Should Parents Be In Charge Because They Have Experience and Wisdom?


My Unschooling Book Series (21)

I’ve been writing about trust. But are kids really trustworthy? Perhaps we need to discuss this question because trust is fundamental to unschooling. If we doubt we can trust our children, how can we unschool successfully?

Again, I’m going to share some thoughts which may need reorganising and expanding if I’m going to use them in my book. (I’m finding it impossible to write and edit to a polished stage when I’m publishing a post every day.)

Why do we have trouble trusting kids? Why do we think that, if they have the choice, they will choose to be lazy and not want to do much at all? Why do we have trouble believing they will want to do what’s right rather than what is wrong?

If we have a faith, we might believe that original sin weakens our kids. Because of it, they will be more inclined to choose the easy options. They will lack the strength to work hard and to do what is right and necessary. Therefore they can’t be given the freedom to decide for themselves what they’re going to learn or do.

Parents have experience and wisdom their children haven’t got. Do they need to use these to push their children to do what is right? Perhaps it’s their duty. Children might have to accept that they aren’t in a position to make the best decisions and so be willing to do what their parents feel is best. Perhaps if we give control to our kids we are being negligent?

But parents have faults too. We are also tempted to do what is wrong. If we recognise this, we could say, “I can’t be trusted, so why should I trust my child? I sometimes feel lazy so why shouldn’t my child be lazy too? She needs me to push her along to make sure she does what she needs to do.”

But instead of using our self-awareness as a reason to control our kids, perhaps we can use it to make connections with them. Parents know what it feels like to struggle to do what is right. It’s hard to constantly do what is necessary. Knowing this should give us empathy for our kids. It doesn’t give us permission to take over and make decisions for them.

Whether we believe in original sin or not, we all know our kids will make mistakes. Perhaps we think parents are in a position to prevent these mistakes. If we can use our control, to keep our kids from failing, isn’t it our duty to do this? And if we agree with this idea, how long will we try and protect them? As long as they are at home with us? Do we not believe that children can overcome their faults?

Kids might have faults, but we can’t just say, “That’s the way they are. I can’t trust them.” Kids have to try and overcome their faults. But how do they become stronger? By trying and failing and trying again. One step forward at a time. If we are always interfering, taking the reins out of their hands, they will have no opportunity to try. They will never make progress. We have to let our kids make mistakes.

But some mistakes are just too big. Perhaps it’s much too risky to hand back control? What if our kids do something big that they’ll regret? What if they make wrong choices that end up affecting such things as their career opportunities?

Kids don’t do things in isolation. We can’t step back and say, “Hey, do what you like. I’ll let you make mistakes, but if you fail, you’ll have to deal with it. It’s nothing to do with us.”

Kids belong to families who care about them. Parents might not take control, but we are there to help them as they learn and grow and develop. We build up strong connections by trusting, loving unconditionally and forgiving. We show empathy, listen and discuss. Also, our children observe us trying to overcome our own faults. Because of the strong bonds between us, they will look to us for guidance. There’s a good chance they will want to adopt our values and follow our example.

If we do take over and control our kids, making them follow the pathway we feel is best, who says it’s all going to work out? Do we really have enough wisdom and experience to work out what our kids need? Do we know our kids better than they know themselves? Perhaps we remember, as children, not knowing who we were and what we needed. (Perhaps we’re still searching for these answers even though we are now adults.) But what if we’d been given the opportunity to discover who we were? We could give our children the opportunity we were denied. What if we trust them to know their needs instead of assuming we know better and taking over?

What if we do make the wrong choices for our children? We might feel bad for if we don’t do our ‘duty’, but we’ll also feel bad if our plans fail, especially if our control results in a rift between us and our children.

Our role is to believe in our kids. Encourage them to become the people they are meant to be. If we tell them they are incapable of being responsible for themselves, they will come to believe it. When they get to adulthood after a childhood of control, how will they have the skills to make the right decisions on their own?

Yes, kids might be weak. But this doesn’t mean we have to control them. Weakness needs empathy and understanding, kindness and encouragement. We can become better people together. We don’t want to control our kids or break their wills but instead, turn them in the right direction: towards love. We want our children to do what is right, not because they have no choice, but because they love.

Love? Isn’t that the best reason to do what is right?

Of course, these are my thoughts and beliefs. You might have other ideas. That’s okay. Differences of opinion make for good discussions. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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  1. Reply

    loved it. My takeaway is that it’s about walking with our children in the world rather than keeping them locked in a padded cell that they long to escape. I know that I’ve accidentally crossed that line before. Maybe you could share some good words or conversation helps that encourage children to make thoughtful decisions without being coercive? Yikes! I sound terrible!

    1. Reply


      I like the way you have described the parent/child relationship. We are indeed walking together!

      I don’t think there is any magic way of saying things so that our children will always decide to do as we think best. We have to be prepared to accept they might not see things as we do. But, of course, there are good and bad ways of talking with our kids. And some ways do cut off the lines of communication and then we have no hope of sharing our experience or thoughts with them.

      I always like to start with empathy. What is my child thinking/feeling? I try and put myself in her shoes and see things with her eyes. And then I Iisten without jumping in with my own opinions. Reflecting back what we hear can help a child work out a problem for themselves. We can ask a few questions to clarify the train of thought. I try not to give any advice or even suggestions if they are not asked for. Usually we get to the stage where we can exchange thoughts and ideas. Mine are offered but can be rejected.The final decision is made by the child.

      Thoughtful decisions… Saying things in a slightly diffrerent way: Maybe when we listen and then reflect back carefully, our kids are able to think about the situation for themselves. We give them the time and space to see the problem more clearly and then they are able to make the best decision.

    • Nancy
    • November 27, 2017

    The Lord has given us a responsibility to raise and nurture our children. I feel that the Lord has given each of us the inate desire to learn and grow. It is hard to not want to control our children’s lives, to make sure everything turns out right. The Lord will guide our children, if we trust them to Him. He is far more capable

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