Children Declare Their Independence
Independence Day, or the Fourth of July, is an important day in the celebration of the history of our country. We commemorate with a day off work, picnics, fireworks and patriotic displays. Any adult can tell you the sequence of events that led to this celebration, England denied the colonies the right to make independent decisions and to take responsibility for their own actions. The result was rebellion, war and the severing of all relationships and ties.
Looking backward in history it is easy for us to see the mistakes that were made and to theorize about how the conflict could have been avoided. It is not quite so easy to look at our own family situations which parallel this historic event.
Parents, because they want to help their children be successful and avoid all disappointments, make decisions for their children and try to protect them from any unpleasant results. The inevitable consequence of all this “help” and “kindness” is rebellion and the destruction of family relationships. It starts very subtly with the “terrible twos” and continues through the dreaded teenage years.
There are no magical formulas but sharing in decision making and encouraging independence can avoid family conflicts at any age. For successful decision-making experiences, parents need to remember that there are still many choices which children should not be allowed to make.
Parents are still responsible for decisions that affect a child’s health and safety. Choices offered to young children should be specific and limited. “Which of these two outfits will you wear tomorrow?” “Would you rather have peas or green beans for supper?” As children get older the choices can be more complex and important. Along with allowing decision making and choice goes the responsibility to live with positive or negative results of the decision. This is a better teaching experience than all the lectures you can give. As parents, you can not give up the responsibility for many important life decisions, but, the next time there is a decision to be made, stop and consider, if it does not endanger their safety or health, let them make the decision for themselves and let them learn from the consequences.