Sunday, March 17, 2013

"If I Let Them..."

I see the "If I let my kids [insert activity], they'd do it all day!" comment, with countless variations, all over the place. I wonder what makes people so confident in these statements. Have they ever tried actually letting their kids do whatever they want? And not just for a day, that wouldn't work. I'm talking about really giving their kids a chance to regulate their own schedules/food choices/whatever the case may be.

I'm no economist, so I'll try not to botch this analogy, but think of it in terms of economics. When an item or activity is restricted- junk food, tv time, time awake in the evenings- its marginal utility is greater than if it wasn't restricted. It is more desirable.

Let's say I really love ABC brand of cookies, but I can rarely find them anywhere. When I do find them I'm going to buy as much as I possibly can. I'm going to horde them to hold me over until I find them again. Then one day my local grocery starts stocking them. At first I'm going to stock up again, horde them, just in case they don't continue stocking my favorite cookies. But over time, after seeing them on the shelf again and again, I'm going to stop stocking up. I'm going to start only buying them when I really want one. I may actually stop liking them so much since I can have them whenever I want now. The excitement of the hunt, as it were, will take a backseat and I'll be more able to listen to my body about how much I *actually* love the cookies.

It is similar when parents place artificial restrictions on their kids. It takes time to come back to a balance. Give them a real chance.

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