Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot of talk around “free-range parenting.” The buzz-term of the moment refers to parents whom have adopted the “new hands-off approach to raising kids,” according to WedMD. It’s the antithesis to helicopter/drone parents who micromanage their kids every move — and it’s landed many a parent in jail.
The thing is, free-range parenting is not new. Not even remotely. Back when we grew up? It was just called parenting. Your mom would open the door on a summer morning, hand you a cheese stick, and send you on your way to play with your friends. You’d walk home alone from the bus stop. You’d babysit other kids while still a “child” yourself.
Nowadays? Your playdates are monitored, your parents pick you up in a car from the bus stop that’s only feet from your house, and babysitting? Not so much.
Need more proof that the “good ol’ days” are a thing of the past? Look no further than our favorite classics from the ’80s and ’90s, where parents subscribed to the “you do you” method of parenting and all of us turned out just fine.
The Goonies | 1985
Let this movie serve as a lesson to all parents: give a group of adolescent boys a semi-legit looking treasure map and an obscure newspaper clipping and they may just come back with enough gold to save you from foreclosure. Sure, they may have to dodge booby traps and armed criminals, but they all turned out just fine.
Adventures in Babysitting | 1987
Imagine if you left your kids in the hands of a babysitter who took them on a wild ride through the streets of downtown Chicago where they got a flat tire (in the days before cell phones), hitched a ride with a borderline insane truck driver, hid out in a stolen Cadillac that was then car-jacked by a thief, and … you know what? We don’t need to go on. You get the gist. At the end of the day, the parents had a nice night out and were none the wiser. So let’s not worry about what came before it.
Home Alone | 1990
The McCallister family is so worried about missing their flight to Paris that they completely forgot they’re one child down, leaving poor Kevin to fend off burglars and cook his own mac and cheese. (WHICH HE NEVER EVEN GETS TO EAT BY THE WAY.)
Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.
My Girl | 1991
Oh, Vada. She lost her mom, lives in a funeral parlor, and takes care of her grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. OF COURSE SHE NEEDS TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE ON HER OWN. Can you blame her??
Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead | 1991
Apparently in 1991 it was totally acceptable to take off to Australia for the summer with your boyfriend, leaving your FIVE children in the care of an elderly babysitter whose health is questionable and whom YOU’VE NEVER MET BEFORE.
Rookie of the Year | 1993
Twelve-year-old Henry Rowengartner is raised by a single working mom and spends the entirety of this movie running around Chicago with his friends before getting drafted to the Cubs (like the total badass that he is). The kid literally passes his days almost completely unsupervised (while raking in a pretty sweet paycheck).
Hocus Pocus | 1993
“BRB Mom and Dad, just going out to light the black flame candle, bring some witches back from the dead, and run all over town in the middle of the night. We promise not to break into the high school, run from zombies, and light said witches on fire.” NOT.
The Sandlot | 1993
So even though this one took place in the ’60s, it could have just as easily passed for the ’90s. New kid in a small town desperately trying to fit in? Story of our lives, people. The bit about finding himself in the backyard of a violent dog owned by a seemingly terrifying owner? Thankfully, not so much.
The Little Rascals | 1994
Soap Box Derby races, blatant misogyny, and general mayhem ensue when these boys are allowed to run around town with their own modes of transportation and a parent-free club house where anything goes. And it seemed awesome.
Baby’s Day Out | 1994
What does this movie teach us? “Don’t worry if your barely-walking tot is kidnapped by three criminals, he’ll escape on his own, work his way around Manhattan, and find his way back home — all with a smile on his face and in the same diaper he left in.” It will all be fine.
Blank Check | 1994
How many 12-year-olds do you know these days who are savvy enough to out-wit a crook, their parents, and countless other adults by forging a check for $1 million and creating a false identity? Okay, so these are not exactly positive qualities to instill in our children but you gotta admit, Preston was pretty crafty.
It Takes Two | 1995
Identical (but allegedly not related?) young girls (one an orphan, one an heiress) switch places and discover the heiress’ dad and the orphan’s social worker would make a perfect match — and therefore solve everyone’s problems. Antics ensue, a child labor operation is uncovered, and all ends happily, of course. So all we have to say is this: who needs Match.com when you can enlist the help of pre-teens for free?
The Baby-Sitters Club | 1995
Children watching children. Need we say more?
Matilda | 1996
The Wormwoods are undoubtably the worst parents on this list, and they definitely do NOT help the case for free-range parenting. Matilda, a super neglected (but highly intelligent) little girl, is left all alone during the day by the age of 4. What does she do? Walks her butt to the library every day and proceeds to read nearly every freaking book in there. #LikeABoss
The Parent Trap | 1998 (and okay, 1961 too)
Remember that time those parents you knew got divorced and just went halfsies on their babies? One parent taking one baby off to California, the other to London? No? Oh right, because that would only happen in a movie. Nothing screams laissez-faire parenting quite like willy-nilly splitting up your kids and then not even noticing when a different one comes back after a summer away.
Ah, the good ol’ days. Man do we miss them.