Have you ever heard of the term ‘The Funnel’ in parenting? From attending Growing Kids God’s Way parenting course, we learn a new concept called “The Funnel”. (Chapter 14-Discipline Issues Part 1)
The Funnel has a narrow stem at the bottom and tapers wider towards the top.
The Ezzos describes the funnel as…”the narrow stem represents the early stages of parenting, when the child is very young. The wider part represents the expanding growth, maturity and gradual freedom the child is able to handle. A common mistake is to parent outside the funnel in the early years. In an effort to give the child confidence, parents sometimes allow their children behaviours or freedoms that are neither age appropriate nor in harmony with the child’s moral and intellectual capabilities” (On becoming child wise, pg 154-155).
I think back of the many problems I had in the past just because I was parenting outside of the funnel!
Now ponder with me some of these questions that will give you a greater clarity regarding the funnel principle.
Who primarily regulates the behaviour of your child at home?
Is it mum and dad who set the standard or does your child often call the shot?
When it comes to the structure and boundary within the home, who determines the what, when and where activities are done ?
Do your little ones roam around the house from room to room or are they content to be at one place at a time, as per Mum’s instruction?
Does your little one tell you where they want to go or do they ask for your permission to go to the backyard, or over to the neighbour’s house?
Does your child know what is the rhythm and expectation of their day or do you have to constantly remind, threaten, nag, beg and coax them into doing chores and homework throughout the day?
Are your children quick to respond to the call of their name when called?
How much free time do they have at home, and what do they do in their free time?
Do they get up from bed at night and come to your room in the middle of the night?
Do they kick and scream when they can’t have their way?
Does your child whine, whinge, pout, complain, sulk, stomp, scream when you take their choices away from them?
Do they have to have the final say in terms of what book is read, what breakfast is eaten and what they wear?
These questions reveal not only the authority structure in your home but also who the real “boss” is.
Sometimes in an effort to “love” our child, we give them far too many choices that are neither age or developmentally appropriate.
Think about it – if your child cannot handle not having a choice, then it may be that they are addicted to having choices all the time. They then fall apart when you remove their choices from them. The opposite is in fact true, when your child can handle not having a choice, he in fact may be ready for some choices!
Children do not actually need to have the freedom of choice in everything they do! This is my ongoing revelation from the GKGW course 😄!
This is not to say don’t ever give them choices, but do so at a pace that is in harmony with their developmental growth and learning.
With freedom comes responsibility- so freedom is earned as the child shows responsibility and maturity.
As they demonstrate age appropriate freedom they are then granted another freedom.
The child who is given too much freedom inappropriately becomes a child that is too wise in his own eyes.
Much of the discipline issues parents experience is due to mums and dads parenting outside the funnel and not having an effective structure and routine that helps with self control training.
By giving freedom to children that is neither age or developmentally appropriate and not in harmony with the child’s moral and intellectual capabilities, we give them freedom that they are not mature enough to handle and in the process we destroy their confidence because we are placing them in situations too great for them to handle and managed.
What then is freedom?
Freedom can be equated to: (definition taken from (Mom’s Notes Understanding Freedom) )
– anything that is not a responsibility (playing with friends, talking on the phone, watching TV)
– things that a child might do without first asking permissions (for instance, getting a snack, opening the fridge, talking on the phone, playing with iPad)
– things in which the child gets to choose (what she/he wears, how she/he wears their hair, what he/she eats for breakfast etc)
– a specific area in which a child hasn’t mastered self control (eating, playing on the iPad etc)
When you parent within the funnel, you allow a child to progress into his new and expanding world in an orderly fashion and this enhances learning.
It produces harmony because you allow the child to associate meaning with the new experience at the right pace.
Parents are to continuously evaluate what we allow our children to do and how many and what kind of freedom we have granted them given their age, maturity, abilities and responsibility.
As we can see, this equations below hold true in the life of a child:
Freedom > self control = developmental confusion
Freedom < self control = developmental frustration
Freedom = self control = developmental harmony
It is therefore not beneficial to rush the process of growing up.
Children in our society are rushed morally, behaviourally, sexually, intellectually, physically.
We need to think these issues through as we may be parenting our children out of our own insecurity, or fear of lagging behind.
For much greater depth of comprehension on Understanding Freedom and The Funnel, please refer to Moms Notes Understanding Freedoms (Vol1), Structuring Your Childrens Day (Vol 1), Understanding the Funnel (Vol 4), and GKGW (Chp 14)