Free-Range Parenting: Do You Let Your Kids Roam Around Alone?

January 23, 2015  |  

A Maryland couple recently found themselves at the center of a heated parenting debate when they were charged with neglect after letting their two children play in the park alone. Danielle Meitiv says someone called authorities when they spotted her kids, ages 10 and 6, walking home from a nearby playground unsupervised and things went downhill from there.

“I was just visited by two representatives of Montgomery County Child Welfare Services because a ‘helpful’ neighbor called them about my children who were at the park,” Meitiv wrote to free-range parenting advocate, Lenore Skenazy. “These reps told me that Maryland law prohibits me from allowing my six-year-old to go to the park, which is two blocks away in a residential neighborhood, with her 10-year old brother but no adult.”

According to the Meitiv’s, they were threatened with a fine and jail time if they let their children walk to the park alone. However, Mrs. Meitiv is undeterred and vows to let her child roam around alone again, but would you?

Many of us have fond memories of being able to stay out and play unattended until the street lights came on, but some parents these days are too worried about crime and potential predators to let their children explore their neighborhood solo.

Back in 2008, journalist Lenore Skenazy set off a fierce debate and was even dubbed “the worst mom in America” after admitting she let her nine-year-old son ride the New York City subway alone. Soon after, Skenazy began advocating “free-range” parenting, which gives kids more freedom to explore and learn about the world on their own. She sees it as a necessary counter to the overprotective “helicopter” approach to parenting, which she argues prevents kids from having the same sort of freewheeling childhood their parents enjoyed.

“These are things we all did on our own, and now we don’t let our children do,” she told the Washington Post. “There is no real or rational reason except we’re fearful.”

Indeed crime rates have continued to fall across the nation and our major cities are much safer than they were in the 1980s and 1990s. Still, some parents are uneasy about letting their children out of their sight.

I struggle with this as well. As the mother of a 9-year-old boy who is full of energy and curiosity I want to be able to let him play and explore on his own. Still, I don’t let him get too far out of my sight for fear I’ll end up like Meitivs, or worse, my son will end up like 12-year-old Tamir Rice who was fatally shot by Cleveland police while he played in the park.

Holding on too tightly to children and controlling their every move isn’t helpful, but when do you know it’s time to let go?

Do you let your children play at the park or stay home alone? 

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