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Free-Range Parenting and Psychology Today

Yesterday I wrote a post for Psychology Today about puree pouches and Free-Range Parenting and some people were upset.  

I called the article The Perils of "Free-Range" Parenting and wrote:

Are we in an era of “free-range” parenting?  Neil Grimmer thinks we are.  But then, Mr. Grimmer is the chief executive of Plum Organics, a pioneer of food pouches, a product toddlers can consume while roaming around.

“Parents,” Mr. Grimmer told the New York Times, “want to be as flexible as modern life demands. And when it comes to eating, that means doing away with structured mealtimes in favor of a less structured alternative that happens not at set times, but whenever a child is hungry.”1

I can’t think of a better strategy to produce a nation of picky eaters. Fat ones too.

Read the rest of the article.

To be honest, I was responding to Neil Grimmer, the CEO of Plum Organics, and his interpretation of Free-Range Parenting.

But now I know he got it wrong.  Free-Range Parenting, according to Lenore Skenazy, the woman who coined the term, is much more about giving kids the space to be kids, within safe limits, though our current model of parenting might question those limits.

According to Skenazy:

We are all for giving kids a chance to do things on their own — play, walk to school, spend an afternoon just drawing on the sidewalk — which in turn gives us parents a chance to do things on our own, too, including get out of the car. Maybe even make a meal. Or have the kids make a meal.

 Skenazy continues:

[The author] goes on and on about how SHE doesn’t believe kids should make their parents give them snacks instead of  meals. Moreover, SHE doesn’t think kids should be the ones to decide whether or not they’re going to sit in the car seat, or what time they go to bed.

Lady — neither do we!

Read the rest of Skenazy's post.  Remember, the SHE Skenazy is talking about is ME!

First my apologies to the Free-Range Parenting crowd for accepting Grimmer's interpretation on face value. It sounds like we agree on a lot about parenting. And we both think Grimmer is off base.

But I stand my post: What Grimmer says about how parents should feed their kids is a big mistake. Kids need boundaries and structure in order to learn to eat right.  But they also need the freedom to explore, participate, make mistakes and to learn to eat on their own.

For all my new friends in the Free-Range Parenting movement, I look forward to learning more about this perspective.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

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Reader Comments (17)

Thanks for the followup! Judging from your psychology today article, you appear to be on our side of the debate. Mr. Grimmer's use of the term to mean the exact opposite of what we stand for is troubling. Given the term, though, I can see how it would be easily confused if taken at face value.

June 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Wow! Great clarification/correction. I agreed largely with your position on snack pouches. Good Lord, what's next? A nightly IV nutrition drip for those busy tykes on the go? Purina Toddler Chow? But like a lot of other Free Range folk, objected to the term being co-opted to market something manifestly not free-range. Thanks for listening.

June 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRenee P

Awesome!! Thanks

June 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMoonpie Nobot

Great post. I couldn't agree with you more that pouches are not the way to feed our kids. I think those dinner table meals are important and should not be skipped and our kids need to get taught how to make good choices!

June 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarb C

What a gracious retraction. Thank you! I think you'll find as you dive into the Free Range movement that we're way more about teaching our children to make good choices and then letting them make those choices (within reason) than about over-scheduling them to the point that something as ridiculous as a feed bag is necessary.

June 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJet

Thanks for that follow up. I was worried that the misinterpretation of the free range term would spread, especially if it was used by an expert. I don't care all that much what someone who sells pureed food in pouches thinks. :)

And now I've moved on from that and browsed your blog, it turns out that I very much agree with your view on kids and food. Most of your blog posts make me go: "Yes!"

I now have a 7yo who does not only enjoy eating healthy food and trying out new things, but is starting to show a keen interest in preparing it herself. And feeding her home made foods with different textures and flavours when she was a baby was just the start of that journey.

As for the parents whose main job seems to be chauffeuring their kids from one scheduled activity to the other and feed them food in pouches in the back of the car... It is very sad that some parents would regard a ballet lesson for a 3yo more important than sitting down for dinner with them and taking steps to ensure a life long healthy eating habit that could one day save their child's life. That 3yo is not going to remember the ballet when she is an adult.

June 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLin

Whew! Thanks for the clarification. As an avid reader of INAB I knew there was a misunderstanding.

We are still working on building that foundation of habits, and consistently tailoring our efforts as we strive to do better for our kiddo. (thank you Dina!)

For us, the fruit pouch is the first line of defense against "other junk". Having a sometimes food handy is helpful during the summer when it seems like every mom has packed her cooler with foods from the treat column. If our kiddo's tummy is full going in the snacks available during times that are not part of our eating schedule get less attention.

Our big effort is keeping the conversation age appropriate, and serving a fruit and veggie every meal and every snack.

Thanks for following up Dina. Great job. I am a little sad that some posters were distracted by the misunderstanding and missed the many points of agreement.

Not sure if my original note posted, but I just wanted to say thank you and it is great to "meet" you -- albeit in a very round-about way! -- Lenore Skenazy, Free-Range Kids

June 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLenore Skenazy

Thanks everyone for all the wonderful comments. I feel we've come a long way in a short while. And Lenore: Great to "meet" you too!


June 22, 2012 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

Wow! This gives me hope about the mainstream media. Thank you Dina - for being willing to listen to others as well as share your own views. I too think there is a lot of overlap here, between your views and Lenore's. The "sane parenting" movement is gaining momentum.

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

I just followed this link from the Free Range Kids website, and I've been browsing around. This is great! I'm doing a reasonably good job with being a free range parent, but I am terrible about nutrition, both for myself and my kids. I'm finding a lot of helpful posts here. THANKS!

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret

Dina, you are a class act!

June 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIrena D.

As the great Wendell Berry said in his essay "The Pleasures of Food" (circa 1990?):

“The food industrialists have by now persuaded milions of consumers to prefer food that is already prepared. THey will grow, deliver, and cook your food for you and (just like your mother) beg you to eat it. That they do not yet offer to insert it, prechewed, into your mouth is only because they have found no profitable way to do so. We may rest assured that they would be glad to find such a way. The ideal industrial food consumer would be strapped to a table with a tube running from the food factory directly into his or her stomach.”

June 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

Rachel: Thanks for including me in the "sane" movement!

Margaret: Welcome. Glad you're finding useful information.

Irena: THANK YOU. In the face of all the vitriol your post was a delight.

Charlotte: I think we've found the prechewed in the form of puree pouches.

Thanks everyone.

June 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

I just wanted to comment that I think parents are not given enough credit here. Yes, there are some parents who may use those pouches as a meal for their kids, but I think the majority like myself, use them just like the jarred part of a meal or as a snack. The ones I buy have nothing but fruits and veggies in them-all good things I want my kids to have. The fact is that there are many unique fruits and vegetable combinations in these pouches that my kids would otherwise probably not eat if encountered as a whole food. Even my 8 year old will eat a pouch with red beets in it...whereas she will not try a fresh red beet. I am thankful that my 2 year old can and will eat lots of fruits and veggies that come in these pouches. This does not mean that he is running around my house eating it while the rest of the family eats dinner...My whole family sits together for dinner eating whatever I have cooked - no pouches allowed.

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

@Jen. But what is the value of getting your kids to eat something that they don't recognise? You might as well give them a vitamin tablet then, there's no real difference. Same with "hiding" veggies in dishes for kids. I don't do it. I will keep offering them the whole food. If they don't eat it, that's fine, but I want them to try again another time. And it works. I teaches kids that their tastes can and do change and they are open to trying new things or things they didn't like before.

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLin

Nice share, somehow it gives me a clarification. Me too, I can't think a better strategy to produce a nation of picky eaters.

August 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLloyd Jacobs

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