Wednesday, April 8, 2015


The term, 'using our common sense' implies that we should know things without being told. I do not believe we develop common sense by osmosis, but rather, we have to learn common sense the same way as we learn anything.  Some of it comes through observation, but most of it is literally the result of being taught what to do and why we do it.  Our decisions are formulated from previous experience, what we already know, training and experimentation. It is called, making an 'educated' choice.

If you watch 'America's Funniest Home Videos' you will see that, in most cases, people have not thought through an action or activity, and some calamity occurs. It certainly appears that they have not learned 'common sense'!

Here are some examples:
My aunt decided she would get a better view of the ocean if she climbed on top of the toilet seat lid to look out through a high window.  Common sense would have alerted her to the fact that her body weight was far greater than the plastic lid was designed to hold.  As a result, she fell through the toilet seat, badly injuring her shins.  Her common sense was on the same vacation as she was!

The inexperienced fisherman who recently took a small sail boat out into the gulf for a week to catch fish, seriously lacked common sense when he did not supply authorities with a required 'float plan' prior to setting sail and was not experienced in handling his boat in rough seas.  He was extremely fortunate that he did use some ingenuity in being able to stay alive for 66 days until he was rescued.  He has now hopefully learned some common sense.

The boy who decided to jump off a roof, onto a trampoline which would then propel him into a pool did not think about what could go wrong but was egged on by his friends. His lack of common sense in considering the injuries he might incur, was completely clouded by his need to show off to his friends.

A child being shot by a loaded gun inside a house clearly shows that common sense was not in evidence in allowing a loaded gun to be anywhere within a child's reach.  In fact, having a loaded gun lying around, period, showed no common sense. 

Common sense is subjective.  It can be affected by many things.  For this reason we have laws, rules and policies in place to protect people e.g.  secure 4' fencing around pools helps prevent small children from falling in and drowning.  The speed limit is there to control speed and intersection lights to prevent people getting injured.  Gun licenses are required to ensure owners use them safely.

Children are not born with common sense!


1. We teach our kids 'cause and effect' from their earliest years. "The fire is hot."  "It feels hot
     when we go near it."  "Do not go near the fire because it could burn you."  "That hurts!"

2. We learn by others' mistakes by teaching our children what went wrong and why and how
     to use appropriate wisdom in those particular circumstances.

3. We demonstrate common sense through wise decision making in our every day lives.

4. We prepare our children for possible problems before they attempt to execute their plans.
     a) "Before you go camping check all your gear is working, take your phone, charge it
         when and if you can, tell us where you are going and for how long.  Always stay
         together.  Take enough food for twice the length of time you are out.  Take a first aid
     b) "You are going to Susie's party.  Will you know everyone there?  Will parents be
          there? What happens when people drink?  If you feel uncomfortable for any reason,
          call us and we will come and get you."

5. We set curfews and tell our kids why.  I had to be home by 11 p.m. on weekends and I knew
    that if I didn't get through the door by that time, my father would be out looking for me.
    Those were the days when we had no phones, so I felt safer knowing that he cared.

6. We list a general set of guidelines to help our children prepare for most occasions.  Ask yourself:
     a) Is this activity safe?  Has it been done safely before?  Am I endangering my life or the
         life of others?
     b) Do I have the correct information, working gear, means of communication, money, protection
          or supplies to fulfill this mission?
     c) Would my parents be happy about me doing this?
     d) Does anyone know where I am and who I am with? 
     e) Are there directions or rules that I must follow?  Am I breaking the law?

We do not want our kids to learn by trial and error. "You will know not to do that next time!" is not
a very useful tool to use.  Of course, we cannot predict and prepare our children for
every scenario, but we can prepare them for many situations.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families

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