The adage goes “catch a man a fish, and you feed him for a meal. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” It encapsulates the concept of free-range parenting. All parents worry about what happens to their kids when they aren’t around.
There’s a need to help them function independently, and parenting in a free-range manner helps to close this gap. Still, it has its drawbacks. Today, we will talk about this concept and its advantages and disadvantages.
What Is Free-Range Parenting?
Free-range parenting is a parenting style that encourages independence by the children’s age limit. Parents who practice it knowingly accept the risks involved. For example, free-range parents may allow their children to ride public buses by themselves, at a relatively young age, if they are confident that their children are ready to do so. They may also allow their kids to say home alone.
The Free-Range Movement came to life when journalist Leonore Skenazy wrote a column entitled “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone.” She describes how she wilfully ditched her son in a department store and left him to make his way home on the subway and bus himself. Her son made it back, happy that he was able to navigate the streets on his own.
Those who subscribe to a free-range style of parenting recognize that helicopter parenting – referring to parents who take care of a child’s every need with the intent of protecting them from failure or harm – is ineffective and even detrimental. It also recognizes that this parenting style stems from fear.
Perhaps your parenting style is already free-range. You can safely conclude this if:
- You allow your kids to have unscheduled activities and unstructured play with their friends.
- Your kids play outside instead of with electronics, whether it is building a tree-house or having a run in the woods.
- You allow your kids to take on responsibilities gradually. The idea of this is to let them feel that they can take on responsibilities themselves.
Your kids can ride a bike alone freely. Free-range parents don’t subscribe to fear. They understand that accidents and unforeseen events do happen, and will take the necessary precautions.
The Pros and Cons of Free-Range Parenting
Before you embrace the free-range parenting model or balk at the idea, recognize that it has pros and cons like everything else. Here are some of the pros and cons of letting your kids make decisions themselves.
When you recall your childhood, you’d realize that the times you were proudest were when you managed to achieve things without your parent’s help. You were most confident when you completed or even led projects yourself.
So, free-range parenting gives our kids the same confidence. It empowers them and makes them feel that they can take on future challenges. Adults whose parents gave them a lot of freedom as children reflected that they had better-adjusted childhoods than their peers.
2. Your kids become active
Your children are less likely to become obese if you let your kids play actively. Statistics show that obesity has increased drastically among children and adolescents over the last 30 years. Discouraging active play has a lot to do with this. Furthermore, researchers have discovered that letting children interact freely in outdoor spaces is beneficial.
Parents these days are more inclined to tell their kids to play with video games than go outside. Free-range parenting means letting your children run outside and climb a few trees, activities that were common not too long ago.
3. Better socialization
Free-range parents allow their kids to navigate their social circles. Because they solve problems themselves, they know what to do when conflicts arise. It is a skill that is crucial for adulthood.
4. Better problem-solving
Adulthood puts us into sticky situations, and our parents cannot be there to get us out of them (we wouldn’t want them to either). Children will become better problem-solvers when left to their own devices.
You’ll be surprised at how fast your little ones can come up with solutions to dicey situations when you leave them be. Adults whose parents subscribed to free-range parenting when they were kids felt better prepared for adulthood.
1. Inherent risks
Against the backdrop of health and political scares, parents have turned to helicopter parenting. With the number of adverse news reports, it’s hard to blame them. Closer to home, this 2012 study reveals that bounce houses pose injury risks.
Unhappily, dangerous events are more common than they were years ago. However, the digital age means that you have the benefit of being in the know and can better protect your children.
2. Legal intervention
And then, there’s the possibility of unknowingly breaking the law. Child Protective Services sometimes step in when they see children play outside. The fear of the police knocking on their doors can sometimes turn parents off free-range parenting.
3. Lack of community support
In yesteryears, parents used to rely on each other’s help with their children. Kids could wander around freely because their parents knew that there were people who were keeping watch. Children these days tend to stay isolated at home with their video games because their parents cannot rely on ‘village’ support.
What Does It Take to Become a Successful Free-Range Parent?
Now that you know the pros and cons of being a free-range parent, the next question you’ll ask is how to be good at it. We’ve outlined a few suggestions.
1. Learn not to be afraid
To parent free-range means that you’ll have to learn to put the fear of the unknown aside. If you wish to give your children some independence, try not to worry about the “what ifs.”
2. Encourage outdoor play
You must encourage your kids to love nature, and develop a love for it too. Free-range parenting means allowing your young ones to spend time in the woods or to amuse themselves with their friends at parks.
3. Don’t have a structured schedule
Don’t have too many structured activities on your child’s calendar. Your child must learn to be adaptable and take the initiative.
4. Don’t make all decisions on your children’s behalf
Parents who adopt this parenting style make decisions on their children’s education and extra-curricular activity, but they do allow their children plenty of say. It gives them the chance to learn problem-solving skills, which is a crucial element of this parenting style.
The free-range parenting style may seem unusual but has positive consequences if done with the necessary precautions in mind. While it’s not for everyone, giving your children a certain degree of freedom and opportunities to take the initiative can be beneficial.