One of the common myths of modern parenting is that giving children whatever they want and letting them do whatever they want will make them happy in the present, and in the long run teach them to make the right choices. According to this school of thought, children who are indulged in this manner will grow into happy and productive, free-spirited, independent adults.
Nearly the opposite is true. Children need boundaries. They need clearly defined limits of behavior. They need to be taught moral standards of right and wrong. A spoiled and demanding child becomes a spoiled and demanding adult.
Yes, children should be given the freedom to choose for themselves in many matters, but they must also be taught to take responsibility for their choices. When parents are able to make freedom and limitations work together in proper balance, their children learn to make the right choices; they learn independence through guided dependency.
The basis of independence through dependency is this: First teach children foundation lessons of obedience, the difference between right and wrong, and the fact that their choices affect others and have good or bad consequences. Then little by little, as they prove themselves responsible in relatively small matters, give them more independence and allow them to make more important choices, all the while monitoring their progress and helping them understand and deal with the consequences of their decisions. This way they gain the independence they want and need, but not before they are prepared to handle it wisely.
Once they’ve proven that they can carry a certain responsibility on their own, you need to show your faith in them by not checking up on them constantly, or repeating instructions to them, or quickly taking back the controls even when you feel you would have personally done something a different way.
A guided and gradual transition from dependency to independence results in more well-rounded, competent adults who are neither overly dependent upon others, nor so independent that they cannot get along or work well with others. If children are taught from an early age to be responsible for their actions, and lovingly helped to handle the consequences, they will mature quickly and have a strong foundation that will support them through the turbulence of adolescence and a lifetime full of choices, some of which will be very difficult to make wisely.
Taken from "Keys to Kids" by Derek and Michelle Brooks. © Aurora Productions. Used with permission.