Montessori Mondays: Free Range Kids

Free Range Kids is a website and book devoted to promoting increased freedom for children in spite of the media's fear mongering. Remember going to the park and playing with the neighborhood kids until everyone headed home at dinner time? That's exactly what today's children are missing out on as we try to protect them from predators and kidnappers, and exactly what FRK wants to bring back.

Inspired by FRK, my friend Courtney decided to loosen the reins with her daughter and son, ages 3 1/2 and nearly 6, respectively. Her children are taking on more responsibility at home and enjoying wider boundaries outside. But the real pièce de la resistance came in letting her son go on a neighborhood bike ride, well away from their house, all on his own! 

Click on read more below to hear Courtney's full story in developing her two little "Free Range Kids."
How did you hear about Free Range Kids?
A friend of mine shared an article from their website on Facebook.
What did you find appealing about their message?
That is was empowering for both kids and parents. Their message is that you can trust your kids, and you need to give them the space to grow.
How did you handle outside time and boundaries/freedom with your children before learning of FRK?
I've always been more of a relaxed parent, but I kept my kids in sight or sound of me.
What changed afterward?
This has definitely changed me to push the boundaries out more for my kids' sake.  I've been uncomfortable and have had irrational thoughts and worries, but I'm proud that I was able to keep a smile on through the worry and let my son have an adventure [on his bike ride].  Also at home I've had my kids doing more for themselves. My son now gets most of his own snacks, I do tell him what he can and can't eat, but he will get everything out.  He even knows how to use the toaster now.  My daughter, who is three is doing more with helping to clean up and getting herself dressed without my help.  She also picks out all of her own clothes, so she's usually a hot mess, but I think it's cute.
How has that changed life for you as a mom?
It's made me more relaxed and a happier mom.  I'm able to trust my kids to do more and more things like, getting their own snacks, making their own lunch and most importantly cleaning up after themselves and others.
Do you notice a difference in your children?
Confidence, confidence, confidence.  My son especially is shy. He doesn't usually make eye contact, even with with our neighbors who we are pretty close with.  When he was on his bike ride, he stopped two of our neighbors (where he even had to raise his voice a little bit to get their attention), and proudly started conversations with them to let them know what he was doing.  I didn't have to initiate anything, but on his own he wanted to talk to them.  As I trust them to do more things, they are able to step up to the challenge, so they are proud, but also more helpful because of their new responsibilities.
Was it hard for you to make the changes you made? Were you tempted to follow your son, for example? ;)
It was a little difficult.  It's just uncomfortable, and you have to talk yourself down a little bit from all the "what-if's". I wasn't really tempted to follow him, simply because he would see me.  And when letting the kids make their own sandwiches and snacks I have to get over the fact that it will be a little messier than I would like, but everything can and does get clean again.
What advice would you give to moms wanting to expand their children's independence? 
Just do it.  Let your kids know what you expect from them when they are out of range from you, but let them go explore.  Let your kids get dirtier, climb higher and go farther than you are comfortable with, you will all be better for it.  
Any other thoughts you would like to add?
When I became a mother, my mom told me: "Give them roots and give them wings. The wings are the hardest."  It's easy as a mom to take care of everything. I was realizing I was getting in the rut of doing everything and not allowing my kids to do anything.  Not because I didn't want them to, but it just wasn't up to my standard.  It was easier for me to clean up the house while they watched a movie.  It was easier for me to make their lunch because I wouldn't make such a mess.  In doing so, I wasn't teaching my kids anything either.  The best thing we can do for our little ones is to teach them that they are capable, they can figure it out and we trust them. 
Another thing that I've thought about that when my kids are out and more and more independent from me, there are other people out there that are able and willing to help out.  I think most everyone has seen the Mr. Roger's quote (especially after some tragedy): "When I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." It seems like everyone forgets about this in the day to day life, especially in regard to letting our kids out of our sight.  All of a sudden the "helpers" don't morph into crazy kidnapping perverts; most people out there will help, especially for kids.  I've talked with my son a lot about "stranger danger" and if someone approaches him that he feels uncomfortable with that he can run.  But that he doesn't need to run home (especially if it's farther away). He knows that he should run to the guy who's out from mowing his lawn, or run to the house where he knows kids that go to his school live.  Not every stranger is bad, but if confronted with a bad stranger there are many more "helper" strangers out there. 

What an inspiration! Thank you, Courtney, for sharing your story. 

If you would like to learn more about expanding your children's boundaries, visit Free Range Kids, buy the book, or like their Facebook page. :) xo