Lenore Skenazy, former New York Daily News columnist and strong advocate for free-range parenting, made a controversial decision to let her 9-year-old son ride the New York City subway alone. (Fair use: Wikipedia Commons)

Letting kids ride the New York City subway all alone seems very unusual, due to its apparent danger. In fact, children are rarely seen walking around by themselves in large public places or hanging out alone at a playground. While it was normal for kids to have more freedom some 30 years ago, that era was quite different from today’s society. However, a new trend is emerging that might just reverse this.

Free-range parenting is an absurd concept which encourages children to function independently and with minimal parental supervision, in accordance with their age of development and with a reasonable acceptance of risks. Lenore Skenazy, a former New York Daily News columnist credited with starting the free-range parenting movement, has been advocating for a law on free-range parenting for about four years. This concept simply does not work because it places children in harm’s way, as they are too young to function like an adult.

Utah became the first state to enact legislation this year which explicitly protected parents’ rights to “free-range parent” their children. This includes giving children the freedom to walk home alone from parks or school or staying home alone.

Free-range parenting is not suited for our society because leaving children unsupervised will not teach them to become independent adults. Children need their parents and older relatives to guide them and teach them the ways of life. Simply letting kids wander alone in public to fend for themselves does not teach them to become adults if they have never been taught how to act like one. Children naturally need supervision due to their young age and free-range parenting does not support that.

Parents need to understand that small children are not equipped to escape or fight someone older who may be trying to kidnap them. Parents have a responsibility to stick by their kids and protect them, not let them parent themselves. Good parents guide their child until they are ready to take care of themselves; they do not use the methods of free-range parenting.