69 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2009
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!
110 of 123 people found the following review helpful
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.
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2009
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.
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2010
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. She also spends a chapter addressing specific safety concerns parents have, such as choking, drowning, abduction, and "stranger danger" in general.
My main complaint about the book is that she sometimes lets her personal feelings influence her writing. One example is her view on breastfeeding, which of course I must address considering my career choice (childbirth & lactation educator). I agree with her that babies who are formula fed are going to mostly turn out just fine. I don't agree with labeling the benefits of breastfeeding as "supposed" and downplaying the importance of nutrition in general. It sounds like she had a run-in over formula feeding when one of her kids was a baby, and it has created a 12-year grudge (her words). I hope she can one day work through those feelings. She ignores studies on breastfeeding and formula, and states that the only real benefit is that breastfed babies might have fewer ear infections. Of course, that's just one of many, many benefits to both mothers and babies. I'm sorry that she felt harassed by a lactivist at some point in her life; I don't believe at all that formula is poison or that mothers who bottle feed should be made to feel guilty. How we choose to feed our babies (and our older kids - she addresses nutrition in general in a similar way as well) is up to us. However, this was one area where she chose to ignore evidence in favor of a personal bias.
Overall, this book is worth reading. It has some good information for parents, a fun writing style, and reassurance that no matter what we do, if we love our kids we probably won't screw them up too badly.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2015
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.
This book will make a lot of stressed parents feel better. And that will be good for their kids, as a matter of fact. But it will also cause parents ignore some obvious steps you can take to give your kids the best start in life.
I would say 75% of what this book says is correct. But 75% isn't really good enough. This book is light on the research, and heavy on personal opinions (of both the author and various "experts" who sometimes offer no scientific justification for their claims).
If you're an overstressed parent, this book might not be a bad idea to give you a reality check and help you calm down. But don't assume that everything in it is accurate, or that researching the best decisions for your child isn't a good idea.
42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2009
This is seriously one of the best parenting books I have read. Not only do I love Lenore Skenazy's writing style - so very down to earth - her advice is right on the mark. She doesn't dictate what you have to do, but offers some very practical wisdom on what dangers are real and which are overblown.
Her ideas are well-researched (documentation in the back of the book), her examples are on-the-mark - sometimes sad and many times hilarious, and she demonstrates a real empathy for parents. We can all get overwhelmed by the abundance of advice for parents. Lenore urges us to take a step back, use our common sense, and do what's best for our own children.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2013
I really, really like the idea that spurred this book. We as parents sometimes need to be reminded to let go and let our kids learn through experience. We need to step back and see if our fears are realistic and borne out by the facts. She makes that point very well. In fact, she made that point so well that after a certain point I felt she had to continually exaggerate her original premise in order to get enough material to fill a book. This would have been GREAT as an op-ed (in fact, it was). As a book it gets mighty tiresome after the first few chapters since she just hammers on the same note over and over ... and over.
But what REALLY turned me off is her "I know better than everyone" condemnatory tone. All parenting books are awful! Well, except mine, of course. You're all neurotic if you don't do things my way! If you don't let your 8-year-old ride the subway alone you're just paranoid!
She has a section in which she brings up several popular parenting books in order to bash them. She states that the books imply that if you don't do things their way, then you're WRONG. In a grand irony, I've read those other books and did not get that feeling from them at all. However, that attitude completely permeates Skenazy's book.
She goes off on several tangents that appear to be pet peeves of hers. For example, she mocks the promotion of breastfeeding. While I heartily agree that we are very blessed to have good formula options, this does not negate the fact that breastmilk is, in fact, the best for our kids. Will formula-fed kids grow up to be healthy and well adjusted? All other things being equal, absolutely! But in a deviation from her M.O., she ignores most all research done to date and tries to imply that if you want to breastfeed your kid because you believe it's best for them, you're just a paranoid sucker (so to speak).
I really do like the idea. I would not, however, recommend the book.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2009
In the past week of summer vacation, I have permitted the following activities:
My eight-year-old stayed at home to play computer games while I and the three Littlers walked a block up to the little neighborhood market to buy cheese for dinner sandwiches that night.
My eight-year-old and six-year-old walked to the vending machines at the pool from the playground sort of next to the pool, to buy treats for themselves and their brothers after swim lessons. Then they went back again because Seg punched the wrong numbers into the vending machines and wound up with peanut butter crackers instead of a bag of Skittles. My friend M and I stayed at the playground, chatting and watching our Littlers play in the dirt and run around.
The three older boys roasted marshmallows and flung wood onto the fire, and traipsed around the woods collecting feathers and walnuts and leaves, and slept outside in a tent. I sat on a porch swing next to the fire with a bottle of Straub's and my friend A and talked (when I wasn't bogarting their burnt marshmallows).
The two older boys and their friend rode their bicycles and scooter around and around the block and up and down the alley playing some sort of tag they made up involving Harry Potter and much loud casting of spells (their extremely common use of the Cruciatus curse might give me pause for concern...)
The three older boys ate popsicles on the front porch while I put the baby down for a nap upstairs.
The two older boys took my coupons and went and retrieved items I needed in other aisles of the grocery store while I waited for the damn fishman to give me my order.
The two older boys continued playing a game in the van (windows down but vehicle locked, of course, parked DIRECTLY in front of the coffee shop and with several people we knew sitting at the tables out front) while I ran into the coffee shop to pick up a (pre-called/ordered) latte.
None of these sound completely crazy, do they?
I mean, really REALLY beyond-the-pale crazy?
Because they are activities that have been a little tough for me. A little tough on my over-protective, overactive mothering instincts. Activities that frankly fly in the face of the helicopter parenting most of us practice (or are expected to practice) these days. While the boys were on the porch, I envisioned - I dunno - Jack the Ripper? White slavers? A slavering pedophile in a panel van looking for his puppy?
Yes, we live in the city, which means I lock my doors and car at night. I will not allow my children to play in the actual street. I am cordial but distant with strangers walking up and down the street.
But *I* grew up riding my bike where I pleased, and was pretty much left to my own devices most of the summer, and a lot of the rest of the year.
We kids ran up and down and IN the street, and we built treehouses in the woods at the end of the cul-de-sac (which incidentally backed up onto a major freeway, separated from our street by a cinder block wall and little else). We played hockey and kickball in the street ("CAR!"), and I was allowed to walk not only to my friend Roseann's house at the end of the street, but to my friend Stacie's house, across the previously mentioned highway (there was an overpass). I was permitted to walk down the street the other way to the pond, to fish and skate and to hang out with my friend Stephanie. I was permitted to ride my bike anywhere I could pedal it, which often included the 7-11, the movie theatre, and the ice cream store (all roughly within a mile radius).
In addition, I was sent away every single summer for weeks at a time to camp (and loved every blessed minute of it), where I had a large posse of friends I didn't see the rest of the year; we ran around in the woods (sometimes in the middle of the night), canoed and kayaked and played in the creek; we climbed all over a ropes course and in the trees like monkeys; we camped outside, built large fires, learned to shoot a bow-and-arrow and a BB gun, and swam miles in the freezing cold pool at 5am to earn meaningless badges.
I was not only permitted but EXPECTED to walk the two long blocks to the bus stop and take a public bus three miles home from school in the winter months, when my mother didn't drive due to snow (my older brother was with me most days, and this didn't start till I was in second grade). (One memorable snowy day, when my brother was not in school for some reason or another, I fell asleep and missed my stop. The bus driver turned around at the end of the route and drove me to my doorstep.)
I was a Free Range Kid.
Before the days of 24-hours-a-day news channels trumpeting every single missing child (and even some not really missing), before the days of Stranger Danger programs and the prominence of organized sports, before the days of your kids' friends all living in the `burbs to which you must drive, I think most of us my age (39ish) were.
After reading Lenore Skenazy's wonderful and reassuring book Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry, I feel like a new convert.
Lenore Skenazy is passionate about her cause: Giving children -- and their parents - freedom. For the kids, it's the freedom to play outside without grown-ups, to make mistakes, to climb trees, to walk to school alone, to frolic. For their parents, it's giving them the confidence to let go of irrational fears that make them to want to place their children under lock and key or 24/7 surveillance. Or both. (from Picket Fence Post.)
The zeal with which I am now actively trying to develop my children's independence must necessarily (and wisely) be tempered by a number of factors. For example:
- Their ages -would I send the three-year-old to the vending machine alone? I WOULD NOT.
- By their personalities and common sense - Would I leave the six-year-old home alone for half an hour? I actually might, since my six-year-old is the most responsible of all my children - it might depend on where I was going, and how he felt about it.
- And by MY common sense: Would I drive my twelve-year-old to the local mall, along with a friend, and leave them in charge of three younger siblings, including a three-year-old? Boy, for all my zeal and independence-building, I sure would not. (I have an eight-year-old and a three-year-old. I would not trust them at a large public shopping mall with anyone but me, and sometimes I even wonder about me.)
Skenazy allowed her then-nine-year-old to ride the subway alone. For this feat of mothering confidence, she was interviewed all over national TV and vilified by lots and lots of plastic talking heads in the media. She discusses this reaction in her book, and she then goes on to discuss why we have become such a fearful and overprotective society. She backs up her strong opinions with solid empirical evidence, citing, among others, David Finkelhor, head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, and several prominent NY pediatricians (her own included). She cites numbers at a dizzying speed, debunking many of our long-held and weirdly cherished beliefs re: stranger kidnapping, online predators, cell phone use by children, and the need for toilet locks (I personally gave up toilet locks when I couldn't get one open at an, er, critical moment. Thank God we have two bathrooms). Her tone is friendly but firm; her writing style would seem most at home in a mommy blog (I don't think that's an insult, is it?).
I may be a little bit in love with her and her ideas, and if we lived in the same city, I would so find her and make her be my (enabling and supportive) mommy friend.
Would I let my nine-year-old ride the subway alone? Perhaps, if he'd grown up in NYC and was used to riding the subway with me and it was daytime and he didn't have to switch trains...see how it goes? You have to use your parenting instincts and skills to make the best decision for you and for your child.
But you also must stretch a little, take a few chances - let them spread their wings and attempt a solo flight. Because eventually (dear God, I hope and pray) they grow up and move out and must do their own laundry, and believe it or not, little Junior needs to know how to turn on the stove and live in his own place and ride the subway to work at some point.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
In this day and age of hyper scheduled, over stressed kids, this book offers the recipe for raising happy and productive kids!
Chock full of advice and stories of kids who made their parents crazy and ended up successful adults, you'll find reassurance on every page.
This couldn't have come at a better time. I have a (nearly) 6 year old and it makes me remember that even though times have changed, I can still give him the freedom to be a happy, healthy, creative and crazy/wonderful kid!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
My wife and I are raising a now 9-year old son and 12-year old daughter, and up until recently, fell prey to the same cloud of fear that hangs over every young family in America today. We live in a very safe neighborhood, in a very safe town; and yet up until the point our oldest was about 10 or 11 years old, we were afraid to let them outside the yard without adult supervision (and I mean DIRECT adult supervision!).
We read this book at a good time in our parenting - we had just allowed our daughter to attend her first sleep-away camp, and when she came home after a week at camp, we saw how much she had changed and grown. Her confidence increased, her interaction with the world and people around her were more direct, and she actually became more responsible for her day-to-day chores and activities. "Wow" we thought - "maybe there's a connection between autonomy and being responsible!" (now I think back on that and shake my head - duh!). We began to seriously examine the "micro choices" we made every day about our kids' activities and more importantly, the restrictions on those activities. Bottom line, we learned to "let go" of our "irrational" fears (and it wasn't easy) and instead chose to worry about the big issues instead.
At first we were sheepish - afraid of what other parents might think when they found out that *gasp* we let our 8-year old ride his bike down the street (A BLOCK AWAY!), or that our 12 year old was actually allowed to walk to the end of the block (6 houses away) to visit her school friend. Then I discovered Free Range Kids and found good company in our quest to raise more independent and responsible children (who, by the way seem to have more fun!).
For us, there wasn't so much controversy in the book as there was common sense. I have to admit, though - Even in my new "enlightened" state, I don't think I could let either of my kids ride a subway alone across town. I really enjoyed reading the facts and figures about crime rates and actual rates of harm coming to children (and how reassuringly low they really are). It was like a reference book to cut through the fear-mongering that we are subjected to by our government and the media (swine flu "epidemic" anyone?)
Skenazy's style is easy to read, and frankly some times perhaps a bit too colloquial. But it gets the message across, and that is: "Let your kids have fun, let them take reasonable chances on their own, and you will see them grow and mature (and have fun) in ways you didn't realize were possible."
I recommend this book for any parent (or soon-to-be-parent) if for no other reason than to provide a counter to the rest of the world that is trying to tell you that your kids need to stay locked inside in front of their Xbox where they are "safe".