"Free-Range Parents Let 4-year-old Play with Fire and Curse Like a Sailor.”
That's the title -- and tenor -- of a piece that ran in Thursday's New York Post. Take a look at it (and the video!) and then we'll discuss.
Back? Okay. So for the record, Free-Range is NOT:
* Letting young children run unaccompanied into the street
* Letting them stay up all night, and “curse like a sailor”
* No bedtime
* No sugar
* Saying "f**k" freely
* No limits
In truth, those are lifestyle choices. Free-Range is about giving kids independence and the tools they need to grow up a competent human and be able to thrive in ever-changing landscapes. We’re against over-protection, not protection itself.
For example, we believe parents must teach kids to cross the street safely before we let them do it on their own. It’s about preparing the child for the path, not vice versa.
In fairness to the parents featured in the article and video, it’s likely these were edited in such a way to achieve maximum clicks and outrage. (What a shock!) Many of the activities featured, like exploring the woods, and rough and tumble play, are what we do encourage kids to experience to help them grow confident/competent.
But Let Grow, which was born out of Free-Range Kids, doesn’t say parents should never discipline or teach their kids. Rather, we say our culture underestimates what kids can do and overestimates danger. The result is a generation of kids who are riddled with anxiety and who equate discomfort with being unsafe.
Like the parents in the story, we do think kids can learn how to use a sharp knife, handle bumps, and help with shopping at a young age. Like the parents, we do push back on the idea that parents must be worried constantly about their kids getting kidnapped.
We do think parents today have been scared away from letting their kids do so many wonderful, formative things they themselves did as kids: playing outside, exploring, chores, problem-solving, and YES, using a gosh-darn sharp knife. These are the things that help create competent, confident, and resilient kids.
When the media toss every controversial parenting decision into a blender and serve it up as Free-Range, they are trying to make parents think it’s a hodge-podge of danger and neglect. So fight hysteria. Fight the media's obsession with child danger and parenting styles.
And spread the word about Let Grow.