She threw a fit because the eggs were scrambled in a skillet rather than a baking tin.
That’s when my friend realized she had given her daughter too much freedom. This second grader had gone years deciding her own breakfast, and had reached the point where she wanted to dictate each step in the cooking process.
And my friend wondered where she had gone wrong as a parent. What had she done to turn her child into a little diva?
Where should moms draw the line in letting children make their own choices?
Once another mom confronted me about my refusal to let my preschooler choose his own snack. I couldn’t figure out how to explain it at the time, but I was trying to establish my authority. Even in little things like snack time, I knew I needed to show my child that I am in charge, not him, that I have the final say.
Yet never letting a child make a choice teaches them to be weak and fearful. I heard a story about a ten-year-old who went out to dinner with her aunt. The child had no idea how to read the menu and decide on a meal. When her aunt refused to order for her, she had a meltdown in front of the waiter because she couldn’t figure out what to eat!
Every time we give our children a choice, we teach them something.
We show them that the world revolves around them and they can have whatever they want, or that they need to think through their decisions and consider others.
We have 3 options:
- Too much freedom teaches children to think of themselves first; their self-confidence often turns into arrogance and lack of respect for authority.
- Not giving them any choices at all teaches them they are not competent and don’t deserve to be trusted – they have to rely solely on their parents to survive.
- Letting them have some control over their lives builds healthy self-confidence and independence while also teaching them to think about others and respect authority.
So how do we teach them a healthy balance, providing them freedom within proper boundaries?
We give them a few choices at a time, keeping in mind that options will be different with each child depending on personality preferences and responsibility level.
And we teach them that sometimes we will choose for them, and they need to accept it.
When they are toddlers, we only give them two choices at a time, and only in certain aspects of life. Maybe mom chooses all the meals, but the child decides his snack. Maybe mom chooses how the child’s hair will be fixed, but she decides what clothes to wear. When it’s time to play or watch a movie, the child can choose between a couple options the parents offers.
As children get older, they can handle more responsibility. The child may pick one shirt from the entire drawer, or which vegetable to eat with dinner. Older children can choose which chores they want, or which day to do them. It doesn’t matter, just as long as they have the opportunity to decide on something every day, but not always getting what they want in every situation.
What are some ways you’ve given your child freedom within boundaries?