A national debate on the nature and limits of childhood is currently underfoot, and as only one of us has children we decided to weigh in.  We mentioned a number of articles on the show.  For an overview of the Maryland case, read this. Megan McArdle provides a handy list of seven reasons we hate free range parenting, and Michael Lewis takes on what happens to children when they don’t play.  Finally, Michael Brendan Dougherty examines why we can’t be free range kids anymore.

Finally:  Thank you again to everyone who has given so generously to us.  New equipment is in the mail, so we’ll start using it here soon. We are so grateful for the enormous kindness many of you have shown to us.

Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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  • This is one of my pet peeve areas. I think Alister is right that we should think of why people do call cops or social services to understand what should be done. But when I have conversations with people I know, those that are in favor of calling genuinely believe that the world is much more dangerous now than it was when we were children.

    But statistically they are wrong. Stranger Kidnapping is not only extremely rare, but it is much lower than the 70s and 80s when many of today’s parents were free range. Same with virtually any time of crime or violence.

    I do think there is a point to communities not knowing children. But when I was a child I regularly rode my bike over a 20 or 30 sq mile area. There was no way I could have been known by more than a fraction of the people. And I think we are again shooting ourselves in the foot when we communicate to children that they should not seek out the help of strangers. (Although virtually every time I am at the part with my kids or my nieces, I have other children that come up to me and talk or ask for help or ask me to push them on a swing. These are generally very young children (under 5) so there is an innocence there and often parents are apologetic about their children asking for help.

    I read a rant the other day by a mom that complained about other parents being willing to help her children in the park. She didn’t want them to help, even if the children asked. So at some point we offend everyone.

    Also, one last point about stay at home parents. While we certainly have less stay at home parents now, we do not have a dearth of stay at home parents. It might have been 1 of 2 at one point, but even if it is 1 in 10 now, there are still lots of people that are around that can be helpful if kids really need them.

    Again, I think the problem is not the community, or the crime or the parenting. It is the people that are calling. My guess is that almost all of them are without children themselves and the lower numbers of children and the lower rates of having any children are part of the problem here.

  • nomad

    I wish Andrew would have talked more! Just was a bit hollow listening to childless men pontificate about this. Thanks Andrew for your sensible comments. You need more air time!