3×13 Free Range Kids

Have We Parents Gone Nuts? When we were kids our parents let us run around the neighborhood alone at the age of 8 or 9 – some even younger. Now parents accompany their kids to playdates at those ages. Have we become so fixated on our kids’ safety and on the quality of their experiences that we’ve robbed them of the freedom to learn and grow on their own? We invited Lenore Skenazi on to talk about her philosophy of Free Range Kids.

We’re all trying to do our best as parents, and one of the things that is keeping us from doing our best and turning us just into frantic fanatical parents is the fear of hearing somebody say to us, ‘You Suck!’

But the truth is you’re great. Nobody is going to get it right. “If there was a perfect formula we would all have one book and we would all read it and do it,” says Lenore Skenazi, who was called ‘World’s Worst Mom’ for letting her kid ride the subway alone. She started Free Range Kids to fight the belief that our children are in constant danger.

“Parenting is so confusing,” Lenore says, “and we’ve imbued it with like everything we do. There’re gazillion of moments before they hit 18 and they can’t all be perfect, they won’t all be perfect. In fact, it’s better if they’re not all perfect so they’ll end up rolling with some punches. They’ll be like ‘dad isn’t perfect either so I don’t have to be so hard on myself’.

“We just have to take a step back and say, it’s going to be okay. The kid is going to be okay. Give them some freedom, give yourself some freedom and it’s going to be okay.”

When to Start?

“When parents are wondering about an age, like, what age can kids play outside or walk to school or run an errand or babysit, I ask them just to think back on their own lives,” says Lenore. “If you were walking to school at age 5 and you were in a neighborhood that isn’t more dangerous than when you were growing up – there’s no reason that your kid can’t be doing what your parents allowed you to do oof you think it was good for you back then and if you appreciate the freedom that you were given.”

“Our goal at Let Grow is to really change the what you see as normal because this new normal that we have of only constant supervision it’s not doing kids any favors and parents have to spend every single second not doing anything except chauffeuring and watching them, it’s not great for them either. I mean, we all love spending time with our kids but it doesn’t have to be every single second.”

Our Guest: Lenore Skenazi

Lenore Skenazy

A journalist by trade, Lenore spent 14 years at The New York Daily News as a reporter-turned-opinion columnist, and two more at The New York Sun. In 2008, after her column “Why I Let My 9 Year Old Ride the Subway Alone” landed her on every talk show from The Today Show to Dr. Phil, Lenore founded the book and blog “Free-Range Kids.” These launched the anti-helicopter parenting movement and garnered her the nickname, “America’s Worst Mom.” She got a promotion of sorts when Discovery Life tapped her to host the reality TV show, World’s Worst Mom. Lenore has lectured internationally from Microsoft to DreamWorks to the Sydney Opera House, and been profiled everywhere from The New York Times to The New Yorker. (She was even on The Daily Show!) Over the years, she has written for everyone from The Wall Street Journal to Mad Magazine. Yes — Mad. After 10 years of watching parents nod along as she described how our culture has force-fed them fear, her aim at Let Grow is to turn agreement into action, making it easy and normal to give kids the same kind of freedom most of us had — and loved. Lenore received her B.A. from Yale and her Master’s Degree from Columbia. She lives in New York City with her husband and beloved computer. Her sons have (safely!) flown the coop.

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Episode Credits

Co-Hosts: Yan Dekel, Alex Maghen
Guest: Lenore Shkenazi, President, ‘Let Grow’
Opening Theme: Hercules & Love Affair, “Leonora” buy here
Articles Related to this episode:
Why I Let My 9 Year Old Ride the Subway Alone (Lenore Skenazy, The New York Sun)
Everything You Need to Know About the Free-Range Parenting Method (Marisa Lascala, Good Housekeeping)
How to Entertain Kids During the Coronavirus Crisis, Free Range Kids Style


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