I talk and write a lot about saying YES to kids and raising them in an atmosphere of freedom and respect. Doing away with the authoritative model and replacing it with a collaborative one.
When kids who haven’t grown up with this same freedom and guidance are given it too suddenly it can be jarring. If you suddenly give freedom to someone who hasn’t had it, there is a good chance that they will take advantage.
Saying NO Creates Lies and Manipulation
The reason for this is that they’ve had to manipulate and take advantage all their lives to manage all the limits and rules (different ways to say NO) placed upon them.
Imagine if you want a bowl of ice cream and you ask for it in a straight forward manner. If it happens to be before dinner or if you had a candy earlier or if the adult you’re asking just doesn’t want to give you ice cream and you’re told NO, then you quickly learn not to ask for things directly. You learn that to get what you want you’re going to have to manipulate, to be inauthentic or to live with disappointment.
Manipulation Becomes a Habit
This quickly becomes the way they learn to relate to people and to their environment. So if an abundance of freedom is suddenly there it can be a shock and the patterns of manipulation will continue for a while.
If kids are given the freedom to make their own decisions from the beginning, with guidance and support of course, they learn really quick how intelligent they are, how powerful they are and how to think!
Every time we limit their freedom we limit their growth.
For example I always gave my daughter permission to skip school anytime she wanted with no explanation necessary! She never took advantage of this. What it did was give her the freedom to make her own decisions. She used it as a tool. She self-evaluated, made choices and dealt with the results.
You can read more about this school skipping thing here:
My daughter is a wonderful person, but she’s not a miracle child
who is so good that she never does anything wrong.
But every mistake she has made we have treated as a learning opportunity
rather than a consequence opportunity.
So in her mind mistakes are data for improvement,
not something to be avoided or scared of.
Introduce Freedom a Little At a Time
I often hear people say “If I let my kid have that freedom they would skip school all the time.”
The fact is if you want to introduce these ideas for the first time to kids who are older,
And have never experienced this level of freedom and responsibility
it has to be done slowly and carefully.
Let Them Know You Trust Them
For example you could say to them:
“I have been watching you and I feel like you’re getting more mature. I want to show you how much I trust you and value you. So I’ve decided to give you 1 totally free school skip day every month. You don’t have to justify it to me, I’ll just accept it.
I am doing this because I believe in your ability to know when you really need it.
I believe in you.”
Now hearing that alters the mind and heart of a child! It sends them a message that perhaps they’ve never heard before. That they can be trusted without a limit, at least on those days!
Be A Freedom Ninja
Gradually Expand Their Freedom and Responsibility
From this one can expand the level of freedom to other things as well. Bedtime, food, play…
slowly introduce the idea of self-evaluation and they’ll slowly absorb it.
The key is to do this in a way that they don’t see it coming.
Sneak it into their lives like a Ninja sneaking into a castle to assassinate the leaders.
No one ever knows they were there.
Your kids end up with more freedom, more responsibility
and feel more trust and accepted by you,
but they never really notice the change occurring.
This requires some planning, consistency and persistence.
Especially when things don’t go smoothly at first.
But if you don’t give up your kids will change.
They will meet you in freedom and respect.
The benefit that my kid had was I did this from day one.
She knows from the inside out that I respect her for who she is.
Even when who she is, is different from who I am.
ESPECIALLY when she’s different!
Focus On The Lesson
It definitely requires a priority shift
A change in every day focus.
What I do is look at the deeper thing being taught,
the deeper lesson being imparted in every experience.
Is it more important for them to go to school every day
or is it more important for them to learn intelligent decision making?
What Is Really Important
Is it more important for them to get to bed on time
or is it more important for them to learn how sleep affects the body
and make choices based on that knowledge?
Is it more important for them to eat what we want them to eat
(and how much, and when and what manners they have while eating)
or is it more important for them to love their bodies,
to learn about how food affects them,
to learn to balance nutrition with the enjoyment of eating
and to have an independent and healthy relationship with food?
Where Is Your Focus
Are we dealing with present behaviours
or are we instilling LIFELONG skills, attitudes and knowledge?
I ask this question every day in every interaction.
When we parent beneath the surface the results are truly amazing.