Sunday, February 23, 2014

Limited or Permitted?

Should you limit things, or not? Good question, I'm glad you asked. Most people (including us) place limits on what our children can eat and do. You can only watch 3 hours of TV on weekends. You can only have 2 snacks a day. You can only have 1 snifter of brandy before lunch, etc.

The idea behind this is that without limits kids will make insane choices. They'll join professional eating competitions so they can eat all the world's pies. They'll catch so many Pokemon that the RSPCA will formally sanction them. They'll eat all your crisps before you even wake up in the morning. They'll watch TV until their eyes fall out and they have to get a direct neural link to Nickelodeon so they can watch reruns of iCarly. You limiting them helps them see what choices they "should" be making, then when they grow up they'll make those choices on their own.

Does that work, though? I've known people who were raised to not use drugs, yet when they were older and could make their own choices they've become drug addicts or even drug dealers. I've known people who were raised with their food choices restricted to only healthy options who then made unhealthy choices for years and years after they moved out on their own. Clearly, just saying "This is what you should do" is not enough to get people to make good choices. In most cases, people (including children) want to find things out for themselves, they want to arrive at their own truth in their own way.

In addition, forbidding something makes it more attractive and also gives a use it or lose it mentality. If you say "You're allowed one soda a day" to someone, they're going to have that soda even if they don't want to, because it's their one soda a day.

Perhaps if you give kids (or anyone) free reign in their choices, they'll be free to make good choices along with bad ones. They'll have the amount of snacks that feels right to them instead of having snacks when you say it's snack time even if they're not hungry. Maybe they'll watch ten hours of violent pornographic television one day and become a Noble laureate the next, because people like to do different things.

At the same time, though, what if you don't forbid food choices and you wake up to find that your children have chosen to eat you? You're letting them make their own choices, so you can't very well say "Hey, dude, that's the wrong choice." You just have to accept it, let them gnaw off your leg, and get a prosthetic one. Welcome to being a parent.

What do you think about this? Do you limit your kids? If you didn't, what would they do? How will they behave when they're older and can make their own choices without you?

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