The Problem With Free-Range Parenting (+Free Range Parenting Statistics)

All About Free-Range Parenting and Why I Don’t Support It

free range kid

The above picture represents a moment in time where I decided not to supervise my young child. We were at a very large playground and I chose to record him instead of  stepping in and focusing on making sure he was safe. My son was a toddler at the time and he was spinning really, really fast. In moments he fell down, head first. I felt like a complete fool.

My kid almost got really hurt, and while this happens in parenting, it is better to be safe than sorry. Accidents happen, but kids (especially littles) definitely need parental supervision. My son taught me an important lesson that day, as many young kids do.

“Keep an eye on me mom, I’m too little to know how to take care of myself”. 

Additionally, you have to think about child abductors. Even if your child is capable of walking by himself/herself, they could be abducted by an adult. And while there are ways to teach children about strangers, children are still not as mentally smart and strong as adults. Their brains have yet to be fully developed.

According to Credit Donkey, every forty seconds a kid goes missing in the United States. Sound alarming? It is.

Why take the risk? Yes, it can happen to anyone, in fact it can happen to a child in their own backyard, but parenting is always about finding a middle ground. I’ve never been a fan of extreme parenting styles.

familyeducation has a list Some Extreme Parenting Styles, Including:

  • Free-Range
  • Helicopter Parenting
  • Tiger Parenting

There are many more examples of “extreme” parenting styles but most of them lack the compromise needed for being a good parent.

The Legality Of Free-Range Parenting

Utah just passed the first free-range parenting laws that protect free range parents from getting in trouble with the law and having their children being taken away. Utah is the first state to legalize free-range parenting.

What Is Free-Range Parenting?

In terms of parenting, here is the free range definition:

Free-range parenting is a type of parenting that supports children in their independence. While independence is important, free-range parenting is a type of parenting that supports limited parental supervision, something that I cannot even fathom. Let’s dive into this deeper.

Why I don’t like free-range parenting.

Disclaimer: I promise this is an opinion piece, It is not intended to shun parents who choose this parenting style. While I may sound harsh at times, I am not shunning those who choose to free-range parent. This is only my perspective, which I choose to be honest about. 

What is free-range parenting?

My Thoughts On Free-Range Parenting

My very short experience with free-range parenting helped me get a grasp on the importance of being very involved in my child’s life (within reason). Supervision is required of kids of every age, and even teenagers. No kid should be a part of the free range kids movement.

I’m not going to say that there weren’t times after this experience where I should have been paying more attention to my son than I was. Just like all human beings, moms make mistakes.  What I do know is that I would never raise my children free-range.

I am not a helicopter parent. My five-year-old can go to the neighbors house to play. He can join the other children playing outside. But he can’t go to Dairy Queen by himself. Seems like common sense, right?

As children grow older, they need less supervision. My son, when “the incident” happened, needed all eyes on him at the playground. When he went on the swings, or anything that moved, he needed me next to him to make sure he played safe. That’s why, when I wasn’t paying attention like I should have, he got hurt.

Now my son can play on the playground while I’m watching from a short distance. He can go to the neighbors next-door or play in the backyard by himself for short period of time. But he can’t do much else outside on his own, because he’s five.

However, some free-range parents allow their young children  to walk  long distances and do other surprising tasks by themselves. In one case, a free-range parent from Oregon let her six-year-old child walk a mile alone.

While I think it’s up to the parent on how they want to parent their children, neglect and abuse come to mind as the exceptions to this rule. I’m not sure if free-range parenting is neglect, I’m on the border with this one. However, some beg to differ and do call free-range parenting neglect.

You have to think not only can your child get hurt walking a mile by themselves at such a young age, they can also get taken.

Better safe than sorry? In this situation, I think yes.

If you have thoughts on this topic, please comment below! I would be happy to have a mature discussion.

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-Holly, the imperfect momma.



    • Thanks for your feedback! I couldn’t agree more! My son is so precious to me I would have way too much anxiety if I gave him that much freedom. It’s all about meeting in the middle! Somewhere between helicopter parenting and free-range parenting!


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