Free-range parenting is the concept of raising children in the spirit of encouraging them to function independently in proper accordance of their age of development with a reasonable acceptance of realistic personal risks.
This idea was popularized by pediatrician Benjamin Spock. Author Lenore Skenazy at her website (founded April 2008) and her book Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry (published April 2009) can be generally described as the opposite of helicopter parenting.
Hoping to enhance psychoanalysis in the pediatric world, Spock authored a book called The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. The book, which was released in 1946 and soon became a best seller, encouraged free range parenting with the hopes of implementing Freudian philosophy into child-rearing.
American journalist Lenore Skenazy has written about the problems of overparenting and overprotection of kids with a particular emphasis on allowing kids to have appropriate levels of freedom and responsibility for their age while still keeping them safe. Her book, Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had without Going Nuts with Worry and her related website (April 2008) describe what she sees as the horrors of mainstream schooling, parenting, and organised activities, highlighting the unnecessary protection from risk that limits children's opportunity to mature properly into independent adults, and the unnecessary training, even in using flash cards for preschoolers, thereby limiting their opportunities for personal growth.
In the United States free-range parenting is limited by laws in many states restricting children's autonomy, such as how old a child must be to walk to school alone. In Massachusetts, such issues are generally addressed on a case-by-case basis. Other states, such as Delaware, or Colorado, based on states' child labor laws, will investigate reports of any child under the age of 12 being left alone, whereas other states, like North Carolina, have fire laws that stipulate a child under 8 should not be left home alone. Only three states specify a minimum age for leaving a child home alone. These include Illinois which requires children to be 14 years old, in Maryland, the minimum age is 8, and in Oregon 10.
In December 2015, however, new federal law contained an amendment added by Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) stating that:
"...nothing in this Act shall...prohibit a child from traveling to and from school on foot or by car, bus, or bike when the parents of the child have given permission; or expose parents to civil or criminal charges for allowing their child to responsibly and safely travel to and from school by a means the parents believe is age appropriate." A caveat adds, "...nothing in this section 10 shall be construed to preempt State or local laws."
- Free-range kids, website of author Lenore Skenazy
- Neglect or Nurture? The Value of 'Free-Range' Parenting & Childhood Freedom, The Takeaway 4/2015
- The Case for Free-Range Parenting, NYTimes, 3/2015
- Skenazy, Lenore (2009). Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had without Going Nuts with Worry. Jossey Bass. p. 256. ISBN 978-0-470-47194-4.
- Skenazy, Lenore (2008). "Free Range Kids blog".
- Maryland parent investigation raises issue: What age to allow children 'free range' to walk, stay home alone?
- "What Kind Of Parent Are You? The Debate Over 'Free-Range' Parenting". NPR. Retrieved 2015-06-08.
- "President About to Sign First Federal Free-Range Kids Legislation: Parents Can Let Their Kids Walk to School". Free Range Kids. December 10, 2015. Retrieved February 16, 2016.