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Free Range Kids and Helicopter Parents

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  • Free Range Kids and Helicopter Parents

    I was a suburban child in the 1960s and an adolescent in the 1970s. At the age of 7, my friends and I would sneak in to the municipal pool by ourselves (even though there was a rule that kids under 12 couldn't enter unattended). We left the house in the morning to climb trees, play at construction sites, trespass in a local pond (to swim and catch turtles or frogs), and ride bikes all over town. We played violent pick-up games of tackle football, and we managed bullies among ourselves. We went home only for meals. Just about every family had many kids and we were all raised the same way.

    When I was a high school kid interviewing for college it never entered my mind to bring my parents along. That would have been humiliating.

    ***

    Things have changed. Now the police pick up your kids if they play in the neighborhood without adults watching every move: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/04/13/parents-investigated-letting-children-walk-alone/25700823/. Some parents want to attend business school interviews with their adult children: http://fortune.com/2014/04/10/attack-of-the-helicopter-parents-of-mba-applicants/.

    I don't have kids but my five younger siblings have raised their children with much closer supervision. I presume I would have been the same. What if something bad happened and I wasn't there?

    Nevertheless, I am so grateful that I was a free range kid. Many bad things might have happened, but I think we grew up more independent and capable, and quite a bit tougher (mentally) than kids today.

    There is a comment on another thread that children might have stunted development if they grow up in a rural setting rather than in NYC or SF. I'll leave that alone, but do you think that modern child-rearing (starting in the 1980s or perhaps 1990s?) retards development relative to the traditional style described above?
    Erstwhile Dance Theatre of Dayton performer cum bellhop. Carried (many) bags for a lovely and gracious 59 yo Cyd Charisse. (RIP) Hosted epic company parties after Friday night rehearsals.

  • #2
    Sort of agree with your basic premise - especially about making them mentally tough.  But I see the concern with letting kids roam free these days.  Too many horror stories.  See both sides but at some point ya gotta cut them loose.  Going to interviews at business school?  Lame.  I prefer the Tony Soprano approach:

     

    https://youtu.be/n0dTZFaVjMA

     

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    • #3
      Theres a balance. On the other hand child abduction, murder and abuse is down to insanely low levels. I was also absolutely free range, but wouldnt allow it as young as I was allowed nor for as long without contact, that would be nuts. Kids could be abducted, driven hours away and dead for hours before you knew. I was certainly gone half days at a time. No thanks to that.

      Im big on independence, drive, and personal responsibility though, you're your one person and dont expect me to do your stuff, have initiative. These are totally unrelated. No excuses from me if you mess up, you own it.

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      • #4
        My friend and I discuss this often. We were both raised running around our suburban towns with few limitations. There was actually an interesting study done by the same guy. He looked at childrens footprints (how far they range) in the 70's or 80s (I don't remember which) and then again more recently. Not surprising, kids are staying much closer to home.

        I think the issue is that there is a lot more information out there now. More news channels, etc. We hear about every kidnapping, murder, etc. even if it is not in our communities. Tack on a worsening drug problem (meth, etc.) and changing socioeconomic profiles of towns, maybe there is more crime now. Who knows.

        As for us, we are very involved in our kids life, but I hope as he gets older we can let him roam the neighborhood and woods without us being concerned. Part of that will be raising him with some "street" smarts and ability to defend himself. Some of it will be us relaxing our concerns a bit.

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        • #5
          Circle of life...Free range kids grow into parents who do the opposite, helicopter. Their kids will grow into parents who do the opposite, free range. Although free range now looks different as it involves more technology freedom.

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          • #6
            I was a free range kid.  Cellphones did not exist and child abductions were not discussed.  My nieces were over-helicoptered and are not particularly functional adults.  I guess there must be a happy medium out there.

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            • #7




              I think the issue is that there is a lot more information out there now. More news channels, etc. We hear about every kidnapping, murder, etc. even if it is not in our communities. Tack on a worsening drug problem (meth, etc.) and changing socioeconomic profiles of towns, maybe there is more crime now. Who knows.
              Click to expand...


              Youre half right. There is way more knowledge about what takes place anywhere now, before their was a blissful ignorance. Who knows? Seems odd given its widely available information.

              https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/04/14/theres-never-been-a-safer-time-to-be-a-kid-in-america/?utm_term=.d0ebba830231

              Crime overall is at its lowest levels and has been dropping for a long time, there has never been a safer era overall in the world, even with all the stuff you hear about all the time.

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              • #8
                Thanks for sharing the article!

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                • #9
                  Child abductions seem pretty low.  If a kid goes missing literally every news station and everybody's phone three states away goes off with an amber alert, even nationwide.

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                  • #10
                    I was definitely a free range kid growing up. Going hiking for half a day with my buddies and ending up somewhere I've never been and had to find my way back. No cell phone of course. Of course, I grew up in a rural area so as long as I stayed off roads and out of farmers' fields I probably wouldn't see anybody else the whole time.

                    I think that arresting parents for child neglect because a school age child goes to the park alone is severely misguided, and I think the backlash these stories have provoked shows I'm not the only one. There has to be a middle ground.

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                    • #11




                      I was a free range kid.  Cellphones did not exist...
                      Click to expand...


                      And now that they do, a free-range kid has a safety tool we who grew up in the pre-cellphone days lacked. So why not give the kids more freedom, knowing that they can use their cell phones to call for help should they need it?

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                      • #12







                        I was a free range kid.  Cellphones did not exist…
                        Click to expand…


                        And now that they do, a free-range kid has a safety tool we who grew up in the pre-cellphone days lacked. So why not give the kids more freedom, knowing that they can use their cell phones to call for help should they need it?
                        Click to expand...


                        The online free range that the cellphone allows is my bigger concern.

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                        • #13
                          I was free range. I would ride my bike, crossing an interstate underpass, to the town pool everyday and basically spend all day there.
                          We would play flashlight tag crawling in neighbors backyards and hiding in their bushes in the dark.
                          I'm pretty sure I would have been shot or run over nowadays.

                          For our kids we have a pretty safe neighborhood with parks and we let them ride to the park but they do bring a phone along. Otherwise I would say we are much more involved in our kids social lives than our parents were.
                          I still feel like our kids have a lot of independence. If they want to pursue something we try to make it happen.
                          I'm pretty sure they have never snuck out at night to go skateboarding though like I did a few times. (Don't tell my mom).

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                          • #14
                            my parenting style has been described as "aloof" by my brother and his wife and I am probably on the far spectrum of free range. we live in an upscale suburban home ~ 7 miles from downtown and our 4 & 6 year old routinely play in the neighborhood without our supervision. they are responsible for being home before the streetlights come on and are required to be within voice of our house or let us know if they are going inside another house. our neighborhood has a lake and creek which they are forbidden to go to without direct adult supervision.

                            so far we haven't had a near miss and our kids spend more time outside than inside. initially we communicated regularly with our neighbors via text, but after a year and a half this has ultimately faded to minimal.

                            i would obviously feel horrible if something were to happen to them, but objectively their situation is MUCH safer than the one i grew up in and i would feel even worse seeing my boys not grow into the men I believe they should and will be. my thought is set reasonable parameters for behavior and enforce those parameters...

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                            • #15




                              The online free range that the cellphone allows is my bigger concern.
                              Click to expand...


                              Basic cellphones don't allow that; only smartphones do.  Kids don't need smartphones, just a basic model that allows calls and texting.  They won't be happy with a basic flip phone, but being a "meanie" is part of being a parent.

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