As parents, one of our goals is to raise responsible, self-sufficient kids. For a lot of parents, that means adopting a free-range style of parenting. Rather than hover over their kids like a helicopter parent, free-range parents give kids the freedom to learn and grow and yes, make mistakes! One of the tenants of free-range parenting is teaching children to be independent, and this is accomplished by giving them a lot more freedom than some parents are used to seeing. Free-range proponents say it's entirely possible to teach children independence, while still keeping them safe and sound by following these five rules of free-range parenting.
1. Educate your kids and keep them informed
Sure, we all want to keep our kiddos innocent and fearless for as long as possible. But there's something to be said for preparing your kids for the realities of the world. Consider asking someone from your local law enforcement agency to come and speak with your kids about self-defense and self-protection. Free-range kids will likely encounter different people along the way, so it's important that they fully understand stranger danger and how to handle various potentially dangerous scenarios.
2. Know the laws in your area
Your state, county, or city may have laws on the books that make it illegal to leave your 9-year-old home alone or allow your 10-year-old to walk to the park alone, for example. Familiarize yourself with local ordinances, so you can avoid running afoul of the law in your free-range parenting endeavors.
3. Lay some ground rules, and make sure your kids understand them
Once you've double-checked the laws and know what your kids can and cannot do, it's time to set specific guidelines for your own children. These are the rules ans expectations your kids will be required to abide by in order to be given some of the freedoms you'd like them to experience. These guidelines will help you determine if your child is mature enough to handle the extra freedom and responsibility that goes along with free-range parenting. For example, if your child wants to play in a park down the street with a friend, run them through some scenarios (what will you do if your friend wants to leave that location, how will you respond if you're approached by an unknown adult, etc.) to gauge their responses. If their answers don't satisfy you, they may not be ready for that particular step just yet.
4. Give them space, but also support their decisions and choices
Learning how to be independent takes practice! You want to give your children the space to make their own decisions, but also make it a point to support those decisions. Even if they aren't the choices you'd make! Redirect when necessary, but give your kids the freedom to make their own decisions, as long as they can explain their thought process and why they made a particular choice.
5. Above all else, trust your gut
This one applies to all parenting styles, not just free-range parenting. Our gut instinct is one of the most valuable tools in our parenting arsenal. You, and you alone, know what's best for your kids. It's easy to be swayed by news reports, blogs, and other parent's opinions. But your intuition as it applies to how you're raising your kids is tantamount. You know your kids better than anyone, and if you feel that they're ready to be free-range kids and that they'll benefit from being independent, then that's a great place to start.
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