Early on in our role as parents, my husband developed a form of discipline that he called the “Circle of Freedom”. The idea is that everyone wants freedom; freedom to play, rest, invite a friend, go out with a friend, etc. In our family freedom is earned by being trustworthy, respectful, and obedient. When the boys were very young, Todd would explain to them that they “existed” inside an imaginary circle and that the bigger their circle the more freedom they had to bounce around inside that circle. The smaller their circle the more restricted they would be in their freedom. Freedom at that age included being able to go to “Johnny’s” house to play, having “Johnny” over, staying up a little later than normal, riding your bike around the neighborhood, and so forth. Disobedience or disrespect led immediately to a smaller circle, thus quickly affecting the boys’ plan for the day. When one of the boys would lie, which happens most around the ages of 7-10, we would tell them that their circle is now the size of a pin dot. This usually communicated, “don’t even ask”. On the other hand when their track record was soaring they experienced a great deal of freedom, which loosely translated meant, “yes” answers to their requests.
We also talked with our boys about our desire for them to be responsible, trustworthy, respectful, and obedient not just for us but because these behaviors also lead to freedom in the real world as well. We emphasized our own love of freedom as adults and that when they experienced freedom, we too were freed up. With each progressive age the circle of freedom easily transferred to more advanced situations and issues. In high school things like the car keys, cell phones, sleep overs, and social gatherings were at stake. If needed, we would write up a contract of expectations for our children that were to be met during a particular limited circle season. The beauty of this type of discipline is that it creates space for a non-emotional response to your child’s misbehavior. A framework is put in place with which everyone is familiar. The usage of this structure on a daily basis removes emotional responses by simply asking your child how big his circle is when he has made a request that is beyond his freedom at the time. What is the beauty of this structure? The child practically answers his own question. Certainly, as parents, you will need to remind your children how restricted their circle is and how they can behave to increase its size. Todd and I enjoyed life the most when our children walked in daily freedom.
Question: So let’s talk……..how are privileges handled in your house?