free range parenting
Lenore Skenazy, shown in 2009 with her son Izzy, then 11, is considered the founder of the free-range parenting movement. Credit Tina Fineberg for The New York Times

This article is lifted directly from the New York Times, March 20, 2918, by Donna De La Cruz

It is not a crime for parents to let their children play unsupervised in a park or walk home from school alone under a law signed by Utah’s governor last week.

The law, which reflects a movement known as free-range parenting, goes into effect on May 8 and is the first of its kind in the nation. But its backers say lawmakers in several other states are considering introducing similar bills.

“The fact that we need legislation for what was once considered common sense parenting a generation ago and is considered normal in every other country in the world is what surprises me,” said Danielle Meitiv, the Silver Spring, Md., mother who made national headlines three years ago after she and her husband were charged with child neglect for letting their two children, ages 6 and 10, walk home from a park by themselves. “I’m glad Utah has put these protections in place after what I discovered when I tried to parent the way I was parented.”

State Senator Lincoln Fillmore, who introduced the Utah bill in January, said he was motivated by situations like Ms. Meitiv’s. The bill specifies what constitutes child neglect in the state, and what does not. Under the law, neglect does not include “permitting a child, whose basic needs are met and who is of sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm, to engage in independent activities” such as going to and from school by walking, running or bicycling, going to nearby stores or recreational facilities and playing outside.

To see the original New York Times article, please go to:

Utah Passes Free Range Parenting Law

What a concept!

This barely qualifies as free range parenting but I guess it will have to do.

When I was a kid, “free range” was the rule.  Get outside and play and don’t

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Elementary school and has his own paper route. Expected then, unheard of today.

come home until sunset! The playground was the farm or the world of nature. Or anywhere in town you could easily walk or bike.

Townie kids walked home from school. I think the rule was if you lived within a mile (or maybe two?) of school, you didn’t get a bus. There was no lineup of cars filing thru to pick up those kids after school.  As long as it wasn’t a heavy rain or snowy winter, they walked or bicycled.

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Many of literature’s most famous children would be considered “free range”.

When school ended you walked out the classroom door and went where you were supposed to go. The teacher did not accompany you to the curb. We did not have adult crossing guards, they were volunteers from 5th grade. Yes, a ten year old was expected to be mature enough to accompany younger kids across the street, being mindful of traffic. Which was a heck of a lot easier then because most of the traffic around schools is parents picking up their kids.

You know what makes kids safer around traffic? Teaching them that traffic is dangerous and how to maneuver safely around it. And speed bumps of suitable size that going more than residential speed limit could damage your car. Stop lights. Stop signs. Crossing guards – but they don’t need to be grownups. Having mandatory valet pickup for grade schoolers just stunts their growth and delays the day when they will be safe around traffic.

Children’s play is being ever more sanitized and denatured. The ground gets padded. No running. Keep your hands to yourself. No dirt allowed. High fences, small areas. You don’t raise children with strong immune systems and who have respect for hard surfaces that way. Children need grass and dirt and trees and to wrestle and have unsupervised playtime like the flowers need the rain. They need to sort some things out for themselves.

Cuts and bruises and bloody noses and even the occasional broken bone or minor burn are part of growing up. You can’t learn to manage pain if you are never hurt. You can’t learn to manage fear if you are never afraid. You don’t learn caution if you are never damaged from lack of it. You don’t learn to get back up on the horse if you are never bucked off.

Risky Play: Why Children Love It and Need It

Free range parents accept the responsibility of being a parent. Kids grow up by taking

The ultimate free range child!

risks, pushing boundaries, gaining competence in life skills and conquering mountains. It is a parents job to evaluate risks in light of their child’s ability and encourage appropriate risk taking. The children will always do things on their own that would make their parents hair stand on end – but moving away from parents is what growing up is all about. They also need the tools to be safe in their inappropriate risk taking

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We used to hold these kids up to be exemplars, not abused thru negelect.

Children do not grow into self reliant adults by being told that the world is a fearful place full of evil people, by turning small risks into big restrictions nor by delaying their psychological and emotional development out of our own exaggerated fears.

Not only have helicopter parents dictated school design and policies, they have dictated child welfare laws. This should not surprise because helicopter parents tend to be urban, white and affluent and that is who lawmakers listen to. Working class, rural and poor parents have neither the resources nor the desire to helicopter. For every parent who gets busted for leaving 10 year old kids at home while they work, there are a hundred or maybe a thousand who do not – but could be.

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Children long for freedom and adventure. They don’t have to battle wizards but they do need their own risks & challenges.

I grew up free range with so much freedom today’s children’s protective  services would be aghast. I sat alone in cars on hot days while a parent went shopping but I had learned how to roll down windows if I was hot, so I was safe. I ranged through many acres of near wilderness alone because I’d ranged thru them when I was much younger with my father or cousin, so I was safe. We had hunter safety in 5th, 7th and 9th grades. Imagine teaching ten year old kids how to safely handle a rifle with intent to kill something!

But, despite the rifles and ammo in my father’s closet, I was still safe. My cousin even once brought his percussion rifle (a replica Hawkins) to school for show and tell.

Many of us had folding knives. That is what the Boy Scout “Totin’ Chip” was about. Demonstration you knew how to be safe with a knife. Those who weren’t boy scouts just had them anyhow. We managed to avoid killing ourselves and each other.

Parents left me home alone for a couple weeks in the summer of 8th grade. I had plenty of food, water from a well, a telephone, neighbors I could walk to and a car I could drive in an emergency. I knew how to cook and clean and wash and do every thing a boy needed to do to not just survive but thrive. You could do prison time for that today.

Free range parenting doesn’t mean you are going to be some forever absent parent like you see so often in Japanese anime.

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Perhaps the Mongolians have something to teach us.

Children want to grow up and you are giving them the space to do so. It means raising children who are self-reliant and brave and less vulnerable to trauma. You don’t need to wait until the brain “finishes developing” in order to judge risks. It is a skill that starts developing as soon as a baby becomes mobile and continues steadily until you’re senile. It isn’t a gift that magically appears without decades of practice.

And just perhaps there are more than a few people who don’t want a population of adults who are strong, self-reliant, tough, confident and resilient. Filling the world with easily traumatized, hedonistic sheep is good for the GDP. Employers prefer them. Social justice warriors need them. Religions and political parties thrive on such people. Just remember that the ones who gain the most from such a denatured population are the wolves.


Letters: Legalizing ‘Free-Range’ Parenting Is a Step in the Right Direction
Kids playing outdoors
“Is our obsession with safety and providing sanitised spaces for children actually hindering their development? Let them fail, fall and feel their own way through and we might reverse a worrying trend.” writes Rachael Sharman.