Free-Range Parenting: Not One-Size-Fits-Most

Tuned In Parents - Free-range parenting not one-size-fits-most
It’s telling that in recent decades there’s been a significant shift towards helicopter parenting and a comeback trend in free-range parenting for counterbalance. Remember Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, the free-range parents in Maryland under fire for “unsubstantiated” child neglect for allowing their 10 and 6-year-old children to walk home alone from a park a mile away? How could you forget, right? Their case fueled questions in the parenting community that are still buzzing. 1) Where does free-range parenting stop and neglect begin? 2) What about helicopter parenting — is it any better or worse for children? And 3) when that toddler suffered a kidnap attempt while unattended in a park, is that an example of why free-range parenting today is under attack?

I may be in my 30s, but I’m old enough to say I remember when free-range parenting was just, you know, parenting. However, free-range for my brother and me only extended to our visits to the country. Our parents were divorced; Dad was free-ranging it out there while Mom was hovering in the city. They both had good reasons for their opposing parenting styles.

Free-range parenting is not one-size-fits-most. There’s a spectrum. You have to consider the child, the environment(s), the times, and even culture.

While pregnant and living in rural South Korea, I was startled to see preschool-aged kids running errands for their parents. The thing is, the village still raises the children there. Everyone was looking out for those little ones. And if they got into trouble, their parents would probably hear about that, too.

Here in the States, it’s a different story. Even a few decades ago, free-ranging it in any major city was risky business. Our mom and her husband were cops. And the stories they told us (they really shouldn’t have) were horrifying! Therefore, knowing what was really going on in our city, free-range parenting was out of the question for us. I get that . . . now.

Tuned In Parents - is free-range parenting appropriate in large cities?

Instead, my brother and I were taught basic self-defense, how to not be soft targets, to be vigilant, to play only on our street, and we did not go over friends’ homes unless the parents were “vetted” first. Pretty much the opposite of what we were used to in the country, where we were locked out of the house until sunset.

My brother and I used to ride our bikes for miles and miles during our free-range country visits. It was the best feeling!

My brother and I used to ride our bikes for miles and miles during our free-range country visits. It was the best feeling!

But what about fear and anxiety and all the negative things that accompany raising kids the way my brother and I were raised in the city? It’s true. We were rife with that stuff. They could have done a better job educating and protecting us without shocking the innocence out of us (damnable police stories). A little moderation does go a long way. Fortunately, our time in the country — the opposite extreme — balanced it out. Most curious and telling, however, is when our dad would take us into the city. He put that free-range philosophy in his back pocket. Yes, he did!

Caught between two parents and their polar opposite approaches to parenting, wouldn’t you know I turned out to be the type that prefers to roam free, living in different countries, and my brother prefers to hover near the city our mom raised us. And now that we both have families of our own, I think we can agree we learned a lot from Mom and Dad’s parenting styles, particularly how Dad would shift when different factors were introduced.

It’s safe to say parenting is never, ever a ONE-HAT job, but rather it’s one with an ever-expanding job description and volumes of fine print. Only those with highly adaptable skills who require very little sleep and almost zero appreciation need apply.

Tip: Everyone, free-range to close-range, should have basic knowledge of self-defense. I feel freer knowing I can defend myself, if necessary. Moreover, children empowered with the knowledge of self-defense are more confident and less likely to be bullied or targeted by adult predators. And those who fight back are less likely to be abducted. Therefore, you may find the following helpful: Self-defense for kids and Self-defense for you.

About Elle C. Mayberry

Elle C. Mayberry is a mom and author, who just released a new children's book with her young daughter. With a passion for parenting and degrees in psychology and "make it workology," she created Tuned In Parents (TiP).

0 comments on “Free-Range Parenting: Not One-Size-Fits-Most

  1. I like the idea of teaching kids to defend themselves… it’s empowering and practical. We’re somewhere between free-range and helicopter. I like to give them a little freedom and independence, but I don’t let them walk alone yet at their ages. It’s hard to find balance. Thanks for linking up at the Manic Mondays blog hop!

  2. Great post! I totally agree “you have to consider the child, the environment(s), the times, and even culture.” I prefer the country where I can let the kids go free without fear.

  3. Pingback: 5 Tips for Raising Safe, Fearless Kids | Tuned In Parents

  4. Great post. I do agree, there are pros and cons with all sorts of parenting styles. The key is figuring out what works for your family and what sorts of lessons (e.g., self defense) you wish to teach your children. I grew up in a small town, we could roam free no worries (my husband grew up in a massive city in the middle east where at the time little to no crime took place– strict rules), but now in a city with my little one we find ourselves challenged by the different parenting types. I think knowing street cents and understanding how to protect yourself will be key as she grows up.

    • Thoughtful feedback, mymamajourney. Thanks for that. And you bring up another major factor: the environments in which the parents were raised and how it may differ from the environment they’re raising their child together — the adjustments that have to be made in the parenting styles they were used to growing up. . . . Constant motion, adaptation. Never a dull moment, lol.

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