In between the great food and fireworks you will encounter in just a few short hours, I want to remind you of two things:  1) The price our forefathers paid for our freedom; 2) the price you will need to pay so your child can learn how to handle his freedom and independence.  In the end, freedom is both caught and taught.

The 4th of July is a reminder that we continue to reap the rewards from those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.  Years before the Declaration of Independence was drafted and signed, 102 Pilgrims faced their fears and crossed a treacherous ocean with the hope of freedom in their hearts.  Even so, the lives of 44 Pilgrims were claimed during the first winter because the conditions were so harsh.  Those who lived learned how to survive and thrive in spite of the horrid conditions.   As a result, the “can-do” beliefs and ideas that we American’s are known for continue to live on!  The freedoms of this great country were spread by people who understood that liberty, independence, and freedom were not determined by the conditions you face, but by the choices you make in life.

As a loving parent, it’s no secret that you want your little one to experience the joy that comes with becoming independent.  That desire is what makes you a great parent.  Even so, children develop the ability to handle autonomy and freedom through trial and error.  In sum, it’s learned through four “Freedom” experiences:

To make choices that don’t disrupt the welfare of others.

To prepare your little one for the massive choices that await him (car keys, sexuality, college, careers, and a loving spouse one day) it’s important to give him a say in fate today.  It starts with, “Would you like corn or peas with your meal?”  And it continues with, “How do you plan on solving this problem?”  Over time, he will discover and learn from the consequences of all his choices.  Even more, he will discover the effects that his choices have on other people.  He will learn that although he has rights, each of those rights carries certain responsibilities (e.g., hitting your brother is not a good way to win friends and influence people).

To fumble, stumble, and make mistakes.

The “price-tag” for mistakes goes up with every passing year.  Making mistakes when kids are young is far less expensive and much easier to learn than when life gets more complex.  For example, letting him mess up and end up in the principal’s office today is far less costly than going to court as a young adult.

To be held accountable with acceptance and empathy.

The self-discipline and personal responsibility that must accompany freedom grows as children are held accountable for their actions by parents. This works best when parents are kind and firm as well as responsive and demanding.  For example, “Just because I like you, should I let you treat your brother that way?”

To enjoy the safety and security that only comes from having warm, caring parents who understand human development.

It’s no secret that a calm brain learns far better than a stressed out brain.  So… are your expectations in harmony with what your little one can deliver for his age?  For example, is there room for him to make age-appropriate mistakes?  Does he still feel loved and accepted when he blows it?   If not, then don’t be surprised by a child who can’t handle freedom and responsibility.  If you answered yes, then you are well on your way to developing a child who is learning to handle freedom and ultimately thrive as an adult one day!

A Point To Ponder

On this 4th of July, give your child a great gift.  First, teach him about the sacrifice his forefathers made for his freedom.  Next, give him plenty of opportunities to experience the life lessons that come with freedom and responsibility because freedom is both caught by responsible kids and taught by loving parents.

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Steve Cuffari

Author: Steve Cuffari For many, Steve Cuffari is the mentor that parents call on to make their parenting style warmer, easier and more affective. He is the founder of inTouch Parenting, a company devoted to helping today's parents calm the chaos, raise emotionally intelligent kids, and nurture families that thrive. read more about Steve Cuffari here...

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