Hi Readers! This essay, from Leah R. Weiss Caruso, talks about the less visible side of Free-Range parenting. The part about letting our kids learn from their mistakes — and giving them the freeom to make mistakes at all. One of the chapters of my book is called, “Fail! It’s the New ‘Succeed!'” Leah, a Cleveland mom of three who runs the blog The Momma Rocks, is on the same track. — Lenore
Raising the Free-Range YOU
By Leah R. Weiss Caruso
Much of what we read about raising Free-Range Kids is about the kind of activities kids are allowed to do. Do they walk to school by themselves? Climb trees? Go to the park themselves – or the subway?
All of these things encourage independence, but they are only about the physical freedom we give our children. What happens if your kid walks to school proudly by himself and then turns into a puddle of goo because he forgot his homework and you “have” to run it to school? Or if your kid is engaging in “self-directed playtime” – but comes running in every three minutes to get you because Timmy won’t share the basketball?
Raising Free-Range kids is multi-faceted. It ultimately isn’t going to matter if you let your kids walk to school by themselves if you rush in to “help” them at every other turn.
Free-Range parenting is not just about letting your 9-year-old ride the subway. It’s about letting your 1-year-old submerge his hand in mud and then stick it in his mouth. Letting your preschooler experience a time-out because he hit someone, or get soaked because he refused to wear a raincoat. It’s about letting your 10-year-old ride a bike to the pool by himself and it’s about letting him lose that privilege for a while because he came home an hour late.
In other words, “Free-Range” is as much about discipline as it is about freedom. It’s about your own discipline, too: the ability to stop yourself from swooping in to “help.”
Be brave! Do not save your kids from themselves. Your daughter’s admission to Harvard is not dependent on your fixing her fourth grade book report’s spelling mistakes. Your son is going to survive not being allowed to drive to the prom because you caught him not wearing the seat belt. And you will survive knowing you are helping your children to learn to be responsible, whether they’re climbing trees, riding the subway or just getting ready for another day of school.