Thursday, September 6, 2012

Can You Raise "Free-Range Kids" or Are You a Helicopter Mom?

Can Your Raise Free-Range Kids or Are You a Helicopter Mom?

The title of Lenore Skenazy's book, Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Kids (Without Going Nuts with Worry) peaked my interest because we have free-range chickens - and because I worry that children do not play outside enough today. Skenazy's book is about how children can thrive, and survive, if we give them more freedom - the freedoms we enjoyed as children..

Skenazy is a journalist who wrote a column in the New York Sun about allowing her 9-year-old son to take a subway ride home alone in New York City in 2008. Television shows were asking her to be their guest and she innocently went to be interviewed and was deemed as "America's Worst Mom." But she and her husband had made a very well thought-out decision, due to her son's persistence and capabilities, that he should be allowed to ride the subway alone. Skenazy's defends her decision in this well-documented book. It is full of statistics, but also humor. I laughed out loud many times at my own helicopter parenting.

When I asked Lenore what parents are told to be fearful of today, her answer was:  "creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers, Ivy League rejection letters and/or the perils of a non-organic grape."

Skenazy reminds us of the media, lawyers and "child safety" enthusiasts who bombard us with "the worse-case scenario...And the result is a lot of people so busy preparing for the hideous and unpredictable future that they think nothing of trampling the safe and happy present."

Can you give your chicks a little more freedom?

"Forty years ago, the majority of U.S. children walked or biked to school. Today, about 10 percent do. Meantime, 70 percent of today's moms say they played outside as kids. But only 31 percent of their kids do." Lenore's answer is that there are risks if you give your child more freedom, but there are risks if you don't. If you let your child play outside, there is a very small risk that he will be abducted or hit by a meteor. But if you bring him inside all the time, there is a large risk that he will stare at flat screens for long periods which can cause obesity and an undeveloped mind. Your child won't have the opportunities to reach their full potential in the following areas:
  • independence
  • creativity
  • social skills for coping, negotiating, communicating
  • problem-solving skills
  • exploration and discovery
  • sense of community 
  • and to just have fun being a kid
Of course, WE MUST USE COMMON SENSE. But I loved Free Range Kids for the confidence it will give parents to let their child have some more freedom without keeping them inside depleting their bodies of Vitamin D, their minds of adventure, and their bodies of exercise. I, myself, am a hovering helicopter mom and my daughter is 21. But she has special needs so I have always been very protective of her. This book made me realize that I could let go some and it has been good for both of us. This book is for those who have a "sneaking suspicion that you don't have to be quite as worried about quite as much." I wholeheartedly recommend Free Range Kids and look forward to her next book.

You can visit and comment on Lenore's interesting and entertaining blog Free Range Kids. If you click on her book below you can view Lenore's wonderful book trailer and have a glimpse into her book.

What are some ways we can give children more of their childhood?


  1. The statistics on the amount of kids walking to school today, then and now, doesn't surprise me. How things have changed nowadays.

  2. I love you post! This book intrigues me, I am thinking it is one I need to get. I am always told that my girls are so responsible and mature, and I attribute that to trusting them and giving them freedom. I constantly worried about them as they walked, rode their bike or bus someplace but that is what being a parent is all about...I don't think that worry ever goes away, but with their independence I have more confidence that they know how to be safe and figure things out for themselves. It is definitely a fine line of helicoptering and and trusting they will make it through the day without you.
    The Picture Book Teacher's Edition

  3. Have you read Sue Palmer's Toxic Childhood? There's quite a lot of cross-over here, I think. A very interesting topic - and certainly zeitgeist!

  4. This is such an interested topic. I think I fall somewhere in between. I can't say I'd let a nine year old ride the subway alone, but I also don't feel the need to be outside with my five and three year old all the time. We have a fenced in backyard. They play out there for hours without me. Thanks for linking up to The Sunday Showcase.

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