…and then there are those who disagree with Free-Range Kids:

A Reader Writes:

“The amount of fallacies propounded by the supporters of this idea is astounding… and that includes the author of this site.  She apparently thinks that only fatal abductions are a risk to be worried about, and also stacks a number from just one source against the entire population of the U.S.  It’s essentially a lie.

“The idea will not catch on in a big way, of course.  But even so, it is just a matter of time before someone who has posted on this very page has a child suffer an injury or abuse, which could have been prevented with proper parental supervision.

“Whoever you are, you will deserve it.”

That’s the spirit! Sow fear and nurture blame. Think up NO new ways to help make children competent, confident AND safe.

Assume that any time a child is hurt it is because of parental inadequacy — and that WITH “proper supervision” nothing bad ever happens.

Assume, too, that any parents who grant their child a modicum of freedom cares not one whit for their safety.

And while we’re at it, hope really hard that a child gets hurt, because that will teach his or her horrible parents a lesson.

Lovely.

And for the record, my source for statistics showing the crime rate has been dropping since 1993 happens to be the U.S. Dept. of Justice. Yes, a single source. But also the one nationally relied upon. — Lenore

75 Responses

  1. The Department of Justice! Good grief, Lenore, you might as well quote statistics from the Weekly World News. (It is no coincidence that sightings of Bat Boy have also been on a steady decline since 1993 and are back at about the 1970 rate.)

  2. I’m sorry you get this kind of comments/emails. I’m not around a lot of young parents on a regular basis, so I tend to assume that at their core, they are reasonable, sensible people who understand at some level that they are being a touch overprotective. But it sounds like I’m wrong and they really are crazy.
    I wish you didn’t have to deal with this kind of vengeful hatred.😦

  3. I wish I had your courage when my child was younger

  4. I was a free range kid… talk about abuse. All the abuse I suffered came from my family and my schools. The safest place ever for me was on the road. Those are the moments I treasure. The times I spent traveling between my home and my school, where I know no adults can or will hurt me.

  5. The Department of Justice may be a single source for statistics, but anyone bothering to look will find that the same data, showing the same decline in crime rate, can be found from other sources as well.

    Besides, anyone who grew up with more independence and freedom than the current generation, and somehow lived long enough to become a parent, knows that what we gained was self reliance and confidence while what we lost was… well, nothing.

    Keep with it, knowing that at least some of your readers agree with you.

  6. Some people have a lot invested in their 24-hour surveillance program. It makes them feel important and needed. It’s mall cop psychology. I wouldn’t worry about it.

  7. I am still amazed that people are not using their brains enough to realize that Free-Range is not about leaving children without parental supervision and accountability. It’s not about letting a stranger drive your kid across the country without permission. It’s about learning what you need to in order to make a reasonable decision and then not smothering your kids. No one advocates neglect people! We’re advocating taking the initiative to meet people, make assessments about what’s safe, not standing in the way of the safe choices, and teaching your children to do the same.

    Wishing ill on someone else’s children demonstrates a lot more harm and mental instability than is normal. I’d be worried about that reader more than I am about my kids walking the two blocks from the library to the ice cream shop!

  8. Thank you very much!

  9. …it is just a matter of time before someone who has posted on this very page has a child suffer an injury or abuse, which could have been prevented with proper parental supervision.

    Um, hello! Of course our kids are going to get hurt! They’re KIDS. Unless I watch my kid 24/7 and never let them do anything or go out with other people to experience anything but that, frankly, is NUTS.

    I deserve no punishment or penalty for going to take a shower and leaving my son alone for 10 minutes to do so. If he so happens to get injured in the time I’m gone, like he did this morning, that’s NOT MY FAULT. I’m not going to hover around him every second of every day. He fell off the couch and hit the coffee table after we’ve been telling him for DAYS not to climb onto the couch and play around there. Did he listen? No. He got hurt and even if I had been in the room I doubt there would have been anything I could’ve done. I’m not Wonder Woman and I don’t have lightning fast reflexes, plus I wasn’t even IN the shower yet and he was getting into trouble. This is the first, and last time I’d bet, that he does that.

    Is he scarred for life? Probably; but only physically. Is he going to remember that “Omg! Mommy left me alone and I got HURT!!!!” forever? No. He’s going to take it easy today, and have forgotten all about it by tomorrow.

  10. I’m a young parent of an 8-month-old who is just starting to crawl around EVERYWHERE, but I am most definitely not crazy like this poster. My childhood was awesome–riding bikes to school, playing neighborhood-wide hide-and-seek, selling homemade cookies door-to-door, etc. I’m pretty sure that we only came home for meals during those long summer days and that’s exactly how my mom (and all the other moms in the neighborhood) wanted it.

    I’m going to do everything I can to give my little boy the freedom that I had. You know what’s interesting? I’ve been reading him a lot of Little Golden Books that my mom kept all these years and so many of the books are focused on kids being on their own, playing their own games, going to the park with their friends, having adventures sans-parents. What seems natural in these books seems like neglect today to some people.

    But, then again, this poster probably wishes that Peter Rabbit would have ended up in Mr. McGregor’s pot of stew, because that sure would have taught his mother a lesson!

  11. sorry but the author of that letter should be ashamed for wishing ill on any child

    Lenore you said it right spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) makes ppl feel self righteous.
    Proper supervision is just that supervision not overcautious surveillance
    my son is 18months old and he gets to play in the front yard while i work on a car or in the garage i dont need to hover over him to make sure he does not get hurt or sanitize his hands i listen for him and peek on him and even yell at him if he goes too close to the street. if he picks up a bug he’ll learn if it stings or bites if he climbs something and falls that is fine kids need to play learn and eat some dirt every now and then when he gets older he better not expect me to chauffer him 3 blocks to his buddies house hehe

    keep on Lenore

  12. I’m not sorry you get this kind of comments/emails because I really enjoy reading your replies. Well put as usual. Keep it up Lenore!

  13. I totally agree with the free-range spirit of parenting and encourage my daughters to spread their wings whenever possible. It’s delightful to see the big eyes and hear the surprised and self-satisfied “I did it!” whenever the do something they thought they couldn’t.

    But, I must say that I was let down by aspects of the book. The numbers presented by the statistics in the book are good (I’m too lazy to double-check the sources, but I don’t doubt them). However, a lot of the numbers that the author derives from those statistics are actually quite fallacious. I hope it’s because of her lack of statistical background rather than callous omission of relevant data to make her point better (both of which are sadly too common in today’s journalism).

    Note that I’m not questioning the main point of the book. It’s just that a thorough editing by someone with a grasp of stats would have made this a better book for me. The real numbers are good enough to make the case for free-range parenting, so there really is no reason to guild the lily with fuzzy math.

  14. Let’s see, my childhood, broken leg, stitches, fell out of trees, jumped of the swings, hung upside down on the monkey bars, bumps, scrapes bruises, fell off horses, played in the dirt, wrecked my bicycle(countless times), fell off the skateboard, swam in cattle tanks(head above water)drank from the spring fed irrigation ditch(and the hose)shared suckers and popsicles with the dogs, caught lizards, played with snakes(not poison ones), had BB guns, caps guns, water pistols and so many other things….it was a terrible, abusive childhood and I LOVED every minute of it and I’m still alive. This reader is a fool, who lives totally in fear, so sad they are missing out on life.

  15. I am a parent who watched my son die in my husband’s arms. (medical misadventure) I find the reader’s comments abhorrent. I know what it is like to live in fear, after losing a child. How everything appears to be a death trap. It is comments like that of the reader that knocked my confidence as a parent. I know that I take every caution without smothering my children, giving them boundaries in which thay can play and learn and enjoy. And sometimes they still get hurt. Not as a result of my neglect either. Yet initially after our loss, I would constantly question my parenting as I was surrounded by control freak parents who believed kids are blank slates and are a direct result of what we put into them.

    BALANCE !!!!!!!!!! Allowing a child to run outside in the back garden while you peel the spuds is not NEGLECT.

  16. “Whoever you are, you will deserve it.”

    That is extremely callous, I really hope you do not have children.

    Getting hurt, I’m sorry, is a way of life. If you never give your children the ability to “Get hurt” they will never learn the ability to solve their own problems or the knowledge that comes with getting hurt.

    My grandmother, was a very strict woman, and I lived with her, She was also probably the most caring woman I’ve ever met.

    When I was 11, I had to ride my bike to school, or walk. Across a highway. In Southern California *gasp an hour from LA.. oh noes!* .. Anyways the Santa Ana winds knocked over a tree down the hill from her house, and I was riding my bike to school. My breaks failed and my bike hit the tree, I flipped over, got horrible road rash.

    I walked my bike, and bloody body back up to my grandmothers. She put bandages on my wounds, and wrote me a tardy note, looked at the clock and said “You better get going”. I think that helped me to grasp that not everyone is going to be there to solve all of my problems, things happen, you deal with them, and move on.

    To quote a movie, but I think it’s apt here Batman Begins when young Bruce falls down..

    “Alfred Pennyworth: Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up. “

  17. I agree in theory with free range.. as a kid of the 70’s, I had a blast.. however, even back during free range days, my little brother was almost abducted, riding his bike around the neighborhood.. Personally, in this day and age, I would not allow my boys to ride their bikes to school.. not just because of the predators in the neighborhood, but mostly do to the fact that they are Autistic.. Asperger kids cannot be free range, (at least not mine), due to the fact their social abilities between identifying right and wrong, (ie, does that guy in the car really have awesome pokeman cards? or is he a stranger) do not exist. My boys are targets, even though they have been raised in a “safety awareness” family. They just don’t “get it” and I am not sure, until they are much much older, will they ever. They gravitate toward strangers, mainly adults, even though they have been taught stranger safety. So, although the theory sounds good, and may work for some, it unfortunately would not work for all. Nice concept…

  18. Lenore — keep at it….read about your experience and agree with your philosphy (have three kids). I have a suggestion for a way our society can encourage all of us to be more “free-range”: put in SIDEWALKS!! Here in perfectly safe suburbia, we can’t go further than a quarter mile because the roads are unsafe for walking (really.). A sidewalk would do wonders for all of us…can’t even imagine the psychological freedom that would come with being to actually use my own to feet to get to a real destination – library, coffee shop, bookstore…cool!

  19. Sadly, I’ve had people wish ill will on me and my children for my opinion on things (only online, though). I wonder how those people were raised.
    To me “free-range” isn’t about just letting kids loose on the world all willy-nilly. I try to explain to people that chastise me for allowing my children to play outside without me that it wasn’t just a spur of the moment thing where I tossed them out on their ear and left them to their own devises. Quite the contrary. They worked their way up to being allowed this freedom.
    They have proved time and time again that they can handle it and we did it in baby steps (first allowing them only on our porch with a gate at the stairs, then only if the windows were all open so I could hear them and then only right in front of the house. Now they have full run of our entire side of the street. They even take their 3yo sister out with them (she is only allowed in the back yard without at least her siblings out there).
    Sure we have accidents and injuries. A couple weeks ago my 6yo stepped on a piece of glass and we had to make a run to the urgent care center. She was fine and it healed with no stitches or anything. Yesterday my 7yo son fell riding his bike and scraped his hand all up, twisted his wrist, bruised his thigh and “crushed” (his words) his foot. He survived and got to hear the story of how I went over the handle bars of my 10 speed when I was 16 after the hand brakes fell off and got caught in the wheel sending me flying, Superman style, about 10 feet then landing, rolling and almost having my bike land on me. I peeled the skin from my elbows, knees and the palms of my hands and knocked the wind out of me.
    But I got up, walked my mangled bike home, patched myself up and went on with my life. Sure, I was lucky I didn’t get hurt more (wasn’t wearing a helmet either) but it wasn’t the end of the world. First thing I did was check to make sure nothing was broken and waited until I could breathe again (wasn’t the first time I knocked the wind out of myself).
    Preparing kids to deal with these things is the most important part of raising kids. Sheltering them doesn’t protect them it just eliminates lessons that need to be learned. Otherwise they end up being 20yo college students who aren’t capable of taking care of themselves (knew way too many of them in college and that was 14 years ago).

  20. I knew a 4 year old boy a few years back who broke his leg while speed riding his big wheel down a hill. His dad was heartbroken about the incident, but said his son looked up at him and said “It was bound to happen, Dad, the way I ride”.

    Kids can be pretty smart about things. We need to give them the freedom they can handle and use our brains about what they can and cannot do.

  21. You know … there’s disagreeing with someone, and then there’s going overboard. Really, Whoever you are, you will deserve it.?? Uncalled for. Not constructive. Really inappropriate.

    There are no accidents, on this view: only BAD PARENTS. If this person has children, I hope s/he is not teaching them that this is how the world works.

    And you know? I’ve witnessed plenty of Bad Parenting Incidents (mum spanks a not-yet-walking baby for trying to get down from her lap; mum smacks a preteen boy upside the head and yells at him for being “so d*mn slow” because they’ve missed a train — like another one’s not coming in 3 minutes; parents yell and curse at bewildered small children …), and I’ve perpetrated a fair few myself … but the only thing I’ve ever been publicly told off for by another parent? Letting my five-year-old roam out of my immediate line of sight at the local playground, and reading a book instead of watching her every single minute. That makes no sense.

  22. As one of your other posters said, it does get harder when your child has a disability of some sort, but that doesn’t have to mean you don’t believe in the philosophy. You just adjust the boundaries to suit the child. I think we probably already do that with all our kids. I face censure sometimes from other parents because I allow my son with Down syndrome some independence. Doesn’t mean I’m not scared he won’t get on the wrong bus home sometime, but he hasn’t done it yet. The day he skipped class to walk down to Tim Hortons to buy a donut, I was thrilled (inwardly). He stays home alone for a few hours at a time (he’s almost 16) and so far nothing worse than eating most of a pack of hot dogs and googling “sex” on the internet has happened. The latter delivered a virus to our computer and we certainly had a chat about what’s appropriate and not, but is he scarred for life? Probably not. Now when I go out, I say — what do you need to remember (and I’m thinking don’t use the stove)– and he says, no sex! LOL. If we want our kids to grow up and be able to make conscious, thoughtful decisions, we need to give them the opportunities to do so. Keep up the good work, Lenore. I can’t say how much I appreciate what you do on this blog.

  23. First I would like to state how sad the statement “Whoever you are, you will deserve it” makes me. Nobody deserves to have something bad done to their child. If someone is a bad parent let the bad things happen to them not to their children.

    I think, as it is in so many things, there is a problem of definitions.

    The poster quoted by Lenore said “proper parental supervision.” Well what is that? To some that might mean keeping a child within arms reach. To others it may mean putting a GPS ankle bracelet on them. For some parents that might mean letting them walk to school alone on a public, well monitored street. To yet others it may mean letting your child take a walk in the woods by themselves.

    The Free-range movement started by Lenore has taken on a spirit of its own. From reading comments by the many great people on this website I would say that there are many definitions of what it means to be and have a free range child.

    I would wonder if the person that wrote the comment admonishing Free-Range allows their child any freedoms at all. If they do they would be a hypocrite and if not then they are not raising a child but a pet.

    One of the problems, something I have mentioned in other postings, is the idea of what constitutes “a child” would anyone stop their 17 year old child from walking into town by themselves? What is the difference in maturity between a 5, 10 and 15 year old child? Should it not be up to the parent to decide what their child is allowed to do?

    If our commentator and critic has bothered to read more than a few entries on this site would understand that the discussions on this site have covered a wide range of topics not just “that only fatal abductions are a risk to be worried about.”

    I would consider it unwise to get any information from just one source even if that source is as great as this site. If a person watches or one news article and does not look farther into the matter before taking a firm stance does not know what they are talking about if they choose to comment.

    Thank you, anyone who read this long post.

  24. There’s always one (or 100) in every crowd. Keep up the great work, sister!!

    Cheers- Bethe

  25. Just figured I’d mention here…

    I have wicked rippin’ anxiety, and so one big concern I had about having a child (haven’t done so yet) is how will I live with the part where I ever let the child out of my sight?

    This blog is helping me to see better ways of raising a child, ways that will help future-kid be a better person.  I will still die a thousand anxious deaths in the corner, but it will be worth it.

    So thank you for writing this.

    And for serious, the total irony of “You’re a bad parent, so I’m going to wish harm on your children!”.  *shakes head*

  26. All I see in that post is a child who was neglected by their parents and equates “free-range” with the same neglect and lack of love and support they received as a child. It’s too bad and I feel sorry for them, but “free-range” does not equal neglect.

  27. Any adult that could wish my child ill, and say I deserve it is NOT worthy of my time, and entirely unreasonable. Rendering the rest of their comments useless to me.
    If anything, ‘free range’ leads to well adjusted adults, and there is nothing negligent about that!

  28. I was so full of anger by that reader’s comment, but Nicola helped to calm me down. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and maybe she was neglected as a child. Here’s how I define neglect: not being there for your children. I can be in the kitchen cooking dinner while my kids are out in the backyard on the trampoline, but I am still THERE for them. As many have pointed out, there is no way to prevent injuries or abuse 100% of the time, other than the kind of rigid over-supervision that borders on abuse itself. Even if I’m right there on the trampoline or riding my bike alongside my kids, an injury can happen. As for abuse, any person who I trust with my kids from relatives to teachers COULD be an abuser. If that ending up happening, it would be my fault HOW?

  29. And kids NEVER get hurt when they ARE under proper parental supervision.

    My son fell out of a 2nd story window and landed face first in a flower bed when he was 2. I had walked 2 feet out of the bedroom we were in, still within sight lines of him, to a linen closet. He pushed open a side sliding window (that I only had open 2 inches) and pushed through the screen and out the window he went. 2 yr olds can move with super hero speed when determined, They just don’t fly.

    He was fine. A fresh layer of mulch put down the day before gave him a soft landing. But an ambulance ride and x-ray later and he has never made that mistake again. He ended up with some root fractures in his front teeth that were never a problem, and a scratch on his cheek.

    Now at age 11 he walks all over the town we live in regularly and has learned not to lean over of out of high places.

    $h!t happens, especially to curious kids.

  30. Whether we “helicopter” our kids, or raise them “Free-range” with support and empower them, there is always a risk of something bad happening to them. In the meantime, why don’t we opt for the empowered child, rather than one who will spend half their life in therapy sorting out all their childhood “issues”… The comment made by the hateful poster, well, some people are just so extreme…we don’t know what happened to them to make them such hateful souls. But, in the end, we all need to be responsible and do the best we can! I know I have benefited from this blog and the concept, I have taken some extra steps that I was a little nervous about, and they turned out just fine. Thanks, Lenore…

  31. With any philosophy, you must take the meat and leave the bones. So the mother with children with autism spectrum disorder is doing the absolutely RIGHT thing for her children. Just as with my children letting them walk to 7-`11 and the game store together (ages 7 and 11) was the right thing to do.

    And there are things you can do to help your children. Adults do not ask children for directions, for example. No one may touch where your bathing suit covers without your permission and me knowing (obviously this changes with age!) In our family we do not have secrets, we have surprises. (And through a bitter experience, I unfortunately learned that these techniques work.)

  32. The DoJ as a single source is one thing, but if the best the people who disagree can offer is finger wagging as evidence then I’d stop worrying about it.

  33. I was a free-range kid and I am so thankful. I notice the kids around my community more & more and am proud to say that there are a lot of kids out free-ranging around here (my own included). Thanks for all you do & keep it up!

  34. I have just joined this website because FINALLY I have found a forum where I can hear other sane parents talk about letting their kids have a bit of freedom. I live in New Zealand and we grew up very free range. I have a 2 yr old son and I was despairing that I wouldn’t be able to allow him the same freedom and choice and fun that I had while i was exploring the world. I have told all of my friends with kids about this movement because it is VITAL for our future generations to trust in themselves, and be risk takers and not fear everything that is outside the front door, because if they do what sort of people will the world be full of? This website (and you Lenore for being brave enough to go ahead and give your kids those basic rights) has given me a huge amount of confidence to trust my instincts and let my children have their independence. I really want them to walk to school on their own and go for bike rides with their friends and all the basic stuff that we took for granted. I believe that more and more parents will start to realise that this is beneficial for our children, not detrimental, and people such as the person who wrote that awful, anxiety and fear filled post may just start to question how their own children are going to make their way in the world when they are not around to do everything for them anymore.
    Sorry for my rambling post but I’m just so glad to have found other like minded people on this subject, and I’m keen to keep reading more!

  35. They’re calling you “America’s Worst Mom”!?!? Somehow you rated above Susan Smith and Andrea Yates!? This is the extreme hyperbole and propaganda that has finally infuriated and saddened me to the point of starting my own blog. It’s called Write and Wrong and I describe it as, “An ongoing struggle against a relentless and seemingly overwhelming tide of apathy, ignorance, hostility and pop culturalism that we’re all guilty of sustaining. Clear, objective, well-informed perspective relative to the situation is the goal, not propaganda. An open mind is pointless if it goes unused or is filled with half-truths and agendas. Oh, and I’ve been known to use sardonic humor to p*ss off mean people”.

    I was drawn to your story because of your rare combination of reason, rationality, honesty, confidence without arrogance and calm. I’m the male half of a couple of DINKs, so of course in today’s culture I’m not only a social oddity, but completely incapable of rendering an intelligent opinion regarding children and parenting. I’ve been slow to learn that the simple act of procreation imbues the parties with omniscience. Apparently I exited the womb as a 40 year-old white guy and am not the product of what my Mom did wrong and my Dad did right. No, I didn’t reverse that.

    For what it’s worth and what little I know of you, I think you’re a good Mom. I’m not usually big on “hippie” names (Moon-Unit, etc.) for kids, but I love the rhythm and rhyme of Izzy Skenazy. That’s the name of someone destined to be something. He seems like a great kid. Stay tough. Don’t let them get to you and keep beating them over the head with facts. I’m adding you to my blogroll, but don’t expect reciprocation because I understand you’re a professional who has to maintain the focus of your blog/column. My next (and only second) post is in support of “America’s Worst Mom.” I just wanted to stop by and do some homework first.

  36. Chris: How about including a URL for your blog?

  37. I would really like to hear from more readers like this one. Obviously, this reader is in the majority, and we “free range” folks are in the minority–a small, small minority–in this country at this time. We need to hear from them, discuss with them, engage with them. There’s only so much time we can spend patting ourselves on the back for our radical FreeRangeitude, although that may be a necessary and catharctic first step.

    That being said, I would certainly rather hear from more intelligent ones than this particular reader, who challenges your statistics but offers absolutely none of his own, no arguments of any kind except “Boo!”

  38. For ebohlman, you can click on my name and it’ll take you right there. Thanx for the interest. Please let me know what you think and feel free to pass it on if you think it’s worthwhile.

  39. Common sense will “catch on in a big way”. There is an anti-baseless-fear counter culture brewing as is evident by the fact that your book is a sensation! You are doing your part to raise the volume of the voice of reason and anyone who agrees can say so loud and proud at http://www.UndergroundMoms.com

  40. This comment sounds like a man my mother-in-law and I had the displeasure of meeting at a store one day. My little guy was in his stroller, and we stepped over to the other side of a rack to look at some shirts (incedentally, we could still see my son!) when this charming fellow came rushing over.

    nutty guy: Is that your kid?
    me: …yeees…
    n.g.: I want you to move that stroller right now. Someone will take him while you’re looking at SHIRTS.
    me: …okay…
    (we wait for crazy guy to go away)
    n.g.: NOW. DO IT NOW!

    Well, I quickly collected my kid from 3 feet away from me, definitely more out of fear of this nut than fear that his warning was true.

    This guy seemed like the type who thought he was doing a great public service by trying to make us share his “FUD”. He definitely made me want to keep my kids away from HIM, that’s for sure…

  41. I stumbled across your site through the NPR interview you did last week. Your thoughts about Free Range Kids fit nicely into a larger world-view I’m forming about life in the US. In the past thirty, forty years we’ve gone away from eating healthy, natural foods. We’ve gone away from being active and spending time outdoors. We’ve gone away from engaging our neighbors and fellow citizens in meaningful debate about our ideals and beliefs. As you’ve said, it seems to be about increasing the fear in our lives.

    Please do keep spreading the message. As near as I can tell, what you are saying is in the same category with the likes of Michael Pollan (“In Defense of Food”), Noam Chomsky (“Manufacturing Consent”) and Naomi Wolf (“The Beauty Myth”). Best regards!

  42. “you will deserve it”??? Any human being that wishes the injury or death of another isn’t worth my taking the time to read the words spewing from their uninformed and ignorant fingertips.

  43. This commenter makes as much sense as our moms did when they said “If you fall out of that tree and break your leg, don’t come running to me…”

  44. I think this poster’s negative comments are an indicator of the current obsession with “control” in our lives. It somehow has become this philosophy that if we exercise enough control, we can prevent lots of “bad” things from happening.

    If we supervise (control) our children, they won’t get hurt.
    If we electronically monitor (control) all childbirth, all children will come out perfect.
    If we control our bodies through diet, exercise and beauty products, we won’t get old.
    If we use anti-bacterial soap to control germs, we won’t get sick.
    If we use the right chemicals to control our lawns, we won’t get a letter from the HOA.

    But these things will happen. People get hurt, people aren’t perfect, we get sick, we get old. Lawns grow and get weeds. Eventually things break, pets die and we get our hearts broken by a cute guy. I’d prefer my kids to learn about this at a young age when they are resilient, open, and able to talk to me about it.

    I was told by my midwife that the more formal education a woman has, the more she tends to have trouble doing natural childbirth because we are taught through the system that we can control everything if we just try hard enough — which is diametrically opposed to the idea of natural childbirth and letting go because your body knows what to do.

    And, I agree with many of your other commenters here — Free Range doesn’t mean neglect. It means respectful consideration of the risks and benefits and thoughtful decision making rather than living in fear. My 8 yo and 5 yo do not have the same Free Range privileges — they are tailored to the child and the age.

    Kindergarten kick-off was last night. As a Free-Range parent, I am excited about fall when my 5 yo gets to ride the bus with a wonderful, caring bus driver and her older brother. Other parents are astonished about how much I love the bus — especially on cold wintry days. “But aren’t you scared for their safety?” they ask and then they tell me about some local accident involving a school bus. I try to explain that the chances of the bus getting into an accident are lower than the chances of a car accident (especially on an icy day) and that they are less likely to be severely injured on a bus, but they continue to shake their heads. (Weren’t busses created to provide safe transportation to schools anyway?) But I digress.

    Thanks again, Lenore, for this forum for like-minded people!

  45. Angry people wishing severe harm on anyone who disagrees with them is a malady of our age. it speaks of a level of intellectual vacuity that is as shocking as it is prevalent. This reader is not engaging in discourse, he or she is throwing a fear-based tantrum.

    Horrible things happen beyond our control every day. And good things, too. It’s called life. The best we can do is live within the context of our beliefs and values and accept the consequences of our choices.

    Wishing harm on others to bolster our own belief system is Medieval. Actually, I wish it truly were, for then there’d be a lot less of it.

    Do we really want to raise kids with a constant threat of retribution and disaster hanging over their heads? Apparently many do–this reader is representative of those who claimed that AIDS was God’s punishment and that limited mindset.

    Let the kids play. They may get hurt. I was regularly in casts, but my life was my own–and has remained so to this day. My parents cared and loved me, but they accepted their own limits as well. For which I love them more.

    Whatever we do, let’s break the toxic belief systems that this kind of thinking and writing represents. That will limit kids more than being overly supervised.

  46. I really wish parents would support other parents no matter what decisions they make. Natural childbirth/epidural, breast feed/bottle feed, private school/public school, organic/chemically enhanced, straight jacket/free range…. There is no “right” answer.

    Ignore the trolls Lenore.

    I have three boys. Boys are known for their daring stunts and subsequent injuries. The ONLY time my children have been hurt to the extent that they needed a doctor has been when they have been within a few feet of myself. Heads gashed on furniture both times. I suppose some would recommend I pad all corners and angles. The most frightening incident required no hospital visit, thank goodness, but occured when I was dutifully playing with my oldest in the yard, pushing the swing that had been made to all the “right” specifications, surrounded by 6″ of soft mulch. He slipped off, went flying 12′ the air and landed on his head. On a landscape timber. With a sound like a melon. I knew that I had killed him. He was fine. Just a big goose egg. After that, I continued pushing the boys on the swings, albeit from the opposite direction, and they knew they better hold on tight.

  47. I think it’s disturbing how many people believe Free Ranging is a black and white issue. I assume most free range parents take into account their situation and the kid’s maturity before a decision.

    I’m currently preggers with my first, so any ages are hypothetical.

    I would never let my pre-teen ride the subway in New York or the CTA in Chicago. Not because they’re inherently dangerous, but because since we don’t live in New York or Chicago they’re unfamiliar. I would let my 8 or 9 year old ride my local public transportation with little worry.

    Similarly, I wouldn’t let my 3 year old play in my front yard unsupervised. Not because she could get abducted, but because for whatever reason people drive like maniacs on my very residential street, and it is not at all uncommon to see people drive past my house at 60 or even 80 mph (as evidenced by several speed studies; I’m really not exaggerating). The kid won’t be allowed out front without a parent until I feel confident that she can judge speed and distance. If I lived on a safer street I would have no problem with it (and alas the city will do nothing to make my street safer).

  48. Sounds like someone sent this person your book or a link to your blog and instead of crumbling the wall of paranoia she’s spent years building she’s hunkered down and started shooting.

    Some people seem to think free-range means children of any age get booted out the door at 8am and can’t come back until bedtime. There has to be balance with everything. I am a helicopter mom when we are in parking lots and at intensely crowded events at large venues like stadiums. Outside of that, however, I trust my daughter and encourage her to explore and become increasingly more independent. There’s no sense in clutching her to me as if we’re living at a 24-hour child molester convention.

    Don’t let mean-spirited comments bring you down!

  49. Linda, you’re missing the point. Nobody is asking you to send a child who is unable to distinguish between good and bad situations alone unattended (and for the record, your sons are your sons. Plenty of aspie and autistic adults were largely unsupervised in their day – you’re talking to one right now!), nor are we judging you for your special situation, any more than we’d judge you if you happened to live on an exceptionally busy street and therefore didn’t let your kids set up skateboard ramps in the middle as the kids on my block do.

    DJ, tell those tools that the school bus is THE number one safest way to get to school. Cars? Least safe.

  50. I LOVE commenters like that. Just when you find a corner of the internet where sanity makes an appearance, one of these jackasses pops in with a true-blue, genuine Are You For Real? moment to remind us that the world will forever be infuriatingly interesting after all.

  51. I wish this commenter would identify him/herself. Also, this person should say what he/she thinks would be a better statistical source than the Department of Justice. “The entire population of the United States,” while it has many merits, does not generally compile, collate, and analyze crime statistics. Also it made “Dancing with the Stars” a hit, and I’ve never been quite able to forgive it for that.

  52. I think I’d rather risk the minuscule possibility of something BAD happening to my child than the risk of poisoning her mind with the idea that the world is a dangerous place, or worse yet, with the idea that it is socially acceptable to wish harm on any human being, let alone for purposes of “punishing” a different person. Your mother apparently never said it, but I will. SHAME on you! I wouldn’t accept that from my daughter in the second grade, let alone from an adult.

    The parents I know here are by no means the only ones who are promoting a return to good-old-fashioned parenting – letting kids take risks, teaching them to handle themselves. We’re not crazy, we just understand that in parenting, a little safety MUST be sacrificed to training a capable person. My stepmom’s niece is in college, and after years of having everything handed to her, done for her, and of constant supervision, she has no idea how to get through a single day without mother’s help. I could send my daughter to college tomorrow – at 14, and be confident she could find her classes, buy her books, keep a dorm in order, manage a budget, and keep herself safe. She might have to call me once a week for a bit of advice, but no more than usual for a young adult, and without my advice, she’d make a decision that would probably work for her. She wouldn’t pass her classes yet (too big an intellectual leap), but as far as the day-to-day mechanics of living, she’s learned. That, to me, is the essence of free-range parenting. It’s taking a breath and taking the risks you need to take to raise self-sufficient children.

  53. Hi Lenore and Friends!

    Not responding to this obviously enraged person’s vengeful posting…just sharing some thoughts on the matter of what good parents provide for their kids.

    For the past 25 years that I have been a mom, it has baffled me that most of the people in my social set (educated, affluent, achievement-oriented) have held the belief that unstructured time is The Devil…and that their kids must be engaged in activities and play-dated every moment of their lives.

    Being vacation even with close relatives, I have had tension over a philosophical difference: I believe that free time for kids is critical to their development and mostly more fun than most after school activities, clubs and extra-curricular lessons.

    They think that it is hazardous.

    They also seem hell-bent on turning their kids into some form of superior, more highly evolved and nurtured beings by subjecting them to all of this molding.

    The epitome of ridiculousness is to be found in the birthday parties that take place in rented spaces with hired entertainment.

    WTF ever happened to kids just playing, getting birthday cake and maybe, for a real treat, having a pinata or playing pin the tail on the donkey?

    The over-vigilance of kids stems not just from anxiety but from an over-achieving and competitive tendency, I believe.

    I see this often: the parents who give their kids the MOST lessons and afterschool and strict supervision often have a superior regard for their style of parenting and imagine everyone else to be some degree of slacker.

    This spills over in the area of kid supervision, of course.

    So, my point is that hovering, helicopter parenting goes hand in hand with a consumerist view of child-rearing.

    Which is definitely Lenore’s point in her excellent book.

  54. You know, the worst injuries my children have ever received have been when they were within arm’s reach. The stitches my oldest son got after dashing into the house and immediately running into a footrest with wood trim. The finger my oldest daughter broke after falling down while dancing on the floor (not even climbing!). The stitches my middle boy got after falling off the couch onto the coffee table, right in front of me.

    Doesn’t matter how hard you try. You can’t protect them from never being hurt. Even if you think you have, you will have injured them in another way, by making them incapable of dealing with frustration, pain, setbacks, and challenges as an adult.

  55. God bless you, Bungalow Babe. I’ve “only” been a mom for 16 years – four kids now – but have not once paid $500.00 for a first birthday party or had to have a binder with an hourly calendar so I know which events I need to get which child to. I refuse. And boy oh boy am I a bad mom for that, if you would ask around.

    They will be absolutely fine not having the memory of Stuffy the Clown entertain 15 kids that they don’t know but Mom invited becaise they happen to be in some Mommy and Me or Toddler Tumble class with them.

    I recently read a new study (and yes, I shudder a little at saying “study”) that the kids that were not forced into these pre-K events, pre-K advanced education classes, and slept to the tune of Mozart in their ears actually grew up with higher IQs and higher levels of learning because they were able to let their brains grow at the pace they’re SUPPOSED to grow at. Gee, I’ll bet they were a lot more fun to be around, too.

    I’m sorry – my four year old is supposed to be pulling worms out of the ground, not playing the violin to classical music while kicking a soccer ball while dancing ballet while attending some $2000 a month preschool while…. eh, you get the point. 🙂

  56. This person is so deeply rooted in fear, that they don’t know how to climb out. Children are abducted from their homes, locked doors and everything! If they press “stop” on the mental video recorder, they can work on releasing this morbid fear into something more healthy because when their child(ren) are older teens, the over-protecting will have done nothing to help them learn to protect themselves from the very present dangers inherent in our schools. When you state a very angry and destructive wish like that, it never goes out to the universe, it directs itself back to the bearer.

  57. I have a nurse friend who says its the “bubblewrapped” children who get hurt the worst. you see, since they have been toddlers they have never been allowed to fall down. so they don’t learn how to fall when they are young, flexible and close to the ground, when they are older and they inevitably do fall down they end up taking it in the chin or their tiny little wrists and breaks happen. this of course makes mom hysterical and she applies more bubblewrap.

    this same nurse friend has a 19yod autistic son. the boy has never met a stranger, by that I mean he is a social buttterfly and thinks everyone he meets is his friend. so you can imagine the panic when at 16 he “ran away from home” one day while his sister was doing homework. He had in three hours made it the nearly 6 miles to my house and was planning on living here at “boy heaven” probably in the treehouse.
    the mix of fear/frustration/pride and relief. his ablity to navigate traffic, hills and dogs not to mention his mental map was impressive. but that only led to his trying it again. thankfully it was my DH who picked him up that time. He called the parents and took him to work with him. made life very very boring and full of hard physical labor. in essence made “home ” look like a far better place to live than with us.

    Boy Heaven is the name given to our house by a friend of ours. we have treeforts, ziplines, huge dirt piles, a bbgun range, tomahawk and knife targets. animals galore, and lots of room to run, plenty of scrap lumber and tools for turning it into whatever can be imagined. and a lovely sledding/bicycle learning hill with briars at the bottom for a “soft” landing. I don’t even buy my kids toys anymore, Just duct tape and paint so they can turn sticks and scrapwood into swords and armor.

    be warned adults are at risk here. I nearly broke my ankle stepping into the ” deer trap” and have had a few near misses with the baseball throwing machine.

    Mrs N

  58. Mrs. N-

    Your house sounds like a blast! Can I come over and play?

  59. Mrs N, I want your yard!

    As for that dear, charming Reader who inspired this post, so kind of you to want a child to suffer for what you consider to be the parents’ mistake. No one deserves to be hurt. You really need to rethink that idea.

    I think some people just get so attached to the idea that things are more dangerous “these days” than before that they just cannot let go, no matter what evidence you present.

    I’d rather teach my kids to take care of themselves as appropriate by age. That means they will likely be more competent and safer as adults. Call it long range thinking, or maybe just protection of my sanity. I don’t want my kids to be so used to being protected by me or having everything done for them that they aren’t prepared for the real world.

    And Bungalow Babe, I have to agree with you on kids’ parties. That’s exactly how we do birthdays around here. No rented jumpers or bounce houses. No characters coming over to visit. Not even much in the way of planned games. Just kids running around having fun, eating cake and so forth. I’m in the middle of “planning” my daughter’s 7th birthday party now. It took all of a few minutes to find out what kind of cake she wanted, decide on water balloons if it’s warm enough, and to think about snacks. Doesn’t take much more, and she’s been told by friends that she has the best birthday parties.

  60. Gosh, I hope I’m not less-than-free-range because I have had parties at Chuck E Cheeses.

  61. Oh noes!! Not…an INJURY?!?!

    I broke my leg on the way home from school when I was six. The school was across the road from my house, and this happened while I was still on the school grounds. Should my mother have come right up to my classroom and held my hand all the way home every day to make sure I didn’t run down that hill too fast?

    My son broke his collarbone a few months ago. l He got bumped off a jumping castle at a friend’s birthday party. I guess we should have made him sit on the sidelines and watch all the other kids have fun, instead of letting him get up there on that DEATH TRAP!!!

    My daughter has yet to sustain any broken bones, but I’m sure with the way we let our kids actually live in the world without constant supervision, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.

  62. “The idea will not catch on in a big way, of course. ”

    Where did this person grow up? In my childhood, free range was the norm. It’s not a new idea that has to catch on. It’s a way of life we need to go back to.

    And the wishing of ill will on innocent children, just to teach us evil parents a lesson amazed me. Did this person post anonymously?

    Parenting Free Range in PA!

  63. I completely agree with the free-range concept. When I was a boy in the 70s, we all ran around the neighborhood by ourselves. I walked to school. (High school was a couple miles away.) My parents were hardly neglectful. In fact, I have often thought they were far too rigid and protective of me. But compared to the parents of today, they were practically hippies!

    And yet I find myself easily gripped by the same fears that grip so many other parents. How do we combat emotional responses our intellects know are bogus?

    Also, I wanted to point out that a lot of “recent” safening of kid spaces is just fine with me. I’ve heard people complain that back in the day, playgrounds didn’t have springy, cushiony surfaces. Which is true. But I think there’s a differences between common sense precautions (toys with no sharp edges, playground equipment perched over softer materials instead of asphalt, seatbelts) and parenting and attitudes that stifle creativity and cripple confidence.

  64. “Also, I wanted to point out that a lot of “recent” safening of kid spaces is just fine with me. I’ve heard people complain that back in the day, playgrounds didn’t have springy, cushiony surfaces. Which is true. But I think there’s a differences between common sense precautions (toys with no sharp edges, playground equipment perched over softer materials instead of asphalt, seatbelts) and parenting and attitudes that stifle creativity and cripple confidence.”

    Ben, I quite agree. Although most of those springy safety surfaces introduce a new, entirely more dangerous problem – they’re black. In unshaded areas. There was a big brouhaha a few years ago about a kid who took of her shoes and got third degree burns “oh, well, who takes their kid’s shoes off, it’s the mom’s fault, etc. etc. etc.”

    1. Try keeping the shoes on when there’s a sprinkler anywhere in the area. Or when you have three kids to watch.

    2. Hello? If the surface is so hot that you can get third degree burns after a minute, what on earth happens if you should FALL?

    Which isn’t very safe. D’oh!

  65. Life can be thought of entirely as risk management, of course it is much more amazing and beautiful and complex than that.

    That said, It seems that the lowest total risk is to follow the free range model. This becomes especially true if you consider the risk of a life not well lived as a real risk.

    Our family occasionally gets chastised by strangers for riding with our kids on bikes around town because we skip the car 99% of the time. They call us irresponsible or similar. Statistics suggest that the risks are low but it is perceived as dangerous, hence the unsolicited opinions we receive.

    But one thing that is absolutely KNOWN to be dangerous is to have your kids get carted around in a car, watch a ton of TV and lead the associated sedentary lifestyle. By choosing an active lifestyle, we trade the slow, known and reliable degradation of life for a small amount of risk to get everything right. While not exactly free-range today, when our kids do reach an age where they can safely make good decisions, they’ll be out there solo free range style.

  66. I had my first child when I was 55. Until then, I have memories of, maybe, 7 nightmares in my entire lifetime. In the 3+ years since then, hardly a week goes by that I do not charge out of a deep sleep with adrenalin sparking every cell in my body. I left the kids in the car in the basking sun, I lost the kids, I was hijacked and they took the kids, a kid fell out of the car and was crushed, I dropped a kid, and on, and on, and on. It is a struggle to keep from strapping them to my body at all times. The memories of my own glorious childhood and the ideas from the Free Range discussions are a huge help. Thank you!

  67. Hmmm…I was walking in Manhattan with my mother and my brother when I was around 8 or 9 by Macy’s and a couple came by, grabbed me and carried me off. I somehow wrestled free of them but I was so scared I couldn’t get a shout out of my mouth. My voice wouldn’t work. My mom didn’t even notice I was gone. It was a crowded city street in the middle of the day and nobody noticed that someone picked me off. So…I have to say if someone wants to abduct a kid, it can happen right under your nose as it almost happened to me.

    On the other hand, I walked to and from school every day, played in the park with friends, took the bus to go shopping, etc…all by myself or with a couple of friends. Nothing ever happened to me. Ironic how the one time I felt in real danger, I was with my mother.

  68. “The over-vigilance of kids stems not just from anxiety but from an over-achieving and competitive tendency, I believe.”

    I would love to continue the conversation started by bungalow babe with the comment made above. Alot of this “hyper-parenting” seems to stem from the idea that their child is going to be the “great athlete” , the “great scholar”, etc. and the parent has to dictate every aspect of the poor kid’s existence. Any thoughts?

  69. I’m sorry that you get such hateful mail from those that disagree with you. i generally take the position of just because the kid is capable isn’t the best argument of why they should. however, i grew up free range – in a third world country no less – i know you and others who share this philosophy are caring parents. i’ll will certainly be following this conversation and if I disagree i’ll make sure to be civil at the very least i will never wish ill.🙂
    p.s you do good work

  70. I LOVE this site. I am a “free range” mom too and my neighbors all think I am nuts. Just yesterday my two older daughters were in the neighbors yard and got hurt when a lawnmower rolled down the hill that they were play at the bottom of and hit them. My neighbor never said anything direct but it was clear that because I wasn’t there when it happened I was being neglectful. But even if I had been only five feet away, the changes are next to nothing that I could have stopped the incident. Accidents happen! When is everyone going to wake up and realize that. The only way to totally keep bad things from happening to our kids is to put them in a bubble and never let them out. And of course then good things can never happen to them either. Every time my neighbors give me that look of disapproval I’m reminded of Disney’s “Finding Nemo”. If we smother our kids too much and never let them experience anything they will eventually rebel to show their independence. And then they’ll be doing it without any skills whatsoever because we were too busy protecting them to teach them how to survive in the real world.
    Keep on keeping on Lenore – there are still some sensible people in this world and our kids will be the ones who grow up to Presidents and leaders!!

  71. Damn, that was a zinger of a response. Great job.

  72. There is a flip side to, “If I do everything right, then nothing bad will happen.” It’s, “something bad happened to your kid, so you are to blame.” Both are wrong wrong wrong.

    Add my kids to the list of injured sons/daughters with parents standing right there. Falling off playground equipment, getting hand stuck in elevator, etc. etc.

    I was a free range kid, and I grew up in a dangerous area. Where I live now is heaven by comparison, and yet I’m one of the only moms who lets her son walk alone to the elementary school, or lets her daughter take the city bus to the high school. They are doing fine.

    This is a great website. Keep up the great work!

  73. It’s a kneejerk reaction of a lot of people (mostly women). I think we’re ‘hardwired’ by evolution to be this way. We do something and something happens. We are hardwired to make a connection, to believe that the one thing *lead* to another. Then it gets further; we are hardwired to believe that certain actions *safeguard* us against certain things. Knock on wood. Throw salt over your right shoulder. Not treading on the cracks of the pavement.

    Take rape. It happens. One hopes it never happens to them or their loved ones. But then you’ve got the women who will firmly believe that as long as you wear ‘appropriate’ clothing (a headscarf, veil, no short skirts, no high heels, you name it) and behave in a certain way, they will never get raped. And boy, if you ever dare to walk around these women with the ‘wrong’ kind of clothes, they will tell you the same thing your emailer told you: “you’re asking for it! I hope it happens to you! It’ll show you! How dare you fly in the face of accepted rules!”

    Are these women really nasty bitches who wish you to be raped? No, of course not. Just as the emailer doesn’t really want your child be hurt (we hope). They are just afraid. Terribly afraid, and they believe, they hope that as long as they follow the accepted ‘rules’ the lightning will not strike *them*. Anybody who shrugs their shoulders and does what she wants and then does *not* get raped is an outrage. She *gets away with it* !!

  74. I saw you on The Morning Show, Australia, 28 May 2009 and suddenly felt a wave of relief that someone out there has the guts to speak about that “other parenting” style. The one we have lost due to our growing fears about safety, the social evolution towards perfect parenting and the economically driven need to become ‘Supermums’. Many of us keep quiet because it is not the ‘norm’ to let your children run free. There’s a risk but there’s a risk in every decision we make as parents. I’m the first to admit mistakes and my kids have made some real doozies but I look at them now and see three strong, wise, caring teenagers. I still feel those same fears about the decisions/choices they make and still try to guide them as best I can but it’s funny when they now say to me, while patting me on the shoulder, ‘Mum, it’ll all be ok’.

  75. Shopping Plaza Online is the best way to find everthing you needed for your kids.

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