I’ve written before about how we are trying to take a more free range approach to our parenting. It occurred to me recently that I hadn’t really explained why. While much of it has to do with my own happy childhood memories of playing out with my friends, I also believe there are huge benefits of free range parenting.
Free Range kids are more Active
Getting kids off their screens and into physical activity is important to combat child obesity. While organised sports can be a great way to do this, free range parenting can achieve the same thing. Playing out with friends rarely involves sitting still. When kids play out, they are running, jumping, chasing, kicking balls, riding bikes or skating. On the green near our house, there is always a football game going on after school. Everyone is welcome to play no matter what there ability (everyone part of grown ups that is!).
Free Range Parenting develops kid’s Confidence
When we put our trust in children their self confidence grows. When children learn to do something considered to be a milestone, like crossing a road by themselves, their confidence grows. When they deal with an unexpected situation when they are playing unsupervised, their confidence grows. One of the great benefits of free range parenting is that children learn to believe in themselves.
Free range kids become more independent
With self confidence, comes independence. Free range parenting isn’t all about playing out, we incorporate a free range attitude into our day to day lives. Want your breakfast before mum is ready to make it? Make it yourself. Don’t want to wait for Dad to help you solve a problem, figure it out on your own. In the past I’ve not always been brilliant at encouraging my kid’s to do things for themselves but since I’ve started encouraging them I’ve been amazed by what they can do. It’s also made my life as a lazy parent much easier!
Free Range Parenting teaches kids better at managing risk
When my children are unsupervised, I know they will do things that would make me use that classic parenting phrase “Be Careful!” Without me there, my children are learning how to judge for themselves when they need to be careful. This might be building some precarious scooter ramp when they are unsupervised in our back garden or deciding weather it’s safe to cross a road on the way back from playing out. Learning to manage risk is a huge benefit of free range parenting. It’s something all kids need to do for their future safety and to avoid you having to go to work with them and spend the day deafening their coworkers by yelling be careful at them every five minutes.
Free Range Kids use their imagination
While I’ll still play board games with my children, bake with them, read with them and chat to them, I try to stay out of their games. Even when they were younger and I did play with them, I tried to act as an interested observer rather than getting too involved. And that wasn’t only because I hate playing, honest. Once children learn that “I’m bored” isn’t going to result in you providing entertainment, they will come up with their own games, which will keep them busy much longer than something you suggest for them.
Free Range Parenting Benefits kid’s Social Skills
Without parents, teachers or a set of rules to follow, children have to resolve disputes themselves when they play out. It’s true that sometimes this will end in tears. That can be hard when it’s your child crying but learning to negotiate with peers is a hugely important life skill that will help them navigate both school and their future workplace.
So those are some of the benefits of free range parenting. They are the reasons that I swallow my 21st century parental instinct to worry and let my children have more freedom than some of their friends get. Free range parenting probably isn’t right for every parent or every child. For us the benefits of free range parenting outweigh the negatives.
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