I have recently taken an interest in something called Free Range Parenting. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it basically means giving more freedom to your children and providing less supervision. Free Range Parenting (FRP) is a term coined by a New York City mom who let her nine-year-old son find his way home via the subway. While this seems like an extreme way to foster independence, hear me out before you stop reading this blog post.
What I am NOT saying is that anything goes and there are no rules. There are consequences to breaking the rules. When we as parents stop hovering, we allow for natural consequences and life lessons to prevail. By limiting supervision and not hovering over our children, we allow room for problem solving, conflict resolution, and exploration.
More often than not, “helicopter parents” have good intentions. Unfortunately, we do live in a world where we have to be extra vigilant doing everyday things like grocery shopping or watching our children on the playground. But when we hover over our children, we prevent them from encountering natural consequences.
Hovering also takes away their natural ability to problem solve. We take away their creativity as well as prevent them from making independent choices.
Our Goal As Parents
When we show our children how to be responsibly independent at a young age and give them room to make choices on their own, we set them up to be successful decision makers.
One of our goals as parents is to help our children become independent adults who, when encountering difficult situations and conflicts, are equipped with the ability to resolve them.
Putting Free Range Parenting Into Practice
What steps should you take to put FRP into practice? Practically speaking, I have found a standard walkie-talkie is a very helpful tool in fostering independence. Walkie-talkies reach a certain range, which allows my children to have a limited range of freedom.
I also allow small increments of time to go by before checking in with them. Whether they are in another room in the house or even just playing in the yard, increase the time period between check-ins until you and your children feel comfortable. My school age children are allowed some freedoms in our neighborhood including walking to and from the bus stop.
My kids can ride bikes around our neighborhood. They can also walk to and from neighbors’ houses. We also regularly discuss safe road rules, tricky people (safelyeverafter.com), and buddy systems. These practices, and having other supportive families in the neighborhood, all help to create a healthy form of FRP.
Encouraging Creativity and Freedom
More than anything else, encouraging this kind of independence nurtures creativity. It gets the kids off the couch and into the outdoors. It lets our children know they are loved and trusted. In addition, it encourages them to take risks within certain boundaries as well as learn from their mistakes.
I realize this parenting style is difficult for many to accept because of the dangers all around us. One of the challenges I encounter every day is how to parent my children in a way where they will still love others, yet also be aware of their surroundings. Maybe by taking some of these steps into fostering a safe place for independence — where our children feel trusted and loved — we can hope that our children will change the world as we know it.
How about you? Do you consider yourself a Free Range Parent? If so, share your tips for allowing freedom while ensuring safety in the comments below!