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Parenting: Children’s Freedom of Choice

Updated on January 22, 2012

Freedom of choice is a fundamental part of our lives. The notion of being free to choose is ingrained in the original Books of the Bible, which enable us the ability to choose and decide within a set of rules and laws.

The Bible of Israel addresses all aspects governing life, the do’s and the don't’s . It has laws and regulations that deal with relationships within society, between man and God, between man and him/herself.

The laws define what and how society must live and states the punishments that can be expected for breaking them.

The choice for what and when to do is ours, just as in our modern democratic societies. What governs us is a set of norms and laws within which we live. We know the penalty for breaking the law, we know the consequences (or at least should) for being out of the norm in the society we live in.

This hub is about children, and their freedom of choice. Do they really have such freedom, or are they bound to do exactly what their parents dictate? When are they really free to make their own choices, their own decisions? What is our role as parents in decision making for our children, do we really know best or not? What has society to say - schooling system, teachers, even friends?

These are not easily answered questions. The freedom of choice for children can be a dilemma for many whereas straightforward for others, freedom or non-freedom.

In my eyes and experience, and remember all that is written here is my own ideas, is that it lies somewhat in the middle.

If we look at nature, the more primitive life forms are driven more by instincts and less by decision making. As we progress up the ladder of the Animal Kingdom we see that the more developed animals - mammals and birds, the decision making becomes part of the animal’s life. Even the decision of prey animals - flee or flight is a decision that needs to be taken.

The Human race has reached a level where decision making is predominant and overrides instincts. If this is the case then the natural question will be - how will children know what to do or not do. Society cannot exist in anarchy.

Children are born without knowing what is right, wrong or how to behave and react. Therefore children need to be taught, and as we all say - brought up.

What happens in regards to children’s “freedom” to do what they please during this process.

The answer to this, and once again in my opinion, is that the children do not really have “freedom” as such but are governed by their parents. As the years go by, and the child learns more and more what is and isn’t allowed, they are given more freedom within the boundaries set not only society, but by their parents.

The boundaries set by the parents are the laws of the ”house” within which the children live. Examples can be - you cannot go to friends until you finish your homework, be back by a certain time in the evening, etc.

These boundaries are important, but should not be too strict as to cause the opposite - rebellion.

While the child is young, until the notorious teenage years, it is much easier to set the boundaries and uphold them.

This is important - children do not really have freedom. They cannot just get up and go as they please. I know that saying - they do not have freedom seems harsh, but look at it, it is so.

They should live by what their parents decide. They do not know what the responsibility of running and financing a household, of holding a job et really entails. Their lives and choices are basically governed by parents. . But lets not forget that their the responsibilities are comprised mainly of issues concerning school and maybe some housework - that’s it - all the rest is “play”.

I mentioned above that parental boundaries are important at a young age. This is true at all ages. But these boundaries which limit a child’s freedom of choice should be adapted and lessen as the years go by. They definitely should not disappear until the time comes when it’s only societies’ laws and norms that govern life. The adaptation must take into account the individual child persona. Most kids need these boundaries, especially in the teenage days, they give them security and the knowledge that their parents are there.

Many parents are afraid of their teenager’s reactions to intervention in their lives. A mistake, the kid will blow off steam, but will know that there are rules, and that it’s in his/her interest to obey. Teenagers are still not at a stage in life where they can do as they please. They still need these limitations of freedom which will prepare them for their adult lives.

Parents make two mistakes in the teenager freedom issue - either they are too lenient and afraid to set a house code of laws, or are too strict and suffocate the children.

Both will have negative impact on the children in their adult lives. Being too lenient can produce spoilt, non-disciplined young adults who will want to do as they please and will not always understand why for example they cannot do or say to their boss anything they want. Being too strict will not ensure that the child does not do what they want. They will behind the parents back, and as adults may continue thinking that this is the way of survival.

I have of course extreemed in the above instances. Life is normally in between.

The essence of it all is - children do not really have freedom , but are bound by the rules of the house and society. They cannot do as they please, unless the parents allow them to. It is not negative or cruel, it is a necessity in the teaching of young humans how to live within the society they were born.

Freedom from parents “clutches” will come when the young adult stand on his/her two feet, and the limitations in life will be their own within their society.


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      jacky 3 years ago

      i say yes let teens do there own thing lol

    • IS1820 profile image

      Ian Susman 6 years ago

      Thanks a lot "Educate Early" for your comments and I agree totally that education begins at a young age, and awareness to this when the child is young is very imporatnt. If the boundaries and do and don'ts are achieved at the "notorious toddler" age it can, although unfortunately not always, help in the teenager era.

      Thanks again

    • Educate Early profile image

      Educate Early 6 years ago

      You say: "While the child is young, until the notorious teenage years, it is much easier to set the boundaries and uphold them." What about the notorious toddlers who rebel or boundary test just as much as teens? Testing limits looks different in the toddler stage than in the adolescent stage but it, in my opinion, is caused by the same "thing" - an awareness that one can have control over their environment without the wisdom backing them up coupled with an egocentric viewpoint. Add to all this growth (because, yes, it is growth!) an environment that gives absolutely no freedom and -BAM! - you have one rebellious child at either 2 or 14.

      I agree with your post and extend what you are saying to be true for very young children. As an early childhood educator I have seen parents fearful of seeing their child go into a temper tantrum which leads to the same results as when they are teenagers (except maybe worse because they have many more years to learn to live this way).