You might find it surprising that one of my favorite parenting books was written by someone who is the top result of online searches with the terms "America's Worst Mom." She also has a reality show on Discovery/TLC International titled "World's Worst Mom." But Lenore Skenazy has a lovely sense of humor that pairs well with her understanding of parental behavior, and she laughingly accepts the ironic labels. (They were coined by the media after she let her nine-year-old son ride the New York subway alone.) Her ensuing book, Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry), is a straightforward, humorous, and surprisingly informative read.
To give you a glimpse of Free-Range Kids, here are a few chapter titles:
- Know When to Worry (Play Dates and Axe Murderers: How to Tell the Difference)
- Don't Think Like a Lawyer (Some Risks Are Worth It)
- Get Braver (Quit Trying to Control Everything. It Doesn't Work Anyway)
- Relax (Not Every Little Thing You Do Has That Much Impact on Your Child's Development)
You can see why an intentional mama like me would find such a book entertaining but also applicable. When you take parenting seriously, you tend to take the perceived risks seriously too. Popular media tells us that there are many dangers to fear, many products to buy, and many restrictions we should set in order to protect our children. In response, Free-Range Kids points out the illogical and unlikely nature of these fears. In fact, the second half of Free-Range Kids focuses on The A-to-Z Review of Everything You Might Be Worried About, from eating snow to walking to school, and the actual likelihood of peril associated with each.
Skenazy is not suggesting you reject common sense and let your child roam aimlessly without your knowing his or her whereabouts. She does, however, recognize that today's children are too often restrained from exploring their capabilities and independence. In its more serious moments, Free-Range Kids underlines the reality that children need increasing amounts of independence to learn to navigate the world with confidence and courage. "We forget that one of the great joys of childhood is exactly that feeling: how the world that you drifted through holding on to your mother's hand becomes your world when you start to navigate it on your own," she writes. So if you intend to raise your children to become capable, confident adults, read Free-Range Kids. You and your child will have a lot more fun along the way once you've taken her refreshing viewpoint to heart.
You may also be interested in reading about other books in the series 5 Books that have Most Changed My Parenting: