Helicopter emergency relief

Steps toward a free-range life for your kids

If you would like to come down from your helicopter and give your children a free-range life, how do you go about it?

1. Take a step back. Relax. Realize that the world is not as dangerous as it is depicted on TV. In fact, it is quite safe. Turn off the news and the crime shows, or at least take them with a grain of salt. Remember when you hear about a nationwide hunt for a child kidnapper, there are over 300 million people in this country. What are the odds?

2. Avoid the experts who continually tell us what horrible parents we are. Trust your intuition and remember what you did as a child, and that you survived it. I remember rolling around in the back of the station wagon as we went roaring around the turns. We called it fun.

3. Boycott baby knee-pads and much of the other kiddie-safe items that tug at your heart strings. While common sense may not be as common as it used to be, do your part to find it for yourself.

4. Stop thinking like a lawyer. Sure, lawsuits and lawyers are out there, but if you live your life paranoid that whatever you do could lead to a lawsuit, you will be one miserable parent. And if you are one of those people who sues people because life threw you a curve, shame on you. Take a step back, grow a backbone, and get over yourself.

5. Avoid the neighborhood blamers. You know the ones. They can’t believe you would let your fragile angel face certain death by doing something that you used to do everyday as a child.

6. Give Halloween back to the trick-or-treaters. Let them wear gruesome costumes, go out in the dark and get scared. Then they can come home, eat too much candy and get sick. Just like you did when you were a kid.

7. Study history. Children were doing all sorts of things at young ages, and most came out just fine. They grew up to become responsible adults because they actually had to be responsible and learn how to do things. What a concept.

8. Quit trying to control every little aspect of your child’s life. It doesn’t work and just stresses you out.

9. Unplug your child. As Tara House, a long-time elementary teacher in Tahoe says, “Kids who are plugged in all the time, and don’t have any unstructured time, come to school and expect to be entertained. They can’t handle the quiet, and thinking.”

10. One key principle of being a free range kid may be the hardest for many parents. Let your kid fail. We have all been led down the path that only the best, top-of-the-line life will do. We think that if we just somehow get our kid into the best school, they can get the best job, make the most money, and live happily ever after. Actually the best thing kids can do is fail, get back up, try again and fail again, and then finally succeed. That isn’t going to happen if we control every aspect of their lives so they never have the opportunity to fail. Skenazy tells the story of one dad who had to explain to his daughter why the award she brought home was for “Second winner.” “’A second winner,’ Dad gingerly explained, ‘is what we used to call, loser.’” Yep, while the trend has been to make everybody a winner and constantly build up kids’ self-esteem, perhaps we should realize that self-esteem is only real after you work hard at something and succeed at it.

11. Listen to your kids. Even if they are babies, they don’t want to be treated like babies.

12. Learn to understand what is really unsafe and what presents a very remote chance of harm. Be rational and make good decisions. By all means, put a helmet on your child when they are riding a bike. Use a car seat. Keep them away from the pool if they can’t swim, but don’t fall victim to every claim you hear on TV about the latest danger facing children. In most cases, stifling your child is more dangerous than the remote chance of harm caused by the latest fad fear.