Welcome to the Beyond Discipline: 10 Building Blocks for Positive Parenting Series.
This is the 4th post in a series of 10 on the Building Blocks for positive parenting.
Building Block #4
Children have ideas, wishes, desires, just as much as the next person and allowing them to express themselves is so incredibly vital to their well-being and development. Accepting our children as individuals and giving them the freedom to be themselves, freedom to experiment and learn is so very important.
Too often parenting turns into a battle of compliance and power struggles, parents demand, command and expect and children are supposed to simply follow. But children that are given freedom, that feel free to be who they are, that are accepted for what they have to offer and how they uniquely contribute to their family are usually happy, well adjusted, creative and naturally cooperative.
Parenting practices that promote freedom:
Accept and support authenticity: Children are naturally curious and authentic. They often want to dress a certain way or experiment with flavors, try doing things in ways that may not be “typical” but as parents we can encourage and support this natural curiosity and give them the freedom to make decisions about themselves. Many parents worry about safety but supporting authenticity even within safety constraints is possible – sometimes it takes a bit of creativity and often letting go of our own fears.
Take time to listen: Instead of assuming you know best for your child, take a moment to ask questions to understand how your child is really feeling about something, what your child wants to do about something or if they have the solution to their own problem.
Consider needs during conflicts: In family situations, needs are bound to conflict at some point. Welcome conflict as a way to give your child a chance to have an opinion, a voice and be heard. As parents, we can consider everyone’s feelings and needs at a time of conflict and try to reach solutions together that are mutually beneficial. This isn’t always easy but certainly something worth striving to do.
Welcome risks, mistakes and triumphs: Sometimes children make great choices, other times those choices lead to disappointment. While I don’t believe we should purposely set up our children to fail, we don’t need to swoop in and rescue every time they are headed for frustration, or mishap. If we give our children freedom to make certain decisions, even if the end result of that decision is disappointing, they have had an opportunity to learn in a safe, loving and supportive environment.
As parents we don’t have to always direct and plan, teach or dictate…we can strive to be there to listen, support, empathize, love and accept as our children go through the trials, errors and triumphs.
Support Independence: From playing independently to helping around the house, even from a very early age children thrive when they feel capable of doing things for themselves. This isn’t about walking away or insisting on independence, it’s about giving children the freedom to try things on their own and the benefit of asking for help when they need it! Being loving while encouraging independence can go hand in hand by staying present, being mindful and always ready to listen or help when the need truly arises.
Giving children freedom isn’t about letting them take over, rule the house or doing everything according to their own time table at the expense of everyone else. Freedom comes with responsibility and I’ll be talking about that next week in building block #5 and I hope you will join me then again!
Peace & Be Well,
Questions for Reflection
In which ways could you give your child more freedom at home and as a member of the family?
When your child has an idea that clashes with your own, how do you go about solving your conflict so that everyone’s needs are taken into consideration?
As a child, were YOU given the freedom to express yourself, be yourself and reach for your dreams or were you expected to follow a pre-determined path? How does that affect your own parenting?