[Ed. – What is now called “free-range parenting” is what we used to call “rearing your children.” We live, in some ways, in a very stupid age.]
The Meitivs live in suburban Montgomery County, Md., which is a bedroom for many Washington bureaucrats who make their living minding other people’s business. The Meitivs, to encourage independence and self-reliance, let their ten- and six-year-old children walk home alone from a park about a mile from their home. For a second time, their children were picked up by police, this time three blocks from home. After confinement in a squad car for almost three hours, during which the police never called or allowed the children to call the Meitivs, the children were given to social workers who finally allowed the parents to reclaim their children at about 11 p.m. on a school night. The Meitivs’ Kafkaesque experiences concluded with them accused of “unsubstantiated” neglect.
Today’s saturating media tug children beyond childhood prematurely, but not to maturity. Children are cosseted by intensive parenting that encourages passivity and dependency, and stunts their abilities to improvise, adapt, and weigh risks. Mark Hemingway, writing at the Federalist, asks: “You know what it’s called when kids make mistakes without adult supervision and have to wrestle with the resulting consequences? Growing up.” …
In 1925, the Supreme Court affirmed the right of parents “to direct the upbringing and education of children.” Today, however, vague statutes that criminalize child “neglect” or “endangerment” undermine the social legitimacy of parental autonomy. And they ignore the reality that almost every decision a parent makes involves risks.