“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on…” - Ronald Reagan
What does it mean to hand freedom on to our children? Is it enough to fight for it now? To protect it for them while they are young? I think not. To fully hand freedom to the next generation, we must help them understand and value what is they are receiving. Otherwise, like a dusty collector car in a garage, it will be scrapped instead of restored and salvaged.
It won’t be an easy thing to do our age (or perhaps in any age). The dominant culture of the day lauds deference to authority, no matter how corrupt. Our children attend schools that distort history, cripple intellectually, and seek ever-expanding sway over their minds, bodies, and language. Media and entertainment promote division and dependence.
Despite the challenges, it will be worth the effort to teach our children about the freedoms we enjoyed and equip them to protect or restore those freedoms in the future. Our freedoms were hard-won by people who had experienced true oppression.
So, how can we do this? I am no expert and my children are still young, but I have discussed and thought about this a great deal. Here are my suggestions:
Discuss freedom with your children. Tell them what you value and why. T alk about what it means to be allowed to make your own decisions, take risks, and reap your own rewards (or costs). Explain that there are people who like to make rules for others. Ask if they would like extra rules to follow.
Depending on their age and maturity, you may discuss the role of government in setting rules. You can observe that government isn’t just “what we do together,” but that government is “what we do together at gunpoint.” There are other, voluntary ways to get things done.
It is important to be honest that freedom leaves open the opportunity for bad outcomes. If you don’t point it out, someone else will.
Creating opportunities for discussion can also be helpful when you…
Help Them Experience It
Fundamentally, freedom is the ability to make a decision and live with the consequences. Let your children make their own decisions wherever possible. Let them choose their outfits, snacks, or activities. If you can afford a small allowance or payment for chores, let them spend it as they want.
When assigning chores or other tasks, define the task clearly and let children decide how and when to get it done.
Obviously, as parents, we must still take responsibility for the decisions children aren’t ready for. For decisions with bit of risk, but not too much, you can lay out the possible consequences and outcomes and then let them live with whatever happens.
Early decision making like this will help them develop an internal locus of control and let them experience the joy of doing something their own way. As hinted above, it also creates opportunities to talk about what freedom is and why we value it, even if it comes with some risk.
Be Intentional With Media
The media you offer them at home may contradict or reinforce your values. So be intentional with your selections.
Do the books and movies your children have feature inerrant rulers? Unquestioning compliance with teachers and officials? Do they feature history lessons that only focus on what was wrong with the freedom fighters of the past without discussing what they accomplished in spite of those shortcomings?
If so, offer them media that celebrates freedom and casts a skeptical glance at government authority. Not sure where to look? Well, you’re in the right place… ;)
In addition to the books we sell, consider the classics. In both film and writing, older media carry a view of the world that is less tainted by modern propagandists. In order for them to be considered classics, however, they must retain some degree of universal relevance. Otherwise, they would be part of the massive trove of work that has been long forgotten.
Even a few stories that reinforce why freedom is valuable and what people have done to earn it will help. You don’t need to censor the playroom bookshelf. Even if you do, your kids WILL hear things you disagree with, which is why my final recommendation is to help them…
One suggestion from a friend was to teach your children that everyone is trying to get them to do SOMETHING. They should think carefully about what that “something” is and WHY it is desired.
Every cartoon, every advertisement, every book, every teacher is trying to inculcate some kind of thought or behavior and a reason for desiring it. This is even true of parents (!) even if our motivations are truly driven by love.
Teach your children to look for the hidden messages and motives in their lessons and entertainment and they will be much harder to dupe out of the freedoms they were born with.
I hope one or two of those ideas is helpful in fully handing freedom of to the little ones in your life. Maybe I’ll do an update as my kids get older. If you have additional ideas on how to raise kids who value their freedoms, I’d love to hear from you in comments or via the Contact form!