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Giving Your Little Kids Freedom

Giving Your Little Kids Freedom


Giving Your Little Kids Freedom

It can seem weird to think about letting your little kids have freedom – those that are toddlers or preschoolers. But if you give them appropriate freedom when they’re young, it can help them grow more self-confident and self-reliant, and also set a solid foundation for making good choices later on, when they have more true freedom. Obviously all parents need to do what’s right for them and their situation, but here are some ways that I’ve been giving my kids the opportunity to make their own choices.


  • At the park. When we’re out playing in playgrounds or other public spaces, I make sure my kids stay within eyeshot, but I don’t restrict their boundaries tightly. Right away when my kids could walk, I would like them walk without holding my hand, unless they disobeyed safety rules (like walking towards the street). Now that my kids are 3 and 5, I will let them run quite a ways ahead of me, as long as they stop when I give the signal. If they get far enough ahead that I have to chase them down, then their freedom gets restricted to being right by me.
  • Making mistakes. This is huge. Many parents swoop right in and do things for kids, including getting food ready, tying shoes, or knocking over and breaking toys. As long as the situation in question isn’t a major safety issue, I typically don’t intervene with my kids. If my 5-year-old wants to make cereal, I do something in the kitchen while she gets a chair to get the milk, cereal, and bowl, and then pours it. I want her to be able to do it repeatedly under my supervision while she’s young, so that’s she’s able to be independent at these basic skills more quickly. I’m also a firm believer in learning by consequence. If my children break something, they help fix it. If they make a mess, they clean it up. If they’ve been warned to keep shoes on but take them off in the car, I’ll make them walk barefoot to the house, even if it’s cold out. It’s never too early to learn that actions have real consequences.
  • With friends. My daughter has some people in her life she absolutely adores that I really don’t, or that I don’t really care for the parents. But as long as she isn’t learning bad habits from them, I’ll let her play with them. It’s her choice, not mine, and I can handle short-term interaction, even with people I’m not friends with, if she’s getting along fine.
  • When it doesn’t matter. Let your kids pick their clothes as much as possible, even if that includes PJs in church. They will eventually understand the concept of appropriate dress, and other people will know that they dressed themselves. Or at least give them choices that you can live with. It’s a lot easier to get ready in the morning with kids that want to wear what they’re wearing than forcing kids into something.
  • And when it does. Decisions that may seem insignificant to you can matter greatly to your small children. As much as possible, ask their opinion. This isn’t the same as coddling every unreasonable request – it’s modeling care and concern for how they think. There will be times when you need to be firm and unwielding, and those times will go much more easily if your child also has a lot of positive decision-making experience and realizes he or she needs to take turns.


Bekah writes parenting tips at Motherhood Moment (http://motherhood-moment.blogspot.com ) including saving money and time, meal and activity ideas, and more. She also writes about eco-friendly and mindful living and parenting at Motherhood Mindfully (http://motherhood-mindfully.blogspot.com ). Find her on Twitter @mthrhood_moment or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Motherhood-Moment/1254585041