7 Things That Might Happen If You Try Free-Range Parenting
Do you cringe when you see little Suzy’s mom chasing her around the playground with hand sanitizer and a sippy cup of filtered water? Then you might be more aligned with free-range parenting, the antithesis of helicopter parenting. In a world of over-scheduled, over-supervised kids, this parenting philosophy eases up on the constant guidance, letting kids just be kids. Here’s what might happen if you try it.
You Might Get Grief From Other Parents
Exposing your child to anything even remotely risky can be controversial with the parenting crowd. If you tell your friends that your 11-year-old spent the morning at the Natural History Museum alone, be prepared for some nasty comments from your mom crew. (And maybe even legal action.) Just remember: Every parent thinks they’re a parenting expert, but you know your child best. Just because your friend’s child isn’t mature enough doesn’t necessarily mean your kid isn’t.
But Your Child Might Be Happier
Letting your kid make her own choices (like eating a peanut-butter-and-M&M’s sandwich for lunch just this once) not only makes her feel good, it might actually make her happier, Jim Taylor, Ph.D., notes in Psychology Today. Take off the pressure and stop monitoring her every move, and you might decrease your child’s stress level. You’ve seen her burst with pride the first time she brushed her teeth alone—imagine how she’ll be after her first solo trip to the bus stop.
You Might Feel More Anxious
Letting go and giving your kids the space they need to succeed (and of course, fall off the monkey bars) isn’t easy. All of the “what ifs” can increase exponentially when you’re free-ranging it. If this new parenting style is putting you in a constant state of panic, step in and intervene more often. When you’re feeling relaxed, chances are your kid will be, too.
You Might Build Trust with Your Child
Sure, if you let your kid go on an unaccompanied bike ride, he might hit a pothole and fall off his bike. Or take a wrong turn and get totally lost. Or ride to the convenience store and buy $50 worth of Pixy Stix. Or he might come back from a totally fun bike ride in one piece. If you stop dictating his actions and give him an increasingly longer leash, you’ll begin to build a relationship based on trust instead of fear.
Your Kid Might Get Hurt
It’s true. But guess what? You’ll never be able to prevent every injury, even if you strap on kneepads every time she leaves the house. Teaching your child how to use caution (and if needed, protective gear) in risky situations might be even more valuable than preventing that one scraped knee.
But They Might Learn Important Lessons
No parent wants to think of their child feeling scared or hurt, but learning through action is so much more powerful than learning through words. If they experience adversity and have to use their own problem-solving skills to manage (like encouraging your daughter to talk it out with the boy who took her toy at recess, rather than immediately calling the school), there’s a much higher chance these lessons will stay with them.
You Might Get to Know Your Child Better
Kids mature at different rates and have different strengths and weaknesses, so free-range parenting isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Before letting him explore, you’ll have to get to know your kid inside and out in order to make decisions about what he can and cannot do alone. (Solo skateboard ride to the end of the driveway? Sure. Solo skateboard ride downtown? Maybe not until he’s practiced a few more months.) Get ready to know your kiddo better. Best of all, he’ll learn more about himself, too.