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Boundaries and Freedom: Two Sides of the Same Coin
Boundary Setting in Early Childhood and Beyond:
Boundary setting is an art based on the science of the development of Human Free-Will, 0-15 yrs. Human free-will is not fully developed until the age of fifteen. In fact, humans are learning how to guide themselves toward (their own) true happiness their entire lives. We were not born to be merely obedient and perfect specimens of humanity, but joyful and powerful within our own beings and in our OWN WAYS.
Boundaries are set for the safety of the child, but we should keep in mind that children thrive on liberty. We need to set boundaries in a way that promotes the child's ability to guide his own will.
The child can only follow our direct commands according his will to do so. In the early years, (0-6,) his ability to follow our commands is limited. As guardians, we allow the child to develop his will by facilitating his ability to guide and follow his own will. If we put into his sense of order or sense of reality that he is at all times to follow our directions, we can shut down the child's will. This is not a good thing, since, "The will is to the psyche what the heart is to the body."
We want our children to have strong wills, to have interests and follow intrinsic motivations. If we merely order them around until they're eighteen yrs. or so, how are they to have (be in touch with) free-will and guide it appropriately … toward the direction of their own happiness, which only they can decide about and know?
To explain just a little further: The child cannot follow our commands unless and until it is his will to do so. The apparent obedience in following our commands stems not due to actual obedience, but receptivity to what is done (and not done) in the world around him and the desire to please us. Children love their parents and those caring for them.
This may all seem complicated but when one contemplates the nature of Free-Will, one realizes is it dependent on a condition of liberty for its very existence. Free-will exists only in freedom. But, of course freedom has limits.
As far as setting the boundaries to freedom, we must stand behind our "No!"s. We must be firm, consistent and serious when setting boundaries. The child is motivated by the tones we set as he reads our convictions as to the reality of a situation. The development of human free-will is complete at age fifteen. At this time he is ready to guide his own will. His guardians can breathe a sigh of relief if they have done their jobs properly.
The other aspect to developing free-will is to utilize it! In early childhood, Dr. Maria Montessori put self-teaching activities into the environments she created for her children's schools. What she attempted to do was revolutionary: She institutionalized the home by providing freedom of movement and exploration in an environment which included many different didactic materials to manipulate. These specially designed materials helped the children learn reading, writing and arithmetic on their own. She also included cots for resting when tired and gardens to water and tend. She discovered children would rather teach themselves things than play with the toys in the play area, such as dolls and trucks.
The key to Montessori schools is children teaching themselves in liberty and joy. In so doing, they develop the ability to concentrate as they count/calculate, spell/write and manipulate all the sensorial activities. I would like to see every preschool in America comprehend the wisdom and discoveries of Dr. Maria Montessori, who was way ahead of her time. Can't it be done in OUR TIME in all schools?