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Is free-range parenting risky or wise?
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Do you let your children roam the neighborhood alone? Would you let them walk unsupervised to a park a mile from your house?

These are the questions Ive been thinking about after a Maryland couple has drawn media and police attention for engaging in free-range parenting. The philosophy includes the idea that children should be given larger and larger allowances of freedom to go where they want without adult supervision.

The Meitiv family got in trouble recently when police were called to escort home the couples children, who are 10 and 6 years old and were playing alone at a park a mile from their home.

The incident has raised the question of how safe it is to let our children go unsupervised out into the big, bad world. I tend to be on the uber-cautious side, so I know I wouldnt let my children walk a mile away from my home at least not at their current ages of 7 and 4.

But I also understand the desire to loosen the reins a bit and not make the world out to be a scary place because in most cases it is pretty safe. In fact, it is arguably safer than when I was a child and would spend hours riding my bike or following a creek until dinnertime. Perhaps parents back then werent as hyper-aware of the risks, but there were still dangers. And yet, I survived.

So Im on the fence about free-range parenting. Children should learn independence and have a chance to exert their free agency. How else will they learn to navigate the world? But I dont think Ill be sending mine off to play a mile away anytime soon. The risks just seem too great to me at this stage.

One thing I am sure of, however, is that parents should be trusted to govern and guide their children in the way they see best. If they believe their children are wise enough to walk to the park alone, that is their choice. Unless they are clearly neglecting their children, then they should be free to raise their children with any amount of independence that doesnt hurt others.

These parents in Maryland have decided to follow free-range parenting and have clearly thought through what is best for their children. It may not be a choice I would make, but I say we call off the cops on this one instead of punishing moms and dads who are actually trying to parent their children.

What do you think of free-range parenting? How much unsupervised freedom do you allow your young children?