"Real Parents" of NYC - NOT.

An interview with Lenore Skenazy of "Free Range Kids" fame - about one mom who broke all the parenting rules.


Lenore says out with the fear and in with the fun!

A few weeks back, a posting appeared on our list looking for parents to participate in a reality television show. This one is hosted by Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids fame.

You might recall that Skenazy was labeled America’s Worst Mom, for allowing her 9-year-old to ride home on the subway by himself. Since then she has become a champion of a more sane, less fear-based approach to dealing with kids which has - to her credit – focused mainly on the policies of libraries, schools and local government that make it difficult or even illegal for parents to do things like allow their kids to play in the park across the street, take Lego guns to school (they are weapons after all) or ride their bikes in the neighborhood.


But what about parents? Could a reality show genuinely help us to lighten up a bit or would participating be like signing up to be in Real Helicopter Parents of NYC? I contacted Skenazy to find out the inside scoop on why she thinks Reality TV might actually do some good.


NM: It’s true that being a parents sometimes feels like being on Survivor but do you think Reality TV on particular could help parents let their kids go “free-range”?


LS: Why reality TV? Reality TV is actually the perfect medium for a show about letting kids do a little more, and exercise a little self-reliance because we can watch them – and their parents – grow. It’s like a before and after design show, except what has changed and blossomed is the confidence of both the parents and the kids. I hope!

That said, I’m not a fan of danger or shock TV. This is not “Turn Your Kid into Evil Knievel.” This is, “Let Your Kid Have the Kind of Childhood You Enjoyed.” (And maybe even climb a tree. Or shrub. Really – I’m open.)


NM: What sorts of things would families do on the show?

LS: Parents and kids will talk about what is keeping them from doing some simple things that other kids that age are allowed to do, whether that’s walk to school, or make a meal, or even play in the front yard. Then we’ll talk about why that seems scary or difficult now. And then, with the parents’ permission, we’ll see if the kid really is ready to give it a try. We’ll prepare the child and then – take that next step!


NM: What are you hoping to achieve?


LS: Most of the media is dedicated to convincing us that our kids are in constant danger and also pretty incompetent. Danger sells. It sells the news shows and a lot of the dramas, too: “Up next! Every parent’s worst nightmare!” It sells products. Anytime we are afraid, we are desperate for something to save us.

The belief that our kids can’t possibly fend for themselves comes from things like the morning shows, where “experts” warn parents not to let their kids do X or Y because of some often farfetched or overstated danger. In both cases, we are being sold something: a product or service that will keep our kids “safe” when they are already ARE safe.

The more afraid we are, the more we can be convinced to buy. I’m hoping that this show will be at least one voice on the air that says, “Wait! Our kids are safer and more competent than we’ve been lead to believe!” And then we’ll see proof.

My show will fight fears with facts, and then help parents and kids reclaim childhood from the fear mongers. I’m not an expert, just someone offering a different perspective.

With any luck it’ll be empowering, and fun!


NM: Why would parents resort to trying something like this ?


LS: I think there are a lot of folks who have a sneaking suspicion their kids are ready to do more and experience more, but they are afraid of the fallout. They are afraid, perhaps, of criticism, or they are really afraid for their kids – even though they remember enjoying a Free-Range childhood when they were kids themselves, at a time when crime was HIGHER than it is today, according to FBI statistics. They are ALMOST prepared to loosen the reins, or at least one of the spouses is, but they need to know that this isn’t crazy, that it’s just pop culture (TV, magazines, Internet) that have made it FEEL crazy. But there are big benefits to letting our kids blossom as children have done since time immemorial -- not the least of which is happy, safe, self-reliant offspring.


NM: If our own highly unscientific poll of local parents last year is any indication there are lots of people who are quietly letting their kids have a little more freedom and plenty more who are thinking about it. Do you need any more families?


LS: Yes! We are actually looking for families in and around New York City right now. The main criteria is that at least one of the parents shows helicoptering/overprotective tendencies but is open to change (if a little wary). Interested families should drop a line to Syliva Lee, the casting lady, at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Thanks! I’d love to work in Brooklyn, or really anywhere within an hour or two of New York City.