Free Range Parents

This week we are looking at different categories of parenting. Monday we examined a newly labeled style of parenting called "Tiger Parents." Yesterday we delved into the world of "Helicopter Parents." Today we look at "Free Range" Parents.

Almost as a backlash to the overbearing, over-scheduling “helicopter” parent, Free-Range Parenting is based on the notion “that we can give our children the same kind of freedom we had [as kids] without going nuts with worry," says New York Post columnist Lenore Skenazy. Skenazy is the author of Free-Range Kids, Giving Our Kids the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry.

Skenazy says. “When you let children out, all the good things happen - the self-confidence, happiness, and self-sufficiency that come from letting our kids do some things on their own."

There was a time when letting young children walk to school alone, ride their bikes around the neighborhood unsupervised, and hang out in the park didn’t seem like irresponsible parenting. In fact, if you grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s (and earlier, of course), you probably remember going out to play after school and being expected to return home only when the street lights turned on. But as more families had both parents working outside the home, supervised after-school activities became increasingly necessary. What resulted was a shift in our culture that requires kids to be under constant adult surveillance.

“Kids today in all settings are very scheduled and very supervised,” says Richard Gallagher, PhD, associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the NYU Child Study Center. “You rarely find kids today engaging in pick-up softball games or other kinds of activities where they plan things and work it out themselves.”

Gallagher says the heavy emphasis on scheduling and supervision has caused children to lose the ability to entertain themselves without TV, computers, or video games.

Aside from our work schedules, fear often dictates what we will and won’t allow our children to do. Most of us perceive these to be dangerous times, with the threat of child abduction, abuse, or worse on the rise. It would be flat-out unsafe, bordering on criminally negligent, is a common refrain, to allow our children the same freedoms we had to roam our neighborhoods unsupervised. But Skenazy says in her book that's not the case. She maintains that the number of child abductions now is no greater than it was years ago.

Free-range parenting is clarified as not being about turning kids loose without boundaries or rules. Rather, it is about re-thinking the way we are currently over-scheduling, over-monitoring, and hovering about our children to the point that it stifles their creativity and development. If Free Range Parents do any helicoptering, it's from a distance.

Here's Skenazy sharing her thoughts on Free Range Parenting.

Consider these questions:
  • Were you raised in this type of environment?
  • What are your thoughts on this style of parenting? Do you agree? Disagree? What are the positives? What are the negatives?
  • Do you have parents in your ministry who fit into this category?
  • What advice or parenting tips would you offer to Free Range Parents in your ministry? 
  • How would you approach partnering with and equipping Free Range Parents to be the primary spiritual leaders of their children?
Would enjoy hearing your insight and ideas regarding this parenting style.

Tomorrow we will conclude this series with a look at Consultant Parents.

Posted by Dale Hudson