Looking back I see how controlling I was for my kids in many ways. I would tell them what to eat, what to wear, what to watch on TV, what time to go to bed, and the list goes on.
I have a feeling that I am not alone.
What I discovered is that by doing all of the telling and never asking many questions, I did a dis-service to my sons in not allowing them to find out what works best for them. What if being a parent means teaching our children to be more aware in their own presence and discovering what works best for them in creating the life they desire to have.
And how does a parent do that?
Imagine this scenario: It is 8:30 and getting close to bedtime- what are my options? Do I (1) tell my child to go to bed, (2) do nothing and see what happens, or (3) ask my child if they are feeling sleepy yet and what would be a good time for them to get to bed so that they can get the rest they need? I can hear many of you saying, “Yeah but if I let them choose they will stay up all night”. Maybe, but will they do it consistently and by asking a question are you teaching them to tune into their body? Are you teaching them that you trust them to choose what will work for them? How many of us have stayed up late only to experience the tiredness of our choice. How many of us tune in and honor our bodies by recognizing when it is tired and then stopping what we are doing and get to bed. How many of us were taught that we could listen to our bodies and it would tell us what it needed? I sure wasn’t. So now I have been practicing more and more of tuning in and following what my body wants, whether it is what to eat, what to wear, when and how long to sleep, when to get some exercise and so on.
When we teach our kids to ask questions of what they need or want, we really give them permission to know what they need to know; to be able to follow their own awareness and tune in to what is happening around them. How many arguments would we avoid if we guided our kids to choose by asking questions?
Here is another scenario. Your teenage daughter wants to go to a movie on a school night. The movie gets out at 11 pm. She asks you if she can go. What is your response? (1) No, it is a school night. (2) I don’t care do whatever you like. (3) How does that work for you? Will you have enough time to get the rest you need? Will it affect your school day tomorrow? Is there another possibility that would work better for you? Please note, these are not for you to answer but for her to be aware of to make her choice. If she decides to go to the movies and then realizes afterwards that she was too tired the next day, simply ask her if next time she might make a choice that would work better for her. It is never about being right. How many parent/child relationships get into the proving of who is right or wrong. Rather let’s move into a place of guidance, allowance and communicate tha what works for me and what works for you may not be the same.
I can hear all the “buts” out there. But she will ruin her educational chances; but she will never choose the right thing for her; but she will let her friends influence her; and on and on. If we always tell our children what they can do based on what we want for them, we have denied them the choice of living their own life. If she really wants to get ahead in school because you have allowed her to make that choice for her, she will choose accordingly. That does not mean that she won’t make some choices that don’t work out, but she will know that she is not being judged and that next time she will choose differently for her. Kids are not about being against themselves, unless they need to prove you wrong.
Many of us have heard, “Experience is the best teacher.” This may be true, but let’s take it a bit further and consider that “Choice is the best teacher.” Having choice gives us the freedom to choose differently and to find what works for us individually, without judgment of ourselves.
Honestly, most adults would like for their kids to be able to take care of themselves as adults. What better way to really put them on that track than to let them make as many choices as they can when they are young. These will be the kids that grow into adults that are fully aware of what will be good for them. They will be better able to have relationships that don’t destroy them. They will be strong in and of themselves, not needing anyone to complete them or make them whole.
Take a moment and think of your childhood and how much of it was all about being judged. How many of your actions were to prove you were a “good” or “bad” child? Did that allow you to make your own choices or were you constantly choosing based on what everyone else thought was right for you? Oh now do you hear the “buts” of past ancestors saying, “But we wanted the best for our children.” Of course they did and they did the best they could at bringing up the offspring.
Does that mean that we continue with the same when there are other approaches that allow our children to become more aware?
Truthfully, I would much prefer to have my children and grandchildren grow up trusting themselves to know what is best for them and that starts as early as young tots. As a matter of fact, most of us come into this world already having all the awareness we need, but then it gets squashed out of existence by parents and teachers who know better than we do.
With this new awareness, ask what it is your kids need? Do they need you to give them more control or to empower them with using questions and awareness in moving through their lives and creating what gives them joy? Giving up control of other people’s lives can actually allow you to have more of your own life. It will mean that you will move out of judging everyone else and have more allowance of you.
What would that create for you?