In order to raise responsible children parents give them freedom, hoping that “with freedom comes responsibility” (Eleanor Roosevelt). That is true with one important clarification. “Freedom that leads to responsibility is not given or granted; it is obtained by internal efforts. A child develops not by freedom itself, as some people think, but by the child’s own actions to obtain freedom, by the child’s self-liberation” (Simon Soloveychik).
The confusion in perception of freedom is hidden in its external and internal character. Parents widespread perception of freedom is usually an external freedom: freedom to move, to play, and to have a variety of choices. Those parents, who can afford, usually provide more space and toys to children with the hope that children naturally develop themselves. But children may not be able to handle freedom. Often they go wild and run out of control: they scream, they hit each other, they bother each other, or they hurt themselves. As a result parents limit children’s freedom, for example by taking toys away, or by giving a time out. In other words, parents use the external freedom of children as a reward and punishment tool, by either giving freedom to children or taking it away.
Often, when freedom is taken away, children become rebellious. They strive to liberate themselves from their parents’ petty prohibitions, and often the children’s strength is exhausted in this fight. By the time they have a chance to be free from parents (become adolescents), they exchange their freedom for dependence on their peers. When grown up such people don’t know responsibility, because their decisions were made for them by other people. Thus, external freedom given by parents has no direct relation to raising responsibility in children.
Internal freedom has a different character. It can not be given or taken away. Children don’t necessarily need too many choices. They need one activity at a time, with a purpose, with meaning; it must be challenging, and simultaneously, it must be doable. Children learn from their own efforts while exploring something new. This internal discovery from “I didn’t know” to “Now I know!” brings deep satisfaction to children, as it would bring to adults, is a self-liberating process. From being helpless – to being skillful: this is the process of self liberation which leads to internal freedom. Parents cannot take this freedom away from children. Nobody can. When children become teenagers and know internal freedom, they liberate themselves from limitations of life, from weaknesses of character, from cowardice, and from social injustice. They are not dependent on peer pressure. They make their own decisions and are responsible for those decisions.
Only with self-liberation comes responsibility. Only with internal freedom comes responsibility.