Usually when we think of the phrase “free range” poultry comes to mind, but there is a growing number of people who are joining the “free range” parenting movement which simply means they give their kids more freedom to walk around unsupervised. Generations past remember a time when young children played outside, walked to school, the park etc without a parent in sight and nothing was thought of it. But today when a child is seen alone, it usually draws a lot of attention, worry from passersby and calls to the police.
The Washington Post recently reported that this was the case for the Meitiv children of Maryland (ages 10 and 6) when they made the one mile trek home from school last month. Both the ten year old boy and his sister were walking home from school when about half way home they were stopped by police officers who were answering a call from a worried onlooker. The children told the officers they were allowed to walk home, but they were still escorted home by the police.
Parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv explained to police they allow their kids to walk home from school and believe in “free range”parenting, a movement to raise independent and confident kids. Normally the kids even carry a laminated car with them displaying their parents’ contact info and the words, “I am not lost. I am a free-range kid.” Danielle explains that she and her husband have allowed their kids these freedoms, but only after proving they were ready for them. They have taken trips alone to their local library about three quarters of a mile away and a nearby 7-11 before given the go ahead to walk home from school. Danielle explains, “They have proven they are responsible. They’ve developed these skills.” She also points out, “Abductions are extremely rare. Car accidents are not. The number one cause of death for children of their age is a car accident.”
The parents explain that they were lectured by the police on the dangers of world, but had an even more difficult time after they were visited by Child Protective Services (CPS) soon after the officers left. Alexander Meitiv says he was threatened that his children would be taken away unless he signed an agreement that he wouldn’t leave them unsupervised until the following Monday when CPS could conduct a follow-up.
Danielle explains that when CPS later visited and wanted to conduct a check of their home she refused saying, “It seemed such a huge violation of privacy to examine my house because my kids were walking home.” She later learned her children were interviewed by CPS at their school. Alexander adds of the ordeal, “I think what CPS considered neglect, we felt was an essential part of growing up and maturing. We feel we’re being bullied into a point of view about child-rearing that we strongly disagree with.”
What do you think of the Meitiv’s “free range” parenting stance?
Do you think kids this young should be allowed to walk home from school?