Free-Range Parenting: Is The Hands-Off Approach In Parenting Beneficial To Children?

By Kristine Walker, Parent Herald April 28, 08:16 pm
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Free-range parenting became a popular topic for debate when a New York City parent Lenore Skenazy shared her experience in trying the hands-off approach in raising kids. In Skenazy's New York Sun column in 2008, she recounted the time when she allowed her 9-year-old son Izzy to go home on his own from Bloomingdale's in Manhattan, an hour away by subway or bus from their family home.

Unfortunately, Skenazy's free-range parenting story became so controversial, dubbing her as "America's Worst Mom." But could free-range parenting be beneficial to children?

What Is Free-Range Parenting?

Popularized by pediatrician Benjamin Spock, free-range parenting is a parenting approach that encourages children to function independently in proper accordance of their age of development with a rational recognition of realistic personal risk. According to Huffington Post, free-range parenting exists when a child's needs are given in-excess of typical freedoms and privileges.

Understanding Free-Range Parenting

Free-range parenting is not a new phenomenon but because of the society's assumptions on "good parenting," this concept is often viewed negatively. But despite the criticisms and backlash over free-range parenting, some experts believed that hands-free approach in raising kids does have some advantages.

Free-range parenting allows children to test their limits without overprotective parents hovering them. Because of this, they will be able to see what they're really made of, PopSugar notes.

Free-range parenting, however, does not mean that parents should leave their children vulnerable in unsafe situations. Experts stress "free-range" parents should continually reconsider the liberties they give their children while taking into account the potential dangers that actually exist in reality instead of relying on secondhand data to make parenting decisions.

Is Free-Range Parenting Legal?

Ohio Northern University law professor David Pimental admitted that it's quite surprising how walking to school is considered completely unacceptable today. Thus, he's concerned about the legal implications of this kind of parenting approach.

"It was kind of a culture shock to discover that children are not capable of getting themselves to the store, getting themselves to school - things like that," Pimental said, as per Live Science. "Parents may face criminal prosecution for child endangerment, or Child Protective Services may intervene. [But] parents are far more afraid that their children will be taken away from them than that they'll be charged with crimes."

Free-Range Parenting Systems At Home In Affluent Communities

Assistant principal, teen advocate and writer Daniel Patterson of Huffington Post recently explained the unintended consequences of free-range parenting in affluent families. Patterson underscored that this type of free-parenting concept is producing children that are either unable or unwilling to leave the comforts of their homes, where they can have limitless and restriction-less freedom to do everything.

This free-range parenting misconception, however, is dangerous to children and has the potential to damage their still-developing adolescent brain. Children are also left unready or unable to cope with their new reality, particularly in school where they are not given full access of what they often thought as their newfound freedom.

"Parenting is crazy. It is exhausting. It is hard to say no, and excruciatingly painful to hear I hate you and be emotionally beaten down a hormonal teenager," Patterson wrote. "But more painful will be parenting them at that level for the rest of their lives, devoid of coping skills as they remain ever-grasping to the concept that you, as a parent, owe them anything beyond the roof over their head, the clothes on their back and food on their plate."

So, would you try the free-range parenting approach in raising kids? Share your thoughts below and follow Parent Herald for more news and updates.

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