Free-Range Kids

Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) by Lenore Skenazy

If you google “Lenore Skenazy,” you’ll find several websites calling her America’s Worst Mom. She’s not a child-killer and has never been to court for abuse or neglect. She got all that negative publicity because she allowed her 9-year-old son to ride the subway by himself one day, and wrote about it for the NY Times, and then went on a few daytime talk shows to defend her decision. This book is an extended defenseof similar decisions and a parenting philosophy based on teaching kids to do things on their own rather than hovering and doing things for them. Skenazy backs up her ideas with lots of research into how frequently things like child abduction actually happen, regardless of media hype. She organizes the book with a common-sense list of “commandments” about how to actually allow children to live a “free-range” lifestyle, including how to handle the parenting police.

Since I’m not even a mother yet, I won’t really have a need for this book’s ideas for a few years. Obviously, the first year is not really the time to be teaching freedom and independence. But I hope that I remember this book 6-12 years from now, when my kid starts asking to do things like walk to the library alone, and have the courage to say yes. I liked the overall message of reducing parental anxiety and encouraging independence in children. To be honest, I’m lazy sometimes, and I like the idea of not having to do things like drive my kid four blocks to a bus stop every morning. Anyone who gives me permission to skip BS parenting tasks like that is ok by me. I like hearing someone tell me that child abduction is not really all that common. Soothing my anxieties about my child’s future safety is a good thing. As Skenazy points out, kids today are safer than they’ve probably ever been, and we should remember that instead of hovering inappropriately.

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