Freedom of speech is not something we should take for granted in our nation, nor allow to go unnoticed in our parenting.
Our children, no matter what age, deserve the right to be heard. Everyone has a voice meant to be used. If your children are younger, they may not even know they deserve to be heard, and yet they will naturally fight for that right if they sense their voice is being silenced. If you're raising teens, you can bet they demand to be heard if they feel their right to speak is being unnoticed. With teens, silencing their voice can lead to them shutting you out later and encourages rebellion.
The desire to be heard is born in our DNA and instead of crushing that desire and shutting it down, it's our responsibility as parents to teach our children how to peacefully protest and express themselves in healthy ways so no one gets wounded in the midst. I can honestly say we didn't always succeed at freedom of speech, but we tried our best to create an atmosphere of honesty. Give yourself grace if you fail in the beginning, but keep pushing forward towards open communication.
Here are a few ideas you can use to grow and nurture your children's understanding of healthy speech in your home. Following this plan can create a more peaceful atmosphere and allow everyone to have a voice. At the same time, you'll be instilling a greater understanding of the historical foundations of the freedom of speech, so as adults, they will know how to respond if they are ever wrongfully accused or their rights are being trampled.
Any child three years old and up can follow this concept. First, sit your children down and express how much you value their voice and want them to be heard, especially when they feel things might not seem fair. Explain you want to be merciful and hear what they have to say. Make sure they also understand that being heard does not always guarantee that the person in charge will change their mind about their decision, especially if a reversal might put them at risk. However, being heard does balance the scales of justice.
Giving our children their voice is an act of parental mercy. It's an imitation of who our Heavenly Father is because He wants to hear what we all have to say. He's unafraid of the truth and so should we be unafraid for our children to speak..
Next, teach your children they have to use respect to present an appeal. Explain that when they feel they've been unjustly treated, they have to use the right approach. Make sure they know If they don't appeal in the correct manner, they lose the right to present their case this time around, but they can try again in the future. This discourages dishonor when vocalizing their ideas.
Teach them when they want to be heard, they should simply say, “May I respectfully appeal?” At that point, as parents, we must respond with an open heart and a willingness to let them speak. Next, give your child the time they need to go prepare and lay out their case. Then they can come back and present their arguments against a judgment you've made.
After their ideas have been presented, praise them for following the guidelines successfully. Let them know you're taking their appeal into consideration and will think and pray about it. Give them a specific time when you'll give them your final answer.
As parents, you might be surprised by the presentation of their case. They might actually be right. Sometimes we can respond quickly out of fear or habit verses wisdom in the midst of any given circumstance. Over time, many families develop communication patterns that almost always result in the same response of confrontation, discipline, or judgment without a whole lot of thought going into the process. We can lose our perspective and the "Respectful Appeal" helps counter that possibility.
If your child’s case is well presented and seems logical, be willing to change your mind after you've taken it to a higher power. As parents, all difficult decisions should be bathed in prayer with an open heart to hear what the Father has to say about the issue. The key is to make sure your child understands they always have the right to appeal, but they may not always be given a different response.
If your answer is the same as it was originally, and they lose their case, explain why the answer is still the same. If your decision is in their favor, give them the reasons how you arrived at the new conclusion. Recently, our youngest son wanted to go home with friends who lived two states away. Our initial conclusion was "no", however, after prayer and his appeal, we heard the Father tell us to let him go. It ministered to us, gave us a week to get some things done, and he learned cliff jumping and trout fishing. Probably not things we would have chosen, but God's plans are always better than ours.
By using the “Freedom of Speech” principle in our home we're teaching healthy communication skills and how to express their feelings in an effective manner. As adults, your children will be grateful you laid a foundation for them to follow when they find themselves in situations that require them to speak up and protect themselves as they get older.
Teaching this concept can create less conflict in our culture, overall. When we respectfully appeal in threatening situations, we protect ourselves and our constitution. Let's teach it to our children for the sake of their future and our nations survival. According to King Solomon, who is considered historically one of the wisest kings who lived, gentle speech is the key to freedom.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word will make tempers flare.” Proverbs 15:1