Jason’s Ranting & Raving

Those who don’t read have no advantage over those who can’t.

Book Review: Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy

Posted by jaystile on July 22, 2009

Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy

Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy

Free Range Kids – Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry by Lenore Skenazy is a non-fiction book about parenting and allowing children to be independent. This book was a fun and entertaining read weighing in at just under 200 pages. It is slathered with humor and sarcasm just the way I like it when reading material breaking down ‘conventional wisdom (Did you know it is a derogatory term?)’. Lenore also keeps a blog http://freerangekids.wordpress.com with the latest triumphs and tragedies that confront Free Range Parents.

The TV is Lying to You
Lenore Skenazy talks about the over reporting and dramatization of abductions. If you watch (take your pick: CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, Cold Case, Criminal Minds, Bones, Law & Order, Law & Order SVU) or the news there is a 100% chance are you are going to be bombarded by psychopathic monsters (and I’m not just talking about Bill O’Reilly). There is a reason for this. Fear, like sex, sells. Don’t believe me? Can you tell me the stories of JonBenet Ramsey, O.J. Simpson, and Caylee Anthony? Now, can you summarize Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, and Oliver Twist? I find, like Lenore, that people pay way too much attention to television and not enough to their actual neighborhood. It’s safe even if the TV says it is not. Crime statistics are available for your neighborhood.

Responsibility & Independence
Kids want to be independent. I don’t know how many times my preschoolers (soon to start Kindergarten!) have shouted, “NO, DAD! I CAN DO IT MYSELF!” A key notion in this book is about giving your kids responsibility and independence commensurate with their ability. You teach your child the skills they need to know then you allow them to practice what they’ve learned. For instance, my oldest daughter uses the super sharp vegetable peeler and helps peel carrots for dinner. That is because I taught her how. Supervised her a couple of times and then let her do it herself. Did you know what happened? SHE CUT HERSELF! A cheap lesson. A few tears and a band-aide later we were back peeling vegetables. But she is so happy when she gets to help make dinner. As Lenore put it she learned ‘self-confidence’ not ‘parent-supplied-confidence’ (a.k.a. Here is your trophy for being second winner!) When we take walks in the evening I have my daughters take turns telling me when it is safe to cross. Teach them the skills and let them practice. It is hard to let go but they keep showing me they are smarter than I give them credit for.

Stranger Danger!
Again, on our walks we talk about strangers. Dad asks, “Is it OK to talk to strangers?” My kids say, “Yes.” Dad says, “That’s right!” Another key theme in Lenore’s book is that not every stranger is a going to snatch you away as soon as Mom & Dad aren’t looking. Some parents might be aghast, “YOU SHOULD NEVER LET YOU CHILD TALK TO STRANGERS!” Yeah, you see… that’s just dumb. Back to the principle of not assuming people are crazy child snatchers. One positive note about my kids talking to strangers is that the strangers want to talk back! I’ve met many normal (non kiddie snatchers) in my neighborhood because they are happy to talk to little girls (even if their dad is a scary stranger). Again, it is important to teach your children the skills they need in case they are confronted with that creepy person. Dad asks, “Do we ever go near a strangers car?” Kids say, “No.” Dad asks, “Do we ever go anywhere with a stranger?” Kids say, “No.” Dad asks, “Would mom and dad ever send a stranger to come and get you?” Kids say, “No.” Dad says, “That’s right I would send … ” and I give them examples of the people we know that we would send to get them. What are the chances that my girls are going to need to use their skill of not going away with a stranger? About 1:1500000. They should know these things just in case. Just like using “Stop, Drop, and Roll”, “Get out of the house first if there is a fire, go to the neighbors, then dial 911”, “If you get lost just sit down and we’ll find you or ask a STRANGER for help”.

Odds of Dying

Odds of Dying

Calculating the Odds or Parenting by Evidence
I tried to find a reference and failed about how people can’t tell the difference between 1:1000 odds and 1:100000. It ‘feels’ the same to them. Maybe this is why parents don’t want to let their kids outside because they can’t tell that being abducted by a stranger (odds 1:1500000) is statistically insignificant. What parents really need to be worried about are things like obesity, getting exercise, wearing helmets and seatbelts, and sunblock. OH! What is this? Here is some evidence to back up my assertion. This is a nice little article talking the about the odds of dying. I’m laying out the odds for the top five ways you are going to die.

  1. Heart Disease: 1-in-5
  2. Cancer: 1-in-7
  3. Stroke: 1-in-23
  4. Accidental Injury: 1-in-36
  5. Motor Vehicle Accident:1-in-100

I’m personally hoping for the 1:79746 Lightning Strike on my 120th birthday. So… controlling obesity, getting exercise, wearing helmets and seatbelts, and sunblock helps cut into those odds. And I even get to let my daughters out to play on the sidewalk all by themselves.

This book was a great little read and helps bring things back into perspective as a parent. There are so many experts out there trying to scare you into using the products or captivating you while TV stations try to sell you other products. So, turn off the TV, boot the kids outside, and start reading.


One Response to “Book Review: Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy”

  1. cagefreekids said

    I must say, I found this article TERRIFIC! Insightful, smart, pithy, compelling, spot on.
    But then again, I remain, yours truly,
    Lenore Skenazy
    Free-Range Kids

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