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Feral Families: These Parents Explore Raising Their Children Without Rules

We’re all familiar with the fictional stories of children found in the wilderness, raised by wolves, and so on, whose family history is unknown (Jungle Book anyone?). They live wild and free with little to no rules. However, in a growing (non-fictional) trend feral families are those who willingly allow their children to live without rules. One family with seven children lives in the UK and shares why they believe this is a better alternative for their children.

Throughout many parts of the world, people are learning more about mental health and well-being. As a result, many families are ditching the traditional way children were once raised. Parents are trying to balance gentle parenting and discipline, but some families have gone a step further and become what are known as ‘feral families.’ As is the case with 35-year-old Gemma and her husband, Lewis Rawnsley. The pair live in England with their seven children. And their children don’t have to follow the same rules that other parents require of their children.

Gemma’s Philosophy

These feral families are making their own rules, established by the kids themselves. The kids don’t go to school or have a bedtime. Furthermore, they can dress however they want and eat whatever they want. Gemma says she doesn’t want her kids to grow up too fast.

She wants them to fully enjoy their childhood. As a result, she doesn’t want to set boundaries. Other things the kids are allowed to do on their own is cut and dye their hair, use foul language, and get tattoos or piercings. “I didn’t have a stable upbringing. My mission has been about helping my kids have the most interesting, fun and happy lives in a house filled with the love I never had.” Gemma shared. “I make calculated decisions so if something seems dangerous, I know it has risk attached, but the benefits are that they learn responsibility.”

Gemma and her husband, not seeming to mind being considered part of the feral families group, believe that their kids will learn the most from having the freedom to explore life on their own terms. “It’s about letting them make decisions, it’s not a feckless attitude where we sit back and let it all happen. It looks like we’re feral, but that’s just one side of us. Feral is left to your own devices, but these kids are brought up to the nth degree.”

The notion of feral families has become so common, BBC aired a 3-part documentary unsurprisingly called, Feral Families. The documentary, airing in 2017, follows the Rawnsley’s and 2 other families, with a philosophy of no rules to examine whether children are better off with or without rules.

Another Mom Follows Suit

Another mom, who actually writes for a parenting website, shared that she and her family actually have great success as a ‘feral family.’ In 2020, she published an article explaining, first and foremost, that although screentime is highly frowned upon, having that option works for her family because her children often are together. She appreciates the siblings bonding over TikTok videos, rather than fighting out of boredom or frustration. She also feels that because she’s never put a limit on their screen time, she actually finds that they frequently want to go do other things, like shoot a ball into a hoop.

Next, she addresses bedtime. She’s never set any rules regarding bedtime because in her case, her older child goes to bed, at a reasonable hour, already having the self-regulation to know how much sleep is required for themself, to be the most productive.

Lastly, she covers junk food. She doesn’t deprive her kids of it because she also enjoys it. In her experience, them having access to those treats makes them feel less like a treat and in turn, they will often opt for healthier options because the thrill of eating something taboo is eliminated. Further explaining they also don’t have a set family mealtime. With her kids’ extracurriculars and her busy work schedule, it’s hard to find a time that works for everyone.

As is the case with most families, she’s eliminated that stressor but just not requiring it. However, she does follow a few parenting tips. For example, having “Yes Days” and saying “I get to” instead of “I have to.” If this means she’s also considered part of the feral families category, she doesn’t seem to mind because parents are given so many mixed messages anyway.

Contrasting Ideas from an Expert

So, with so much conflicting information and experts conducting studies, how do you decide if being a feral family works best for your family? According to Doctor Marianne Neifert, kids need rules and boundaries for several reasons. She explains that some of those reasons include preparing children for the real world, helping them learn to socialize, and giving them reassurance. Furthermore, she says that some structure helps kids feel more competent, they feel safer, and they have more confidence. She does also stress that being too strict can have adverse effects.

Balance is Key

It would seem that amid all the mixed information, finding balance is a commonly suggested theme. It’s ok to give your kids a set of rules to follow. So long as you occasionally let them fulfill their desires. Be it to stay up a little later or eat an extra treat instead of finishing all their veggies. ‘Feral families’ have gone the opposite direction in having rules or boundaries. Alternatively, they still display a level of restraint in that they teach their kids how to do something before allowing them to just freely flow.

Furthermore, when kids have the freedom to make their own choices they learn to self-regulate, which is a skill that not even all adults have. None of the children from these stories seem to be neglected. However, they do appear to be happier and more carefree, with parents that are also happier and carefree. Realistically, the more people can avoid stress, the better off they’ll be, even if that means occasionally bending the rules or doing away with them altogether.

Keep Reading: Mom Says She’s Allowed to Snoop Through Her Kids’ Phones Because She Pays for Them


  1. From bedtime to screen time, why having no rules works for my family.” Savvy Mom. Rebecca Eckler. May 11, 2020.
  2. Popular ‘feral’ parenting documentary shows kids playing with axes, tattoo guns. Fatherly. Blake Harper. October 23, 2017.
  3. Why kids need rules.” Parenting. Marianne Neifert, M.d. Retrieved February 17, 2023.
  4. Mom With 7 ‘Feral’ Kids Says They Have No Rules And Don’t Even Have To Attend School.” Little Things. Ileana Paules-Bronet. February 14. 2023.