Freedom’s Just Another Word

June 3, 2011 at 9:53 pm 2 comments

How much freedom do you give your kids?



Are you a Permissive Paula or a Controlling Carla?


The Permissive Paulas of the world let their kids wear tutus in public (heck, even the boys), don’t stress if the broccoli sits untouched at dinner, don’t think there’s a right and wrong way to play with toys, and are proud of their free-range lifestyle.

The Controlling Carlas make sure the kids’ clothes always match, count every bite of food their children eat to make sure the proper proportion of nutrients were consumed, know that their kids must be taught the right way to do everything, and pride themselves on their structured, safe lifestyle.

I’m closer to Permissive Paula, but it was much easier when my toddler was a newborn.  Then, I was totally free-range.  For example, I let my baby decide when to poop.  I never tried to get him on a pooping schedule; I never hired a bathroom trainer or read The No-Cry Poop Solution.  He just did his thing when, and where, he wanted.

Now that he’s a toddler, allowing him to make his own choices has gotten more difficult.  Like yesterday, when he chose to eat the top off a red crayon, or today when he drank the sting-ray water at the aquarium.  It’s hard not to say “no” constantly, but I think I still do a fairly good job of giving him autonomy and space to find his own way.

Not so with the Controlling Carlas out there.  They need to be involved with and in charge of everything their children do.  Once you recognize Controlling Carla, you’ll see her everywhere.

She’s the mom at play group, yelling at her son who is carefully lifting a doll stroller over an obstacle:  “That’s NOT how we push the STROLLER!”

She’s the mom at Gymboree, who is obsessed with teaching her kid a trick: “Can you throw the ball?  Look at Mommy.  Throw the ball!  No, over here.  Pick up the ball! Throw it!  Come on, throw the ball to Mommy.  Pay attention!  Look at Mommy!”

She’s the mom at mall, instructing in food court nutrition: “Did you eat your pizza?  Eat some more.  Go ahead, eat one more bite of pepperoni or else you can’t have dessert.”

She’s even the dad at a community breakfast: “Use your fork!  We don’t pick up french toast sticks with our hands!  Humans eat with a fork!”

And you’re sure to see her at the play group, using the S word:  “Are you sharing?  That’s not sharing.  Give the little girl the doll.  She wants to play with the doll.  Can you share your doll?”

In isolation, these statements might not be so bad, but it becomes a problem when this type of controlling talk is all that parents do, and all that children hear.  Do these children have a chance to make any of their own decisions?  At home, their parents control them.  At school, their teachers control them.

Why are we so afraid of letting kids make their own choices?  If they help us plan our meals, do we really think we would end up eating Twinkies Tartare and Pixie-Stick-encrusted Oreos for dinner?  If they had some choice over what they learn, would they only study the haircuts of Justin Bieber?  If we let them play with each other without constant adult interference, would it really turn into Lord of the Flies?

Or would the choices children make be valid, if different from those we would make for them?


Entry filed under: parents these days. Tags: , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Diana  |  June 3, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    I have been accused of giving my daughter “too much freedom.” What does that even mean? I think the world will stifle her enough without everything being an issue and controlled on the home front. I draw the line when it becomes dangerous to herself, but otherwise she calls a lot of the shots, and you know what, it makes her…her. She is pretty independent, social, smart and super creative. Sure she often is messy, muddy, wearing a tutu or dancing in the store, but really if it is not hurting anyone else, who cares?!


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June 2011
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