How much or how little freedom you allow your child means finding the right balance between being protective and being permissive and is the key to fostering independence. It is a fine line and a worrisome one for parents as the ramifications of both extremes have far reaching consequences.
Parents Who are Overly Protective Can Create Problems
Parents who are overly protective are generally reacting to what they believe is a dangerous society. They are afraid of the harm that may come to their child if they are too permissive, are concerned that their child can’t be trusted to make good decisions, and are afraid of the consequences of their child’s bad decisions.
There are a number of problems suffered by children who aren’t allowed enough freedom:
- They feel they aren’t trusted, which lowers their self-esteem.
- They are more likely to be bullied because they don’t know how to deal with strong-willed peers.
- They are often socially ill at ease.
- They become resentful of their lack of control over their lives.
- They become increasingly alienated from their parents.
- When they leave home and are finally free to make decisions, they have had too little experience, are afraid of making bad decisions, and may seek out people to make their decisions and hand their freedom over to them.
Parents who are Too Permissive Can Create Problems
Children need to have some degree of freedom, but also need well-defined boundaries that reassure them they are loved and protected. There are a number of problems suffered by children who are given unlimited freedom:
- They usually feel they aren’t loved, can’t count on parental protection, and are insecure.
- When children are allowed to “raise themselves,” they usually don’t do a very good job.
- They will look for security and boundaries set elsewhere and by non-family members: a gang, another home, or a person they decide to trust.
- They often make unwise decisions that can’t be undone, which can dangerously alter the course of their lives.
Foster Your Child’s Independence
When parents give their child the right balance of freedom and protection, the child learns independence, learns the factors that must be considered in making decisions, learns how to accept the consequences of decision-making, and develops increased feelings of self-esteem and self-respect.
Here are some of the ways parents can encourage independence:
- Give Your Child Responsibilities – Your child should have chores to do and he must know what will happen if he fails to do them and you must follow through with the consequences.
- See That Your Child Has Time to Himself – Children shouldn’t have every minute of the day scheduled. It is important that your child learns how to amuse himself or herself.
- Help Your Child Learn to Accept Failure and Limitations – Make sure your child understands that learning anything—a new sport, another language—involves trying, failing, and trying again. Don’t shield your child from the lessons learned by failing.
- Allow Your Child to Express Opinions that Differ From Yours – Even if you disagree with your child’s opinions or decisions, listen and make an effort to understand. You don’t have to convince him he’s wrong as soon as you hear his opinions. If you don’t judge, he will continue to communicate and you will continue to have the opportunity to offer guidance.
- Encourage Your Child to Try New Things – Even if he is uncertain or nervous, encourage him to try new things, meet new people, speak up, and express his ideas.
- Teach Your Child not to give in to Peer Pressure – This is a difficult feat for many adults, too, but help your child learn how to disagree peacefully, how to walk away if he must, and the importance of being true to his values.
Becoming independent isn’t easy and it isn’t easy to teach independence either—it is a learning process for the child and the parent. Your goal is to give your child the amount of freedom he needs as he grows to learn independence so that he can leave you when he is an adult, and for you to be able to watch him leave without feeling dread.
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