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Instead of the Dishes » Mommyhood, Product Reviews » Free Range Kids: Part 1

Free Range Kids: Part 1

My friend Nicole is leading a book discussion at MOMcation at the end of this month.  The book she picked is called Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy.  I wanted to write this post after I had read just the first couple chapters, but I can’t stop reading the book long enough to write the post!

The basic premise of Free-Range Kids is that we, as Americans, have been trained into a culture of fear, especially when it comes to our children.  Skenazy addresses issues such as crimes against children, the influx of safety products on the market, and the pressure on parents to raise an army of baby geniuses with a frankness and wit that is fun to read and easy to understand.  She bases her discussions on statistics such as the fact that violent crime rates have been falling since the early nineties, even though media hype has us all believing that there is a pedophile hiding around every corner.

For me, this book is interesting because I feel I am already a fairly laid-back parent.  I come from a childhood of playing in the woods, and in the creek, with no parental supervision, based on what I can remember, as early as age 6.  In 3rd and 4th grade, I roamed the neighborhood (and the 20 acres we lived on) on my bike.  In these same years, I owned a bow and arrow and a .22 rifle (both kid sized).  When I was 9, I spent the entire summer in the care of a babysitter who was 12.  At the age of 14, I traveled to the UK with a group of cross-country runners, and have fond memories of exploring London with a pack of 4-5 other teens.  And still, it is hard for me to imagine these same experiences for my own children.  According to Skenazy, it’s all in our heads.

So, I’m curious if anyone else has read this book, or is reading this book, and what your thoughts are.  I’m looking forward to hearing what other moms think about Free-Range Kids when we discuss it at MOMcation.  It seems to be very polarizing.  Some moms that I’ve mentioned it to have a very strong negative reaction to it.  One mom I know said, “I don’t care what the statistics are.  If it happens to your kid, the chances are 100%!”  So true.  Of course, her 12-year-old also cannot order for himself at restaurants or cut his own meat at dinner.   Other moms assume that these issues don’t apply to them, since their kids are too young to run down to the playground by themselves anyway.  However, thus far, I’ve found every chapter very relate-able as the parent of a 2 and 3-year-old.

I’m about half-way through, and I’ll be posting again about it after MOMcation, but would love to hear your thoughts and comments in the meantime.  Ok, back to reading now!

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4 Responses to "Free Range Kids: Part 1"

  1. Sarah Nord says:

    I need to check out this book! I’m such a psycho-mom, and I’m afraid I’ll be waaaaaay overprotective of the boys as they get old enough to start playing with kids in the neighborhood. I had such freedom as a child, living out in the country, and I need to find a way to give my kids some freedom, too, w/out hyperventilating every time they walk out the door.

  2. Fawn says:

    Sarah, I would love to hear your take on this book as a “psycho-mom” (I’m not sure how true that is…). If you can’t find it in the library, I’d be happy to send my copy to you at the end of this month.

  3. Brooke says:

    We read this in book club at my request (Nicole is in book club with me :) recently. I’m on the free-range end of the spectrum, at least in theory. Since Sadie is still so young, it’s not like I’m sending her across the street to play by herself yet. But I am kind of prepping myself to be that kind of parent. I like to let Sadie work things out by herself. She plays independently pretty well, and sometimes she fails at something new. And I just let her. I see a lot of parents showing their kids how to put the square block into the square hole over and over again. I figure Sadie’s going to figure that stuff out on her own anyway, so what’s the point in my trying to hurry it. I also let Sadie get hurt a little. That sounds worse that it is, I think. Barring an extreme safety situation, I pretty much let her toddle along and deal with the bumps and bruises as they come. And I let her eat dirt and sticks (this is kind of a problem when I’m around my family…it sort of freaks them out, I think).

    The book, for me, was sort of “preaching to the choir,” but I found it to be reassuring in the sense that Sadie is going to be just fine, and maybe even better off, if I give her the kind of freedom I used to have (wandering the Mall–gross–at 11, babysitting three boys all summer at 14). I think getting into this mindset early on in Sadie’s life will really be helpful. It’s also a useful tool for dealing with the worrywarts out there.

  4. Kim says:

    I need to read this book. I was a total free-range kid. And a lot of my playground was New York City. Riding the NYC bus alone, and free-range of my rural neighborhood to ride my bike as I pleased.

    As a parent, I’m a mix of both now. I live in a very helicopter-parent area and find myself feeding into it. Yet I let the Little Ballerina ride her bike on our dead-end street alone at age 5 and visit our neighbors.

    I would love to sit in on this book talk!

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