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Decision Making as a Parent

Parents make choices for and about their children, every day, all day long.  Perhaps some of these decisions are delegated to daycare staff, nannies or babysitters, but the parents make choices when hiring people to care for their kids, and those choices are reflected in the type of person that is hired.  And in this seemingly endless stream of decisions, the same dichotomy comes up again and again.

Fear or Freedom?

Do I allow my 4yo to ride her bike up and down the block while I sit on the front steps, even though I cannot see to the very end of the block from where I’m sitting?
Do I allow her to run across the field in the park and sit by herself underneath a tree for 20 minutes, where I can see her from where I’m sitting but where I couldn’t run immediately to her side?
Do I allow my 2yo to play alone in our fenced backyard while I do housework indoors?
Do I let the two girls jump on the bed together?  Climb on the couch?  Run laps around the house?

Fear says, “Don’t let them go out of sight, don’t let them be too far away, don’t let them go too fast or too high.”

Freedom says, “Let them explore, let them be alone, let them run and jump and climb.”

This dichotomy is not only about the specific behaviours that are allowed, or the specific choices a parent makes on a child’s behalf, like deciding to homeschool or go to public school.  It’s about the motivation behind that choice.  Some people decide to homeschool based on a fear of the public school environment.  Others homeschool for the freedom it offers.

The catch, of course, is the weight of parental responsibility.  If you give your children freedom and they get hurt, do you take carry the full responsibility yourself?  Can you live with that?  The flip side is that even in completely controlled and sterile environments, children can still be hurt.  They can be hurt even by the very sterility that is there to protect them.

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  • Rachael June 15, 2011, 7:36 am

    I realized today that for me, the main dichotomy is actually his freedom vs. my convenience. For example, the Critter just learned to scoot well enough to scoot to and from the bus to and from school! Which, alas, means a somewhat longer trip to and from school. But how could I possibly deny him his delight in propelling himself to school?

    • michelle June 18, 2011, 4:37 pm

      ah, it’s true, especially for little kids! Fear and inconvenience sometimes overlap too – when keeping Bea safe when she is playing in the front means going out to check on her every 2 minutes, but the back yard feels safer (and is more conveniently fenced!)

  • Erin June 18, 2011, 5:44 am

    You make some good points, making decisions as parents can be hard! I guess that the key is knowing your child, and knowing your motivation. Are you making a decision based on your childs needs and what is in their best interest? or out of your own fear or convenience. If you are making a decision based on what you think will be in your childs bet interest, you generally won’t go wrong.

    • michelle June 18, 2011, 4:39 pm

      Yes – that’s a good point. It is best to keep the child’s needs in mind when making decisions. What one child needs and is capable of handling might be very different than another child.