It’s called common sense parenting

“You can’t legislate intelligence and common sense into people.” ―Will Rogers

Read in the paper where Utah legalized a child-rearing method they call “free-range parenting.” Lawmakers there say it will encourage children to be independent.

I’m pretty sure we had that when I was growing up, it was just called something else.

Reportedly, the bill allows children to engage in situations that would not be considered parental neglect: like going to and from school alone, playing unsupervised, or sitting in a car unattended under safe conditions—every day things in my childhood.

Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, the bill’s sponsor said, “I feel strongly about the issue because we have become so over-the-top when ‘protecting’ children that we are refusing to let them learn the lessons of self-reliance and problem-solving that they will need to be successful as adults.”

On that point, I wholeheartedly agree.

Then Fillmore added this ironically profound statement. “What I have found out lately is how much childhood and coming to maturity affects the rest of your life and shapes you for future years.”

Wait! You are just now realizing that? Granted, life in the U.S. was different when I grew up in Mount Pleasant, Texas, eons ago. But, we were taught skills needed to be successful adults by parents who already knew what the good senator has just lately found out.

Teaching a child started at home when home was a safe haven. Didn’t have a security system because you didn’t need one. We were taught to respect what was not ours.

We were also taught to respect war veterans like our dads and uncles. And, respect public servants and law enforcement officers, thanking them for our rights and privileges they protected.

Self-reliance? We were taught that. I walked, or rode my bike alone to school at South Ward Elementary in Mount Pleasant, Texas. Bad weather was the only time mom provided transportation. We also learned family togetherness and respect for our parents. We all sat down for a meal. We ate what mom prepared without question. And, we never left the table without asking permission.

There were rewards for practicing what we were taught. In the summer time, we played outside in the evening with every kid within a two-block radius of Redbud Street. Games like hide and seek and Red Rover. We were in the house before dark, and no one had to look for us because we also learned that we could lose that privilege if they did.

Accountability was learned knowing that if we got a paddling at school, we got one at home as well, no questions asked.

We were taught to be imaginative and creative without every new toy. When we rode bicycles, it was cool to clothespin a playing card to the frame allowing it to pop in the spokes as we pretended we were riding motorcycles.

We learned about financial responsibility. Getting money without earning it? Unheard of. For completing my chores—taking out trash, keeping my room clean, pulling weeds in mom’s flowerbed, and other household duties—I earned 25-cents, paid on Saturdays and not before.

We were taught that many good things in life come with inherent risks, like climbing trees or playing on “dangerous” playground equipment. We sometimes got hurt, but learned that allowing risks to outweigh rewards would preclude us from valuable lessons in life.

We were taught to respect our time. Permission was required to watch television, but not to screen content. There were no program ratings because television producers were socially and morally responsible enough to offer only programming the whole family could watch.

Progress and change can be good things. But, it does seems ironic that we have “progressed” to the point we apparently now need “free range parenting” legislation aimed at reviving what we had back then when it was called parenting with common sense.

Maybe law makers today should simply study the common sense philosophy of Will Rogers.

—Leon Aldridge

(PHOTO—”Look ma, no hands!” Author’s sister Sylvia (Aldridge) Crooks (center right) with her life-long friend, Susan (McAlister) Prewitt (center left) beside her having fun on “dangerous” playground equipment at South Ward Elementary in Mount Pleasant, Texas, in the mid-60s.)

Aldridge columns are published in the Center, Texas, Light and Champion ( and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune newspapers (


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