I mentioned last week that I’ve had a few issues with the kids lately.
To be perfectly honest, this last holidays drove me nuts! Usually we have a couple of rough days, and then things calm down, but not so much this time. Last week was full on full time.
Luckily for me, I know exactly why.
Unluckily for me, I know it’s going to be a hard fix.
But first, a story,
Imagine that it is your first day in a new job. You arrive at work, get thrown a uniform, and are given a very vague description about how the job works. Then your boss goes off for a smoke and a cuppa, and you don’t see him for the next three hours.
It’s more than a little frustrating. On the desk you have a whole bunch of paper work, that appears to need signatures and information. You have customers entering and asking you things you’re just not sure about. The stress has exhausted you, and made you hungry, and so you quickly pull out your sandwich for a bite, but as you do the manager walks back in the room and blasts you for eating on the job.
It hardly seems very fair.
So let me ask you?
Would you stick around?
I don’t think I would.
We have a funny way of parenting in our western culture. We’re big on choice, which is, of course a great thing. Who doesn’t want freedom?
However sometimes, we get things a little backwards, and give too much liberty when it is either nor warranted, or not safe. It would be ridiculous to put an untrained person in a job, and expect them to do it competently.
Unfortunately, too often, we do it with our kids.
Children are just that: Children. Tiny human beings who have not learnt responsibility or moral awareness or even peripheral vision. And yet so often, we give them the freedom as if they know what to do with it. We let infants decide when and how much they will eat. We let toddlers touch whatever they can, and instead of teaching them that some things are off limits, we move them out of their way, child proofing our house. We let kids choose their own bed time, and help themselves to the fridge, eating whatever and whenever they like. We allow them to amuse themselves with whatever takes their fancy; we daren’t supply structure or routine to their day, because that would inhibit their creativity and sense of independence.
And then we wonder why we have tantrums and tears, and down right refusals, on the occasions where we are forced to say no. When health and safety prevents us from allowing them the freedom to do exactly what it is, when they want to do it.
Now rest assured; I am not casting judgement. We are all free to parent in the way that we feel led to, and with what we believe is best for our family. No one can tell us what is right for our kids.
What I am suggesting though, is that maybe, sometimes we get confused with what love actually looks like. We think it should mean keeping them happing and chasing peace at all times.
But maybe instead love is about setting boundaries that are strict and tight and keep our little ones hedged in, and then allowing the boundaries to stretch as they themselves grow in responsibility.
Wouldn’t it make more sense?
Like in the job scenario, a good manager wouldn’t leave a trainee unattended without proper instruction. That’s a privilege that needs to be earned for the good of the company. You don’t start off where you want to end up. Freedom is the goal, not the starting place.
The dramas I’ve had with my kids over this holidays, have been simply because I’ve allowed them to be the masters of their own destinies. They have picked their own activities constantly, helped themselves to their own food, chosen their own clothes (little things like clothes, are a big thing to small people. Read here. And here), and generally been given the idea that they are the boss. Which, unfortunately, is not the case. And has resulted in some stellar battles, when I’ve tried to reassert my role as chief executive officer. For some of them, these things are well and good. For others, they are allowing them a freedom they actually don’t have the responsibility to deal with.
Which brings me to my actual point.
In every interaction with my kids, I need to be asking myself a question and working out the maths.
Does this child have the responsibility to have this freedom?
According to Growing Families Australia, there is a precarious balance.
Freedoms>responsibility= Developmental confusion.
The child can not function right. They have too much pressure put on their tiny shoulders, even if doesn’t appear that way.
Freedoms<Responsibility= Developmental Frustration.
The child needs to be given more leeway. They are being help back, and that’s not good for them
The child has more confidence and there is less conflict, which makes everyone happy.
The end point is the goal. I need to tighten some boundaries, loosen others, and generally make sure that my kids are not doing things they shouldn’t be, and not missing out on opportunities they should havE.
Freedom VS Responsibility.
It’s a tough one.
But so important