Letting Kids on the Loose: A New Kind of Parenting?


Ko Seltzer, Staff Writer

Free-range parenting is part of a new approach to raising a child that hasn’t really caught on in America. But throughout many corners of the world, this sort of slant on parenthood isn’t considered malpractice or neglectful, but a hands-off, self-reliance-building way of cultivating independence in their children. “Good Housekeeping” defines this way of parenting as aiming to foster independence in children by giving them greater autonomy and less adult supervision.

In places in Europe, where parents have a generally more relaxed approach to raising children, kids are allowed to live their own versions of a perfect life.

The “New York Time’s” Clemens Wergin, author of “The Case For Free-Range Parenting,” writes about the advantages that this style of parenting. One summer, his daughter went out to explore her new neighborhood alone, without telling him. He and his wife found that they had no reason at all to worry.

Beaming with pride, she told them and her older sister about how she had discovered the little park around the corner and had made friends with a few local dog owners. She had taken possession of her new environment, and was exited to teach them things they didn’t know about their new community.

Wergin’s daughter was able to find some things about the town that wouldn’t have been discovered if her parents were present at the park. On a larger scale, this type of relaxed approach of raising a child has many benefits in raising a kid and creating an independent, innovative adult.

The benefits of this approach don’t end there. Laura Randall, who prides herself in her free range child, spoke with NPR about the things that her child does without her supervision. She said, “He spends hours out there: swinging on a tire swing, tromping across the ravine to a friend’s house, and using garden shears to cut a path. He lays down sticks to form a bridge across the small stream that flows in the winter.”

She gives her son, Matthew, the freedom to roam and encounter many situations that cultivate independence and confidence that will help him as an adult. However, it wasn’t like Randall just shoved her child out of the house, as she used many small experiences that she planned in order for him to learn how to do things including walking to the park alone.

“Just those moments, incrementally bigger moments [like allowing Matthew to make purchases for her, therefore letting him figure out how much money he needed to hand the cashier], where he can choose to be on his own,” said Randall. Although many agree that the risk of crime against their precious subjects is too high, NPR actually says that crimes like kidnapping and theft are happening as little as they have since 1970 to 1980.

Even though most kids in Westport have parents who hover more towards the helicopter style, the case for a more hands-off, laid-back approach is open for debate. The thing is, an instance of “not going to let you fail” parenting just took place, and it’s making headlines.