Hate Mail

Dear Readers: This arrived today. I think the attitude of this writer happens to be the  prevailing one today. Voila:

I’m sorry, but I think you parents are naive and negligent to allow your children to walk alone to & from school.
Do you people not watch the news or read the papers?  Do you honestly not realize the number of children who are abducted while walking unaccompanied?  I think some of you just use the “free range” crap as an excuse to sit on your lazy behinds at home instead of getting up off of your non-working behinds and walking your child to a bus stop or to school.  I’m sorry, but this is absolutely ridiculous.  Then when your child disappears, you’ll be all over the news crying and wondering how such a thing could happen.  Well, I’ll tell you how it happens:  you allow adults free range access to your kids.  This ought to be a crime.

Let’s take this letter’s issues one by one, shall we?

1 – Do you people not watch the news or read the papers? Maybe we try to watch a little less because of the grossly distorted picture it gives us of the world. A world where, on TV, children are being abducted 24/7. A world where producers are so focused on abduction stories that you’d never realize that actual sex crimes against children have fallen by 50% over the past 15 years. (And they’ve fallen against adults, too. So it’s not just that no children are allowed outside anymore. ALL violent crime is down.)  There are also things we DON’T see on TV. We don’t  see the depression and obesity and misery of children who are cooped up on sunny days with their snacks and computers and budding diabetes. We don’t  see the kids who have no idea  how to go to the park with a ball and make a friend. We don’t see the young adults  called “teacups” by college administrators — students  so fragile they break (down) the minute they leave home. That’s why we advocate spending a little less time in front of the TV and a little more time in the real world.

2 – Do you honestly not realize the number of children who are abducted while walking unaccompanied? We sure do realize that there is crime in the world. That’s why we take action! We prepare our kids to do everything from cross the street safely to stand up for themselves if they’re bullied, or worse. We teach them how to demand help from strangers, how to call attention to themselves if they need it. Unless a parent is willing to be or hire a bodyguard to accompany his/her children every single second of every single day — and watch over them when they sleep — at some point those kids will be on  their own. We want them prepared, not helpless.

3 – I think some of you just use the “free range” crap as an excuse to sit on your lazy behinds at home instead of getting up off of your non-working behinds and walking your child to a bus stop or to school. Well, I don’t know whence comes the notion that Free-Rangers don’t have jobs, but I do admit to a certain amount of laziness.  This dovetails nicely with allowing children to grow up and take their place in the world, rather than remaining babyishly incompetent long past when it’s cute. Gradually exposing our children to risk rather than totally eliminating it (an impossibility) is our goal. Why? Because that’s what makes them safe.

4. This ought to be a crime. What ought to be a crime? Letting our kids do what children in the rest of the world do, i.e., walk to school? Believing in our kids and our neighbors and our own parenting? Believing that sometimes bad things happen randomly and that the abductions you speak of were not the result of negligent parenting? Should we criminalize the fact we believe that even the most hands-on parents cannot control everything, which is why we try to train our kids for life’s contingencies?

Readers, this letter writer speaks for the millions of people who think Free-Range parenting is criminal. Literally. That is why I now hand her over to you, yes, even on a day when we are all hoping the very best for the 7-year-old gone missing in Florida.

In the face of that front-page news, it is all the more difficult to explain why Free-Ranging makes sense.  I invite you to try.   — Lenore

105 Responses

  1. I think it borders on criminal to feed kids junk food and confine them indoors to vegetate in front of the TV and computer, after they’ve completed their 2 hours of homework. These parents are condemning their children to bleak futures filled with chronic health problems that will cost society billions of dollars in healthcare costs.

  2. I love this quote:

    I think some of you just use the “free range” crap as an excuse to sit on your lazy behinds at home instead of getting up off of your non-working behinds and walking your child to a bus stop or to school.

    1) Who “walks” their kid to school or bus stop? Try drive!
    2) Yep. I am sitting in my PJs drinking coffee having just sent my kids out the front door to walk to school. Just like my mom did. I’ve been doing it for 10 years.

  3. I’m sitting on my butt right now, writing this post. It’s nice to have the kids at school. Everyone is entitled to sit on their butts sometimes!

    Yes, I do have a paying job as an RN in a hospital and know full well the health consequences of our sedentary lifestyles.

  4. I have the privilege of working from home, often in my pajamas. This leaves me unable to be seen in polite society so there’s no walking my kids to the bus stop or to school for me! They have two legs and two feet, a pair of eyes, working ears and a brain between them. They have been taught their safety lessons and have proven to me over and over that they can handle this.

    I took my son to the orthodontist yesterday afternoon for an emergency visit when his Nance arch broke in his mouth. I dropped him off at the curb and he signed himself in and waited in a chair until I got the car parked and myself inside. They took him back pretty quickly and I waited in the waiting room. I watched child after child, most the same age or even older than my 11 yo son, come in and then stare helplessly at mom or dad, who marched right up and signed their child in themselves. What, the kid can’t do that? It was an interesting observation. One boy was clearly at least 15, but his father wrote his name on the sign in sheet as if the boy couldn’t possibly manage it.

    My kids are learning to do the dishes, clean the house, scrub the tub and toilet, and laundry. They are not going to be helpless creatures when they go out on their own. I’m determined not to let that happen. Part of that means learning how to negotiate LIFE, and I choose for my children to be one of the 1.5 million kids who DON’T get abducted for every one that does.

  5. I resent the idea that “free-ranging” is an abdication of parenting, when quite the opposite is true. Teaching kids to be capable, to recognize and respond to danger, to participate in the world (rather than watch from afar)–these things take time and energy! It’s doing thing FOR your children that is lazy and does disservice to both your kids and to society at large.

    I’m raising my kids to be capable, confident adults. “Protected” kids will struggle in adulthood trying to figure out how to do ANYTHING for themselves and waiting to be rescued.

  6. I often wonder at what point these parents seem to think its okay for their kids to think for themselves.. I remember working at a college, you could see these helicopter parents getting Irate that we wouldn’t tell them little (18year old) Jimmy’s grades, or even tell them if he made it to class today. (A federal law covers the privacy of students in college.)

    At what point do helicopter parents decide to stop hovering? I feel for those kids, suddenly shoved out the door, after having everything done for them.

  7. My wife works at a college and runs into these helicoptering parents all the time. You can just imagine the stuff she sees! I hear the tales (no names – protecting student/teachers) and shake my head. My two kids also listen and often why parents are SO over involved. I can’t imagine the world when these protected kids grow up. What will they do to thier children? Or will they NOT have kids to avoid ALL the issues?

  8. Sorry! I didn’t know my in-laws had your address. Next time I talk to them, I’ll let it slip that my 6- and 4-year-old are crossing the street on their bikes by themselves while I sit on my butt on the porch – I’d be in the house already but the 6-year-old still gets a little too crazy excited and forgets to look sometimes. Once my in-laws hear that news, they’ll be off your back and back on mine, where they belong.

  9. Tam: You’re absolutely right. Free-range parenting is actually much harder. It’s easy to do everything for someone. It’s much more challenging to teach them how to do it for themselves.

  10. Do you honestly not realize the number of children who are abducted while walking unaccompanied?

    Why do I get the feeling that the person who wrote this has no clue how many children actually are abducted.

    A majority of people believe that violent crime has been increasing when we’re putting in 20 year lows. Perhaps your e-mail friend thinks that Criminal Minds is a documentary.

  11. this “lazy” tag is a pretty common epithet from right-wingers. It fits into a mythology of lazy, slacker, hippie commies and welfare queens who want to sit back and benefit by stealing from the hard work of proper conservative capitalists who don’t need a hand-out.

    When I would demonstrate against the start of the second Iraq war, I would be told to “get a job” quite regularly. They didn’t seem to be interested in finding out that I already had three of ’em. I’ve also been told that during non-partisan efforts to register people to vote, so go figure.

  12. I think the core of free range parenting is not allowing ourselves to be controlled by fear.

    Because the fact of the matter is, everything we do in life involves a certain amount of risk, and whether you as a parent are there or not, there is still risk.

    The goal should be that we manage to live our lives in spite of risk and live it well…by learning to manage our fear and teaching our children how to deal with the danger.

    The fact of the matter is…free range parents are any less worried about their kids than the non-free range parent.

    We have just learned that there is value in the experience.

  13. You aren’t naive or negligent but you have a sane and intelligent idea of what is an acceptable sense of the risks involved in life.
    What is lazy are those that base how they run their lives on emotions not thinking as to what one’s chances are.

    The extreme sides about how much freedom to give kids is depicted in the controversial Wife Swap episode that has been pulled from the TV schedule.
    The description of the episode pits a family that runs a child-proofing business, against the Balloon boy’s family.

    I think a better episode would have been if Lenore was to show a safety obsessed mom how silly she is, but I’d rather that Reality TV goes to Never, Never Land. And if the news be more concerned about being accurate over how fast they can get a story on the air before checking facts.

  14. oh and btw @ nick…i would not consider myself a right winger…but I certainty lean that way…

    could we makes comments based on actual information rather than on any kind of assumption?

    I have to think there are over the top, helicopter parents on both sides of the aisle…just like there are free range parents with different political philosophies.

  15. Free range parenting isn’t a right or left winged political movement Nick. I would guess that various political perspectives are represented here on this blog.

  16. I believe that the reason we do not see kids outside in the neighborhood anymore is because of this fear. As Jan S said, they are sadly inside in front of the tv and computer. Or off at swimming, to soccer, to dance, to karate, to art class…taught by others mind you, not the parents. So over programed they don’t know how to deal with spare time.

    If we don’t start now, how will they ever be ready to go off to college by themselves? Move out? Function? Oh wait, they aren’t. As Vince said, parents are showing up where they never used to, in post secondary education and job interviews.

    I found this article

    Click to access lawley_helicopter.pdf

    by Janet M Lawley. I love this quote.

    “Now we are told that parents continue their involvement into the workplace, attending interviews, questioning employers and negotiating salaries. Hilpern refers to the mother of a 25 year old who will accompany her daughter to a job interview, offering the excuse that children “are slower to grow up these days”. No wonder!”

    I take my 6 and 5 yr old boys to swimming lessons. I use the mother/son change room. Am thinking it is almost time for them to start using the men’s on their own. They just need Daddy to take them in there one day to show them around. Last week, a mom brought her two kids into the mother/son change room. The boy was at least 10 and the girl older. Can they not negotiate a change room alone? How frightening!

    What are we setting kids up for if we can not teach them how to go out into the world alone? It has to start somewhere.

  17. @Tam, @9to5to9

    “Free-range parenting is actually much harder. It’s easy to do everything for someone. It’s much more challenging to teach them how to do it for themselves.”

    “Teaching kids to be capable, to recognize and respond to danger, to participate in the world (rather than watch from afar)–these things take time and energy! It’s doing thing FOR your children that is lazy and does disservice to both your kids and to society at large.”

    I agree with this. I feel like being Free Range means putting more time, more thought, more requirements of my children, and sometimes even more anxiety than if I hovered. It’s also hard to Free Range because I feel like people – like this letter-writer – are quick to hate and to judge without knowing what they’re talking about.

    I want to also mention that my Free Range kids have a lot, a LOT of fun riding the bus and bikes and going to the library and swimming and running and getting OUT in the world (no video games or television in our house)! They absolutely enjoy it and no one who watched our lifestyle could call us “lazy”.

  18. “Do you honestly not realize the number of children who are abducted while walking unaccompanied?”

    The fact that a missing child in Florida is front page news in Oregon should give some indication of what that number actually is. OTOH there are some skulls in this world that no amount of reality can penetrate.

    But don’t you fret, Anonymous Letter Writer! In 20 years, my independent, real-world-capable offspring will happily give your chubby little teacups undemanding service jobs that won’t challenge their delicate constitutions or cloistered fantasy lives. Unless of course you plan on coming to _work_ with them, too.

  19. Let’s put those lurking child snatchers on the back burner for a minute… lets talk about robbers instead. I don’t want to be robbed. I don’t want anybody breaking into my house and stealing my stuff. That would be terrible. So… I lock my doors and close the windows at night or during the day when I leave the house. Even so, someone who wanted to break into my house obviously could. They could break the windows… or they could wait for me to be making trips to and from the car with my groceries… or a million other things. But I can’t, and I don’t, spend lots of time trying to think up all the possible ways they could get in and rob me. I don’t let it keep me from leaving the house. I take reasonable precautions and I just have to trust that the risk of me being robbed is pretty small. Sure it happens all the time – I watch the news, but it also doesn’t happen all the time. It’s not happening right now. It didn’t happen yesterday. None of my neighbors got robbed yesterday either. If it did happen, it would be terrible and I would be very upset, but no one would for a second think that it was somehow my fault for not having shatterproof windows and a surveillance camera outside.

    Now back to those child-snatchers… I don’t want my child to be abducted. It would be terrible – worse than terrible. So I take some reasonable precautions like teaching him what to do if we get separated in public and making him tell me where he’s going to be and call if he’s going to be late. But let’s be honest, if some creepy kidnapper wanted to get him, they would just find a way. There’s no way I could keep this from happening if that bad-guy was really determined. But I can’t let that fear rule my life any more than my fear of robbers. I have to live my life and let my son live life and just trust that the risk of him being kidnapped or whatever is awfully small, especially by a stranger. It almost never happens. When it does happen, we hear about it on the news and I think that’s a great thing, we should hear about it, but let’s not get carried away and think that every day bad-guys are driving around snatching up our kids with promises of candy and lost puppies. Which leads me to possibly the most offensive part of the letter in question: The idea that if my child gets snatched it is somehow my fault. It is no more my fault than if a robber happened to chose my home and victimize me. I would be just that: a victim.

  20. @Mike:

    Hey there, so ya know, there are plenty of so-called “right-wingers” who actually agree with the idea of free-range kids. On this issue, you have lots of friends among conservative evangelicals, especially among us who homeschool. (True, there are some homeschoolers who are way overprotective.) So I think the divide is a bit more complex than right vs. left.

  21. Good point Amanda. People always want to assign blame.

    Child snatchings by strangers are rare events. As someone said, a disappearance in FL makes news nationwide. That’s because there aren’t any local ones for the media to use to fill their airtime.

  22. This sounds more like an attention seeking troll than an honest bit of hate mail.

    Trolls, like most pests, are best left alone.

    I think the majority of the world want to raise free range kids, they just lack the courage to do it or don’t realize that it’s an option.

  23. this “lazy” tag is a pretty common epithet from right-wingers. It fits into a mythology of lazy, slacker, hippie commies and welfare queens who want to sit back and benefit by stealing from the hard work of proper conservative capitalists who don’t need a hand-out.

    Just a few posts ago we argued with somebody who thought that anti-free-ranging was all the result of liberals (who, apparently, all believe in the government wiping our own noses for us), and now this.

    How about you and I, Nick, try not to spread bile against conservatives in general (only those who specifically deserve it!) and the conservatives here try not to spread bile against us? Parenting choices don’t line up along ideological grounds.

  24. I don’t watch TV. In fact, when I moved out of my parents house and rented my own apartment I did a conscious decision not to waste my money on TV set, cable subscription and my time watching commercials between junk “experts shows”. It was 11 years ago, and I never felt like I am missing something, not for one second! People need to realize that TV is all about ratings. It’s making a profit out your money. It’s not here to make you more educated or more informed in any shape or form, it’s here to entertain you if you need that kind of entertainment.
    My kids are free-range. I see a world in a positive way, and don’t worry about “ifs”. As they grow, I trust them more, and they get more real life responsibilities.

  25. I love it when people ask about the news. Yes, I read lots of news. No, I don’t let it scare me. Why? It’s NEWS! If it happened every day, all the time, it wouldn’t be news. It would be routine! Children don’t get snatched routinely, or we would eventually be desensitized to it as a society and then it wouldn’t be news. Sure, parents would still get upset when they lost their own child, but the rest of the world wouldn’t blink. We don’t see, “9-year-old Safely Arrives At School,” because it isn’t news. Yes, as individuals, we cheer for the successes of our children, but the rest of the world doesn’t care that our kid can walk a mile to school. It isn’t news. Just like a healthy, active child isn’t news but a grossly obese child is- what’s more criminal? Is the parent whose child stays home eating too much and watching tv because mom or dad is too busy to safely watch them play in the yard a criminal or a loving, watchful parent?

  26. The most vocal opponents of free-range childhood will always be those most afraid of free-range adulthood.

  27. Right wingers are more likely to do ‘crazy’ things like taking their kids hunting and things like that. They also will buy their kids dirt bikes and set them loose to raise hell, so I’m not sure righties are less free-range.

  28. Let’s see, 115 kids are abducted by strangers annually.

    7000 kids die in car accidents each year, 600K more hospitalized.

    203,900 kids are abducted by family members each year.

    It sounds like it’s way more dangerous to allow family members to drive kids to school than it is to allow them to walk home alone.

  29. I’m sorry, but I think you parents are naive and negligent to allow your children to walk alone to & from school.* INSULT*
    Do you people not watch the news or read the papers? *PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE ATTEMPT TO PUT DOWN INTELLIGENCE* Do you honestly not realize the number of children who are abducted while walking unaccompanied?*ANOTHER PA SLAM* I think some of you just use the “free range” crap *INSULT*as an excuse to sit on your lazy behinds *OH ANOTHER INSULT!*at home instead of getting up off of your non-working behinds *MAKES ASSUMPTIONS, SLAMS STAY AT HOME PARENTS* and walking your child to a bus stop or to school. I’m sorry,*ARE NOT. YOU THINK YOU ARE HOLIER THAN THOU* but this is absolutely ridiculous. Then when your child disappears, you’ll be all over the news crying and wondering how such a thing could happen. *OH NO! PASSIVE AGGRESSION!* Well, I’ll tell you how it happens: you allow adults free range access to your kids. This ought to be a crime.

    I’ll tell you, I know more children who have reached the age of 8 without being able to defecate without the help of their mother – who will fly to the bathroom at mach speed to aid their precious in the wiping of their behind- than have been abducted in my town in over 20 years. I know far too many adult women in their 30’s so terrified of Strangers, that they will not even answer the phone if their husband is not home to protect them. I will not raise my children to be victims. I will not raise my children to be terrified of their own shadows. I will not raise my children to doubt themselves at every turn. I will not burden my children with the overwhelming weight of fear.

    I would be more inclined to do an indepth commentary of her mail if she had managed to write in sounding even remotely like an adult. I hope she reads this and considers my notations in her letter as a teachers bright red marker and makes the adjustments so that the rest of us might actually take her seriously. *not even remotely passive aggressive… just aggressive*

  30. Lenore,

    Did you happen to read the insightful article early this year by Maia Szalavitz in Psychology Today?

    10 Ways We Get the Odds Wrong — Our brains are terrible at assessing modern risks. Here’s how to think straight about dangers in your midst.


  31. As for ‘free range’ being lazy, I would argue that it takes more effort to teach your kids to do it for themselves than to do it for them. My lazy days are the ones when I’m less free range. Exhausted? Need to make something for dinner? What do you want to watch, Nemo or Cars?

    “Drive a kid to soccer and you get him to soccer today. Teach a kid to ride a bike and you get her to soccer for life.”

  32. Added note:

    I do not sit on my butt at home while each of my three children walk to their schools or bus stops. I am sitting on my butt at work, as is my husband. Funny enough, all three of our kids can manage to get themselves off to school (three different schools even!) without mommy there to protect them from the boogey man.

  33. @Denise
    “could we makes comments based on actual information rather than on any kind of assumption?

    I have to think there are over the top, helicopter parents on both sides of the aisle…just like there are free range parents with different political philosophies.”

    I certainly don’t mean to disparage anyone here (or elsewhere for that matter) and I agree that helicopter parenting is a politically non-denominational occurrence as is free-range parenting. It is an issue that is distinctly not partisan in approach.

    Having said that, though, the application of the whole lazy meme jumps out at me as one that has trended to world-views commonly associated with reactionary right-wing paradigms. In my years of experience engaging in community and political work of various levels of (non-)partisanship, the use of that meme to describe very real and arguably non-lazy efforts has almost exclusively come to me from the right and from a series of assumptions that are distinctly not “based on actual information”.

    I’m not interested in diverting this debate into a political one, nor should my comments be entirely construed as political, but the decrying of “free range” parents who “sit on your lazy behinds at home instead of getting up off of your non-working behinds” resonated strongly for me. It highlighted for me a likely aspect of the mindset of the writer that is still distinct from their stance on partisan politics, but relevant on how they approach notions of fear and security and those that challenge their world view.

  34. I feel bad for the letter writer’s children. They’re going to grow up all neurotic and scared of their own shadow, and once they go off to college they’ll have no concept of how to do anything for themselves. Free range doesn’t mean “let them do whatever they want”, free range means “prepare them for life”.

  35. Because, anonymous proselytizer, what you’re advocating is criminal as well . . .


    Overparenting of an Italian boy has led to criminal charges. Tell me, right now, that where this person’s ideals of watching every minute are leading isn’t *exactly* to the same place.

    There’s a range of acceptable parenting. I don’t let my daughter walk to school alone at the age of 6. But she walks. And of late, she’s walked further and further ahead of me. She *wants* to be free-range. And, since it’s *clearly* not dangerous, I let her. I watch, and I see, but I let her.

    Child-abductors have become the new communists: they’re everywhere! Under every bed! Waiting to pounce!

    They’re not. Oh, sure, it seems like it, because people have to sell newspapers and TV advertising, but statistically, they’re not. In fact, they’re even less of a threat than they were when I was a kid.

    We need our kids to grow up to be functional adults. That means teaching them to take care of themselves, and, as any teacher will tell you, all the theory in the world means nothing without practical application. That’s why I let my kids be free range.

  36. I do think free-range parenting is a political issue (in that I don’t want to see people getting in trouble with the law for their reasonable parenting decisions), but I have yet to see any correlation between one side of the helicopter/free-range divide and the left/right political spectrum.

    In my 3.5 years as a parent, I have met many hoverers of all political stripes. I have also met many free-rangers with wildly differing political views. I think it would be interesting to see a poll of the two issues to see if there is any correlation.

    If I had to make a guess, I would say it would be about even, but would probably skew more towards free-range = libertarian/conservative. After all, aren’t conservatives interested in the government leaving them the hell alone to live their lives (and raise their children) as they see fit?

  37. I don’t think we should feed the trolls, Lenore 😉

    I hear this kind of stuff all the time, though — over-the-top fear of the extremely unlikely, and the most bizarre attempt to rationalize that fear.

    Amanda’s post brings up such an important point: the issue of blame.

    When I was a child 30-odd years ago, if something bad happened to a child whose parent wasn’t watching it, the unfortunate event was generally considered an accident and/or an act of God and/or just one of those things that happen to kids and/or (if appropriate) the perpetrator’s fault. If a child was injured while tobogganing or broke an arm falling off the jungle gym, well, those kinds of things do happen to kids sometimes. If a crime was committed against a child, the child’s parents were, for lack of a better term, victims by association.

    These days, it seems to me, a large proportion of public outrage tends to be directed at the parents of the victim: why weren’t they there? why weren’t they watching? why weren’t they more careful? how could they be so irresponsible? etc. And if (as Lenore points out in her book) the attempt to protect one’s kids from absolutely everything that could possibly go wrong gives parents an illusory sense of control, I think this orgy of parent-blaming must give society as a whole a similar sense of control, and other parents specifically a reassuring sense that such a dreadful thing could never happen to their kids, because their kids would never be {left alone for 5 minutes / allowed to walk to school alone / allowed to go bike riding with a friend / sent into the corner store alone / whatever}.

    And it’s SO STUPID. Bad things can, and do, happen to kids whose parents are right there. I have watched from a few feet away, unable to do anything because of the speed of events, as my daughter fell off a piece of playground equipment (from which she was hanging upside down); I have failed to catch her as she fell off a subway seat on which she was sitting in a precarious way; I have seen her capsize her tricycle and fall off her bike; I was sleeping next to her both times she fell off our futon bed; I was actually holding her tiny infant self when my husband, in a misguided attempt to trim her fingernails while she was awake, missed the small wiggly target and cut her finger. (She has survived all of these dreadful occurrences, by the way. She’s seven now, and she’s fine ;).)

    Am I a bad, neglectful, careless parent? Not particularly. The point is, accidents (much more likely than child-snatchings) do happen to kids all the time, and very often they happen while (and even though) the kids’ parents are right there, and many of them are not, by any reasonable definition, anybody’s fault; yet there is never any shortage of accusations, of attempts to assign blame to someone or something (if not the parents, then the manufacturer of the stove, the driver of the subway train, the builders of the playground equipment…) for things that are NOT ANYONE’S FAULT. Why are we so obsessed with blaming one another for accidental occurrences?

  38. @Nick,

    You have a good point, actually, in “lazy” being throw at, say, people who accept public assistance. And that person with the hate mail may very well be a strident right-winger.

    But trust me, the slur of “lazy” is also thrown at stay-at-home moms of any political stripe. So although politics plays into it, I think the real dividing line lies elsewhere.

  39. I wouldn’t call ths hate mail. It’s ignorant, and the tone is accusing rather than open to discussion, but I’d say her intent is more or less good. (I’ll bet you get some REAL hate mail sometimes…)

    My response: I don’t have children yet, but I fully intend to be as free range as possible when I do, though already I am frightened by the prospect of letting hypothetical children out of my sight. We owe it to our kids to give them he space they need to learn how to move in the room. They won’t do that if I carry them the whole way, no matter how much I want to.

    My brother is a coach. He works mostly with teens, a few younger and a handful of adults. About a year ago, he had a team of teen boys at a competition. One of the boys hadn’t been at practice much lately, his performance started to flag, so my brother yanked him, and put a substitute in his place. He was a bit pouty, but seemed ok.

    Within a day, the boy’s parents removed him from the sport, never to return. My brother recieved threatening and furious email and voicemail from both mom and dad about his “unfair” treatment of their darling son.

    This would have been bad enough with a boy of 14 or 15. This “kid”? 18 years old. Starting college the following semester. I wondered if his parents planned to threaten his professors when he recieved a grade they thought was “unfair,” or maybe they would just pull him out os school.

    It’s not just that their hovering crippled this kid, keeping him from making decisions, dealing wih disappontment, understanding consequences, doing anything for himself. What makes me the most sad is that he was never allowed to speak for himself.

    I don’t watn my children to sit around at their deminishing recess, unsure how to start, play, or invent a game. I dont want them to be unable to see a story unless it’s on a screen. I dont want them to live a life based on fear. Sometimes bad things happen to children. I can’t stop that. What I CAN do, is my best for my children, so that when the bad things happen, be they kidnapping, a burning house, or depression, my kids have the best chance possible of surviving when I can’t be there to help them.

    To end on a ridiculous (but true) note: when we keep our children helpless the terrorists (kidnappers) WIN.

  40. I don’t know about that, Bush started that whole ‘no child left behind’ nonsense that encourages this sort of mentality in my opinion. The Dems and Republicans are pretty much variations on the same, government interfering and knows best for you mentality. They hover over us and tell us that we should be hovering over our kids, because they know what’s best for us.

  41. Aren’t most children abducted, molested, abused by someone they know? So according to this writer his/her own children shouldn’t be allowed near him/her.
    So let’s talk about lazy. Who does the research to find out what exactly IS and is NOT a threat to our children? Not the writer of this letter. Is it easier to dress your children and hold their hand everywhere they go or to teach them to dress themselves and put up with the extra time and frustration?
    Lazy parents do everything for their kids. It’s just true. I also believe this writer in any other context would use “When I was a kid” when talking about how much they did and how much they knew compared to today’s kids.

  42. @ Jan S, note I said “conservatives” not “neocons”. BIG DIFFERENCE.

  43. I think Bob is right. It think he/she/it is a troll.

    And pipu, I agree with you, too: Neurosis knows no political boundaries.

    But the “sitting on your butts” argument does suggest that the the Troll may be listening to Glenn Beck when he/she/it isn’t trying to feed his/her/its ego by sending inflammatory notes to bloggers.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to refill my bowl of Doritos and send the kids out to play in the street. Oprah will be on soon. 😉

  44. TV isn’t the problem. I take issue with the people watching it.

  45. Oh, Lenore, thank you so much for posting this. I’m afraid it took me about ten minutes to collect myself enough to read your (fantastic) rebuttal – the hysterics of the letter made me laugh and laugh and I nearly dropped the laptop.

    My kids have always been Free Range. Honestly, until recently, I never knew that there was any other way to do it than to treat kids like actual human beings. They’ve made it to 17 and 13 just fine, so I don’t think I’m going to change my methods any time…ever.

    They’re capable of taking care of themselves because I refused to crowd them and hover and treat them like helpless infants once they became interested in the world around them, and I can’t imagine doing it any other way.

  46. When did we stop trusting our village to help raise our children?

    And if that village has proven itself to be untrustworthy (as anonymous hate-mailer implies) why would you want to live there?

    My parents allowed me a *lot* a freedom as a child. Almost too much, sometimes. I plan on doing the same for my child when he is old enough (he’s still a fetus, so I can’t give you a reliable timeline) and I will trust that the members of the village we’ve chosen to live in will look out for my child the way I look out for theirs.


  48. Bad things can, and do, happen to kids whose parents are right there.

    Jaycee freaking Dugard, anyone, whose step-dad was LITERALLY right there?

    But our letter writer is too busy slagging off parents who treat their kids as something other than helpless pets as “lazy” to put a couple brain cells into things.

  49. I was waiting for something like this after seeing the story about Somer (seven year old in Florida, I think) – walking home from school, now missing for 3 days. My second thought (after,” My goodness, poor girl!!”) was, “Lenore is going to get FLOODED with hate emails!”

  50. Liberal vs. Conservative

    I’ve long argued that there are all types of free rangers, but I wonder if we can pigeonhole the anti-free-rangers? Maybe it’s because I’m a pretty extreme liberal that I find it hard to imagine a liberal writing that stuff. Am I biased? I’d be more than happy to be wrong about that.

    Not that I think it serves any purpose to pigeon hole anyone like I just did.

  51. […] Which by the way, if you dare to live this way you will be considered negligent or lazy or all of the above and worse by a whole heck of a lot of people.  Sometimes I wish I could just be left alone, entirely, to do […]

  52. It’s funny… over the past few months of reading and commenting on this site I’ve really started to pay attention to my hometown and how the kids behave here.

    I live in a suburban community outside NY City and it’s really densely populated here.

    But everyday I see kids walking around alone, in pairs, in groups. Our “Main St/Downtown” area of town is usually crawling with unattended kids from middle-school on up during the evenings on the weekends. There’s an ice-cream shop, dollar store, book store, convenience store, and even a street corner that are local hangouts.

    I see kids walking to and from school everyday. Our town has crossing guards at the major intersections. Kids walk by themselves to baseball games, football games, the local pond to do catch/release fishing, and the decent playgrounds get used.

    I can’t believe that I live in some magical isolated land that is so different from the rest of the world.

    I’m starting to think there’s more free-range going on than we realize, only, that other people aren’t calling it that. They just call it living their lives.

    There will always be fringey people who want to bubble-wrap their kids, and this hate-mail sender may be one of them. But, we need to start giving credit to the scores of people who walk the walk without having to talk the talk. I’m not going to worry about the doubters much anymore. I’m just living it.

  53. 1) I am a huge fan of butt-sitting.

    2) I weep for this person’s kids. They will be afraid of everything. They will experience little joy. They will not learn freedom with responsibility. What kind of adult will that be? The kind that I hope MY kids don’t have to work with.

  54. “Jaycee freaking Dugard, anyone, whose step-dad was LITERALLY right there?”

    Indeed! And, while I have no proof, how much do you all want to bed that she was rarely allowed to spend time alone? We already know that she wasn’t allowed out in public unless her abductor was with her. I’m sure Ms. Dugard’s abductor thought he was also protecting her, and I seem to recall reading that he claimed to have “saved” her.

    Which sounds more criminal? Allowing a human being (even a young one) reasonable independence, alone time, and providing education about getting along in the world, and — yes– letting them out of your sight now and then? Or keeping them, sometimes literally, leashed to you whenever they’re in public, keeping them locked in the home (again, sometimes literally) when not out in public, restricting access to exercise, and insisting on being involved in every aspect of their lives in order to “protect” them? That’s what I thought.

  55. Jo-Ann, I live in a college town, and I can tell what happens to some of these kids once they go to college, they run riot at street parties, get so rotten drunk that they don’t know what they are doing, get arrested, then cry “police brutality”. Because they don’t know how to behave themselves away from their parent’s over-supervision, and they don’t know how to take responsibility for their actions.

  56. Elizabeth at 2:32

    I completely agree with you.

    I too live in the suburbs of NYC and walk to the train every morning and see kids unattended waiting for the bus. During the evenings, especially in summer, kids are walking to the movies, getting an Italian ice or hanging out — all in roving packs, alone or on bikes, some younger than others. Most people don’t have time to worry about what nosy neighbors think of their parenting skills, they are just living life!

    As for others comments about the political leanings of the ignorant emailer we are all commenting on: I find it funny that people can surmise from a few sentences the political mindset of an individual they’ve never met or discussed anything with. He’s a conservative because he said get off your lazy but — really? No he’s a liberal because liberals want to butt in on how you live your life — really?

    Lets keep the comments to raising kids and not fall into the rabbit hole of politics unless discussing a particular politician, law or regulation directly effecting the raising of the kids. Then all dime store political theorizing is fair game.

  57. BTW, we just watched a funny movie called ‘Mama’s Boy’


    It’s about an overprotected 29 yr old (played by Jon Heder of Napoleon Dynamite) still living with Mom (Diane Keaton). Definitely worth watching.

  58. I saw the most wonderful example of free range parenting at the pumpkin patch last week.
    A little girl, no more than 4 or 5, was standing in the checkout line with a bag of candy clutched in one hand a some money in the other. At first she hung back a bit, and another group of adults cut in front of her without even seeing her. She frowned a bit, then positioned herself more directly in the line when the next person came to make sure she didn’t lose her place. She carefully made her purchase and thanked the cashier, then went skipping out to the exit, literally walking on air, to where her mom was waiting with praise for a job well done.
    There was nothing risky about it, and of course no laziness on the mom’s part since it took longer this way, but the look of satisfaction on that little girl’s face was priceless. Its just amazing that of all the dozens of kids there that day, mostly older, this was the only child going through on her own.
    That mom is now a model for me to sow the free range seeds early!

  59. My goodness, don’t come to Germany, you’ll probably have a fit.

  60. This letter ends on a very peculiar note: author is afraid of free-range *adults* getting an access to the kids. Quite telling, isn’t it? As if “Tie my hands please by keeping them away from me”

  61. These days, when anyone brings up the possibility of my children being abducted, I just have to laugh at them. I find the idea to be simply ridiculous. One reason is because I am physically unable to pick up either of my kids anymore, and I have to believe it would be a struggle for a kidnapper to do so (yes, my kids have weight problems, which I’m trying to deal with). The only way I can see them being abducted is if: 1) The kidnapper had a gun, in which case there would be NOTHING I could do about it, or 2) They would have to be tricked into going off with somebody. I’ve made sure that number 2 does not happen by thoroughly explaining safety to my kids. So I will continue to make getting my kids to exercise by walking to school be my top priority, not protecting them from the laughably small risk of abduction. P.S. I can count the SECONDS that I get to “sit on my butt” on any given day!

  62. this is crazy… so far as MOST negligent parents are unlikely to waste time reading THIS post, or those like it. THEY would rather play online games or watch mindless TV shows. conviction or alternative views are not a part of their diet.

    in my factual opinion, opposition lies with the over-dominating and brainwashing side. and i hafta say i understand their fear, but do NOT condone their action. it has rather poor results…

    enjoy, or detest, the pudding. but it is the pudding, nothing more nor less…

  63. Oh, well. Sticks and stones may break my bones…

    But really, if I hear once more the “lazy parents” line, I’ll offer to switch places anytime. Try to keep your eyes on four kids (ages 6 years- 18 months) at the same time. No blinking allowed, I guess. That would be neglectful and lazy, right?

  64. Lola, yep, and heaven forbid you should have to pee! Insert a catheter already, good lordy. 😉

  65. My son, 13, just got home from walking to a neighborhood 1/2 mile away (didn’t want to get his bike out). He’s small for his age, but very smart, strong, and alert. To get there, he had to walk past a woods and a cornfield–but the road is pretty busy, with a car passing probably three times a minute (edge of a suburb of a largish city). I did worry a little when he started walking to his friend’s house there earlier this summer, but really, I don’t think I have much to worry about. He’s been taught safety precautions.

    Great response to a well-phrased but mistaken letter.

  66. “When did we stop trusting our village to help raise our children?”

    Every village has a village idiot (or two).

  67. I tend to agree with abut 75% of the advice on this site… so there’s that disclaimer. There’s a good 25% of Lenore’s and others’ opinions either in the posts or in the comment trails that I think are flatly wrong, and when I do, I say so freely…

    But yeah, how does reading FRK relate to being unemployed butt-sitters?

    That’s just rude.

    Disagreement does not have to equal illogical name-calling.

  68. First of all it’s probably a troll writing.

    But second of all their question was perfect: “Do you honestly not realize the number of children who are abducted while walking unaccompanied?”. Go ahead and ask if the writer realized the NUMBER and the crime stats and the odds. Do they just hear a number and say “that’s a big number” or do they compare it to the population and the odds and historical crime figures?

  69. He’s a conservative because he said get off your lazy but — really? No he’s a liberal because liberals want to butt in on how you live your life — really?

    For that matter, we could reverse it and be just as accurate. “He’s a liberal because he said get off your lazy butt (and liberals are all health freaks)” or “He’s a conservative because they want to tell us all how to pray and who to marry and how to live our lives”.

    But listen. Whatever low standard we think THOSE PEOPLE are reaching for with their rhetoric, we owe it to OUR PEOPLE to not do that. Everybody knows unsubstantiated ad hominems are for THOSE GUYS and not US. WE are better than that – whoever WE are 😛

  70. Since Wife Swap came up: Lenore, did you ever consider going on wife swap to get the freerange point across? That family with the childproofing business would be a perfect fit…

  71. This has been bugging me all day, reminding me quite a lot of the time I got stalked by some Freetards.

    Bets that our letter writer is childless?

  72. […] Hate Mail Dear Readers: This arrived today. I think the attitude of this writer happens to be the  prevailing one today. […] […]

  73. The result of parenting like hers? WALLe people.

  74. It is really very simple and doesn’t take much brains to do the math. Crime is down 50% from when I was a child in the 70s. I walked myself 1/2 a mile to and from the bus stop every day of my entire school career. When I was in middle-school my parents left for work shortly before I left for the bus stop and came home about an hour after I did. It never occurred to them that this was dangerous. It was an appropriate plan — and it still is.

    I also biked 2 miles to my friend’s house on the weekend so that we could spend the day ranging around town playing: down by the river, in the cemetary, in neighborhoods where other friends lived — you know, stuff kids like to do.

    My parents were very attentive and strict. They knew generally where I was and expected me to be back home by a certain time or I would be in big trouble. But they certainly did not think that any of these activities were universally unsafe. They taught me safety skills and common sense, and warned me sternly about the places I was never to go. I am doing the same for my kids.

    No part of being “free range” is being negligent. It is actually quite the opposite. It is being informed of the facts (real numbers instead of general impressions brought on by media or gossip) and acting accordingly. Why is it so hard for some to accept that they don’t have to over-protect their kids? It simply isn’t necessary and there is no evidence in real numbers to prove it should be.

  75. I would describe myself as a free-ranger with some setbacks, only because the years of rote scary-world-hide-your-child journalism have scarred me despite my best intentions.

    However, I’m trying to loosen my grip day by day, because helicopter parenting is NOT about a safer, happier child, but 99% about soothing a scared, insecure parent who thinks his//her child is still the same helpless blob who came home from the hospital on day 3 of life.

    My son would only be given a disservice by my doing it all for him. It scares me to death some days, but I’m letting go a bit at a time.

    Believe me, it takes a hell of a lot more work than just coddling him to death.

  76. Ha ha, my kids were truly born free-range since all 6 were born at home! Aren’t I a heretic?

  77. Ben, no. Just… no. That would be a VERY BAD IDEA. Wife Swap is designed to make everybody on it look like That One Crazy Family.

  78. Quite clearly someone should get out more. Most of the rest of us, including those of us in the world outside the Atlantopacific island, actually regard bringing our children up to be well adjusted, perceptive and independent adults as the completely normal, healthy way of keeping a well adjusted, perceptive and indipendant nation. But that’s just another fact, along with all those facts and statistics that far too easily interfere with a well entrenched myopic story of preconceptions.

    Maybe someone could be a bit more consise and suggest some actual legislative wording that could have me arrested and extradited for being a committed parent. Whilst they are at it, they could also advise the rest of us as to just who it is they envisage will make and act on these decisions, and to what predefined end?
    My inclination is to agree with steve and emily above.

    I can just see Lenore counting to ten a couple of hundred times and taking three hundred deep breaths before attacking the keyboard. Well controlled. Well advised and nicely put. Ta.

  79. I wonder if, sometimes, these outraged objections come from people who find absolutely no pleasure in walking alone? in being alone? They can only see such activities as a terrible ordeal, so any parent who’d insist on them must be cruel.

    I walk a lot–any errand within two miles, I’m there on foot, if the schedule allows. I live in safe, flat town, sidewalks everywhere, I’m healthy and capable of that distance, I like my iPod time, etc. etc. But I can’t tell you how often “friends” will drive by and offer me a ride–like I could only be walking because there’s something wrong with my car, I guess? A relative actually said it was embarrassing that I walk so much–that people might think I didn’t have a car, couldn’t afford gas, etc. WHAT?

    So when I hear this stuff, I think, well, some folks don’t know what they’re missing. Walking alone is a GIFT I give my kid. She’s getting to learn how her body moves and how to pace herself, plan a route, pass familiar landmarks, notice changes in gardens and construction projects, all of that. Can’t have that quite thoughtful observant time in a minivan, eh?

  80. Q,
    Can’t hear, smell, touch, feel, think or just be part of the real world in that minivan either. I also have, dogs, chooks (chickens to you suppose) and ducks and risk my children being exposed to all many of evil parasitic diseases, lysteria etc.
    Oh my god! I’m done for now!

  81. @ Q — yes, yes, yes! I also walk and bike and take public transit a lot (don’t drive, family does not own a car), and I am constantly fending off kind offers of lifts from people who feel bad that I “have to” walk/bike/bus it to or from somewhere we’re both going. And mostly I accept, especially if the weather’s vile (like, most of the winter :P), but … I miss my quiet time. My looking-at-trees time, my reading-on-the-bus time, my iPod time …

  82. About the kids going nuts when they get out from under Mom and Dad’s thumb.

    I went to a small University, smaller than my 5A high school. There were kids there from very small in population school districts. Places were everyone knew everyone. (Places with such low population that they didn’t have enough boys in high school to field a 6 man football team – the end of the world in Texas)

    Some of the kids thrived – some crashed and burned very fast and suicide attempts were not uncommon with them. They and their parents were shocked shocked that the professor didn’t knoooooooooooow and understtttttttttttttand that precious child was just the smmmmmmmmmmmaaaaaaaaaaaartest ever. Some of the these kids had never received a low A much less a B.

    One Freshman comp professor was notorious for having a paper due the first week, grading it and handing it back the same day the second paper was due. No-one ever got better than a C on the first paper. Then he would give both stacks of papers back and make it very clear that everyone needed to bring a rough draft of both to office hours and get feed back before we revised. Texas at the time was teaching this horrible format in High Schools and the University was fighting to break us out of that mode.

    He would tell the freshman right up front don’t bother having your parents call – I’m not changing your grades.

  83. as parents, we have to walk a fine line of giving our kids a sense of freedom and allow them to make some decisions on their own. but the girl’s death in florida was so tragic, we need to rethink things again.

  84. Dear anti-free range folks,
    I don’t expect that we’re likely to convince you that we’re right, and I don’t think that it’s the best use of your time to send angry letters to people who don’t welcome your input.

    Why not spend that time helping children whom we all can agree are at-risk: you could be a Big Brother/Big Sister, a court-appointed special advocate, a foster parent, or volunteer in a variety of settings–perhaps play checkers with kids stuck in the hospital, collect toys for your local homeless shelter, or spend a little time each week listening to a child read?

    I think you’ll feel much more satisfied helping kids in need, rather than engaging in cyber-arguments with strangers. I really don’t mean to be rude about it–I just think that you’d feel better, and some kids could really benefit from your concern.

    Good luck.

  85. What is there to rethink, Phoenix?

    If someone desperately wants to snatch our kids? They’re going to.

    Polly Klaas and Haleigh Cummings were taken right from their own homes. Home, where hoverparents would have us believe is the only place your kids are truly safe.

    Except when they’re not.

  86. http://sexoffenderissues.blogspot.com

    Great Job Lenore, also, check out this video:

  87. You can also see more at my YouTube channel:


    And some SORNA excerpts:

  88. One of the reasons I signed up for this Blog is because a truly wonderful freind of mine taught me a valuable lesson, that I was babying my son too much1 I realized this when she took him to the store with her and i almost paniked when she told me she gave him the money and sent him in alone. She told me that she was going to help him grow up in spite of me! And I am so glad she did! She gave me a MUCH needed wake up call! My son has since been learning a lot of things he can do on his own! The person who wrote that letter needs a bigger wake up call I fear! Thanks Free Range!

  89. Rich: I LOVE IT!
    A re-statement, since it’s so far back there:
    “When did we stop trusting our village to help raise our children?”
    Every village has a village idiot (or two).

  90. I don’t know…I live in urban India, and it’s still not safe to let our kids walk to school on their own (mostly because of the unruly traffic). Kidnapping is also a scare.

    Basically, I just would not want to take the risk. I guess free-range bringing up would depend on the place being semi-suburban at least ?

  91. Phoenix, in my town a 9yo was taken out of bed, brought to her backyard and raped by two men. Bad things happen. Stories like this show us that keeping our kids locked up inside with us doesn’t always work.

    Amanda, I agree with you completely. However, I was listening to a true crime show while I did dishes the other day. A mother had been attacked in her home and her two children were murdered. The detectives suspected her from the first and you know why? The neighbors reported that her children were allowed to ride their bikes all over unsupervised and play in the yard after sundown. In the detective’s words he said this showed us (the detectives) that she was a negligent and uncaring mother who had obviously killed her children becasue they interfered with her lifestyle.

    Off the point but I never realized how many people hate TV. Sorry, but I love TV and I have free-range kids who love TV. Just last night we all watched the Sabres game together. It was an awesome game! Reading the scores in the paper is not enough for this family.

  92. The “lazy” tag kind of bothers me. Once a week I walk to school with my kids…..that is if I can stand to stay at work an hour later that day. The other four days of the week they walk themselves and I head to work a few minutes before they head out the door. I get home about 6pm, do dinner, etc…then the kids and I drive about 1/4 of a mile to the track at the High School (it is dark by this time). We walk/jog two miles around at night instead of watching TV. The kids aren’t required to do the full two miles, I encourage one mile and they usually do one or more at night. We look at the stars, we talk, we ignore the TV and spend time exercising. Somehow a Mom, like the one in the letter ,who probably sits in front of her TV watching the News to get this worked up or drives her 10 year old to the bus stop and sits in the car waiting for the bus because it is raining outside seems a bit more lazy to me.

  93. “I wonder if, sometimes, these outraged objections come from people who find absolutely no pleasure in walking alone? in being alone? They can only see such activities as a terrible ordeal, so any parent who’d insist on them must be cruel.”

    Oh, no, I’m sure they see the wonderfulness of such things. It’s just that the world out there is SO DANGEROUS we just can’t let OUR BABIES have those pleasures. It doesn’t matter if they grow up emotionally stunted, they’ll be SAFE (imagine beams of radiance emanating from the word safe.)

  94. Free-range does not mean free-stupidity. It means making common sense decisions based on your own child’s abilities and what works for your family.

    There are some children who are able to be independent (my son I trusted to stay at home on his own for up to an hour beginning when he was 7 now he is 14 and is very responsible), and some who just don’t cut it (the girl I babysit is 9 and her mom STILL calls her “the baby”. Definitely not a child I trust on her own for more than 15 minutes and in fact needs to be reminded to do the most basic things).

    If a parent chooses to baby their children, that is their right. there WILL be consequences and reaping what they sowed later. That will be THEIR problem, but we all know they will blame society and tv and anything else but themselves. If a parent chooses to instill a sense of responsibility, and self-respect, self-reliability in their child, that is also their choice. Yes there may be some consequences NOW (children after all learn best from mistakes) but in the long-run when they are on their own in the world.. those very traits will enable them to make it and not need to be mommied any-longer.

    It is indeed sad when a parent focuses so heavily on the present they (choose to?) forget one day the child will need to be on their own and know how to care for themselves.Or maybe they WANT the child to stay forever? UGH.

    We shall see who will be the lazy ones and who will be the hard working ones!

  95. Nishita,

    No, it doesn’t depend on urban vs. suburban. Recall this all started when Lenore let her son ride the subway alone in New York. Granted, I’ve only seen Indian traffic on youtube videos, and it looks pretty unruly. And maybe there isn’t a safe route for a small child to walk. But perhaps younger children walking in the care of older children?

    Also keep in mind that it’s not just about getting places. Children can be coddled or supported in all kinds of ways. When do you teach them to use the stove? Or do their own laundry?

    Nobody is saying to throw your kids to the lions. Rather we think one should know the real risks, and benefits, of a decision, and make it accordingly. There is a benefit to children doing things for themselves. They learn a lot. And the risk isn’t nearly as great as many people assume.

  96. I’d add that free-range parenting is a process. You don’t throw a switch and say “go!” You start when they’re young, respecting their real and growing abilities, and matching their opportunities to that. So their “range” grows with them, and is realistic for who they are–no one-size-fits-all strategy, because it comes from really knowing your kid, trusting and believing in them.

    That doesn’t sound so lazy after all, does it? (What is lazy is making a blanket policy that all kids, all ages, everywhere, should be constantly supervised by mom no matter what common sense would indicate. A policy like that requires no thought, no consideration of individual differences, no weighing of risks and benefits, no teaching of skills…)

  97. Let me give this person a free range perspective from a native Chicagoan and a college grad from ASU. During Junior High and especially high school, there have been plenty of times that I have walked to and/or from high school. I’ve done the same exact thing walking to and from my dorm to my classes in college. I have never once had any negative experiences to speak of. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. My dad lived in Arizona and my mom was working and my brother and I always let her know A. We were walking and B. When we could be expected home (and she always know roughly when) and we always called her to let her know we got home fine. Neither one of us had any kind of problem with strangers at any point. For this person to accuse my experience as being misrepresented and a lie for not having any negative experience is a bunch of bologna. She like the news is blowing the idea of worse case scenarios out of proportion.

  98. The problem with identifying the mindset of the letter writer as “right wing” (or left wing for that matter) is that it adds nothing of value to the discussion; it only gives nick a chance to air his negative opinions of certain kinds of people. Calling someone “right wing” doesn’t convict her in the minds of people who consider themselves right wing (or people who don’t much care either way what someone’s political views are when they’re talking about child-rearing) and it really has absolutely nothing to do with how stupid her comments are. It’s just a potshot. If I said “what so and so said is typical of liberals” and even if I was able to make a convincing case that it had something to do with their liberalism, how would that add to the discussion, enlighten any other readers, or even make me look good?

  99. Mae Mae, what you heard out of that detective is awful!

    My childhood, in the 1970’s, was very free-range. I lived in a rural neighborhood, a couple of miles outside of a town of about 30,000. Rode a school bus to school from K- 7th grade (switched to the city district after that, without moving, and had to be driven only because it would have been a two-hour walk). The last few years of school bus riding included having to wait at the curve in the road a little way from my house, standing in the predawn dimness on the gravel shoulder, with other kids from the nearest houses. In winter even, with LOTS of snow. We survived.

    After school, on weekends, and in summertime, we all roved the neighborhood on foot or on bicycles, hiked through the woods, swam in the creek, had mud fights, climbed trees, built forts and swung on tire swings hung from trees, etc. We wore watches and knew what time we had to be home for dinner; that was about it. We were dusty, muddy, sunburned, mosquito-bitten, scratched, scraped, covered in Band-aids and worn-out by bedtime. We were also happy as hell, physically fit, and dare I say, well-adjusted. My mother was annoyed about the two overprotective mothers she knew who made their 9 year old son wear a jacket even when the temperature was above 70F, or insisted on washing the hair and trimming the nails of their 11 year old daughter instead of letting her do it herself. I have little doubt that, if confronted by today’s helicopter parents, she would give them a healthy piece of her mind; alas, she is no longer with us to weigh in on the topic.

    I myself am childless (discovered that I shouldn’t have kids for medical reasons) but I have plenty of friends who are parents, and I live in an inner-ring suburban city where the majority of parents still appear to have the sense to let their kids run free at least a bit, though I am bothered by the growing number of them who seem to think they have to drive their kids to school or at least walk them there and back. Still, though, judging by the number of unaccompanied kids I see walking along the sidewalks each day, or hanging out in public places with their friends, there are still a lot of kids who are getting to live their lives without 24/7 supervision. My guess is that the ones who have been taught to deal with the world on their own a lot of the time will be the ones who will go farthest in their adult lives. I just wish that every kid could have that.

  100. I’m not jobless or lazy and neither is my husband, He works teaching children like yours(going by your attitude) how to tie their shoe laces(in 6th grade) because you didn’t, he is also teaches children like yours how to walk unaided to the school office and ask for supplies, because you never taught him/her how to speak up for themselves and be heard and oh by the way I am at home raising 7 children, 3 of which are not officially mine as I am working for CPS as a full time fostercarer. LAZY…….I challange you to care of 7 children, teach them to do everything from bed making, to making their own lunches, to doing their own shoelaces so another hard working teacher is teaching them sums, and spelling instead of shoelaces. Give me a break………IF we pitted my child against yours in a “How to be safe” race, mine would beat yours hands down………..I have no doubt and he/she would do it with confidence, self esteem and manners.
    Been free ranging for 15 years and proud of it.

  101. Hey, I just found out about you and other parents with free range kids on the show of Dr Phil yesterday. I think what you are doing is great. You do have very good points, and I hope that later, with my kids (who I don’t have now), I will also be able to let them be free range kids.

  102. Most children who are molested are molested by people whom their family knows and trusts. Not random strangers. Not to mention plenty of children who are murdered are killed NOT by random strangers, but by their own mothers. Or fathers. Or close family members.


  103. @ Maggie “Bets that our letter writer is childless?”

    Careful with that assumption, please. I’m a regular reader of this blog and admire & agree with what Lenore is trying to accomplish – and I don’t have any children and don’t plan to have any of my own in the future (if I did I would most certainly raise them free range). Never the less, I have nieces and nephews and kids of close friends who I care for very much and maintain close connections with, so the ideals of free range for kids – fostering independence, confidence and dependability – are ones that I try to impart to those kids.

    I know many other people who don’t have kids of their own who would still support what the free range ideology is attempting to do – I’d never thought of it before, but for those of us without kids who love to take our nieces or nephews or family friend’s children out to the park or the movies or a simple shopping trip, the suspicion and paranoia that lead other parents to call CPS or the cops on other parents could be doubly dangerous for us. Even those of us without kids of our own still love the children in our lives and care very much for their well-being, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Lenore’s blog has other readers in a similar situation to myself.

    The writer of Lenore’s hate mail may very well be childless – or he/she could be could be a parent; neither state is precondition for the ignorance, sanctimony and judgmental nature displayed in that ridiculous letter.

  104. […] Hate Mail by Lenore Skenazy… When you have kids and work at home, is it possible to give your kids too much responsibility for themselves? […]

  105. Your site just seems like a reason to judge and argue. YOu make people who choose to walk their kids to school seem like fanatics! Do you know how fanatically this Free Range business sounds? Do what you like with your kids but don’t judge us conservative parents. BTW I just read that the cops interviewed 161 sex offender within a 5 mile radius of where Somer Thompson was abducted. There are valid reasons to protect our children. I see nothing wrong with being cautious with our precious children. I was raised by cautious parents. My dad is a retired police chief. There are crazy people out there. I know things can happen even if you are careful but If they did at least I know I did everything in my power to prevent them from happening. I am a Montessori Teacher and I am very much of the mind of teaching children independence. That doesn’t mean I am going to let them play at the park unattended and give an opportunity to a sex offender or kidnapper walking by. A parent has a responsibility to protect!

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