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Utah Passes 'Free-Range' Parenting Law

Parenting and that too in the right manner has always been a debatable issue across the world. In 1928, John B. Watson advised parents to "never hug or kiss" their children. The supporter of so-called free-range parenting have pushed back. They stated that overprotection does more harm than good, and that excessive hovering stops children's development in multiple ways. Additionally, on close monitoring it has been seen that children are vulnerable members of society who may need protection, at times, from even their own parents. Lately even law has started playing its role, parents have been charged with neglect and endangerment for allowing their kids to engage in different activities like walking to school, bicycling in the streets, playing in the park without close adult supervision. Parents who dare to openly resist the new parenting orthodoxy, often face serious legal consequences, ranging from having their children taken away to criminal prosecution. Recently, the Utah government passed a legislation that defines "neglect" to exclude allowing children "of sufficient age and maturity" to walk or bike to school, engage in outdoor play, stay home unattended, or "engage in similar independent activity." It is the first salvo on behalf of the free-range parenting advocates in the ongoing battle over enforcement of hyper-protective parenting norms. At the same time this fact cannot be neglected that at times parents have to leave their children alone out of necessity. A single mother who left her daughter at the park to play while she reported to her job at McDonalds, and a single mother who left her kids to wait in the car while she interviewed for a much-needed job, were both arrested. These parents could hardly afford child care, and couldn't afford to stay home and be a full-time parent either. Families from various cultural groups in America are also at risk, and even a law like Utah's may not be able to help them. The Utah legislation is a landmark achievement, but it falls short of returning the larger issue of parenting style to the sole discretion of the parents.

By: Anuja Arora


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