Moving the freedom boundaries

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Parenting columnist Ian Munro shares some thoughts on preparing children for high school.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro
It’s high school next year for our eldest grandchild. This year some greater freedoms and responsibilities have been granted, but the question now is how much more, when, and at what pace should they be granted ongoing.

Already there’s been some push for movement on a few issues and the occasional confrontation hasn’t been all that pleasant. But that’s inevitable.

I like Peter Ustinov’s comment, which I’ve quoted before: ‘‘Parents are the bones on which children cut their teeth’’. And it’s never more so than in the teenage years.

In considering just when and how far to move the boundaries, for moved they must be, here’s my list of considerations to ponder upon.

• How well are they handling their current freedoms, responsibilities and commitments?

• Can we rely on them to get things done when asked and deliver on promised actions without having to nag?

• How well can we trust and believe them?

• Peer pressure is powerful. How well can they resist it when it goes against our restrictions and expectations? And, also, against what they really want to do or not do? In other words, to what degree can they stand up for themselves in a peer situation when the crunch comes?

• Are there signs of maturing initiative and responsible decision-making? What’s their judgement like in a tricky situation?

• What level of ability do they have to size up other people? Do they have a developing radar for people who might be trouble or give them grief in some way? In other words, how well are they progressing in losing their childhood naivety and becoming able to measure others against family values and their personal safety?

• Are they happy for us to contact their friends’ parents? In fact, who are their friends?

• How well can we discuss issues with them? Is there a willingness to at least consider our advice and feedback?

• Do they understand the additional responsibilities that come with additional freedoms as boundaries are moved?

As always with child-rearing, we’re flying by the seat of our pants. It’s just that it seems a bit more hair-raising now as we start handing over control and losing the ability to closely monitor their actions and their safety.

However, we have to give them opportunity to show that they can handle a particular freedom and then we have to decide whether or not they managed it well, had some difficulty or totally blew it?

They learn by being directed back to the decisions they took that got them into a particular situation. And, in that way, we can gauge how well they considered and recognised the consequences of their actions and took responsibility for them, which gives us a feel for how well we can trust their judgement.




Preparation is a good thing. We started High School at age 13. The two years preceding were the last of boyhood. They were precious within family, eg outdoors with Dad.

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