Free Range Children

Isobel - posted on 10/02/2009 ( 17 moms have responded )

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I happen to be a big believer that the world is safer than the media portrays...I think that so many of us have been led to become "helicopter parents" hovering over our children at every moment of every day. I have posted an article about a book written by a woman in NYC who gave her child (I think he was 11, I can't remember) bus fare and a map and trained him on how to navigate his city public transportation system, then let him make his own way home....she was then called "The worst mother in America"



I can't wait till my kids are old enough to do this, I encourage independence and hope they can develop a sense of self-mastery and confidence through learning that I trust them.



I live on a dead end street, my children are 6 and 8, I already allow them to go outside and play with their friends (there are about 8 of them)...Am I the worst mother in Canada?



http://www.bettyconfidential.com/ar/ld/a...

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Jodi - posted on 10/02/2009

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Quoting Sharon:

LOL my kids are nuts too. I'm freezing - wearing a heavy jacket and the boys are running around in t-shirts & shorts. I'm sure people think I'm the pig but nope, they've got clean warm clothes - they are just much warmer than me. Between them & my hubby they freeze me & the 7 yr old out of the house.

And sometimes the 7 yr old won't wear a sweater or jacket because it will cover her pretty shirt/dress, etc.



My daughter is sitting here in a skimpy little fairy dress as we speak.  I don't know how she does it, but if she's cold, she knows where her jumper is!!



I remember a couple of years ago when we went out to dinner one my night.  My stepdaughter was about 15 at the time, and we all know that how you look is more important than comfort at that age.  It was the middle of winter, and I was cold just looking at her.  I asked her if she wanted to take a jumper, but she assured me she'd be fine, so I just shrugged.



Anyway, half way through the evening her teeth were chattering.  She refused to admit she was cold, but Mother Nature taught her a better lesson than I ever could :)

Sharon - posted on 10/02/2009

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LOL my kids are nuts too. I'm freezing - wearing a heavy jacket and the boys are running around in t-shirts & shorts. I'm sure people think I'm the pig but nope, they've got clean warm clothes - they are just much warmer than me. Between them & my hubby they freeze me & the 7 yr old out of the house.



And sometimes the 7 yr old won't wear a sweater or jacket because it will cover her pretty shirt/dress, etc.

Isobel - posted on 10/02/2009

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I had a woman BEG me (literally) to force my son to put his sweater on. I could care less...he'll put it on when he gets cold.

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I can see what you're saying Sharon, children need freedom with boundries. Some parents take those boundries too far when they hover over their child's every move at the playground. I've even had parents trying to teach my son to position himself on the slide correctly before they will let him go down it. I bet they think I'm a terrible mother for letting him slide down on his front and put his hands in the dirt when he gets to the bottom.

Isobel - posted on 10/02/2009

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I guess the problem is that we all live in different neighbourhoods...I understand, Sharon, that you live in a remote area...Having free-range kids there would be near impossible...I actually think you come as close as one could.



I live on a dead end street in a city...walking the kids to school in the morning, I begin to think that I know how spawning salmon feel...barely need to move your feet, just get into the moving stream. There are ALWAYS people I know around...at almost every moment.



There is a difference.

Sharon - posted on 10/02/2009

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hhmmm - I let my oldest - 14yrs - hang at the mall with friends. I'll drop him off while I shop in town. I make sure he has cash for things he wants, warn him again if one of his buds gets caught stealing for thrills - I'll bust his ass so bad he'll be unable to sit down. Tell him I love him and let him out the door.



He gets to hang out at his school for 3 hours, relatively free. There are teachers & coaches there - rooms are locked, campus is gated ... they can't sneak off any where really.



You're right there is a balance. A scary one. Calculated risks I suppose.



I'm just not prepared to let my 7 or 10 yr old have that much freedom yet.

Jodi - posted on 10/02/2009

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Quoting Sharon:

I honestly believe - that these "free range" kids are the ones that are going to get into trouble or pregnant - everyone says "we'll teach them better." but if that were true then we'd never have pregnant 12 yr olds or 17 yr olds with hiv.



Interesting point Sharon.



What do we consider "free range".  I mean, we have to let them off the leash gradually as they learn certain new skills and sensibilities, but to just let them go wherever and whenever they want is a whole different thing. 



That's why I liked this book so much.  It talked about "calculated risks".  In other words, calculating what was age and maturity appropriate, as well as what the actual risk was.  It was very interesting.  It explained that if we just let our kids do whatever they want, (total "free range") they don't learn boundaries and will keep doing crazier and risker things to get someone who cares enough to rein them in, but if we hold them back too much, they will do crazier and risker stuff to prove a point that they are old enough to decide some things themselves.........there is a real balance to this stuff, and it is a very personal balance based on the personalities of your kids, the environment you live in, the age of your kids, and so on.....

Sharon - posted on 10/02/2009

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LOL Jodi - my chickens don't have as much freedom as her kid does. 1 acre fenced yard inside 5 acres fenced. My precious ducks and geese get less than that, they can roam the 1 acre yard, but outside the yard I have to be with them in case they find a snake, lol. My kids get a little more freedom than that. As they can bike to a friends home. There is no where to go out here. House to house is pretty much it.



I do load all 6 kids up and take 6 bikes to the skate park. Which is fenced. I used to just drop them off until the neighbors kid was held up with a gun to steal his $400 - $600 bike. 3 more parents with guns stalked the park to get the bike back and eventually did - minus all the extras which had been stripped off.



I don't know if any of you have kids into the trick bicycles - but goddamn they're pricey.



So I sit in the bleachers or in my truck and read a book. The two older boys have cell phones and if someone steals a bike or pulls a gun then I'm there to see what is happening and can chase someone with the truck until the police catch up.



I honestly believe - that these "free range" kids are the ones that are going to get into trouble or pregnant - everyone says "we'll teach them better." but if that were true then we'd never have pregnant 12 yr olds or 17 yr olds with hiv.



Kids are kids because their reasoning capabilities aren't fully developed and I swear something happens to some teens that makes some of them nearly schizophrenic. I trust my kids to know the right thing but its my job to make sure they do it.

Jodi - posted on 10/02/2009

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I must admit, I thought 9 was just a little young for that adventure, but my son has been catching school buses since he was that age - but I do only live in a small city, not quite NYC :)

Dana - posted on 10/02/2009

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I'm all for free range children. My neighborhood is pretty quiet and safe.



I did see many interviews with the woman from NYC when that all went down. I thought it was going too far, he was 9 at the time. She also sounded a little off to me. Just my opinion.....

Jodi - posted on 10/02/2009

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My son is 12, and I have no problem with him riding a bike to his friend's house, to the shops, to the local school basketball courts. I prefer he is with a friend. And I like him to have a phone with him (not so easy to find a public phone around as back in my day - 30 years ago, we just carried 20c for the phone). But I'm happy for him to go to the movies with a friend, go to the skatepark, and so on. As long as he is home when we agree, and as long as he doesn't break any of the rules we set down, he will have a bit of freedom.



I have a book called "Too Safe for their Own Good" and it covers this topic exactly, if any of you are interested. Allowing children to take small risks (which obviously increase and change with age) actually helps them grow and make good choices in life. We need to be able to allow our children to make mistakes and learn from them on their own. If you hae the reins too tight on your children, they are more likely to rebel in a negative way, whereas by allowing them to have the independence, they are more likely to use that in a positive way. I can't explain a whole book in one post, but it really had some great points that helped me let go a bit more.



And you are absolutely right, 24/7 media has made the world seem much more dangerous than it actually is. Our children are just as safe as they used to be. In fact, if you consider today's awareness levels, they are safer, because people are much more likely to step in if they see a situation with a child that concerns them. The book is a very interesting and informative read.



Sorry, I am still giggling, because I have this Free Range Chicken image in my mind, LOL!!

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I've seen this on the news before. I'm not sure if I could do it or not, but I think free range children are the best kind. I'm in the process of setting up a similar website myself and I'm thinking of starting my own community on CoM. Please don't any of you beat me to it. Thanks.

Amie - posted on 10/02/2009

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You notice too though that a lot of these parents who are so scared for their children are the ones who were children/teens of the 80's? When the stranger danger fear mongering first started?



Children are more likely to be abducted, molested, etc by someone they know than a stranger. (Family, friend of family, etc.) A stranger doing it is actually not all that likely. It does happen, I'm not saying it doesn't but really.



If that ever happened to one of my kids I'd be looking close to home first rather than getting frantic over a stranger, which in all likelihood it wouldn't be.



The media does play a HUGE role in this too. It's not just the 24 hour news networks but the fact that we are more a global world now than we ever were before. The technology is in place so if a child is taken from one place it has the potential to be international news in a heartbeat. If something truly horrendous happens (those girls who were kept as captives in Austria by their father, recently in the states too though that one was a stranger I think) those stories broke world wide within hours of the authorities finding out about them. Years ago we never would have heard about it because we weren't so much a global world.

Jenny - posted on 10/02/2009

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I think the problem is 24 hour news networks. The danger level is the same they just have more time to fill reporting on incidents occuring. I'm a free range parent too. My 6 year old is allowed to play outside unsupervised and soon I'll let her cross the street to the corner store. I walked to school in Kindergarden and was taking Greyhounds alone at around 10. Never had an incident or felt afraid.

Jocelyn - posted on 10/02/2009

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Oooh shame on you!!! how are your kids ever gonna turn into scared, neurotic human beings like those in the rest of the developed world???
:P lol
A child has just as much a chance of being abducted (or run over etc) standing in front of their own home as standing at a bus stop. (imo) I would rather my kids know how to navigate the town, than risk getting lost....because when they get lost is when they start talking to strangers (that may or may not be helpful).

Sharon - posted on 10/02/2009

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I read that article too. I don't think either of you are the worst moms' in the world but I couldn't do it.



I was a free range child and twice myself and I friend had to run to a home for safety because someone approached us.



Its not the most likely thing that your child will be abducted but the possibility is there. Thats what I can't live with. With cars, trucks & vans and the border less than 3 miles away from my house... nope not taking the chance.

Lindsay - posted on 10/02/2009

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Thanks, Laura! That was a very interesting article. I struggle almost daily worrying about my kids growing up and how I will react and what I will let them do and not do. I try to think back to when I was a kid (being only 23, that wasn't THAT long ago). Around the time I was in Kindergarten, I was allowed to play outside with the kids on my street without an adult being out there watching. At 7, I was allowed to ride my bike (5-6 blocks) to the neighborhood pool in the summer. At about 9, I was able to stay home for short amounts of time (30 min to and hour) by myself. I was babysitting shortly before I turned 12. We were taught "safety" about not talking to strangers or giving out information over the phone or answering the door when we were home by ourself. And when I was 11, I was allowed to be dropped off and picked up at the mall or movies to hang out with my friends. We were fine and didn't have any problems.

NOW i have kids and I find myself to be a worrier. I've seen and read so many horror stories and am scared to death. I can't imagine letting them do what I did but also feel very sad for them. Those were some of the best times. That little bit of freedom helped me grow up to be who I am today. I have mixed feelings to say the least. That may be a good book for me to look into and just see. I'd hate for my overprotectiveness to do them a disservice as they get older....

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