Ever heard of it? Me either, until my blogging pal Annie wrote about it today. So I did what any self-respecting parent would do---I googled it. Here is what I found: Free-range parenting is a concept whereas parents live responsibly (seat belts, helmets, airbags, etc.), but do not restrict their child's actions out of fear.
I agree with Annie that most of us (40-50 somethings) were raised with the “free range” mentality—there simply wasn’t a label yet. My parents loved me. I don’t doubt it a bit, but they NEVER had a chart on the refrigerator to “track” my grades nor did I EVER receive a sticker for completing my chores. They made it to “most” of my softball games when it was convenient and fit their schedule and yes; I rode my bicycle to many practices, play dates and extra curricular activities (without a helmet, no less). Their lives included me, but didn’t “revolve” around me. I ran in the woods with the neighborhood boys, I played “king of the mountain” with a rusty knife and I smoked a cigarette with the naughty girl across the street. Consequently, I not only have lived to tell the tales, but I have NO sense of entitlement. I don’t expect my boss to overlook when I am late, I don’t expect someone else to make sure I have my lunch, I tend to take chances that have brought great joy to my life, and I don’t tend to blame anyone, but myself, when I screw up.
I remember when our (now 19 year old) son was asked to play on a travel baseball team. My husband and I sat him down and with all the love we could muster announced (in our best Dr. Spock voice) that sometimes the “good of the family outweighed the good of one member” and that traveling all summer long would be both arduous and financially rigorous for our family. We lived with the disagreeing stares from his friend's parents. Weren't we AFRAID that Chad would NEVER get playing time in high school if he didn't play on the travel team? After much discussion, our son reluctantly agreed and, alas, did not play on the “travel team”. At the time, it was a difficult decision; but now that I look back it was providential; as that was the summer we all went on a Caribbean cruise---it ended up being the last vacation before Don’s death. If Chad had played travel ball, that vacation would have been impossible.
As an educator, I come into contact with all types of parents: helicopter parents, consultant parents, drill sergeant parents; but seldom free range parents. Rarely do parents look realistically at their children and furnish the parameters in which they can grow. It is easier to accentuate the positive aspects in our children, than to address those not so attractive dimensions of their character. We want to “save” them from making the mistakes that we made, only to inadvertently set them up to do so anyway. We are AFRAID to allow them the freedom to learn, perhaps fail and then relearn. We are quick to "save" and slow to "guide". It seems easier some how---or is it?
I have not looked at my youngest sons grades since first quarter this year. I was frustrated that he was not achieving as I thought he should. He is disorganized and somewhat scatterbrained, but is extremely contented—definitely a “glass half full” child. He has made honor roll all four quarters, albeit with a couple of C’s. Could he do better? You bet. Do I need to encourage him? You bet. Does he need a cheerleader? Yes, when he does something worth cheering. Does he need someone to take him to task? Yes, when he lacks confidence or drive. Does he need time to figure things out on his own? A HUNDRED TIMES—yes. Is it difficult to sit back and watch? Sometimes, but other times it is exciting to see those synapses taking place in his adolescent brain as he works through each hurdle. Am I this pragmatic all the time? Heck no—wish I could say that I was.
Children need freedom—and limits. They need to be able to make mistakes and learn from them. They need to be treasured enough to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around them and that the difference they make in the world comes from hard work and heart. They need the autonomy to take chances and the discipline that goes with limitations. They need to know that you will always be their cheerleader, but not always their savior. They need to know you will have the integrity to call them out when they are wrong and support them when they are right. They need to be allowed to run through the woods, play “king of the mountain” with a rusty knife and break the rules without you knowing it—why? Because we can talk to them until we are blue in the face, but until they experience the consequences of their actions, they can’t own them. They can’t learn from them and they certainly can’t grow.
This I know for sure…
Writing Challenge - Forever Changed
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