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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Making Choices

One of the problems in coping with your bright child is that you want your child to be able to make choices. In some situations it is essential that you lay down rules and arrive at prompt or authoritative decisions. At other times you want your child to feel the freedom of being able to make a choice.

Ideally you want your child, at times, to be able to build up a series of arguments or even debatable points – and then make decisions based on reason and logic. The problem comes when you feel that your reason and your logic are being challenged.

Every mother and father will be made to feel, at times, that they are acting as tyrannical despots. A despot is a ruler with absolute power. There is not much room for building a case for counselling and allowing choices when a despot is in power. Despots also seem develop a climate where rebellion ferments and develops. In a ten year old it may be no more than a cheeky comment or a mutinous sulk. It is very unlikely that a ten year old coming from a favourable social environment will break out into open rebellion just because they have been thwarted.

Children may need to feel rebellious if they come into daily contact with a benevolent dictator. A dictator is also an absolute ruler – and can be a tyrant too. When we add the word `benevolent’ we seem to think of a friendly smiling ruler – who thinks that he or she are acting in the best interests of all concerned. The benevolent dictator, however, still thinks that their way is the only way.

So do mums and dads need to be democratic? The word democratic has a variety of meanings – but is does suggest that there is a degree of social equality. In the setting of a family a democracy can be thought of as being a situation where parents have the right to `rule’ and `govern’. Equally the child then has the opportunity for choice and discussion - and the power of the vote.

I come into contact with a large number of children in a year. I am always touched by the gentleness and concern of parents as they talk to their child about lessons and work. Naturally there are some situations where I will see all out warfare about the extent and nature of work done in a lesson. Generally, however, there is friendly and gentle discussion and engagement.

Mums and dads will need to be despots and dictators at times. It is their right. A ten year old can not try to trample over key areas like personal safety and the good of the family. If a ten ton lorry is bearing down on your child you will not have much time to be able to initiate a wide ranging discussion. `Get out of the way!” works for me. You are not being a despot if you insist on sensible ground rules.

Any suggestions?

Initiate discussions about the types of topic where choices can be made:

Family Relations
Tidiness of bedrooms
Letters or emails to grandparents

Good luck. Keep a diary or note of your discussions. These can be called `Minutes of our Meetings’. If in doubt read the minutes. Review the content. And remember that your reasoned argument may not be a reasoned argument to your child. If you can solve that problem you will have solved one of the main mysteries of being a parent. Please let me know.

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