Author Lenore Skenazy Explains 'Free-Range Kids'

"I let my 8- and 10-year-old sons bike the three blocks to a friend's house," a mom named Amy wrote to the Free Range Kids blog. "But when they returned, their friend's mom insisted on accompanying them back home through our very safe neighborhood, 'just in case.'" The lady was sending Amy a message: Your mothering leaves something to be desired.

Sometimes the message is even more direct. A woman named Jess wrote that now that she lets her fifth grade son walk the five blocks to school -- with a friend -- her neighbor won't let her children go to Jess' house to play anymore. To this neighbor, says Jess, "I am a bad mother. I try not to let it get to me, I think I am anything but. I love my children and like all mothers, and only want the best for them." But Jess' definition of "best" includes sometimes untying the apron strings. Other mothers find that tantamount to child abuse.

In fact, that's the very term they sometimes use... (continued)

Going Free-Range Tips

Free-range babystep: When you're about to remind a mom or dad about some extremely unlikely danger their child might face -- a danger they are probably just as aware of as you are -- hush.

Free-Range Brave Step: Volunteer to watch the kids who are waiting with your own kid for soccer to start, or school to open -- whatever. Explain to the other parents that you're offering them a little free time. If they say no thanks, ask them to watch your kid.

One Giant Leap for Free-Range Kid: The next time you make a parenting decision that you're worried other moms or dads will find too lax, don't keep it a secret. Admit that you left your daughter home alone while you went grocery shopping. Admit you sent your young son out on an errand. Talk about these things so that other parents can open up, too. It could be they'll jump on you. (There's no high like self-righteousness.) But it's also possible that they do the same things you do, and feel very guilty about it. Blamers thrive on shame. Take away their power. Do not be ashamed of making parenting choices based on who your kid is, rather than what the neighbors will say.

From the book Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy. © 2009 By Lenore Skenazy. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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