One of the hardest things for parents is to accept that their children are growing up. The second hardest thing is to allow them to be free to grow up, while at the same time keeping a certain degree of discipline, so that kids know their boundaries and limits because, regardless of what some people might think, boundaries are necessary and important in order for people to grow into responsible adults. After all, we encounter boundaries in all sorts of places and situations as we grow up and become part of a group. Society has many rules that have become official in the form of laws. These, too, are boundaries, and they govern most aspects of our lives. There are housing rules and regulations in our neighborhoods, bylaws in our cities, traffic laws on our roads and company rules and procedures in our jobs. So, the sooner we become used to having rules, the better our chances of growing into well adjusted people in the future.
There is nothing wrong with having rules. After all, we are part of a universe that is governed by laws, such as the law of motion or the law of gravity. Scientists understand and embrace this fact. We live as part of a world in which all our actions carry consequences. There is nothing we can do to avoid the consequences of our actions. If I put my hand into a fire, I get burned. If I jump into a pool, I get wet. If I eat too much chocolate, I gain weight. Yes, of course, we can grow up doing as we please, but if we do, we will surely encounter many difficult and painful times that could have been avoided. By learning about limits and following rules, we guarantee ourselves fewer hardships in the future and an easier life much easier in comparison to how our life would have been if we ignored all the “rules.” Discipline teaches us about the consequences of our actions. In life, every action we decide to take surely carries a consequence. Some things change our lives forever, so wouldn’t it be better if we could learn to steer out of trouble before it is too late?
In my opinion, as a daughter and as a mother, it is as important to give freedom as to demand obedience. In every area of life, discipline is necessary. To love does not always mean allowing the person we love to grow without any structure, rules or boundaries. It takes much more love to discipline than to let someone be completely free.
Sometimes a parent will choose to take the role of the “easygoing parent” and refuse to discipline or impose any rules; this parent becomes the “cool one.” Then, the other parent desperately tries to maintain an equilibrium and avoid complete chaos, and so this parent becomes the “mean one,” always bringing order to the house. Of course, the “cool parent” becomes the popular one, and the “tough parent” becomes the “boring” one. I cannot stress enough the importance of maintaining an equilibrium in the house, for the good of the children and the health of the parents’ relationship.
Parents are teammates, not members of opposing teams. If the children realize that their parents are on opposing teams, they will try to take advantage of the situation. And this will create tense moments between the parents, tense moments that could have been avoided. Loving is not necessarily synonymous with being soft; to love our children is to teach them to live in this world in the way in which they will be most happy and well adjusted. To love is to show our children the straight path, hoping for the best but understanding that each child is an individual and therefore will follow his or her own way. All we can do is show the best path we know, and after that we must just trust God and pray.
But if we have never even make an attempt to show our children any kind of path, then they will be vulnerable to all outside influences, both the good ones and the very bad ones. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that if we don’t teach the right way to our children, they will choose the right path on their own. What will happen is that other people will show them “a way,” “some way” or “their way” and, being of such a young age, they will follow. Often it will turn out to be that total outsiders peers, movie stars, movies, magazines, professors or older friends will be the ones who show our children “a way.” And many times these outsiders will end up teaching a child, who would otherwise have been good, how to be unkind, mean, ruthless and selfish. It is no coincidence our children were born to us. God chose us to be their parents for a reason. We were meant to teach them what we know concerning God’s wisdom, love and joy and if we don’t, we might be making the biggest mistake of our lives.
Let’s pour a lot of good ideas into our children’s heads, so at least it will balance all the bad things they already hear! Freedom is important, but so is discipline. The best solution to the dilemma of giving freedom versus giving direction would be some kind of equilibrium. It seems as if I am just stating the obvious, but sometimes stating the obvious is what really helps. When our children are growing up, we must let them enjoy their age while at the same time teaching them there will always be some rules they must abide by. We must be their coach and their guiding light in the difficult road to growing up.
God, our Father in heaven, has carefully designed a plan that will teach us wisdom, lead us to safety, protect us and give us many graces. But for this to come to pass, we need obedience. Now, how can we ever be obedient to a Father whom we don’t see when we have never learned to be obedient to a father and a mother whom we do see? Obedience is a consequence of love and trust. I trust my parents because I love them and know they love me. I obey God my Father out of love and trust in His amazing love for me!
Wisdom to contemplate:
“He (Jesus) went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them (His parents).” (Luke2:51)
“Happy those whose way is blameless, who walk by the teaching of the LORD. Happy those who observe God’s decrees, who seek the LORD with all their heart. They do no wrong; they walk in God’s ways. You have given them the command to keep your precepts with care. May my ways be firm in the observance of your laws! Then I will not be ashamed to ponder all your commands. I will praise you with sincere heart as I study your just edicts. I will keep your laws; do not leave me all alone. How can the young walk without fault? Only by keeping your words. With all my heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commands. In my heart I treasure your promise, that I may not sin against you. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your laws. (from Psalm 119)