A Review: Free Range Kids, by Lenore Skenazy

While reading this book I’ve had a great many conversations, all of which have been with superb parents who are doing things right.  Still, each parent had a different take on the book.  While some lean more toward a free range lifestyle for their kids, others are a bit less inclined to agree.

Lenore Skenazy preaches giving kids more of an opportunity to live like kids of the past, with more freedom to do things on their own while gaining the responsibility and independence kids seems to yearn for.  She also emphasizes the importance of teaching your kid what to be aware of while not being over the top.  For example (one of my favorite take-aways), don’t teach your children NOT TO TALK to strangers, instead, teach your children NOT TO GO OFF with strangers.  I found myself loving some chapters and wanting more thorough research in others (i.e., why has the crime rate been going down since the 90s? She mentions more law enforcement, better prosecution of criminals, cell phones, and medical and social work system.  But what about parents being more watchful of their kids?  Shouldn’t that hold some water in this argument?) 

If you read this book, you will be laughing.  I did, especially during Chapter 4: Boycott Baby Knee Pads.  I read about kid gadgets that couldn’t get more ridiculous.  And then there was Chapter 2: Turn Off the News.  This I have actually done.  My psyche can’t take all of it.  I dwell on the bad long after I’ve viewed it.  And that is why I have stopped watching the nightly news (am I bit disconnected? Yes), all iterations of Law & Order, all iterations of CSI, 48 Hours, Dateline, Criminal Minds, Body of Proof, and well, you get the gist.  Skenazy says the news and these shows feed off fear and I don’t need help nourishing my tendency to worry.  The book also goes on about how experts can tell us one thing and then another thing later (e.g., don’t put sunscreen on your kids.  And then later, turns out kids aren’t getting enough vitamin D [which we get from sun], let them play outside…but only for 15 minutes without sunscreen.)  This gets exhausting.

As you can tell, I liked the book.  I agreed with several of the points.  And while I may not let my kid ride on the subway at age 9 (maybe age 12, 13.  I’ll have to see what I think when my kids get there), I am all for letting your kid fall at the park and not help them up (I’ve actually done this a lot and have received a few stare-downs from other parents because of it).  I am also fine with letting my kid sit in a grocery cart without the protection of a seat cover.  Still, I am protective too.  I like my kidlet to play in the backyard and not the front yard without my supervision.  I don't want to be a neglectful parent.  I don't want anything AT ALL to ever happen to my kid, of course!  I guess the point is, you’ve got to find a balance between fear, freedom, and fun.  And that’s what the book is about.  The author also wants you to empower your kids so they can fend for themselves when it comes time, preferably before the age of 21, or even 18.

This topic requires a lot more discussion, as it is complex, and there is more to it than just relaxing as a parent.  But this is a blog post, and as such, I will conclude.  What do you guys think?  I'd recommend the book.  It makes you think, even if you don't agree with the premise.


jo said...

Thank you for the review of this book. It has been recommended to me by several people and I appreciate your insights.

I think I border on being too protective and would like to find realistic ways to ease up a bit. Would you recommend this book for that? And I do think educating your children is key. There is nothing more valuable than having open lines of communication too. But I cannot back either of those up with any research :)

Great discussion. We'll have to continue.

Kelsey said...

Great review! I'm passing this recommendation along to my sisters.