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From the sunny side… Free range parenting

I heard a phrase the other day that I had not heard. The term was "free range parenting." I've heard the term "free range chickens" before. In fact, we have a pair of free range chickens that roam about the outside of our building here at Greene Publishing, Inc. The "Greene Publishing chickens" seem to be happy from what I can tell. They do what one would expect chickens to do. From all my observances, these two birds are well versed in chickenhood and have very little need of assistance from anyone else. They tend to stay close to the building here and I have not observed them ranging too close to the road where the risk of injury is high.

We also have cows and goats here at the headquarters of the Greene Publishing empire. The cows and goats are not exactly "free range" because we have fencing in place in order to keep the cows and goats from ranging too freely onto State Road 53. One rebellious goat, in particular, would constantly find his way outside the fence and often onto the road. This always struck me as curious because the goat had plenty of room in which to roam within the confines of the fenced area. Most of the other goats and cows seemed to be rather content to stay within the boundaries.

It is clear, in our case, that the notion of "free range" behavior is much more successful with chickens than it is with goats. One thing I have observed in my many trips around the sun, is that there is a difference between chickens and children. I recently heard someone lament the behavior of one particular child who is being brought up under the notion of "free range parenting." This youngster seems to be allowed to behave in any manner in which he feels he should, regardless of any rules or consideration of others. I fear that allowing a young toddler to behave in any manner such as this is akin to allowing that rebellious goat to roam freely outside the confines of the fence. The goat may seem to be happy for a while, but eventually he will "range" too close to a busy highway; at which time it may be far too late to attempt to bring him in, away from speeding cars.

With Father's Day coming this weekend, I think back on the parenting style my father used. I am thankful he knew the great difference between chickens and children. No one could ever accurately accuse Pat Patrick of being a "free range parent." He established strict and well-defined boundaries. My sisters and I were expected to be in our own yard whenever the street lights came on. We were expected to answer any question with a "sir" or a "ma'am." Under no circumstances, were we allowed to step foot on Puckett Road. The consequences of breaking the rules were swift and, at times, severe. Even though my father was far from perfect (contrary to what my grandmother may have thought, I was far from the perfect child), he did the best he knew how to do; and he was always motivated by love.

The Good Book tells us to "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." That sounds like pretty good advice on raising children. The chickens can probably figure it out on their own.

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