“Free-range parents” say they are trying to raise self-sufficient, independent kids.
But sometimes that means police knocking on the door and visits from child protective services when other adults raise issues of neglect.
What is free-range parenting?
The site LetGrow.org essentially defines it as a “commonsense approach to parenting in these overprotective times.” These parents believe children deserve unsupervised play time to explore and grow.
In practice, that could mean allowing youngsters to walk to school alone, play at an area park without parental supervision or even ride the subway in a major city by themselves.
Utah took the the unprecedented step this week of approving a proposal that would offer legal protection to parents who practice hotly-debated free-range parenting.
The bill isn’t giving parents permission to neglect their children. The bill is only saying that parents who deem their children ready to, for example, bike to school unsupervised, shouldn’t face criminal charges.
What does the bill do?
Senate Bill 65 would revise Utah state law to say it isn’t neglect to allow mature children with good judgment to travel to school alone, explore a playground or stay in their parents’ car if they are otherwise well cared for.
The proposal from Utah Sen. Lincoln Fillmore supports free-range parents. He told the Deseret News it helps prepare them for the future:
“We’ve become so helicopter-ish as parents, and as society expecting parents to be that way, that we are kind of robbing children of some of the joys of childhood.”
Lenore Skenazy, a free-range parenting advocate and the Arkansas’ bill sponsor, said that, among other things, opponents said kids “can be kidnapped in 37 seconds from a car.”
In 2015, a Maryland couple was investigated by Child Protective Services for child neglect after letting their children ages 6 and 10, roam the neighborhood unsupervised.
Other free-range parents investigated for neglect in recent years live in Florida, South Carolina and Texas.
But here’s the thing: Parents aren’t dumb
Most parents already fret about whether they’ve taught their children all the basic safety principles, and they go over them again and again with their children.
They worry at night about the outside world and the things they can’t control, like mad men with guns coming into their school.
Parents prepare their children the best way they can. They shouldn’t have to worry about government overreach because their responsible, mature, hyper-vigilant children are going to walk two blocks to play in the park for 45 minutes.
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