I saw part of ‘This Morning’ on Tuesday, where they were interviewing two ladies about free-range parenting.
If you don’t know ‘Free-range parenting’ is basically allowing children to have a bigger rein over their own autonmy and emphises children’s independence. Something I am all for.
However! the one lady interviewed lives in a rural area and talked about letting her child walk to school from the age of 7, and letting her three children the oldest being 9, playing on their own in the woods during the summer holidays just past.
The other lady talked about how she cooks whatever her children want for dinner regardless of how many meals a day that means she is cooking. and also lets the children pick their own bedtimes.
I don’t know why but this really bugged me. I am not saying by any way shape or means that there is a wrong way to parent children. As the saying goes “each to their own” But I personally think that letting a child walk to school from the age of 7 is a bit young for them to do so. Maybe, in a rural area without much traffic and where everybody knows each other, life is a bit different.
Personally if my 5 year old was to walk to school on her own, she would have to cross busy main roads after leaving our cul-de-sac, contend with HGV’s, a level crossing, and a busy shopping high street. Would I let her walk to school on her own in a couple of years time? most likely not. She is sensible, yes! sensible beyond her young years, however would I trust her to not panic at being late for school and jump the level crossing in order to avoid being late. No.
Do I let my children pick their own bedtime? No, ok, we don’t have a rigid in bed by 8pm rule, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, hey we live busy lives. But they know their bedtime (even the 1 year old) and they look to going to bed around this time. It’s routine to them.
Do I cook 3 different meals a night, I don’t. I cook one meal and everybody eats it. Yes sometimes I have to hide certain veg by blending it into a puree and adding it to something else. yes sometimes, there are certain foods that certain family members won’t eat, so I substitute and experiment to make it likeable by everybody, but this is a minority of the time.
But I still give them independence.The oldest has a piggy bank and each month she gets given pocket money, and when that piggy bank is full she can spend half as long as she saves the other half which goes in to her child trust fund for when she is 18. She is allowed to pay for her own treats when she goes into the shop from picking what she wants to paying and waiting for change. She gets to pick what we as a family, eat one night as week and then she has to help me cook it, having just been given the independence of learning to cook. (Yes sometimes that means we have beans on toast for dinner, but at least I know, that at the age of 18, she won’t be asking me if she has to remove the tin before cooking the beans!)
After-all independence is not an end goal. it comes in many forms and is a constant learning curve. I am 25, and I am still learning to be indpendent. Yes, I can cross a road by myself and I can go shopping by myself and all the things we teach our children, but there is still independence to be learnt, such as indpendently managing our children for 5 days a week on my own, while my partner works nights, the financial independence of managing our family income.
Should we rush to get our children out of the door and off to school on their own? Allowing them to be little independent adults at the age of 7? No, I think there is age-appropriate independence. I am currently teaching my daughter the importantance of 999 and under what circumstances she would use it. Teaching her our address and what to do if another child is mean (My heart says break a chair over their head, but my head says tell your teacher! although I have been known to say “if they are mean to you, just call them a cabbage! kid will be too stunned to say anything else” haha)
Do I trust my children? yes I do, its the rest of the world, the ones who should know better but choose to be ****(insert chosen profanity here) that stop me from lengthening the metaphorical leash I have on my children.
What do you think? Are you a follower of this free-range parenting trend? what kind of indepedence do you give your children?
Let me know in the comments