Friday, January 22, 2010

Are Free-Range Parents Uninvolved?

Linda Murray, the editor-in-chief of BabyCenter.com, who was on the Dr. Phil Show with me, made the comment that free-range parents are less involved in their children's lives. I respectfully totally disagree. I can see where she might have gotten that idea, but none of the free-range parents I know would be consider uninvolved. I would make the argument that free-range parents are actually MORE involved in their children's lives.

I keep thinking, as I rush from activity to activity or try to juggle which friends are coming over to play, just where my free time is going if I'm so uninvolved in the lives of my children. It's not like I kick them out of the house and tell them not to come back until dark like parents a generation ago were fond of doing. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy when they find friends to play with and other houses to visit in the neighborhood, but there aren't many kids in our neighborhood, so it doesn't happen that way much. When my children get together with their friends, it usually takes parental involvement. So, I do my fair share of driving my kids to other houses and meeting parents at the park.

The fact of the matter is that it takes a lot of work to be a free-range parent. Would I have let my son walk to soccer alone if that trip had been the first time he had walked in our neighborhood? No way. I had walked with him, his dad had walked with him, his grandparents had walked with him. You can't send your child out to do something alone without first teaching him or her how to do it. My middle daughter can now cook a few things alone on the stove. How many hours do you think we spent cooking with her before she was able to do it alone? More often than not, that help came at the expense of a quickly cooked meal because it takes more time to teach someone than to just do it yourself.

I spend much of my time with my children teaching them things that will make them more independent and better people (at least I hope they will!). And, just because I'm not by their side every step of the way doesn't mean I'm not there in the background somewhere. I don't get on the horse when they ride, but I'm there because I drove them there. I don't do their schoolwork for them or drive forgotten homework to school, but I do remind them to get their stuff together before they leave. I was amazed the other day at my girls' elementary school when the principal mentioned that they have a large number of parents who are frequently bringing things to school that their children have forgotten – homework, clothing items, etc. I have been known to drive a critical piece of homework or a book to school once in a great while (which usually means my children are so distraught over the consequences of the missing item that they have convinced a teacher to let them use a cell phone to call me), but rather than spend my time running around taking care of what my children are supposed to be taking responsibility for, I try to help them develop routines and practices that help them learn that responsibility. Plus, it doesn't hurt once in awhile to refuse to bail them out and let them suffer the consequences for a mistake. They won't forget after that.

So, I challenge the assertion that free-range parents are uninvolved. I submit that free-range parents are, in fact, more involved because in order to give our children the freedom that they so desperately need, we first must teach them how to use that freedom appropriately.

2 comments:

Natalie | The Bobby Pin said...

I do worry about kids being so busy these days. Where is the time to be free-range for them, you know? I suppose you do!

Lori LeVar Pierce said...

Natalie, you make a very good point. It's something I'm working on myself. I found that I wanted my children involved in anything that interested them, but then they had no time to be free-range.

I'm working on cutting back on our commitments - with my support from my children. They want to be involved in less, so we are slowing backing out of things.

Prime example. This week is our spring break. I offered several choices of places we could go. They all wanted to just stay home (and sleep, added my 8-year-old). We have some spring cleaning to do, so we are staying home.