Freedom is the ability to be oneself and source oneself from the inside with whatever is or is not available.
Limitations are a powerful part of life that an autonomous child learns to use well. In the formative years, passive external stimulations hinder a child’s freedom to be herself because they become part of what shapes her choices. For example, choosing sugar is shaped by the addictive nature of sugar; it is not a free choice. When free to choose, the child knows what he needs. However, a child who “needs” candy or a movie is not free; the experience of candy or TV has created the illusion of a need. That which chooses is manipulated by the choice. The industry does a great job of manufacturing a sense of need.
The fact that learning is constant and unknown to us is an argument against media and junk food, rather than for it; it is the reason we want to protect what the child is exposed to until his unique direction emerges from within and he is strong enough to stay rooted in himself.
This is a question of timing. You wouldn’t let your child jump into deep water before he knows to swim. You would provide a life jacket and your constant presence. Likewise, when entering the “ocean” of the commercial world and society, children need “life jackets” until they master the ability to distinguish between what is valuable to them, and what is a seduction with long-term ramifications. They need us to provide the tools and the environment that protects their inner freedom.
In addition, children are capable of making wise choices when they can witness the results of their actions right away. But they have adult parents to guide and protect them from anything that has a long term harmful impact that they cannot foresee.
Naomi Aldort's son Lennon speaking about himself says “I was always free to do whatever I wanted, and never pressured to fit into any group or social norm. Because of this, I never needed external approval of what I thought or did; I was self-directed. I learned to trust myself and to let my own intuition direct me and not the voices of peers or society”
Considering that my sons did not have free access to media or processed food, the words, “I was always free to do whatever I wanted” are very illuminating. It is not license that children need, but freedom.
Much TV and junk toys and foods can be the cause of the child’s loss of freedom. I kept our home stocked with only healthy food and natural tools of art, play, and learning, and I stirred our family social connections with awareness. As a result, my children were free to do as they wished and didn’t experience restrictions. Oliver, our youngest, has recently reflected on his childhood, saying those were the most happy years he can ever imagine. He said he recalls getting up each morning and feeling overjoyed with anticipation for the day.
In reality, many things have more power than a child (or an adult). And, despite parental anxieties, the child is powerful enough to face this truth. There is power in recognizing limitations. An ocean wave, a car, the wind, temptations, anger, tears and yes, media and foods, are just a few examples the child may feel humbled by. The child does have the power to face her own weaknesses and to stay away from things – initially with your guidance and, later, on her own.
We can avoid controlling by not exposing in the first place and by providing clear and kind leadership. Children yearn for parental guidance and are powerful enough to not always get their way.
None of us can do whatever we wish, yet we can be happy, powerful, and free in a world full of opportunities operating within boundaries..
I have raised my children without sugar and junk food, without TV, and with a limited amount of toys. I exposed them a lot to the arts, nature, and philosophy. In their late teens, two of our sons tried junk food for a while and came to value healthy eating and lifestyle even more. The youngest is not interested in junk food even when away from home.
After a childhood of organic, healthy food, they internalized a sense of self-care that was not shakable by peers and the industry. Same with TV. We have watched some videos of the arts and good film. When lodging away from home, we used to turn on the TV. The children would get bored after a while, having more interesting things to do or to talk about. TV has never become an attraction in their teen and adult lives.
Reality and society present many boundaries. Yet it need not take your son’s joy or freedom away. Much of modern life is not fit for a child. You will protect him from alcohol, coffee, sugar, gambling, guns, violence, commercial seductions, streets, drugs, ocean waves, crime, certain areas of the city, etc. You will also insist on him wearing a seat-belt in a car, a helmet on a bike, and other restrictions for his protection, or to accommodate laws or the needs of others. Your own life isn’t without things being off limits either and you are fine. Your son can handle reality and is counting on your management.
Limits are opportunities. Gravity limits us, yet it makes life possible. Children discover this magic when we let them experience it; when we don’t offer a life of illusions. Create an environment that provides plenty to enjoy and explore that is not polluting the body or mind. When happy with what is, a child does not search for what isn’t.
It is important not to live in fear of providing a context within which the child can be self-reliant. Happiness and self-reliance have nothing to do with the child getting whatever she wants and everything to do with freedom from commercial manipulation. There is no growing up without influences; it is up to parents to guide which these would be.
Provide your child a safe environment , set the boundaries and limits which are age appropriate , then join the child’s exploration and follow his lead but don’t follow him into the “jungle.” He counts on your leadership. Take him to the safe park and then you can follow his path in that safe place. You are the leader who can see the distant view, which is not available to the child.