This post is a summary of the precious lessons learned from Growing Kids God’s Way Discipline Issues Chapter 14, and Mom’s Notes presentation on Understanding Freedom & The Funnel.
In my previous post we talked about how parents can run into many discipline issues when we parent outside of the funnel by giving our children too much freedom and too many choices that are neither age nor developmentally appropriate or in harmony with our children’s growth and learning pace.
Rather than disciplining for errors done or mistakes made or what might look like disobedience on the part of our child, parents need to reevaluate instead whether it is the funnel that needs to be tightened or restricted.
Moms Notes presentation explained the concept of the Funnel in great details.
Many parents think we understand the funnel in that we need to have tight restrictions on our preschoolers and young children and then loosen the restrictions with age, but what we often don’t grasp is that these restrictions and boundaries can only be loosened with the combination of age, moral maturity and responsibility.
Firstly, age is not the one and all qualifier of all types of freedoms.
Parents run into many problems when they promise a certain type freedom to a child just for the child having turned a certain age.
Different children may possess truly differing levels of maturity and sense of responsibility even though they may be of the same age!
Just because your child has turned 14, may not prove that he is ready to drive (as in some states…), or that 16 is the magical age for possessing the sufficient maturity for dating the opposite sex…
Because freedom is a privilege, it is granted as maturity, moral comprehension and reliability in responsibility grows.
This is where we see training that really gets into the heart of our child…and it is beautiful.
Secondly, moral maturity, as Moms Notes explains, is defined as “one’s ability to self legislate/use self control his own age appropriate behaviours without the constant direction or supervision on the part of the parent, based on the information parents have put into the child’s moral warehouse”.
You see, a child that possess moral maturity in certain area does not require constant monitoring from the parent to own that appropriate behaviour!
So what do you do when children demonstrate morally immature behaviours for their age in some areas?
This is when we need to be willing to tighten the funnel for our children in those areas, because it is our responsibility to keep our child within the funnel.
Moms Notes explains this as such: “Once a boundary or restriction is loosened, a child can lose the freedom when they show continued inappropriate behaviours or attitudes. These freedoms need to be earned by your child – so with some of the discipline issues you may be facing now or in the future, you need to think whether it is a matter of restricting the funnel. Sometimes children of the same age cannot handle the freedom that other children handle with ease. When you give freedom for one child in one area who then abuses the freedom or shows that she is becoming wise in her own eyes then you must revoke the freedom. It is in testing your children that you determine their moral maturity. Because “freedoms are earned to the extent that responsible behaviours are shown” (Prep fr toddler years, p 29).”
Think about the type of freedom and choices that might need to call for your re-evaluation.
Who determines what your child gets to wear, or eat or dress or go or do with his free time?
Think about how your child talks to you, does his chores, completes your instructions, or treats his siblings.
Where can your child do that he doesn’t have to ask permission for?
And what does your child do if you make a choice for him he doesn’t like?
Does he break apart at your refusal of his request?
Is your child whiny, bored, argumentative or negative?
Remember these wise words of the Ezzos: “There will be days when mom decides whats for brekky or what is to be worn and there will be some days you will allow your child to make some decisions. But the latter should not be offered until your children have demonstrated contentment with your right to rule in their lives without protest. You want your children to find wisdom in your authority and not in their own eyes” (GKGW, 5th edition, 224)
Your right to rule is established on a foundation of love, obedience, trust and respect.
In fact, our right to rule in our child’s life is not oppressive, but authoritative.
So how the funnel looks may differ from child to child based on your child’s age, moral comprehension and maturity, and you have to refuse compare him with another child. The funnel will not look the same for any 2 children!
Also your child may demonstrate ability in one area but not another. Freedoms then must be earned by the consistent demonstration of responsible behaviour.
These freedoms may be taken away and the funnel tightened if the child abuses the freedom.
Keeping our child within the appropriate funnel is an ongoing process which takes work, effort and constant evaluation on our part.
We also need at times, to test to see if we can grant more age appropriate freedom to see if they are handled well by our child.
This is where I see the parent-child relationship growing in trust, obedience and respect.
As the child grows in maturity and responsibility, more freedoms are granted and more trust are earned and respect heightened.
Keeping your child within the funnel will reduce the conflict between child and parent and reduce the need for continuous discipline.
So how do you know if you are dealing with a funnel issue with a child?
One indicator is if you find yourself constantly reminding, giving warnings, threatening, coaxing a child in an area that you think he should be doing better in or that you find that you have to stay on top of what your child is doing.
Our aim ultimately is to stop taking responsibility for behaviours, transfer the ownership to the children and let them “own” those behaviour.
Once our child has earned the right to have a freedom, then he/she is responsible for using it wisely, otherwise he/she looses the freedom.
When your child is being wise in his own eyes and is taking ownership of something that is not his to have, you need to remove the freedom.
When a child owns a behaviour then responsibility for that behaviour no longer belongs to the parent. How profound is this lesson!
Hope it blesses your hearts, parents!