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Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  3,642 Ratings  ·  730 Reviews
FREE RANGE KIDS has become a national movement, sparked by the incredible response to Lenore Skenazy's piece about allowing her 9-year-old ride the subway alone in NYC. Parent groups argued about it, bloggers, blogged, spouses became uncivil with each other, and the media jumped all over it. A lot of parents today, Skenazy says, see no difference between letting their kids ...more
Hardcover, 195 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Jossey-Bass
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Marta Zaraska Yes, I do! First of all, it's a common misconception that North America is now more dangerous than it used to be. It is not. The media are just much…moreYes, I do! First of all, it's a common misconception that North America is now more dangerous than it used to be. It is not. The media are just much more vocal and omnipresent - and "if it bleeds, it leads". So we are made to think that the world is more dangerous than it truly is.

I grew up in communist Poland. By the age of 7 I walked to school by myself (all the kids did), and by the age of 9 I not only walked by myself a mile to the bus stop, I took a public bus to school. And my parents were considered quite protective. My best friend by the age of 9 used to cook dinners for her 7-year-old brother, as they both awaited at home for their parents' return from work. She is now an amazingly capable, strong woman.

I think we, the parents of today, are often led to be over-protective by the media (the "if it bleeds, it leads", again), and by the producers of all the possible gadgets that will protect your kids from all the harm possible (think walking helmets for toddlers). But this over-protectiveness, just as Skenazy argues, can make our kids too dependent, anxious. She is not the only one who raises such points, either - many researchers do as well. Studies have shown that if parents help their children a lot with tasks at age four, for example, the kids will be more anxious at age nine. Over-protectiveness at the time of a natural disaster, makes children's PTSD worse. And there are many other examples, too. Just google scholar "parental overprotectiveness" and find for yourself. (less)
Free-Range Kids by Lenore SkenazyLet's Panic About Babies! by Alice  BradleySh*tty Mom by Mary Ann ZoellnerThe Honest Toddler by Bunmi LaditanThe Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp
One Bad Mother!
56 books — 16 voters
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Community Reviews

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Skylar Burris
Sep 07, 2009 Skylar Burris rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
This is the book to read if you’re tired of worrying about every little thing you may be doing wrong as a parent, or if you’re tired of people looking at you as if you were a horrible mom because you are letting your five-year-old daughter hang upside down barefoot from the monkey bars (not naming any names, but it might have been my daughter, who, by the way, has neither fallen nor contracted ringworm--yet, anyway).

I don’t agree with all of the author’s parenting advice, and I wouldn’t have ma
May 07, 2010 Terri rated it did not like it
Recommended to Terri by: Andrea
I will start by saying that I rarely read "self-help" books. In this way I can agree with Skenazy. I think we should trust our own instincts and the advice of close friends and family over books by strangers.

I can agree with her in a few other ways. I agree with her about the crazy law suits. We all should take responsibility for our own actions. I also agree with her that children need responsibilities and freedom, but I think the freedom should come age appropriately. Children can babysit othe
It is about time I reviewed this book. I first read it when I was pregnant with my first daughter. That time in life when you begin educating yourself as to what type of parent you will be. I had a strong background in education, but my parenting influences were all a bit scattered. This was one of the first books that I really felt strongly connected to.

The standout point when I first read this book was about risk assessment. Rather than just following the crowd in the name of protecting your c
Sep 04, 2012 Lauren rated it it was ok
Shelves: stopped-reading
Eh. I tried reading this for book club, but couldn't bring myself to get more than a quarter of the way through it. I didn't think she was that funny (common praise is that she's hilarious). And I didn't find her advice compelling or relevant. I DO think of myself as a Type A, anxious parent, but I'm not anxious about the kinds of things she dismisses (kidnappings and razor blades in Halloween candy). And I found her casual dismissal of what I'd call conscientious, thoughtful parenting to be irr ...more
Connie Gunderson
Feb 19, 2013 Connie Gunderson rated it it was amazing
This is probably the only parenting book that I would actually recommend. I usually fall down on the side of "if you're a smart and decent person, you already know what's best for your kid" which renders most parenting books useless. We read them to find support for what we already believe/know.

This book was a revelation for me, though. It posits that helicopter parenting, even that degree of helicopter parenting done by parents who think they're *not* helicopter parents, is unnecessary and unhe
Feb 20, 2011 Jessica rated it it was ok
This is one of the laziest books I've ever read. I don't entirely blame Lenore Skenazy, as I suspect there was an editor or publicist urging her to finish while America still thought of her as "the worst mom" (because she let her 9-year-old ride the NYC subway alone), but still, it makes this book a frustrating read!

I gave the book two stars instead of one because there were enough interesting anecdotes to keep me reading, but really, I was climbing the walls the entire time I read this. Let me
Dec 28, 2010 Meredith rated it really liked it
I was one of the many parents who thought Lenore was off her rocker for letting her 9 y/o take the subway alone in NYC. As a native of Boston, I am comfortable in big cities and on the subway and I would never let my 9 y/o do that and still think she was really unwise in that choice.

That said, this was a great book. Since I knew I wasn't going to agree with everything she said, I expected to disagree with a lot of the book. Instead, I realized how much I've held my own kids back and that a lot
Julie Ekkers
Jan 24, 2012 Julie Ekkers rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
I came to this book without knowing not only that there was someone who had let her nine-year-old ride the New York subway by himself, but also that that someone was the author of this book. So, I was unfamiliar with the author's blog and her other journalism. I think her humor, while often funny, probably works better in those shorter forms that in this longer piece. There are a few chapters late in the book where I felt she was stretching her point a bit. Still, I really enjoyed this book. It ...more
Apr 25, 2009 Lori rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! It's one of the best parenting books I've read. It's not a "to-do" list of what every should do, but a discussion of real issues, real risks, and real options. Lenore does a great job of presenting subjects to think about and then documents her research.

Our children are much too capable to be kept under constant supervision. We should teach them skills and then give them opportunities to interact with the world on their own.
Apr 11, 2016 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"[In the olden days] children were expected to rise to the adulthood all around them, not stew in adorable incompetence."

This is the thesis behind Lenore Skenazy's chatty book, which grew out of a column she wrote about how she let her 9 year old son ride the subway alone, and was then castigated for being an "irresponsible parent" on national TV. She castigates over-protection and argues for raising competent kids with the skills and confidence to deal with the big "scary" real world instead of
Mar 30, 2015 Rachel rated it it was amazing
I have been following Lenore Skenazy's blog for a while now and was appalled by the recent story about the two kids who were picked up by police in suburban Baltimore because they were walking home alone from their neighborhood playground. The incident spurred Child Protective Services to investigate the parents for child neglect! And there have been countless other examples too. I finally read Skenazy's book and I'm so glad that I did. It was an easy, enjoyable read packed with reliable statist ...more
Aug 17, 2011 David rated it really liked it
This is the woman who wrote an article about letting her then-9-year old ride the NY subway alone, and got a ton of blowback about her being a horrible mom. She must have an entrepreneurial soul, as she turned this potentially devastating incident into a platform for a blog, a website, a regular column, many TV appearances, and this book. Well played, ma'am!

General thesis is that things are not as dangerous as you fear, that kids need to be allowed to have the same freedoms we had when young to
Jul 10, 2012 Lynn rated it really liked it
Many years ago when my sister and her 2 kids and I and my two kids went to a very small town in Nova Scotia, my sister gave her son money and told him to go to the local store and buy some rolls for sandwiches. He was about 7 years old. The store was maybe a 5 minute walk away. Yet for a boy raised right outside of Washington DC this was major -- he went and came back all proud of his adventure and we all thought isn't that great! Mind you the small town was on an island and the ferry left port ...more
May 10, 2009 Stepan rated it liked it
Shelves: parenting
I love the premise of the book. It looks how much we stifle our children's independence by our fear for their safety. A fear that's constantly being fed by gory news stories and studies. The book is divided into short, digestible chapters, full of fun anecdotes and each ending with some ideas to try to let our kids off the leash a little.

I highly recommend it for anyone raising or planning to raise kids these days.

On the other hand, I found some aspects of the book annoying (the author's columni
May 24, 2009 Albena rated it liked it
As with any parenting book, it wouldn't hurt to read it, but don't forget to follow your own mind.
The book is well organized and has its good points against 'helicopter', overprotective parenting. I also like Lenore Skenazy's style and sense of humor. But not all the parents I've seen around are overprotective and constantly worrying to that extent. I've seen parents close to the types she describes, but isn't it their own business?
The part about the non-English speaking part of the world is e
Sep 07, 2010 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
Totally with her on the basic premise -- it's okay for kids to be adventurous, take risks, stumble, fall, and fail sometimes. They are more capable than we assume, and we should try to prepare them for the world, and let them live in it -- not shield them from it. And fear is the fun-killer.

I didn't love her derisive tone, though. And there were a few really laughable assumptions (sad "you've gotta be kidding me" laughs, not ha-ha laughs) -- like when she's discussing our current "blame the par
Jun 22, 2015 Kristin rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
Like any parenting book, one has to take to heart only the bits that fit best with their hopes for their family--but this book has loads of those bits, and I was so validated reading that those shopping cart cover thingies are just plain silly! Among other, more relevant, points. Overall a great read for parents who are tired of feeling like they should worry all the time.
I heard some buzz about this book a while ago, and even just from what a good friend wrote about the book, I knew it was something that would interest me.

Let me start off by saying this is not your average parenting book. It's not really "un-parenting" either - it's about taking the nitty-gritty of parenting seriously but knowing when your job as a parent is to just let go and let your children do things on their own. It's about giving your kids skills and then letting them actually USE those sk
Maggie Larche
Sep 13, 2011 Maggie Larche rated it it was amazing
Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) by Lenore Skenazy is a refreshing look at how to raise your kids to be independent while minimizing your own anxiety about everything that could go wrong in the process.

Full disclosure: be ready for a little irony as this parenting book tells you to ignore parenting books. Otherwise, you can expect a hearty dose of practical sense and parental empowerment.

The overriding idea of this book is that YOU know yo
Apr 25, 2013 Elaine rated it liked it
An interesting read and certainly a must read for parents. I'm not sure that after reading this I'd let my 9 year old catch the bus into the city but I will at least not be as paranoid about danger lurking everywhere either. One thing that hits home from reading this book is that we need to empower our kids and give them the trust and freedom they need to be able to take care of themselves. We're not doing our kids or ourselves any good by being so overprotective. I will be taking baby steps tow ...more
Mar 29, 2014 Liz rated it really liked it
This book is a must read parenting book and one of the few I could completely relate to. Her arguments are sound, full of common sense, and are backed by facts. To boot, her writing is to the point and full of humor. My only criticism is I think she should have spent more time explaining the benefits of free range parenting on kids (and parents). Highly recommend for anyone with kids, planning on having kids, or even working with kids.
Aug 11, 2016 Kathleen rated it really liked it
I love this book for being rational about the real risks children face, rather than the imagined ones. What makes it a 4-star book for me rather than a 5-star is there are occasionally lapses in tone that hurt Lenore Skenazy's credibility with people who are most skeptical of her premise. What she and I might find funny as journalists is going to appall others.
Aug 03, 2013 Charity rated it liked it
Shelves: parenting
Free-Range Kids is a decent book. Skenazy's style grated on me a bit after a while, but she did get me to think about ways that I can empower my kids to do more on their own and take the steps to becoming responsible adults. I think I tend to be more free-range-y than many parents I know, but I still have my worries. Mostly I think the helicoptering I do is pretty appropriate to my kids' ages---or at least to my son's age. He turns four next week, and while I let him play out in the un-fenced ba ...more
May 21, 2010 Christina rated it really liked it
Eight-year-olds aren't allowed to ride bikes to their friends' houses anymore? This was news to me, and very sad news at that. Does this book exaggerate the over-protectiveness that's happening nowadays? I hope so.
I really enjoyed most of this book, and I agreed with almost everything in it. I loved reading a little advice without feeling guilty for all the things I'm doing wrong as a parent, and it was an absolute pleasure to read a well-written and intelligent book in this genre. The chapter o
Skenazy makes her case, sometimes with data, and often with sarcasm or silly humor (too much for me, but what’s your style?). Here are some interesting points she makes:

— TV exposure to violence has made us think violence is more common than it actually is. In America, in 1971 things changed: the All in the Family show broke taboos, and other shows followed suit.

— There is an inner reflex to blame victims for their fates so that we can feel safe and smug. We convince ourselves the victims did so
Apr 18, 2014 Linda rated it it was amazing
I have read a lot of parenting books. In fact, when pregnant with my first and the topic of parenting books came up, my husband said "She reads them all, and then gives me the Cliff's Notes." Which was exactly true. I started with the "What to Expect..." books and went from there.

But this book... this is anti-alarmist parenting book. And I devoured it.

Ms. Skenazy is very polarizing. And I see why. The parents who have been indoctrinated to live in terror of every thing from germs to chemicals
Susan Bazzett-griffith
I really enjoyed this book, whose main theme is for parents to stop being frightened of the world, and in turn, scaring and paralyzing their children. Kids can be competent. Kids should be taught to take care of themselves. No one has ever died from needles in Trick or Treat candy. No one. Baby knee pads are stupid.

Your child has a greater statistical chance of being struck by lightening or eaten by a shark or being mauled by a loose tiger than being abducted by a stranger in our country. Drivi
Mar 05, 2015 Charlotte rated it did not like it
I don’t say this about everybody, so take it as a compliment (if even a twisted sort of compliment): Lenore Skenazy is an idiot.

Here, I have gone beyond criticizing the book to criticizing the author herself, which is not something I normally do. Books are just books. Unless it's something ridiculously offensive like Revealing Eden or anything Pat Robertson has ever written, said, or done, I don't criticize authors themselves. Books are fair game. Authors are not.

But this is different. Lenore S
Sep 01, 2009 Deirdre rated it it was amazing
This book is by Lenore Skenazy, the woman who allowed her then 9 year old to take the New York Subway system all by himself one afternoon, wrote about it for the NY Sun, and incurred the wrath of many and started a media frenzy about whether she was a bad mother endangering her child...or not. After being questioned/grilled by multiple media outlets, she sat back to contemplate why exactly letting a child do what children did regularly only 20 years ago, that is walk around without total parenta ...more
Jeff Yoak
This book was a delight from beginning to end. The author casts light upon the insanity of fear, worry, hovering and attempt to control that is current-day parenting among so many of those are actively trying to do it well. She also provides endless advice on how to free yourself from such insanity while being embedded in a culture that insidiously imposes it on you at every turn.

I was seriously "the choir" for this book. What the author recommends and what my wife and I believe and do varies on
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Madison Mega-Mara...: Free-Range Kids 1 5 May 20, 2013 06:16PM  
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“You don't remember the times your dad held your handle bars. You remember the day he let go.” 10 likes
“We want our children to have a childhood that's magical and enriched, but I'll bet that your best childhood memories involve something you were thrilled to do by yourself. These are childhood's magic words: "I did it myself!” 7 likes
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