Last week I was intrigued by the case of Lenore Skenazy. Skenazy equipped her 9-year-old son with a map, a subway card, and 20 bucks, then dropped him off at a New York department store to find his way home by himself. Skenazy wrote about this in The New York Sun and promptly heard it from outraged folks accusing her of endangering her son. There was some supportive feedback as well. Check out the article and a Today show segment about the episode. Skenazy, who believes today’s parents have allowed the culture to make them more paranoid than in earlier eras, has launched a website called Free Range Kids, where she calls parents to stop being so overprotective of their children. Here’s how she describes it on the site:
Do you ever let your kid ride a bike to the library? Walk alone to school? Take a bus, solo? Or are you thinking about it? If so, you are raising a Free Range Kid! At Free Range, we believe in safe kids. We believe in helmets, car seats and safety belts. We do NOT believe that every time school age children go outside, they need a security detail. Most of us grew up Free Range and lived to tell the tale. Our kids deserve no less. This site is dedicated to sane parenting.
This story caught my attention because I sometimes wonder whether I’m being overly protective of my kids. I grew up in the ‘hood of Rockford, Illinois, in the ’70s and ’80s, and my parents allowed me to do stuff on my own. We [the kids in my neighborhood] got to ride our bikes around the community (without helmets), walk to the local recreation center by ourselves, and play on metal playground equipment that would be deemed unsafe by today’s standards. And, as Skenazy notes, we survived.
Times are different today, of course. But, again, are parents too fearful? By not allowing our school-age children to do more things on their own, are we denying them the chance to develop the independence they’ll need to be functional and responsible adults? Are you sympathetic to Skenazy’s perspective? What has been your parenting experience so far?