Josh Schwarzbaum, MD, MBA

As a parent, I often find myself wondering how much I should be telling my kids what to do, and how to act versus letting them do what they want while learning along the way. I know it’s important to let them have their freedom and grow but they certainly need direction in life. 

The truth is that both giving freedom and direction are necessary, each to its own extent. 

Giving kids freedom allows them to learn, and live using their own intuition. I wouldn’t want my child to grow up rigid, uptight, and afraid of making mistakes. Too much freedom though, and they’ll go astray. 

Kids need guidance, they need to be taught. They can get caught up in their boredom and insecurity and we need to be there to show them how to handle that. If we don’t teach them how the world functions, about cultures and our society they may end up lost. 

If I’m too authoritative though they’ll grow up in a world of fear, threat and punishment. They may act the way I want, but it will be fear that drives them and that’s what  they’ll use throughout life.

So what’s the right balance? Should I be authoritative, permissive or is there a place for both?

Ideally, I want my kids to learn from a place of wisdom, wellbeing, and common sense. A place we all have within ourselves. 

It’s the place that allows us to grow naturally and effortlessly. It’s from that place we intuitively know how to speak, walk, and get bigger. It’s a place of strength and self expression devoid of fear and insecurity. 

For my kids to learn from that place, I need to teach from it. When I do, they’ll get the right dose of direction, while still feeling free. They’ll make mistakes, and learn from them. They’ll learn to understand and trust and from there they can find their wisdom within. 

In reality, it all starts from me. If I can find that place, they’ll find it. If I’m frightened or insecure, my wisdom won’t be as available, and my kids will have a hard time finding it too. 

Just like my kids, I have that place within me. I was born with it and it doesn’t go anywhere. We all have it and with a little direction and guidance we can all access it. 

When we do, parenting becomes easier, and the things that seemed tough take on a new life. 

As parents, when we’re connected to it, our kids pick up on it. We’ll be there to guide them and they’ll intuitively know the right balance. If not, we’re at the mercy of our external circumstances and there is no telling what will come. 

If we help our kids connect with that place (by virtue of being there ourselves), they’re sure to accomplish more with less effort and feel better navigating whatever comes their way. It’s only natural.

Dr. Josh Schwarzbaum is a triple board certified physician in emergency medicine, addiction medicine, and emergency medical services. He consults for organizations and coaches individuals helping them find their natural resilience and peace of mind no matter what life brings their way.

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