Free Range Children

What is Free Range Parenting?

There are so many names and titles for different parenting styles now, I never knew that the way I had been parenting my children had a fashionable title.
I am what is known as a ‘Free Range Parent.‘ What exactly does that mean? I give my children choices. They have responsibilities. I encourage independence in line with their age.

Is Free Range Parenting Dangerous?

They have the freedom that I enjoyed as a child. The only restrictions I had as a child was I had to let my Mom know who I was with and be indoors by the time it got dark. As I burst through the door usually just after it had turned dark, dirty with cuts or bruises, I would hear my Moms voice say “your dinner is in the oven.
I never even washed my hands before eating, yet I was never ill.

My children had to be able to tell the time and cross a road safely to be allowed to go out to the park without me. Roads are more dangerous today than they were when I was younger and they knew what time they had to be home, my Daughter was 8yrs and my Son was 7yrs, and I had educated them on what to do if certain issues arose.
I had a parent berate me for this, because “anything could happen to them.” On the opposite end of the scale, her children were not allowed to walk up and downstairs by themselves. They had to hold Moms’ hand, and they were the same ages as my children.

Homemade -rope-swing
Homemade rope swing

So many children are restricted in today’s world, because of a fear that something terrible will happen to them. They might be kidnapped, get germs, or be called names by other children. Parents are running to their children’s aid to shield them from life. Our children must not be upset by any other person, or fall over because we will have to blame someone for this harm. We are removing life skills from children, skills that are crucial. They have the right to learn how to use intuition, reasoning and judgement.

As a free-range parent, I encourage my children to get very dirty, walking across moving logs and falling into a lake of mud. Looking like mud monsters, they surfaced gasping for a breath. They ran back to the log, and with trial and error they worked out how to get over to the other side. The sense of achievement for them was priceless.

I have always seen free-range parenting as educating. It is my responsibility to prepare my children to be able to deal with everything that comes their way. They will be able to make calculated decisions from their own experiences.

Free Range Parenting and Helicopter Parenting

I have had people suggest I should “teach parenting.” I would always smile and explain “not everyone agrees with my style.” I have had many debates with parents over individual styles and I respect other parents views. I do find myself asking the same question though “How on earth is your child going to function when they go out into the world?” I seem to ask this question when it comes to another parenting style called ‘Helicopter parenting.

The term “helicopter parent” was first used in Dr Haim Ginott’s 1969 book Parents & Teenagers  who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter

Helicopter Parent

  • Will taxi their child around everywhere.
  • Overprotective and fights the child’s battles.
  • Shadowing the child on every occasion.
  • Choosing the child’s activities.
  • Will do most of the child’s homework.

Free-Range Parent

  • The child can walk or use public transport.
  • Will give advice but the child stands up for themselves.
  • Allows the child to have alone time.
  • Lets the child choose activities that they enjoy.
  • The child does all its own homework.

The reason I firmly believe the free-range style is the right one, is I am allowing my children to build skills to develop themselves as people. They are continuing to build confidence and coping techniques. As free-range kids, they do not have a sense of entitlement they are self-reliant. They do not suffer from anxiety as they have experienced and know how to deal with disappointments. My children are teenagers and are able to function and converse positively with respect in a world they are part of.

At the ages of 13 and 14, both my children are well on their way to completing their GCSE’s in the coming years and are already looking forward to breaking into the workforce with all the same strength and motivation that I once felt, leaving home at 18 to embark on my career in London, nervous and excited but completely independent.

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