The Independence Day fever has not yet subsided in my house. My kid is still relishing the stories about the Indian Freedom struggle and History. So we keep pouring over our history books and digging deeper to understand what freedom meant to our ancestors and what they thought were their responsibilities to their country, parents, and fellow humans. Like any other typical nine-year-old boy, my son is full of questions about the feelings of those freedom fighters and what they thought was right or wrong. Were they seeking attention from others, or were they doing this out of their pure internal motivation? His questions have put a couple of thoughts into my head, resulting in this post.
As a Montessori parent, I firmly believed in pre-defined freedom within set boundaries. My child is free to choose his work and area of study daily. I don’t remind him multiple times about the completion of the task. I expect that he will complete his job on his own. This indirectly teaches him to be responsible for his studies.
Now you might wonder how a nine-year-old boy can be responsible for his studies. Given a chance, most kids his age would like to while away the time with gadgets. Then how can a Montessori child display that sense of responsibility? That’s because the Montessori environment allows the child to experience freedom in its most accurate form. To experience that freedom, the child has to develop first internal self-discipline.
For example, most parents wouldn’t allow their children to light a matchstick for fear of fire. They scare the child and keep the matchbox out of the way for the kid. If you keep it away from the child, the child will never know how to light the fire. But in a Montessori school, the supervising adult would show the child how to light the fire safely first. If required, the same presentation would be repeated multiple times until the child gains confidence. Then the child would practice the same with minimal adult intervention or supervision. The adult wouldn’t be hovering behind the child when the child is lighting the matchstick for the first time.
The freedom to light a matchstick on his own gives a sense of achievement to the child. That sense of accomplishment paves the path to the responsibility of not causing the fire accident. So in the above simple activity, we can see the child exhibiting freedom and responsibility simultaneously without anyone mentioning it specifically. Also, this presentation wouldn’t be given to the child unless he shows that he can handle dangerous objects without causing harm to himself or others.
Freedom and Responsibility in Kids:
Freedom and responsibility are two sides of a coin, and both have to be taught simultaneously to kids. Freedom without responsibility is letting the child fly like a kite without the holding thread. The responsibility without any freedom is a struggle, and the kids would do the tasks just for the sake of completion, but they wouldn’t enjoy them.
To enjoy the privileges of freedom, one needs to know its limits and follow the rules correctly. As parents, we observe the children and increase their freedom limits based on how responsible they have become while playing or executing their tasks.
For example, the toddler starts with a tricycle first and then graduates to the cycle with training wheels. Only when the child can pedal the bike completely, without anyone holding them, and balance them better (their legs landing firmly on the ground) would the parents remove the training wheels from the cycle. This is nothing but expanding their freedom limits concerning the child’s bike. The parent would make this decision based on the child’s behavior so that he can take on new challenges/freedom through his actions.
How to teach Freedom and responsibility?
As a parent, the typical question which nags most of us is how to teach responsibility to kids. To teach responsibility, we need to involve them in the decision-making and make them feel like an equally responsible family member compared to the others.
Once we involve our kids in helping us around the house, instead of nagging them to complete the chores, a sense of belongingness starts developing in the child. Once the feeling of belongingness comes, being careful and responsible would become the next logical step for the kids.
When the child is allowed freedom within certain well-defined limits, the child would automatically develop self-discipline and responsibility. The parent can expand their freedom limits based on their further actions and readiness to take up new challenges.
So, in a nutshell, the child needs to be involved in various chores around the house and give him the free space to develop his sense of accomplishment. There are a lot of chores lists available on the internet for kids based on their age. Even if we don’t want to depend on those predefined lists, we can start introducing different chores based on their interest and age at home. Parents always know what’s best for their kids. So observing the child and his needs is one of the critical art forms the parents have to become experts with.
What about Attention?
Most parents like to believe that their children need more attention, and as mothers, they need to take care of every whim and fancies of their child. They sacrifice all their time and effort to do that. But in turn, this behavior only develops the stress on the mothers and makes the kids too dependent.
Everyone wants to be pampered and treated royally, and kids are no exception. But too much pampering only results independent kids. Their self-confidence levels will be lower, and we will not have independent kids. When parents involve the kids at a young age in household chores, their self-confidence levels will grow and make them more responsible kids of the future.
So, as parents, we need to cherish the kids and show them that we love them completely, irrespective of their actions. But providing unnecessary attention would only end up spoiling them. So, all this undue attention would make the child crave more, becoming toxic after a specific time. So providing the appropriate attention at the required time is the first responsibility of the parents.
Suhasini, IP, is the Author of the book “Practical Tips for Kids Mental Health.” As a certified kids and parents life coach, she helps/guides you toward a happy family life for your kids. She firmly believes that “Emotionally Happy Kids of today are the Mentally Strong and Happy Citizens of tomorrow.” Let’s make the world a happy and beautiful place for our kids to thrive.