Kids Have a Right to Unsupervised Time & Parents Have the Right to Give it to Them

swings at a playground

Whenever we turn on the news, there seems to be another random mass shooting, giving parents everywhere yet another reason to feel anxious when our children are at school, on the playground, or practically anywhere without us. From car seats to helmets, our children have more safety advantages than any other generation, yet we as parents are programmed to be fearful. We all know that some point, our precious little ones will leave the nest and be on their own, so how do we raise safe, self-reliant children without going nuts with anxiety?


Statistics are here to help! Believe it or not, crime is at the lowest it’s been in decades. In 2013, Time Magazine reported that violent crime dropped to the lowest level since 1978, and to date it has remained the lowest in over 50 years. I know this can be difficult to fathom, but that means there was more violent crime on the streets when we were climbing trees, riding bikes, and going to movies without a cell phone.

We all fear that our child could be snatched away by a stranger at any time, but the risk of kidnapping by strangers is also extremely low.

Statistics also prove that a lack of exercise is a contributing factor to short term and long term health risks for children. While we worry if our children will be able to walk to school or ride a bike to a friend’s house safely, we should also consider that statistic after statistic states car accidents are the leading cause of death among children 2 to 14 years old. Think about that next time you decide to drive your kid to school before you head into the office!

No matter how illogical, there is always something ingrained in us as parents to think that the world is out to harm our children, or that they’re going to get kidnapped if we allow them to play outside alone, but that fear can be a good thing if we use it to teach our children how to navigate the world. We can’t shelter them from school shootings, but we can make sure they know what to do, and if they go out into the world prepared, we as parents will feel more at ease.

In middle school, I rode my bike all over town during the summer (no helmet, no cell phone, no wallet or way to reach my parents if I were in trouble), and yet it’s nearly impossible for me to envision my daughter doing the same. I have to realize my own mother probably had the same fears I have now, but she trusted me enough to overcome them, and now it’s time for me to do the same.

From organic food to after school activities to the latest toys, we’re all looking to give our children the best of everything. When you think back to what you most enjoyed as a kid, or things you absolutely loved to do, weren’t they things you did on your own? Whether it was making a fort, or finding a coin, or going somewhere with your friends, there was something adventurous about the experience if you figured out how to do it on your own.

While your kids are home from school this holiday season, try to loosen the reigns and give them some independence. It’s the season of giving, so give your kid the gift of being “on my own.” Responsibility builds confidence, and when it comes to giving our kids the best of everything, a feeling of self-worth is priceless.

For advice on how to how to let your kids be kids without keeping them under constant supervision, watch this Off The Grid video with Lenore Skenazy, an advocate of the free-range parenting movement.

Do you let your kids play outside unsupervised?

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