By Erin Diffenderfer
It's Friday morning before the July 4th weekend so freedom is on my mind. Let me tell you I'm beyond grateful to live in the United States where freedom is the way; not sure this independent opinionated blonde lady could have it any other way. I wouldn't be doing the work I love without freedom. I was able to make a career switch because of it and am I so thankful for that because I know beyond a shadow of doubt that it's what I was meant to do. But enough about me.
I want to talk about giving some of this great noun to our kids. Let it be clear they need some in a few ways:
- Freedom to be who they are meant to be, not who we want them to be
- Freedom to have time to explore and imagine
- Freedom to have their own opinions even if they differ from ours
Now be careful. Give a little one too much freedom and you just might end up with a not so nice older one. It's all in the balance.
So your daughter is showing signs of being a tom boy and an athlete and you had visions of her being a "girly-girly." Give her freedom to be herself and you'll teach her to accept herself and others for who they are.
Your son tends to be serious, shy and quiet. You just love people that are the life of the party! Give him the freedom to be who he is and you'll teach him that the world needs all kinds and all kinds should be celebrated.
So your kids are getting a bit older and you are finding they don't think how you do on politics maybe, or religion (that's a toughie!) or a variety of topics. I challenge you to find a way to allow for them to have these opinions while respecting that it is your home. Let discussion happen where you truly listen to each other. Again you will be teaching a life skill -- how to work with all different types of people and how to blend ideas sometimes and accept different sides other times.
Really ask yourself, "Do I want someone dictating what natural personality traits, interests, and opinions I should have?" We know the answer there!
Please don't get me wrong, I am the first to coach parents on having consistent discipline, commanding and even demanding respect from their kids. I just don't think you should be afraid of giving them freedom in some of this basic stuff. It can be powerful and positive when you do. The two concepts can exist together -- expecting good and respectful behavior and allowing your kids to be who they are. I know you can find a way to blend them that works for you.
Got those kids scheduled in something every minute of every day because you want to enrich their lives with many experiences? Stop and think, "Am I allowing my child the freedom to enrich themselves with play and time?"
There is nothing wrong with a little one simply messing with a good old roly-poly bug in the backyard and then switching gears and playing with legos. Let your older ones lay around once in while and just be. For all you know amazing things are going on in their mind when they do (or not so amazing. I know, I was once a teen too, but who cares let them think either way).
Some outside activities is fine. Too much and you just might be raising a stressed-out person who happens to have a million skills. Personally I'd rather see you shoot for a peaceful kid. Kids need free time and the freedom to choose how to fill it built into their schedules. And if you do this I promise they will be more-well rounded than the child who spends his day in a car going from one activity to the next.
So this weekend when you see the fireworks and the flags around stop and think, "I am giving enough freedom to my kids?"
Ultimately, freedom is the greatest gift we can give our kids -- the freedom to go out into the world, and anywhere in this world they want to go, and chase their dreams knowing they are fully capable and you won’t hold them back. I know I'll be looking at them and smiling, knowing that the freedom I have allows me to do the work I truly love.
Erin Diffenderfer, The Mommy Trainer, is a parenting and life coach with twenty years of hands on experience with children and parenting. Erin works with parents to craft a winning formula that is customized and personalized to fit their lifestyle. She is a regular monthly feature on the TV Show "Your Carolina with Jack and Kimberly," can be seen from time to time on "Scene on 7" and has articles published on parenting in various local and national publications and websites. Born and raised in the Silicon Valley of California, Mrs. Diffenderfer currently resides in Anderson, SC with her husband, Jim.
Copyright © Erin Diffenderfer. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.