In the popular use of the word, “freedom” is erroneously linked to the idea of “I can do what I want, and no one can tell me what to do.” But there is no freedom in this statement. Whenever a child rebels against one’s parents, we need to understand it as the first stage in a process where a child is seeking to establish an identity of their own apart from their parents. But rebellion is not freedom. A child is still enmeshed in dependency on their parents even in a state of rebellion. They are not free, self-determining people yet.
Parents and their children can get stuck in this stage of life if they don’t work through this rebellious phase. This phase gets worked through when children, as they grow older, are no longer motivated by the desire to oppose their parents in areas of decision making. This does not mean that parents have no say. Parents may still be a major motivator in their child’s decision making in life, but the decision is a free one, unmotivated by the need to say to one’s parents “You can’t tell me what to do.”
So how do parents help their children to move on from this rebellious phase and truly become free? Here are several things to consider:
- Parents need to respect that their child has the ability to choose even at a younger age.
- When dealing with parent-child conflicts, mom or dad needs to focus on controlling the environment around their child, not controlling the child him or herself. Let the child choose options of discipline that the parent can live with.
- Involve a child in the process of problem solving/discipline when it comes to conflict.
In this limited space it is hard for me to give justice to this topic of freedom. I will eventually tie this to youth ownership in parish life. I ask for your patience as I seek to write a few more notes on this topic.
The blessing of the Lord be upon you,
The unworthy +Paul