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At what age are children allowed to make their own decisions?

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 

At what age do you think children at allowed to make their own decisions and be responsible for those choices? Now I know this is a sliding scale depending on the request/desire. For example, I would think that most people would have a different opinion on, say, what to wear that day verses medical care--- two things that are on extreme ends of the scale.

 

However, as a general rule of thumb at what point does your job as a parent change from micromanaging their life to something less controlling? Do you have different ages based on the subject i.e.food choices, personal privacy, homework etc.

post #2 of 38

At almost 12, I let my son control various things... like how he spends his weekends.  He can call his friends, plan his own "playdates" (whatever the preteen word for them is. heehee) provided he can get transportation.  He has to check with me before he plans a sleepover.  He does odd jobs for people- mother's helper, etc.  He plans those.  He picked his classes for middle school with some guidance from me- ie: I required him to take a language but he could choose the language.  He also has his own opinions about things and I'm fine with that.  He also chooses how to dress, I only require that his clothes are reasonably clean and they fit.  He also has a lot of privacy, but I have talked to him about how we all live in the same house and no one ever gets 100% privacy.  No closed doors and if they are closed, I am allowed to check on anyone without warning.  He also has privacy on his ipod with the understanding that I may, at any moment, request it and check it (I actually haven't done that yet since he's been very straightforward with what is on his ipod).  All my kids will go to the convenient store and buy candy and slurpees occasionally.  I don't love this, but it's not really a battle worth fighting to me.  Basically, they are allowed to control how they spend their day as long as it isn't interferring with a family activity or anything they are signed up to do.

 

Things I control- I have tightened up on homework.  I was allowing him to choose when he did his homework.  But it turned out he was NOT doing it and his teacher was regularly reporting to me that assignments were late.  So I buckled down on that and I do micromanage his school work in a way he finds completely annoying.  I have also tightened up on housework and helping me keep things tidy.  We have a chore chart and timer for all three kids.  It works and it's really minimal work from me. 

 

The biggest issue for me has been follow through with signing up for a sport/activity.  We signed my son up for football when he was 9.  He decided a couple weeks into the season (this was his second season and he loved the first season) that he didn't want to go anymore.  My husband and I feel very strongly that if you commit to a team sport (or any activity), you have to follow through.  After much discussion with him, he finished out the season and then decided to switch to lacrosse.  He loves lacrosse but we make him think about his choice each season because he will be required to finish it.  I would require that of all my kids, though, even my 8 year old.  You also may not miss a practice or a game because you simply don't feel like going, it's too cold... or rainy, etc. 

 

This is something I never really thought about before.  My job has never been to micromanage them.  It's been to guide and scaffold them so they can be prepared to make their own decisions.  Their ability to do this has been mostly based on personality... and perhaps birth order.  My youngest is much more mature at 8 than my oldest was at the same age.  I feel my son is fairly mature for his age, too.  That doesn't mean any of them can drive yet, though, and sometimes I still feel like a taxi service!  ;)

post #3 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by meowmix View Post

 

 

This is something I never really thought about before.  My job has never been to micromanage them.  It's been to guide and scaffold them so they can be prepared to make their own decisions.  

 

Micromanage might not be the best term but it's all I can think of at the moment. If it cause conflict then I apologize. It's just what my sister says that she "micromanages" her kids or "keeps them on a short lease" so that's all I'm really familiar with when it comes to verbage shrug.gif


Edited by inconditus - 5/15/13 at 2:19pm
post #4 of 38

We've tried to raise our kids to make their own decisions from the very beginning. There were big decisions we made in the beginning obviously like being vegetarian, what belief system they were being raised in, ect. However, they were packing their lunches, picking their clothes, managing all their homework and such from kindergarten. We're always around for the research stage and we continue to help them narrow their choices to good ones. At 12 and 16, they still seem to welcome this (which is good because we are hunting universities for DD now!) They've each made big choices in regards to where they attend school, what activities to continue and which ones to let go, ect. It's not always the direction WE would like them to go and there have been some failures but we try not to swoop in until it's really necessary. I can really only think of one situation where we totally over-road them. 

 

It's not easy but I'm grateful they've developed enough confidence in this area now.

post #5 of 38
I see parenting as a continual process of teaching kids to do things on their own, allowing them to do those things under supervision, and giving them more and more freedom until they're ready to do everything on their own, all the time. I couldn't even give specific ages, because I am constantly looking for ability and responsibility to let them do all sorts of things.

For example, a kid can start physically putting on their own clothes around maybe 2 years old. So I would start then by providing appropriate clothes, and letting him choose whatever they want to wear around the house. Even a toddler really can't go wrong with a drawer full of shirts and pants that fit and look reasonably decent. If we're going out, I will choose an outfit to make sure he looks the way I want him to look in public. A school-aged child is old enough to decide what to wear even going out, within set parameters. I might say, "We're going to church. You need to choose a nice dress that fits, but not a holiday dress." or "You need to wear closed-toed shoes, because it's wet outside. No sandals." At some point you're going to realize that your child is capable of choosing appropriate clothing without being reminded. Then it becomes a matter of trusting them to live up to what you've taught them. Trusting them to evaluate what's socially acceptable for a particular venue ("Kids my age don't really dress up for church anymore, but I still need to look nice, so I'll pick these nice jeans and a sweater.") or what's suited for the weather ("It's getting warm out, but I know I get cold easily, so I'll wear a t-shirt and carry a light jacket just in case.") What age is that? I don't know. I never have to tell my 8yo DD to go change her clothes, but my 14yo DS wouldn't know a clean shirt if it bit him on the butt!

That's how it goes for most things, IMO. You teach, you guide, but you have to give them as much freedom as they are capable of, when they are ready for it.
post #6 of 38

LOL!  Not offended.  I was trying to come up with ways I micromanaged my kids and couldn't think of any (beyond homework and it's only because he was simply not doing it).  I did, occasionally, micromanage employees when I worked in management... but my kids?  No.  heh
 

post #7 of 38

My daughter is 13 and we have recently been working towards giving her more autonomy.  I was tired of the constant battling and really just felt she is old enough to make a lot of these decisions for herself now.  There have been times where we had to step in and re-take control of certain things (like her eating breakfast and lunch), because the consequences of her actions were spilling out onto other people.  She is old enough and mature enough to realize that when that happens she had it coming, and almost seems relieved to give back some control to us.  

 

I do make sure that she knows the consequences and potential outcomes of her decision making beforehand so a) she will hopefully make better choices with these things in mind, and b) there can be no protest of unfairness when these consequences come to fruition.

 

She enjoys quite a bit of privacy (something I do think is essential to everyone, regardless of age), and yes, she has failed that test a few times, and the consequences were swift and exactly what we told her would happen.  She knows she screwed up, and learned some valuable lessons through it all.  I was disappointed in her lack of judgement in these instances, and complete disregard of our warnings and advice, but also kind of grateful that they happened because it kind of validated us and hopefully made her realize we are worth listening to and actually do know what we are talking about most of the time!

post #8 of 38

Different children have different needs as they grow.

 

DD when she was about 10 needed almost no input of management of her homework. DS still needed it until he was almost 14, and I still keep an eye out (just turned 15).

 

From 11 (start of secondary school) they could decide how to get to school - 2 buses (transfer) or 1 bus + share a taxi.  We gave them aset amount of pocket money to pay for transport & sundries and they could decide how to spend it.

 

Food - not much choice at home - DH or I cook most of the time & that's what for dinner, although they have input. On school vacations when we're at work, the kids make their own breakfasts and lunch & that's their choice (when, what, how). There's no choice as to doing washing up afterwards. :)

 

They have the choice to refuse some foods - but within the nutritional guidelines I found and posted at one point (mostly to forestall arguments on the necessity and amount of leafy greens to be consumed on a daily basis).

 

They had some choice in what subjects to do for IGCSE, but Mandarin was non-negotiable. DD chose what she wanted to do for the IB, within the constraints of the school and the program.

 

Some people (relatives included) may think we are strict - but in HK I'd say we're middle-of-the-road.

post #9 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by inconditus View Post

At what age do you think children at allowed to make their own decisions and be responsible for those choices? Now I know this is a sliding scale depending on the request/desire. For example, I would think that most people would have a different opinion on, say, what to wear that day verses medical care--- two things that are on extreme ends of the scale.

 

However, as a general rule of thumb at what point does your job as a parent change from micromanaging their life to something less controlling? Do you have different ages based on the subject i.e.food choices, personal privacy, homework etc.

 

What kinds of decisions are you actually talking about? 

post #10 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by mtiger View Post

 

What kinds of decisions are you actually talking about? 

yeahthat.gif

 

Obviously, when ds was very small I made some decisions for him. But I stopped for most things as soon as he was able to make them on his own. He is 11 now. He wasn't cool with the pediatrician checking out his privates and I backed him up on that. He didn't mind when he was 3 or so, but I would have backed him up then as well. Ds was able to figure out that his testes descended on his own, lol. Occasionally things need to happen that he isn't thrilled about but he's a trooper if it's necessary (like going to the dentist, taking dh to physical therapy, or driving grandma on an errand). But our life is pretty unconventional.

 

Ds decided to be homeschooled so I don't need to enforce anything on the school's behalf. I would totally let him quit an activity if he tried it and didn't like it. Or if he just changed his mind. He decides how he wears his hair, what he wears, when he goes to bed, when he eats. He decides what he eats but I remind him of what sorts of food he has already eaten and make suggestions as to what would round that out so he isn't going from one wheat and cheese product to another version of wheat and cheese and back again. We take regular family walks because none of us gets enough exercise. Ds agrees it's a good idea but doesn't necessarily want to do it every time. We encourage him to go but if he makes a serious protest, we assume he isn't feeling well and don't push it.

post #11 of 38

Hm... I never felt like I should "micromanage" my children.  From toddlerhood they have been able to eat/not eat, dress in whatever, wear/not wear a coat -- that sort of thing.  Over the years (they are now 13 and 10) they have had an ever increasing voice in things that impact them and/or the family.  There are things that we do as a family that are non-negotiable such as sitting down at the dinner table (they don't have to eat if they aren't hungry but they have to sit with us for grace and a small amount of conversation) but I suppose even those I would be open to a conversation and some negotiation on if they asked.  They have decided on the activities they want to try.  I agree that a commitment to a team means you keep that until the end, so I guess they wouldn't have the option to quit on their own.  They arrange their own social calendars.

 

I have always insisted on basic manners and appropriate language, so I guess I do control those aspects a bit.
 

I think my general approach has always been to try to balance everyone's needs and desires and talk most decisions through.  When they have made decisions that didn't work, they lived with the natural consequences.  For things that they wanted but truly couldn't happen, I've always explained why.

 

The only thing I feel like I'm "controlling" on at this point is DS's homework.  Not doing homework just isn't an option and he can't see the consequences for not doing it because they are way far in the future and 13 YOs aren't very good a forecasting that far ahead. Or at least mine isn't!  I hate that I micromanage it but feel like its important enough to do it anyway.  I guess going to school is non-negotiable.

 

One of the asst. leaders for DD's girl scout troop is one of those "I'm cold so you have to put a coat on" types.  It drives me batty that she seems to believe that she needs to tell her child, and everyone else, what to do every second.  When to go to the bathroom, what to wear, what to eat...  At 10, these are all things I think the girls should be old enough to understand and I have asked her not to boss my daughter so much.  I've also told DD that she can, politely, tell Mrs. X that she is fine thank you and she'll eat/pee/dress when she needs to.

post #12 of 38

I'm not much of a micromanager, I do a lot of suggesting, but that's about it.  For example in elementary school ds decided he didn't want to wear a winter coat anymore.  He wore a hoodie every day since 4th grade.  He owns a coat (two in fact) but doesn't want to wear them. (I hate winter coats, it has to be below zero for me to put one on, they make ma claustrophobic.) There was a teacher that was on him, CONSTANTLY about it.  Every day.  Finally one day he said "Mrs. N, my mom doesn't care if I'm cold, so you shouldn't."  All I have to do is provide the proper things for them to wear, if they choose not to wear it, well, be cold, not my problem.  

 

Ds will stay up late a few nights and I will mention that he should probably get his butt in bed by 9 on the third night.  If he chooses not to, well he better not be grumpy the next day.  

post #13 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamalisa View Post

I'm not much of a micromanager, I do a lot of suggesting, but that's about it.  For example in elementary school ds decided he didn't want to wear a winter coat anymore.  He wore a hoodie every day since 4th grade.  He owns a coat (two in fact) but doesn't want to wear them. (I hate winter coats, it has to be below zero for me to put one on, they make ma claustrophobic.) There was a teacher that was on him, CONSTANTLY about it.  Every day.  Finally one day he said "Mrs. N, my mom doesn't care if I'm cold, so you shouldn't."  All I have to do is provide the proper things for them to wear, if they choose not to wear it, well, be cold, not my problem.  

 

Ds will stay up late a few nights and I will mention that he should probably get his butt in bed by 9 on the third night.  If he chooses not to, well he better not be grumpy the next day.  


AHAHAHA!  I love your last line!  I have told my son that, too.. that he is not allowed to be grumpy for choices he has made and then not liked.  Or, that he can be grumpy, but he can't take it out on me or have it effect things we have to get done as a family.  Sometimes, I will remind him to eat lunch before we leave because I'm not buying lunch or snacks out (and he rarely wants to spend his own money on lunch).  Then he won't eat or bring anything because he would rather mix music or play a video game... and he's hungry the minute we get somewhere.  I've had to explain that I gave him time to eat, I reminded him to eat (usually more than once and sometimes I offer to make him something!) and I reminded him we weren't purchasing lunch out.  So since he didn't make the choice to eat at home, he may not take it out on us by making our excursion miserable.  He usually grumps on his own until he feels like rejoining us.    I guess we parent the same way.  I do a lot of suggesting (we have a similar issue with the coat and, as a substitute teacher, I have witnessed my non coat wearing son stand outside at recess with no coat and look freezing.  His choice!) but only enforce it if I feel strongly about it. 

I feel strongly about homework, following through with feeding our pets (their jobs), and eating dinner as a family.  And not whining to me about the natural consequence of your poor choice, especially if I have reminded you and strongly suggested a better choice.

post #14 of 38

I don't think there is a magic age. It is more like a process. It starts when they are tots and well I have 23 y/o and I still offer advice. Eventually I will die and it will end.

 

One of my favorite line is "you can always choose your actions but you can't always choose your consequences"

post #15 of 38

I basically try to offer them as much control as I think they can handle. How's that for a specific answer? lol...

 

When it comes to safety, I'm the bottom line (car seats, etc). 

 

Also, there are some things where having too many choices is overwhelming to the kids, so I try to make it easier by limiting their choices (this is usually for minor things). 

 

If it's not life threatening, and if their choices don't negatively impact the rest of the family, then I generally leave it up to them. 

 

It really is a balancing act, and knowing your children. But I always try to err on the side of letting them choose.

post #16 of 38

With mine, my rules are safety, respect, and honesty.  As they have gotten older as long as they follow those guidelines I gradually have given them more freedom in their choices and decsion making.  I never set specific ages since I think all kids grow and mature differently but I give both my 13 and 16 year olds quite a bit of freedom now since they have both shown they can handle it...most of the time lol.  I'm also more into natural consequences...if they stay up too late then they find out how tired they are at school the next day.  I tell them that the reason they do have curfews is not for them but for me so I don't worry. My kids are far from perfect but they are both very open and honest with me.  The more honest they are the more responsibity they get.

post #17 of 38
Meowmix, what you said about privacy in your house (not allowing closed doors and you being able to enter without warning) seems to be an example of not allowing what I consider to be a basic part of privacy- knowing that you are for sure alone or not. I mean, does this include the bathroom? I'm specifically thinking of personal sexual exploration.

If that weren't comfortably allowed in my house, I would consider it severe micromanagement at age 12.
post #18 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by inconditus View Post
 

At what age do you think children at allowed to make their own decisions and be responsible for those choices? Now I know this is a sliding scale depending on the request/desire. For example, I would think that most people would have a different opinion on, say, what to wear that day verses medical care--- two things that are on extreme ends of the scale.

 

However, as a general rule of thumb at what point does your job as a parent change from micromanaging their life to something less controlling? Do you have different ages based on the subject i.e.food choices, personal privacy, homework etc.


Like you said, it's sliding scale.  I start small.  "Do you want to wear the red shorts or the blue ones?" "Do you want to read first or take a bath first?"  "Pb&j sandwich or tuna?"  "Apple or banana?"  As they get older and begin to have an understanding on the consequences of choices (choosing one options means letting go of other options), the choices get more advanced.  "Do homework before dinner or after."  Choosing between chores and negotiating with siblings over who does what.  How to spend their own money.  Choosing between getting paid or volunteering.  Deciding on when to go to bed based on when they have to get up in the morning.  Going to an art class taught by a local artist friend of the family or go to neice's 3rd birthday party (he chose the birthday party even though his sister would have accepted either decision).  And so on until they are adults making adult decisions like sex, drinking, working, where to go to college or not go at all.

post #19 of 38

i dont quite know how to answer this question.

 

dd has been making her own decisions from age 1. she is super independent. and i allowed her age appropriate ones.

 

i am a little more lax than other parents. but i feel its coz dd has wanted it and i didnt feel anything about holding her back.

 

i mean in retrospect dd was ready to use a knife at 4. i was too freaked out to allow her. till i did when she was 5. by 6 she was making full dinners. she LOVED it. 

 

today dd wears makeup and drinks coffee. 

post #20 of 38

Control and responsibility should go hand-in-hand.  

 

A kid should get to decide when to do his homework at whatever age he consistently completes it, without a parent having to check and remind him what to do.  For one of my teens, that happened his sophomore year of high school.  For the other two, I'm not sure it ever will!

 

A kid should decide how to spend his own money as soon as he's willing to earn some - and for as long as he spends it in a generally responsible way.  (He should be able to buy things his parents wouldn't choose, but not things they forbid him to have.)

 

A kid should have the option of staying home sometimes, when his parents go out, at whatever age he seems responsible enough to be safe alone; and for as long as he doesn't abuse the privilege (doesn't get into trouble while he's alone, or cut himself off from too many family events).

 

Etc.

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