RVA Parenting: Is 'free-range parenting' for your family? - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

RVA Parenting: Is 'free-range parenting' for your family?

(WWBT) -

Remember the good ol' days of playing outside until the sun went down?

Now, it seems parents are feeling the pressure more than ever to watch their children's every move. It can be tough finding the right balance of safety and reasonable expectations.

Remember this family? They're hard to forget: Mom and Dad were charged with neglect -- Child Protective Services even got involved -- after the parents let their children walk a mile to a playground unsupervised. 

And that certainly started a conversation about safety, and reasonable expectations when it comes to children. Should kids be allowed to play outside unsupervised?  When are they old enough to go somewhere on their own? 

There are lots of fancy terms like "free-range parents" for those that believe in giving kids more space. On the flip side are "helicopter parents" who want to stay on top of a child's every move. How do you know what's right for you and your child, though?

Our expert Dr. Micah McCreary says for most families, you need to balance the two; give your kids some space, but make sure you have established boundaries. 

"Teaching the child, 'OK, here it is, this is the play area,'" said McCreary. "'You know this is the back yard. You can go to the fence, you cannot go over the fence. So you have a free reign, but within a respected area, a defined area.'"

Dr. McCreary also says to change your boundaries as your children grow.

"When a person becomes an adolescent, you want to do more negotiating. It’s like, 'OK, these are the responsibilities, these are the rewards. If you have a lack of responsibility, these are the consequences.' Negative or positive, that happens there," said McCreary. "You’ve got a different set of consequences to use as you grow older, but you’ve still want to use them. You want to keep a balance. It’s always about balance."

McCreary also suggests making sure you are constantly communicating these rules to the child. 

"If we don’t have a relationship, we can’t correct well."

He says, obviously, this will depend family to family and child to child.

"There’s skillfulness and there’s a lack of skill. And so what I want to say about the free ranging is the skills as you let them reign you’re going to have positive outcomes. If you’re unskillful in doing it, there are going to be problems," said McCreary.

We still want to know how you handle discipline in your house. Are the kids allowed to play outside unsupervised, or do you keep a close eye? 

Join our Facebook group RVA Parenting, and share your best tips.

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