Saturday, August 25, 2012

Children & Choices

Children absolutely need to exercise their right to make their own choices. But as a parent, I have the privilege, nay! the responsibility, of limiting the choices made available to them. If left to their own devices I am not only certain my children would choose poorly, I think their brain would turn to mush and their teeth would literally rot out of their head.

     For example, look at my kids eating habits. If given the choice, my children would choose junk food and refuse vegetables at all costs. They would never try anything new and subsequently miss out on the delicious joy of eating banana cake.

     Also, my kids would fancy staying up ridiculously late, therefore waking up tired and subsequently under perform at school. I am certain sleep deprivation would lead to discipline issues as well. That’s no good ... for me. If I let my tribe choose their own bedtime I would be perpetually dispensing discipline like the gum ball machine at the video store.

     And speaking of video, my kids would always choose to play video games before doing their homework and worse I fear, have spent so much time with their noses to the screen that they would have never discovered the joy of reading and experience the pleasure of getting lost in a story.

     Also, my children are couch potatoes. They sit so still sometimes I fear rigor mortis will set in and they will miss out on long bike rides and neighborhood games of flashlight tag.

     I'm not exaggerating when I say kids would never go anywhere. They balk and fuss every time I take them on an adventure or we explore a new activity. However, it usually turns out I’m right and we have loads of fun. Ironic isn’t it then that they would complain when it’s time to leave? They don’t ever want to go somewhere new, but I make them and then they never want to leave.

     And forget about brushing their teeth or hair. It seems the only child of mine to have any awareness of personal hygiene is my teenage daughter. If I didn’t make my younger kids brush their teeth I’m pretty sure they would be the only children on the planet with dentures.

     My kids would also smell like farm animals. They hate to wash their hands and they loathe getting in the shower. Getting them to use soap AND water is a miraculous feat of which I deserve some sort of trophy. Actually, I’ll just take a discount on my water bill. (Could someone let the city water department know?)

     Then there is their bedrooms. If left to their own demise my children would live in a pigsty. Now when my mother said that phrase it was a bit figurative. I mean it literally. Recently when I asked my kids to clean out their room they removed bags, yep plural, bags of trash.

     Surely my children are not the only ones who would make a complete muck up of their life if I let them. Wouldn't you agree children cannot be left to wholly supervise themselves? As parents it is our job to say no, limit screen time, offer new foods, explore new places and teach our children how to make good use of their time.

     I could see, however, why some parents believe that it is easier to just let kids decide everything. While it is better for my blood pressure if we don’t argue about bedtimes and homework, I predict it is only short-term relief. In my opinion, kids who are given too much freedom are not equipped to survive and thrive in the long run.

     When the day comes for my little birds to leave the nest I’d like to feel hopeful that I’ve given them the tools they’ll need to be safe, secure and successful. I want them to know how to get a good night’s sleep and enjoy eating nutritiously. I want them to believe it’s beautiful to try new things. They need to value their own and other people’s property. I want them to know how to present themselves with confidence. I hope they are brave enough to take a risk and travel the world if they wish.

     I believe the foundations for these characteristics are being established in our home right now. So today I make some choices for them. I choose bedtimes, I enforce work-before-play attitudes and limit computer time. For the day will come when they must choose for themselves.
How do I know?
Because I’m the mom and I said so! That’s how!

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