There have been some recent headlines about free-­range parenting that have put the parenting style under the microscope, with authorities and social services sometimes being called by neighbors after seeing children on their own in the community. But for advocates of free­-range parenting, that freedom is a common-sense response to overparenting (or “helicopter parenting”).

Basically, free-­range parents believe in preparing their children to handle situations on their own, then giving them the freedom to do that.

"World’s Worst Mom"

Lenore Skenazy became a poster parent for the movement a few years ago after writing a controversial column about a learning opportunity she gave her 9­-year­-old son to find his way home by himself in New York.

“I gave him a map, a MetroCard, quarters for the phone and $20 for emergencies," she wrote on her blog. "Bloomingdale’s sits on top of a subway station on our local line, and it’s always crowded with shoppers. I believed he’d be safe. I believed he could figure out his way. Long story short: He got home about 45 minutes later, ecstatic with independence.”

Within two days, her story was picked up by the Today show, NPR, MSNBC and Fox News, and spawned the World’s Worst Mom cable series on Discovery Life.

Needless to say, free­-range parenting is proving to be controversial.

Throwback parenting

Of course, for anyone who grew up in the 1960s, ‘70s or ‘80s, this style of parenting doesn’t sound so odd. If anything, free­-range parenting is a throwback to the freedom afforded most baby boomers at a young age. They were often allowed to go out in the neighborhood and play, then return home at dark.

Free-range advocates note that the movement is essentially a more structured approach to the old school parenting style, while the culture has changed to the point that it’s viewed as controversial.

As with most things, there are elements of free­-range parenting that are extremely useful, though it’s up to the parent to decide which aspects to use.

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