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The Free Range Child

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by JR, May 14, 2008.

  1. JR

    JR Well-Known Member

    A propos of the old-school sports parenting board, I just came across this article in the Globe & Mail about parents who are scaling back on organized kids activities and letting "kids be kids".


    As so-called hyperparenting continues to dominate modern childrearing with its flash cards, over-programming, hovering and handholding, a number of conscientious objectors are taking a big step back.

    They are not slacker parents – they don't celebrate 3 p.m. martinis and serve Happy Meals for dinner.

    But they are returning to a parenting style in which kids' time is filled with free play, unsupervised activities and plenty of downtime. Some call it free-range parenting.

    The focus is the author of a new book "Under Pressure: Rescuing Childhood from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting"

    I posted the following anecdote on the sports parenting board but it's worth repeating in the context of this discussion.

    A friend of mine--about the same age--once said to me, "You know the difference between us and our parents? Our parents ignored us".

    Struck me as funny at the time but it is perfectly true. They did not dote on us. Clothes, food, shelter, an education, sports and if they insisted, piano lessons. Come home for dinner and be back in the house when the street lights came on
  2. I seem to have a natural gift for this sort of thing.
  3. Barsuk

    Barsuk Active Member

    Funny you should post this, JR, because my wife and I were just talking about it the other day. If we ever decide we're unselfish enough to have kids, I would like to believe we will raise "free range" children.

    I think today's kids are coddled to the point they don't have to learn any responsibility or independence until they're out from under their parents' roof (if then; see: parents, helicopter) and I wonder how they'll react when they enter the "real world."

    I rode my bike across town to the swimming pool every day of every summer of my youth. I left after lunch (the pool opened at 1 p.m.) and was expected to be back for dinner. Most parents wouldn't dream of letting their little darlings do that now, at least not without a GPS tracker, a cell phone and a medic alert bracelet.
  4. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    And we walked fifteen miles in the snow to school, and caught raccoons for supper, and played ball with a wad of grandad's used toilet paper....

    As for today's kids, when all of Timmy's friends are signing up for baseball and hockey, and going to the local camp for the summer....you're going to say, 'This is much better, we will make NO plans for you, you'll love it! Just hang out and play! What do you mean 'With who?''
  5. Barsuk

    Barsuk Active Member

    I guess like anything else there are degrees of "free-range parenting." I wouldn't suggest NO structured plans (I would want my kids to play in sports leagues, if they wanted to, go to camp, if they wanted to, etc.) but I think this is more of a backlash against the soccer moms who have to have a color-coded calendar posted on the refrigerator to keep track of which kid goes to what practice/activity on a given day ... and every day is fully booked. It's no wonder all these kids have ADD, because parents have packed their days and nights with activities so they're never unsupervised.

    Let a kid be a kid, that's all I'm saying.
  6. JR

    JR Well-Known Member

    I don't think it says anywhere that kids shouldn't have ANY organized activities

    It's this idea that not only does Little Johnny have hockey three times a week, he's also got: swimming and piano lessons; a play date every second Tuesday with Gord; golf, canoeing and gourmet cooking classes on the weekend; and, a wilderness survival course starting the day after school ends.

    In the meantime, he's not allowed to cross the street by himself, has no clue how to use the subway, bus or streetcar because mommy drives him everywhere and his parents are debating whether to let him ride his bike to school. And he's 12.

    Little Johnny also has no clue how to amuse himself and relies on his parents for all his entertainment solutions.
  7. Huggy

    Huggy Well-Known Member

    My son is eight. We made it clear to him as soon as he started showing interest in playing sports that he got one sport a season. I don't drive and with our work schedule - particularly mine during hockey season - it would be very difficult to get hm all over the place through the week.

    So he plays baseball in the summer, takes swimming lessons in the winter and skating lessons in the spring. Other than that he's tearing around the neighbourhood on his bike, shooting hoops with the kid two doors up or helping my wife in the garden.

    A guy in my office has a six-year-old boy who this summer alone is playing on three hockey teams and he's also playing lacrosse. While his parents are spending all their time on him, what's his younger sister get out of it?
  8. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    Do you actually know little Johnny, or is this just a trite stereotype for people who like to judge how other people should live their lives?

    I think there are kids who have too much to do, and kids who thrive on being busy. I suspect in most cases, the parents are in a pretty good position to judge.

    And in defense of the mythical soccer moms with the color coded calendars...say you have three kids. Each one plays baseball. So that's maybe what, two games a week plus a practice for each. Nine or ten events. One has a math tutor, one goes to art class, one has a speech therapist. A few more events. Add an ortho appointment and a dentist visit, etc etc etc. And that all happens between maybe 3 and 6 in the afternoon.

    So yeah, I have great admiration for those cartoon soccer moms, because I can't always remember to feed the dog.
  9. JR

    JR Well-Known Member

    Uh, no it's not a stereotype. I do know, have known parents who fit that description. Since I'm a parent, I used to run into those people on a regular basis.

    Micromanaging kids lives extends far beyond the non-stop scheduling of activities. Did you actually read the article?
  10. ink-stained wretch

    ink-stained wretch Active Member

    Whatever works.

    First heathen was raised in the wilds of Oregon and Arkansas in the '70s. A true free ranger. Played football in high school, otherwise it's always been individual sports. He now is a straw boss of an interstate paving crew, speaks impeccable Spanish and makes more money than the ol' man.

    Second heathen was raised in the wilds of Arkansas and cosmopolitan Virginia and Ohio in the '80s. He now works two jobs while saving up scratch to complete last year of college. Played football in high school, swim team every summer from age six.

    Third heathen is being raised in the midwest. Her favorite occupation is hoeing. (Anybody makes a crack and I will find you and I shall hurt you). Eight years of ballet, nine years of swimming and has lettered as a sophomore. Semi free ranger. Lord knows how she will turn out. Two piercings but no tats.

    Whatever works.
  11. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    I read the article, it's about a guy promoting a book, repeating the usual woe-are-the-kids warnings.

    I know obnoxious parents who do too much too....I know far more who have common sense and balance. The former certainly makes for better copy.
  12. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I remember getting a new (used) bike with a speedometer for my 10th birthday and putting 35 miles on it the first day, riding all over town.

    My kids don't go out of the neighborhood.
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