Sunday, August 30, 2009

Catablogue: Free-Range Kids

Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Kids the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry

This blog has a mission: to reduce paranoid parenting and increase children's autonomy. Its sidebar proclaims that free-range parents "do NOT believe that every time school-aged children go outside, they need a security detail." Instead, what kids need is instruction on how to keep themselves safe and then opportunities to practice those lessons. Teach them how to cross a street, how to respond to a threatening stranger, how to wear a bike helmet, how to read a bus schedule, how to use a telephone, etc.--and then let them walk to school, bike to a friend's house, hop a city bus to the library, and so forth.

One could get the impression from news stories and radio show hosts that the world is a foreboding place for our children--full of danger at every turn in the form of kidnappers and sex offenders lurking in the bushes, or poisons and allergens in school cafeterias and city park sandboxes. However, Free-Range Kids seeks and shares facts regarding the dangers that children face (many of which are statistically quite improbable) in an effort to convince contemporary parents to go ahead and let their kids out of their sight once in a while.

Kids must develop in their youth the skills needed to live independently later in life. They require a degree of freedom in order to test their boundaries and explore the world in which they live. Although parents must, of course, take steps to ensure that their children are relatively safe, they need not live in perpetual fear. Unfortunately the paranoid parents most in need of reading Free-Range Kids aren't likely to. Instead they're too busy escorting Junior to every single soccer practice--or walking him across the street on his way to a neighbor child's house--or laying out his toys so that he needn't face the psychological dangers of having to make up his own games (or his own mind) during playtime--or contacting a lawyer to initiate a frivolous law suit against some entity or another for failing to prevent some harm that has befallen Junior but that could not have been foreseen or that was a natural circumstance of Junior's own actions.

But if you know any people who are only moderately over-protective parents, there may still be hope for them yet! Take them to Free-Range Kids and read through some of the posts together. Their children will probably thank you!

(What is a catablogue?)

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