The general guideline here is, of course, to take the age and maturity of the child as a guide for where that balance needs to be. Our youngest gets way less leeway and freedom to make choices than the oldest.
I’m a huge fan of letting kids experience natural consequences. After all, that’s what they’ll be facing when they grow up, so might as well ease them into it.
But even when you give them the freedom to make those choices you’ll occasionally have to step in, usually for educational purposes.
Back in the Seattle area winter attire wasn’t much of an issue. Since it wasn’t all that cold most of the time, the kids were allowed to choose their own clothes. Most of the time it was sweatshirts and no coats involved.
Now that we’ve moved to Eastern Washington we have been encouraging the kids to wear coats as it gets colder. This is a major problem for the high school and middle school aged kids.
See, it’s just not cool or stylish to wear a coat. Go figure. So we’d rather freeze with a sweatshirt than come across as unstylish.
The last couple days it’s been too cold to skip a coat though, so we hit the ‘override’ switch and told them that they’re wearing the coat. They can stash it in the locker at school, but they’re wearing it to and from school. It’s a 1/4 mile walk to the bus stop anyhow, and it gets chilly!
But since the kids are older, they deserved an explanation. A quick conversation about the possibility of the bus breaking down and them sitting in the cold, or even having to walk a bit, and the issue was settled. Thankfully they’re pretty quick on the uptake and got it.
Part of parenting is educating kids and helping them make those decisions. While sometimes its enough to let them experience the natural consequences of their choices, sometimes it’s important to draw the line and override a decision.
And when you do that, you must explain why, in as much detail as necessary for them to understand. Otherwise you’re missing out on a major education opportunity.
This concept goes beyond parenting and into any training or education opportunity. Specifically relevant to prepping, if you’re in a spot where you know what needs to be done, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger and educate by overriding decisions. Educate along the way and you’ll improve the overall standing of your situation and your group.