Free range parenting is just one of those things I was very unsure of it working until I saw it happen.
Free range parenting, basically allowing your child many of the freedoms other kids do not have-no bedtimes, limits on computer or food, etc, is a form of parenting a very small percentage of parents adopt, for varies reasons, but generally speaking, because it is said we can't trust children. "They wouldn't be able to control themselves." And because of the lack of popularity for this parenting style, it is said that it must not work.
As an extension of our unschooling, I began to give it a try little by little. When S was small we didn't enforce a bedtime. It is my personal belief that children know when they are tired just newborns as well as adults do. (Not sure what happens after babyhood and before adulthood that makes many believe we lack that ability to know when we are tired...) Just as adults do when they reach the big "1-8" do, children may binge the first few weeks that the new freedom is given to them, but quickly they learn that you need sleep to function. S goes to bed anywhere between 7 o'clock at night (rare) to 11 o'clock (most common) and sometimes even 2 in the morning. (Usually nights we are campung or out with friends.) I was very thankful for our unschooling lifestyle the other night when friends invited us over for a bonfire and smores at 11 o'clock at night and we didn't return until 1 to 2 AM. S enjoyed playing with her friends and eating smores around the fire, a general memory she might always have, something she would have missed out on had she needed to be in bed by 8 or 9.
Over the years we have loosened up and offered many other freedoms such as playing on the computer anytime she needs down time, picking out her clothes, choosing what she wants to study, making the choice of activities and co-ops she wants to participate in.
I have two major limits, one which I will never loosen up on: Television. Television, in my opinion is an evil. I don't want it running in the background while she plays. I don't want her watching the same Disney movies on repeat. I don't want her picking up the trash that is broadcasted. We do not have cable. We have Netflix which we watch documentaries on from time to time. And she is allowed to watch movies on ocassion, usually days that have been extremely active and busy and she wants to fall asleep to a movie, but it must be a movie she has not seen recently. Then of course sleepovers and other special ocassions. I am very strict about television, because even hearing unschooling parents talk about not putting limits on TV makes me uneasy. They also say their child binge watches from time to time-as in once a week or every other week and they "leave it running" but "don't pay attention to it." I will not allow that in my house. It just doesn't work for us. The TV is hardly ever flipped on. But I do realize if ai ban it completely, well, there will be adverse effects.
The other limit I had a hard time letting go of was limiting food. It was mostly a money issue. Eating organically on a $250 a month budget is a challenge to say the least. Not that S was starving. She is very healthy and has lots of excess energy, but she was not allowed to eat whenever she chose. I talked to Hubby and we decided we needed to allow it as an extension of our "you are responsible enough to make choices." So I sat down with S and we talked about what it means to truly be hungry. We talked about how sometimes we are thirsty or bored. How do we know the difference? S listened so very intently. But I still expected her to binge eat at first out of excitement for her new freedom. The deal is, eat what you want whenever you want, but it is all we can afford and it is more than enough, so when it's gone, it's gone. I listed the snacks that were hers to eat whenever: Apple Sauce, Peanut Butter, Rabbit Crackers, one third of anything we have baked, which this morning was homemade breads-amish bread, a peanut butter loaf, and muffins. And the ones that were everybody's to share for when we start hitting the trail soon, probably this weekend: Pita Chips and Hummus-everyone's fave, Pretzels, and Bananas. And anything I have dehydrated or freeze dried to pack us.
She did Ah. Mazing. Amazing today. I am so very impressed. DD had a banana for breakfast this morning, some left over chicken and Pita Chips with Hummus for lunch, Rabbit Crackers which she portioned herself a very small handful for snack, and then she ate dinner with us, chicken, rice, and green beans. I am blown away. She is so responsible and I attribute it all to the fact she has been able to make her own choices since she was very small. I hear many parents of unschooled adults say their children never chose to do drugs or really rebel as teens because they had been taught to make good choices and live with the consequences if they made bad ones. I pray that is the case. I will make all the remarks from nay sayers and all the looks from older generations worth enduring. Come to think of it, it already is worth it, because while I'm pushing my buggy through the store joking with my 5 year old and teaching her, I see many other parents yelling at their kids to shut up, stand still, and arguing, non stop. I hate to see that because that's no way to live if that is common for them. (Maybe it isn't.) It used to be for us when Sam was a toddler and was constantly fighting for freedom. There was always that tension. Her needing to pulk away and me needing to control evetything. But now when there is a disagreement, there is no need to fight on either side. We can talk it out. Nobody feels attacked. Everybody is equal. And now that DH has seen the truth to this light, life goes a lot smoother.
I truly recommend giving free range parenting a try.