Friday, January 22, 2010

Are Free-Range Parents Uninvolved?

Linda Murray, the editor-in-chief of, 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.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Advice from Dr. Michele Borba

Here is a link to a blog post by Dr. Michele Borba, who was on the Dr. Phil Show with me. She was great on the show and I really enjoyed her advice. I love her rubber band theory of parenting. We all grow by stretching our limits - especially children. Just not so far that we break the rubber band (yes, free-range parents do have limits). The freedoms we give our children must be appropriate to their age and maturity.

The philosophy of free-range parenting is about not being afraid of what "could happen" when our children are ready to do things on their own. Be realistic about what probably will happen. For instance, when I leave my children home alone (just the younger two, btw, unless I'm just running to the grocery story around the corner to get something for dinner) I am more worried about them fighting and someone getting their feelings hurt than of a predator entering my house. The fighting is much more likely, plus I have an alarm system I can leave on.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dr. Phil Show

There are clips online and written summaries of what we talked about on the show and some of my philosophies that didn't make it on the air. I'd love to hear anyone has to say about this topic. I think it is timely and important. The other guests and I could have talked all day about it - too bad the show was only an hour.

Here is also a clip Dr. Phil showed about how to teach your children to resist stranger abduction. We hope our children will never have to use these skills and the statistics really are on our side that they never will, but it's best to be prepared. I'm going to make sure my kids see this and practice it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

I'm on the Dr. Phil Show

I taped an episode of the Dr. Phil Show just before Christmas and it will air on Tuesday, Jan. 5th. The subject is parenting, specifically overparenting versus free-range parenting. You can read the blurb about it at There is also a link on that page to local listings if you don't know when Dr. Phil is broadcast in your area.

I'd love to hear what you think of the show and the topic. Leave me a comment!