This is such a great discussion. It's really made me think very concretely about why we have certain "guidelines" in our house and why we are totally winging it sometimes.
I do think a lot depends upon the child. Our oldest totally resists any type of structure, but is also occasionally lacking in motivation and focus. So we have to work on providing her with a structure that helps her be motivated and focus on the things she wants to do (like being good at the violin) and needs to do (like keeping a bare minimum of cleanliness in her room so that the ants don't over run it, the dog doesn't eat food off her left over plates and puke on her bed, that sort of thing).
My youngest is OVERLY focused and is very hung up on details. A very high stress child. Helping her work and live within a *less* structured life has been something of a goal for us. I'm talking a child who, in 2nd grade, would spend 3 hours, crying, on her homework--not because her teacher assigned a bunch of homework, not because we made her or had any expectations, but because she wanted to write it all PERFECTLY without ANY eraser marks or mistakes or sloppiness. As opposed to my older child who would turn a crumpled, ripped, stained paper with illegible writing in (she now types most of her homework). It's been a learning experience for all of us.
After reading these posts, I see where my husband and I are "stricter" than some parents, but not as strict as others. Basically, we work on the assumption that our kids are reasonable and trustworthy. We can work on this because they have shown us that they are. I know not everyone is this lucky with their family life, and I am very aware and appreciative of our kids. I have a wonderful friend who has a daughter who is hell bent on self destructing; I know we are lucky.
We don't have any hard and fast rules for our kids, just like we don't have any hard and fast rules in our marriage. Basically, we're trying to work together to have a household that we all find safe and enjoyable. If the kids ask us to do something that seems out of the ordinary, if they disagree with us, or if there is some surliness that exceeds what we feel is acceptable, we'll talk about it. Typically either we aren't getting something, or the kid is being a kid (developmentally) and not really thinking about the family unit as a whole, something like that. We just discuss what is going on, and then try to come to a mutually acceptable conclusion.
Example--DD#1, who is smart as heck, got a D last semester in math (this after years of As in math). She wasn't grounded necessarily, but she did have to replace some free time with some extra math study time. We discussed her grade, what her problems in the class were, and how she could address this. We suggested the extra study time, and she agreed it could be helpful. It was (though frankly, not to the point *I* would like). Our goal wasn't so much to punish as it was to help her evaluate how to manage her time, what her strengths and weaknesses were, and how she could improve her work and understanding in this class. She knows we continue to monitor her grades online. Frankly, she likes to ask "Did you see me ace that test? Is it showing I missed any assignments?" She doesn't see it as controlling so much as us being involved and helping her.
Am I contributing anything to this discussion, or just rambling? I don't know. I do know that, even though I disagree with some of the opinions and parenting styles that have been discussed, it has been nice to see what works for others. I appreciate being forced to evaluate why I am uncomfortable with Dar's daughter watching "Rocky Horror Picture Show" at age 7, but not at all uncomfortable with my children watching "Monty Python's Holy Grail" at that age, for example. Or why I am comfortable with NOT checking my oldest daughter's email, but also have not yet approving a facebook account. I think that sometimes my gut responses are not always right, because they are based on culture as well as my own upbringing; and sometimes I do not want my biases, ingrained indoctrinations and personal likes/dislikes to guide what I do in my family. The constant reevaluation and new perspectives are great. I appreciate everyone's input and discussion.