Picture for a moment a young child who has never tasted sweets. Now imagine letting this three year- old loose in a sweets store. What do you think will happen?
Now take another three year- old who has been allowed to have sweets at times, and who doesn’t live in a home where the candy jar is locked away; chances are you would get an entirely different response given the same opportunity of the free will. Put on your thinking caps and use this same metaphor in relation to your teen and their freedom.
By giving our teenagers some freedom to move on in this world, to make their own mistakes and experiments (of course in only things permitted in Islam) is an important and healthy milestone to grow up. It goes without saying that offering freedom helps teens grow.
Freedom and Limits
Should we offer too much freedom to our teen? Would it appear like we are uncaring, and backfire horribly, and seem like a control freak? Although with constant prayers, supplication and faith in Allah, finding the middle ground is tough, but very doable. With school holidays looming ahead you will find yourself faced with rules which need to be enforced in order to maintain some sort of sanity. While much reading and research are a significant element in parenting, the real ‘expert’ in your home when it comes to your child is really you.
Most psychologists dealing with tweens, pre-teens and teens advise us to maintain the reins. Parents must use the ‘option’ system, when it comes to giving their children some freedom. By offering your teens choices it will appear that they have some control over their choices, and you don’t throw your boundaries and limitations out the preverbal window.
For instance, if your teens want to stay out for an extra hour past your curfew (as they may think), you can always offer them a choice.
I personally have come to acknowledge the significance of dialogue with children and more importantly teens. By comprising a system with my children I have come to realize that when my teen is asking me to bend or stretch the rules, it is more a cry for more freedom.
Here is when I stop and start talking to them; asking them why this issue is particularly important to them. Although it is critical to NOT take on the role of a friend, an understanding fellow (teens have a way on bidding on your compassion), it is important to remain open for clues that something may be off with the situation.
I find putting a price tag on a new freedom, such as an extra chore around the house is helpful and an indication of how desperate they are. This way they begin to see that you are willing to negotiate, however, they won’t be walking all over you, your rules, and expectations. Like many parents when my eldest daughter hit her teen years I was fearful viewing it as a lava pit. Here is when I decided to take a stance with myself and realize that I have instilled the values in my child and with Allah’s blessings I would be able to learn the hard lesson of letting my princess go. Well, ok, just a little.
I decided to teach her and her siblings that with freedom comes more responsibility. I have, with the help of a supportive husband, come to a happy medium in the freedom category based on a sliding trust scale by allowing my teens to take baby steps, and hence I gain an accurate barometer of what they could handle.
Don’t forget, every teen caves to peer pressure differently (four children have taught me that!). If you work into freedom slowly, your teen will likely get a taste of how much freedom they really want.
Follow your heart and remember if you feel safe enough to give your child freedom, there is a good chance that they will respect you enough to use their freedom wisely.
It’s natural to find yourself worrying if your actions and decisions are correct backtracking on how things should have been dealt with.
You’re not alone; remember the priceless advice given by Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, who advised us to play with our children till the age of 7, to discipline and teach them from the age of 7 to 14 and to befriend them at the age of 14 and above.