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

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  5,155 ratings  ·  928 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 m…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 SkenazyYou're Doing a Great Job! by Biz EllisMom Babble by Mary Katherine BackstromLet's Panic About Babies! by Alice  BradleySh*tty Mom by Laurie Kilmartin
One Bad Mother!
67 books — 26 voters
Conscious Parenting by Nataša PantovićWhat's Behind Your Belly Button? A Psychological Perspective ... by Martha Char LoveSimplicity Parenting by Kim John PayneNurtureShock by Po BronsonNot Your Father's America by Cort Casady
67 books — 50 voters

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Skylar Burris
Sep 02, 2009 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 04, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 25, 2011 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
Connie Gunderson
Feb 19, 2013 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
Sep 04, 2012 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
Dec 28, 2010 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
Lisa Butterworth
Dec 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: brain-books
This book was really good for the parent (like me) (sometimes) who needs a cheerleader to tell me my more laid-back less helicoptery parenting choices are okay, and it doesn't mean I don't love my kids. She wrote this book after she wrote an article in the New York Star (I think) about how she let her nine year old take the subway home, by himself. And even though such an adventure is statistically much safer than driving him home, she became dubbed 'the worst mom in America'. Skenazy has a grea ...more
Mar 30, 2015 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
Feb 05, 2016 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
Julie Ekkers
Jan 16, 2012 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
May 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
As a person who struggles with anxiety anyway, I have seen firsthand how much the media and other sources of parenting "experts" play on my natural fears and anxieties about keeping my kids safe, which is why this book was such a breath of fresh air. First off, I like that this book definitely pointed out that free range parenting is NOT lazy parenting---it doesn't mean just letting your kids do whatever they want. In fact, this book isn't really there to address the idea of discipline or how to ...more
Rachel Schultz
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it
In general, Lenore gets it. I think she has some blind spots about the arbitrarity of where she draws lines. Some false notes throughout but she has really good material too.
Matthew Rogers
Mar 09, 2022 rated it really liked it
I remember hearing of this when it came out and it resonated with me. I'm glad I finally read it. Empowering children to grow into competent adults is one of our primary duties. The safety culture we have in America and some other like countries kills children's confidence, competence, and social skills. It deprives them of the full childhood we and most before us had. ...more
Mar 16, 2009 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
Apr 08, 2009 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.
Nov 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: parenting
Very worthwhile (and quick) read. I thought I might be bored because I've read around this topic for awhile, but I actually still enjoyed it since it did a good job cutting the repetitive filler in most parenting books. It's targeted at a slightly older group, because I feel like I and most of my peers already had pretty gated childhoods and generally have only just gotten started on having kids, rather than people who already have tweens+. So while I felt that it was overall pretty relatable an ...more
Cassie Rae
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Loved this book. I got tons of ideas/reminders for how to raise an independent, confident person and was reminded myself of what that type of person looks like, why they are a whole lot better off than some perfect, careful, fearful person. Totally worth the read!
Sally Lucas Cumro
I LOVED this! As far as debunking myths about children’s safety and empowering parents to empower their kids, this book was so helpful. Bonus: it made me laugh out loud. A bunch of times.
Aug 17, 2011 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 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

I read the updated version, and it holds up. Still the best parenting book I have ever read. I stand by original review, but if I could add one tiny criticism, the book is cop-friendly, and police presence is only safer for the most privileged of society and less safe for many others.

The statistics don't lie - children are safer from violent crime than ever, and the best ways to keep them safe are to foster independence as they age, and drive less (because they're most likely to get inju
Mar 27, 2013 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
Apr 23, 2013 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.
Jun 19, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as academic as I'd like (personal taste, of course), but it's a fun, informative, and inspirational read. In fact, I'm going to try to bring the Let Grow Project to my kids' elementary school. :) ...more
C. Janelle
Jul 29, 2013 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
Amy Owens
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. I run an online community for moms and the #1 theme I see on a daily basis is FEAR. This book is older now - 10 years! - but the level of fear I see in moms is just as strong now as portrayed in this book. I love how she lays out the top 14 “commandments” and gives practical ways to combat each fear. Makes it really feasible for moms who need help busting out of our cultural patterns of fear and control. Skenazy is funny, although I must admit her humorous quips started to get o ...more
Vít Kotačka
"Children are built to survive."

I had this book in the reading list for at least two years. Then suddenly it became imminent to read it - my daughter, finishing her first grade, had asked to ride to the school by bus by herself alone.

This book didn't give me answers, but rather very light disappointment because of high expectations. But it showed me a direction and strengthened my confidence on my parenting way. So, it's worth reading and browsing plenty of notes I marked reading it through.
Dec 04, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A fellow parent once commented on my use of bed bumpers with my two-year-olds who had recently transitioned out of cribs. “They’ll be fine if they fall out of bed!” Well, yes. Of course they will. But...I was (am) a tired mom who likes a full night of sleep and was fine with doing one extra little step if it would help us all in the house to maybe sleep through the night. This book made me feel the same way as that comment. I almost rounded my rating up to 3 stars because I agree with most of he ...more
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was an awesome book encouraging helicopter parents to “chill out” a bit and train their kids to think, explore, and even (brace yourself) survive! Some of her stats do seem a little slanted but they make their point and it’s a refreshing perspective in the age of fear mongering.
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Lenore Skenazy is president of Let Grow, a non-profit promoting childhood independence and resilience, and founder of the Free-Range Kids movement. She is also a speaker, blogger, syndicated columnist, author, and reality show host.

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