Free-Range Parenting - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Free-Range Parenting

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A number of parents have called for less hovering to make room for a free-range parenting philosophy, and proponents have said it allows children to become self-reliant.

Opponents have said, ti puts children at risk.

On Saturday, leaders in the free-range parenting movement will ask that parents allow their kids to go to the neighborhood part at 10 a.m., and then leave kids there to play alone, and walk home alone.

The move has turned controversial, and many have criticized the style of parenting.

"The disagree with what we are doing. By their definition it's neglect," said Dr. Joanne Wendt, Ph. D. 

There is a growing movement to raise free-range kids. It's a term recently thrown into the spotlight by the Meitiv family from Maryland, which now under investigation by Child Protective Services, for letting their ten-year-old son and six-year-old daughter play at the park alone, and walk home by themselves.

"We've gone out with them, we've taught them how to cross the street, we've observed them. It's not like we somehow dropped them off in the middle of a jungle and said, fend for yourself kids," said Dr. Wendt

CPS found the parents responsible for unsubstantiated child neglect.

Local marriage and family psychologist Dr. Joanne Wendt said she believes parents should be allowed to let children who have proven they are responsible and independent to play at the park and walk home alone.

"I think that one's fine if it's a neighborhood that they feel familiar with, and the ten-year-old they're just walking by the park. I don't think there's a problem there," she said.

Wendt believes free-range is a bit too extreme and parents need to find a middle ground. She also said most of her patients struggle with the other extreme, helicopter parents, hovering over their child's every move.

"I think the majority of the parents that bring their kids here are helicopter parents. It's like they want to control everything in their kids' lives. It's like they need to breathe, they need room. They need to let them experience life without their parents micro-managing everything they do, but  I disagree with the little nine-year-old on the subway system," said Dr. Wendt.

Lenore Skenazy is the New York journalist and mom who coined the term free-range kids after coming under harsh criticism for an article she wrote about allowing her nine-year-old son ride the subway alone.

"Seven years ago is when I was coined America's worst mom, I started my blog, Free-Range Kids, to explain I actually love safety. I love helmets, seat-belts, mouth-guards. I just don't think kids need a security detail every time they leave the house," she said.

San Diego has a couple dozen families who practice free-range kids parenting style.

California does have a specific law when it comes to leaving children alone in the car. According to the law, a child six years of age or younger must be under supervision of someone twelve or older if they are in a vehicle.

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