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Free-Range Children

June 26, 2016
Plain English Version

free rangeHelicopter parents never leave their children alone. They take them to play dates, after-school programs and weekend events. They are called helicopter parents because they hover over their children.

Now meet parents raising free-range children. They let their pre-teens go to and from school on their own. They let them use public transportation. They trust them to order food and, in general, manage their own lives.

Many parents think ten-years old is old enough for children to be on their own in many situations. Of course, the parent has to think the child is capable. Some experts think many such children are fine on their own. They think the parents are afraid.

Older adults like to talk about their lives as youngsters. They did everything on their own. They met with friends after school at the playground. They organized their own games. Some experts say this gave children confidence. It taught them to build relationships on their own.

A common complaint today is that children are always organized. Adults are everywhere. The rules are all set. Children may learn teamwork, but they do not learn to manage their own lives.

There have been many changes in the way children play. They spend much less time outdoors. Gym time in schools has been reduced. Younger children become used to taking orders and having everything done for them.

A new TV program called “America’s Worst Mom” is on the air. In it, a free-range mom helps helicopter parents through the process of letting their children go.

An example is Sam.  Sam’s very loving mother would not let him ride a bike (“she is afraid I will fall and get hurt”), cut up his own meat (“Mom thinks I will cut my fingers off”), or play “rough sports” like skating. Sam says, “I just want to do things by myself.”

“America’s Worst Mom” guides parents and children safely through once-forbidden activities. She shows anxious parents how well their children can perform. She tells parents how proud they should be of all that their children can do.

Source: The New York Times January 19, 2015

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