Kids Health

The Gran View: Give children a voice in family decisions

How can we enable children to become decision-makers, while maintaining boundaries?

By Shayama Chona

My personal involvement and commitment to understand and watch the behaviour of babies and young children has made me increasingly aware of the dilemma facing us—the adults. How can we best provide an appropriate environment to allow young ones freedom to be themselves, to be understood and to develop into responsible citizens with independent attitudes? How can we help them become decision-makers, while maintaining limits and controlled supervision?

Believe it or not, my own experience tells me that we need special skills to “understand children”. These can be developed through practice but you cannot be effective unless you are sensitive and responsive. You need to have a democratic relationship effectively. The need to sensitively and effectively respond to these challenges with alternative ideas has never been more obvious than today. Terms like “respect”, “equality”, “trust”, “cooperation” and “responsibility” must become household concepts. The authority of the parent is being questioned today. You need not fear the threat if you have practiced the skill of approaching your kids in a positive way, keeping in mind the above mentioned concepts.

Individual personalities of children are formed in the first few years of life as they establish patterns of behaviour and self-esteem that will remain with them. Children are individuals with inherited personality characteristics and as they mature and develop within their families, acquire many different patterns of behaviour. They will try out and practice both acceptable and non-acceptable forms of behaviour. In doing this, they are learning about themselves and their world in order to establish their own unique behaviour patterns. The responses children receive to their actions influence whether or not a particular behaviour continues. This, of course, means that parents and other adults interacting with young children need to be very aware of their own behaviour.

The need for children to establish acceptable behavioural patterns in society is indisputable. The manner in which this is achieved is critical to the well-being of your child and family.

A home that runs on the principle of social equality has a peaceful environment where each family member is equal in terms of human worth and dignity. You cannot say that the helper is less worthwhile than the master of the house because the former is less educated. Even though each individual has varying skills, education, knowledge and background; this does not make one person more worthwhile than another. A baby of six weeks—is he less worthwhile a person than a grandmother of 60 years? Thus, one individual is not seen as superior, with others being inferior, but each is equal, no matter what his age, experiences or qualifications.

Children must have a voice in the family in making decisions, or giving opinions. Yes, children are not always able to have a say because of limited experience, but belief in their worth is still there. To begin with, involve them in small decisions “What should we have for dinner”, “Where should we go for summer holidays?” In later years, “Where should we buy a house—South Delhi or Gurgaon?” It’s this child who is the adult in making. The wisdom and voice of the child will determine his and your tomorrow.

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