Freedom is the Oxygen of the Soul
Do all teenagers rebel? Disconnect? Go through a tunnel?
I’m on my fourth and I’m happy to say I know many families, including ours, where they haven’t rebelled.
Does that mean we’re better parents? No!
Does that mean there should be any condemnation on anyone who’s got a rebel on their hands? Definitely not.
I don’t know what age children you have, but if they're under ten or even toddlers and you’re looking ahead and don’t want to go through:
Now’s a good time to start thinking about it.
Why do teenagers rebel? Is it because they want something they can’t have? Well that might be the catalyst, but my research through the parents I spend time with often shows that they’re pushing for a bit of room. Space that they haven’t been given as they’re growing up and then they get a few muscles and hormones and decide to stand their ground. (That’s a condensed version, I could give you the essay).
How you put the boundaries down now, when your children are small will make the world of difference to whether your child feels there’s the need for a revolution when they’re 12 (Can start from about 8 of course!).
Boundaries are so important, we all need them. It’s healthy to give children boundaries for many reasons. Not least so that they can put healthy boundaries around themselves.
But when we’re establishing boundaries, it’s helpful to establish choices and freedom within them. If all they can see is the boundary line, the fence, the wall, that’s what they’ll focus on. But if you give them some choices within the boundary, they’ll be less likely to kick the wall and more likely to look at what’s in front of it.
Let me give you a few examples:
Bed Time. (Favourite time to test the fences.)
Set your non-negotiable: The time for bed.
Then look at what is negotiable:
Do you want to chat and then have a story or have the story and then chat?
Brush your teeth and then put your pyjamas on or pyjamas first?
Obviously you don’t need to bamboozle them with all of those choices, but if you pick one or two it will enable them to focus on their freedom. Children can often feel they’re in a herded world. “Do this, pick up that, put your coat on, get dressed, got to bed, we’re leaving…” It’s a busy little life, full of commands. But if you put choices around each one they don’t grow up with a sense of infringement. They grow up exercising their ability to choose (and developing their critical thinking).
We need to go out:
Do you want to wear your wellies of your shoes?
Your coat or your cardigan?
Do you want to bring teddy or a toy?
Shall we go to the shop first and the garage after or the other way round?
Do you want to clear and lay the table or clear up afterwards?
Do you want to take your clothes upstairs before or after you’ve practiced piano? (double whammy there!)
Does it really matter? Enormously. Our daily habits and the atmosphere we bring them up in has major effects on who they become in a few short years.
Giving them choices raises them in a whole different culture from giving them commands. At first it feels a bit laborious, but when it is hard-wired in and a daily habit, it is drip feeding the message that they have freedom in their life. Oxygen to their souls.