Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is it true?

If parents did not have rules about certain things do you think children would limit themselves on their own?

For example... If there were no rule about how much a child could watch tv do you think they would watch tv all day long, never turning it off, or would they tire of it eventually and shut it off themselves?

If a child was not forced to eat "good" food and instead could eat what they wanted, whenever they wanted it, would they eventually choose something healthy?

If there was no set bedtime would they eventually get in bed at a decent hour to get enough sleep?

Obviously for a while I think all children would take advantage of these things and probably sit around all day eating candy and watching tv but I'm wondering if this would continue? As a parent I think it's easy to assume that without all of these guidelines/rules that our children would always choose the opposite of what we'd want for them. But would they?

What if that didn't happen? What if kids could regulate these things(and others) pretty well on their own? Would it teach them more responsibility? Would they be more aware of how THEIR choices affecting them and others? I'm not suggesting children don't need some structure or some guidelines just contemplating whether it could be much less...???

I don't really know the answer, that's why I'm asking! :)

I do have an idea for an experiment floating around in my head but I'd love to hear some opinions on this first!


ben and erin said...

our neighbor doesn't have a whole lot of structure with her kids. she has a 15 yr old girl, 6 yr old boy, and 2 yr old girl. often we hear the kids still up at midnight. she lets her boy eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants. in the summer he eats popsicles or ice cream and candy before dinner, and she tells me she can never get him to eat dinner. and when we take him to awana, about a 15 minute drive, he almost falls asleep in the car. the mom also told me that he always throws a fit and cries when she tells him to do things that he doesn't want to do at the moment--like taking a bath or a shower. we hear him throw fits all the time. and i'm guessing it's because there's no guidelines and no structure. it really makes me sad. so every week when he's over, i make sure there's structure at our house for him.

as for our kids, well, samantha at least, she does not like to eat a bunch of candy. she'd rather have fruit or something. so i don't think i'd have a problem giving her free reign over that department. but she likes to stay up late because she can sleep in in the morning. so if i didn't tell her to go to bed she'd probably be up until at least 11pm. and both of the kids would watch tv all day if i let them. i know this, because one day i did let them...!

anyway, sorry about the super long comment. can't wait to hear about your experiment!

Nicole said...

So Erin, are all their kids this way? If it's just the one boy could it be more his personality vs. lack of structure?

With letting Samantha watch tv I wonder if it would change after a while? I sort of did this with my kids, let them just watch tv and for a few days they seemingly never turned it off but after a few days they rarely even turned it on or if they did they just watched a show and then shut it off. So this makes me think that it could be possible that this would work in other areas too... Not sure! :)

Jess(ica) said...

There is a difference btwn making a choice based on personal preference (watching TV all day or turning it off b/c I'm bored, eating healthy b/c I am sick of the candy) and learning how to make good decisions because they are *good* decisions, despite what the kid might want in the moment. Any kid I have known where the parents don't "parent" and teach/force their children to make good decisions, the kids are always misbehaved, demanding, tend to throw tantrums when they don't get their way and are disobedient. It's a parents job to teach kids how to make good decisions and to do what is best for them whether they want to or not. And it's good for kids to have to do things they don't want to do b/c in life we will have to do things we don't want. And as the bible says, no one is good, no not one... we don't have it in us to make good choices so we have to be taught. And, too, kids don't have the capacity to understand consequences of decisions fully. I say fully because sometimes they do understand consequences (if I hit my brother it will hurt him) but they don't understand why watching tv all day isn't good for them (except that mom tells them that) or why it's not healthy to eat junk food. Those things have to be taught and it's unfair to expect a child to make the right decision if they have not been taught how to make the right decision.

Nicole said...

I don't know that I'm being super clear... I totally agree with you Jessica but here's a specific situation I'm thinking of...

I can fight/argue/whatever with my girls constantly about shutting the tv off, no you cannot watch tv, etc... So, I decided to try a new approach. I decided that I would tell them they did not have to ask me to watch tv that they could watch it whenever they wanted. Of course they took advantage of it for a few days and seemed to watch a lot of tv. Just when I thought my approach was never going to work it did. After a few days they started watching less and less tv. They learned that sitting and watching tv all day made their necks hurt, their eyes hurt, took them away from their toys, etc...

Because there was no rule to break and they were given the responsibility of deciding how much tv to watch they watched far less than they did when I was the one regulating the tv.

You're right that it's a parent's responsibility to teach their children how to make good choices but what I'm realizing is that my kids will make good choices on their own sometimes too.

With junk food I've sort of done this same thing but mostly it's just easier not to have it in the house! :) I specifically remember one time after Easter that my kids kept bugging me for a piece of candy and I finally said, "Fine, go get your Easter basket and eat as much as you want" and they both stood there like, "What?" and then they ran and got their baskets. I ignored them, went about doing what I was doing and after maybe an hour Kylie came up to me and said, "Mom, my tummy hurts" and I said, "Why do you think your tummy hurts?" and she said, "I think I ate too much candy." and I said well, didn't I tell you that would happen? But the difference was that sometimes kids(and adults) don't learn the lesson from just being told but by seeing for themselves.

I guess I think of it as natural consequences... watch too much tv and you miss out on other fun stuff, eat tons of candy and get a stomach ache...

I realize this lesson can not be taught for everything but what I've been realizing for me is that my kids don't always understand why I don't want to let them do something until I let them do it and then they see why I set that rule in place.

Heather said...

wow..... so many great thoughts! it's interesting, nicole, that your girls eventually turned off the TV. and yes, seems like there are some lessons that will hit home more if they are actually experienced---the candy = stomach ache, for instance. looking forward to your experiment! :)

MJ said...

Isn't this theory kind of like Lord of the Flies? If I remember right the kids sense of right and wrong went horribly awry without adult guidance.

Nicole said...

Hmmm, never heard of Lord of the Flies! :)

I'm not implying there should be no adult guidance & I definitely think my parenting focuses a lot on guidance but I think there are some areas where I could probably give up having so much control and my kids would fair better than I think they would. I'm mostly thinking of small issues & just looking at it from a different perspective.

anna said...

Lord of the Flies is the WORST BOOK EVER. Don't ever read it!

Anyways, I think that your point is that it is not worth it as parents to try to control every decision our kids make. Of course we have to teach them and guide them because there are many things they will not figure out on there own. But, kids are smart and deserve some credit! When it comes to watching TV, eating junk food, wearing mismatching clothes, etc, it doesn't hurt to let kids make their own choices. At some point we may have to intervene for their sake, but to step in and take control every time does not teach children independence and often causes unnecessary power strugggles.

If we let our kids have free reign on the TV for a week, they may watch hours upon hours of it. But most kids will tire of the TV and will find something to do. Of course, if they don't, it is the parents job then to start regulating the TV. Or even better, suggest a game to play with them, or work on a project to get them away from the TV (as opposed to saying "No more TV!")

If we let our kids indulge on candy, they will likely get a stomach ache and feel sad that they ate so much candy. If they don't see the connection, we can step in by not keeping candy in the house.

Letting kids chose crazy outfits may be irritating, but is it worth a fight? Only if they are not dressed appropriately for the weather. Otherwise we find ourselves having battle after battle with our kids instead of having fun with them and playing with them.

Another point - in most cases that I have seen, when parents are overly controlling and have tons of rules, the kids rebel and do not turn out the way the parents hoped. When parents guide their kids and chose their battles wisely, and allow children to make their own decisions and learn independence, the kids often form great relationships with their parents and turn out to be people their parents hoped they would be. I know this is not always true, but when kids develop strong relationships with their parents they want to please them and make them proud, which often means that they do not do stupid things to disappoint their parents.

Sorry this is so long! I hope I made my point....

A day in the Life... said...

Ok Didn't read the comments because I am too tired BUT just wanted to say that I think there is a difference between "natural consequences" such as eating too much and watching too much TV then actually letting them make all the decisions.

I don't think kids are mature enough or capable to make most bigger decisions for themselves. Mine wouldn't know enough to go to bed earlier to avoid being tired ect..

But small ones I think natural consequnces are best when you are able to use them. If the kids refuse to keep their shoes on in the car in the winter after telling them 5 times then I refuse to put them back on them and they have to walk in barefoot snow or not!

Just one example but I think there are a lot of decisions that they can make themselves as well as a lot that should be left solely up to us as parents.

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