by Joey and Carla Link
One Saturday morning when our son Michael was about 13 years old, a friend called and asked him to go play ball with him. Michael asked me if he could go. I had gotten into the habit of hounding Michael to get his stuff done, as he couldn’t seem to ‘remember’ to do it on his own. I was totally exasperated with this, so instead of starting in on the list of things I knew he needed to get done, I said, “I don’t know Michael, can you go?” He frowned, and said, “Well, I haven’t done my chores yet, and I have a report due next week in school I haven’t started working on.” He went on to list the responsibilities he had yet to fulfill that day. Meanwhile, I was thinking, “That stinker, he knows exactly what he is supposed to do, so why do I keep reminding him?” After finishing his list of unfinished tasks, he asked, “So, can I go?”
I couldn’t believe he had the audacity to ask, and shared this with him. He explained that if I said “Yes,” I would be giving him permission to finish his tasks later. ‘Later,’ by his definition, meant when his Dad or I got on his case to get them done. If I said “No,” then he would start arguing with me, telling me how unfair I was until I either gave in or got made enough to send him to his room.
I told him I would leave the decision up to him (This was divine intervention as there was much more I wanted to tell him, better left unsaid). This did not sit well with my son. He finally told his friend he did not have the freedom to play ball that day.
Joey and I were leading a Growing Kids God’s Way parenting class at the time, and soon after this incident, while watching the video in class one night, a phrase jumped out at us, and although we had been leading classes for many years, we were sure we had never heard it before. “With responsibility comes freedom.” We looked at each other and said, if Michael is so irresponsible, why does he have so many freedoms? We both started jotting down the freedoms he had, and finally understood why he didn’t feel compelled to get his responsibilities completed. Let’s just say his freedoms way overpowered his responsibilities by a long shot.
What freedoms have you willingly granted your kids because you want them to be happy? What percentage of the time is your child responsible with his chores, cleaning up after himself and doing his schoolwork? If it isn’t very high, then perhaps you haven’t even begun to use “loss of freedom/privilege” as a consequence in a way that will get to your child’s heart yet!