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 well.
As a Montessori parent, I firmly believed in pre-defined freedom. The freedom within set boundaries. My child is free to choose his work and area of study on a daily basis. I don’t remind him multiple times about the completion of the task. My expectation is that he would complete his task on his own. This indirectly teaches him to be responsible for his own studies.
Now you might wonder, how can a nine-year-old boy be responsible for his own studies. Given a chance, most kids of 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 truest form. To experience that freedom, the child has to develop first internal self-discipline.
For example, most parents wouldn’t allow the child to light a matchstick on their own for the fear of fire. They scare the child and keep the matchbox out of the way for the kid. As long as you keep it away from the child, the child will never know how to light the fire isn’t it? But in a Montessori school, the supervising adult would show the child how to light the fire in a safe way first. If required, the same presentation would be repeated multiple times, till the child gets the 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 in the child. That sense of achievement paves the path to the responsibility of not causing the fire accident. So in the above simple activity, we can see the child exhibiting both 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 the dangerous objects without causing harm to himself or to others.
Freedom and responsibility in Kids:
Freedom and responsibility are two sides of a coin and both have to be taught at the same time to kids. Freedom without responsibility is just letting the child fly like a kite without the holding thread. The responsibility without any freedom is drudgery 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 is able to pedal the cycle completely, without anyone holding them, and are able to balance them better (their legs landing firmly on the ground), the parents would remove the training wheels from the cycle. This is nothing but expanding their freedom limits with respect to the cycle for the child. The parent would make this decision based on the child’s behavior that he is able to take on new challenges/freedom through his actions.
How to inculcate Freedom and responsibility?
As a parent, the typical question which nags most of us is how to inculcate the responsibility in kids? In order to inculcate the responsibility, we need to involve them in the decision-making and make them feel like an equally responsible member of the family when compared to the others.
Once we involve our kids in helping us around the house, instead of nagging them to complete the chores, the sense of belongingness would start developing in the child. Once the sense of belongingness comes, being careful and responsible would become their next logical step for the kids.
When the child is allowed the freedom within certain well-defined limits, the child would automatically develop self-discipline and responsibility. Based on their further actions and readiness to take up the new challenges, the parent can expand their freedom limits.
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 the 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 that the parents have to become experts with.
What about Attention?
Most parents like to believe that the 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 efforts to do that. But in turn, this behavior only develops the stress on the mothers and also makes the kids too dependant.
Everyone wants to be pampered and treated royally and kids are no exception to that. But too much pampering only results in dependant kids. Their self-confidence levels will be lower and we will not have independent kids. When the parents involve the kids at a young age in the household chores, the kid’s self-confidence levels will not only grow but will make them more responsible kids of the future.
So, as parents, we need to cherish the kids and show them that we do love them completely, irrespective of their actions. But providing unnecessary attention would only end up spoiling them. So, all this unnecessary attention would make the child crave more, becoming toxic after a certain point of time. So providing the appropriate attention at the required time is the first responsibility of the parents.