I’ve noticed an interesting trend recently in some online homeschooling groups I belong to. One of those groups is an unschooling group, and happens to be where this trend seems to be most prevalent.
This trend revolves around letting your children make their own choices. But it’s not just a matter of letting them make their own choices. It’s going to extremes with it.
An example: a young child needed some medical care, and the parent was leaving the choice entirely to the child. The medical care was not for anything life threatening but it was something that would be more expensive to fix later, would eventually become painful if it wasn’t already, and the child was quite determined not to get this medical care.
I’m all for letting kids make choices. As a mother to a teen and a tween, I’m at the point where my children often make their own choices. I’ve been working with my oldest on making decisions regarding medical care. I even allowed him to make a major medical decision regarding the HPV shot – after I thoroughly researched and educated him on the subject, and with full knowledge that if he’d made the opposite decision of the one I hoped he’d make, I would step in and pull rank as Mom to make the ultimate decision. I would have explained why, so that he would know that I wasn’t just ignoring his wishes, but I wasn’t going to let him go forward with what I felt would be a dangerous decision (he made the decision I hoped he’d make, by the way). It was not so much about him making the decision, as it was teaching him how to make the decision. But he was also almost a teen at that point, not very young.
What bothered me about the example I gave, and many of the others I see, is that these don’t seem to be about teaching their child how to make the right choice. It’s this mentality of “my child is a human being and has the right to make his own choices.” Yes, he or she is and does, but they need to be taught how to do that.
Many of the examples I see are something to the effect of “I wasn’t happy he made that choice, and it ended badly/cost me a lot of money/ruined ______, but it was his choice. I had to stand back and just let him do it.”
Why? If you can clearly see that the choice your child is making is going to end badly, cost you money, ruin something that belongs to you or something else, why on earth would you just let them move forward with that without saying a single word?
I want my kids to be adults who can make good choices, who can independently look at a situation and decide for themselves what’s best. But how are they going to become those adults, if I don’t help them make choices as children?
Helping them make choices isn’t just saying “do this or do that, pick one.” It’s explaining the pros and cons of each side, helping them realize there can be consequences of their decision beyond the immediate moment. And, if it comes down to it, in some cases it even means overriding their decision and doing what I know to be best, even if it’s not the choice they want to make. A choice regarding medical care is a great example of that. I’m not going to let them ignore a cavity or not go to the ER when they’re vomiting blood because they “choose” that option. That’s when I’m a parent.
I’m not going to let them go out with a friend that I know is going to get them in trouble, or go someplace that I know isn’t safe, or do something that I know without doubt will end in physical injury (jumping off the roof or running out in front of a car, for example). These are not things that we discuss the options and they get to decide. These are the things where I, as a parent, say no. Period.
Now, I’ll admit that what I see in these groups is just a snippet of their lives, and may not be representative of how they live in general. But I know of at least one who does freely admit that her child makes every single decision. The child is only about 7, and she’s letting her make every decision, from what shots to get to whether or not she goes to the grocery store with her. She’s even stated that she “tries to treat her like a roommate.”
This is what I can’t fathom. I didn’t have children so I could treat them like roommates. I had children because I wanted children, because I love children, and because I wanted to raise them. I wanted to teach them values, ideals, manners, and how to grow up to be adults who could make good decisions. I don’t see how that can happen if I treat my children like they’re roommates instead of my children.
Maybe one of you can help me understand. Do you treat your children like roommates? Or do you let them make their own decisions, under your guidance? If you treat them like roommates, why do you do that? What persuaded you that that would be the best way to raise them? I truly want to understand, so please, share your thoughts.