parenting together

Free-Range Parenting: What it is and how to do it right

You may have heard the news. Utah just passed a law allowing free-range parenting. But what exactly does that mean? And how do we become free-range parents?

Heather Johnson shares all you need to know about this parenting method.



How to be a Free-Range Parent

Governor Gary Herbert just signed a somewhat controversial bill into law. The law says that parents can’t be charged when they let kids with good judgement do things without supervision. Things like walking to school or playing outside alone. Free-range parenting is not negligence, laziness, or inattentiveness. Here’s some more detail on what it means to be a free-range parent, and how to do it right.

Never do for them what they can do for themselves

We tend to do things for our kids because we’re not patient enough to let them do it themselves. Or, we do everything for them because it makes us look like a good parent. Neither of those are good reasons to do things for our kids. We need to teach them, and then allow them to do what they can do. There are some problems that arise with this strategy. Parents might say, “well my kid forgot their homework, does that mean I can’t take it to them?” No, if it’s a big deal, take their homework to them. But you don’t need to take it every time, because they won’t learn things like responsibility or time management.

Train and supervise

Free-range parenting doesn’t mean pushing our kids out the door and hoping everything goes well. It means training them. So maybe this year with school starting, we walk our kids to and from school. Then next year, they have the training and can do it on their own.

Allow for natural consequences

Let the natural consequences teach. A good example is kids getting themselves dressed for school. Say your child wants to wear jelly shoes…in the winter. You might immediately think, “no, they’re going to change into boots.” But if you let the natural consequences play out, it’s only going to take one recess for them to realize they should have worn the boots. Sometimes what holds us back from making these tough decisions is what the other moms are going to think. We need to accept and own our own parenting decisions. Our choices don’t settle only when we’re worried about ourselves and how it makes us look to others.

Set limits

We need to set limits where the natural consequences would be harmful. For example, riding a bike without a helmet, or crossing a busy street. Set limits when you’re not okay with the natural consequences that would come from a situation.

Encourage free play

Free play is necessary. From when they’re small to the point when they’re 18 and leaving the house, our kids need to play. Free play allows them to gain the benefits they need. We should let them be bored and figure it out. They need to explore, and encourage and develop those vocabularies and abilities. We need to just let them go play.