Whenever I have an opportunity to speak with a student’s parent, it is inevitable that the mom or dad wants Billy or Sally to become a responsible adult, someone who makes good decisions. While my teaching methods fully support that goal, I often observe parents who behave as if their children will magically grow up to be responsible without having any idea about what that means. They are dragged along, told “no” to every request and prohibited from voicing preferences.
Very often my class will have a space in their schedules where they can select activities. Because I want them to have a voice in their days (and their lives), I suggest options such as computer math games, reading a book or drawing pictures. Conveniently, there is always an option for each taste or strength.
In the home, I also see opportunities to teach accountability and freedom of choice. Yelling at kids to clean their rooms is more a function of authority than decision-making. My position has always been – if you want to live in a messy room, that’s your choice. But I think that you’ll be happier and more comfortable if you put things away and create some order.
Kids can and should have voices in their lives. It’s a productive idea to let kids have an opinion in restaurants, vacation destinations and their clothes. Students who are especially proud of a shirt or backpack will always disclose that they selected each item. Voting is one of the many privileges of democracy. But it shouldn’t matter only to politics. Shalom.