A show of hands here — how many of you, when you were kids, would holler to your mom “Bye, I’m going out to play” and then you got on your bike or skateboard and disappeared down the street?
Now, if you actually raised your hands, you are silly, because I can’t possibly see them. Also, you were also probably a free range kid.
Do you picture a mother sitting at a computer, in her pajamas, playing Assassin’s Creed, while her child is panhandling at the Walmart down the street? Or is it a father who sends his kid to the 7-11 for a pack of cigarettes?
Some, if not most parents, might think that this style of parenting is scary, dangerous, and down right irresponsible. To me, however, that’s the way my friends and I grew up, and for the most part I don’t see anything wrong with giving my kids the same freedom.
True free range kids do have limitations and boundaries. You may disagree with a free range parent’s judgement, but that doesn’t make them wrong. Fair enough?
The fact is, the older you are, the more free range you probably were when you were a kid.
Take Me For Example
I grew up in the 70’s. I was six when the decade began. My childhood was typical for that time period, but if I were to experience that childhood now, my parents would probably be referred to as free range parents, or even worse…..neglectful.
What Was So Special About the 1970’s?
Nothing really. The 1970’s weren’t some sort of golden age for growing up or anything like that, but they were the end of an era. It was the last decade in which children spent the majority of their time playing outside, largely unsupervised. Even though most of us were free range, we had no concept of the term.
So, what was it like growing up as a free range 70’s kid.
When Kids Ran Amok!
- We treated every back yard in the neighborhood as if it was our own. We walked on fences, picked cherries, climbed in the trees and played hide-and- seek in our neighbors’ backyards. Often these neighbors didn’t even have kids, and you know what? They never ran us off.
- My friends and I walked six blocks to school, starting in first grade. We walked, rain or shine, and our parents didn’t worry about it because that was normal. When school got out, we walked home and played kickball, football, basketball or baseball until it was too dark to see. Note: We didn’t walk to school during blizzards, uphill, both ways (that was my father’s generation).
- We often went down to a pond, where we’d catch frogs, toads, crawfish and catfish. We rode there on bicycles and skateboards without helmets, and we always came back, wet and muddy and smelly. We never got yelled at, because it was normal and expected.
- Everyone had BB guns and we hunted sparrows, frogs and sometimes each other.
- Our group had plenty of dirt clod wars and snowball fights. Sometimes one of us got hit in the face, but nobody ran home crying. Sometimes fist fights broke out, but we made up and our parents never even knew. We learned to negotiate, and to mend fences, all by ourselves.
- In the summer, we drank out of water hoses, went shoe-less for days at a time, and didn’t wear shirts unless we went to church.
- All of us played outside 90% of the time and it didn’t matter if it was summer or winter. Once we stepped outside the door, our parents didn’t know where we were, we might be gone ten minutes or 10 hours, but our parents didn’t worry, because that was our normal!
When it was all said and done, I came out of childhood with two concussions, no stitches and no broken bones, which I’d say is not too bad, for a free range kid.
And The Point Is?
The point of talking about free range parenting is this: for the last 40 years, there has been a steady migration of our kids moving away from spending time in the outdoors, exploring their environment, testing their limits and learning responsibility. Instead, kids are spending an incredible amount of time in the house, immobile and with their faces glued to a screen. They are eating more, getting less exercise and losing out on all those outdoor experiences that previous generations enjoyed. I see this as a problem and I bet you do too.
What About Your Kids?
Were the parents of my generation irresponsible? Did we have too much freedom? I want you to ask yourself a few questions.
- Do your your kids spend too much time holed up in their rooms or on the couch staring at a screen?
- Are your kids short on energy? Are they overweight?
- Do they seem to lack enthusiasm for playing outside?
- Are your kids able to make decisions? Do they have a concept of personal responsibility and can they act independently?
- Do you worry about what would happen if you were to allow your little ones to explore the world outside, out from under your shadow?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, what are you going to do about it? Do you even know? Does the idea of giving your children more space and freedom scare you? Do you need ideas, or maybe a little support?
I have a lot of ideas as to why helicopter parenting has become so popular and why your kids are content with lying around the house with their noses stuck to a computer screen. I also have some ideas for getting your kids out of the house, but there’s too much information to cram into one article. So part two is coming up next week.
If you enjoyed this article and don’t want to miss part two, please sign up for my newsletter, Timeout. That way you will always get the links to all of my articles, plus recipes and other cool stuff. To sign up, just click here.
Until next time, enjoy the warming weather and get out with your kids to spend some time in God’s creation.
Brian at Daddy Go To Timeout
Still not sure whether you’re a free range, helicopter, or lawn mower parent? Take my Free Range Parent Quiz. It’s easy, enlightening, and might even make you laugh! Just click on the sample page below: