Mayberry Wisdom on Letting a Kid Choose

letting a kid choose
photo by Stephen Marc on Pixabay.com

Mayberry wisdom

Letting a kid choose was not something acceptable in parenting when I was a child. Andy Griffith pretty much spells it out in an episode on Mayberry.  I didn’t grow up on Mayberry because we didn’t have a television. My kids didn’t really grow up on Mayberry except for watching the series before we headed to Andy’s hometown in North Carolina. I wanted our kids to know who this Andy Griffith was, so we watched them and became hooked.

There’s a lot of wisdom about down-earth living in this show, and one of the episodes that resounded with me as a parent was the one about the hobo telling Andy that he should let Opie choose and make his own decisions.

Andy doesn’t see it that way.

Nah, I’m afraid it don’t work that way. You can’t let a young ‘un decide for himself. He’ll grab at the first flashy thing with shiny ribbons on it, then when he finds out there’s a hook in it, it’s too late. The wrong ideas come packaged with so much glitter it’s hard to convince him that other things might be better in the long run, and all a parent can do is say, “Wait. Trust me,” and try to keep temptation away.

letting kids choose
photo by Pixabay.com

That hook is the problem

Children are not able - or capable - of making important decisions by themselves. Click To Tweet Certainly they can choose an outfit or an activity (when it’s something the parents can afford). Children do have minds and opinions of their own. And, while they know what they want in the moment, they have no long-distance vision in how a decision today can affect them years down the road. That’s why we must be cautious in letting a kid choose on his own and make decisions by himself.  Andy said, “he’ll grab at the first flashy thing with shiny ribbons on it . . . and when he finds a hook in it, it’s too late.”

It’s the hook that’s the problem. Often there’s a catch in what our kids’ friends want them to do. It seems innocent in the moment, but there can be long-term effects just the same. It’s that long-term hook that catches and ensnares them. Before we know it, our kids are down a road we did not intend them to go. It started when we decided that letting a kid choose is a good idea.

Dangerous territory

Allowing our kids to wander into dangerous territory because we don’t want to stifle their creativity or their minds is poor parenting. Certainly they have ideas of what they want to do – yet the ideas are only ideas and desires and they are fraught with a lack of discernment.

That’s the job of the parents. It’s our job to help our kids think and make decisions based on where they want to be five, ten, or twenty years down the road. Learning to ignore flashy temptations as kids will help them make good choices once they are out on their own. Giving guidance is the job of the parent. Giving permission to think for themselves in the moment is not the way to parent.

Our children learn this from us – and not on their own. It’s our responsibility to make sure they understand the pattern and the reason behind it. It’s our job to be the parent and not allow them to try to become adults before their time.

Rather than letting a kid choose, we need to teach them to wait and trust. In time, they will learn that we know whereof we speak. In time, they will experience the blessing of listening, waiting, and trusting.

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