There are two extremes when it comes to child-rearing. The first is strict, unbending, the same punishment for all crimes no matter how big or small. The second is laissez faire, let them be and they will make their own mistakes and figure life out for themselves. In other words: lazy parenting.
Growing up, I had a neighbor friend who would take turns with me knocking on the other’s door and asking the same question: “Can Emily come out and play?” I was only 8, but I felt sorry for my friend because when it was my turn, “Can Jill come out and play?” When her mom let her come out and play her answer was always the same. She would say to her daughter, “I don’t care.” Happy to hear the answer, my friend would jump up and follow me to the tree house or wherever.
Maybe I’m generalizing, but a mom who communicates to her child that she doesn’t care is asking for a psychological mess for a kid down the road. I heard from somewhere that she was in her mid-twenties wearing punk style clothes and goth makeup working at a movie rental store.
Love Your Kids with Limits
It’s been proven that children (although they say they hate you and you don’t understand) equate limits with love, so leaving them completely to themselves is quite literally unloving.
Limits tell your child they are safe and cared for. Someone once compared it to a fence. You let your 3 year old daughter roam free in the fenced-in back yard, but you wouldn’t dare let her out the front door to her own fate.
Create boundaries for your children that are non-negotiables and that have been thoroughly explained. I can’t stress that enough. Each boundary has to be accompanied by the answer to the question, why.
- Don’t do drugs because you will get addicted, ruin your life and die.
- Don’t watch pornography because it will take over your life and control you and ruin all relationships.
- Don’t be a bully because you are a confident and friendly girl who doesn’t need to push people around to feel good.
- Don’t talk to strangers because they will kidnap you and kill you.
These, among many others, are common sense. You would never let your 7 year-old decide for herself if she wanted to talk to a stranger and let her find out that he was a sex trafficker only to say that she learned her own life lessons. Children with strong boundaries tend to be confident, secure children who feel safe in a loving environment. Create boundaries, without a doubt.
When to be Lazy and Let them Go Crazy
Mom, decide when it is okay to let them out of the corral for a while. There are always opportunities for growth and learning that they can discover on their own, and you can facilitate and nurture those moments.
For example, if your child decides that he wants to take all the couch cushions, put them in a pile and jump from a chair into the cushy pile. One of two things will happen: he will bump his head or bruise his leg and learn that it isn’t worth being a dare devil. Or, he will have a blast. Either way, he has made a decision that allowed him to discover something new, kill boredom, cultivate his creativity and build his imagination. If mom had intervened simply because it was inconvenient to be sans couches for a while or because she was afraid he would hurt himself, she runs the risk of creating another kind of monster: a scaredy cat.
“Don’t do that creative activity! You’ll get hurt.” Is not a good enough reason to place a boundary.
Another good example is the time my brothers, around 12 and 15 years old at the time, decided to create a snowboarding ramp and jump out of the mountain of snow and the roof of the garage. They stuffed snow all around the side of the garage (make sure the basement doesn’t leak) until they created a homogeneous snowy hill that started at the top of the garage roof. Then they added a jump at the end. As a mom, I will sit back and watch my boys do the same with pride!
Don’t stifle what could be developing a part of their brain that will eventually lead them to greatness. Creativity, discovery and even minor injuries are essential to a healthy childhood. Place boundaries that create a safe secure environment, and then cultivate a freedom in your home to create new activities that will help them thrive, grow, learn and develop imagination.