Free Range Versus Helicopter Parenting: Washington Case Could Define Limits For Parents Wanting Kids To Push Life’s Limits

220px-LAPD_Bell_206_Jetranger250px-Free_Range_Hens_-_geograph.org.uk_-_342791There is an interesting case out of Washington that pits the “free range children” movement against child welfare authorities. Danielle and Alexander Meitiv believe in the new movement to reject “helicopter” parenting and allow child to push limit in venturing out on their own and testing self-reliance. For many parents, the specific controversy would seem much too do about nothing” a one-mile walk home for the two Meitiv kids aged 10 and 6. However, the kids were stopped halfway by police who reported the parents to child welfare, which continues to investigate them for endangering their children.


Danielle is a climate-science consultant and Alexander is a physicist at the National Institutes of Health. They say that they have spent a lot of time looking at the issue and believe firmly in the free range concept.

When the police brought their children home, Alexander was given a lecture on proper parenting and then he was visited by child welfare investigators. He was told that he had to sign a pledge not to leave the children alone until the following Monday. When he balked that this was intruding upon his decisions as a father, he was told that the children would be removed from the home unless he signed.

The case turns on a standard that is often honored in the breach. The law states that children may not be left unattended and that children younger than 8 must be left with a reliable person who is at least 13 years old. That applies to dwellings, enclosures and vehicles. Of course, many children play unattended in homes or yards or neighborhoods. However, the law effectively says that these children cannot walk home a mile alone.

For the record, I am closer to a helicopter than a free range parents. I am notoriously risk-adverse with my kids. I would not want them walking in a major city alone for a mile, particularly due to var accidents which remain the leading cause of non-illness deaths. However, this result would presumably be the same if the kids were allowed to walk a quarter of a mile or a couple blocks. I see such kids walking alone often in Virginia. Does it matter that this law appears rarely enforced? At what point does this intrude on parenting decisions?

What do you think?

Source: Washington Post

68 thoughts on “Free Range Versus Helicopter Parenting: Washington Case Could Define Limits For Parents Wanting Kids To Push Life’s Limits”

  1. All one has to say is “CPS became involved” and you know where this is going.

    This is the end result of nanny state social engineering. Look at what CPS did to this family for engaging in what is ordinary in all other parts of the world. Use this as an example of what you can expect when you surrender your freedom to government, and do it willingly under the guise of “safety and protection.”

    On another matter. Guess what folks: Children have a greater chance of being killed by a family pet than abducted and raped by a stranger.

  2. And if you are a farmer who does grow his or her own food, you can’t let your kids help out on the farm (child labor laws) or use the farm equipment (CPS.)

  3. Tyger – silly tiger, you’re not allowed to grow your own food anymore! At least not in the front yard. In many areas you’ll get fined and court headaches if you plant an edible front yard, or native plants that use less water. Apparently, those who think there are no bad regulations have never heard of Victory Gardens.

    🙂

  4. Let us examine the situation. They were walking on a sidewalk, knew how to cross a road safely at a crosswalk, getting exercise and self-respect by knowing how to navigate a mile home. Perfectly safe. The parents knew what they were doing. Statistically, the worse thing a parent can do is put a child in a car. Most children die in car accidents. Safety is not the issue.
    The world is safer today than it has been in thirty years. This is not Iraq. This is the USA.
    CPS need to let these parents raise their kids.

  5. Riesling, I like the teachers reasoning but typical German authoritarianism. I despise her imposing this on students. Damn good thing we won WW2. Is anyone going to “correct” me on that? We did win the big one. Of course along w/ Luxembourg and some other countries. JAG has the list.

  6. There’s a reason C-Notes are the largest denomination. The govt. HATES cash. I’m a cash guy just from my blue collar roots. Always pay cash for meals unless the check is more than I got. But, I almost always have $200 or more in my pocket. Please, ALWAYS tip your waiter in cash. The IRS like to pick on the little people and they audit the hell out of restaurants. But, the cash goes right in that hard working persons pocket w/o the govt. taking a cent of it. I hope this doesn’t bring out the commenters who don’t tip. I wonder if our hoser friends tip? Notoriously bad or no tippers. French Canucks are the worst.

  7. DBQ, you cite some good examples of what some people are doing to avoid being owned and eaten by the governments and the big corporations and bankers that own them. And there are many more less drastic measures. And some perfectly legitimate and unconcealed options, like home schooling, growing your own food, and things like that. Considering the threats and reality of the ever-growing government control of the world today, those solutions may seem perfectly reasonable to more and more people as time goes on. Do I think this is how people should HAVE to live? No, certainly not! That’s totally inconsistent with a truly free society. But to those who don’t mind being owned, controlled, and eaten, at least partially, in exchange for the comforts and security of being caged or kept in a pasture, today’s norms seem acceptable.

  8. I think CPS needs to butt out of this completely. It’s none of their business. CPS is wasting resources and taxpayer dollars on this.

  9. Here in Germany my daughter´s elementary school teacher (1st through 4th grade same teacher) said the children MUST walk to school and back. If she saw anyone being dropped off or picked up they´d be in big trouble. Teachers here have power over you kid´s life, so you do what they say. Her reasons were:: they get fresh air, they get exercise since they´re carrying a heavy backback, they learn the traffic rules, they say hi to the people on the street who are watering their flowers or getting their mail or getting rolls at the bakery. It is a community and when you walk around in it you get to know it better and then you belong. Also, the boys are ready to learn and not quite so restless after they´ve been out in the fresh air.

  10. NO one is owned by the government . . . unless they think they are. The trick is learning how to not draw the attention of government watchdogs to yourself so you don’t get bitten by them

    Well…yes. To avoid the attention of the government watchdogs…..The trick is to work under the table for the most part. Have a small job that will work as your cover. Cash is king. Don’t leave a paper trail. Only deal with people who know or who know people you know. Trust but verify. Keep your powder dry in case those people turnout to be untrustworthy. Leave as little and put as little in the bank as you can. Don’t use credit cards. Only buy or own those items that can be justified by the the income that you are showing, not the income you have. The barter system works…use it.

    Don’t take any government assistance if you are a babysitter or any other business for that matter of fact. Avoid being a legal business. The minute you try to be legal the government will be aware of you……like the all seeing eye from Mordor. The less the all seeing eye can see of you the better.

    Hide hide hide… little hobbitses

    I know how to do all those things. 🙂

    Is that what you mean? Is this how we should have to live?

  11. The world is not that much different than it was in the 50’s and 60’s when I grew up. There is MUCH more information about crime. The MSM sells fear because it’s like selling heroin to addicts. Is there more crime, well there was certainly in the 70’s-90’s, but as Freakonomics points out well, that had everything to do w/ demographics and boomer males being in their prime crime era. Here’s some common sense advice for you to teach kids to keep them safe. Firstly, for the young kids. When they get separated from you in a store, amusement park, etc. DON’T look for a cop. LOOK FOR ANOTHER MOMMY. And say these 7 words. “I lost my mommy and I’m scared.” As soon as they do that, they’re safe. For all kids, but particularly girls. Being solo is unacceptable. Two of you, is sorta OK, but I don’t like just 2. Three, now we’re getting somewhere. Four, now I’m feeling pretty good. More than 4, I’m a happy man. Finally for all people, be aware of your surroundings. Take note of people as they walk by and let them know, you know, they’re there. If you feel uncomfortable, dial 911 on your cell phone and speak LOUDLY.

  12. I used to play all over the neighborhood by myself at 10 and walk home from school with other kids from K and on. Now police get involved…

  13. Pogo, and DBQ, NO one is owned by the government . . . unless they think they are. The trick is learning how to not draw the attention of government watchdogs to yourself so you don’t get bitten by them. They often are as dangerous to your safety as the rats and snakes they are supposed to protect you from. Another trick is learning not to walk through a forest where bears are known to have attacked people, or let your kids “free-range” there, either. This is simple common sense that people seem not to have inherited from their parents anymore.

  14. I cannot think of a more idiotic message for the State to send to its citizens than, “we’ve failed in our first duty to the security of your family, so don’t make us take your children.” Maybe the fact the police discovered the children actually strengthens the argument for the parents “free-range” parenting style. So, is the fact they are on patrol for “free-range” minors supporting evidence to continue the practice or are the police admitting they are not capable of doing their job of securing the safety of their citizens in any reasonable way?

  15. This reminds me of the recent government regulation that only 2% milk can be served to children in school/daycare. This flies in the face of studies that conclude that whole milk is actually healthier, and nonfat milk was used to fatten hogs, and contains oxidized cholesterol from the powdered milk used to counteract its blue color.

    This is what happens when the government forgets its core responsibilities, and starts growing like a mad science experiment.

  16. Karen,

    The Mommy Wars are the worst. The absolute worst. Way to go, fellow mommies, making parenting even harder than it already is!

  17. My wonderfully written comment seems to be stuck in moderation. Okay, I just threw some words together. Can anyone help?

  18. I have to fight my own tendencies towards helicopter parenting, the adverse consequences of which have been widely reported.

    I, too, would not let a young child walk home unattended, or with another child, unless I was following along in my car. But there are a LOT of pedophiles with a 50 mile radius. The same would apply in a city. The risk is too great.

    But when I was a kid, I played unsupervised all the time. We grew up in a suburb close to the woods in VA. If you did something wrong, the Mom Network would send the news home before you go there.

    I do think that the government needs to limit its intrusion into parenting to extreme cases, such as a child has a broken arm and the parents refuse to take him to a doctor. But we must be very careful to give government too much control over how we parent our kids. What if parents want to raise their kids vegan? Let their kids play in the front yard? Or the back yard? Climb rocks? Climb trees? Use a steak knife?

    What I didn’t get from the article is what type of environment were the kids walking home in? Gang infested city? Busy city? Rural farming area? Suburb? Each has its own unique challenges.

    Anyone who has dipped a toe into any parenting website or blog would be painfully aware of the battles waged about which parenting style is best, and who is the best Mommy. (I hate the Mommy Wars. Moms should support each other and lift each other up. Share tips, but it’s not a competition or inadequacy death match.)

    I personally think the police should have informed the parents about kidnappings, or any other risks relevant to their area, and make a suggestion that they keep an eye on them with binoculars, at least. But CPS is overreach, in my opinion.

Comments are closed.