What You Need to Know About Free Range Parenting


“Back in my day, I walked fifteen miles to and from school, without supervision. In my day, kids knew how to fend for themselves.”

If you have grandparents or older friends and family members, you probably heard a sentiment similar to this. Generations of decades past love reminding the new generation of how easy they have it. They laud the benefits of having to depend on their own skills and instincts, of having more common sense than today’s children. This logic transforms into the fears of kids spending too much time indoors and not enough time out exploring the world.

Through the debate of the dangers of helicopter parenting emerges a new technique in how to raise children. But what is helicopter parenting, you may wonder? It is the term coined by Dr. Haim Ginott in his 1969 book Parents & Teenagers. It refers to a parent that hovers too closely to their kids and focuses too much on their activities. They generally overprotect children, preventing adolescents from developing proper coping and social skills. In response, more parents are looking towards “free range parenting” to raise their kids.

What is Free Range Parenting?

“Free range kids” is a movement started by Lenore Skenazy, where parents treat their children as capable, competent human beings. This technique gives children more independence and allows them to be self-sufficient. Parents teach their kids about safety and then trust them to stay home alone or ride their bikes to school without supervision.

Some supporters of free range parenting say that this method has been around for ages. Elinor Ochs, anthropologist at UCLA, states,

Free-range parenting' sounds like children are politically correct chickens. Outside the contemporary middle class U.S., typically developing, intelligent, school-age children the world over, living in post-industrial urban environments or small-scale communities, are demonstrably self-reliant in basic life skills, including finding their way home and running errands. In addition, they are expected to care for younger siblings and otherwise help hard-working parents to keep the family and household intact … What has changed in the U.S. parenting zeitgeist is a shift from what the late historian Tony Judt called 'the politics of social cohesion' (trust in a secure and stable social infrastructure) to 'the politics of fear' (think 'terrorism' on every street corner).

Indeed, it seems more parents are more protective of their children. That is why there has been such a backlash against children being left on their own. It led people and news outlets to call Lenore Skenazy “the world’s worst mom,” In some cases, others will call Child Protective Services against parent who utilize free range parenting. However, these worries may be going too far.

California does not have a set age limit in which children can stay home alone. The states allow the parents to use their best judgement. This means that the parents get to decide what is best for their kids.

How Does Free Range Parenting Affect Custody Agreement?

Free range parenting is highly debated and can be a divisive topic. While some parents might agree that allowing children independence will help them develop, others may disagree. This matter becomes more contentious when divorced parents must share custody of their children. When one parent believe in raising free range kids, while the other is more protective, what does this mean for custody agreements? Under California law, parents who share custody of their children must work together to decide what is best for their kids. However, if they cannot come to an agreement, they will need to go to court. A judge will decide if either parenting methods endanger the kids and what is in their best interests.

Often, disputes about free range parenting can be quite heated. As a parent, you have certain rights when deciding how your child is raised. Contact our Rancho Cucamonga family law specialist to fight protect these rights. We fight on behalf of parents to ensure you get the custodial rights you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation!

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