Navigating Through Life
- Friday, September 21, 2007
Decisions. Responsibilities. Life is full of both. Should I have that second cup of coffee? Should we limp by with a semi-functioning appliance, or bite the bullet to replace it? Maybe it's time to get out of bed if I'm going to get anything done today. In fact, responsibilities are always with us, and decisions are so much a part of everyday life that, except for the ones that make us pause a moment, we make them almost subconsciously. But have you ever noticed that some people seem better equipped in these areas than others? Not only do they seem to choose wisely the majority of the time, they are, well—decisive! And they can handle responsibility without buckling under the strain.
Were they just born that way?
Maybe. Personality does seem to play a part in the way people make decisions and do their duty. But in another way, like reading, writing, or arithmetic, these things are learned. In math, we start by memorizing the numbers, then we learn that one plus one equals two. Someone taught us that, just like they taught us to read and to shape our letters. As homeschooling parents, we have that privilege with our own kids, and we work hard at it.
But have we been as intentional in teaching our children how to make decisions and carry their own responsibilities? I have to be among the first to confess that I have not exactly been a pace-setter in this realm. After all, it's a whole lot easier to be the hub of the wheel, directing my kids' thoughts, actions, and time, than to systematically, deliberately, and continuously put them in the position of needing to make decisions for themselves and bear their own responsibility for the hundred and one issues they encounter in the course of their day. The temptation is to make all the calls, thereby functioning as a living memo pad to remind them of their duties and point out what they should be doing. (Okay, I admit it: It also makes my job of running the house easier).
SAVING THEM FROM THEMSELVES?
I suppose there are parents out there who try to ruin their kids' lives—who, with malice aforethought, actually do all they can to make their children miserable. But those would be the exceptions. As a whole, we parents try really hard to raise our children in such a way as to ensure future happiness, if that were possible.
In fact, sometimes as parents—dedicated, sincere, homeschooling parents—we try so hard and are so focused on preventing any mistakes that we can end up making all the important decisions and most unimportant ones as well. Like an earnest two-year-old strangling a kitten while intending only to keep it from falling out of his lap, we're in danger of slowly squeezing the life out of our kids. The motive is good. The results are not.
We love our kids so much, we want to save them from making big mistakes. Choices are fraught with risk, so we rule out those possibilities by making all the decisions ourselves. Instead of teaching them from babyhood how to make wise choices and to take responsibility, we reserve that decision-making power unto ourselves so they won't ruin their lives. We don't involve them in these choices. We tell them which way to go and what things to do, steering them down those paths we feel are right.
In fact, it is much easier if they don't do any independent thinking at all. We take the responsibility for seeing what they need to do and telling them to do it. They just need to learn to obey.
Well, obedience is wonderful. Godly. Essential. But we're not raising dogs here. We're raising potential adults, and we've got to keep that end in view, even when they are just toddling through life. Regulating every move works okay when kids are small. In fact, they need a fair amount of that. Give your two-year-old too many choices—what to eat, what to wear, etc—and you're grooming a little dictator. But the level of parental control appropriate at two and three is oppressive at sixteen and seventeen. Besides that, we run the risk of raising a crop of children who have not learned how to look around and see what needs to be done. They are good at standing politely and waiting to be told, but initiative? Virtually non-existent.
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