Parenting Styles: The concept of Free-Range parenting across cultures and ethnicities

Parenting is often described as the most difficult and rewarding job. Countless books have been written, all seeking to simplify the equation of what is required to raise a happy, healthy and successful child.

These books, some of which span volumes explain various parenting styles and potential or existing outcomes that have come from them.

One thing is for certain though, not all parenting styles are looked upon equally, especially the one most recently responsible for creating a media firestorm.

Free-Range parenting is quite the simple concept and can be easily described as old age parenting with a new age name. Read along to find out how cultural background and ethnicity play a role in the free-range parenting style.

Geidy Romero is the adult daughter of free-range parents. Born in the small  town of Bani, in the Dominican Republic and raised in the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown, Romero recalls memories of her adolescent years, when she and an older sister were responsible for looking after their two younger siblings, while their parents were away working.

“I had keys to my house, because I had working parents”, Romero said.

Like Romero, many other families that migrate to the United States, there is often a sacrifice between raising and spending time with their child(ren) and working to provide the necessities for their child(ren).

While some families like Romero’s elect this parenting style out of necessity, others that live in countries like Germany elect this style intentionally, with hopes of allowing their children the opportunity to experience discovery, amazement, autonomy and adventure.

In an op-ed written for the New York Times, German contributor Clemens Wergin, spoke about the ways in which Americans react to the story of how his 8 year-old daughter got acquainted with their neighborhood, after moving to the United States.

“In Berlin, where we lived in the center of town, our girls would ride the Metro on their own — a no-no in Washington”, said Wergin. “Here in quiet and traffic-safe suburban Washington, they don’t even find other kids on the street to play with”, he added.

That wasn’t the case for Shaylim Blackwell though, another Bostonian who was raised under the free-range parenting style.

Blackwell described how he, as early as fifth grade, was walking to and from school, which was a thirty minute walk from his home.

While some may become aghast with the thought of an 11 year-old walking to and from school on their own, it is important to note that free-range parenting, whether elected or defaulted by circumstance, many parents take into consideration their child’s competence and the riskiness of their environment.

Blackwell’s father, whom is from Prentice, MS worked from as early 4 a.m. until as late 5 p.m. and didn’t have the time, nor energy to hover and be involved with every aspect of his life.

Blackwell’s father was raised in a similar manner, and continued that style of parenting with Blackwell and his older siblings.

As children, both Romero and Blackwell had to be competent and have a keen sense of awareness, or else this parenting style would not have worked.

Romero recalls her early years in the Dominican Republic and said, “We played on our own and with friends and kids from the neighborhood”. In reference to her childhood exploration of the neighborhood. “I was everyone’s baby”, she said.

What Romero is describing is an environment in which aides in a parents free-range parenting style. This concept falls in place with Urban Sociologist Jane Jacobs’, “Eyes on the Street” theory, if the people of a said community are interactive and in communication with one another, it makes that community a lot more conducive to the free-range parenting style.

“In the Dominican Republic the parents aren’t always the ones watching over and parenting the kids, the entire community is”, Romero said.

Which is an important concept to take into consideration. At its core, it appears that free-range parenting is a series of calculated risks.

Sentiments echoed by Blackwell, whom when asked if he would partake in free-range parenting when he became a father responded, “Probably not”.

“There should be limitations. I had no limitations because my father went to work at five in the morning and he’d come back at four or five.That was my window to do whatever I wanted to do,” he said.”Free-Range parenting is good, but in moderation, I guess”, he concluded.

Romero on the other hand felt differently. “The more you trust your children and the more that you teach them to be independent and take care of themselves, the less you have to worry about”, she said.

“I like the idea of free-range parenting. I really want to be able to trust my children to the point where I leave them on their own. You just have to trust that they are going to do what right for them to do, because of the way that you raise them”, she added.

“We have to raise independent children”, she concluded.


Want to read and learn more about Free-Range parenting? Read this article, written by Pio Romano IV, about a child’s perspective on the concept. And this article, written by Chrisitan Yapor, on a single parent’s perspective.

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