Free Range Kids
Lenore Skenazy
Free Range Kids Website
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For me, this is one of the most influential parenting books I’ve ever read.  In many ways it helped shape my own nebulous personal philosophy on parenting into something more concrete.  The debunking of popular childhood urban legends (especially the truth about Halloween Candy) helped me find the world to be a safer place both for my kid and even for myself.

I grew up with a paranoid, hovering mother.  We weren’t allowed to ride our bikes in our neighborhood alone because we might get kidnapped — not because we might get hit by a car, which at least makes some sense — but because a little girl had been kidnapped off her bike at some point in the last 30 years.

I always swore I wouldn’t parent just like my mother (don’t we all swear that!), but sometimes, especially in the face of the media, it’s hard to figure out what actually is and is not a danger.  This book helps put childhood dangers into actual perspective.  And although this type of parenting isn’t for everyone, it philosophically struck a chord with me.

Of course, this book is written for parents of typical children, which my child manifestly is not.  Castle requires a fair bit more hovering than I would like simply because of his disabilities.  I have to stay close enough that I can intercede if he gets aggressive with another kid.  And I have to always keep him in sight because he doesn’t make any kind of sound when called.  When he gets lost in a store, he frantically signs Mommy (which only a very small percentage of the population would realize), but doesn’t make a peep.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t give him his freedom in other situations.  If the gates are shut, he’s allowed to go into the backyard and play on his toddler slide and sandbox by himself.  We don’t stop him from hanging out in his room alone.  His speech delay may necessarily limit him in many situations, but we try to let him develop his own independence in as many places as we can.

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