Title: Freedom, Choices and Restriction on Children
Date: 22-Dec-2013

At our previous volume of Newsletter, we have addressed the generation gap between the Baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y/Millennial and the Gen Z. We talk about how love can help build the bridge and to break down the barriers. But how do we distinct the acts and guidelines to abide by when we put that great value into practical, day-to-day living in our parenting?

We believe that it definitely starts with ourselves, especially as parents.  How do we view freedom, choices and restriction today for our children? If we do not hold the view that parenting is indeed a very, very difficult calling, we are sure to fail in bridging the gap of the generations. With the existence of the gap, it would also mean that we do not have the influence to instill good values in their lives. It is noted however that these three aspects: freedom, choices and restriction are easily overlapping in some sense and can be seen to be interchangeable on some levels and situations. Nevertheless, we will still attempt to dissect each part and to view them separately in parenting.

Let’s start with freedom.

Do we as parents treat our children as though all freedom freely is entitled to them? At certain countries, the parents believe that all freedom is freely entitled to their children. One of the reason behind that mentality is because if freedom has its condition and restrictions; in essence, it is no longer freedom because the latter contradict with the former. Hence the children will just surf any sort of content on the internet including pornography, eat and drink whatever they like, throw swear words at their own parents if they are angry and the list goes on. All these maybe bound to happen when we teach our children that freedom is freely entitled and not earned.

True freedom is one where an individual can use it with a great dose of critical thinking and girded with a great sense of responsibility. But how do we reflect that if for some families for example, do not impose or at least negotiate with the children on the limits of their freedom? Or what about highlighting the consequences and implications of each action taken based on the freedom given? A practical example would be this, just because a child has reached the age of 17 and the parents could afford to get a car for him/her, does that mean that the child should be automatically entitled to get a car to drive everywhere he or she wants? Does he/she has the maturity to ensure that the car is well maintained? What about driving carefully and not endangering others? A simple observation can be seen that quite a number of families splurge rather expensive vehicles for their children but rarely would you find a teenager who would not only express maturely  on how he/she should drive and maintain the car but to actually walk the talk!  To sum it up, freedom shouldn’t be so freely entitled but to be earned with maturity. It is our part as parents to take all the hard work of explaining and to limit their freedom on certain areas if we deem them unfit to be responsible for such freedom. 

Next, on choices - one of the most fearful but yet integral part of life which is another area that we as parents must come to work it through with our children of today. We are definitely not highlighting the simple and mindless choices; we are talking about important decisions to be made by the child according to his or her age. For some families, a child’s life is all planned out.  They would pack the child with over 6 tuition classes, piano classes, dancing classes and maybe even swimming classes alongside with the child’s long stretched tiring school schedule. For some other parents, they would leave their children be and leave them to make all of the difficult choices on their own. Of course these are extreme ends of the spectrum and most parents don’t adopt such lifestyle for their own children. Nevertheless, the question still remains, what kind of choices do us as parents make for them and when do we start allowing them to make their own choices in life?

The truth is there will never be one set of golden formula that would work for every single child that exists in this world. Some children mature beyond their age albeit such cases are rare. For some, they take a longer time to move forward in life. Let’s go back to the scenario of allowing a child to make a choice in what he/she would like to study for his/her tertiary education. How do we know if we should give such a huge responsibility of choice to the child? As a parent, we would be the best individuals to evaluate if the child is prepared to commit to such a huge decision. There is no escape; a consistent quality time must be spent with the child. This is to really know what are his/her desires, character and personality in order to know if we should allow the child to make the decision to pursue tertiary education or to move toward to some other direction. If all parents could at least dedicate some of their time in really wanting to understand and know their children, the decision in leaving the choices to be made by their children would involve lesser risks and damage done.

Finally, the restrictions we impose on our children. Fundamentally speaking, this part of parenting has always been one of the most difficult simply because it goes against the very nature of human’s prideful, rebellious and curious nature. Have you ever seen comic strips that always show a sign that states “Do not press the button” and the character in the comic will almost inevitably press it? Our children can be more difficult to handle in comparison to that comic strip but it goes without saying that restriction is still however very important in parenting as it ensures protection and survivability for the children . The essence of restriction is mutually exclusive with freedom hence the more restriction is imposed, the lesser freedom exists. In the current millennial generation, our concern to place on restrictions no longer only exists in the physical world. The virtual world also has its potential danger and damage but there are so much of unchartered grounds that are not worked out from the parents to have the rules laid out on what should be restricted in the virtual world. There was a recent article that talks about how even children at the tender age of 12 even know more pornography terms and content than some adults. They have watched porn that involves disabled persons; imagine the depth of twistedness that their spongy minds are absorbing. How did that even happen when there are clear rules and good enforcement in place? Were the computers in the living room or in their own bedrooms? Many parents don’t impose these rules because they don’t understand the potential harm that can be done to their children. If a parent clearly knows and understands that a particular act would harm his/her child, wouldn’t the parent impose restrictions to protect the child?

So this goes back to the parents taking the initiative to keep up with technology and to critically think about the subject of its potential benefits and harms, build the guidelines and to enforce them when it is implemented. The subject clearly does not only restrict itself to technology, it could be anything as long as it is introduced to the child’s life.

We urge parents today to reevaluate these three very important aspects of parenting because times are indeed changing the way we ought to look at these aspects. Freedom, how much of it should it be given? We need to teach our children that it has to be earned and it’s not freely entitled to them. Choices, we need to spend that quality time with our children so that we know to what extent our children are ready to make difficult choices in life. Finally, the healthy restrictions we impose on our children and to have the initiative to keep up with the latest trends. Together lets raise a generation that will eventually be leaders of this country. 

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