Woman dubbed ‘America’s Worst Mom’ touts ‘Free Range Kids’ movement in metro

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- People all over the country have been calling Lenore Skenazy "America’s Worst Mom" for 10 years. Now, she wears it as a badge.

“To be called America’s worst mom is kind of great,” Skenazy said.

Skenazy, who spoke Tuesday at Johnson County Community College, earned that dubious title in 2008 when she wrote a newspaper column explaining why she allowed her 9-year-old son to ride the subway in New York without his parents.

After a tsunami of parental outrage exploded across the internet, an unfazed Skenazy founded her ‘Free Range Kids’ movement.

Lenore Skenazy

“I want to raise my kids the way my mom raised me,” she said. “Let them walk to school and let them play in the car while running to get the milk. That’s not negligence.”

Skenazy’s movement has gained steam in recent years after parents in some states were charged with neglect for allowing their kids to walk to parks and schools without supervision.

Last spring, lawmakers in Utah passed the nation’s first ‘Free Range Parenting’ law. The law stipulates that a parent cannot be charged with neglect if a child of ‘sufficient age or maturity’ walks to school, a park or a store without supervision.

“I’m hoping Kansas and Missouri are going to pass the same law,” Skenazy said.

Skenazy argues the so-called "helicopter parenting," where caregivers smother and coddle young children, can have a negative impact on a child’s development.

“If you don’t let kids have any experiences because you’re afraid that something bad is going to happen, something bad could happen. And it’s called being a little stunted,” Skenazy said.

Some parents FOX4 talked to in Johnson County said they're not sold on the "Free Range Kids" concept.

“I think parents should be more attentive to their kids not less attentive, in every way,” said Susan Ripp, an Olathe mother of three.