How Much Independence Are You Up For?

Attention, moms of children at least 7 years old: This Saturday, May 22, has been designated in some circles as “Take Our Children to the Park…& Leave Them There Day.” It’s the idea of Lenore Skenazy, founder of Free-Range Kids, a makes-ya-think book/blog/movement pushing the idea of promoting independence and dialing down excessive safety measures among school-age kids. With this Saturday’s event, Skenazy is trying to bring back the lost art of kids asking other kids to play, and of them hanging out in public places on their own. It’s sort of the opposite of our pre-arranged–playdate world where parents must be stationed close by whenever their children get together.

If it feels too far-out for you, consider Skenazy’s suggestions to make it more palatable:

1. Try it for a half hour, if that’s all you or your child are up for.

2. Take a walk around the block while your child plays (just don’t actually hang out nearby).

3. Give your child a cell phone if that makes you feel better.

My children, at 1 and 4, are too young for Saturday’s experiment. But are yours? Will you consider joining in?

Photo via.

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  1. by Michelle Jolley

    On May 17, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    I say it’s ridiculous. Yes, please, let’s designate a day to leave our 7-year-olds at the park by themselves so that they can be kidnapped by some creep. That sounds brilliant.

  2. by Notacrazy

    On May 17, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    I am with Michelle… RIDICULOUS! Why not publish which park and give a detailed map to every sex offender in the neighborhood.

  3. by Greta

    On May 17, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Ladies!

    It sounds more ridiculous to not let your kids be kids! Your children are way more likely to be kidnapped by the creeps you actually know! And statistically, you’re putting them in far greater danger by *driving* your children to a park than by leaving them there.

    Parents – please don’t stunt your child’s development of independence, exploration, and confidence just because you’re filled with unfounded fear!

  4. by mystic_eye

    On May 17, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    I’ll have to see when my kids are older (they are 2 and 4 now).

    But I did let my 4 year old ride his tricycle on the street (YIKES) between my house and the neighbour down the block while I did some work in the garden, and most of the time I couldn’t see them and I’m not sure whether their dad was really paying attention.

    As soon as he has SOME fear of cars I’ll be happy to let him run around the neighbourhood more.

  5. by Lorna

    On May 17, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Is there a register? Who keeps an eye on the kids? Hmm.

  6. by Kitty

    On May 17, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    No way, no how! This is not stunting anything, that’s absurd! This is just not appropriate in this day and age. Kids can be kids with adults still around making sure no one gets hurts. WHY would they need to be alone? I think this push for independance so early is dumb. Kids will be independant when they are ready, other countries so not have this obsession with independance and an early age and their offspring still manage to be normal. If you want to take these kinds of risks with your child that’s your business but don’t try to bully others into it!

  7. by Jennifer

    On May 17, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    While I realize kids are more likely to be kidnapped by someone they know then a stranger, I like to adhere to the rule of don’t feed the bears. Also I believe in some states that this is highly illegal.

  8. by Enerji

    On May 17, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    ABSURD! Our world is not like it was when I was a kid. Yes, Greta – that may be true but the fact is, if it is, YOU DONT KNOW THAT until something happens by the person you know and it comes to light. So if your child is the one being stalked by “someone they know” what better opportunity for a kidnapping then on this particular day. You have just fed into the very thing parents cringe over.

    Its easy to push for “Free Range Kids” based on statistics but that means shit when YOU become PART of those statistics. What then?

    Our jobs as parents are to protect our children to our best ability. Putting your kids out alone is not protecting them. Her ideas are quite skewed and dangerous. These “statistics” are based on the lack of “free range” and now its being pushed? What do you think will happened to those statistics now that this idea is being pushed? And what will YOU do or FEEL like when YOU become part of those statistics? Are you prepared to spend time in jail for neglect because you didn’t do your job?

  9. by Enerji

    On May 17, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    P.S. You can let your children develop, explore and gain great independence within your eye. I know, I have 20 years of experience with children. I raise very independent and adventurous children but within a safe environment. I let them learn their own mistakes, grow, and have fun all at the same time…IN CONFIDENCE. But I am near-by watching or doing it WITH THEM.

  10. by Danny

    On May 17, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    It’s pretty absurd to imagine that there are thousands of potential child abductors waiting for this opportunity to snatch a child. How fortunate for us all that they’ve never before managed to encounter an unaccompanied kid; and how fortunate for them that they’ve managed not to arouse anyone’s suspicions about their deviant ways.

    Oh wait, that last part isn’t true, because folks like Enerji no doubt suspect tens or even hundreds of people a day of being barely-restrained child-molesters. Forget about giving the kids independence, what about the parents?! Imagine living in such a state of perpetual panic, completely blind to any evidence that the world is in fact a pretty safe place? My goodness, I feel bad for the poor things.

  11. by Joe

    On May 17, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    You’re right, Enerji — our world isn’t like when we were kids.

    It’s significantly safer.

    Also: Why doesn’t the fear of the Unknown Other Driver keep you from driving your children anywhere? I mean, you can look at all the automobile-safety statistics in the world, but that means shit when YOU get hit and YOUR CHILD gets injured, right?

    Nah, that’d just be ridiculous, to live your life afraid of something so unlikely as a car crash.

  12. by baby-paramedic

    On May 17, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    So when your children leave home, go on to tertiary education and will start drinking alcohol, will you be there to pick them up when they screw up?

    It is easy to tell those kids who were allowed to kids and gain independence at an early age vs those who have helicopter parents. I can assure you the ones who were permitted to hurt themselves as children are the ones who tend to be safest. They know what to do in emergencies, THEY DONT PANIC.

    WHEN are your children old enough to fend for themselves?
    WHEN do you stop making sure everything is “safe”.

    Teach your children to look after themselves. If there is an emergency (fire, car accident) or a natural disaster, these will be the kids with the best chance.

  13. by Linda

    On May 17, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Good gracious! The point is not for the kids to hang out in singles. The idea is for them to hang out together! My oldest child would be so happy if other parents would let their kids out of their living rooms and into their yards. He would love to throw a ball around with some other kid at the park.

    I won’t live my life in fear. I won’t let my kid live that way. Do I want to teach my child how to make independent decisions? I do. Do I want him to feel trusted? I do. Do I worry about becoming a statistic? Sure do. But I truly believe my kid should be a kid! (The first day we let him ride his bike to the park by himself – he went there and back 10 times. He was so happy. And nothing untoward happened.)

  14. by Melli

    On May 17, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    It is just so sad that parents (like many above) have such fear of the world that they can’t let their kids out of their sight. My son, 8, is already allowed to play outside by himself, ride his bike around the neighborhood, stay at a park by himself, etc….and he’s autistic. And before you think we live in some tiny little po-dunk town, we don’t. We live in a major suburb/city in the Bay Area in California. Without the opportunity to be on his own, how will he learn to negotiate conflict with other kids? How will be learn to wait his turn for the tire swing? How will be learn to trust his gut instincts that something’s going down that he should not be a part of? How will he learn that falling off his bike and getting a scraped knee isn’t the end of the world? He won’t. Unless he is given free reign (or range :P ) to experience and learn and grown on his own. Kudos to Lenore and all the other Free Range parents out there that are letting their kids be just that…kids.

  15. by Alison

    On May 17, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Hear, Hear, Linda @9:24.

  16. by Missy

    On May 17, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    Jennifer writes:

    “Also I believe in some states that this is highly illegal.”

    Thankfully, your “belief” has no force of law. There is no state in the Union that prohibits elementary aged children from playing in the park on their own.

    You know, if you don’t want to let your kids play on their own, don’t. It’s fine, really. But would you mind NOT spouting off with your made up nonsense in an effort to frighten people who do? “What if, what if, what if?” What if YOU drop dead on the sidewalk while you’re with your kids?

    Smash a few brain cells together, for the love of Mike.

  17. by Aly

    On May 17, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    We won’t be able to participate in this on Saturday, because my daughter (who is twelve) will be helping lead an all-girls backpacking trip in our nearby national forest.

    But one day this week, in honor of ‘take your kids to the playground and leave them there day’ she’ll be allowed to walk to a playground near her school and spend a couple of hours there until I pick her up. She’s learning to ride the unicycle and is looking forward to having some extra practice time.

    Would I do this if the playground was in a dangerous neighborhood? No. Would I do it if she were five years old? No. Would I do it if she hadn’t shown herself capable and independent and growing in problem solving ability? No. No one’s suggesting that people just dump little ones off in random places, unprepared!

    But having been raised up to this point with the tools (and the independence) to watch out for herself, I’m confident that she’ll be just fine. And when she’s eighteen and leaves for college, know what? It’s skills she learned by doing things on her own that will keep her safe and healthy.

  18. by jen

    On May 17, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    my four-year old goes to the park and takes all of 30 seconds to find someone to play with. she’s independent and guess what? she practices that independence under my watchful eyes. we attachment parent her, and she is one of the most independent kids in our town. she’s always been taught that we are there for guidance and yes at age 4 she is taught that we will help her up when she falls.

    my 17-year old is graduating and heading off to college. she’s a virgin, has never used drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. she’s an honor student and a basketball star and is very active in her church and her community. she didn’t go out unattended until she was nearly 13 years old. she’s been given love and attention and knows that home and family are there for her.

    what the whole free range thing sounds like is another way for parents to un-parent. tv, video games, ipods,and the internet aren’t enough. let’s take our kids to a public place and drop them off and let them take care of themselves. that way, they learn independence AND we can go get that double chai latte and text on our iphones with a little peace and quiet. ***SARCASM***

  19. by Alison

    On May 17, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    I’m sadly not amazed that there is resistance to this idea – it’s so much easier to watch your kid than it is to teach them how to handle problems on their own. Unfortunately for society, parents have misplaced teaching their kids with the mistaken belief that their kids cannot manage without them. All this does is raise kids who cannot solve problems and have no faith in their own independence.

    My son has been taking the city bus home from school since he was 10. He’s been taught how to look for danger and I trust he’s smart enough to deal with trouble if it comes. I’m not leaving him out on the street to be kidnapped – I’ve guided him and built up his confidence in his own abilities. Yeah, it would be easier to throw him into daycare and trust strangers to watch him, but I’m trusting that my own parenting skills have been sufficient for him to deal with his world.

    Honestly, how many of these parents who are so against this kind of thing were themselves left alone? I walked to school alone when I was in grade 2 and I managed to survive. The only difference between then and now is that people are more fearful and overprotective. There isn’t an increase in kidnappings from when we were kids – it’s just reported more.

  20. by Erynne

    On May 17, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    I’m afraid the idea just isn’t a sound one. There are too many things that can and do go wrong on a playground, even with an adult there.

    How many parents have comforted a child with a bloodied lip, or a split chin, or a chipped tooth, or a scrape or a cut or something else that happened on the playground equipment? Why walk away and leave your child to deal with pain on their own when you could sit on a park bench and read a book? It’s not like you have to hover over your child on the monkey bars – just stay in the vicinity, so if they need you, you’re there.

    I think giving kids too much freedom is simply that: giving them too much freedom. Should they have freedom? Most definitely! But dumping them in a park and leaving them behind doesn’t say, “I trust you to handle problems on you own.” It says, “I trust you to try to live up to expectations you may not be ready for.”

    What kid is going to say, “No, I don’t feel ready for that kind of responsibility?” Very few.

    I’d rather be able to mark my place in a book and shoulder my bag to check my crying son when an accident happens, to soothe his tears and send him back to full-throttle kill-or-be-killed play… than expect him to sufficiently soothe a hurt by himself or with only the help of other children (many of whom he may not even know).

    Honestly, though, it makes me want to drive to neighborhood parks the day of and offer children lollipops, to see how many take them from a nice woman they don’t know. Of course I’m not going to do anything to hurt them… just tally up how many kids are willing to take candy from a stranger. Not all child predators are men, and not all evil people dress in black with top hats. Trust your child, but not to the point where you endanger them.

  21. by velobaby

    On May 18, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Oh please! There are simply not enough kidnappers to go around.

    The whole point of parenting is to work your way out of a job. I don’t want my kids living at home when they’re 30, which means they need to learn early and often how to cope and deal with stuff without me constantly rescuing and interfering.

    Most moms today had a lot more freedom than they gave their own kids. What’s changed is our perception of risk, not the risk itself. Kids will rise to the occasion of freedom… we just rarely give them the occasion. My kids (elementary school ages) will be at the park, on their own and they will probably get there by themselves. Hopefully a helicopter mom won’t run over them in her SUV while she’s on the phone and changing a DVD for her eight-year-old who is still in a five-point-harness LaZyBoy carseat.

  22. by baby-paramedic

    On May 18, 2010 at 12:24 am

    Jen,
    I wish your daughter alot of luck with going away to college. I hope she continues to do you proud, I truly do.
    And I hope that she wont be one of the kids I pick up on Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights and take up to the hospital because they just dont know how to handle uncontrolled situations.
    They will learn eventually. But I hope it is before something completely gut-wrenching happens to them.

    I am a supporter of teaching your children to stand on their own two feet.
    In the words of velo-baby
    “The whole point of parenting is to work your way out of a job.”

  23. by Heather

    On May 18, 2010 at 4:02 am

    Kitty – In Germany, the 6 year old I au paired for was just about to go to school as I left. All the new parents were called into the school to be told that they were expected to teach their child the route to the school, and how to cros the roads safely, and that after that, the children should walk to school by themselves. This much independence is normal all across Germany.

    Once German children leave primary school, and have to travel a bit further, they take public transport (not a school-specific bus).

  24. by Missy

    On May 18, 2010 at 6:03 am

    Heather writes:

    “Once German children leave primary school, and have to travel a bit further, they take public transport (not a school-specific bus).”

    *nod*

    When I lived in Germany, I took the train to school. Not a special train just for schoolkids, but the plain old train that everyone else (strangers!) took. Who walked me to the train station on the first day of school? The same people who introduced me to the headmaster when we walked from our destination to the Gymnasium: my 6 and 7 year old neighbors.

  25. by Maggie

    On May 18, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Erynne – Please do. My kids love lollipops. They wouldn’t GO AWAY WITH you, though because they’ve been taught how to respond to that situation. Being free-range isn’t about just dumping your kids in an unknown place with no knowledge of the world. It’s about preparing your kids to handle LIFE without adult intervention.

    Kids don’t magically become independant when they turn 18 or even when they move out! They have to learn, just like any skill. They can’t do that if you never give them the chance.

  26. by Donna

    On May 18, 2010 at 8:28 am

    “How many parents have comforted a child with a bloodied lip, or a split chin, or a chipped tooth, or a scrape or a cut or something else that happened on the playground equipment? Why walk away and leave your child to deal with pain on their own…”

    And how much of your being there dry his tears results in a complete over-reaction to a SCRAPE? Nobody’s advocating leaving 4 year olds at the park and even my 4 year old can handle a scrape at the playground without breaking down into tears.

    We are only given CHILDREN for 18 years. In that period of time we have to take them from completely dependent infants to completely independent adults. They need to learn to soothe their hurts themselves. They need to learn to make decisions by themselves. They need to learn to protect themselves. They need to learn to negotiate conflicts themselves. And they don’t need to do it all at 18 when they are suddenly thrown out into a world that they are ill prepared for. Gradual steps at doing all these things is best and what could be better place to start than an hour at the park on Saturday with a bunch of other kids?

  27. by Kara Corridan

    On May 18, 2010 at 8:30 am

    Well, this certainly sparked a lively debate! For those of you interested in learning more about this concept of Free Range kids, including stats on rates of crimes against children (they’re actually going down), I encourage you to check out Lenore Skenazy’s site, linked above. Thanks to everyone for sharing your opinions.

  28. by JewelD

    On May 18, 2010 at 9:59 am

    I LOVE this idea! When I was a kid- during a much more dangerous age to be a kid, statistically speaking- I was allowed to walk or ride my bike all around my neighborhood, past my neighborhood and to the small market that was across the (not very busy, but 45mph limit) road. These days, kids are only allowed as far as their leashes will stretch!

    Free the Leash Children!

    Why raise kids who are afraid and suspicious of the world? How will they learn to take risks as adults? Do parents think that independence will just *magically* happen at a certain age?

  29. by Valerie

    On May 18, 2010 at 10:20 am

    “what the whole free range thing sounds like is another way for parents to un-parent.”

    Free-range parenting is not about neglecting children. Free-range parents make the effort to prepare their children to handle situations when the parents are not around. Taking your children to the park and leaving them there isn’t escaping your parental duties. It’s preparing them effectively to deal with problems, unexpected situations, and even good situations, and then giving them the opportunity to apply and practice those skills. Another part of free-range parenting is knowing your child and their limitations. If your child is not ready for the independence of going to the park alone, you don’t send them to the park alone, no matter what their age. Just as some free-range kids are capable of going to the park alone, other free-range kids lack the confidence or skills
    to do so yet, but may well be ready another time.

    “tv, video games, ipods,and the internet aren’t enough. let’s take our kids to a public place and drop them off and let them take care of themselves”

    What an odd comparison. Playing in the park is the equivalent of screen-time? These electronic babysitters you mentioned are tools to amuse bored children stuck in the house. Free-range children, meaning kids who have been given the freedom to play outside and enjoy the outdoors, spend a lot less time with electronic babysitters because they are out with their friends, negotiating their way through social situations, learning through trial-and-error, and applying important skills to real-world situations. This doesn’t mean they’re outside completely without supervision for unlimited periods of time, this means they’ve been given some space where they can work out their own problems without Mommy fixing everything for them.

    “that way, they learn independence AND we can go get that double chai latte and text on our iphones with a little peace and quiet. **SARCASM**”

    While I neither drink lattes nor own an iphone, I don’t understand why this is such a horrible thing. Parenting is a non-stop job, and my kids keep me very busy. Am I a bad parent if I take a few minutes to myself to have a drink I enjoy, a cup of tea in my case, and get some peace and quiet to recharge my batteries? This comment smacks of the whole “I’m a better parent than you” mentality. In this case, the parents feel superior because they never ever let their children out of their sight, and equate constant supervision with good parenting. That’s not the kind of parent I want to be.

  30. by notacrazy

    On May 18, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Wow, I am not surprised this has become a debate but to say: “And I hope that she wont be one of the kids I pick up on Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights and take up to the hospital because they just dont know how to handle uncontrolled situations.” Is just plain rude… How about – I hope I don’t see your kids on the back of a milk carton one day. Frankly, I would rather take my chances on the lotto then on my child’s well being/life.

    I actually enjoy spending time with my child at the park, riding bikes, taking nature walks, etc. So I think I will pass on dumping my child off at a park with strangers to fend for himself.

  31. by BeQui

    On May 18, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Jen, what attachment parenting *sounds* like is following your kids around at all times, never letting them leave the house (so they’ll be getting lots of time on the computer, TV, and gaming systems) and teaching them that they can’t do anything without mommy’s help.

    I’m sure that’s not the case, but I don’t know because I’ve never looked into it. Just like free-range parenting *sounds* like just trying to get out of spending time with your kids, that’s not actually what it’s about. If you’re doing it right (and granted, there will be plenty of people who don’t, just like there are plenty of people who attachment parent “wrong”) then your goal is to teach your kids problem solving skills, to trust their instincts, and to know that they can come to mom when they need help.

    I’m 25. I never had sex until I was married at 21, I never drank or smoked or did drugs or stayed out past curfew. (Well, I stayed out a few times but only after calling a parent to tell them what was going on.) I was also an honor student, I wasn’t on sports teams but I was very involved in drama and choir. My mom is one of my best friends, the others being my husband and 5 sisters. And my mom was VERY free-range. We walked alone to friends houses at 6 years old, I was doing my own laundry at 8 (it would have been sooner, but I couldn’t reach the knobs), I was cooking dinner for the family at 10. I had a job at 14 cleaning up construction sites, and I was babysitting and doing yard work for money at 9. Mom had 9 kids. I don’t think it would be possible to attachment parent 9 kids, especially if one of the goals is to never let us out of sight until we were 13.

    My point is, there are different ways to parent. None of them is necessarily better or worse than the other. Good for you for raising a daughter who knows she can count on her family, but my mom did the same thing in a completely different way.

    This “holiday” is not about going to the park with your 5 year-old, seeing that they are the only kid there, and leaving them anyway. It’s about realizing that kids need to learn how to play with others and solve problems without a parent stepping in every time. Like the article says: This is for kids 7 and up. If your 7 year-old can’t handle a scraped knee on their own, you may need to reexamine your priorities.

  32. by Mike

    On May 18, 2010 at 11:10 am

    The fact that everyone is debating this issue is GREAT!

    I think it would be unwise for parents who have, from day one, been helicopter (for lack of a better term) parents to leave their kids alone in the park with other kids without adult supervision. It would probably be a shock for both parent and kid.

    But perhaps seeing those other kids who get “dumped” in the park will inspire some of the more protective parents to let their kids out of their sight on occasion. Let ‘em play in the yard alone, go knock on a neighbor’s door for that cup of sugar you need or to ask if little Johnny can come over to play cardboard box forts in the back yard (my childhood favorite).

    Little steps, because the more kids are outside playing kick the can, capture the flag, red rover, tag, hide and seek with the other kids in the neighborhood the more likely they won’t be fat, maladjusted, trigger happy, yo gabba gabba song spewing, video game obsessed little monsters.

    Little steps.

  33. by Olivia

    On May 18, 2010 at 11:13 am

    “Frankly, I would rather take my chances on the lotto then on my child’s well being/life.”

    Big difference. There is almost no chance that you will ever win the lottery. There is 100% chance that your child will become an adult who needs skills developed over time to get out from under your wing and function on his own.

    Parenthood is about raising future adults, not overgrown infants. The biggest parenting failure there can be is to raise a child who, after graduating from high school, has no idea how to care for himself or handle his own problems. Simply, if your offspring needs you to call his college professors to fight his battles, you’ve 100% FAILED as a parent. These skills are not magically conferred on your child along with the high school diploma. It takes gradual learning with increased responsibility over the course of 18 years to create a fully-functioning adult.

    I like hanging out at the park with my kids too. I also realize that they need time away from me to hang out with their friends, try new things, go on new adventures and slowly learn to handle their own affairs. My 11 year old has more independence than my 8 year old who has more independence than my 5 year old. I don’t see any reason to treat my 11 year old like the 5 year old. I respect that she has earned some independence by proving herself responsible to handle some freedom.

  34. by notacrazy

    On May 18, 2010 at 11:42 am

    The fact that abductions and crimes are going down is not because parents are allowing their children more “freedoms”, it’s because parents are watching over their children more closely – getting wiser!

  35. by Donna

    On May 18, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    “The fact that abductions and crimes are going down is not because parents are allowing their children more “freedoms”, it’s because parents are watching over their children more closely – getting wiser!”

    To the contrary ALL violent crime is going down. Even that against adults. And, frankly, if a pedophile wants your child, he’ll just come in your house and take her. JonBenet Ramsey, Elizabeth Smart, Danielle Van Damm, Stephanie Crowe, Polly Klaus – all kidnapped from their own beds by strangers (allegedly in the case of Ramsey). I can’t think of that many names of kids kidnapped while wandering free range. I guess you helicopter parents all need to stay awake or sleep in shifts.

  36. by notacrazy

    On May 18, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    jacyee dugard, sandra cantu, sarah ann wood, adam walsh, mindy tran, lindsey j. baum, michael anthony hughes and many many more… these children were not taken from heir own beds.

    We could do this all day.

  37. by notacrazy

    On May 18, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    for the record.. I don’t “hover” but if hovering is what it takes to keep my child safe from harm then by god that’s what I will/would do.

  38. by Mike

    On May 18, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    notacrazy: The names of the poor souls that you and Donna have posted are all news because of their exceeding rarity. In addition, those names and the many more you could undoubtedly find have occurred over a span of multiple decades and guessing from your list starting in the early 80s with Adam Walsh (i didn’t do research for each name but it looks that way from what I can remember). It is not a weekly occurrence, in fact i venture that it is not even a monthly occurrence in a nation topping 300 million. I think you lack a little perspective.

    I shudder to think of losing my son in such a way but I also shudder to think of losing him if I get T-Boned by a flustered dad on the way to the pediatrician or an idiot on the cellphone yelling at her boyfriend. Notwithstanding that possibility I still drive with my son snugly buckled in a car seat that is strapped so tight to the latch hooks it may as well be welded to the car. It’s the best i can do to minimize the risk and then off I go in a 2,500 pound projectile.

    Why does no one say “the mother should have known better than to drive in a car with her kid safely strapped in! So many kids die in cars you’d be nuts to put them in a properly installed car seat and hit the open road.”

    Why does no one say “the father should have known better than to have built that pool in the back yard with a fence surrounding it. So many kids die in backyard pools surrounded by regulation fences every year you’d be nuts to have one in your back yard.”

    So if not letting your child into a car is what it takes to keep them safe, is that what you will do?

    I’m not trying to say you are a bad mom or I’m the greatest dad — I’m sure your great and love your kid(s) and I know I love mine.

    I just want my son to have as many friends as possible who all don’t end up at someone’s house playing video games and eating hot pockets because their parents won’t let them out of their sight. I’d rather them out jumping a creek, catching frogs, getting hit square in the face from a spirited game of dodge ball, running away from girls with cooties or whatever their imaginations dream up for the 2 or 3 hours they are roaming around like a pack of feral wolves with blue Slurpee tongues.

    Just saying, a little perspective.

  39. by Donna

    On May 18, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Duggard was abducted from her school bus stop. Walsh was a few feet away from his mother in a store. Hughes was signed out of school by his abductor. None were free range roaming children.

    Again, kids are as likely to be taken from their homes (schools, presence of their parents or other places believed to be safe) as they are to be snatched while roaming free. In every case except Walsh, it appears that the child was targeted and the abduction planned rather than a chance encounter. A pedophile that wants your child will get that child even if he has to break into your house or school to do it.

    And all these cases span over a 20 year time period. Yes, each one is a tragedy but kids are far from flying off the streets.

  40. by Gail

    On May 18, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    This is a really interesting idea.

    As a child I belonged to a neighborhood pool, and one of our longtime lifeguards there took a thousand photos, which he just downloaded onto Facebook. I looked at every one of those pictures, taken in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and was struck by the fact that there were NO parents in ANY of the pictures, even photos scanning the whole pool. In 1,000 pictures it was kids, and lifeguards. I’d forgotten we walked to that pool and back, too, through a very urban neighborhood.

    I can’t even imagine giving children such freedom these days. I remember when the Adam Walsh TV movie aired, and a distinct before and after feeling about kids roaming the neighborhood.

    As for myself, my kids are too young and inexperienced in the pool to permit them there alone. But I have started letting my eight-year-old son play on our street, by himself or with friends. I like Lenore’s concept. Her suggestion to give your kids a cellphone was amusing to me. My kid doesn’t know how to use one! Some of his friends do, however.

    She’s on to something. I’m sick of parents judging one another for letting their kids walk to school, or allowing them to play outside by themselves. Enough already. Get a life!

  41. by Telugumom

    On May 18, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    I was born and raised in India. Me and my brother were allowed to go and play with the neighbors and also in the neighborhood parks all by ourselves well before we turned 10yrs old. Most of the times my parents did not even know the kids we regularly played with nor their parents. We turned out fine.

    And compared to US, in India, the streets are crowded and vehicles rarely stop for pedestrians. We were taught at an early age to cross the roads carefully and also ask for help when required. Once when my brother (when he was around 9yrs old) got hurt at the playground and came home with a scraped knee bleeding. My mom cleaned it up and he was back on the playground in 10 mins. That’s what we should teach our kids. If they get hurt, they should know what to do.

    My son is only 2 yrs old but, we encourage him to play by himself. I am desperately waiting for the day when he can ride his bike in the neighborhood all by himself. I remember me,my brother and countless number of our friends riding bikes when we were kids and the enjoyment and those memories last a lifetime. I definitely do not want my son to miss out on those little things.

    YES! We have to be careful but not to the extent that we become paranoid.

  42. by Enerji

    On May 18, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    I LOVE (note sarcasm) how parents who are “into” free-range assume that those of us who don’t think we are all up on our kids and don’t teach independance.

    Just because we keep our children within our watchful eye does not mean we do everything for them or intervene in every aspect of their lives. I have been taking care of children for more than 20 years – HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of children including my own – and let me tell you I encourage independence. I also let them handle their own issues on their own and do “unschooling” with all of them. I push for children to make their own decisions and deal with the rewards and consequences of their choices.

    The children I have cared for are happy, healthy, independent, secure in their own skin, and more selfsufficient then most children.

    I am certainly not a helicopter parent! I am a smart and realistic one!

  43. by Christy Janssen

    On May 18, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Why don’t we start with “leave your child at a birthday party with people you know really well instead of hanging around expecting to be fed.” Seriously, a public park? No. A birthday party with people you have known for a few years? YES.

  44. by Dawn

    On May 18, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    This is hysterical. WHY are parents so afraid to let their kids out of their sight? My kids were outside, playing, going to the public park (no, I didn’t take them there, they walked or rode their bikes, at age 7 and 10, to the part), riding bikes, getting hurt (and coming home to be treated). Not all that long ago, too.

    Free range means letting the child go. Yes, some kids are NOT capable of being left on their own at age 7, 10, or 15. Yes, others ARE capable of being on their own. It’s about the child. Lenore even says that.

    I don’t agree with the parents who “never let X out of my sight”. You may be raising independent kids, but what do they do when they go away to college? Or don’t they leave home so they are still under your eye? My kids have left home, gone to college, and become independent adults at 20 and 22. I am proud of them.

  45. by rhodykat

    On May 18, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    A 16 year old girl just sailed around the world on her own. Any child has the capability to make similar achievements if their parents don’t smother the will and ability to be independent risk takers. Set the children free. They will exceed your expectations.

  46. by Jamie

    On May 18, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Personally, I feel that this is like the ‘drinking alcohol while pregnant’ thing. Your kid MAY be okay in the end but is it really worth the risk? My seven year old (she’s only 6 months old now) would not be out at a park without any adult supervision. To me, this is a far stretch from not letting them be independent until they go to college. I moved out of my parents’ house when I went away to college at 17. I still wasn’t running around at a park without supervision when I was 7 years old. Just taking unnecessary risks in my opinion. It’s one thing to let your kid play in the yard or around the house/neighborhood. It’s quite another to just drop them off somewhere unsupervised. And I think the idea behind someone commenting that this may be illegal is that some people may consider this abandonment, endangerment or some other stretch of child protection laws. Regardless, I think it’s just irresponsible.

  47. by Anne Burke

    On May 19, 2010 at 7:23 am

    I think this is a fabulous idea! If you are concerned why not call your local PD and ask them to drive by the neighborhood playgound -

  48. by mystic_eye

    On May 19, 2010 at 10:47 am

    “If you are concerned why not call your local PD and ask them to drive by the neighborhood playgound”

    That would be fabulous, the police could do their schtick about bike/skateboard safety, stranger danger, etc.

    Maybe the paramedics could come and do some first-aid

    Kids would know that they are part of a larger community.

    Maybe some of the childless people could come out and teach the kids something. They could do fly-tying, or arts and crafts. They could discuss their jobs and later schooling. “Grandparent” aged people could talk about what the world used to be like. What the wars were like.

    Maybe then our kids could be PART of a community, instead of being shunned with their parents.

  49. by Kris

    On May 19, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Why in the world would I need someone to designate a day for me to leave my child alone at a park?! This is about as stupid as “ride your bike to work day”. How are we supposed to teach our children to be independent if we act like lemmings and follow some nobody’s advice?

  50. by Mae

    On May 19, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    My kids have been doing this since they were around 6 or 7(they are now 10 and 12). They have never had any problems and I do not give them a cell phone either. We will be participating on Saturday in the hopes that a few parents will allow their children the freedom of playing around the corner with friends for a bit with you nowhere around. Good luck!

  51. by Krolik

    On May 19, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Kris, of course your decision of when and where to take your children is your own and should be dictated by your needs and theirs, not by some authority figure. The reason for designating a day for taking your children to the park is that, sadly, some of us would really like our children to spend more time outdoors, but have to keep them inside because there are no other kids there. If all the kids came out at the same time, the hope is, they will want to keep coming out again and again and we wouldn’t have to worry about them out there on their own.

  52. by Victoria

    On May 19, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Thanks for featuring Lenore Skenazy’s work, Kara! Free Range Kids is one of my favorite parenting books, one that I give to all of my friends when they have their first baby.

  53. by Alyssa L

    On May 19, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    This is retarded! This is like an open invitation for weirdos and creeps to come in and take everyone’s kids! BADDDDDDDD IDEA!

  54. by velobaby

    On May 20, 2010 at 10:40 am

    So, ride your bike to work day is stupid? My husband and I have been bike commuters for almost 20 years. What’s stupid is shave, text, eat, chat, watch tv, and put on your make-up in your SUV day… oh wait, that’s EVERY DAY.

    Let your kids outside. There aren’t nearly as many creeps as you think. The point is not for them to be alone. The point is for them to be together. Duh!

  55. by Kara Corridan

    On May 20, 2010 at 11:02 am

  56. by Heather

    On May 20, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Are there no parks near where any one lives? We have three with in easy walking distance. Walk to the park, play have fun. If you are leaving the designated “safe” zone come tell Mom, who may say no, depending on time and other circumstanses, if she says yes, go play at the further away park. Come back by the time Mom said. If you don’t you don’t get to go the next X number of times you ask. This works well for oldest sons whos names begin with M. (Ie my oldest) my middle child had a different set of rules. He never left the safe zone. Each kid is unigue. All three of mine are Adults, my husband and I worked hard to give each kid what they needed to grow up as independant as possible, oh, and I still can’t spell.

  57. by Dawn

    On May 21, 2010 at 11:08 am

    This idea is ILLEGAL!!! CPS will be on your case in no time.

    Oh yea.. I am going to leave my kids at the park.. The one that was in the news where they busted a gay sex ring?

    HELL NO!!! My 10, 7, and 4 year olds will be playing in their back yard this weekend, and every other weekend!!!. Sprinkler park? Yep, with ME THERE!!!! I don’t sit and hold their hands while they play. They still get to be kids and come to me as they want.

    I am for homeschooling/unschooling, child lead learning through play. BUT I will be safe about it!

  58. by Enerji

    On May 21, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    STOP ASSUMING that those of us who dont participate in “free range” mean we NEVER let them out of our site. Stop twisting our words. How did ‘not letting a 7yr old alone in a playground’ have ANYTHING to do with college? Kids gain “parentless” time as they get older. A 10 year old is different then a 7 year old. Yes, I would let my 10 year old in a park with friends without me around but not my 7 year old. Stop making us seem like we treat them all the same. The older they get the more distance they gain.

  59. by Enerji

    On May 21, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    For those of you that have kids that are now “adults” – stop using them as examples. Its comparing apples to oranges. You CAN NOT use statistics from years ago to today. Two different worlds. I am 37….my childhood was VERY different then todays world.

    And this whole “crime is down” bullshit is absurd. That is not a valid statistic. Why? Because of many many reasons…. better policing, better forensics, better therapies, more parents keeping a closer eye on their kids, etc. So you CAN NOT compare our childhoods to our childrens. It does not hold factual waters.

  60. by Enerji

    On May 21, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    For Kara Corridan

    I work with special needs children so these comments do not come lightly.

    Its just a word. Any word used in the wrong way of course should be repremanded. But as just describing something – so what.

    We use idiot all the time and do you know what it originally meant? Blind, Deaf and speachless – oh yea….which was originally Blind Deaf and Dumb…another word we use all the time.

    A bit overboard, don’t you think?

  61. by baby-paramedic

    On May 22, 2010 at 1:58 am

    Notacrazy,

    I do not live in the US, so we do not have the children on milk carton phenomena, but I am presuming there would be a finite amount of children on milk cartons.

    On a Friday and Saturday night an inner city crew will average 4-5 young people (usually girls) in one evening that have met uncontrolled situations and came off second best. So, of the 20+ crews running just from the main inner city station that is approx 100. Let us go with a conservative 100 for the whole weekend. That is 5200 per year.

    Even I, who works quite rural, will usually take in at least two a week. I am unaware of more than one case of child abduction in the area, and that was by the non-custodial parent.

    Therefore, it is safe to presume it is much more common to be unable to act appropriately in uncontrolled (inevitably alcohol-fuelled) situations than it is for a child abduction to occur.

    I really do hope that Jen’s daughter is able to act appropriately when faced with unsafe situations. It is a sincere prayer, not one said to be rude or anything else.
    I said the same thing to my siblings when they started venturing out by themselves. I dont want to see them in an ambulance through something preventable by them!

  62. by Shout-Out Saturday | GoodyBlog

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  63. by Amy

    On June 18, 2010 at 7:36 am

    I went to a softball game last night where a registered sex offender was just walking around. I would never let my 7 year go alone to the park. At our local Wal-Mart while a mom turned her head to get something a man took her son in the bathroom and sexual assaulted him. I am the only one that watches out for my kids. I give my kids independence in other ways. I’d rather save their purity then worry if they are “independent” enough. And for the person that said it’s a bigger danger to drive you child then leaving them! How absurd! Being kidnapped and raped are just one part. How about falling off something? Seriously! My nephew is 7 and I doubt he’d listen more with his mom not there.

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