When we were younger, all of our decisions were made for us. When to get food. When our parents would lay us down to sleep. What clothes we would be wearing. When we would take a bath. Where we would be going and when we would be returning. As we get older and more mature, the ability to make our own decisions comes in increments- to the point that as an adult, we take over most (if not all) of this process.
As parents in our situation, we have to balance decision making based on a number of factors. Not only age-appropriate decisions such as to have a cell phone or not (as well as what types of privileges go with it) but also decisions that can have far reaching ramifications based on their traumatic and turmoil-driven past. When both come into conflict, we can be in for a barn burning bull ride from our children.
“How come so and so can have all of these things and I can’t?”
“Why do you insist on knowing my friends parents before I get the chance to spend time over their house or sleep over?”
“I just think you are being too overprotective, so I’m just going to do this anyway and I don’t care about the consequences. It’ll be your loss anyways…”
That’s just a sample of the responses we face when we take decision making out of our kids hands. It’s not something we do without planning and foresight. But there have been too many times when they have acted impulsively when given the chance to make the right decision- to the point that it’s cost them serious trust in terms of the community. As you get older, the expectations increase as far as self-control- so the law doesn’t take kindly if you respond irrationally when it comes to boundaries or limitations that may be placed upon your life.
We’ve been reminding our oldest that at this point in time, would you rather have quality time with people or quantity time in terms of attention? When you live with a family, I think you gain the greatest chance of building in depth relationship skills that can’t be learned as quickly or deeply in foster care or group home/ treatment center situations. However, I can’t be spending all of my time focusing on negative antics to produce a healthy, happy home- which I remind both of my daughters when they feel exploding is the best way for mom and dad to stop, look and listen.
So that’s why more decisions have to be made in the coming months as we approach summer. We know our oldest needs to learn more skills to be able to live for herself without letting her anger get the best of her. Our youngest still struggles with becoming aggressive towards her immediate family when she’s facing an inner crisis. We want to make sure their needs get met without forgetting about my wife and myself and our needs- as husband and wife as well as individuals.
I don’t want them to feel like they can’t come to us when they are in need- and yet I also want them to gain the confidence to know that they can learn from every decision they make, both good and bad.