Free-range parenting eroding society

Ashlea McIntire, Staff Reporter

Parenting books are more popular than ever. Those books are urging parents not to rule their kids through fear and “free-range” parents are encouraging others to let their kids be more independent and figure things out on their own. As a result, parents are shying away from disciplining their children. In actuality, they are hurting their children more than helping by not teaching their children there are consequences for their actions. Parents need to take responsibility, step up and discipline their children before it is too late.

One reason that children are not disciplined effectively is that their parents aren’t present. According to the Pew Research Center, 21% (about one in five) of kids, defined as children in the U.S. under the age of 18, live with a single mother and 4% with a single father. Npr.org states that fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of high school and four times as likely to live under the poverty line. Daughters are four times as likely to get pregnant as teens. Motherless children are likely to experience the same and may additionally suffer from emotional problems such as guilt and self-confidence issues. 

One reason there are so many children being raised by single parents is that people are having children unexpectedly. Often, when children are unexpected, parents use the excuse of “I’m not prepared for this, they will be better off without me.” Then they leave, forcing their partner to raise a child alone. No child is better off without their parents and saying that is just an excuse. Parents should take responsibility, whether they think they can or not, and raise their child to the best of their ability.

However, it’s not just children with single parents being left alone, children with parents that believe in “free-range” parenting are also being abandoned. The “free-range” parents believe that children should be raised with limited parental supervision and should function independently. Because children are left alone, they get away with more in the home and then believe they can do the same outside of the home. 

The schools are feeling the biggest effect of this mentality. Students show blatant disrespect to their teachers, coaches and school property. Inappropriate pictures are drawn on walls and desks, bathrooms are torn apart and desks are purposely broken. Teachers are ignored, brushed off and told that they can’t make the student do anything. Students are sent to the office and from there, in Aledo, to In School Suspension (ISS) or the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP). However, a change in behavior is not seen. Why? Because the primary teacher is the parent. So, if a child is punished at school and goes home to hear their parents telling them it is no big deal, to brush it off, or even worse, that they will ‘take care of it’, then the school is unable to effectively punish the student. 

There are schools that overreact and punish too harshly for minor behavioral issues; however, they would not have started doing that if they did not think they had reason to. Schools have to take too many disciplinary actions with students. The primary job of the school is to teach, not to discipline. 

The last place that a parent or a teacher wants to see their child is the back of a police car. However, a lack of discipline at home may lead their child to a future full of situations like those. If kids, especially teens, aren’t forced to obey the rules at home and at school then they aren’t likely to follow the laws in the real world. And unlike at school and at home where they are used to getting off with no punishment at all, they will be caught and punished. 

While sentences for juveniles (children above the age of 10 but under the age of 17) are not as serious as those that adults receive for the same crime, they will be required to serve out a sentence, whether it is community service hours or jail time. In the last year alone, Parker County arrested 210 juveniles. The number is just under half of the Aledo Class of 2020, which has 434 students in it. 

Few teenagers wake up and think to themselves that they are going to try to be arrested today, instead many are just trying to see how far they can push the limits because thus far they haven’t been stopped. It comes as quite a shock after years of getting away with their wrongdoings to suddenly being arrested for them. Our police officers are here to protect us, not to compensate for lazy parents. 

When the word teenager is spoken, the connotations that go with it are often negative. Words like disrespectful, insolent, inconsiderate and troublesome come to mind. They are often accused for the downfall of our society, however the accusation should be pointed at their parents who do not teach right from wrong or enforce the consequences for their actions. However, laying the blame is not important, what is important is finding a solution. The solution is simple. Parents need to step up and teach their kids that all actions come with consequences that cannot be brushed away.