Free range parenting. I am sure you have heard the term before. If you haven’t, free range defines a method of parenting that is a lot more relaxed. This type of parenting allows for children to have a lot more freedom and not as much hovering by the parents.
You might have heard of the woman who let her 9-year-old ride on the subway alone in New York City. This would be a more extreme example of free range parenting.
If you visit any housing area on a military post, you will see a lot of kids being parented this way. This trend was one of the first things I noticed when we moved to our first duty station. At the time I had an 18 month old and I thought it was a bit strange to see so many kids out and about without any parents watching them.
I realized later this is the norm for military families and this type of parenting may not be such a bad thing after all.
On one hand it is good for children to have some space from their parents. Although I am always with my kids at the park, I rarely like to stand right by them when they play. I would rather they play on their own and have me there to watch from a distance. I have never been comfortable with sending them to the park alone.
Age also has something to do with how you should handle letting your child play. Allowing a 4 year old to go out and play alone is different then letting a 10-year-old child do so. There is also the issue that if your kid is out on post and there are parents out with their kids, they will feel responsible for your kid as well.
This happened a lot at the parks on post in Germany. I would be there with my 2 year old and a few other children I didn’t know. I felt like if something happened, I was the automatic “in charge” adult and I really didn’t like that I was. I was there with my little boy and he was my main focus. However, I couldn’t ignore what the other kids were doing.
I think there is an idea that kids will be safer on a military post and so it should be perfectly fine to let them roam and be a free range parent all of the time. But is this true?
Are our children really safer because we are surrounded by military?
I think this issue is a complicated one in which all parents really need to think about.
I have heard a lot of people complaining about all the children who roam around their neighborhoods. Some of these kids are not doing anything wrong; they are just playing outside with their friends. Other kids do get into trouble and this can be an issue. Allowing so many children to roam can make on-post living a little frustrating whether you have your own children or not.
Ask yourself these questions whether you live on post or off. Figure out what your children can handle and what they can’t. Figure out what you are comfortable with and don’t just do what everyone else is doing.
- Is your own child old enough to handle being without an adult?
- Will your child stick to the rules and not cause others to get in trouble?
- Are you sure that where they are playing is a safe place?
- Do they know how to check in with you during the day?
Giving your children space doesn’t mean you have to let them roam the neighborhood all day, everyday. You can set up limits based on their personalities and ages. Use common sense and make sure you know where your children are going to be.
Do you think free range parenting is an issue in the military? Do you call yourself a free range parent?