Is “Free-Range” Parenting Bad?

Why the state (and your neighbor) may think so.

Have you ever let your kids play in the yard unsupervised, or walk alone to a nearby park? Such activities may in fact be “unsubstantiated child neglect,” according to the Montgomery County Child Protective Services. For the past two months, CPS has been investigating a Maryland couple who decided to let their 10-year-old and six-year-old walk a mile from the local park to their home—unaccompanied. That’s when the police picked up their children. The Washington Post reports:

The Meitivs said they would not have allowed the one-mile outing from Woodside Park to their home if they did not feel their children were up to it. The siblings made it halfway before police stopped them. …

The Meitivs’ case has produced strong reactions about what constitutes responsible parenting, how safe children really are and whether the government overstepped its role.

The Meitivs, both scientists by training, embrace a “free-range” philosophy of parenting, believing that children learn self-reliance by being allowed to make choices, build independence and progressively experience the world on their own.

Lenore Skenazy, a New York journalist who wrote the article “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone,” told the Post, “The go-to narrative in the last 20 or 30 years for parents was, ‘Take your eyes off your kid for even a second and he’ll be snatched.’ What the Meitiv case did was pivot the story to: ‘Give your kid one second of freedom and the government will arrest you.’”

“The Meitivs, as it happens, are ‘free-range parents’ who have a very coherent philosophy about giving children more independence,” Hannah Rosin wrote yesterday for Slate. “They had let their children walk home alone that day only after practicing and felt the kids were ready. What they learned from the latest CPS decision, Danielle Meitiv wrote me, is that ‘teaching independence clearly IS a crime.’”

I don’t know if Meitiv is completely correct, however. Our culture champions individualism and independence. Perhaps the larger lesson here is that teaching trust is a crime.

Read the rest at The American Conservative

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