Have you read about the mom who is raising kids who aren’t vaccinated, aren’t disciplined, and, at age five, aren’t yet weaned off breastfeeding? She calls this Free-Range Parenting.
That is not my definition of Free-Range Parenting. Not even close. As the person who wrote the book Free-Range Kids and even legally trademarked the phrase “Free-Range Kids,” I can definitively state that Free-Range Parenting does not mean “no medicine, no bed-time, no rules.” Nor does it mean unvaccinated, unweaned, and feral.
What Free-Range Parenting Isn’t
The mom in that article, Adele Allan, certainly parents in way that’s different from most people. She uses the phrase “Free-Range” to describe it. Her definition includes not vaccinating her kids, and letting them choose when to stop breast-feeding. (As the article notes, her five-year-old still does it.)
Allan home-schools her children—the article notes the kids “learn in a natural ‘free-range’ way which is a matter of ‘taking a lead toward a child’s interest and seeing what they gravitate toward.'” She doesn’t force her kids to wear shoes in public because “it’s a great way for feet to feel alive.”
She says she’s raising “Free-Range Kids.” And maybe she is. But that’s not what I mean when I talk about Free Range-Parenting.
What Free-Range Parenting Is
By my definition, Free-Range Parenting is simply the belief that our kids are safer and smarter than our culture gives them credit for. Free-Range Parents are not hands-off. We teach our kids the old-fashioned lessons our parents taught us: Look both ways before crossing the street. Don’t go off with strangers. Let us know if you’re not going to be home when you said you’d be.
Beyond that, we trust them to do the things on their own that we did at their age: walk to school, play outside, rake the leaves, take the bus. We believe that giving kids some unstructured, unsupervised time for them to make their own fun and solve their own problems will make them more creative, resilient, and relaxed.
Our outlook has nothing to do with breastfeeding or shoe-wearing, and everything to do with trusting our kids and our communities. We don’t believe the world is too dangerous to take our eyes off our kids. We believe in facts: Our kids are growing up in the safest time ever to be a kid in America.
There are many ways to raise Free-Range Kids.
At Let Grow, we don’t think there is one right way to do anything, including parenting or educating. We simply believe in kids. We refuse to act as if somehow the current crop can’t handle a scrape, a spat, an afternoon with “nothing” to do.
We don’t want to tell anyone how to raise their kids, so Allan is (obviously) free to do what she wishes. But know that her definition of “Free-Range Kids” isn’t the same as ours. You don’t have to skip vaccinations or breast-feed until they leave for college to raise strong independent kids. Just trust them, and give them a healthy mix of freedom and guidance. That’s how you get Free-Range Kids.