The concept of Free Range Parenting has gotten quite a bit of attention lately, perhaps in response to years of coverage of Helicopter Parenting. But instead of championing one practice over another, I wonder if we can turn the conversation from helicopter vs free-range parenting to building community. There are a lot of articles out there that question parent decision-making. It’s easy to judge after the fact, but harder to help parents think about how to make informed decisions initially. Tracy Cutchlow suggests, that instead of judging other parents, we should reach out to each other and develop a strong community to raise our children.
Whether or not you agree with what other parents are doing, consider starting a dialogue rather than jumping to judgment. Try to see the merit in decisions and make choices that work best for you and your children. If you can be of help, join in the community to help support children and parents.
In Parenting for the Genius there is an entire section dedicated to the important role of community that Cutchlow advocates for. The benefits of a strong community for raising kids goes beyond simply providing safer places to walk home from school or the park.
For parents they include:
a forum to discuss issues
friendship and companionship
help with childcare
And for children, they include the opportunity to:
build authentic relationships
develop social skills
contribute to society
participate in true collaboration
As parents, it is our job to help our children develop authentic connections with us, with extended family, with friends, with teachers, with coaches, and with leaders in our community. These connections will help to strengthen their own sense of worth in their community and offer a perspective of how they fit in. These connections also provide a forum to share ideas, ask advice, and express disappointment. Some children form many connections across different groups. Others create a few deep links with one or two-valued mentors. Cherish them and nurture these connections through simple reaching out to your community. It is this community that will help to inform and influence your child, so use it, lean on it, and contribute to it in order to build it up.