Independence is often interchanged with the word freedom. However, they are not necessarily the same. There is a lot of responsibility attached to the word independence. Yet, today’s young parents seem to be giving children lots of freedom without any thought of responsibility attached. I listen as parents tell me of their child’s need for freedom and watch as the child helps him/herself to anything he might find of interest to him.
I once stood amazed as an acquaintance of mine went through my formal living room, putting up glass figurines, collector’s pieces, etc. so her child might have freedom to play as the adults talked. My immediate thought was, “What happened to a parent telling her child, ‘Don’t touch!’?” It caused me to remember a family who had a child in our youth group. Speaking of the teen’s younger sister, the mother said, “Oh, if she comes to your house, she’ll go through your drawers…that’s just the way she is!”
The last time I counted, “No” was not a four letter word. Yet, many parents today act as if using that word to limit their child’s independence is a fate worse than death! As a matter of fact, I just saw the headline on the internet as I started writing this article that announced the road rage shooting of a grandmother for driving too slowly down the road, ultimately resulting in the death of a toddler in the back seat. Perhaps this shooter was someone who grew up with no restrictions or requirements attached to his independence! What has happened in our society?
Responsibility is a part of my everyday lessons with my students. The first graders in my class have the ability to enjoy independence as long as their “freedom” doesn’t interfere or hinder the “freedoms” of others. Being able to make decisions is a great confidence builder, but it can only happen when responsibility is attached. Students must own the results of their decisions. As long as I make clear to them all what can be done or not done, wise decision making can take place. However, when a child chooses to make a decision that is directly outside my guidelines, I consider it “willful disobedience,” and I attach a fitting punishment. Usually, two or three times of consistent punishment is all it requires for a child to rethink his/her choices.
Independence in my classroom allows students to get necessary materials out of their lockers, get out of their seat if a need arises, etc. They have job assignments which they carry out first thing in the morning…quite efficiently because they know the boundaries of behavior. This trust on my part keeps me from having to micro-manage the class every minute.
If parents will choose to teach children independence based upon certain rules of behavior, the children will truly have freedom. They don’t have to test the waters to see if Mom might get upset later, but they can act confidently within the parameters.