Parents who let their young children walk home from school and roam free without adult supervision around town are getting into trouble.
The new hip term for the practice is “free range.” Yes, the same term we use to describe chickens that grow up on a farm free to roam and that are not pumped with anti-biotics and growth hormones. (Poultry loves say these chickens taste the best and are healthier than conventional chickens that grow up on poultry farms)
Close to where I live, a couple of kids, 10-year old Rafi Meitiv and his 6-year old sister Dvora were walking home from the park in Silver Spring, Maryland when a police officer stopped, questioned them and drove them home to their parents.
The state child protection services threatened to take the kids away from their parents, Alexander and Danielle Meitiv, unless they came up with a safety plan citing laws that state leaving children unsupervised is a form of neglect.
“I’m just parenting the way I was parented and the way that almost every adult I know was parented,” said Danielle who, with her husband, have found themselves in the middle of the “Free Range Parenting” debate.
There is even a 2010 book by Lenore Skenazy on the topic “Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Self, Self-Reliant Kids (Without going Nuts with Worry).”
On the opposite side of the Meitiv’s are those who say they are setting up their children to be victims of bullies, child predators or crime perpetrators who may take advantage of young children.
It’s so interesting to me that there is a new term for the way I grew up.
One of my favorite memories as a child happened when I visited my cousin Abe in New York City at age 6 or 7 and of us traveling all over the burrough from park to park, playground to playground, flea market to corner store, visiting his friends at various other apartment buildings all day. We were supposed to make our way back home to go to a wedding which brought my family and I up to the city, but didn’t. So we got left, then, realizing this fact, we headed back out for a few more moments of fun until the sun came up.
No officer, adult or other authority figure batted an eye to see us go about.
Now, I wouldn’t think of releasing my 7, 9 and 12 year old in a city without supervision or at least the guidance of an older person, but certainly we do in our own town. Our kids ride their bikes on their own and run around the block to practice for their track and cross country sports. The middle kid routinely traverses down to the town creek to catch critters and has done so since he was 8-years old.
Sometimes, I worry, but I do see the value of letting them be independent and playing without the overtly watchful eye of their parents.
We live in the world of helicopter parenting, where parents shepherd their kids’ every move and do not allow them to be independent, make mistakes and learn from them. I am guilty of being one too, to a certain extent on some things.
Society is also rightful in being fearful that the “mistake” end up being one that can cost a child his or her life. We’ve seen that before. So, yeah, that matters too.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Chime in!
h/t ABC News