Free-Range Parenting

April 20, 2018


Thinking back to a childhood not too far into the past, older Millennials and past generations can recall being quite free to roam, particularly in places less urbanized. It wasn’t too strange as an eight-year-old in the nineties to be out of sight of your mother, not even in the yard, and quite a distance down the street (or even two streets down), in the wooded backyard of a friend’s house, well out of sight of their mother’s eyes.


Most people cannot even imagine letting a slightly older child out of their sight in the backyard for more than a few minutes anymore. Parents can even get in trouble for doing so in some cases. Other people even call Child Protective Services when they assume they are observing an unsupervised child. Surely, this is because they are trying to prevent harm from coming to the child. But is the helicopter parenting, or even a ‘concerned citizen’ approach the only way for a child to grow?


Utah is starting to change our new ways of thinking about children interacting with the world. Here is what you need to know about ‘free-range parenting:’


When Is This Taking Place?


Utah lawmakers developed a proposal as to revise the idea that children are being neglected for being allowed to grow and learn by experiencing the world without an adult supervising their movements, if they are taken care of and their needs are met. The bill that was created changed the definition of neglect, by being more concise on what is, and what is not, neglect.

The bill was signed into law by Governor Gary Herbert on Friday, March 23, 2018, and goes into effect on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 in Utah state. But according to backers for the law, other states are watching to see, and there are thoughts that Utah might have been the first state, but they will not be the last state to start accepting this new-old form of parenting.


What Exactly Is the Acceptable Amount of Freedom?


Everyone parents differently, and this law is not aimed to step onto anyone’s toes regarding every parenting style. There is the case that every child is different in how they develop, and when they develop, coping skills and are considered mature enough to do varying difficult levels or tasks with and without supervision.


The Utah law is open-ended in the age requirements for this law as to when a child may be left alone or to engage in independent activities, to provide parents and agencies some leeway to work on a case by case basis on keeping children safe. As long as the child is of appropriate age and maturity, in which they would avoid unreasonable risk of injury, they are free to engage in independent activities.


What to Expect from Free-Range Parenting?


The decision of what is an acceptable amount of freedom will be left up to the discretion of a parent. This law was proposed, in part, after some states, one being Maryland, in which parents were investigated, and, in some cases, children were temporarily taken from their homes due to others reporting them for not being visibly supervising their children during acts of play in their own yards or for walking to school alone.


Utah lawmakers and supporters of the bill hope to allow children to acquire independence and encourage exploration of their surroundings. Free-range parents believe that this parenting style can help children cultivate self-reliance and problem-solving skills, in which they will utilize as adults, while still forming these abilities.


Children will be allowed to walk to and from school, stay at home, enjoy biking and running outside, or walking to nearby retailers or recreational organizations alone. Citizens will not just be able to call authorities to say they are seeing a child unsupervised at a store.


In conclusion, Utah has passed a law, the first of its kind in the United States, allowing for Free-Range Parents to raise their children as they were once raised. The law will go into effect at the beginning of May of this year. Parents do not have to be concerned about being judged about their parenting style or fear they will have their children taken from them for allowing them to be unsupervised. This allows mature children to engage in independent activities around their home and their local environment, to develop self-reliance and independence.


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