How Too Many Freedoms Leads to Disobedience

You want your child to learn to make decisions and have freedom to do so, but allowing it at too young of an age will only lead to disobedience.

Angry child looking at the camera

When your child is consistently disobedient, there is an excellent chance it is caused by being “Wise In Your Own Eyes.” When your child is wise in her own eyes, it leads to a lot of conflict between parent and child.

This post discusses different types of freedoms and how having too many freedoms leads to “Wise In Your Own Eyes”.

Decision-Making Freedoms

(On Becoming Preschoolwise pages 72-75–affiliate link)

You want to avoid giving your child too many decision-making freedoms.

Yes, you want him to learn how to make decisions wisely, but you shouldn’t just give him freedom to make all of his decisions in life all at once. This is something you work on over time.

This doesn’t mean you don’t allow any choices for your child. This means you don’t give your child freedom to make decisions he is “not developmentally, intellectually, or emotionally able to handle” (page 74).

Preschoolwise points out that making decisions all day wears on an adult. You have to decide what to wear, what to eat, how to handle a myriad of decisions. Think of how this affects you. I mean, can we say mental load?

Now imagine how it can affect your child. It can be quite draining. The stress your child can feel from this can spill over into his attitude. I have discussed decision-making freedoms and the effects in Wise In Your Own Eye and The Choice Addiction (for Toddlers).

How to Allow Decision-Making Freedoms

You might be wondering just how you allow decision making to your child? How do you go about it well? You want to give your child the opportunity to learn how to make decisions and deal with the consequences.

With a young child, start by offering simple decisions. Offer two choices, both of which are acceptable. I often use the example of clothes. “Would you like to wear your white shirt or your blue shirt today?”

You then require your child to wear the shirt he chose for the day. He can’t get dressed and then an hour later change his mind. Be sure they experience consequences for their choices. They need to learn while the stakes are low. Does it really matter if he changes his shirt? On one level, no. But you are teaching your child how to function in the world. Learning to live with choices is a strong skill to develop. 

In the eternal perspective, it doesn’t matter if he wears the blue shirt or white shirt. But if he chooses blue, he should wear blue. If half-way through the day he decides he really wanted white, tell him he can choose white a different day. You might think there is no harm in changing his shirt. Changing a shirt is not harmful. Not learning to accept consequences for decisions is harmful.

Read: How To Teach a Child How To Make Decisions

Verbal Freedoms (pages 75-78)

A verbal freedom is something your child is allowed to say. Your child should ask your permission. He should be informing you of what he is going to do; he should be asking you if he can do something.

Verbal freedoms are more than what your child says. “It is also a problem of tone” (page 77). Is he bossy? Rude? Sassy? Does he insist on the last word? Is he demanding? Does he often tell you no? Does he often backtalk? Your child is not your peer. He is your child.

When you give your child an instruction, require a “Yes Mommy.” You can also say, “You don’t have the freedom to say XYZ; you only have the freedom to say yes mommy.” See posts linked below for more on these two topics.

Read: How To Get Your Child to Obey with a Simple “Yes Mom”

Physical Freedoms (pages 75-78)

A physical freedom is what your child physically does. It is related to verbal freedoms. Your child should not be allowed to come and go as he pleases. “It is not just the wandering off that is our concern, but the child’s confirmed sense of independence from parental guidance at such a tender age” (page 76).

Preschoolwise points out that there is nothing wrong with your child wanting to go somewhere. He might want to go outside to play or he may want to go play at the neighbor’s house. There also isn’t a problem with the parent allowing the child to do so. The decision, however, should be up to the parent, not the child.

To avoid your child from taking too many physical freedoms, require him to ask your permission before he goes somewhere. “Mom, may I go outside” rather than “Mom, I am going outside.” If he asks and you say no, you must make sure that if/when a tantrum follows, you don’t give in and allow him to go.

I remember one time when I read through Preschoolwise, I was very happy to read the part about asking permission. Brayden was approaching the age of four and still asked my permission to so much as leave the room he was in. I thought it was so strange that he asked me for permission.

After I read this section, I realized it was a good sign for his age. Our days were very predictable. We did the same things basically in the same order each day. Even so, he asked my permission to do the special things he liked to do.

When it was TV time, he asked if he could watch a show. When it is outside time, he asks if he can go outside. It would be easy and understandable if he assumed he knew what was next and that it was okay for him to do it. But he still asked.

Giving your child too many freedoms pinnable image


Controlling and respecting freedoms expecting too much. Give your child the gift of parental guidance and teach him the skill of respecting those in authority. These things will make life a much smoother ride for him.

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