Good Morning America: Free-Range Parenting?
Many moms and dads around the world practice “helicopter parenting,” where they hover over their children and watch every step they make. A new trend, called “free-range parenting,” gets kids to play outside with no adult supervision.
“We seem to think that play is something new and horrible and barbaric, when we all used to do it until recently when we took it out and replaced it with classes and coaches and supervision,” Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids said.
GMA: Free-Range Parenting Program Costs $350
Skenazy is starting a new free-range program. Beginning this afternoon, you can drop your child off at a playground where they will play unsupervised while Skenazy sits at a nearby coffee shop.
“I’m having it in Central Park because Central Park happens to be the safest precinct in New York City,” Skenazy said.
Eight 90-minute sessions of this free-range lifestyle will run you $350. She calls it free-range because it allows children to play freely without the scrutiny of their parents.
Lenore Skenazy: World’s Worst Mom?
Skenazy was previously called the “World’s Worst Mom” for letting her 9-year-old son Izzy ride the subway alone. Now, at 14, Izzy survived the free-range lifestyle.
Her interesting parenting choices are raising eyebrows and safety concerns. GMA’s Juju Chang asked her what kind of liability she has.
“Well I have them sign a little waiver at the beginning that says I don’t expect anybody, much less Lenore, to be supervising my kids,” Skenazy said.
Is Free-Range Parenting Right or Wrong?
Parents have mixed emotions about free-range parenting.
“You can’t just let them go completely free but you want them to get some street smarts,” Dr. George Yang said.
Mom Jill Charrabe said she would never pay someone to transition her child, because that’s what school is for.
Another mom, Laura Christensen, said she can’t imagine leaving her kids unsupervised when they were that young.
“I just think it’s unbelievably irresponsible,” Parenting expert Ann Pleshette Murphy said. “Letting kids run around and potentially do a lot of harm to themselves or to others is not a good idea.”
GMA: Helicopter Parenting Vs Free-Range Parenting
Good Morning America’s George Stephanopoulos sat down with Catherine Connors of Babble.com and psychiatrist Dr. Janet Taylor.
Stephanopoulos, a father of two girls, said he can sympathize with both sides and noted that Connors is a supporter.
“I am, I really agree very broadly,” Connors said. “There’s an element of me that’s torn, I joke that I have an inner free-range mom in there and a helicopter mom that do battle frequently. I try, I make every effort to be as free-range a parent as I can because I really believe it’s important for children and certainly for my children to have the opportunity to explore the world, to develop independence, to develop confidence and the ability to move about on their own and on their own terms.”
Dr. Taylor agreed more with Ann Pleshette Murphy.
“I think the goal of parenting is to have a child who has self control, is assertive and can make decisions, but ironically that comes with parents being able to create rules and structure and teach our kids discipline,” Taylor said. “So there is a balance, you want to give your kids the independence but at the end of the day, kids and teenagers both need limits.”
Is New York City Safe For Free-Range Parenting?
Stephanopoulos said that what holds him back from free-range parenting in New York City is that he’s not entirely comfortable letting his kids roam the Big Apple on their own.
“I actually think that a city like New York is probably the ideal place to give your children a little bit more freedom,” Connors said. “I wrote recently about a situation, which we may talk about this, my four year old tried to walk himself home from school. The response that I got from the community, because I emphasized ‘This is New York City, he tried to walk across Brooklyn!’ the response was well maybe New York’s the best place for this because you do have a very active street life, you have a lot of people, you do have people looking out for each other and it may be that in the city, children have the natural social parameters that they might lack in the suburbs.”
Is Free-Range Parenting a Good Choice for Your Kids?
Taylor said that her opinion is not anti-play, because children do need unstructured time, but it’s irresponsible to think you can leave a group of kids who don’t know each other to play unsupervised.
Connors said that if you have a child who likes to explore and is confident, free-range parenting might be the right choice for you. Taylor said the last thing you want to do is put your child in a situation that might make them anxious or fearful.
Would you leave your kids alone in a park to play? What are your thoughts on free-range vs helicopter parenting?