Free Range Parenting

Katherine - posted on 06/22/2011 ( 98 moms have responded )

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Are you a free range parent? Then why don't others let you be? This is inspired by cafemom. They can't go to the bathroom by themselves, be unattended at the store (ok, ok), Schools let you drop off your kid alone (free range).

She talks about going to Denny's where she let's her daughter go to the bathroom by herself. The waitress follows her in there to keep a close eye on her.

So what do you think? Is it near impossible to be free range?

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ME - posted on 06/22/2011

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Mine are 3 and 15 months...so...I don't really know yet, but my guess is that I will NOT be a free-range parent. Working in Social Services may have jaded me, but given what I know about how psychotic people can be and how dreadfully they often treat children, I'm pretty protective.

Karli - posted on 06/22/2011

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My kids are only 2 and 4 so they still need my help but I think that when the time comes I will go to check out the washrooms and then wait for them to do their thing. I don't pass my fears onto them...icky spiders (shiver)....but I will teach them to be aware and when I'm comfortable with them going it alone I will let them. I just don't want to be that little girl's mom spending the rest of my life kicking my ass saying "all I had to do was go get her". I would go nuts...certifiably so..if anything like that happened. You never know where the sick people are.

Kylie - posted on 06/22/2011

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There was a 5 girl who was raped and killed in a public toilet in a shopping center in my city. The guy was having a psychotic episode and he was caught straight away. Stories like that scare me. But i use may parental instinct. If we are in a nice restaurant and i can see the door to the toilets i will let her go by herself. She is 6 so in large shopping centers and places like Ikea I will wait outside or go with her. Public toilets at parks i will always go in and check there is nothing yukky or someone weird in there then I'll leave her to do her thing. There has to be a balance i think, you can't let fear dictate how you parent.

Jenny - posted on 06/22/2011

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Yes, scary things happen. We had an abduction here about 15 years ago and the little girl was found murdered in the park. Nobody has been convicted for the crime.

Do I feel less safe? Absolutely not.

Katherine - posted on 06/22/2011

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That's scary Karli, and that's one of the reasons I would NOT let my child walk alone. As I stated before there are sex offenders in our area. It's too far for my daughter to walk anyways.
She's only 5 too. So there is no way.

Karli - posted on 06/22/2011

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My kids are too young for this yet but I think that trips to the restroom by themselves scare me, you just don't know who may be hanging out in there. I've heard too many stories about washroom abductions, murders, rapes..etc. I think walking home from school alone is not a good idea before 11 or 12 I think. There was a little girl who was 8 years old in a very small town in southern Ontario who was abducted by a young woman and taken home to her boyfriend where she was raped, beaten, tortured and murdered. Her body was found buried in some rubble on a farm. She was found because the woman who abducted her led police to where they dumped her body. The little girl had an older brother who was supposed to walk her home and I wonder what he feels. I wouldn't let my kids walk home alone for that reason.

Elisabeth - posted on 06/22/2011

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I think it not only depends on what the age of your child is with regard to different things (walking alone, visiting the toilet alone etc) but also whether each individual child is capable of being responsible and following rules and also the type of area you live in.

My eldest was just born sensible, lol ... he asked if he could walk to school alone when he was 6 and because of his personality I knew if he asked then he was confident enough and capable enough to do so.

We live in a country town and I can almost see the entrance to the school so if he thought he was capable and wasn't scared to walk alone then I was fine with that. Of course there were always other kids walking along the same street on their way to school so it isn't like he would be on an empty street alone.

Child number two however is apt to get sidetracked, stop to look at something, forget to watch the road etc etc so I am awfully grateful that his brother who is 5 year older has always been around which means that child number two has usually always had his brother watching him ;-)

And child number three has come along 15 years after the first one and now the roads are too busy for me to feel comfortable if she asks the same thing when she is 6.

I began letting my kids walk down town to do odd jobs when they were 7 or 8 with the instructions 'straight down, do what you hve to do and then straight back' I knew that to post a letter for example and be home again should take no longer than 10 minutes and if I didn't see them walking back up the street in 10 minutes time then I was on my way to see where they were. Before they left I would go over the 'course' they would take and talk them through stopping and waiting at the pedestrian crossing until a car stopped etc.

My just turned 5 year old walks up our street to her grandmother's house (and has been for 12 months now). I walk her across the road at the bottom of our stairs and the watch her walk 6 doors up to my mum's gate - with her turning to wave and blow kisses every half a dozen steps, lol! (And strict instructions that she doesn't need her grandmother to be waiting out the front anymore - she wants to be able to walk in her gate and knock on the door to 'surprise' her grandmother, lol)

Sometimes you need to let your young child 'think' that they are being independant. Let them go to the public toilet 'alone' - keep your eye on the door to the toilets so you can see that they dont' take any detours, give them 5 minutes on their own and then follow them. Or stand outside the shop while you give them the money to pay for something. Park a little further away from the school so that they can walk a small way on their own but where you can watch them until they go in.

You dont' want them still living with you when they are 24! And you don't want you children having panic attacks because they have never learned to go anywhere or do anything without their mum!

[deleted account]

I guess i'm free range. maturity appropraite of course. My 4 year old goes to the toilets by herself when we are out in public while i wait outside, she even takes her 3 yr old brother sometimes while i wait outside. I live in a small area but even when we travel to the city she still goes alone.
I let them go up and down the play equipment by themselves unless i know they can't do it.
If i were to stay living where i do now then my daughter would probably be walking to school by herself in a couple of years, not even a 2 minute walk.
They play outside alone with earshot, they shower, brush their own teeth. As i type they are getting a drink.
I never knew there was a name until i came here all i did was do what felts right for that child at the time.

Sherri - posted on 06/22/2011

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Yes they take a school bus or I drive them when they need to go early or stay late. Also kids in our town are not allowed to even begin walking to school until middle school which starts in 7th grade here so roughly 13yrs old. You must be driven or take the bus mandatory till then. We don't have public transportation.

Vicki - posted on 06/22/2011

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My son is only 2 so bit hard to tell yet! I think I'm pretty free range though. At playgrounds and playgroups I just let him roam, rather than directing his play and watching over him all the time. At home he can wonder all over our fenced yard although he generally chooses to stick by me. I grew up able to go over to friends places on my own, to the park etc. The one rule that Mum had was that we had to tell her and negotiate where/how long we were going somewhere for. This extended into teens so we didn't have an arbitrary curfew time but we had to be home when we said we would. All done on common sense of course, we never went out until midnight on a school night but if we went to some special event on the weekend that was fine as long as we told her about it. Something must have worked, I was such a 'good girl' as a teenager!

Sherri - posted on 06/22/2011

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He doesn't have a choice to get a job. If he wants his license he has to pay half of the $700 drivers ed course and will then need to pay for the actual license. However, even then they will need to be able to have their own car and pay for their own insurance. So if they are not working they are never driving since I can't pay for all those things especially with #2 only year behind #1 so yes they will need to work.

Jodi - posted on 06/22/2011

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LOL Teresa, my 13 year old can't walk to school either. It's a 15-20 minute drive away. He catches the bus :) It's a bit far for my 6 year old to walk to her school, but she's keen to start catching the bus. I'm not certain she is ready yet (they have to be capable of pulling the cord to notify the driver they want to get off at the next stop), but it is something I am considering for her for next year. My son started catching the bus when he was 7.

Sherri - posted on 06/22/2011

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Kate their school is almost a 15min drive. So no they will never be able to walk to school.

Katherine - posted on 06/22/2011

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I'm cautious to an extent, but not so cautious that I'm a helicopter mom. I got on OTIS and there are a ton of sex offenders around here. So I have to be a little protective and watchful.

[deleted account]

I think the school may not be in walking range.... I know MY girls will never walk to school, but it's a 15 minute drive.

However, I don't get the whole 'he will be expected to get a job', but that you or his dad will have to play taxi til he gets a license and car. That part seems a bit backwards to me. My kids won't HAVE to get a job til they can drive themselves there.... or take a bus. ;)

Sherri - posted on 06/22/2011

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Yes they have bikes but we live on a busy through fare where honestly I wouldn't even dare walk it as an adult. On our street we have 4 houses and NO kids other than mine. A park is 5+ miles to get too and they would have to cross a hwhy to get to it and no sidewalks so no they can't ride or walk to it.

Kids go to friends houses, movies, mall etc. but their parents drive them and pick them up. The mall and movies are over 20mins away by car. So usually the parents will bring them and just have a meeting place in the mall while the parents shop and for movies parents will usually just see another movie or sit away from them in the movie theater. My son has a friend sleeping over tonight his grandmother brought him here and his mom will pick him up tomorrow afternoon. They are almost 13.

Although yes I am protective a lot of it just simply is logistics. Also it is extremely common to take your child to the same restroom with you until they are older, nobody would ever even bat an eye at it.

Now next year when my oldest is 15 he will be expected to get a job. However, that will mean his father or I will have to drive him to and from until he gets a license and can get himself there on his own.

Kate CP - posted on 06/22/2011

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Yea, I'm pretty free range, too, but within reason. My daughter is only 5 so she needs help in the bathroom reaching the sinks and what have you. But I don't go in the stall with her unless she asks me to. She can wipe her own butt. She can get her own drinks out of the fridge (unless she wants a glass of milk because a gallon of milk is HEAVY), she can get her own snacks, she brushes her own teeth, takes her own shower...

In public she HAS to hold my hand to cross the street or when we're in a parking lot. But she doesn't have to hold my hand if we're in a store unless it's REALLY crowded. She's allowed to play outside by herself in the back yard...she can go upstairs by herself as long as she holds the railing.

Since she's in private school I do have to drive her and I have to drop her at the door and go in to pick her up. But if she were a little older and were going to a public school I wouldn't mind letting her walk there on her own (it's only 2 blocks from my house). When she's old enough to ride a bike on her own I'll probably let her ride to the park just down the street (literally, it's at the end of the street). Since she's only 5 there's not a whole lot of stuff she's really physically capable of doing on her own yet. But when she gets there, I have no problem letting her be independent. :)

[deleted account]

It depends on what's going on and where we are as to how free range I am... and whether we are talking about my 9 year olds or my 3 year old. ;) My girls don't usually use a public restroom alone, but that's cuz I'M usually the one that has to go. lol... In a restaurant or something.... yeah, they go alone and have since 4-5ish.

I do have some overprotective tendencies as well though. The girls don't leave the property (apartment complex area) unless they are walking w/ my mom or driving away w/ me or a friend.

[deleted account]

Safer? Sure, maybe in some respects but, what about the internet and technology. There are so many more ways for predators to go about business. Yes, we're more aware but we're also much more accessible. No?

Jodi - posted on 06/22/2011

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See, I think not allowing your children to use a public bathroom alone until they are 11 is being too cautious. Yes, I know that is only my opinion, but I do think it is actually detrimental to be THAT protective of your children. I still can't understand needing that much control over your children's lives. I truly wish you the best, but it HAS been my experience that children whose parents are so overprotective like this tend not to be as capable of making good choices later in life when they are no longer under their parents' control.

Kylie - posted on 06/22/2011

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My kids are free range within reason for their ages. I dont think it's difficult to let them be independent and I dont get funny looks. I'm the only parent on my street who comes out and sits on the letterbox to keep an eye on them riding and playing in the street though.

Tara - posted on 06/22/2011

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I guess people would say I am a free range parent and my kids are free range kids.
But a lot of that is because of our geographical location.
I don't think they would be as "free range" if we lived in a larger or more crime ridden place.
However, my kids are very independent, have a lot of freedom within our village and our house, and I base those freedoms on their developmental readiness not age or what others think or do with their own children.
I know that my 11 year old can cross the busiest road, take another less busy road and then a mountain bike trail to get to her best friends house and home. I am confident that she knows how to do this safely because we have done it together first.
I am one of those moms watching from the shade of a tree or a park bench while my 18 month old goes up and down the slide, climbing a small ladder etc. by himself happily and confidently. While other mothers come over and stand beside the slide wanting to "help" him down it.
I'm also the mom who lets my kids play outside in the dark at night. They are allowed to be out in our yard or within sight of the house after dark as long as they are together. We have a few street lights, but it's still dark.
I'm also the free range parent who thinks my kids can learn a lot about the world if I step back and let them do so. This includes our life and our style of educational pursuits...
Many homeschoolers I know are also fairly free range, with the exception of the religiously oriented homeschoolers, in which case they are usually the polar opposite of free range.

Jenny - posted on 06/22/2011

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Sherri, nothing as in you live rurally or nothing as in it's only homes? Are there any parks? Do kids just keep to their own homes or are there not many where you are? Do they have bikes?

Sorry to pester you but I don't meet many women as protective as you and I don't really understand it.

[deleted account]

I'm sorry...I konw the term and I always get this "image" in my head of a bunch of mothers grazing in the fields!

I suppose I am free range for some situations, and maybe more protective in others. Just depends.

Sherri - posted on 06/22/2011

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I don't live anywhere nasty. However, I am very cautious. Plain and simple.

@Jenny I live in a place that NOTHING is within walking distance. So even if I wanted to give them more freedom. You can't when you are still too young to drive and have to rely on mom or dad to drive you anywhere you would ever consider going.

Jenny - posted on 06/22/2011

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I agree Jodi. People who wish to cause harm are still a tiny minority. If anything our kids are more safe because the public is more aware.

I'm not going to teach my kids to be afraid. I'm teaching them how to deal with anything life throws at them and how to take care of themselves.

Jodi - posted on 06/22/2011

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It's not less safe. It just appears that way because we have 24/7 media.

Jodi - posted on 06/22/2011

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@ Jenny, I wonder that about Sherri's kids too... :\ No public restroom until they were 11? Wow.....you must live in one NASTY neighbourhood.

Jodi - posted on 06/22/2011

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The only reason my 6 year old sometimes can't go to the bathroom in a shopping centre or restaurant on her own is because sometimes she can't get the doors open - they are often very heavy self-closing doors into the facility. She is a tiny little thing - only 19kg (about 41lb). Most of the time she is fine though.

But I'm with Tania, I don't remember all these labels when I had my now 13 1/2 year old. I don't know whether I am free range or not. Some people may think I am, some people may not. I really just go with what feels right. I certainly don't hover over my kids - they get a lot of independence. I don't have the fears a lot of parents have - that they will get kidnapped or molested. I don't believe that our world today is any less safe than it used to be when I was a kid, I think we have just become more paranoid. I am also a believer in allowing enough rope for our children to make their own choices, even if sometimes they are the wrong ones. If they can learn how to make good choices when they are young, they are more likely to be able to make good choices when we are no longer there to guide them on a daily basis. They are not going to learn to make good choices if we constantly clip their wings.

Becky - posted on 06/22/2011

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Mine are too young for me to give them too much free range - my 3 year old can't even get on the toilet by himself yet unless there's a stool, so I can't see sending him off to the bathroom alone, lol! (unless they have those toddler potties) But at home I allow them a fair bit of freedom - they have free roam of the house, they don't have to be in my sight every minute. They can play in the backyard alone, as long as they stay where I can see them if I look out the back window. We do have stuff they could get hurt on behind our shed. :) And they'll go into the pantry and help themselves to a snack. Although I'm not crazy about that one, because it usually means dumping the entire box of cereal or crackers out onto the floor! We live in a big city, so I probably won't be overly eager to give them a lot of freedom to go say, to the mall or downtown by themselves, but our neighborhood is pretty quiet and friendly, so I can see being fine with them going out and playing street hockey with the other kids and stuff like that by the time they're 5-6.

[deleted account]

I don't like labels either, Tania. Can I be a free range and an attached parent at the same time?

Jenny - posted on 06/22/2011

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Do you have plans to loosen the reins soon so they learn self sufficiency?

Sherri - posted on 06/22/2011

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Nope I am not a free range parent, not even close. They didn't go to a men's public restroom till they were 11 and even then they had to go together (my 2 oldest ones). My 5 yr old still must go with his dad or myself.

My older two are not allowed even off our street with an adult. Even dropping them off or picking them up from school I still drop them off literally in front of the door and have to go in the school to get them (school policy) unless they take the actual school bus.

Minnie - posted on 06/22/2011

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No. It's just that free-range looks differently at different ages. I can't let my two year old go to a restaurant bathroom alone, but my five year old can.



I see some parents at the local playground, hovering over their children as the climb the jungle gym. Perhaps I'm lazy, lol, but I relish sitting in the shade reading a good book while spider monkey climbs as high as children five years older than she. Has she fallen? Yep. She wined and then ran right back to climb again.



I give my children waaaay more freedom than most people think I should. I know that some of the things that I allow my girls say- so on really get under other parents' skin. Oh well.

Tania - posted on 06/22/2011

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I thnk its funny that there has to be "parenting styles". I don't label myself. I let my 14 year old go out and be with his buddies. He's home at 8:30 on school nights as long as his homework and chores are done. On weekends its 10:30. I also have a tofddler and will most likely raise him the same in regards to hw much freedom he gets.
I wonder when all the labels started anyway. When Ben was born I don't remember any of it.

Katherine - posted on 06/22/2011

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I have to admit I would have been the same way. I have a kidnap phobia lol.

[deleted account]

My kid is only three so I haven't dealt with this much yet. One example I can think of is when I was walking, saw a friend and her daughter outside so we stopped to say hi. Eliza and her friend began playing and wanted to hide behind the shed. I didn't have a second thought but the mom said, "Come back were I can see you." I asked if there was anything dangerous back there and she said no that she just wanted her daughter in sight at all times. I don't understand that. There was no impending danger behind the shed, the girls were within earshot...what's the problem?

Katherine - posted on 06/22/2011

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Everyone looks at you if you allow your child ANY kind of independence these days. I think it's ludicrious.

[deleted account]

I do think it's tough in today's society to "parent" our children without everyone and their dog wanting to comment or have an opinion. If it's not comments, then it's dirty looks.

Amber - posted on 06/22/2011

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Since my son is only 4, I don't know that I have a strong opinion on this yet.
I don't want to be all over him all the time. I want to give him privacy and let him learn how to be independent. The way I plan on doing it is by kind of watching from a distance until he's a little older.

At home, I'm free range. He gets his own drinks, takes himself potty, dresses himself, can play in the backyard if the windows are open, etc. In public..not so much yet.

Jenny - posted on 06/22/2011

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Is letting your child go to the bathroom without a parent and not walking them to the school's front door considered free range now? My 8 year old is allowed to go to the store and bike around the block by herself now. I'm such a rebel.

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