Teaching children how to manage their free will
June 6, 2022
[Kyle]: In this episode today we're going to talk about free will and how you actually as a parent, don't give or take it away. I know it's a big concept, but we're gonna delve into it and how important it is for you to teach your kids how to manage the gift of freedom that they have since they were born. Looking forward to the discussion.
[Kyle]: Hello and welcome to episode 33 of The Art of Raising Humans. I’m Kyle.
[Sara]: I’m Sara.
[Kyle]: I’m trying a new podcasting voice today, I thought it'd be fun to do a new more interesting intro, but anyways, welcome today. First, I want to say, hey, if you're enjoying these podcasts, we're hopefully putting out some good content that's helping you and your families. I want to continue to encourage you to give us feedback. We've heard from several of you either just privately and just conversations we've had here in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but also sometimes people have mentioned stuff online or sent emails about things they've heard. So, we'd love to continue to get your feedback about future topics you want us to discuss, that'd be helpful, but also just ways in which is impacting your family. It's always encouraging for us to hear back about how stuff that you've learned or how a podcast has affected you in a positive way.
[Kyle]: So, today we want to hit upon a topic about freedom and about free will. It's something that comes up almost every time we talk to families, almost every time I talk to teenagers and specifically, is this idea of us giving and taking away freedom from our kids and connected to that, is the power of choice. Some of this-- I’m kind of borrowing from Dr. Becky Bailey's stuff from conscious discipline, where she talks a lot about the power of choice and I really love how she words it, but we're trying to tie in a lot of different concepts, that really help you as a parent understand how to guide your kids with what-- We see this as a really great gift that your kids are born with, which is free will. What would you add it, Sara?
[Sara]: As a parent you think when they're really little, you kind of do control their world and yet the whole time they're growing up, you're letting go of that control, but-- And there's these moments I think we wake up as a parent and go “oh wait, I need-- This is where I need to step back from the control, this is where I need to-- ” They do have free will. It's not to say you forget they have free will, but you forget they have free will and when they do clean their room or something, that is an act of will and sometimes we try to manipulate them into it or coerce them into it or you know, we want their-- We're like “oh, just please choose this thing” and we don't always in the middle of that, take into account that they have free will. From a very, very little age they are exercising that free will when they're two and when they're reaching for that thing you told them not to get and I just, I don't know, I have these times where I think I need to keep that in focus, that my children have free will. That's a good thing they have free will and how do I interact with them and considering their free will and giving that thought and I want them to have free will.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, I want to start with this basic concept and would love your feedback, Sara, on this, is that freedom isn't something we give to our kids. So, it's not something that I actually give to them or take away from them and why would that be important to understand that?
[Sara]: Okay, let me think, let me take [Unintelligible] at this one. No, I think it's important because if you think you are in that driver's seat of that, you're just wrong, you're mistaken. Everyone has that, your child is choosing and honestly when you get to those teen years, you probably feel that a lot more.
[Kyle]: Yes, to more parent, yeah.
[Sara]: That “Oh, they do have free will”. So, it's just by not recognizing it, that you wind up with battles that you don't need to have.
[Kyle]: A lot of power struggles.
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, it's just not really-- If you recognize it, then you learn how to work with it and work with them and helping them grow in this free will that they already have.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, instead of seeing free will like as something where you're choosing against me, it's us guiding them on how to use it, right? In a way that's-- I’m thinking a lot of families run into this, Sara, where they really see free will, there's a few key topics. Sleep, you know, it seems like the kid, you can't make them sleep.
[Sara]: We know that one.
[Kyle]: When it comes to eating, you can't make them eat what you want them to eat, you know? I mean, you can try, but you can't. When it comes to pooping, you know, kids really especially at a young age will use their free will to withhold their poop and not go to the bathroom.
[Sara]: And it's not always out of consciousness.
[Kyle]: No, that’s what I’m saying, but I’m saying these are areas you can tell “I don't have control of this”.
[Kyle]: As they get older, thoughts, you know, what they think. You know, you can maybe tell or you can say “how was school?” and they say “fine” and you're like “there's got to be more”. So, thoughts connect to talking as well, I mean, there's some kids that really just don't open up and share and you can see-- So, I think those main ones to me, are typically where a lot of power struggles start to happen at an early age and they definitely move into the teenage years. But it's sleeping, you know, because even teenage years they're staying up too late, they're sleeping in too long and it's like you can't control their sleep, you can't control how they eat, you know, you can't control whether they talk to you or not, and did I miss another one there? There was sleeping-- Oh, yeah, and then also going to the bathroom, especially when they're younger. So, these are areas there where you definitely see they have the freedom to choose what they do with these things.
[Sara]: Yeah, and I think if we're honest with ourselves as parents, sometimes we're scared and we wish, we wish they maybe didn't have as much free will as they have. It's scary, you love them and you're worried how they're going to use their free will. Part of that comes from your own childhood and how you like “oh, I used my free will and oh, I shouldn't have done that” or there's some regrets we have or we see other kids making choices and so, if we're honest, I think part of us wishes they didn't have free will, because we want to control them because we're thinking that'll protect them or help them or save them or-- But it just doesn't work that way.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, and I think even what's so frustrating to use the word fear is, I think in those moments specifically about those topics, but about many other topics, is it seems like we have no choice as a parent, you know? It seems like my only choice is to make them eat that food, because it's healthy for them. To make them sleep, because they need it, because we know they're going to be super tired and cranky tomorrow if they don't, right? Or to make them talk to me, because we know it's good for them to talk to you, right? So, it seems like when they're believing they have no choice, fear also makes us believe we don't have any choice, you know? So, I really like how Dr. Becky Bailey words this in particular about free will and about the power of choice is, the only person you can make change is yourself. So, in all of these situations we have a choice and the choice is “how am I going to use my freedom?”. Am I going to use my freedom to try to make you change or am I going to use my freedom to change myself and how I’m approaching the kid, right?
[Sara]: Yeah, and that's really the truth of it, we have to keep in mind-- We can-- You can put food in front of them-- There’s that saying “you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink” and that's so true. I can lay my child down in the coziest bedroom with all the sound machines and the light fill-- Yes, this is personal experience here. The best music, all the techniques, but you can't actually make them fall asleep.
[Sara]: And it's such-- I know that battle inside of me that happened, “you need your sleep, you're a baby and I could see the future of what tomorrow will be like for you, especially if we were going to go somewhere” and--
[Kyle]: Well, you know, even when you're saying that, I remember sometimes faking like I was sleeping to make my parents just leave. Because they thought or they came in to check on you and you thought “oh, they just want to believe that they made me go to sleep, so I’m going to just close my eyes and then once they leave, I’ll bring out my book and read or I’ll do some other activity”, right? And I even know at times our kids have said they've done that, you know? That they've, you know, we're like “oh, it seems like you went to sleep really well last night”, “but no, I didn't actually, I just acted like I was sleeping because you came by and I thought you're gonna look in on me”, you know? And so, even then like you see “oh man, I thought somehow our thing we did somehow made them go to sleep, but really I can't make them change, I could only change myself” and I hear this a lot from teenagers too, Sara, where teenagers once they've-- If they've been raised in their early years in that mentality, that the parent is the one making them choose instead of them choosing themselves, then what it turns into in the teenage years is a lot of taking things away, like taking freedoms away. They no longer have freedom to be on the phone, they no longer have freedom to hang out with those friends and so, the kid begins to believe that you are the one who holds freedom in your hands, so you either take it or give it. So, now you're the obstacle that they have to go through to achieve that freedom.
[Sara]: Yes, and we don't want to be the obstacle. And instead of partnering with that free will that they have, whether we want them to or not they have that free will and we want to partner with it, so that they open up those choices in discussion with us. “So, here's my choices, mom and dad, let me talk to you about it”, instead of going, they just think in their head “hmm, here's my choices. Mom and dad are yet another obstacle in where I want to go” and you're not invited into that process and especially in the teen years, you always want to be part of that process, you want them to invite you in.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, and something I hope our listeners hear on this too, I think this is the really detrimental part to it, Sara, is then by the time they're in those teenage years is, when I’m talking to them and when you're talking to them, many times what they'll tell me is that, even like the choices they have are typically only to choose bad things, because all the good choices are the choices their parents are already choosing for them. So, this seems like the only choice. So, I’ll give you a quick example of how this might work and this it's kind of a smaller scenario, but it's more I think practical in understanding it.
[Kyle]: I remember as a little kid that my dad would come home and I might be sitting at home watching TV, maybe “Small Wonder” or “Alf” or something like that and I’m watching TV and my dad would come in and say “hey, I need to go to the store, do you want to go to store with me?” and almost every time I would say “no”, simply because I knew something in me, it wasn't all the time conscious, but I knew that the only choice my dad was going to give me was “no”. Like he was-- His next statement he was going to make after I said “no”, he was going to say “too bad, get your coat on, we're going to the store” and then I thought “that's so weird”. Because when my mom asked me “do you want to go to the store” and he'd even say this, sometimes my dad would say “when your mom asks, you typically say ‘yes’. Why do you say ‘no’?” and I’d say “because you only give me the ability to say ‘no’, dad. Like mom gives me the chance to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’” and so, it's almost like I only felt the freedom to choose the opposite of what he wanted, you know?
[Kyle]: So, it's like when I’ll say to a kid who's getting in trouble with their parents and I’ll say “well, why didn't you do this? Like you could have made it much worse, you could have screamed at them, you could have insulted them, why didn't you do that?”, in an attempt to show them that they chose how they interacted with their parent and they'll say “well, I didn't because I would have gotten in trouble”.
[Kyle]: So, even then the fact that they chose not to escalate the situation, was only because the parent was gonna somehow take more freedom away, you know? And so, even then they don't get credit for it, you know? Or “hey, man, you got some good grades this year, I bet that was hard, you know? Was that difficult?”, “well, I only got good grades because if I didn’t, my parents weren't gonna let me do X, Y and Z”. So, even then, the ability to study and get good grades and be studious, all the credit goes to the parent because the parent made them choose it, you know?
[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, I think what you're saying, what it brings to mind is then, we remove the child's chance to have responsibility for their choice to learn from choices, it's all that external control. So, then they grow up to marry someone or get a boss who does the same thing, “I’m just going to have this person always control everything because that's the dynamic I learned”, instead of “what are my choices? What's going to be the possible outcome to those choices? This person, my parents are going to partner with me in this looking at this choice and it-- But it's my choice, I’m the one responsible”.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, and I remember, Sara, even talking to a prominent youth pastor in our town and we were talking about this power of choice and he was saying, he can almost pinpoint which kids in his youth group are going to go wild in college and it's the kids who had very little choice, you know? Because when they get to college, they haven't practiced how to use the freedom they already had. They believe and you'll hear this, it's real common in our culture, that's why we're really emphasizing this skill, because it's really common in our culture to think “now I’m free, I’ve left my parents’ house and I’m finally free and I can do whatever I want” and they think that is freedom, they think the freedom is to do whatever I want.
[Kyle]: So, what I’m trying to say is or what I think is so powerful about this is, from zero to 18 I have the mindset not that I give or take freedom, but that my kids already have freedom and that you’re in my job, is to teach them how to manage that gift to where it brings more good to the world, you know? To where it actually brings benefit to their life. It isn't just pursuing every impulse they have, that's actually not freedom, that's what little kids do, because they don't know how to use their freedom, they're being controlled all the time by external voices. They're not being controlled by an internal compass, you know? And so, you're trying to help them from zero to 18 to manage freedom in a healthy way, to when they get to college, they've had thousands of opportunities to choose [Unintelligible] And sometimes they've messed up, but more often not they've succeeded. So, by the time they get to college, they really know how to use this gift.
[Sara]: Yeah. I think on a brain level, it's helping your child develop their prefrontal cortex and you mentioned that internal compass on a value level, “what's my moral compass? What's my value system? How am I making my decisions with those things in mind?”. It's like you said, it starts at very, very, very little age, where you give them those choices and you're intentionally putting choices in front of them, and there's so many benefits if you look at the benefits of a child raised with choices. You want to and be very intentional about presenting your child opportunities to make choices and not even-- You know, there's a part of it like “okay, I’ll give you a choice, but then I’m just gonna steer you over here”, you know? And you really have to be okay, create safe spaces for them to mess up and know they're going to mess up. But that's part of the learning process, better to do that at home with you like you said, before they're off in college doing that. Let's experiment with failing, so to speak now and “what does it feel like I made this choice?”, “well, how did that feel? What happened? What was the outcome? How did you like it?”. You want to be walking through that even when they're really little.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, you know, so I want to get specific now with the listeners, Sara, is how you do that. So, there's two different ways that I see that we give choices. So, I think a lot of people hear this and I know a lot of families we work with will say “oh, I give my kids choices” and typically it looks the way you and I, before we stumbled upon this idea would have given choices. It would have been like “okay. Well, you do it this way or your other choice is you lose everything you love”.
[Kyle]: And so, it's typically one positive choice and one negative choice, it's really not a choice, you know? So, either like you say “yes, you're going to go with me or I’m going to make you”. So, either way. So, I want to draw a distinction, that's one thing, so that may look like a simple thing, Sara. Like an example, I’m thinking of to a kid that's in pre-k, who's learning how to dress themselves and make the choice about what they're going to wear. So, making that choice isn't “hey, choose whatever you want to wear to school!”, it's “either choose this color jeans or that color jeans, which one do you want?”, you know? So, in that wording I’d say “pick the red pair or the blue pair, which would you prefer?”, right? And I just keep giving them those choices, “you want to pick that shirt or that shirt?”, right? And it's actually helpful to a young, young child like that to only have two, you know?
[Kyle]: When you say “hey, which of your 10 shirts do you want to wear today?”, it can become overwhelming and many times they don't know what the appropriate thing is or they need some guidance, so they actually want you to guide them. So, when they're very little, it looks like all of those elementary years and this can go into teenagers too, but you're more specifically giving them two positive choices and I’m emphasizing that, I’m asking all of the people who are listening, when you're practicing this listen to yourself, watch yourself, when you start giving choice I think you'll find it difficult, because most of the time we think in terms of “either do this one positive one or do this one negative one” and the whole attempt is to coerce or manipulate them into choosing the choice you wanted.
[Kyle]: So, going back to what Sara was saying is, I got to be comfortable in them choosing, but I do still guide that choice, I don't just leave it completely open. They want me to set boundaries on the choices.
[Sara]: Right, right. I think a real easy one for a younger kid too is, it's really cold out and they don't want to wear their jacket and I’m okay with that, I would tell them “oh, you know, I let's step outside, let's see how cold it is. I think you might get cold; do you want to wear your jacket or do you want to put it in the car?”, you know? And then it's-- Then I’m still-- I’m not letting my child get hypothermia. You know, and wear their bathing suit or something.
[Sara]: So, it's there, there's some guidance and I know-- Here's this other. So, my child later might go “you're right, mom, it's pretty cold, let's get my jacket on”.
[Kyle]: Yeah, it's great that we had it in the car. Yeah, that's great.
[Sara]: But then as they get older now, if I’m talking to my 10-year-old and I know he's not going to freeze, you know, and I think “you know, you might want a hoodie today, it's a little cold”. Then I might open that up a little bit and he can decide to wear the hoodie or he could be a little chilly.
[Sara]: Because then he could still work through that choice and I know it's not necessarily going to bring him harm to get a little chilly.
[Kyle]: Yeah, or another example would be in those elementary age, on up to the teenage years is, “do you want to clean your room on your own or do you want me to help you?”.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and so, in that case we're both still getting the room clean, but you gonna do by yourself or I can help you or you know, “do you want to clean that section or you want to clean that section?”, you know? “Do you want to pick that up or do you want to pick that up?”, you know? I mean, I’ve seen this work wonders when I was an elementary school counselor, Sara. I remember trying some of this for the first time, because I’d come in and a kid would be very upset and the kid had like-- Maybe like a kindergartner or a first grader, had trash part of the room, you know? And I remember coming in kind of nervous, not knowing if this was going to work, but I come in and I say to the kid “hey, we're going to leave the room and go back to my office, but before we do, we're going to clean up this room” and he'd say “no!” and scream real loud and I’d say “do you want a clean it on your own or would you like me to help you clean up ?” and he'd say “no” again. I’d say “I hear you, but do you want to clean it up on your own or clean it with me?” and then as I just said it with confidence, guiding the kids focus towards “we are going to clean it up”, you get to choose. Do you see what you're doing? Is you're respecting their autonomy, you're saying “I’m not coming in here to make you do anything, but we are going to clean this up” and so now the kid's like “oh, I get it. So, whether I clean it up isn't the choice, it's how I clean it up is a choice”.
[Kyle]: And even another way, Sara, I do it, I say to a kid “hey, we need to leave this room because they're trying to do class and you seem really upset. When you go back to my office, you can either hold my right hand or my left hand. Which one would you like to hold?” and the kid “I’m not going to your office!”. “Well, I get that that you don't want to go, but when you go, do you want to hold my right hand?” and I would just keep trusting the process and I’m telling you, 90% of the time it just works so easy, you know? I mean, there was 10% of the time where the kid was maybe too escalated and I needed to make a better connection first, right? But 90% of the time, if I said it real assertively and just said either pick my right hand or my left hand, the kid typically felt respected. They felt like “I got it”, like they do have a choice here, “you don't get to take away my choice” and I don't want to, I want the kid to willingly come to my office and get help.
[Sara]: Like “do you want to do your homework before your snack or after your snack? Do you want to do your homework at the dining room table or up in your room?”.
[Kyle]: Oh, those are great, yeah.
[Sara]: Yeah, just where the option we know is homework needs-- The kids know, kids often know and they know these things need to be done and they love that you invite them into the choice of how things are going to be done and I think it also, kids are creative, they might come up with a different option than you to the same goal and so, I think it shows them we value them, we see them, we appreciate who they are in the space, instead of just commanding them to do something.
[Sara]: To let's create the choice and how things are being done.
[Kyle]: I remember being so surprised, Sara, when one night we were coming home and you and I were really intentional like, “it's getting late”. Typically we might have a certain routine, but that routine is going to have to change a little bit because it's so late and so, I would say to Abby or Brennan and say like “hey, we could either do this this way or this way”. I kind of give them like an A or B choice and then Abby would say “what about this way?” and it'd be like a C option. It totally met the goals we were trying to achieve, but it's one I hadn't thought of, right? And I’d be like “I think that works. Let's do that one, yeah” and I was like “this is the goal”, the goal is the freedom our kids have isn't to resist us, it isn't to defy us, right? I mean, sure they can use it for that, but only if I continue to invite that kind of power struggle, right? I really want them to see their freedom is to understand the situation and creatively be able to still reach the goals that we've all agreed upon, but they can figure out how to do it in their own unique way, you know?
[Kyle]: So, even like with the dressing, I might say “this jeans or this jeans” and the kids could be “oh, I think they want me to wear jeans, but they forgot I had this other pair of jeans. So, what if I wore that?” and then like “oh, that's great” and like that's obviously a step forward where they're managing the gift of freedom in a way that benefits both of us, it still reaches the goals, you know?
[Sara]: Right, right, and I look at what confidence that builds in your child too, when you look at them and say “oh, that's a great idea” and they go “you know, I can--” They recognize they were creative, they made a choice, they're presenting-- They're looking at their options, those are all a skill set we want them to have as they continue to mature in life and it looks different at different developmental stages and for-- But for us to come along and say “wow, that was a really great idea” and look at what you did, builds confidence in them, that they need when they're going off into the workforce and into college and wherever they're going in life, they want to be able to believe in their ability to look at their choices and make decisions to reach the goals.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and one that I just popped up with, Sara, that we've always been really intentional too is “can I have a hug?”, right? So, saying that to a kid, right? So, that's not giving like two different choices and I want to move into this other kind of second category. So, one is intentionally giving two positive choices, the other one is ability to on moments like this and we'll get into other kind of topics, but one is “hey, can I have a hug?”, realizing that give me a hug it doesn't seem like our sons will look it as a choice, like I have to because that adult's gonna get upset. But if I’m-- I mean, I have two girls in particular, but I want this to be true with my son as well, our son, but with the two girls I want them to know they have autonomy, they get to choose, you know? Whether or not they give somebody a hug.
[Kyle]: So, when I say to them “hey, can I have a hug?” and they say “no, not right now”, “okay, could I get one later?”, “yeah” and so, to realize that anytime you give me that, that kind of-- I’m not going to demand it from you or make you feel bad if you choose “no”, it's really an honest thing and I may say “hey, I would like one, could I get one later?”, you know or “could I get one now or get one later? Which one would could I get a hug?”, right? So, you could do all types of options, but I want them to know those kinds of moments are about them choosing, you know?
[Sara]: Yeah, definitely-- I mean, that goes into a whole other topic of body safety and stuff, but you especially want to teach your children things regarding their body, they can say “no” to and that needs-- And that'll be respected. They have that choice and I think it's real obvious we want them to grow up and be able to feel like they can be safe with their body and tell people “no”.
[Sara]: So, we won't get into that, but yes, there are times where a child can say “no” and know and trust that that choice can be honored is great.
[Kyle]: So, the second path that I was talking about was, as they get older, you know, doing choices and we've talked a little bit about this on other podcasts, but ways in which to collaborate together, okay? So, yes, I’m going with the premise that my kids have freedom whether I give it to them or not, they're born with it. So, therefore they have autonomy, right? So, they have free will, they get to choose what they do in any given situation, whether they believe they do or not, they do. So, even them choosing to do what I’ve asked is their choice, okay? So, I think that's important premise to start with, but then what that kind of understanding does is it builds commitment, it builds this idea of not just being an independent person, you know? But it builds an interdependency, okay? So, independent is “I can do whatever I want”, so whether you like it or not I can feel “okay, I agree with that, we agree from the day you were born you have had this sense of autonomy, but let's move into committing to an interdependent approach, to where what you want is important, but what I want is also important. Let's collaborate, let's co-create what that looks like”.
[Kyle]: So, the examples of that would be and I encourage all my clients I work with to do this with their kids, sit down, talk about school, you know? So, school year's coming up this next-- We'll probably hit upon this at the end of the summer, but sit down with them. “What classes are you taking? What grades do you want to get? How can we help you achieve those grades?”, right? Not “hey, your class here's what we expect from you. If you get those, you'll get money for those or if you get those, you'll get these privileges”. Instead I think the kid actually wants to be successful and I think if the kid chooses the grades he wants to get, he's more committed to getting them and he also will feel the success of them and also, he's co-creating with you, how to own his own education.
[Sara]: Yeah, it is his education, it's going to be his life.
[Sara]: And you're not gonna say “okay, you're 30 years old, get up and go to work” or I hope you're not going to be saying that, but we all have had that experience of feeling like someone's coming into our space and telling us what to do.
[Sara]: We don't like it, kids don't like it and to go “well, they're kids and they just need to accept it”. We're just not designed that way, no one likes that and you can feel it. When I heard you talking about it, when you were saying “what grades do you want? What do you want your year to look like? How much is like--”. For a child to hear “oh, it's my year”.
[Kyle]: “I can design it”. Yeah.
[Sara]: “It’s my year. What do I want?”
[Sara]: Because kids do, they're so used to grown-ups telling them, we don't often give them space for what they want and then you have some kids with a personality go “well, I’m just going to tell you what I want anyway”, but you have other kids who do lose themselves in that and they do become those people pleasers and we want to create that space, no matter the personality of your child, the temperament. We want to create that space to go “yeah, this is your life, what are you going to have it look like?”.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and I like that word design, “how are you going to design this year?”, you know? “How are you going to create this year for yourself? What kind of friendships do you want to have? How do you get those kinds of friendships?” You know? I want the earlier you can invite your kids into this discussion, where they going back to the wording that they don't have to do things, you're not going to make them do things, you're going to invite them into co-creating how it-- They don't-- So, the freedom with the chores, that's another example of sit down. Like I said, I don't really like the word chores, I think there's just responsibilities around the house that we're choosing to do. So, let's sit down, talk about the things that you would like to do and things how we can share this responsibility together, right? And they're more likely than to be committed and then when they do the dishes, they feel a sense of satisfaction that they chose to do it, they helped. It's not that they did the dishes because they're not going to get an allowance if they don't or they're not going to get screen time if they don't, they chose to do it.
[Kyle]: So, I know a lot of this when I talk to parents, Sara, it's scary. It's scary to buy into this and the kid to believe that they're inviting-- They're afraid their kid will say “no, I don't want to do that” and their kid may do that initially, because the kid thinks “that's the only choice I can say”. Like eventually you're saying it this way--
[Sara]: Well, that’s how it’s used to that other dynamic.
[Kyle]: Yeah, that dance.
[Sara]: You've done that for a really long time, so if you're about to switch this, just know there's going to be this time where your kid child's going to test that. “What do you mean you're not going to control me? Are you sure? I’m going to test that”, you know?
[Kyle]: Yeah, and so, I think it's really important on the responsibilities on the house, around the grades. I’m even thinking what it looks like with screens, you know? Co-creating that and sitting down. “What does it look like to have a healthy relationship with the screens? How much time do you think is appropriate?” Right? And to have that back of what the more you can do that, the more when they go into college, they're not going to be controlled by the screens, because they will have managed it with you hand in hand for about five, six, seven years, you know?
[Sara]: And how great it feels to have your parents say to you “how can we help you with that?”. To see your parent as “wow, you guys are here for me, you're a resource to me. I’m going to use that resource because I feel like I can, because you're not going to control me”. A lot of kids know their parents are a resource, but they're not going to use that, because the moment they show that vulnerability to their parent, their parent moves in to control it, it becomes a big thing and so, kids will just stay closed off to that. They'll go ask their friends, because they don't want to risk you moving into that space and managing something for them, that they're wanting to manage.
[Kyle]: You know, one area and kind of wrapping up, I think a lot of parents may already do this, is like when it comes to activities, you know? They may say to the kid “hey, we want you to be involved in some kind of activity, okay? So, here's like three or four different options. Pick one”, you know? And when you do that, the kid tends to be more committed to that thing they picked, you know? Instead of you saying “you know what? You're gonna do soccer again” or “you know what? You're gonna do this”. So, I think always asking them “hey, what do you want to do this fall? Hey, what do you want to do this spring?”, the earlier they can start choosing it. The more that muscle is getting worked and growing to where by the time the kid leaves the house, they are so skilled at it and they've made mistakes in safe ways and they've also had tons of successes with it. So, when they go to college and leave your home, they don't think “finally I’m free! I can do whatever I want!”. Instead they go “oh wow, this is awesome! I get to really experience what it's like to go out and make choices that really impact my life, but I’m never doing it on my own, my parents are just a phone call away or I have these great friends” and so, they've learned how to use that skill to bring about more good and health in their life.
[Sara]: Yeah, so they're not going to go crazy with “Ah! Freedom!" But they're also-- You also see a kids who are scared. They actually go out and they'll be like “no, mom and dad, tell me what to do!” Because they don't have any of that confidence built.
[Kyle]: Good point. Yeah.
[Sara]: So, I mean, to me I envision by junior/senior year, you want your child making a lot of their choices and decisions in life, because you're slowly each year, you're handing “okay, I want to hand this to you and I want to hand this to you and I want to hand--”. You want to give that more and more to them, so they've had lots of dry runs before they hit 18 and adulthood.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, almost similar to driving, Sara. Same way, like you want a lot of dry runs of driving way before they get that license, okay? Because you want to know they can handle the power of that car. Well, I see freedom as a powerful, powerful thing that they have in their hands and the sooner you can let them know it's in their hands and that you're there to help guide them with it, the less scary it's going to be for them and the more likely they are to make choices that are going to be good in their life, okay?
[Kyle]: So, just in wrapping up, I just want you to be thinking about trying to move away from freedom being something you give or take away. I’m trying to moving away from the language of “you have to do this” or “I’m going to make you do this”. Trying to co-create, helping them hand in hand with you, you know, “think about what kind of education experience do I want? What kind of friends do I want? What kind of things do I want to be committed to?” and the sooner you can do that, the sooner you as a parent can make the choice yourself, that the only person I can make change is me and I’m not going to make my kid change, I’m just going to invite them into a change, the sooner you'll get away from the power struggles and the sooner you'll have a kid who has self-control and self-discipline and is able to make choices that actually bring a lot more good to the world, okay?
[Kyle]: So, just want to challenge you with that, I hope that kind of sits well, I hope that kind of challenges you a little bit and I hope you're able to just sit and think about that and kind of just notice “what kind of choices have I been giving? How have we been doing that?”. Listen to how the kids talk, do the kids feel like they have free will or the kids think I control their choices and their outcomes for them? You know, so once again, Sara and I hope this is helpful to you and would love to hear back from you if this enlightens you in any way and we hope you have a great day.
[Sara]: Thank you for listening.