Free-Range Parenting: How To Raise Self-Reliant Children

By dineshdinesh  • 
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How often do you run to hold your child to stop him from falling when he is learning to walk? Or how much do you long to accompany him to school to ensure that he is not facing any trouble there? That urge comes naturally for a parent. But if you overcome the urge to let you child explore things on his own, it is called free range parenting. You will let your kid learn from his experiences. You are not worried that he would commit mistakes, as failures are stepping stones for success.

Interesting? If you want to know whether or not you are free range parent, or willing to become one, read on. MomJunction has put together some relevant information on the parenting concept.

What Is Free Range Parenting?

Free range parenting is a concept where you encourage your child to carry on various age-specific and developmental activities independently. The concept aims at teaching a child practical life skills from the mistakes he makes on the way to becoming independent.

The idea of free range parenting was made popular by the famous pediatrician Benjamin Spock. Doctor Spock’s book, ‘The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care’, published in 1946, became an instant bestseller. The parenting concepts described in the book are all about the idea of free range parenting. It can, generically, be described as the opposite of helicopter parenting.

[ Read: 15 Parenting Styles ]

Opting For Free Range Parenting?

Well, regular parenting is all about monitoring your child’s activities. As a regular parent, you will always help your child overcome his fumbles and mistakes. You would rather tell your child what to do and how to do it. Well, if you want to opt for free range parenting, then you’d follow a different approach.

The idea of free range parenting is one that may have its roots in the old-fashioned way of parenting, which you may or may not agree with. As parents in the 70s and 80s often did, children were allowed to be independent as long as they followed basic rules. For instance, most children who grew up during the 70s and 80s were allowed to go out and play, as long as they would return home before it turned dark. Unlike today, where parents often sit with their children in the park and hold them as they play on the swings or rides, parenting back then was all about letting go but maintaining some rules.

Of course, with the change in times and the shift in a social scenario, changes are but an obvious aftermath. As a parent today, you may not be comfortable with the idea of letting your child go out alone and play in the park, even if he reaches home before it is dark. You may want to monitor your child at all times to ensure that he is safe and sound. The busy routine of a working day may also force your child to follow a routine where there is no scope of offering him a free reign. So, how do you try the concept of free range parenting? Well, before you think more about it, you should first know about both the pros and cons of this particular style of parenting.

The Major Pros And Cons Of Free Range Parenting:

Here is a quick look at the main pros and cons of the free range style of parenting:

The Pros Of Free Range Parenting:

As with any style of parenting, there are both the good results and the bad results that are attached. Here is a detailed look at the pros of the free range parenting:

1. Will Help To Build Your Child’s Confidence Level:

  • When you let your child do some activities independently, your child will learn how to take risks and not be scared of the outcome. It will instill self-confidence in him, and he will be confident that he can do things.
  • Of course, there is a chance that your child may not succeed in what he is trying to do, or that he may get a hurt in the process, but it will be a good learning curve as he will experience things first-hand, without being told how things may happen.

[ Read: Best Parenting Tips ]

  • It is important for you to make sure that your child is safe and not in any danger. When you give your child the freedom to make mistakes and learn, your child will in fact not be scared of the outcome, but will want to try to overcome the problem and his fears.

2. Will Teach Your Child About Failures And Success:

  • It is natural that as a parent, you would want to keep your child protected and away from any harm as much as possible. However, if you follow the tenets of free range parenting, it will mean that you should protect your child whenever needed, but not at all times and not as much as you can.
  • For instance, you may be afraid that if your child lights a match, it could cause a burn, so you will ask him not to light a match. In free range parenting, you will tell him that fire can cause serious burns, so he should be careful while handling fire.

3. Your Child Will Learn To Take Decisions:

  • When your child has to tackle his problems, he will learn to take decisions better. It will enhance his decision-making abilities and offer him the experience of weighing a situation and understanding what will work best.
  • Instead of always looking at you for guidance and suggestions, your child will learn how to assess a situation and also to take note of the resources that he has at hand.
  • As a result, it will promote quick thinking abilities in your child, and he will learn how to work with a calm head even when he is faced with a difficult situation.

4. Other Benefits:

  • Your child will become more confident and it will help to develop his overall personality
  • When faced with a difficult situation, your child will not panic but will know how to think calmly and find the best possible solution for the problem.
  • It will help him analyze situations better and will also improve his logical thinking abilities.
  • Your child will feel proud of himself when he attains success and completes some task.
  • When your child knows that he can handle situations, he will be less anxious and will not get flustered or panicked.
  • As your child will experience situations and things, it will be a big learning curve for him. Instead of only learning from what you tell him or what he reads in books, he will figure out things for himself. It will improve your child’s creative skills as well as encourage him to think quickly.

[ Read: Uninvolved Parenting Style ]

  • Once your child takes a decision, he will learn to stick to it and take responsibility for the same. It will make him more responsible and mature in his decisions.
  • When you let your child mix freely with others, it will also help to improve his communication and social skills. He will learn how to open up to people and how to interact better with others.
  • Instead of wasting time or spending too much time on gadgets or screens, your child will learn how to spend time creatively.

Cons Of Free Range Parenting:

As with any style of parenting, there are both the good results and bad results. And, here is a look at the cons of the free range parenting:

1. Difficult In A Nuclear Family Set-up:

  • Unlike earlier times when most families were joint and neighbors were like an extended family, parents today live with their children alone. It means that you have to be around your child always to know that he is safe and not in the path of any danger.
  • If you are not around with your child, there will be no one else who can make sure that your child has some adult supervision.
  • Also, if your child needs some sudden help, it will be difficult to do so.

2. Child Protection Laws May Term It As Neglectful Parenting:

  • In the US, depending on where you reside, your state laws may not always look kindly at free range parenting.
  • Those who do not believe in giving children too much independence often feel that free range parenting is actually a neglectful way of bringing up children. Often, such people can complain to the authorities concerned who can then book you under the state laws. In some cases, even though the child protection laws are made to ensure that children get the best possible care and protection, the same can obstruct regular and rightful parenting techniques.
  • While you may feel that you are doing your best as a parent by following the free range style of parenting, child protection enforcement authorities may feel otherwise. To ensure that you aren’t accidentally doing something unlawful, know the state laws.

[ Read: Authoritative Parenting ]

3. Be Sure Of What Your Child Can Or Cannot Handle:

  • Before you begin to practice free range parenting, you should understand your child and his ability to handle different situations.
  • You will have to ensure that when you leave your child in a particular situation, he will not panic and instead take an informed and a calm decision. You will also have to ensure that your child is mature enough to handle certain situations and things, and he is safe.
  • Before you hand over responsibility to your child and let him be independent, make sure you take baby steps and inform him about the pros and cons of certain situations. If you leave your child to take care of things while he is still not ready, it could actually backfire and land him in trouble.

4. Other Drawbacks:

  • With several changes in society and concerns about safety, it can be difficult to ensure that your child is safe if you are not around. If you leave him alone, it is possible that he may meet someone who may end up harming your child in some way or the other. In many instances, when you are not around your child, you could make him vulnerable to various threats such as molestation, abduction, or some other form of abuse.
  • You will not be able to monitor who your child meets and interacts with. As a result, you will not have any control on what traits your child would pick up from that person, especially the bad habits and things that you may not approve.
  • One principle of free range style of parenting is that you have to let your child have time for free play. However, with the world being competitive today, you may not want to allow your child that much free time. Instead, you might want him to follow a routine, which will let him concentrate and spend more time on his academic performances.
  • If you are a working mother, it is possible that you leave your child behind with a nanny or at a day care. In case you practice the free range style of parenting, it will be difficult for you to ask the nanny or day care staff to follow the same. Also, just in case, they agree to do so, it may not be the best choice, as you will never really know what your child is doing and how he will manage to cope up with situations that may arise.

[ Read: Top 5 Parenting Mistakes ]

  • If your child knows that he is not always answerable to you and can do things at his pace and the way he pleases, it could make him lazy, and in some cases, irresponsible as well. Also, when you want to discipline your child, he may rebel against you and may not want to listen to you at all.

Striking The Right Balance Between Free Range Parenting And Responsible Parenting:

How do you strike the right balance between free range parenting and responsible parenting? You want your child to have some independence, and at the same time ensure that you don’t relinquish control on him. you need to take the middle path and learn how to work around it. Here are some tips on how you should go about it before you begin to practice free range parenting:

1. Teach Your Child About Problem-Solving Strategies:

  • Before you adopt free range parenting, it is important that you prepare your child for the role. Like a child who will have to take decisions and act independently, there is a lot of responsibility that your little one will have to take.
  • Put your child in simple situations where he will have to come up with solutions. Let him take time and understand the situation first, before he comes to a decision. Ask him to go through all the solutions he thinks will work best and think of the pros and cons.

[ Read: Influence Of Negative And Positive Parenting ]

  • Go by what makes your child comfortable. Some children feel more comfortable and confident when their parents are around while others may feel conscious and shy in front of their parents. If you feel that your child needs you around when he tries something new, be there for him, but let him do it by himself. If you feel that your child becomes self-conscious and cannot do as well because you’re around, give him space and move away for some time.

2. Foresee Possible Situations:

  • When you let your child take responsibility and venture into the world, he will face a host of situations that he may not have had any practice with.
  • While you will surely explain many situations to your child, there will be situations that you cannot always foresee or make him experience, until it actually happens. For such times, it is important that you talk to your child and teach him a basic ‘what if’ kind of approach.
  • To ensure that your child still knows how to handle himself at such times and is safe, get him to practice role plays and other imaginative situations. Also, talk to your child about scenarios and situations that he is likely to face. Tell him what all he can do at such times and ask him how he feels he will react or behave.

3. Don’t Rush Your Child:

  • Letting your child become independent will not happen overnight and is something that will work best when you give your child time to prepare. All children are different, and they react and adapt to situations differently. Understand your child’s pace and work accordingly.
  • Let your child get comfortable with the idea of handling situations himself and becoming more responsible. You can begin by offering him some smaller tasks to do, where you leave everything to him and see how he fares. Once you are sure that he can do smaller things comfortably, put him up to bigger tasks that need more time, patience, understanding, thinking, and maturity.

Appreciate the effort that your child puts in and tell him how proud you are of him.

[ Read: Authoritarian Parenting ]

While free range parenting means that you let your child be independent, it does not mean that you leave everything to your child and don’t supervise him at all. Make sure that you strike the right balance of a parenting style, and let your child grow and learn more too. So, free range parenting may or may not work for you, but it couldn’t hurt you to try it.

Moms, do you follow a free range parenting style, or would you rather be a hovering parent? Share your views and your tips with fellow readers. Comment here. We would love to hear more from you.

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