When I was a child I had very few choices in life. My mom made meals that all 10 family members ate. She did not ask us what we wanted to eat. When I went outside my dad told me which cows to milk. He didn't ask when I wanted to start. Most families were similar at that time. Then child experts began to tell parents they should teach their children how to make decisions. That was a good idea, but as usual, some parents took it too far. Now, in many families children are asked what they want to eat, when they want to eat, and if they want fries with that. Children are asked to make every decision for themselves and allowed to make all decisions in their life. We've gone from one extreme to the other in my lifetime.
I want to encourage you to allow your children to make decisions, but they should make decisions appropriate for their age. A child should not make every decision about what he eats, drinks, wears, or does.
When my children were adolescents I asked them what decisions they would like to make. We made a list of those decisions together. I assigned an age which they would need to attain before they could begin making each of the decisions on the list. In that way they gradually assumed increasing autonomy over their lives. Still, we as parents had control over the biggest decisions, until they were in their late teens.
So why are we tempted to allow our children to make all the decisions? One reason is that we want to be their friend rather than their parent. In addition we consider it our responsibility to make them happy. The irony is the more we try to make someone happy the less happy they will be. So let your children make decisions, but give serious consideration to the age at which each decision is made. Choices are not a right; they are a responsibility to be earned.
Blessings on your parenting,
Tim Miesner, Principal