|Alma mater||Yale University|
|Occupation||Writer and reality show host|
|Known for||Free-range parenting|
|Television||World's Worst Mom|
Lenore Skenazy (/ /) is president of Let Grow, a non-profit promoting childhood independence and resilience, and founder of the Free-Range Kids movement. She is also a speaker, blogger, syndicated columnist, author, and reality show host. A mother who lives in Queens, her controversial decision to let her then-9-year-old son take the New York City Subway home alone became a national story and prompted massive media attention. She was dubbed, "America's Worst Mom." In response, Skenazy founded the book and blog "Free-Range Kids," with the aim of "fighting the belief that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of a non-organic grape." Let Grow, co-founded in 2018 with Daniel Shuchman, Dr. Peter Gray and Prof. Jonathan Haidt, continues the quest to make it "easy, normal and legal" to give kids back some old-fashioned independence of thought and deed.
Skenazy is a 1981 graduate of Yale University. She got her master's degree from Columbia in 1983.
Skenazy spent fourteen years as a columnist for the New York Daily News, but was fired in December 2006. She moved to The New York Sun and wrote there until it shut down in 2008. Skenazy also wrote and reported for NPR, as well as CNBC, and was featured in the Bravo series Tabloid Wars.
Skenazy's April 1, 2008 column in The New York Sun, "Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone," described her making the controversial decision to let her son take the New York City Subway home alone, which was completed without incident. The piece resulted in a flood of reactions ranging from accusations of child abuse to fond memories of first-time subway trips and childhood freedom. The story was covered on The Today Show, Fox News, NPR, and MSNBC two days after the column appeared, later becoming worldwide news and being featured on Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, The View, Nightline, Good Morning America, CBS News, NBC Nightly News, Anderson Cooper, Dr. Phil, Nancy Grace, The BBC, The CBC, ABC in Australia, etc. In 2015, she was profiled in The New Yorker and The New York Times. The popularity of Skenazy's blog led to the creation of the book, Free-Range Kids, published in 2009 by John Wiley & Sons.
On the blog, Lenore proposed May 22, 2010 as the first "Take Our Children to the Park & Leave Them There Day" as a day for children to learn how to play by themselves without constant supervision. It has been celebrated every year since (citation?). Skenazy also became the host of the reality television show World's Worst Mom on Discovery Life. The 13-episode series features Skenazy visiting extremely anxious parents, including the mom of a 10-year-old who still spoon-fed him, the mom of an 8-year-old who bought him a skateboard but only let him "ride" it on the grass, and the mom of a 13-year-old who still took him into the ladies room. With humor, kindness, and some firmness, Skenazy separated the parents from their children and had the children do some tasks on their own, such as running an errand, or learning, at age 10, how to ride a bike. In the end, 12 of the 13 couples relaxed so much, that they became "Free-Range Parents" themselves. Now Skenazy lectures around the world, including speeches at Microsoft, DreamWorks, Audi, The Yale Child Study Center, Boston Children's Hospital, Wellesley, the Sydney Opera House and schools and conferences too numerous to count.
At Let Grow, Skenazy's goal is to renormalize kids doing things on their own. She says this is easiest when whole groups "Let go and Let Grow" together, so the adults don't feel foolish or fearful taking their eyes off their kids. Let Grow's two school initiatives to increase kids' (and parents') confidence are:
The Let Grow Project—Teachers tell the kids to go home and ask their parents if they can do one thing on their own that they haven't done yet—walk the dog, run an errand, play outside. This little push breaks the ice of fear. When the kids come back, flush with independence, anxiety is replaced by a flood of joy. The project changes parents as much as the kids.
The Let Grow Play Club—This is Dr. Peter Gray's initiative: Schools stay open before or after school for free play. Adults are on hand for emergencies, but otherwise don't intervene. Kids of all ages playing together make up their own games, solve their own problems, learning the social-emotional skills (focus, empathy, compromise) they can't get in the classroom.
LAWS: In 2018, Utah became the first state in the U.S. to pass the Free-Range Parenting bill, assuring parents that they can give their kids some independence without this being mistaken for neglect. Several states are considering similar bills as of 2019.
- Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry. John Wiley & Sons. 2009. ISBN 978-0470471944. OCLC 268790698.
- Who’s the Blonde that Married What’s-His-Name: The Ultimate Tip of the Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know…But Can’t Remember Right Now (Penguin Books, June 2009)
- "The Dysfunctional Family Christmas Songbook" (Broadway Books, 2004), with co-author John Boswell.
- "When Good Parents Get Arrested". Reader's Digest. May 2016.
- Why Parents are More Paranoid than Ever, NY Post, March 31, 2018
- Kelly, Keith (December 1, 2006). "Happy Holiday News – Hometown Paper Fires Columnist Skenazy". New York Post. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
- Skenazy, Lenore. "Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone". nysun.com. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- "At What Age Should Kids Ride the Subway Alone?". npr.org. April 9, 2008. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- "Mom lets son, 9, ride subway alone". todayf.com. Archived from the original on April 8, 2008. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- "Mother May I?". The New Yorker. February 23, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- Jane E. Brody (January 19, 2015). "Parenting Advice From 'America's Worst Mom'". Retrieved September 29, 2015.
- "It's "Take Our Children to the Park and Leave Them There Day"". Reason.com. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- "'World's Worst Mom' goes globe-trotting".
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