Giving Children Choices

Dear Reader,

Where do you stand on this? There are certainly extremes out there, but there is also a lot of middle ground. Among homeschoolers at least you can find the extreme unschooling crowd which by principle does not wish to impose its will upon its children, either in matters or education or in other aspects of life. Of course this tends to lead to little if any discipline. I respect the rights of other to unschool but for myself, I could not in good conscience follow this view. It assumes a view of children that I do not think is biblical. Children, like their parents, are sinful by nature, and left to their own devices, they will only sink further into sin.

On the other hand,there are some parents who offer their children very few choices. As we were reading through Tedd Tripp’s book Shepherding a Child’s Heart recently,  I got the impression that he would not favor giving children very many choices at all. I am not sure if this is an accurate representation of his views. We have not finished the book yet. But it is how my husband and I and the other couple we are going through it with understood what he says in one of his earlier chapters. The gist seems to be that children will learn to make good choices by seeing the good choices their parents make for them.

To a certain extent and I can see that this would be true. But I also think there are muscles there that the child needs to flex for themselves. How can we learn to choose if we never get the opportunity?

I will say that at this point in life, most of the larger decisions are made by my husband and I. Things like how we will educate our children and where and when we will worship God. I have never really understood why some homeschoolers give in to their children’s desire to attend school. Honestly, this only makes sense to me if you are an unschooler who follows the child’s leading in all areas. There can be special circumstances of course but in general I do not think this is a choice that a child, especially a younger one, is equipped to make.

But there are all sorts of little decisions throughput our day and in those I do try to give my children some say. There are competing forces at work here. On one hand, as the number of children increases, I think it is harder to give them choices. I find it hard with four to make everybody happy. I can’t imagine juggling the preferences of 9 children.  Children can of course take turns deciding things. This is how we work who picks what to watch on TV. We even have a chart on the wall to mark who picked last to minimize fighting.

Other issues we vote on. With four kids, this means Mommy is often a tie-breaker.

Sometimes it can be helpful to give a limited field of options. This may come into play for us at lunchtime for example. I may say okay, we can have sandwiches or leftover mac and cheese. But it would be folly on my part to open myself up to a much wider field of options or I quickly become a very busy, and probably very cranky, short-order cook.

I hope as they grow older that we will give our children more and more opportunities to decide thing for themselves. That would be my ideal. We will see how it works out as they grow. I would love to hear from you if you have older children particularly on how you navigate this issue.



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