New Parenting Styles: Lori

Too Much Freedom?
"Some of the trust that I have in my children is a little bit different from the norm," says Lori. "My 8-year-old daughter rides the bus to school. She picks the bus up at 6:30 a.m. She goes on her own. My children are allowed to find the mall restroom, and use it and come back on their own. I'm not afraid that there's someone lurking around the corner for them." Lori says that she and her husband have left their children alone on numerous occasions. "I'm almost always within five to 10 minutes of being able to get home if something were to happen. I think that's a good thing to allow them a little bit of that freedom and lose that expectation that I need to know where they are and what they're doing every single solitary second of the day," she says. [AD]Lori's parenting style was recently questioned by police when she let her 10-year-old son walk a mile to soccer practice on his own. "I gave him my cell phone, fixed dinner, drove to the soccer field. He was there," she recalls. "As I looked up, there was a police officer who had just pulled into the soccer field. He said, ‘Ma'am, do you know we could charge you with child endangerment? He's not old enough to be walking the streets alone. We got hundreds of 911 calls about him.' I was floored, to say the least. "I do not think that the fear of what might happen is a reason for preventing my children from doing things that are beneficial to them, that they would learn from. That's my parenting style as a free-range parent," she says.

In the studio, Lori tells Dr. Phil that she was shocked when the cop came up to her. "I just listened to him as he lectured me and told me, ‘Ma'am, this is the city. We have 25,000 people in our city, and it's not safe for your child to be out on the street,' and let him speak his peace," she says. When she went home, she questioned her judgment, so she decided to call the police chief to obtain safety information. "He was very straightforward. He said, ‘I can give you all the crime stats if you'd like, or I can tell you that you made the right decision, and you were fine, and your neighborhood is safe.'"

"I've got a problem with both those points of view," Dr. Phil says. "I don't want the city, I don't want the police in my parenting decisions."

Lori says that her children also have free range of the neighborhood. "We know most of the neighbors, and they're allowed to visit several homes on their own and play in the yard as they wish," she says.

Lori shares a story about her 6-year-old daughter's independence.

"We want our kids to learn, but the steps need to be very small, because if you get them beyond their capabilities, beyond their reasoning, beyond their skill sets, then that's when they can get in trouble," Dr. Phil says. He shares that when he was growing up, he was home alone often without supervision. "I think about the judgments I made at the time, that if I thought my kids were making some of those judgments, I would just be horrified."

[AD]"But you still turned out OK," Lori says. "We all make bad choices as children, but the point is we need to be able to make them."


"You want to have the mistake within the realm of reason, so the penalty is not too great," Dr. Phil says.