The Next Delusion

Seeing Reality and Looking the Other Way

In the ’70s We Just Called It Parenting

There has been a big case in the news recently about two young children in Maryland who keep getting picked up by the police for being in the park by themselves. Their parents say that they are practitioners of “Free Range Parenting” and that letting children explore on their own is important for their development. From what I can gather through the magic of Google, Free Range Parenting is all about letting kids make their own fun and explore the world at their own pace (and on their own). Maryland appears to consider this parenting style “neglect.”  I just call it “parenting” for anyone who was a child in the 1970s.

Let’s compare:

Free Range Parenting: Children come up with their own ways to play.  Technology and “adult imposed” educational opportunities are unnecessary.

1970’s Parenting:  In the 1970’s there was no internet, no iAnything, and Pong was the height of video gaming. As far as “adult imposed” opportunities, the Girl Scouts were the only game in town. And by 4th grade, everyone knew it wasn’t cool to be a Girl Scout (although some of us stayed in it for the cookies).  Soccer Moms were women who said “What the fuck is soccer?”.

In the 70s We Just Called It Parenting

I don’t know, those ducks look pretty sketchy to me

Free Range Parenting: Children are smart young capable individuals who can navigate the world as adults do. It is reasonable to give a child a $20 and a metro card and send them off to do the shopping. This is how they will learn self-confidence

1970’s Parenting:  Our parents would gladly send us to do the shopping so that they didn’t have to, and if you could find a local merchant who would let you buy cigarettes and beer “for your parents” all the better. We learned how to skim a little extra off the top to buy some Baskin-Robbins ice cream on the way home.


Free Range Parenting: Television watching is discouraged and thought to cause anti-social behavior.

1970’s Parenting: We had 5 channels of television (and two of them were fuzzy). TV offerings included such morsels as Eight is Enough and James at 15 during which the entire nation was subjected to the cliffhanger of whether James would lose his virginity (please put those clothes back on Lance Kerwin!). Anti-social behavior was rampant when you were watching The Brady Bunch on the only television in the house and your older brother wanted to watch Star Trek. Being on the streets was much safer.


Free Range Parenting: The world is not nearly as dangerous as we think it is and we should stop hovering over our kids.

1970’s Parenting: Hovering? Ha! Our parents pushed us out the door at about 8:00 am Saturday morning and would stick their heads out to call us in to dinner 10 hours later. We roved in rabid packs through the neighborhood, the woods, and down the street to the mini mall.  Our range was as far as our banana seat bikes would take us, and if that was past the local prison work release program, so be it. No cell phones, pagers, or other technological tethers held us close either.  If mom didn’t know where we were, she’d call our friend’s mom – who wouldn’t know either half the time.


Free Range Parenting: Families should spend time together, and eat family meals.

1970’s Parenting: Hmmmm. Does it count if you “spend time together” in four different rooms each with your own individual Swanson TV dinners?  OK, maybe not so much this one.


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10 thoughts on “In the ’70s We Just Called It Parenting

  • kdcol says:

    Last summer I bore witness to what I thought was pure genius when my friend kicked her kids out of the cabin we were staying in and she locked the doors. And the funniest thing happened, the kids found something to do outside. And then we moms got a little breather. It was great. Funny how that was such a foreign concept to me, probably to many parents today. And then all the whining about kids today being overweight. Go figure.
    kdcol recently posted…I know I’m not, but what aren’t you?My Profile

    • Cassandra says:

      Yes, it’s such a different world from the one we grew up in. My neighborhood had a bunch of kids and we really were on our own outside for hours at a time with no whiff of parental supervision.

  • Chris Dean says:

    Just Yes! It kills me how they’ve repackaged the common sense parenting we were raised with as if it were a new thing.

  • Phil says:

    Hear Hear! I was a child of the 70’s-80’s and we were never home. Just like you said we disappeared for the day, went to the mall, hung out in the woods, played ball all day, and only came home for dinner, quickly ate then ran back out until it was too dark to see and our parents yelled down the street for us. They never knew what we were doing and trusted us. If we got into trouble we got out butts whooped. It was that simple.
    Phil recently posted…Come on parents, stop taking your kids to casinos!My Profile

    • Cassandra says:

      Absolutely right. And in all of those years, I can’t remember a single incident of being in actual danger.

  • Jen says:

    I didn’t have free run of the neighborhood, mostly because we lived out in BFE, so my banana seat would have seen some major miles to make it to a friend’s house. I did however, play outside a lot. My TV time was EARLY Saturday morning, watching Scooby Doo. Any other time my dad, king of the television was in charge.
    Jen recently posted…Mother’s Day Is ComingMy Profile

    • Cassandra says:

      Loved Saturday morning TV. The Hannah Barberra Hour and Krofft Superstars (I’m sure I’m spelling these wrong) were my favorites. Also loved School House Rock ( I have even bought the DVD to share that joy with my children)

  • ManicMom says:

    Yup. All of it. Except we only had four channels to fight over. Both parents worked so we were what was called “latchkey kids” which meant every so often I’d lose my housekey on the way home from school or something and mom would yell at me about it. But the kindly next door neighbors had a key so I’d just go over there to get it. Nine times out of ten the lady would have cookies ready for me.
    ManicMom recently posted…If we’re lucky, there’ll also be bearsMy Profile

    • Cassandra says:

      I was a latchkey kid as well. I wore it on a little ribbon around my neck, so I never lost it. All of the other moms in the neighborhood looked down on my mom for working at first, but eventually almost all of them had jobs as well.

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