Saturday, June 30, 2012

Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts With Worry by Lenore Skenazy

Jossey-Bass, c2009

Disclosure: I have a daughter born in 2004, and I received a copy of this book as a gift.  After reading it, and just about every day since, I ask myself “what was I doing when I was the age my daughter is now?”  And usually the answer horrifies me – I was riding my bicycle to the park by myself, I walked to school (with other children on my street), I played outside with friends outside of parental line of sight and so on. 

And what did my parents think about this at the time?  Were they worried constantly?  I never thought so then, so why do I get so worried now?  In Free Range Kids, Skenazy outlines the statistical chances of any harm coming to children given such free range as I have described above, and – spoiler alert – it isn’t very high. 

The book overall advocates a relinquishing of control (or more specifically the illusion of control), and developing a trust of your child’s maturity and capabilities.  Instead of worrying, we should be helping our children develop confidence and independence – teach them what to do in threatening or dangerous situations – entirely more useful to them than sequestering and planning everything for them.  It also includes a look at the historical development of the growing influence of fear and worry in North American parenting, and tips on how to teach children about safety, and how to worry less about needless things.  The book is well written with much useful advice to impart, although some of the humour (given in an excessive number of parenthetical asides) falls a little flat.

This would make a great book club book in certain circumstances – if your group members have children, or can relate to the topic of parenting, or if you determine that they hold strong opinions on the matter of child supervision or education.

Discussion Questions
  1. What mental picture does the term “helicopter parenting” evoke in your minds?
  2. Do kids have less free rein these days, and do parents trust kids less?
  3. Is the world a more dangerous place now?
  4. What did you do as a child that you would never let a similar-aged kid do now?
  5. How have parenting styles changed over the years?
  6. Is childhood different now than it was 20-50 years ago?
  7. Does Lenore Skenazy sound like a bad parent to you?
  8. How much does the “statistical chances” of something occurring or not occurring influence your decisions?  Are you worried about being caught in that small percentage?
  9. Is society in general better now than it was?
  10. If you have kids, will you change the way you parent after reading this book?  Otherwise, did this book change you or your outlook on children (and how they fit in society) in any way?

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