Free-range

posted Oct 11, 2017, 12:49 PM by Laurie Vent
    I have enjoyed reading the book, How to Raise an Adult: Break free of the overparenting trap and prepare your kid for success by Julie Lythcott-Haims. She did a lot of research and includes commentary from many experts as well as stories of personal experiences. In one chapter, she talked about "free-range kids" and how there was an elementary school that held a "free-range project". With parent permission, students were allowed to pick something they wanted to do on their own that they had never been allowed to do on their own before. Choices ranged from biking or walking alone, to going into a store to buy something on their own, to cooking a meal for themselves or the family. There was lots of student testimony about how it made them feel proud and more confident. 
    I couldn't help myself - this made me laugh. Then it made me sad. Some of my best memories of childhood are the times when my friends, my siblings and I would bike a mile to the creek with some food we packed ourselves and we would explore and play all day and not come back until dinner. Or we would hike through the woods of southern Ohio, finding hidden meadows, building elaborate forts and gorging ourselves on blackberries. I definitely had a "free-range" childhood. 
    Much of my own children's upbringing would be considered "free-range". They were still in elementary school when they were allowed to bike or hike to friends and grandparents' homes a mile or two away. They spent whole days building forts and would even spend the night in them. If they wanted to ride to school with me, rather than the bus, they only got as far as South School - no matter the weather they had to walk the rest of the way to St. Peter's or Union.
    Today, many parents worry so much that they do everything for their children. Children need to learn that they are not helpless - they are capable of taking care of themselves and are able to do many things on their own. Allowing freedom within limits gives children purpose and confidence in themselves. 
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