Teaching our boys to be independent is very important to me. Personality theorists will tell you this is typical of someone with my temperament. Teaching our boys to think and act for themselves is a high value. So a common conversation with our three-year-old goes something like this, “I’m not comfortable with you playing outside where I cannot see you. Here are your choices. You can play in the backyard where I can see you, or you can play inside until your brother wakes up and then we can walk to the park.”
Of course, we have done this long enough that when asked to do something undesirable (like picking up his cars) he will respond, “That is not one of the choices.” Other times we give options and he refuses to choose either, preferring to hang his head and sulk in his bedroom.
I was thinking this weekend how much easier it would be if we didn’t give him options. What if we didn’t allow him to choose playing inside or out, wearing the robot or truck pajamas, or having a turkey and cheese sandwich or PB&J? What if we dictated his life and told him where to go, what to do and who he could have as friends?
Forget for a moment that C is three and a half. Forget that his very nature would blow through those kinds of boundaries like the Kool-Aid man through a brick wall. Imagine if he followed my direction to the letter. That would be easier, wouldn’t it? No tantrums. No arguments. Just simple and total obedience. That would be nice, but would it be better? I don’t think so.
I doubt a great relationship is the outcome of that parenting style. It wouldn’t result in a boy who thinks independently, and honestly, I just don’t think it’s a very loving way to parent. I want our boys to make good choices, but how can they learn to do so if I don’t give them the freedom to make bad ones? I want them to do the right thing because it is right, not because I told them so. Which is the greater good, choosing it by your own will or being forced to do so?
I wonder if this is why God gives us freewill. It would have been easier for him if he didn’t give us the option to betray him. He could have created humanity preprogrammed for obedience, but which is the greater good, someone who chooses it on his own or is controlled to do good? If God is the ultimate good, how could he choose the lesser good? What about love? Which is the greater love, the one freely chosen, or the one without a choice? If God is love, how could he choose the lesser love?