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Free-Range Kids, Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry Hardcover – April 20, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 187 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Library Journal Starred Review - Skenazy flies the black flag of ?America?s Worst Mom,? a title this syndicated columnist and NPR commentator earned by allowing her nine-year-old son to ride the New York City public transit alone in 2008. Here, she puts parents? fears to bed by examining the statistical likelihood of the dangers we most fear (murder, baby-snatching, etc.). Drawing on facts, statistics, and humor, she convincingly argues that this is one of the safest periods for children in the history of the world, reiterating that ?mostly, the world is safe?and mostly, people are good.? Even the lowest-flying helicopter parents would have trouble disagreeing that ?we have entered an era that says you cannot trust yourself. Trust a product instead.? Skenazy argues that it?s time to retire the national pastime of worrying and that ?childhood is supposed to be about discovering the world, not being held captive.? The obvious has never been so hilarious.

?Skenazy will find plenty of supporters for her contention that, in a world where the rights of chickens to roam freely are championed, it's time to liberate the kids.? (The Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2009)

"Skenazy advocates for a child's right to separate gradually from a parent's assistance and to learn the joy and self-confidence that comes from trying out independence." --Christian Century (November 2009)


"This book is a bubbly but potent corrective for the irrational fears that drive so many parents crazy. Skenazy is witty, perceptive, persuasive, and above all, sensible."
—Robert Needlman, M.D., coauthor, Dr Spock’s Baby and Child Care, 8th Edition.

"Free-Range Kids is the best kind of manifesto: smart, funny, rigorous, sane, impassioned, and bristling with common sense. If you’re a parent, or planning to become one, read this book. You have nothing to lose–apart from your anxiety."
—Carl Honoré, author, In Praise of Slowness and Under Pressure

"Lenore Skenazy is a national hero."
—Mary Roach, author, Bonk and Stiff

"Even scaredy-cat parents like myself now have a how-to manual on overcoming irrational suspicions and, finally, differentiating between an axe murderer and a play date!"
—David Harsanyi, syndicated columnist and author, Nanny State.

"Free-Range Kids makes the perfect baby shower gift."
—Nancy McDermott, parenting blogger, Spiked Online

"Moral insight without moralizing—how rare is that?"
—Amity Shlaes, author, The Forgotten Man

"Keep Free-Range Kids on your bedstand next to your bible and the TV remote, and refer to as needed during the 11 o'clock news."
—Jordan Lite, news reporter, Scientific American online

"Read this book—Mommy said you could."
—Penn Jillette, Penn & Teller


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass (April 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470471948
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470471944
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (187 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #337,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Lenore Skenazy writes a bright, unpredictable op-ed column that appears in more than 100 papers. Her often cheery, sometimes chiding pieces look at everything from politics to family life to the strange times we live in - times that have brought us bottled water for dogs, pole dancing for grannies and the vocabulary-covered "S.A.T. Shower Curtain" for kids.

Her observations can be heard on NPR and read in Reader's Digest. She has also written for Mad Magazine and co-authored "The Dysfunctional Family Christmas Songbook." Her quiz/joke book, "Who's The Blonde That Married What's-His-Name?" is due out in June and her topical humor contest, "What Next?" runs in The Week. She also spent several years as an on-air (younger, cuter) Andy Rooney, first at CNBC and then at the Food Network.

After she let her 9-year-old take the subway by himself and wrote about it in April of '08, she found herself on "The Today Show," "Dr. Phil," and even the BBC, defending herself against charges she was "America's Worst Mom." (Go ahead - Google it.) She launched the blog, "Free Range Kids" to explain her parenting philosophy and this proved so popular, she went on to write the book, "Free Range Kids."

Skenazy lives in Manhattan with her husband and two sons.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been reading Lenore's blog for a few months now, and I enjoy it, so I mean it as a compliment when I say that her book is WAY better than her blog.

I really enjoyed the combination of light-hearted quips and anecdotes together with serious, thought-provoking information and opinions. Opinions that are backed up by real data, not the urban legends everyone likes to cite. Did you know that there are no documented cases of kids being given poisoned candy by a stranger on Halloween? I didn't. Lenore debunks lots of "known dangers," and she does it in a readable, entertaining fashion.

This is a parenting book I'm going to recommend to my friends, and one of the very few that I won't be selling to the used book store. This one will be proudly displayed on my bookshelf to be loaned out to people who need it, and re-read by me when I need a reminder not to be sucked in by the paranoid parenting that's taken over our society. Thanks, Lenore!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Personally, I thought the author was cool when she let her kid ride the subway alone. It's hard for parents to let go, but we have to or we'll stunt our kids. I was a crime reporter for many years. I covered Polly Klaas -- I know first-hand out unsafe the world can be. So lock your doors, put your kids in car seats, be sensible and then move on. To try to control every aspect of your kids' world probably does steal a little of their childhood away from them.

But blogs turned into books often annoy me, because that witty-breezy-edgy voice begins to grate.

I think this is an OK book, probably one that a lot of parents need to read or will want to read. But for me, once the point was made, it was made. I'd have been happy reading this in a magazine article without dragging it out. It felt like a make-a-buck effort more than a necessary parenting tool.
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Format: Hardcover
Before you install a Lo Jack system in your child's backpack- read this book! The world is not the scary place that the evening news would like us to believe. This book will debunk the myths that have been widely accepted as truths. For example, strangers passing out poisoned Halloween candy- how many documented cases have there been? zero. Check it out on snopes.

Do you wish your kids could play capture the flag on summer nights with the neighborhood kids like we did? They can! Trust your instincts. You know your children better than anyone. They don't need 24/7 supervision. They need you to teach them how to be safe and then trust them to do it.

Lenore Skenazy should be hailed as the liberator of children from the oppression of paranoia.
2 Comments 37 of 39 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
From the beginning, I was sucked in by her light, funny writing style. She uses a lot of sarcasm, which is always fun for me. The book came about because she wrote a column about letting her 9 year old ride the subway in New York City home by himself. She was contacted by various news shows to come on television and share her story, where she was usually made to look negligent by various parenting "experts." From there, a whole parenting movement took off, which she dubbed the Free Range movement. The premise is that kids have common sense, and that the world is safe and they should be allowed to explore it.

She uses statistics to back up her reasoning, some of which are surprising and reassuring. For instance, the likelihood of your child being abducted by a stranger are 1 in 1,500,000. That amounts to 0.000067%. She states that violent crime rates peaked in the early '90s, have been on a steady decline since, and are now at the same levels as they were in the early '60s. There are hypotheses about why this may be. Perhaps it's better prosecution of sex offenders, a greater police presence, better psychiatric treatments available, something else, or all of the above. She discusses Halloween as well. One expert found that there has never been a single case of a child dying from Halloween candy poisoned by a stranger. Not one single case.

This book takes you through 14 "commandments" for free range parents, and information about why you'd want to live this way. At the end of each chapter, she gives you ideas for how you can work toward allowing your kids more freedom. She does a great deal to try to soothe our natural parenting worries, which often are fueled by things like the evening news and Law & Order.
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Format: Paperback
I have to admit, this book lost me pretty early. In the interests of full disclosure, I'm a scientist by education, and an educator by profession. I love hard data, research, and statistics. If I don't know the answer to something, my response is always, "To the research!" Rationality in as many decisions as possible.

That background aside, it isn't so much that this book is wrong. A lot of what it says is quite right. It's more that the right and wrongs of this book are so random and poorly researched, that I lost my faith in what I was reading fast. In one chapter, it will tell you (quite rightly) that the chance of your kid getting abducted is so tiny, that their freedom and independence and play is WAY more important. But then in another chapter, it will tell you to ignore those books on prenatal diet (and their impact on brain development), or the effects of chemicals on your kids, and imply that breastfeeding isn't incredibly valuable.

Once I read a few things that belittled actual, hard scientific data, I realized that this book is largely wishful thinking. Since so many parents are absurdly stressed out about parenting decisions (ironically, stress hurts your kids... so calming down is not bad advice at all), this book responds to the problem by encouraging people to bury their heads in the sand about actually scientifically proven issues.

Everyone makes LOTS of parenting mistakes. And stressing about it is pointless. Your kids will indeed be fine, as this book says. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't have as much information at your disposal, and make the best decisions you can. It isn't something to stress about, but it isn't something to ignore, either. Information is never bad. It's what you do with it.
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