What do you and your kids value most?

Posted on March 28, 2019

Having spent the last 30 years of life in parenting—including 20 years in helping family and friends with parenting advice, 10 years in teaching parenting classes, and 5 years in parent counseling and education—I will tell you that all disconnects between parents and other adults caring for children come from some form of violation of one’s freedom!

Think about what kids say during arguments from the earliest ages on…

“You are not the boss of me!”

“Why do I have to listen to everything you say?”

“Why can’t I make my own decision?”

“Don’t tell me what to do!”

It’s obvious that kids want to be free from authority. And this is what we say back to them…

“I’m not your boss, but you are the kid and I am the parent!”

“You have to listen to me because I’m the adult.”

“You can make your own decisions when you don’t live under my roof.”

“If you can’t make the right decisions, I’m going to have to tell you what to do!”

For the most part we “give” freedom of choice and decision making to our kids as we think they “earn” it! But how can we assume that we are the “giver” of something that innately, inherently is ours as human beings? It’s like saying to infants who are ready to toddle that they can start walking when we tell them to. How silly is that! They will walk when they are ready. They do not need our permission. They do not need an exercise of our authority. They do, however, need our support, guidance, and encouragement.

Similarly, “freedom” is our right. And kids will start to exercise it when they are ready. If we impinge on their freedom with an authoritarian attitude, we can expect opposition and rebellion.

So when your kids challenge your authority, keep in mind…

  1. You truly are not the boss of them. Allow them to be their own boss. Open discussions with them and give them choices, no matter what age they are. Tell them that, of course, they can make their own choices, and you will help them through the process. This helps build understanding and trust.
  2. You don’t want kids to listen to everything you say! Seriously, you don’t! This hinders their decision-making skills and makes kids more dependent, rather than in-dependent (dependent on their inner selves). As long as safety is not an issue when kids ask, “Why do I have to listen to everything you say?” respond with: “You’re right. You don’t. I want you to make your own decision. I would, however, as your parent like to share some facts for you to consider before you decide.” This is true leadership. Guide and step aside. Let kids make a mistake. It’s the best way and often the only way to learn.
  3. Telling kids what to do all the time is detrimental to their growth. It encroaches on their freedom to decide what they want for themselves. And that is a huge disservice to their well-being and life success. It gets in the way of their intellectual, emotional, and sometimes even physical growth, leading to depression, anxiety, and stress. In parenting, we have to step out of the way and give kids plenty of space so that they can discover who they are and uncover their potential.

If we want to raise resilient, self-reliant, and confident kids, the only thing we need to watch out for is not stunting their desire for freedom—which first finds expression in small rebellions and arguments. Listen, learn, and make plenty of room for them. After all, how would we feel if someone exerted their authority on us, our choices, and our basic human right to our freedom?