A common misconception to positive parenting- or freeing your kids -is that your children have the right to do whatever they want. Countless times I see this heatedly debated.
Often times the argument I see is, what is right for one family may not be right for another. While this is true, setting limits and boundaries is an important part of parenting.
Now, I am not one for rules. I HATE rules. I see rules as things to be pushed and tested. As limits to possibilities. This is my personality. It does not however mean that rules have no place.
Consider the words of Nelson Mandela when he said, “For to be free is not to merely cast off one’s chains, but, to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others…”
I was recently asked when discussing this quote if respect is a natural or learned behavior. My thoughts are that it is learned. That respect is based on a response to a relationship, whether that be with self or another, and is defined by culture and society. I am still debating this one out in my mind. If you have any thoughts on this please share in the comments.
With empathetic rules and boundaries, a peaceful parent teaches their child about respect through their developmental stages.
As a child’s development progresses, their needs and wants also change. For an infant what they need and what they want are the same thing. By the time that infant is a toddler, the story is different. Their needs may conflict their wants. All of a sudden they are emerged in a world of emotions and independence that they might not be sure how to navigate. At this stage they are developing a sense of self. Not a sense of the world. Not a sense of consequences. Just a sense of who they are and what they can do.
Taking the hands off the wheel and following a my child is free to do as they please/I have no responsibility in my child’s choices mentality is not going to teach them how to navigate and differentiate what they are going through. It is not going to teach them to respect and enhance the freedom of others. It is not going to teach them the reality of consequences.
I am not talking extreme limits or even consequences such as time out. Yes…I am against time out. I am talking reasonable limits that enable communication between your child and yourself. Limits that allow you to teach your child respect.
Respect for themselves.
Respect for their community.
Respect for their environment.
When parents don’t set limits (also called permissive parenting) they are failing to nurture their child’s emotional health. They are failing to teach them how to properly handle and manage their emotions.
Every family is going to have different limits because we all have different goals and beliefs. For those out there that don’t have any limits here are somethings that may happen:
1. The child will learn that happiness is associated with getting their way. Ever met a person whose happiness eludes them? The ones that are always chasing after the next best thing? There is an importance in teaching that happiness can in fact coincide with disappointment.
2. The parent’s “spoil” the child. Personally I don’t believe a child can be spoiled…but, I do believe that parents often give in to desires that have harmful consequences. I am all for natural consequences. But, if those consequences are going to hinder my child’s development you better believe it is going to be a limit rather than an explore it yourself option. You may think you are only giving in on bed time. In reality you may be giving up on much more.
3. Children who aren’t allowed to experience sadness and disappointment never learn how to handle those emotions. These emotions are important to developing a healthy emotional intelligence. A child needs to know how to process these emotions to be able to do things like take risks and challenge themselves without fear of failure.
4. Children need to know you are in charge. Not because they need to respect authority or jump to when told. They need to know you are in charge because it is comforting. Kids turn to the people they view as in charge to help them deal with the scary situations, like the monsters under the bed, because that boundary teaches them that they can trust that person to protect them.
5. Children who grow up without limits struggle to place limits on themselves. Learning self-discipline is an essential part of being free. If a person cannot manage and control their life, they can never be free. Teaching this skill starts in the toddler years.
So yes, limits (with empathy) are a part in letting your child live free.