Before getting started let me point out this fact: a lot of us were raised in a free range manner back in the 70’s and 80’s. We were the kids that flew out of the door in the morning on our weekends or summers and weren’t back until lunch. After that we’d disappear again until dusk when our parents called us back in for dinner. We didn’t wear helmets, we played in the mud, we did stupid, dangerous things because they were fun, and our parents typically allowed it as it was deduced that “kids will be kids”.
Whether you agree with that philosophy or not it’s still what free range parenting is about, less restrictions and less limitations on what children can and can’t do. There’s no lack of discipline to free range parenting, but the dynamic that’s changed over the years has little to do with the parenting style and more to do with the world we currently live in. Parents hear about child abductions, murders, rapes, and all sorts of gloom and doom and begin to hover around their kids for fear that they might be taken away from them at any moment or harmed by a world that, in truth, really doesn’t care about them.
That is why helicopter parenting vs. free range parenting is such a hot issue at this time, because parents are afraid. The unfortunate part about this is that they have every right to be. Our parents had the right to be afraid as well, but the times were different and depending on where you lived so was the general attitude towards allowing kids to do as they pleased in their own neighborhood. Personally I used to walk at least two to three miles to the comic book store in grade school, and my parents never batted an eyelash, so far as I knew.
But these are different times, and with the very real idea that the world could watch as a child is subjected to the worst it can offer, here the current pros and cons of free range parenting.
- It can build a lot of self confidence in kids and allow their personality to build.
- They learn how to trust their own judgment and can learn how to handle themselves in difficult situations.
- It builds their self-esteem.
- They become more capable in dealing with their surroundings.
- It can help develop problem-solving skills.
- Social interactions can become far easier for them to handle.
- Kids can learn to take responsibility for their actions.
- They tend to watch less TV and explore the world around them.
- Leaving kids to their own devices can leave them more susceptible to a world that’s grown increasingly more dangerous.
- The need to remain competitive and insure a child’s future means having order and structure and not allowing as much time for them to roam unfettered.
- Allowing a child to remain unfocused poses the problem of academic deficiencies down the road.
- There are less parents at home these days, which means less individuals that are able to at least monitor a child’s day, even from afar.
- Children that are left to their own devices run the very real risk of losing whatever competitive edge they might need later in life.
The huge misconception about free range parenting unfortunately is that many people believe it is more like hands-off parenting. A truly responsible parent will teach their children the discipline and rules that go with being able to wander on their own, and will at the very least enforce reasonable boundaries that are not to be crossed. It’s not anyone’s place to tell another parent how to raise their children, but in this day and age when many dangers are very real, free-range parenting, while not neglectful, is at times a bit questionable. So long as the child, or children, are taught enough about the outside world, what to expect, and how to react to it, then it becomes another parenting style that is neither right nor wrong.