Accountability Example #3

Choice & Accountability

Choices are liberating!

When you open a dialogue about transforming your child away from merely trusting in parental limits and towards learning to set their own limits, it’s pretty likely that your child will give a WOOHOO! response. Maybe with a squeal of joy or a sly smile or bragging rights over younger siblings? However they display it, this reaction is similar to whatever your happy dance looks like when YOU hear some freeing news. Many parents feel alarmed by their child’s excitement with being in charge of some decision-making, but think about IS exciting! And it’s healthy to feel the joy of personal agency. So celebrate with your child. 

As part of this little celebration, also send a clear message about why you’re shifting some of the rule-setting to your child. You might say: “If it feels like we’re getting “easy” on you by letting you choose XYZ limit, we’re not. Rather, Mom/Dad have the important job of preparing you to be a mature teen and adult someday who is good at using your whole brain to make decisions. In fact, it won’t always be easier because decision-making takes more responsibility, but we think you’re ready for that. And don’t worry, we’ll still be watching out for you.”

Much of parental nervousness comes from worry that our child will mess up. That’s a legitimate fear because they WILL make mistakes. But that’s also the point. Mature intrinsic choices require experience in personal decisions that are not controlled by others and often includes finding a balance after experiencing extremes. Be wise about proving to your child that you are willing to let them learn from their own experiences. Plus, we’ve learned that first-time WOOHOO! mistakes at age 8 are far less monumental than an inexperienced WOOHOO! would be at age 14 or 16 or 18. So, don’t let your own fears hold you back from mentoring your pre-teen towards gaining critical ACC/PFC experiences.

Also note that the WOOHOO! will be stronger and more reckless if you’ve relied on rewards and punishments for previous discipline. But if you’ve used mindful tactics that build trust and led with confidence and grace, the WOOHOO! moments will blend right into the learning process. Enjoy the ride!!