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It sounds contradictory, maybe, that a child should have control, but it is true. Children have to know they can some day run their own lives and that others believe they are capable of that into the future. In order to get there kids have to be given limits to what they are permitted to do and know they will be held to them, today.

Outside of hurting others or themselves, there is a lot of latitude in this idea. I love giving kids control because it builds self-esteem and confidence as they learn that their own decisions can turn out well. Letting children select their clothes daily, or make choices at dinner, or decide what game to play offers a form of control. Responding appropriately to babies’ cries teaches a child that he has some control.

I have seen parents try to hog all the power, and try to control every part of their children’s lives with the understanding that they, the parent, knows best. I just don’t agree with that. I trust kids a lot. I think we all have great power to direct ourselves and lead ourselves where we should go if we listen to our own drives and leadings. I don’t think children are any different. If a child wants to color all afternoon I think it is a great thing to allow it. If a child is needy and wants lots of attention on a particular day, how great to be able to give it knowing the child is directing himself to have his needs fulfilled. How powerful that must feel. What control he is learning.

The golden rule of control with children, in my opinion, is that a parent, no one, can seize control of another’s eating or bowels, or sleep, or any of the basic functions of life. It is wrong to insist or force or deny in these areas and the greatest respect is required in order to foster emotionally healthy children.

The goal is to help children learn to control themselves. In the end, no man should rule another.

To see more examples of children being given control in every day life click on “On Being Responsive” and see the stories at the end of the outline.