We are so used to telling children and teens what to do in our society. ‘Do this’, ‘no’, and ‘don’t do that’ is all some children or teens hear.
And parents that follow a different path will likely receive comments from friends and family about being ‘soft’ on their children and teens or ‘letting them get away with it’.
But those friends and family probably haven’t ever really thought about the long-term effects of these differing approaches, and are just following the same model of parenting as they picked up from previous generations.
Why Children and Teens Need to be More Self-Responsible
However, things have changed a lot since our grandparents, even our parents, were children. The world is a very different place. There is so much influence in our world today that comes from outside the home, and outside of the family. Added to that the changes in society have tugged away at the very foundations that underpinned our society. It is a time of flux, and a time of uncertainty for many of us.
When our children grow up and away from the kind of moment-to-moment support we are able to give them when they are small, we want to feel safe in the knowledge that we have given them the tools and resources they need to make the right decisions for themselves.
Children and Teens Need to Be Given as Many Choices as Possible From Early in Life
Sir John Whitmore (Father of the GROW model) spoke to us in this YouTube video about the GROW Model for parents. He talks about the importance of giving children and as many choices as we can, from early on in their lives so that they begin to learn the consequences of their choices. This gives them the skill of being able to think for themselves, not just following what they are told to do. At some point, there is no one to tell a teenager what to do, and they have to make decisions for themselves. If they have learnt to make decisions for themselves they become responsible from an early age, it will be in their nature to make the right choices for them.
When a child simply follows instruction from their teachers and parents it builds no self-responsibility at all. It can often be seen that these children when they reach adolescence and they begin to realise their power, may start to rebel, and push the boundaries, because they are fighting to be listened to and to be allowed their own choices and responsibility.
If you have raised a child who is self-responsible, and who knows they can make their own choices, what do they have to rebel against? The answer is: nothing. They have what they need and wont ever be a problem teen.
So Where do We Begin Giving Children Choices?
The answer is as early on as possible. John Whitmore says around the age of 2 or 3 we can begin by asking questions of our children, so that they can think about the choices that they have, and can learn about the consequences of those choices within the safety of the family.
Our work has been independently evaluated, so you don’t just have to take our word for it. The following is a quote from the full evaluation which can be seen here.