Freedom / Choices / Empowerment / Respect

Intro by Sandra Dodd, with other people's writings, too.

A discussion came up in which someone asked about "True Freedom" as though it were a concept central to unschooling. I'd never hd the phrase used, and discussion ensued.

It's just musing and analysis of the ideas of freedom, which unschoolers DO tend toward in lots of things, but in ALL things? Maybe, maybe not.

Sandra wrote:
Just like getting lots of gifts instead of one big one, if you say "sure," "okay," "yes" to lots of requests for watching a movie late or having cake for breakfast or them playing another half hour on the swings and you can just read a book in the car nearby, then they get TONS of yes, and permission, and approval.

If you throw your hands up and say "Whatever," that's a disturbing moment of mom seeming not to care instead of mom seeming the provider of an assortment of joyous approvals.

Danielle wrote:
This is so well put—another "aha" moment for me. I think it is easy to get the idea of freedom confused. I know I have struggled with just what non-coercive parenting really means. My kids are so young (6, 5, 3) that they do need me help them. I appreciate that they ask me all the time whether they can do things because it helps me to feel that they are safe. Nearly all the time they get a "yes," so it's not a hardship for them to ask. They don't fear that they might get a "no," so they don't not ask, if you know what I mean.

That's not to say that I never say no; there are times when no is the answer, but I tell them why and we try to come up with an appropriate alternative. Because of this, I think, my kids aren't afraid to hear no either. I have always parented with as few "no's" as possible because saying no makes me feel stressed out. This doesn't mean I'm "too permissive" or that my kids are "wild"; it just means that I've created an environment where no's are seldom necessary and certainly are not meted out to reinforce an arbitrary authority.

Still, I found myself wondering if I were doing something wrong because I noticed how often my kids ask "permission" to do things. I was second-guessing myself and wondering if I were so controlling that they felt they had to ask, even though I almost always say yes. After reading Sandra's words, I realize that my kids come to me, not because I say they have to, but because they use me as a sounding board. Asking permission becomes a way of gauging their own sense of right and wrong because they know that I will explain a no and help them come up with better alternatives. I realize that they know they are respected and come to me as their guide, and that's something that I feel pretty darn good about!

Gee, I think I found one more thing to be thankful for today!

Happy Thanksgiving!


[Danielle:] After reading Sandra's words, I realize that my kids come to me, not because I say they have to, but because they use me as a sounding board.

Maybe they're coming to you as a font of "yes!"

That's a cool thing, if every time they want something loving and positive, they run to mom, huh?

[Danielle:] Asking permission becomes a way of gauging their own sense of right and wrong because they know that I will explain a no and help them come up with better alternatives.

My big guys still ask little things, like "Can I have this last soda?" What that means is "had you dibsed it?" or "Is this perhaps NOT the last soda, so I'll feel better about taking it?" 🙂

If I say "Sure," they're drinking a soda I gave them, and I bet it tastes better than one they snagged knowing they had "the right" to drink it, but they wanted the blessing.


Partial freedoms?

This came out of a TV Discussion, but veered toward ideas about empowerment and freedom.

The brown part is someone who didn't think we knew what we were talking about.
Green is Schuyler Waynforth, who only writes when she knows what she's talking about.

I'm not an anti-tv elitist. We watch tv, kiddos and all and we reap all the wonderfull benefits of the technology/media world—I never said we didn't. I personally prefer that my kids not watch tv for hours, so we set limits.

We set limits? Is it all of you? Do your children limit their television consumption along with you? If not, it is you who are setting limits. You who are deeming television as something crucial to minimize, however large your limit it is still a limit.

I don't think it's a big deal. I don't believe that after two hours (or however short or long) of tv that suggesting to my kids that they might want to find something else to do is belittling or undermining their trust—that is just silly.

Are you suggesting? Are you saying "hey, wouldn't it be nice to go for a walk, or how about I get out the Lego and we can build some cool towers or anybody want to go swimming?" Or are you saying "well, it seems like you've watched enough television today; you (we) need to find something else to do"? Those are very different possibilities. One is a suggestion, the other is not in that there is no choice in the second option. And actually, the first way of suggesting that something else might be fun to do doesn't have to be spoken, you could get out the lego, or you could put out some playdoh and play with it or whatever other things might engage your children without telling them that you feel that they've had enough television.

Its one issue and it need not be made into such a huge deal. Freedom and empowerment is found in a variety of ways and tv, or lack of tv is barely a taste of what freedom or empowerment completely, or even partly is. There is much more out there that is far, far more important than missing a few tv shows bc mom suggests another activity. I'm sure that isn't the point, but maybe someday I'll get it!! <wink>

For me the reason why it is a big deal, the point of not making arbitrary time limitation for television, is that I have grown to trust Simon and Linnaea's ability to address their own needs appropriately. That doesn't mean that I have no input in what they are doing, but it does mean that if I suggest something and they turn it down I trust that they have good reasons for doing so. And I am getting better at not feeling hurt by their rejection of my ideas. 🙂 If I trust them to know what they want, if I trust them to learn to negotiate the world in those ways that best suit them, I can easily trust them to take or leave television as they desire. And if I were to start deciding that television was far, far less important than doing the things that I want them to do, I would be sabotaging so much of the relationship they have with me and their understanding of how much they can affect their own world.


More about "we" and the problem with moms using it

I wrote something about freedom in January 2013. There were over 200 comments, because some people thought they owned "freedom" or that I was wrong, so if you feel like reading a tussle, it was one. But the original post was this:

The meaning of "freedom" is a big deal. I don't like it as a goal, or ideal, or definition. Of course the word comes up, but it's not an absolute, and there isn't any person or group or government that has the power or authority to grant anyone total freedom.

Choices, though—choices can abound. Parents can arrange life so that their children have choices all the time, and learn to see their own actions as choices rather than "have to's," but none of them can give their children "the freedom" to do as they wish at MY house. Nor in a shop, nor a public place. Certainly not in a national park, or museum, or church.

If we rented our house, we couldn't have given our kids as many choices as we could because we were buying the house. Because we have neighbors and we're in a city, there were limits to the choices we could give our kids.

Do I "have the freedom" to commit a crime?

If I'm in prison, and then they let me out, I'm relatively free (compared to prison), but I'm probably also going to be on parole, which has a lot of restrictions.

Parents who tell their kids that they can give them "freedom" might be talking about the relative freedom of being out of school rather than in. Once they're in the normal real world, though, continuing to promise freedom isn't as helpful, nor as relationship building, as finding ways to give them choices.

After some arguments and questions...

My point is that you cannot give your children "freedom," and it's not a good definition of unschooling. The discussion in which someone had defined unschooling as freedom, and another new-to-unschooling reader had approved and applauded that definition has been pulled, and so this topic sits a little orphaned and out of context now. 🙂

We can (and should) talk about unschooling without saying "unschooling is freedom."
There are many good comments in that topic, but here's something Bernadette Lynn wrote:

Bernadette Lynn:

One problem with thinking in terms of a balance between your freedom and other peoples' is that there's an inherent conflict — more freedom for someone else means less freedom for you, which sets the stage for resentment and antagonism, even if it's not overt or conscious.

Thinking in terms of choice means that every action is weighed against other possible actions and you choose the better or more positive choice. You get to make a positive move every time.
Some problems with a focus on "Freedom"

How to Raise a Respected Child

Magical Thinking and Spoiled Children Overcoming the feeling of "have to"

Ideas about choices and options concerning ...


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