Free Range Parenting is the newest fad. The Free Rangers believe in allowing children to have freedom to explore and develop independence. This is dramatically different from the Helicopter Mom who hovers over her child to ensure safety and success at every moment of the day. Follow as we explore this new shift in parenting paradigms that reflects a change in society’s thinking.
We all know the Helicopter Moms and Dads – they are the ones who hover over their children, rushing to school with a forgotten book or staying up all night helping their children finish a term paper. They truly have the best of intentions. The vote is in, however, and the news does not look good for the Helicopter Parents – they have unintentionally deprived their children of the opportunity to develop self-responsibility, good work habits, and integrity. Constantly nagging and reminding children just plain gets in the way of a child figuring out naturally that books have to go back on the book bag after studying and papers must get done before the due date.
What is new on the horizon is the Free Range Parent. What is this new type of parent all about? Free Rangers do not want to frighten children into anxiety and fear with such tactics as “Stranger Danger” and “Just Say No.” The Free Rangers remind us all that the statistics on child abductions are not any worse than when today’s parents were young. The platform of the Free Range Parent is to teach safety, set safe rules, maintain healthy boundaries, and let children have a little fun.
From a mental health perspective, the Free Rangers have a great point. Frightening children about “stranger danger” can cause some little ones to become anxious and fearful of being away from parents and teachers. Parents can teach children good safety rules without using the word danger right in the middle. Additionally, Free Range children may have more access to sunshine and exercise, as they tend to enjoy more freedoms like walking to the corner store or playing in the neighborhood with siblings and friends.
Naturally, parents must always use good judgment when deciding what amount of freedom is right for their child. Extreme differences in communities, crime rates, traffic, and the walking distance to local destinations call for very different kinds of parenting decisions.
The age, maturity, and awareness of children also varies greatly. A parent may reasonably trust a mature and level headed 10 year old to walk 4 blocks to school. Another parent may reasonably insist on driving an impetuous 12 year old who never pays attention to what is going on around him to and from school every day.
Children who are given some freedom will be able to use those opportunities to promote healthy childhood development. In addition to sunshine and exercise, children who walk to school or the local playground have the opportunity to practice responsibility. Such small amounts of independence can boost self-confidence, which can carry over to other important areas of children’s lives.
In the end, parents are responsible for setting healthy rules, boundaries, and limits for their children. Teaching children to only accept rides from people on an “Approved Ride List” is a great option. Creating checklists for walking to and from school can help children navigate independence.
A “Walking to School Checklist” might include safe places to stop in the event a storm or something frightening happens. The check list might also include a reminder to always carry a charged cell phone and instructions for dialing emergency 911.
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Darleen Claire is a Parenting Expert and Personal Development Coach with a background in Education, Mental Health counseling, and Brain-Based learning and intervention. She is available for telephone consultation or one-on-one sessions in the Atlanta area.