Tomorrow is Independence Day…July 4th…and a good time to continue thinking about the concept of freedom. As our children grow, teaching our children to live with freedom – and exercise the accompanying responsibility it brings – is constantly on our minds. I love this post by our friend Jen Talley, and it seemed appropriate to share it again with you today.
Raising young children in a culture of freedom….sounds scary, doesn’t it?
Kids plus freedom seems like it would equal disaster. At least that’s what I used to think. I used to sit in judgment of other parents who could not “control” their kids. One day about 9 years ago Mike and I went to a relationship conference that changed our view. I mean it turned our world upside down. We actually had the speakers pray for us before we went home because it was that big of a paradigm shift. And this was it…are ya ready?
The only person in the whole wide world we control is….ourselves.
Simple, I know. That means I can’t control my husband, my friends or ~ gasp! ~ even my kids. They have to learn to control themselves. And I want them to.
In our house, we call it managing.
“Can you manage yourself or do you need to come sit by me?”
“Can you manage yourself or do you need my help?”
“Can you be fun or do you need to go to your room?”
All these and more are the choices we give from the time they can understand us.
When it’s time for bed: “Do you want to hop like a bunny or slither like a snake to the bathroom? Do you want to brush your teeth or go potty first? Do you want your water in a blue cup or red one? Do you want to sleep in your bed or on the floor? Do you want the hall light on or off?”
I’ve learned that my kids crave freedom. They tend to buck the system if they feel controlled. They need to feel free to make a choice, not have it made for them. Choices give them options, and they also make them think. They feel empowered, not pigeon-holed. It gives them a sense that I care about their opinion on the matter…even if it’s silly or wrong.
God created us for freedom.
He created us for choice. He doesn’t get scared if we choose poorly, but he expects us to learn from those poor choices. I want my kids to be powerful and responsible in their choices. And the way I can do that is by creating a culture of freedom for them in our family. It’s a safe place with lots of learning, thinking and, yes, failing going on. A culture of freedom…it’s really not so scary after all.
But, admittedly, when we gave our 13-year-old an iPhone last year, it scared us to death. We told him we were handing him a ton of freedom and that we were scared. We told him it was his job to take care of our hearts with the phone. He has come to understand the value of our relationship and that his actions can damage that relationship. Just like our sin damages our relationship with the Father. Has our son been perfect? Nope, but we have a heart connection so we are able to sit down and talk about what happened. Then, guess what? There was a consequence.
The goal is to teach them that they can think and that they can make good choices. In the Talley family, we happen to start that process when they are young.
We give them age-appropriate amounts of freedom and teach them to manage it.
We want to give our kids as many opportunities to learn as possible.
All of these experiences, good and not so good, will serve as teaching tools that they can pull from their memory bank to make a, hopefully, wise choice.
Do they always make the right choice? Heavens no….that’s when consequences come in. Which is a whole other topic for a whole other post. 🙂