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Moms Talk: How to Teach Kids About Freedom

Today our local moms consider the best ways to teach kids about America and freedom.

How do you explain to your kids the meaning of “freedom,” or what it means to be an American?

Faith Mellinger, local business owner and mother of two boys (plus one on the way!) writes:

To be honest before this question came up I had not put any thought into explaining freedom to my kids. Most of our focus has been on respecting adults, knowing right from wrong and listening to mom and dad. The more I think about it, teaching them about freedom almost contradicts many of the lessons we are working on right now. (My answer to many of my child's "why" questions is "because I said so," which isn't exactly imparting freedom on my 4-year-old). So how do I explain freedom to my young children without bringing question to my authority as the parent?

Now that I've given this some thought I believe as we teach our children what freedom is we must also teach them that there are responsibilities that can affect individual freedoms. As a child grows they can earn more freedoms. For example, if my 2-year-old stays in his bed at night he has the freedom to not be in is crib. If my 4-year-old helps get himself dressed he can have the freedom to choose what he wears.

However, if they don't do the things that allow them to have some freedom, the parent has the authority to take away their privileges. We can also show them some of the things we do to keep our adult freedoms, such as voting, paying taxes, going to work and even volunteering. These are all activities of responsible adults and show our kids that everyone has to contribute to keep the privileges that allow us freedom.

Jaime Townzen, Monrovia Mom and stay-at-home mom to two preschool daughters, writes:

As much as I’d prefer for our kids to watch fewer movies, particularly ones about princesses, at this stage the easiest way to conceptualize big ideas like “freedom” for our girls is to put it in terms of the princesses, because they know those stories inside and out.

Clearly Belle is taken prisoner, and Rapunzel is raised a prisoner, but people who live in countries where the citizens don’t possess the same freedoms we do aren’t necessarily trapped in a cell. So I prefer to use examples like Cinderella, who is forced to work as a slave in her own home, and Mulan, who must fight against her country’s oppressors.

So I explain to the girls that there are children all over the world who have to stop playing with their friends and going to school because they have to work or fight in wars. But, I tell them, those kids won’t have a fairytale ending to help them escape. They seem to understand this enough to have a decent dialogue about how lucky they are at least to be able to have fun all the time.

When I specifically ask if they’d rather go out and play in their sandbox or spend all day in a dirty factory sweeping, they of course choose playing. So, I tell them the simple fact that they have that choice is freedom. And that freedom is something to be thankful for indeed. I seem to lose them there, but I think I’ve at least planted the seed.

Jenny Shepard, full-time working mom of three boys, writes:

I took a poll:

My oldest says that freedom "means you’re free from the bad stuff." My middle son says, "I don’t know." My youngest says, "juice please."

Apparently I needed to do a better job of explaining what freedom is to the boys.

I have since explained that it’s the ability to make your own choices. Now they have asked me if that means they can choose their own meals, how much Wii time they get and when their bedtime should be.

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