What is free-range parenting?
If you’ve never heard of free-range parenting, check out the article here by WebMD. I had never heard the term until I became a parent, but it is another title used to describe a form of parenting in today’s world. Some believe free-range parenting allows kids a healthy, early independence, while others argue it is neglectful. Where do you stand?
During my pregnancy, I was reading articles about free-range parents being arrested for allowing their children to go out without them to the park (a few miles away). I was blown away. They were arrested!? It was a shock to me.
My 80s Childhood
When I was growing up, it was common for kids to go out and play without much worry. We would sometimes ride our bikes miles away and not come home until hours later. We were still in elementary school and didn’t have cell phones, but our parents felt comfortable enough to let us play outside.
While visiting Japan in the summer time, we had the same freedoms. I remember my sister and I walking or biking to the park miles away without an adult. Sometimes, we would take an hours-long journey to get some goodies. This was normal.
In my new neighborhood, there is a park sign that says children 11 and below must be accompanied by an adult at all times. I can’t ever remember signs like this while growing up. Have things changed or am I just noticing them now?
Japanese School Children
When we were visiting Japan a few years ago, a little school girl was walking through crowds of adults to catch the train. My husband’s first reaction was shock. His mouth dropped open and he turned his head asking “where are the parents!? there’s no one with her and she’s so small! Is she allowed to be by herself!?”
She was either in pre-school or kindergarten, but this was her daily routine. It looked so weird to see a tiny little girl navigate a gigantic train station among a sea of adults.
Japan is a very safe country. It’s one of the safest in the world, so I can understand how parents may feel comfortable enough to let their kids go out independently. However, for an American used to seeing kids with an adult or being transported from place to place, observing a pre-school age child navigate the train station alone sure was a surprise!
Would you let your kindergartener on the train alone?
American School Kids
In America, kids usually take a school bus which picks them up in the morning and drops them off after school. The bus stop is usually within walking distance from a student’s home and kids are often met by a parent waiting for them outside.
Parents also drop off and pick up their children from school to ensure they are safe. Sometimes kids bike home too, but it’s not as common.
In America, I rarely see a young child alone and it would be odd to see a kindergartener walk home without a parent. However, once children are around 12 and older, I do see increased independence.
What do school kids in your country do? At what age are they given a little more independence?
A New Mom’s Perspective
As a new parent, I want to allow my son the freedom to go out and be independent, but I am unsure of what age that is. My son is only 22-months, so I have years to determine this, but what really is a good age?
I enjoyed many freedoms as a child, which I want for my son. The city we live in is very safe and I want him to go out and have fun like I did growing up. However, for whatever reason, there is a lot of fear about allowing a child to go out without an adult. It seems you could also get arrested these days if someone calls the cops! I don’t mean to exaggerate, but as a parent, I feel the paranoia inside too. Is this rational? I hear it’s not, but it often feels like it.
So, are we coddling our children or are we truly keeping them safe? I really think it depends on where you live. It wouldn’t be smart to let a young child walk the streets alone in the inner-city, but in a tight-knit rural community, it might be quite different to let your child play at the neighborhood park without you. At least that’s what it seems like …
Only Time Will Tell
My husband laughed at me yesterday and told me to “get real.” I am going to be one of those parents who says “you can go out alone” only to hide behind some bushes and spy on him from afar to ensure he is safe.
I really don’t want to be that parent.
Jokes aside, only time will truly tell what the appropriate age is for our son to go out alone. There are different factors to consider, but one day I will have to learn to let go.
Also, I do feel it is important we keep our eyes open and trust our instincts if we think any child is in trouble. As a community, we need to work together to protect children. However, I don’t believe parents should be arrested for allowing their children to play at the park.
What do you think is an appropriate age to let a child go out alone? How did you come to that conclusion? I would love to hear your thoughts?