Bridging the Opportunity Divide

Why Is It Important for Parents to Loosen the Reins?

October 20, 2014
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Why Is It Important for Parents to Loosen the Reins?
Crime is at a 40 year low, challenging the perception that it's unsafe for kids to play outside. filin ilia - aliyo.hu/Flickr
The initiative getting kids to explore the world right outside their front door.

Have you ever sat on a bus and looked out the window only to realize that nothing looks familiar? The bus keeps moving, yet you have no idea where you’re at or where you’re going.

Now imagine this happening to your sixth grader. Would she freak out or calmly ask someone for help?

This scenario is all part of the Free-Range Kids Project, an initiative to help kids gain independence and confidence and just be kids again.

Lenore Skenazy is the mastermind behind the program who started it after noticing how little freedom kids have to explore their surroundings (even their own neighborhood) without parental supervision. After all, only 13 percent of children in the U.S. walk to school while another six percent of nine- to 13-year-olds play outside per week. These numbers are a stark contrast to the previous generation where many children enjoyed more freedom, especially considering that today’s crime rate is the lowest it’s been in 40 years.

So Skenazy wrote a book and blog and started a project called “Free Range Kid” to inspire parents to let their kids do things they wouldn’t normally do — think: walk to school, ride the subway alone or bike to the library.

A New York City public school sixth grade class was the first group to test out the theory with great success.  After that, Oak Knoll (a grammar school in Silicon Valley) wanted to give it a try. About a third of the 700 students’ parents agreed to the project. The results? Positive.

Interesting, however, is that it wasn’t just the kids who benefited from the experience. Parents were equally changed and loved what they saw in their kids. One mother named Gina let her son run grocery store errands by himself and was impressed by his expediency, efficiency and responsibility.

“This has really changed our lives!” she writes in her report to the school. “Almost all that we do now is an opportunity to be Free-Range. We did many ‘Projects.’ He baked brownies alone, he comes home now on his bike after school, and he is responsible for his swim bag.”

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