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How Being A "Free Range" Family Sparked A National Debate

Elizabeth/Table4Five / Creative Commons

Five days ago, a Montgomery County family became the center of a national debate on parenting. Police picked up Alexander and Danielle Meitiv's son and daughter when they were walking home from a park in downtown Silver Spring. 10 year old RafiMeitiv and 6 year old Dvora Meitiv were not able to see their parents for more than six hours as they sat in a police cruiser, then a police station and then in custody of county Child Protective Services. 

The resulting outrage from the Meitivs has sparked a national conversation about what parenting styles we value as a society. And it’s raised important questions about when parenting crosses the line from hands-off to irresponsible. Here’s part of how ABC News this week covered the debate surrounding the Meitev’s kids and whether they should be allowed to walk home from school alone: "Maryland parents are accused of child neglect after allowing their two kids to walk home alone from a park about a mile away . .  . Suddenly this middle class suburban family found themselves smack in the middle of a national debate about parenting."

In light of the discussion, we thought we’d turn out attention to the kind of parenting, play and approach to childhood free-time that is productive for children.  If you don’t allow your children to walk home from school or take a bus alone like the Meitevs, then the alternative is often to pick your kids up in car. Children are spending more time in structured activities and on electronic devices, leaving less and less time for unstructured play, especially in nature.  

In the studio with host Sheilah Kast is Katie Robinson, a parent and social worker who runs a consulting firm that works with families on childhood behavioral issues. Also joining us is Patricia Cronin who has been the Executive Director of The Family Tree, a non-profit in Baltimore dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect, since 1999. 

Sheilah Kast is the host of On The Record, Monday-Friday, 9:30-10:00 am.