parent opinion

'I let my six-year-old cycle to the beach alone. Here's why you should too.'

Strapping on his bike helmet my six-year-old son Hendry tells me he is “going to the beach,” and while my tummy does a little flip with anxiety, I just smile and wave him off. 

The beach he is talking about is a few streets away. He will have to cross a couple of roads to get there and one of them is fairly busy. 

He will ride past around 100 houses and I have no idea who lives in most them. The beach itself brings another concern because while we live in a small town it’s teaming with tourists most weekends, so it’s anyone’s guess who’s there.   

He can at least swim, but only as well as most kids his age, he wouldn’t be too good out of his depth. 

But still I let him go and I will probably let him go even further next week, he may even catch the bus to a friend's if he wants to. 

I have been a free-range parent for 15 years now and allow my four children to do dangerous things carefully, most days.

For example, my daughter Caja flew as an unaccompanied minor from Sydney to Perth age six and then to Thailand when she was seven. She caught public transport regularly to see her grandparents a two-hour train ride with a change at Central, Australia’s busiest train station not long after. 

Image: Supplied.

All my kids use public bathrooms alone and do small grocery runs at the local shop and often pick up our takeaway on a Friday evening. 


Do I worry? Absolutely, but I truly believe that the benefits outweigh the risks.

As far as I’m concerned being a helicopter parent is far more risky and don’t get me started on lawnmower parents – those are the ones who rather than hover over their offspring, they actively prepare the way for their kids to succeed mowing down all obstacles in the way.  

And look, I get it; we are all just trying to do the best for our kids, but unfortunately parents who are there every step of the way are not doing their kids any favours.

Kids need to problem solve to develop certain parts of their brain, they need to fail or fall so they can learn resilience and to self-regulate their emotions. If you constantly tell them they can’t do things one day, they are going to believe you and they’ll lack self-confidence.

Image: Supplied.

What’s more it could lead to them having poor coping skills when they eventually have to be alone and studies have shown that helicopter parenting increases a child’s depression and anxiety levels. 


Giving up control is not easy. In fact, I’d say the mental load of Free Range parenting is much higher. “No,” is easy. Its done. Move on. “Yes,” takes a lot more thought and preparation. 

I first heard about Free Range parenting watching an episode of Dr Phil around 20 years ago. Long before I had my own children. Dr Phil had a mother on the couch and was grilling her about letting her young son ride the subway in New York alone. 

He pulled up a map of the subway route the kid took and it was covered in dots. Turned out each dot represented a known paedophile. I was shocked and ready to condemn that woman unfit to be a mother.  


But as I listened to her explain that for every single dot there was there was thousands of mums, dads, grandparents, sisters, brothers and all-round decent people, I started to change my mind.

Watch: Parenting 101. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

Once my own kids were old enough, I never taught them stranger danger because the fact is most strangers are actually going to help a kid in need and so instead I teach them about “Tricky People.” 

Tricky people may ask for help from a child by asking them to look for their dog or go into the bathroom to find their daughter. Adults don’t need help from kids. That person is being tricky. We have spent hours playing out various situations and I do believe they have a good grasp of it.

So, rewinding back to Hendry and his beach bike ride while I said that he would pass a hundred houses full of people we don’t know. They’re also people he can ask for help. People who would be by his side if he fell over. Watch him as he carefully crossed the road and look out for him if he looked lost.

Image: Supplied.

It’s not that I’m relying on strangers to parent my kids while I’m not there, but I do have faith in the human race that most of us are inherently decent people. 


Of course, there are still risks. Same as driving a car is risky, but we pass a test and wear a seatbelt, we don't speed and safeguard as much as we can.

That’s how I parent too because I know I can’t be there all the time. I know the day will come when an emergency situation happens, when they have a problem to solve, when they are worried and alone and I know that by parenting this way I’m setting them up the best I can for anything life throws at them. 

You can follow Jonica and her free range family life on Instagram.

Feature Image: Supplied. 

Do you buy groceries for your household? Take our survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher!