Child Rearingletting Children Make their own Decisions

As a parent all you want in the world is to protect your children. Unfortunately an important part of the childhood development process is to assert their independance as they get older and gain more life experience and more confidence in their abilities to make their own decisions. When to draw the line on letting your kids make their own choices depends upon the kid and their age. There are a number of choices that are out of their hands, such as where you live, where they go to school, their opinion on such decisions may be sought out, but the ultimate decision belongs to the parent. There are however decisions to be made, even when they are younger that you cannot control, like who their friends are at school, whom they choose to date when they get older, where they go and what they do while they are out of your site and are not directly under your control.

All children go through phases as they get older. Some decisions are minor and don’t affect a whole lot, especially when they are young. The older they get the more things are presented to them to as options and the choices that they make soon become choices that have an effect on their futures. Some choices are education related, such as the elective courses that they would like to take in school. Schools offer a variety of elective courses to allow kids to choose what types of activities or intellectual pursuits will help to prepare them for their lives after they are no longer required to go to school. Sometimes they have to choose whether they want to go into a college preparatory mode of study for a specific career path or if they are planning on not going to college right after they finish high school they may choose a course schedule that includes classes which prepare them to enter the workforce directly from high school. Other choices are life related like the sports or extracurricular activities that interest them, who to hang out with, what kind of person they want to be when they get older, who to date, those choices are often more complicated than the educational ones, but they are much less structured choices, and normally the effect that these choices will have on their futures is unclear at the time the choice is made.

Often as a parent you can have a major influence on the path that they choose but ultimately, those life course choices are theirs and theirs alone to make. These choices will be difficult for you to stand back and allow them to make on their own, but there really is little or nothing that you can truly do to force them to make the choices that you would prefer they make. By the time your child reaches their teen years, they are pretty much the people that they are going to be as adults. Their personalities and mannerisms are for the most part set. Their minds, which are still not fully developed, function quite independently from your own. Though there are many similarities in their behavior and the way that their mind works, in comparison to your own, as they are molded and affected by the world around them, the friends and people that help to mold their personalities, the decisions that they make large and small can have ripple effects upon their future that neither you nor they could ever see coming. Often social choices have more of an effect on their lives than educational ones do, and parents are frequently not consulted when it comes to the social choices that they make.

Most parents begin to let go and allow their kids to make choices from minor to major while they are in their preteens. As both parent and child gain more confidence in the kids decision making abilities, parents begin to allow their children more freedom and less supervision. That is not to say that if they feel they need you, or you feel that you need to alter the course of some decisions that they have made, you won’t or shouldn’t step in and start making use of your parental authority to reverse the decisions that you deem poor choices. That is your job as a parent, to provide guidance, sometimes this means standing back and letting your child choose their own path and there are times when guidance means taking hold of them and steering them away from trouble, despite what they think they want. There is definitely a line, your kid will draw the line at some point and will lay down the terms of your authority over their lives. This usually comes around age 16-18, sometimes a year or two earlier or later but as they finally become young adults, kids have a way of making it absolutely clear that the choices that they are making are theirs and theirs alone. Even if they ask for your opinion or ask you what you would do in their place, they are still the final descision maker and you just have to trust that you gave them a good strong foundation and that they will make good choices more often than they make bad ones.

Even as young adults our kids will stlll need some parenting from time to time. Whether they are in college or working right out of high school, they will still often come to you for advice, support, money, and other things. As young adults tasting freedom and autonomy for the first time, there will be more choices than ever to be made and lived with. Whether they will ultimately end up affecting your life, like your kids having kids young and needing your help caring for them, or when your children need to come back home and live with their parents for a while, the choices that they make are still ultimately no longer yours to make, and though you can have an opinion, and you can talk, argue with, and try to nudge them in the right direction, you as a parent have to let go and let your child grow and develop into an adult and then as an adult.