Out of the helicopter and into the wild


Free-range parenting is the concept of raising children in the spirit of encouraging them to function independently and with limited parental supervision, in accordance of their age of development and with a reasonable acceptance of realistic personal risks. Seen as the opposite of helicopter parenting, the idea was popularized by pediatrician Benjamin Spock.

A notable text of the movement is Lenore Skenazy's book Free - Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry (2009). Hoping to enhance psychoanalysis in the pediatric world, Spock authored a book called The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. The book, which was released in 1946 and soon became a best seller, encouraged free-range parenting with the hopes of implementing Freudian philosophy into child - rearing. American journalist Lenore Skenazy has written about the problems of overparenting and overprotection of kids with a emphasis on allowing kids to have appropriate levels of freedom and responsibility for their age while still keeping them safe.

Her book, Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had without Going Nuts with Worry and her related website (April 2008) describe what she sees as the horrors of mainstream schooling, parenting, and organized activities, highlighting the unnecessary protection from risk that limits children's opportunity to mature properly into independent adults, and the unnecessary training, even in using flash cards for preschoolers, thereby limiting their opportunities for personal growth.

Out of the helicopter and into the wild

While so-called "helicopter parents" may end up restricting a child's early independence, free-ranging families do the opposite. Taken literally, "free range" refers to livestock kept under natural conditions. For free-range parents, freedom and independence are in fact the natural conditions of childhood. And supporting the development of confidence and self-sufficiency is, they insist, the natural function of parenting. Lyla Wolfenstein, a parenting educator and lactation consultant based in Portland, Oregon, describes this as a gradual release of responsibility from the parent to the child, reminiscent of what teachers call "scaffolding."

"The skills to make good decisions only come from practice, and the decisions kids have to make only get riskier as they get older," she told Healthline. So, if they don't practice while they can rely on your advice, wisdom, and support, they will make many more - and more serious - mistakes as they get older. For Wolfenstein, free-range sensibilities offer children opportunities to solve real-world problems and build powerful skills before adolescence, ultimately developing an "innate sense of how to navigate tricky situations."

Wolfenstein also points out that, given the ubiquity of cellphones, it's never been easier to stay connected with children while allowing them the freedom to explore the world. The arguments for minimizing childhood freedom usually center on a single issue: personal safety. The idea is that the world is a dangerous place and that unattended children are particular targets for both unsavory characters and deadly accidents. However, proponents of expanding childhood freedom point to significant evidence that the world is safer than it has ever been.

A 2015 Washington Post article found that when it comes to all the dangers one might imagine unattended children face - death, abduction, traffic accidents - the incidence for all those things was "historically low and infinitesimally small." In fact, an unaccompanied child is more likely to be hit by lightning than experience premature death or stranger abduction.

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