What?! What parent in their right mind would admit to not raising well behaved children? Am I letting them run wild?!
I don’t want to raise well behaved children, I want to raise well prepared adults and I believe there is a profound difference between the two.
Well behaved children (WBC) are raised to be well behaved children. They know who calls the shots, how to avoid getting in trouble (in the teen years this usually means how not to get caught), and how to please the adults who decide all the details of their daily lives. They are rather well behaved. Childhood, however, does not last forever. Sooner or later those same WBC need to be functioning, well adjusted adults who take responsibility for their own choices and decisions.
WBC may comply outwardly, but outward compliance is no guarantee of inward agreement. Just because a WBC knows how to act to avoid punishment doesn’t mean they understand the why of what they are asked to do and, when they are not supervised, they would probably make a different choice. How many of your peers grew up in strict homes where children were ordered around, rules were made to be obeyed and punishment was swift for every infraction? How many of those same peers, once they left the family home, either were gullible and easily taken advantage of or rebelled against their childhood and went wild in their new-found freedom? Granted not every child, but I bet you can think of several examples of both. How many of them got into financial trouble? How many of them had difficulties on the job? How many of them struggled in relationships? In their marriages? Children grow up. If the only thing parents teach their children is to be well behaved children then they haven’t given them enough.
Before you write me off as a liberal, let-your-children-run-wild, irresponsible parent let me clarify something. I do believe children need structure, discipline, instruction and guidance and I believe the purpose of these is to equip children to be wise, insightful, capable, caring and spiritually grounded adults: to be Well Prepared Adults (WPAs).
WPAs are given tools to make good decisions, to be comfortable in a variety of situations, to be able to relate to and communicate with people from various backgrounds, life stages and economics. They know how to make decisions based on available information, how to take responsibility for their behavior and how to work cooperatively. They have developed their moral character and are better equipped to navigate a world where the rules may not be so clearly defined.
I would rather have a child that doesn’t always live up to someone else’s expectations for their behavior than a child who leaves home unprepared to solve disputes, listen to another’s perspective, and is unable to solve problems. Teaching children these skills means that sometimes things will be messy, limits will be strongly tested and mistakes will be made. No, my children are not allowed to run wild, but we spend more time teaching, training and correcting than we do demanding.
Childhood is short. Adulthood lasts a lot longer. I want to raise capable, mature and wise adults. So here’s to not raising well behaved children!