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

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  3,776 Ratings  ·  747 Reviews

FREE RANGE KIDS has become a national movement, sparked by the incredible response to Lenore Skenazys 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

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Published November 6th 2009 by Recorded Books, LLC (first published May 18th 2009)
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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)
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Community Reviews

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Skylar Burris
Sep 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Terri
May 04, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Cass
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
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Lauren
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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Jessica
Jan 25, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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Meredith
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Lisa Butterworth
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
Julie Ekkers
Jan 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lori
Apr 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Wendy
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
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Rachel
Mar 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
David
Aug 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Lynn
Jul 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Stepan
Mar 16, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Albena
May 24, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Leslie
Sep 07, 2010 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
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Kristin
Apr 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Molly
Jul 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: helpful-books
I would like to begin by saying that I enjoyed this book and found it to be insightful and though-provoking. There is a lot of common sense in this book. I believe many parents need to hear the message of Free Range Kids and evaluate how they are raising their kids in light of what they have read. My husband and I were already somewhat "free range" with our kids but this book cemented in my mind certain aspects of my parenting philosophy.

However, I did have a few problems with the book.

While I a
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Charlotte
Mar 05, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Corinne
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
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Maggie Larche
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Elaine
Mar 27, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Liz
Jan 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kathleen
May 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Charity
Jul 29, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lisa
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, parenting
love, love, love this book so far.
Sylvester
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice break from all the craziness. Let's adjust our fear levels to the actual level of danger. Let's parent because its about our kids, not about us. But why does common sense sound like recklessness to so many? Interesting to note that it's not this way in Europe.
Christina
May 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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John
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
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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!” 8 likes
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