08 July, 2011

Free-Range Kids

Author: Lenore Skenazy
Genre: Non Fiction
Audience: Adult 
Format: Book - Library

Synopsis: Lenore Skenazy allowed her then nine year old son catch the subway in New York home - alone. He'd ridden the subway many times before with his family, he was a sensible kid, so after going over the ground rules, giving him a map, money and contact information off he went. Skenazy then wrote a column about it for a NY newspaper and overnight as labeled America's Worst Mother. This lead her to having to defend the way she raised her kids and start the website Free-Range Kids. This book explains what free range kids are, how you can become more free range and dispels alot of the myths around child safety.

What I thought: So I'm a pretty free range mum. I live on an island and my eldest (9) pretty much has free rein to wander around it. My 5 year old is allowed to walk to her friend's place around the corner without supervision and rides her bike/ scooter on the road outside our house. I don't worry overly about my kids getting taken  or hurt. There are a few things in this book that made me realise there were still things I was worried about. I now let my 9 year old boy go into the mens toilets alone at the shops. I'm considering letting him ride to school, even though it's a bit of a hike. What Skenazy does in this book is explain how the media and our fear of judgment by others has caused us to curtail our kids childhoods. Now I live in Australia, so a lot of the stats she quoted don't relate to me - but we are constantly told America is a more dangerous place to live than here so I assume are stats are similar or better. For example, the chance of an American child being kidnapped and killed by a stranger is 0.00007%! Yet this is the reason for not letting kids walk even two blocks to school or the bus stop. And that is just the beginning. Skanazy also looks at the booming business of baby/ child safety products (Baby knee pads for when they are crawling and the Thudguard - a helmet for your toddler to wear while learning to walk! Seriously!!), other countries and how they don't "protect" their kids like this and the value of failing. She also explains the best way to make your kids safe - don't baby proof the world, world proof your child. Teach them things like don't go off with strangers (completely different from don't talk to strangers), what to do if someone does try to grab you (yell, scream, run), and gives you baby steps, brave steps and Giant leaps to becoming free range. A final thing to think on, and this I'm going to quote straight from the book.

 But there are two more reasons why all this good news may not be at all reassuring to you:

1. It's lovely that abductions are down. But what if that 1 in 1.5 million is YOUR KID?

2. It's lovely that abductions are down. But what if that 1 in 1.5 million is MY KID?

That's how everyone thinks - including me. And I've been thinking that way even more, ever since the world decided to weigh in on whether or not I was irresponsible jerk to let my nine year-old ride the subway alone. Usually after I replied to my detractors by rattling off all my safety stats, the person would probe, "But what if that one was your kid? followed by, "How would you ever forgive yourself?"
Answer: I wouldn't
Of course I wouldn't! But what was so upsetting about these questions was the notion behind them: that I'd deliberately put my son in harm's way - and didn't give a hoot - when actually I was allowing him to do something that was extremely safe. And confidence building and competence building too.
Then one day I got an e-mail...It suggested that from now on, whenever anyone asks, "How could you possibly let your child get around on his own? Wouldn't you feel terrible if something happened?" you respond "How could you possibly let your kids get in the car with you? Wouldn't you feel awful if they were in a crash? 
After all a child is forty times more likely to die as a passenger in a car crash than to be kidnapped and murdered by a stranger.
..."How could you possibly make you kids stay inside after school instead of letting the wander on their own. Wouldn't you fell awful if they were burned to a crisp" After all, there are about 50 children killed by kidnappers each year, but ten times that number are killed by fires at home.
"How could you possibly let you kids visit a relative?" After all, they are eighty or ninety times more likely to be molested by someone they know than..
- pages 183/4

Great advice I feel and I will it the next time someone asks me how I can let my kids roam free.

Recommended for: parents or parents to be of kids at any age 

Challenges: 100+ Challenge,