Free-range Kids

Free-range Kids

Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts With Worry

Book - 2009 | 1st ed
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Free Range Kids has become a national movement, sparked by the response to the author's piece about allowing her 9-year-old ride the subway alone in New Yok City. Parent groups argued about it, bloggers, blogged, spouses became uncivil with each other, and the media jumped all over it. A lot of parents today, she says, see no difference between letting their kids walk to school and letting them walk through a firing range. Any risk is seen as too much risk. But if you try to prevent every possible danger or difficult in your child's everyday life, that child never gets a chance to grow up. We parents have to realize that the greatest risk of all just might be trying to raise a child who never encounters choice or independence.
Publisher: San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, c2009
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780470471944
0470471948
9780470574751
0470574755
Call Number: 649.1 S627f 2009
Characteristics: xxi, 225 p. ; 24 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

Drawing on facts, statistics, and humor, Skenazy convincingly argues that this is one of the safest periods for children in the history of the world, reiterating that "mostly, the world is safe and mostly, people are good." Let's let kids get out there and discover the world. This isn't... Read More »


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c
curtismchale
Feb 17, 2020

> An unwatched child is a tragedy waiting to happen.

Early in the book Lenore Skenazy sets the tone for the book, one that's going to shine a light on the fairly crazy claims like the one above. Skenazy's purpose is to help us tease out what is really worth being afraid of when it comes to our kids, and what is nothing more than fanciful worry based on a crazy news cycle that aims for eyeballs not information[^See [The Death of Expertise](https://curtismchale.ca/2020/01/31/how-expertise-died) for more on how news got that way].

One of the big takeaways from the book is that we are extremely worried about improbably disasters. We get worried about our children getting "snatched" from the front of our house when the likelihood means we need to leave them out there for 750k years to ensure it happens. They are in far more danger walking up or down the stairs, or travelling in a car with you. In fact, you personally pose a greater danger to your children than random strangers do.

Despite this being statistical fact, we worry about unlikely random chance encounters that may harm our children. We do this in part because of the belief in society that if anything bad happens to a child the parent is clearly at fault because they "weren't there". Bad things happen to people, and it seems like a greater tragedy when it happens to a child so full of untapped potential, but it doesn't follow that it is the parents "fault" when something happens.

To combat this Skenazy divides the book up into 14 commandments to stop policing our children so much and let them be the strong confident people they are. One of her first commandments deals with news and it's quest for eyeballs. Just turn it off. News thrives on sensationalism and grabbing our attention and it does this by taking statistically small events and blowing them up into what seems like everyday occurrences.

> We want our children to become fine, upstanding adults, but in some ways we treat them as long as possible as sweet, silly babies.

I've often told my children that my job is to help them become strong confident adults that can navigate the world around them. That means I need to trust them and let them fail and navigate failure, and Skenazy would agree with me.

On the other side of this we see iGen, Death of Expertise, and Kids These Days, all showing the results of coddling children. iGen shows us how the maturity markers are happening later in life as we delay giving our children any responsibility. Death of Expertise talks about the harm that safe spaces do, and iGen echoes it as it talks about students seeing the result of words/bullying in their lives but having no idea of the harms of censorship because it's not their lived experience. Kids These Days takes the whole idea from the standpoint of the generation we're talking about, as they feel they have to run twice as hard to get half as much.

Skenazy also reveals how our long-term babying of children through their teens is something purely cultural to predominantly English speaking nations like Canada, The United States, The United Kingdom, and Australia. Conversely in many non-english European countries kids are regularly walking to school on their own at 5 and they look at the way we baby children as laughable.

On my front, I worry little about my children, but I do worry about the parents around us and the power they hold over the impact I can have on my child's life. From stories of [children riding the bus and being visited by child services](https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/5-children-ride-bus-alone-debate-vancouver-adrian-crook-free-range-helicopter-parenting-1.4280001), to my own daughter getting told by a parent that she was too young to be at the park across the street on her own and getting supervised of the grounds, this is far too much power for others to have and for child services to hold. Even if I want to raise my children strong and independent, I have to balance their true capabi

s
silversabriel
Apr 25, 2016

I appreciate the concept, but this book hashes and re-hashes the same ideas over and over. You can tell the author wrote an article and got a book deal, so then flushed out her article/idea into a book. She also fills in with a lot of "humor" and asides, most of which don't exactly amuse me. It would also be more appropriate for the parent of an older child (7 or 8+) and my daughter is only 1.5 yrs right now. Maybe I will come back to this book but I read a few chapters and skimmed the rest.

h
Hyacinth22
Nov 01, 2013

Invite me to a baby shower, I will give this as a gift.
I find myself referring back to this book in my head all the time. I love the chapter on the supposed dangers of Halloween. I read this book cover to cover.
This book is funny (laugh at yourself because you're in it!) makes a lot of sense and really is a great manual for parenting.
We all need to support each other and also chill out a bit.
Lenore also has a blog and Facebook page which I also love.

ksoles Oct 23, 2012

The book guides the reader through 14 commandments, which includes ideas on how to give kids more freedom. Skenazy uses reassuring statistics to back up her reasoning: the likelihood of your child being abducted by a stranger are 1 in 1,500,000, violent crime rates have greatly declined since the early 1990s, no child has ever died from poisoned Halowe'en candy. Ever. She also spends a chapter addressing specific safety concerns parents have, such as choking, drowning, abduction, and "stranger danger" in general.

At times the author lets her personal feelings influence her writing and get in the way of evidence, as when she discusses breastfeeding. But, overall, she provides some useful information and reassurance . One example is her view on breastfeeding, which of course I must address considering my career choice (childbirth & lactation educator). I agree with her that babies who are formula fed are going to mostly turn out just fine. I don't agree with labeling the benefits of breastfeeding as "supposed" and downplaying the importance of nutrition in general. It sounds like she had a run-in over formula feeding when one of her kids was a baby, and it has created a 12-year grudge (her words). I hope she can one day work through those feelings. She ignores studies on breastfeeding and formula, and states that the only real benefit is that breastfed babies might have fewer ear infections. Of course, that's just one of many, many benefits to both mothers and babies. I'm sorry that she felt harassed by a lactivist at some point in her life; I don't believe at all that formula is poison or that mothers who bottle feed should be made to feel guilty. How we choose to feed our babies (and our older kids - she addresses nutrition in general in a similar way as well) is up to us. However, this was one area where she chose to ignore evidence in favor of a personal bias.

Overall, this book provides a worthwhile read. It contains some good information for parents and reassurance that the world is not as scary as it can seem.

debwalker May 21, 2011

From mom blogger to mega-guru, Skenazy is the force behind the Free-Range kids movement.

Facchintr Jun 23, 2010

I bought my kids some walkie-talkies after reading this book, and stopped analyzing and supervising their every move.

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curtismchale
Feb 17, 2020

An unwatched child is a tragedy waiting to happen

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