We forget that in teaching our kids freedom, there’s accountability.
When the Philippines declared its independence on June 12, 1898 from the Spaniards, many commemorate this day as a day of no longer needing to answer to a foreign power. It’s a story that many of our ancestors passed down to our grandparents, us, and our kids. But did we really understand what it means to be free? In the process of giving and teaching our kids freedom, did we forget what it was like to hold people or themselves accountable for what they’ve done?
We fear accountability because of a defense mechanism.
The culture of ownership is a fickle thing. Whenever something good happens, we’re quick to claim it. But whenever we make a mistake, we’re quick to run away as far as we can. Over the years where old-style parenting such as the most minor of mistakes are met with the harshest of punishments, the refusal for accountability turned into a defense mechanism.
After all, many of us are products of the generation who deemed it okay and normal to scream and beat kids with a slipper, a hanger, or a belt for something as small. Something as simple as breaking an egg because we swung the refrigerator door a little too hard. Or being on the receiving end of a scream for spilling a glass of milk or failing a short quiz.
We feared taking accountability because being accountable meant taking on severe punishment. Subconsciously, our minds recalled how our bodies hurt and our hearts broke from our parents who punished us for what we realized only now was a small mistake. Thus, begins the culture of gaslighting. Toxic as it is, we developed this defense mechanism to protect our remaining emotional and mental stability.
But teaching kids freedom without accountability would be irresponsible of us.
While it’s true that freedom means we can do whatever we want, that doesn’t mean life will not respond in kind. In society, exercising one’s freedom requires us to teach our kids how to be mindful and reflect. It’s easy to chalk it up to our kids that those certain accidents were out of “carelessness” and “impulsiveness”. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t face the consequences of their actions.
It’s how the world has worked for years and even Newton would define it in his Laws of Motion. Whenever there’s one action, there’s one that counters it.
So how can we teach kids about freedom and not fear accountability?
Teaching our kids about freedom and accountability means recognizing the difference between punishment and discipline. Over the years, we’ve blurred the lines between the two. But the difference is in knowing if the severity of the consequence is equivalent to and appropriate to the mistake. It’s like how failing a 10-point quiz should not merit a sermon or a statement that no university will ever accept them.
It also means being more problem-oriented. Resisting the urge to swear, snap, and name-call can be extremely difficult in a state of stress but remind yourself that swearing and name-calling will not achieve what you and your kid both want: to fix the problem. Swearing and name-calling is not a magic spell that will undo the mistake.
Gradually, in little victories, we can learn what it means to be free.
Freedom is not a topic our kids will understand overnight. It’s probably something we’re still trying to understand ourselves. But to teach freedom to our kids, we need to understand freedom as individuals. Wherein, our freedom grants us the ability to recognize there are better ways to teach accountability rather than just harsh punishment. It’s also recognizing that in freedom, there’s accountability, and eventually, there’s forgiveness.