to know where they are. I do kind of worry a little bit.” 

Skenazy said getting over fears is the biggest hurdle in letting go.

“You ask most people, ‘Can you let your kids play outside?’ and they say ‘No’ and you say ‘Why not?’ and they say ‘I loved it, but times have changed,'” Skenazy said. “And I say ‘You’re right. Crime is lower than when you were growing up.’ And it is so hard for people to believe that.” 

Crime statistics in the U.S. show a substantial decline in the violent crime rate since it peaked in the early 1990s. According to FBI numbers, the violent crime rate fell 48 percent between 1993 and 2016.

Despite these numbers, it’s the peer pressure that has parents shying away from exercising a hands-off approach to their children. 

“Once in a while, I would hear from a parent who had done that, who had been investigated for neglect, because some busybody saw a child outside,” Skenazy said. “It’s so unusual to see a child without a tank.” 

Skenazy has been calling for laws to avoid such a scenario. She may have been part of the reason Utah just passed a law in March outlining what does and does not constitute neglect. The law goes into effect May 8.

It states in part. “Neglect does not include “permitting a child, whose basic needs are met and who is of sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm, to engage in independent activities,” such as going to and from school by walking, running or bicycling, going to nearby stores or recreational facilities, and playing outside.

It essentially legalizes free range kids.

More states are expected fo follow. 

“Simply letting them walk to school is not a crime,” Skenazy said. 

That’s why more parents like Messina are abandoning the helicopters and letting their children travel alone. 

“I do think it helps give them more independence and to say that I actually did walk home from school by myself, and that’s an accomplishment,” Messina said. 

What do you think of free range parenting? Weigh in on our Facebook page

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Latest Local Stories

More Local