What if you didn’t have to resort to the ineffectual and unfeasible parenting modes we’ve all resorted to in times of stress, being overly permissive, in denial, avoiding, or over controlling?
The Structure/ Freedom Model is about expanding limits or tightening limits within the context of your child’s freedoms while honoring your individual and family values. Setting boundaries that everyone can live up to.
The Structure/Freedom Model effectively builds or re-builds trust between you and your child and deliberately puts you and your child on an upward spiral of negotiated, creative conversations to get at what is mutually beneficial and a win-win for everyone.
The Structure/Freedom Model works with the fundamental aspects of how your family operates around an issue or a problem or a result that you want to have happen in your family as well as setting boundaries. The fundamental aspects are each family member’s values and underlying needs and the family’s values and underlying needs as a whole. Existing workable agreements or the lack of existing workable agreements and oftentimes as a result any emotional residue that needs to be resolved are also fundamental aspects.
As parents, we want to experience a level of trust with our children that is rewarding and puts us at ease.
We want our children to understand the value in our discipline to handle the challenge of their behavior. As parents we know how important it is to ask our children to claim their responsibility. We do this to show them how to learn from their mistakes in order to better understand themselves and make sense of their experience.
Parents have found that using the Structure/Freedom model helps them find the opportunity for growth within their child’s challenging behavior as they test boundaries and so much more. The model supports children and their parents to grow, heal and gain understanding that will serve them throughout their lives. The model also helps families develop and deepen trust in one another and themselves.
What if you had a way of working with your child to change or shift her/his behavior for the better?
You can address your child’s challenging behavior when it comes to boundaries through discipline and punishment to handle the challenge of their behavior yet that’s only part of the story and frequently you want to have a far more important conversation about what they learned or how they made sense of their experience to understand themselves and others better.
Directions for Structure Freedom Model
First chose a topic/issue or concern you would like to focus on and make a contract with your child about it. It is helpful to chose something that is specific rather than general. You can make multiple contracts with your children on multiple different issues, but it helps to keep them specific so that the limits and freedoms around them are very clear and understandable.
A couple examples of a topic to start with could be curfew, bedtime, eating habits, doing homework before a certain time, etc.
Now that you have determined a topic, issue or concern that you would like to focus on. Ask yourself what limits have already been set in place around this issue. For example, if your topic is curfew then an already existing limit is your child must be home by 11:00. Or if the topic is eating habits maybe you have a few limits already set in place like no sugary snacks right after school only healthy snacks and one desert item every 3-4 days either at school or after dinner, but they must eat their vegetables on their plate at dinner.
If you are focusing on an issue and the limits do not seem clear to you or you haven’t come up with any limits yet then just leave this part blank for now and move on to Step 3.
This is the part where you choose which conversation you or your child would like to be having. Is this a topic which is about wanting more freedoms or is it a topic that is needing more limits?
For example, if your child has missed curfew three nights in one week then the conversation and resulting contract will be about less freedoms. If your child is wanting to extend their curfew by half an hour or an hour then the conversation and resulting contract will be about more freedoms.
Once you choose which type of conversation you and your child are having then list what is wanted or needed in order to start forming your contract together.
For example, your child could say, “I want to be able to come home at 11:00 not 10:00.” Or “I want my curfew to be extended if I get my homework done for the weekend early.”
For example, you could say, “You have missed curfew 3 times this week and I’m wanting to put a limit on your internet use.” “You have missed curfew 3 times this week and I’m wanting to make your curfew earlier for this week and you must have family dinner tonight.”
This step is to further help you craft your contract with each other. This is a space in which you can list what you already know about each other in order to help you create a contract that is tailored to you as a parent and your child.
For instance, if your child is missing curfew and you want to create more limits around it then maybe your child doesn’t have the best strength in time management, but they do have a strength in communicating with you about where they are when they are outside of the house. It is possible that your child values communicating with you more than they do keeping track of their time. This is a good thing to write down to get clear about what your child is and isn’t good about, but here we focus on strengths.
And for you, your strength may be being patient with your child until they have a chance to explain to you why they were late past curfew for the third time this week, but that you have a value on your child being on time and at home by a certain time.
Recognizing your strengths and values may help with coming up with what each of you really wants and needs.
It’s possible that your child really doesn’t want to have a strict curfew. Instead they value communicating with you about where they are and if she/he is going to be 15 or 30 min late.
[ Write about parents wants and needs]
So now that you have gotten very clear about your strengths and values, needs and wants, it is time to write your contract down. This is the part where you take the reality of who your child is and who you are and create an agreement between the two of you based on what you really know about one another. This is the part where you are creating boundaries that you can both live up to.
Example: Daughter says- I value communicating more with you Mom and staying in touch rather than keeping a strict time commitment. I will call you before 10:00pm and tell you when I will be home if it is not going to be 10:00pm sharp.
Example: Mom says- I will promise not to freak out on you if you come home past 10:00pm, but I value you being honest & keeping your word around time so I will give you leniency on curfew if you call me before 10:00pm and respect my need for you to be home not too late.
Jill Valenti, Parenting coach & family counselor